Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Book Review: Biblical Grandparenting

Biblical Grandparenting: Exploring God’s Design, Culture’s Messages and Disciple-Making Methods to Pass Faith to Future Generations

Author Josh Mulvilhill interviewed 25 evangelical grandparents from five different states to discover how they saw their role of grandparent and how they influenced the spiritual development of their grandchildren. Surprisingly, only 24 percent of those interviewed saw themselves as having a responsibility to influence their grandchildren’s spirituality.

Despite the Bible clearly stating that older people are to teach the younger, most of those interviewed saw themselves simply as encouragers, supporters or loving friends to their grandchildren. They were content to let parents and Sunday schools do the job of molding the faith of their offspring.

Biblical Grandparenting is divided into four parts: Getting Started, God’s Design, Culture’s Messages and Discipleship Methods. I liked the book’s charts, which summarize chapter findings, such as “The Culture’s View of Grandparenting,” “A Brief History of Grandparenthood in America” and “Discipling Grandchildren.” Some listings include responses of parents identified by first names. 

A most valuable chapter offers eight spiritual practices to impact grandchildren, such as asking questions and blessing them verbally. These practices would, in fact, be helpful to parents as well as grandparents.

Mulvihill wrote this book as a doctoral thesis, but it is most readable. He summarizes his research results in a final chapter and challenges pastors and church leaders to do more to equip grandparents to take their biblical role in passing on the faith.

Appendixes list the interview questions Mulvihill used along with summaries of demographic data. And the book includes extensive notes and bibliography.

If you’re a grandparent, this book is for you. Grandchildren grow up before you know it, and the time to touch their lives for Christ is now.

Friday, August 31, 2018

9 Lessons Learned as Life Flies By

The poem on a plaque, created by a son’s family for us, reads:

First we had each other – 8-12-61
Then we were blessed with – Ted and Terry
Then you found love – Ted and Deb; Terry and Caren
Then you blessed us with – Rachel, Daniel, Grace, Scott and Elizabeth
Now we have EVERYTHING!

“We grow too soon old and too late smart,” That’s a Pennsylvania Dutch saying--and it’s true! We learn a lot simply by living that would have been helpful to know when we started out. And if we are blessed with family and friends, like the plaque says, we have everything! But I thought I’d share some nuggets, hoping to help you navigate the golden years--which loom ahead, no matter your age.

1.       Accept the fact that you are not in control. I want to be. I try to be. But stuff happens. I want my loved ones to be healthy and happy. But accidents and illnesses happen to the best of us. As I get older, I’m learning to accept it. And the upside is that I know anything that touches my life has been permitted by a Sovereign God. I can trust Him to help me through it, to even bring good through it. So even though I don’t expect it, I accept it.

2.       Accept the fact that you cannot do the things you used to do. I must now pace my days, plan ahead. Or I pay the consequences. But I'm thankful for the energy I have. I may not be able to run with the deer, but I can walk with the turtles. I can write. I can pray. There’s plenty to do when I can’t do what I used to do or want to do.

3.       Accept the fact that you need to make changes. Oh, we’re so independent. We refuse to accept help to cook Christmas dinner. It’s something we’ve always done. We drive through the night to our vacation destination. It’s something we’ve always done. (Now there’s something I’ve never done.) We enjoy shopping for that perfect gift. Well, maybe it’s time to take an easier route. Shop online. Make some changes, so you can enjoy the scenery on this journey of life.

4.       Accept the fact that not everyone will like you. We try so hard to please everyone, but people’s perspectives differ. We hold different views on politics, religion, even eating habits. Just read Facebook posts. And sometimes differences fracture relationships. Of course, we need to practice forgiveness, but even after forgiveness, relationships may not be restored to the degree of closeness once enjoyed. We can’t beat ourselves up if someone pulls away; perhaps it frees us to embrace another.

5.       Realize that you have wisdom to pass on to others. Church committees. Bible study groups. Grandchildren. Speak up. Offer your opinion. Often times what is rejected in the moment offers food for thought. Don’t be shy. Younger generations need to hear the perspectives of previous generations. We’ve learned a lot simply by experience.

6.       Realize that you are loved with an everlasting love. Eternity awaits. The bones ache. The back hurts. The senses diminish. We wear glasses and hearing aids. Food doesn’t taste as good as it used to. Remember, it’s all temporary. Someday the misery will be history. In Christ, we will have new bodies. Heavenly horizons await. “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and have continued My faithfulness to you” Jeremiah 31:3 (The Amplified Bible).

7.       Realize that some things are not as important as they used to be. Don’t agonize about whether or not a grandchild wins a game. After all, there may be greater strength of character gained through losing. The latest fashions are no longer as important as they once were. Taking a luxury vacation would be just too much work. Value faith, for it is God Who remains faithful, no matter what. Value family and friends, for relationships are more important than things.

8.       Accept God’s grace to survive loss. Possessions, loved ones, favorite activities. Life is filled with things that may slip through our fingers. But God’s grace allows us to go on. A sense of God’s Presence assures you that you can handle even this. There is nothing you and God cannot handle together.

9.       Accept the fact and be grateful that God has allowed you to attain this age. As we say in a Friends of the Heart skit, “Every birthday without a headstone is a milestone.” Appreciate the simple things—the glimpse of a fawn, a sunrise, a cup of tea. No matter our financial status or intellect or state of health, simple things make us smile.

So there you have it. And there’s lots more I could say. But I think that’s enough gold to mine for one day. Feel free to comment by clicking on the link below to share some of what you’ve learned simply through living.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Happy Labor Day!


Upcoming Friends of the Heart Engagements:

September 9 – Kim at Trinity United Methodist Church, Elizabethville; Janine and Shirley at Colonial Park Community Baptist, Harrisburg.

September 22 – Eastern Regional Churches of God Conference at Doubling Gap Center, Newville, “Just Say Yes—to God!”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Where Do You See God in the Rain?

A ruby-breasted hummingbird flashed his red bib as he preened in a gentle shower, a gentle shower that soon turned into a deadly downpours. One friend in my area measured 15 inches of rainfall in four days. Another friend’s three cars and items from a shed were washed away and ruined by a flooding stream during several days of heavy rain. Nature sometimes raises its fist against us.

Hummingbirds survive and even thrive in a hostile world. I once saw a hummingbird nest on a tree limb sawed off by workmen, a tiny cup with two tiny baby birds nestled inside, beaks sticking up on opposite sides of the nest. So fragile. Yet God has given these tiny birds strong wings that carry them thousands of miles to migrate south for the winter. He’s has made them resilient to wind and weather. Would he do any less for us when it comes to surviving the winters of life?

Lessons from Nature:

From nature I learn there’s beauty and order in this world. Seasons and cycles continue without fail. Flowers bloom and birds sing, even in the rain. While God called it all good, we live in a fallen world. Read Genesis 3 to understand how Adam's sin affected the earth. In our world, the lion doesn't lie down with the lamb. Hawks attack hummingbirds. And sometimes we suffer the consequences of nature gone wild.

Questions for God:

Why would a good God allow horrific havoc? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Those are the age-old questions.

Hidden Blessings for Me:

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that God is good, kind and just. God is loving, faithful and compassionate. And as we take refuge in him, he offers grace. He redeems and restores bad situations.

For one thing, I draw closer to God in the hard times. And maybe getting to know God better is better than being handed an umbrella in a downpour. After all, if I truly know God, I need not worry about getting wet because I am in his care. He speaks to my heart when I don’t know where to turn. He gives me the capacity to give and forgive. As I draw closer to God, I feel his heart and he softens mine. Through tough times I learn to trust him as I discover his grace to survive.

During the havoc caused by floods and hurricanes, good people step forward to help the hurting. They offer beds and cars and food and clothing. Neighbors re-connect as they deal with power outages and closed roads and businesses. It seems the worst situations bring out the best in mankind. Maybe that’s what God is after.

Like the junk I see piled at bridges and along creek banks, tragedies wash the junk from our lives. Too often we focus on the negative--the faults, the shortcomings, the differences of opinion. But when lives are in jeopardy, when we desperately need help, none of that matters. The little things that so irritated us are washed from our lives as surely as that flotsam floating downstream.

A Prophet's Response:

Habbakkuk had the right attitude: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Fear Knocks; Faith Answers:

Like the strong wings God gives a hummingbird to carry it south, God gives us the tenacity and spirit to carry us upward, closer to him, in hard times. Rather than lament the sights and sounds of our fallen world, let’s live by faith in a Sovereign God. Let’s trust and rejoice in a Savior who not only saves us from sin but equips us to survive and even thrive in adversity.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review: Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing

This book may impact your life and strengthen your faith more than any book you’ll ever read. Focusing on the Genesis story of Joseph, author Wayne Stiles explains what God may be about as he keeps you waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting. Stiles writes: “He is with us, not to answer questions but to comfort us as he takes us to a place that teaches us to trust him by forcing us to do so.”

Stiles suggests that if we knew what God knows, we would choose to wait on his timing. Stiles also takes us “behind the scenes” to let us in on something he notices in the structure of the Joseph story. And Stiles' writing is easily understood.

Here’s one of Stiles’ more startling statements: “Every sin we commit represents a failure to wait on God.” Whether you agree or disagree, that sentence makes you think.

Not only does Stiles provide a convincing argument on why Christians can trust God, but he writes in an entertaining style. For example, he writes of Joseph and his brothers: “He was a pebble wedged in the sandals of their consciences.” I enjoy that kind of sparkle.

I came away from this book better realizing that God is refining me not to eliminate challenges so that I’m comfortable but to make me the person to bring light to the challenges. Stiles asks us to consider the joy that would be ours if we totally surrendered our ideas about the life we want and instead embraced the life God wants to give us.

Including 11 chapters (252 pages), this would make a great Bible study or a great gift to give to someone frustrated by life events. I recommend this book for both new and mature Christians.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

You Are Loved

Dear Friend,

“You are loved with an everlasting love.” With those words, the late Elizabeth Elliott opened her daily “Gateway to Joy” radio broadcast. Those words make me feel warm and cozy. And they’re true. 

But perhaps you don’t feel that love. Perhaps you’re in a hard place. You feel you’ve disappointed God. Your family. And maybe even yourself. Well, I have news for you. You can never fall so low, fail so badly, that God will not pick you up, stand you on your feet and walk on beside you.

Let me tell you about Hosea and his wife Gomer. He is the guy told by God to marry a prostitute. Whether she was beautiful and he was in love with her or whether he was less than enthusiastic about the idea, we don’t know. But God told him to marry Gomer. And he did.

Bear with me here. In reality, this illustrated how God felt about the nation of Israel, a nation created by God but then prostituted itself by dabbling with idolatry. A nation that, instead of looking to God, looked to pagan nations for help when the going got rough.

But—and here’s the important part—this illustrates how God feels about you and me. We too have dabbled with idolatry. Oh, maybe not idols of stone or clay, but idols of power and prestige. Idols of beauty and the good life. We know what we want, and we run after it instead of after God.

At any rate, Hosea married Gomer and they had three children together. Then she left him and turned back to prostitution. Why would she do that? Hadn’t he given her a stable home and family? Hadn’t he provided most graciously for her? Yet the bright shiny things caught her eye, and off she went.

Now if you had been Hosea, you might have said good riddance. But not this man. Hosea heard God’s voice telling him to buy her back. Buy her back?!?! Somehow Gomer ended up on an auction block, but Hosea bought her for the price of a slave and once more brought her into his home.

Here again is a picture of how God tried to draw Israel under His wings and restore them to their former glory, but the nation refused his offer.

And here again, the story gets much more personal than an Old Testament character and the nation of Israel. It’s about you and me. It’s about God’s love for us. In spite of everything. In spite of anything.

God is love. But perhaps you’ve been tainted by life experiences. Perhaps you’ve made bad choices and you feel you don’t deserve better. Perhaps you’ve been called names and put down all of your life because of a physical imperfection or a challenge from birth, so you feel you’re a nobody and God doesn’t care about nobodies. I’m sure people put down Gomer too.

Perhaps you’ve done something so sinful that you feel God can never forgive. Perhaps . . . you fill in the blanks. What tempts you to turn to something else instead of to God? Or to run and hide from God?

Hosea showed his great love for Gomer by marrying her, buying her back and welcoming her back into his home and his heart. God does no less for us. Christ took the punishment we deserve for anything we might have done. He proved there is much more to life than what we see. By rising from the dead, He proved eternal life awaits. There we will find the perfection we’re looking for here.

Look in a mirror and insert your name into the first line of this post: “God loves ______ with an everlasting love.” Consider how God shows His love to you through daily blessings—sunshine and rain, birds and bees. Consider how this life is just the beginning. Heaven awaits where there will be no more tears, no more bad choices, no more name-calling.

Take a thoughtful read through Hosea. To dig deeper, buy the study guide: Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild. She calls us Gomer Girls and has a lot to say about all this.

Don’t play hide and seek with God. Don’t waste another minute wondering where God is. He’s waiting to bless your heart, to welcome you home.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)

Have a safe and blessed 4th of July, celebrating not just our nation's independence but celebrating God's love for us.


Friends of the Heart Upcoming Events:

August 1, 11:30 a.m. – Millersburg Senior Center. “That Face in the Mirror: Who Do You See?”
August 14, 6 p.m. – Woodbury Church of the Brethren, Everett, "Tea with Mary, Martha and Their Psychologist."
August 24-26 – Camp Allegheny Women’s Retreat, “If Our Closets Could Talk.”