Here’s How You Can Help Houston

Texas Military Department via EPA

I keep wondering how it would feel to be a mama or grandma in Houston today, needing rescue or shelter, food and necessities. How grateful I’d be for that bottle of water or box of diapers, and for the people who provided it.

People I’d probably never meet. Strangers “out there” who simply care.

But since I’m here and not in Houston, I’ve got to be one of those who simply care, and show it.

I’m pretty sure you feel the same way.

So if you’d like to join me in making a difference, here’s a list of organizations I’m aware of that are hard at work in Houston and welcome your help. Just follow the links to donate.

American Red Cross
You also can text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Samaritan’s Purse

Salvation Army

Matthew 25 Ministries

Catholic Charities USA

Houston Food Bank

Galveston County Food Bank

Texas Diaper Bank
This news article tells about the work of this group.

SPCA of Texas

Austin Pets Alive

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

We have opportunity, friends. If you have other suggestions for how to help, please share in the comments.

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– Diane

Living a Godly Legacy—Part 4

In this series I’ve said that how we live every day becomes our legacy, that God instructs us to communicate faith in Him to the next generation, and that He tells us how. We’ve also looked at specific ways to help our kids and grandkids experience and grow in faith by how we bring God and His Word into the family activities we’re already doing day by day.

Here in the series conclusion, I want to encourage you. You can do this! Here are some important reasons why:

God cares about your legacy. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs express general principles, not promises. So this famous proverb isn’t a guarantee, but it does tell us that God cares about your efforts to train your children for Him and that you can expect your efforts to have a good result.

Children of believers are set apart. First Corinthians 7:14 says, “The unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” This isn’t a promise of salvation, but it does indicate some kind of special concern in God’s heart for the children of believers.

God’s Word achieves His purposes. Isaiah 55:11 says, “My word shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Our job is to teach our children the Word. The results aren’t up to us, but the good news is the power and purpose of the Word always succeed.

Small beginnings please God. After seventy years of exile in Babylon, the Jews returned to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the temple, but the work was slow and faced much opposition. The prophet Zechariah wrote, “Then another message came to me from the Lord: ‘Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand’” (Zechariah 4:8-10, italics added).

Your efforts to live your legacy and teach your children and grandchildren about God may seem small to you right now, but they are a starting place. Or maybe you need to restart your efforts, or dive in for the very first time. The Lord rejoices with you to see the work begin. So begin, keep going, don’t stop. You CAN do this!

If you missed the previous posts in this series, you can find them here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

– Diane

Living a Godly Legacy—Part 3

You want your children or grandchildren to know that God and faith are important parts of daily life, but sometimes it seems impossible, right? Getting everyone off to school or childcare and getting everyone to bed on time can seem like herding cats. How can you add one more activity to your family’s busy schedule?

The good news is, you don’t have to. Just bring God into the things you are already doing with your family.

Part 1 of this series explores what it means to live the legacy you want to give your children and why that’s important. Part 2 looks at the starting place—our own relationships with God and with our children—and what God’s Word tells us about sharing our faith with the next generation.

Here in Part 3, I’m sharing ways you can begin to live a faith legacy for your children simply by bringing God into more of your family’s activities.

Talk

Help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers begin to connect God with their expanding worlds. For example, at the zoo or the beach or the park, talk about creation and thank God out loud for making what you see. Make it natural—“God gave the giraffe such a long neck!” “Thank you, God, for the birds we hear.” (Yes, we can talk to God without bowed heads or folding hands!)

If a child is afraid of the dark, remind him God is always with him as you give a hug and turn on a night light. With children of all ages, talk about the things you do and why you do them—celebrating holidays, serving others, or going to church, for example.

Form the habit of talking with your children to show them who God is while they are young. Someday you will need to be talking to them about how knowing God relates to drinking and drugs, sex, abortion, evolution, and a host of other issues.

Share the Word

Your children won’t know the Bible is important to you unless they see you reading it. During a crisis one Christmas, a friend’s young daughter grabbed her mother’s Bible and sat down to “read”—although she didn’t know how to read yet. She had seen her mother go to the Word for help and decided help was needed!

Besides the traditional devotional time some families have with their children at bedtime, other parents read the Bible aloud at breakfast with their children, or do their own reading aloud as children play nearby. They won’t understand everything, of course, but you will be surprised by how much they do understand and remember.

What kind of music plays in your home and your car every day? Little ears (big one too) easily absorb God’s Word set to music. Try Scripture Lullabies at bedtime. We also love the CD included in My Sing-Along Bible by Steve Elkins for a musical journey through the Bible especially for kids.

Pray

We all learn to pray by praying, and children learn by hearing you pray and praying with you. So be sure to add prayer to the times you are already with your kids—meals, bedtime, and anytime you’re talking about a problem.

When my daughter Sheila was five or six, a neighbor boy continually pestered her. Finally we told her, “The next time he bothers you, tell him that if he doesn’t stop, you’re going to let hit him back” (and she did). That ended the problem, but at work I heard another mom telling how her first-grade twins were handling a bully at school. Each night, she was praying with her twins for the child who was bothering them.

Why hadn’t I thought to do that? Praying about problems hadn’t become a natural choice for me yet.

Accomplishments, disappointments, illness, pets, your family’s needs and the needs of others—show your children how to bring each day’s experiences to God.

Serve

Involve your children in service with you. If you make a meal for another family, take a child with you when you deliver it. Are you passionate about a cause? Let your children experience why. One of my daughters takes her children when she cares for the children of refugee women while they attend English classes. Her boys are learning to value caring for others who are different from them.

Find Christian community

Show your children that not only their own family has faith in God—others do too. Include friends from church in play dates and social events. If extended family members aren’t believers, look around for those who could be surrogate grandparents or aunts and uncles to your kids and get together with them for holidays and special events.

Sometimes we hear that faith is more caught than taught … but the truth is, it is both. And your example—your choices every day—can model faith and teach it too. Just choose to bring God in to the activities your family is already doing.

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– Diane

Living a Godly Legacy—Part 2

mother with her children at the seaside at sunsetIn Part 1 of this series, I talked about living a legacy for our children and grandchildren—realizing that the way we live every day is the legacy we will leave. Is a legacy of faith your goal like it is mine? Then here in Part 2, let’s begin by looking at our own relationship with God, as well as our ties to the young ones we love so much.

Relationship with God

We all need to evaluate ourselves honestly (and periodically too). Do you have a deep, rich connection with God, or if you’re new to faith, are you working on it? How does that show itself day by day? Bottom line, if we want our kids and grandkids to know, love, and obey God—how well do we know and love him, and how well do we obey?

I don’t remember a time I didn’t believe in God or believe Jesus is God’s Son and my Savior, but even years after I formally chose to follow Jesus, I couldn’t truly say that I knew God. Not until 2000, when I was invited to join a group of women who would read through the Bible in a year and meet weekly to talk about what we read, did everything began to change.

If you feel the need to be more connected to the Lord, begin by reading the Word simply with the purpose to know Him better. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV).

Need a good reading plan? Go here. Want to listen rather than read? Try BibleGateway.com or the YouVersion app. You can find reading plans on those sites too.

Connections with Our Children

Next, ask yourself some questions about your relationship with your children. How well do they feel known by you—seen and heard? Do they feel respected? Do they talk openly with you, bringing you their serious questions? How deep is your heart connection?

In order to guide and teach them, we need to know what children are thinking and feeling and understand their personalities, talents, and quirks. Be the expert on your child. Ask questions that invite conversation, and listen to what they have to say. Model sharing and connecting. Draw them out.

Knowing children—or grandchildren—well makes it easier to pray specifically for them too!

Sometimes, situations from the past interfere with the present. If you’re carrying around baggage you don’t want to be part of your legacy to your children, don’t be afraid to find help from a qualified professional counselor.

What God Says We’re to Do

The Bible is not a rule book. But it does contain instructions for living as God’s people, and those include how to share faith with our children.

Make God a natural part of daily life. “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” —Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT

Invite and answer questions. “And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’” —Joshua 4:20-22

Tell the next generation.
“O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the LORD,
about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Then they will not be like their ancestors—
stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
refusing to give their hearts to God.” —Psalm 78:1-8 NLT

Love and memorize God’s Word.
“I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
I praise you, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.
I have recited aloud
all the regulations you have given us.
I have rejoiced in your laws
as much as in riches.
I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
I will delight in your decrees
and not forget your word.” —Psalm 119:11-16 NLT

Teach and instruct about God and His ways.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” (nurture, training, admonition)
“Fathers, don’t make your children bitter about life. Instead, bring them up in Christian discipline and instruction.”
—Ephesians 6:4 NLT; GW

Prepare our children to receive salvation.
“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” —2 Timothy 3:14-17 NLT

Step Up to the Challenge

Our children’s faith will be severely challenged in our broken world. But we can equip them for the fight. Next week in Part 3, I’ll share some tested ideas you can put to work in your family every day.

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– Diane

Living a Godly Legacy—Part 1

iStock photo

Last fall two different events—a sermon and a MOPS talk—got me thinking about how we pass faith on to the next generation. I realized we don’t just leave a legacy, we actually live it too.

Legacy: “A gift; something passed on; something received from the past; the influence of a person or thing.”

What we do every day, even the simplest choices and interactions, form the legacy we give our children and grandchildren.

For my grandchildren (and if I were raising children in my home today), I want them to grow up to know, love, and obey God all their lives. For me that includes knowing and loving God’s Word, having servant hearts, trusting Jesus for salvation, and growing to be more like Him. That’s the result I want my influence to have.

I do want them to remember me with smiles, but more important than their memories of me is the outcome, the effect, the influence of my life upon theirs. That’s what I know you want for your children too.

I need to be reminded just about every day that all my actions have impact on the present and the future. Maybe you do too. We will be remembered one way or another. We will influence others one direction or another.

The legacy we leave is the life we are living today.

Does that mean our bad days and wrong decisions ruin our legacy forever? Nope. God is in the business of redemption, and He is more than ready to help us leave a legacy of faith to our children and grandchildren.

It’s the overall pattern of our lives that has the most effect, and it’s never too late to begin to write a new ending!

Lessons Learned

What I want to share with you about living a godly legacy is based more on the mistakes I made and the things I didn’t do than what I did right when my children were young. But I also can encourage you because my daughters are godly women and mothers today, actively building faith in their own children.

Over the years and along the way, I’ve learned a lot—by getting to know God better, by parenting adult daughters, and by becoming grandmother to five little boys.

In this four-part series, I’ll share some of those lessons with you. We’ll look at our relationship with God and with our children first. Then we’ll see what God says we’re to do and look at ideas for how to do it.

Finally, I want to encourage you—you can do this!

– Diane

10 Kids Easter Books for All Your Easter Baskets

Helping children catch and understand Easter joy can be as simple as choosing a book to add to an Easter basket or give as a gift. Here are 10 good choices for you to consider.

indexMy First Easter (Worthy Kids/Ideals). Bright photos of Spring and Easter objects, one per page. Includes a simple cross.

51GX+JRlazL._AC_US500_QL65_The First Easter (Zonderkidz). A little lamb tells the resurrection story.

610bjnWrX7L._SX497_BO1,204,203,200_My Easter Basket (B&H Kids). Links the colors in a child’s Easter basket to a simple telling of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

71lJfWU4vmLThe Story of Easter (Worthy Kids/Ideals). A simple introduction to the meaning of the day—Jesus loves us.

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Jesus Lives! and Easter Surprises (Tyndale Kids). Both with stickers for completing the illustrations and other activities too. These books are a wonderful value.

71tS2bIh2wLThe Sparkle Egg (Worthy Kids/Ideals, above) and The Legend of the Easter Robin (Zonderkidz, below). Picture books for elementary grades both focus on God’s love and forgiveness.

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51vqC9wn1hL._AC_US500_QL65_My Friend Jesus (Thomas Nelson) introduces elementary-aged kids to the story of Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him.

HFEDKHope for Each Day: 365 Devotions for Kids (Tommy Nelson). Short daily devotions for children and families too.

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– Diane

Make God’s Word a Staple, Not a Side

file000667247480Do you take a multivitamin or use a dietary supplement? I have, and now I keep some Ester-C and echinacea tea on hand to help me fight off colds. But day to day, I’m trying to nourish my body with a whole-foods, plant-based diet.

It’s a challenge to view vegetable and fruits, nuts and seeds as staples when they’ve been sides for so many years.

But it’s getting easier. And I feel better when I eat this way.

Why am I telling you this?

Because just as nourishing myself with physical food can be a struggle (do I want to chop up all these vegetables to roast for dinner, or could we just go out for pizza? . . .), choosing to “feed” on God’s Word can be a battle too.

Reading the entire Bible and discussing it weekly with a women’s group impacted my life in so many wonderful ways. It also proved the value of the practice of reading the Bible daily.

Probably because, as someone has said, “The Bible is the only book whose Author is present with you when you read it.”

But at times I struggle. Not just to read God’s Word, but to want to. Ugh.

Too much going on? Health issues in the way? Seemingly unending cold winter days devoid of sunlight? All of the above.

A sermon here, a few chapters there, an online search of verses related to a writing project . . . I’m in the Word, right?

But I’m starving.

Finally, I pick up my Bible again. I ask the Holy Spirit to give me insight.

I read slowly, as if enjoying a health-giving meal that I don’t want to end too soon.

If I want to help others know God better—and I do—I need the life-giving nourishment and power He spreads out for me every day. To see consistent time in His Word as the staple of my life, not a side.

How about you?

You don’t have to read through the Bible in a year. But pick a Bible book to read slowly several times, or a Bible study you’ve been wanting to explore. Listen to an audio Bible as you drive or run. Ask a friend to read with you and check in with each other during the week.

We have an enemy who wants us weak and hungry.

But we have a Father who makes us strong and full.

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– Diane

Fun Facts and Books about the Presidents

Did you know that
• Thomas Jefferson invented the first chair that could spin around?
• John Quincy Adams kept his pet alligator in a bathtub in the White House?
• Theodore Roosevelt’s children once gave a pony a ride in the White House elevator?
• William Howard Taft was the first president to throw out the ball on baseball’s Opening Day?
• When he was a boy, George W. Bush dreamed of playing major league baseball?
61Jfhu+W2PLI discovered all this and more in Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents, by Ken Burns (Knopf Books for Young Readers). The title comes from the response of the author’s young daughters as they played a memory game with their dad. Grover Cleveland is the only one of the presidents who served two nonconsecutive terms of office.

In the introduction, Ken Burns says,

In this book, in addition to describing the important things that the presidents did when they were in office, I talk about who they were as people. After all, presidents have birthdays and brothers and sisters and even pets, just like everybody else! There are also fascinating stories of things that happened to them on their road to the presidency—stories that tell us a lot about their times.

Richly illustrated, this is a book to pour over again and again.

5803cb51-277b-4235-bb9b-b54d75847d5a.jpg._CB284907560_Add this one to your family’s library or check it out at the library for a new way to celebrate President’s Day, coming up next week.

Look for these two also: I am Abraham Lincoln and I am George Washington, by Brad Meltzer (Dial Books).

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Part of Meltzer’s series “Ordinary People Change the World,” the books let us see these two great leaders as children and show us that anyone can grow up to make a big difference.

Books like these three help our kids and grandkids develop respect for the office of president, along with the understanding that all leaders are ordinary people in need of wisdom and prayer.

That’s something we grownups could think about as President’s Day approaches too.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 ESV).

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– Diane

Start Here: 10 Ways to Read to Toddlers on the Move

child runningSitting in a high chair, on your lap, or on the floor, your baby found books fascinating and fun. But once he or she was mobile, reading to your toddler became a challenge.

Don’t give up! Just try some workarounds to keep an interest in books alive until your child’s drive to explore his physical environment settles down and interest in reading picks up again.

Remember that reading is good for your child’s development on every level—physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual. (Children who love reading may be more open to Bible reading as they grow.)

Here are 10 tried-and-true tips for reading to on-the-go toddlers from moms who are doing it.

1. Read aloud while your child plays nearby. Comment on the pictures. Sometimes children will come over to look, then go back to playing. Even if not, they’re listening.

2. Choose books with flaps to lift, touch-and-feel effects, or something to search for in the pictures. Let children turn the pages.

3. Don’t insist on sitting still. Wiggles are OK.

4. Read while your child eats a snack or plays in the bathtub.

5. Do active finger plays, songs, and rhymes together.

6. Let a puppet “read.”

7. Keep books in the car to read during waiting times.

8. Use audio books during drive times.

9. Keep a few books in every toy bin throughout your house. Read just a little, often.

10. Include books in nap-time and bedtime snuggles.

Happy reading!

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– Diane

5 Children’s Books to Brighten Winter

Weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 123rd Groundhog Day, February 2, 2009. Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES)

When Punxsutawney Phil looks around tomorrow morning, will we know how much longer winter plans to stick around?

Well, probably not. But whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, a few good books can warm up winter days and help children learn more about our good God. Here are five to consider.

The Wonderful Gifts of Winter, by Dandi Daley Mackall (B&H Kids), part of the Dandi’s Seasons picture book series.

616e-8+JFULGod Made You Special, by Jennifer Holder (Tyndale Kids). Includes stickers for completing the illustrations and related activity pages too.

9166P72PVVLPrayers for All Seasons, compiled by Sophie Piper (Lion Hudson).

61eo3RIrqKL._SX405_BO1,204,203,200_The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (Puffin Books). Not a Christian book, but a classic. (If you haven’t seen the Christmas-themed video based on the book, you’ve missed something sweet.)

51jvfaRNFYLTiny Blessings for All Seasons, by Amy Parker (Running Press). Board book for ages 1-3.

61-09g+qwULPhoto, Alessandro M., Creative Commons license

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– Diane

Freebie

You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!