What Is Your Spiritual Legacy?

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.” Psalm 78:4 ESV

Have you ever given much thought to your spiritual legacy? Psychologist Erik Erikson noted that as people grow older, they are either generative or stagnant. They work towards leaving a meaningful legacy for those who come after them, or they fail to work towards much of anything at all.

The choices you make now about how you point your kids towards God will impact their spiritual choices in the future. But your legacy will possibly continue long after you are gone. Those choices you made that influenced the spiritual choices your kids make, will in turn impact the spiritual decisions of their own children.

Legacies can change over time, but starting your family with a legacy of strong spiritual foundations gives future generations of your family a better possible beginning. How can you help your kids develop those strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential?

Erikson found that in late adulthood, people reflect on their lives. Those who had worked towards leaving a meaningful legacy – contributing something positive to the world – spent their later years with a sense of integrity and wisdom. Those who had neglected to make the world a better place were usually filled with regret and despair.

Remember the 12 spies in Numbers 13? When giving their recommendation, Joshua and Caleb’s faith in God became part of their spiritual legacy not only to their children, but to all of the Israelites. Thousands of years later, we still learn from the spiritual legacy they left of their words and their faith in God. The spiritual legacy of the other ten spies is at best a cautionary tale of what happens when our faith in God is weak.

What will your spiritual legacy be? Helping others – especially your children – grow spiritually is the best legacy any of us can leave behind. What can you do now to begin creating that legacy? Don’t wait. Your legacy is based on the choices you make each day – make ones that really matter.

Ideas for Valentine Family Fun and Service

Ready for Valentine’s Day? We are big celebrators in our family. Any excuse for adding a bit of fun, joy and love to our days and we are there! Valentine’s Day may have been founded to celebrate romantic love, but why not use it to teach your kids about agape love and have some family fun.

Agape love is the type of love God has for us and we are to have for those around us. It’s a higher love not based on attraction, romance or even friendship. It’s loving others just because they are human beings whom God created and loves.

There are a lot of fun things your family can do to spread some Agape love on Valentine’s Day. You should still have time to accomplish one or more of these before the holiday is over. (Because Valentine’s Day is on a Friday night this year, restaurants are “celebrating” on Saturday and Sunday, too. Let’s do the same!)

  • Shower widows, widowers and single people with love. There’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to remind you that you are single. No matter how happy someone single may be normally, everyone celebrating love can leave one feeling lonely and alone – even unloveable. Have your kids make cards, cookies or little baggies of those heart chocolates. Allow a few minutes to stay and visit. If necessary prepare your kids ahead of time about some things they can say to help the conversation.
  • Love on friends and “frenemies”. Every child has someone at school or in their activities who is less than kind to them. They may have even been treated by another child as an “enemy”. What a better way to teach your kids about loving their enemies than helping them prepare a Valentine surprise for their friends, but especially for those “not so nice kids”. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Having some discussions on the subject though can help your kids feel more loving as they give a card or treat to someone they may normally avoid.
  • See the “invisible” people. People with special needs, people who are socially awkward or “unattractive”, people who are poor…our world has lots of people that are unseen by others, because they don’t fit the mold of someone who makes a good friend or even acquaintance. Consider having some of the “invisible” people your family knows over for a meal or dessert. Or give them a Valentine’s treat and have a real conversation with them. Find out the things they enjoy doing. Get to really know them as “real” people with real stories. Make them visible to your family.
  • Thank the unappreciated. How many bus drivers, crossing guards, or maintenance people are ever thanked, much less receive Valentine’s treats? Even teachers can be forgotten. What about the mail carrier, the garbage collectors and the counter person at the dry cleaners? How many unappreciated people can your family make feel appreciated over the next few days?
  • Serve those who help others. Ministries and non-profits usually have ongoing needs for items or volunteer hours. Can your family find a way to give a ministry or non-profit some extra help?
  • Surprise your family members. Let’s be honest. The people in our family know how to get on our “last nerve”. Living in the same house can create conflicts and hurt feelings. We can say the worst things to the people who love us the most. Why not change that dynamic? Encourage everyone in your family to find ways to surprise, encourage and love everyone in your family. Make it fun and focus on all of those little things that would make life more pleasant for the people in your family.

Make Valentine’s Day a day when your family has a tradition of loving everyone they can. Encourage your kids to pour out love generously. Who knows, your family may enjoy it so much it becomes a habit every day of the year!

Finding God Moments for Frazzled Parents

I absolutely love those perfect family Christmas photos. You know, the ones where the children are clean, smiling and rather angelic looking. Reality is different – even in those families. Parenting can be exhausting and leave you feeling constantly frazzled. Depending upon your circumstances, you may find yourself falling asleep any time you sit down or have moved on to the more subtle emotional and mental exhaustion that often comes with older children.

It seems like your energy is spent trying to make sure you are keeping all of those parenting balls you are juggling up in the air. If you had to be totally honest, you can’t really remember the last time you prayed or read the Bible. Forget reflecting on God’s word or taking a Sabbath type rest. That’s for when your kids are grown and gone. You may even be missing worship services for aany number of reasons.

Part of that exhaustion you are feeling is because you are spiritually exhausted, too. Pouring love into your precious little ones, serving them in hundreds of unnoticed ways, teaching them about who God wants them to be are all wonderful, lovely and godly things you are doing in your ministry to your children and at times their friends.

When we constantly feed others out of our spiritual cup without refilling it though, we are left feeling empty in the deepest parts of our soul. Even Jesus had to take time to separate from everyone and reconnect with God.

I know. You eat on the run and shower with little ones knocking on the door. When are you supposed to find some time to spend with God? You tried getting up before the kids for quiet time and that didn’t work well. So now what?

Instead of looking for large blocks of time, seek moments with God. Pray while you are rocking or feeding the baby. Read your kids a Bible story or a Bible verse as part of your day – often during a meal together works best. Reflect on that verse whenever you can during the day. Sing worship songs to your kids as lullabies or in the car as you go from place to place.

If you give God your moments each day, you will be amazed what He can do with them. There will be seasons where you can have those long extended times with God, but for now make sure to give Him those moments. You may find some of that rest and calm you so badly need in the process.

Your Child Has a Ministry

What? Your child isn’t old enough to work at McDonald’s. In fact he or she is convinced a career as super hero or astronaut is in their future. Yet, God has a ministry plan for your child…if he or she is ready for the challenge.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) God loves your kids. He wants them to choose to be His child and become a Christian when they are old enough to make that choice. He even has a ministry…good works…specially prepared for them to do.

Those good works are your child’s ministry. They may be big or small. In fact, some of those good deeds might be presented to them while they are still young and living at home.

Our world has us so focused on helping our kids find occupations and jobs, that we forget it is more important for them to find their ministry. Yes, they need to have food on the table and hopefully a roof over their head, but where they will truly grow and become fully who God created them to be is in their personal ministry.

Start now by helping them build strong faith foundations and develop and use their gifts from God. Talk about ways to find those good works God wants them to do. Encourage them to be as content in taking soup to a lonely neighbor as they are in going on a mission trip to Africa. Teach them how to find ways to share their faith and encourage other Christians as they do those good works.

God doesn’t give any of us a list of the good works He has prepared for us so we can check them off as we go. If I had to guess, it’s because that list is possibly based on our reaction to each opportunity as it is presented to us…or in this case your kids. What God has done is told us to be on the look out for those opportunities He gives us to do those good works.

Your child may never be a “professional” minister. His or her good works will most likely take place more in the world than in the church building. Some of them will be based on the gifts God has given your child. This isn’t a competition. It’s about being fully the person God has created your child to be – His child, doing those good works He has prepared for him or her. It’s worth the time and effort to help your child learn how to live that Christian life.

Finding Community in Christian Parenting

I recently was added to one of those online communities where everyone is asked to introduce themselves. Woman after woman seemed to share a heart filled with loneliness. They were different ages and in different life circumstances. They were from all over the world, but they all longed for meaningful Christian community.

Parenting has some tough moments – and that’s when you don’t encounter additional challenges. Christian parenting is even more difficult. You are trying to parent in counter cultural ways because you understand the parenting choices you make can impact your child’s spiritual life. As any teen can tell you, going against the crowd can feel very lonely at times.

Perhaps it seems like your life has been an unending string of lonely parenting moments. It doesn’t have to be that way. God created Christian community to help us through those lonely times – whatever the cause.

At times though, tapping into that community can appear more difficult than climbing Mt. Everest. Perhaps you have been praying that God will bring you the community you so desperately want and need. There are things you can do to scale that metaphorical mountain and find that supportive Christian community. God will be there to guide you, but He may want you to grow in your ability to create connections with others by trying some of these tips.

  • Find a church home. It’s hard to find Christian community when you don’t stay in one place for very long. No church is perfect – even the ones that seem that way at first. Find one that teaches the Bible as accurately as possible and make a home there.
  • Make yourself at home in your church. Attend regularly, introduce yourself, engage in conversations with people whose names you can’t seem to remember yet. Attend classes and small groups. Volunteer to serve in a ministry. All of these will give you opportunities to connect to fellow Christians.
  • Look outside the box. Don’t just look for friends who are exactly like you. Sometimes the most supportive, helpful friendships are with people different from us. They bring a unique perspective to our experiences. People just like us tend to get stuck in the same places we get stuck. We often learn more from people who are older and have gotten to the other side of those things with which we are currently struggling. Younger friends can often bring a bit of carefree joy back to our lives. People from other places may have tips we would never hear from people who have been in the same place for decades.
  • Be brave and ask. If you see someone you think is interesting or wise, ask her to lunch or coffee. Most adults are in their own routines. They don’t think about looking for new friends, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want new friends. It is rare to have someone approach anyone they barely know and seek a chance to fellowship and get to know one another. So don’t wait – initiate.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Since these are often people we don’t know very well, you probably don’t know their responsibilities and struggles. They may be overwhelmed and need help themselves. It is not a reflection on you or your value. Try again later or move on to the next person.
  • Give it time. Occasionally you will bond with someone you just met as if you have been best friends for years. Most of the time, it takes time spent together and sharing experiences and hearts to build a friendship.
  • Be okay with different levels of relationship. You may have one woman who is your advice person. For many reasons, you will never be best friends, but she is available when you need advice and gives godly advice. That’s okay. You can have acquaintances, friends, activity friends, best friends and a host of other types of relationships. All will ease your loneliness and give you some of the Christian community you need.
  • Accept disagreements and practice forgiveness. It’s rare that even the best of friends agree on everything. People who spend a lot of time together can get on each other’s nerves at times. Disagreements are not a reason to end a friendship. Forgiveness is crucial. Yes, there are rare instances when a friendship becomes toxic and you may have to spend less time with that person. In general though, think of your friendships as a way to improve in showing others agape love and practicing forgiveness.

God doesn’t want His people to be lonely. Remember how He created Eve so Adam wouldn’t be lonely? Escaping loneliness will probably take some effort on your part. Having those godly friends who encourage you in your Christian parenting journey makes any work seem worth it. Don’t let Satan continue to discourage you with loneliness.