The Gift of Freedom

My grandson and I sat in our folding chairs, watching as the carnies dismantled the festival rides beneath a sky bursting with 4th of July fireworks. It was the first time I viewed fireworks from this perspective, in the middle of a basketball court with a few other family groups gathered nearby doing the same. We chose this location because it avoided the hordes of onlookers that descended on the city’s lakefront where the pyrotechnics were launched.

As crews worked at removing a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and other rides from their positions and loading them piece-by-piece into semi trailers, my thoughts landed on the reasons we celebrate Independence Day.

A huge, sparkling aerial display above the carnival grounds recalled the many battles that had been fought to defend our freedom. It’s the same message that appears on a t-shirt I sometimes wear with the message “Freedom is Not Free” atop an image of the American flag. It seems many in our nation have forgotten this reality. My grandson and I spent a few minutes talking about the sacrifices military personnel have made to ensure our freedom.

The chatter from the work crew prompted my grandson to comment that they were having fun at work. During my younger years, I might have thoroughly enjoyed traveling around the country bringing summertime entertainment to different communities. There are seasons in life for us to utilize the various talents and abilities that have been bestowed upon us by God. We are blessed in our nation with opportunities to use and develop our individual gifts.

After the fireworks’ finale, we folded up our chairs and walked back to our car under the dim light of a few streetlamps. As a woman, it is my habit to take note of my surroundings; I felt safe here. That is not true everywhere, including some places in the metropolitan area where we reside. I silently thanked the police officers who watch over our community and respond to calls for help. I appreciate their willingness to head into dangerous situations to protect me should the need ever arise.

None of us have a choice of where or when we enter this world, or the circumstances. We don’t get to decide when we will leave it. But we have been given freedom to choose how we will live out our time and where we will be once that time on earth has ended. When we put our faith in Christ as our Savior, we are assured of eternal life with Him in heaven. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

Christ has already paid the price for our freedom. I am happy to say both my grandson and I, along with many other family members, have chosen His gift. This free gift is available to everyone who asks with a sincere heart. May freedom ring in your heart forever.

Start Summer With a June Blessing

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7

June is the typical start of summer, a season when school-age grandchildren have more free time than during the entire school year. They don’t always know how to use it wisely. To put it another way, even the best behaved ones will probably end up getting themselves into some sort of mischief.

As a child, I found endless ways to get in trouble, even with an overly protective mother watching over me. It is almost guaranteed that your grandchildren will need forgiveness for something they do. Be generous. They need to know your love is given unconditionally, regardless of their failings. 

In Luke 15, Jesus addresses Pharisees and teachers of the law with a parable about a lost son. It’s a complicated account about two sons that make disheartening choices, and a father whose love for them never wanes despite their behaviors. I encourage you to read this parable before you consider what you might say to a grandchild who needs to experience your unconditional love. Then you have the proper mindset to write.

You are loved even when you mess up. God’s love never ends. I know He forgives us because…

Cookies Made for America

The last Monday in May, Memorial Day, is set aside to honor all American soldiers who died in the line of duty. And, my grandson wanted me to make cookies with him. This provided a perfect opportunity bake cookies while teaching him about the sweet freedom we have as a result of sacrifices others have made on our behalf.  

While we baked, I made a point of telling him about our family members and friends who served in the military. There were many. Sadly, the stories included one about someone who did not return home from World War II. We used the colors of the American Flag for the cookies, as a way to help us remember to honor all who made such a sacrifice.

These cookies use simple ingredients and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. I was surprised by how easy they were to make. They are a visual reminder that a price has been paid for freedom, and we are its beneficiaries.

Ingredients

1 cup softened butter

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1-½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

2-½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

Red and blue food coloring

Directions

Cream butter; add sugar gradually; blend in vanilla, salt, and flour. Divide dough into three equal parts. Leave one part white, tint one red, and tine another part blue. Shape portions each color into ½ inch thick strips. Place strips side by side on a lightly floured surface Roll out lengthwise into a rectangle 14 x 3 inches. Cut with a large round cookie cutter so each cookie has a three-color stripe Repeat with remaining dough. Reroll the extra dough to create marbled cookies. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. You get approximately seven dozen cookies.

We have been given a godly command to teach younger generations why we have faith in Christ. Likewise, as citizens of the United States of America, we have a duty to teach young ones about our countrymen and women who died in the line of military service. I hope this easy-to-do idea inspires you to express your gratitude for the many men and women who gave their all in a way that inspires today’s children to become the patriotic citizens of tomorrow.

You May Bless Your Grandchildren

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

I reminded my grandson again today that the last month of school is a time to finish strong. I try to put things in a positive light as much as I can, knowing kids respond more positively to that approach. I sure did when I was a kid. 

The main point I hoped to make with my grandson is that he has been gifted with certain characteristics and abilities from God to use for His good purpose. To that end, I am encouraging my grandson to develop and utilize every bit of talent, skill, and wisdom he possesses.

Among those is the discernment to know right from wrong. That is, to recognize the moral code God has embedded in each of us. You know what I mean. We all feel that pang of guilt when we do something that grinds against what we know is true. Because we are uniquely created, each one has a different set of wrongs to battle. In your best, most supportive voice, how would you address those characteristics in your grandchild?

Take a moment, or more, to think about it. Then begin to write…

You won’t go wrong if you do what is right. When you give your best in all you do…

Showers of April Blessings

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

One of the most popular verses in the Bible, found on coffee mugs, wall hangings, or bookmarks is Proverbs 3:5.

I suspect this is because we find comfort in knowing God looks out for us. When life is going according to our plan, it is a lighthearted reminder. And, when we face the inevitable difficulties of life, this verse becomes a spiritual lifesaver, especially when it is accompanied by the next verse, Proverbs 3:6, that reads “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. 

God never fails to deliver on his promises.

When my grandson was less than one week old, I asked him to give me the opportunity to teach him about Jesus. God’s faithful response throughout the decade that followed made it clear that he wants me to follow up on my commitment. Whenever my path seemed to be heading to a dead end, an opportunity opened up to continue with biblical training. 

What the Lord has done for me, he can do for you. Your testimony is uniquely your own, however, the command to bring your faith to light with grandchildren is common to all believers. It begins with your request for favor over your grandchild, and your unique style of sharing your faith in God. 

You can always count on God. I know God will care for you. Trust Him when…

A Resurrection Lesson a-la Cookies

One of the simplest ways to teach children the real reason we celebrate Easter is by making a batch of Resurrection Cookies. The ten-step process begins the evening before Easter Sunday, and is a treat for kids of every age. In the process, the account of Jesus’ death and glorious resurrection is explained. Here’s how to do it:

Set the oven oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Assemble the following ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • A medium-sized bowl
  • A zip-lock baggie
  • A wooden spoon
  • Wax paper
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • Tape
  • A Bible

Directions:

1. Put the pecans in the zip-lock baggie. Have the children beat the pecans with the wooden spoon while you explain this is a symbol of the Roman soldiers beating Jesus. Read John 19:1-3.

2. Have the children smell the vinegar before they put it in the bowl. Explain how this is a reminder that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, the soldiers gave him vinegar. Read John 19:28-30.

3. Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Explain how the eggs represent life and are a symbol of Jesus giving his life for us. Read John 10:10-11.

4. Sprinkle salt into the children’s hands and let them taste some before throwing the rest into the bowl. Explain that this symbolizes the salty tears shed by Jesus’ disciples and loved ones when he died, as well as the bitterness of our sins. Read Luke 23:27.

5. Add the sugar. Explain how the sweetest part of the Resurrection account is that Jesus died because he loves us and wants us to trust him so we can be his children. Read Psalm 34:3 and John 3:16.

6. Beat the ingredients with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes. When stiff peaks form, explain that the white is a symbol of how clean we are when Jesus forgives our sins and we trust him to be our Savior. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

7. Gently fold the nuts into the mixture and drop it by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Explain that this symbolizes the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

8. Put the cookies in the oven, shut the door, and TURN IT OFF. Have the children place pieces of tape on the oven door to seal it. Explain how the Roman soldiers rolled a heavy stone in front of the tomb’s entrance to seal Jesus’s body inside and stood guard in front of it. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

9. Tell the children to go to bed. They may feel sad, the same way Jesus’s disciples and loved ones felt the night when they placed his body in the tomb. Read John 16:20-22.

10. On Easter morning, have the children open the oven door. Give everyone a cookie. While they are looking at them, explain that the cracks in the cookie represent the tomb. When they bite into the cookies, they will find them hollow. This is a symbol of the empty tomb … the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty.

JESUS HAS RISEN! Read Matthew 28:1-9.

March to a Blessed Beat

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

If your grandchild has ever told you they felt like nothing special, you can honestly inform them the Bible and science concur: they are, indeed, very special.

You are unique in all the world. 

Consider all the possible combinations of human genetics. We know DNA, a.k.a., Deoxyribonucleic acid, is made up of four types of nitrogen bases: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). The complete DNA instruction book, or genome, for a human contains about 3 BILLION bases and about 20,000 genes on 23 pairs of chromosomes. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, the sequence of these bases determines what biological instructions are contained in a strand of DNA. For example, one sequence might instruct for blue eyes, while another might instruct for brown. And, that’s just for starters. The specific combination of DNA sequence strands that make up our bodies is uniquely our own. 

The Bible completes the picture of how God created each one of us to be distinctive by acknowledging our spiritual as well as our physical makeup. Perhaps your grandson has an endearing smile, a tender heart, or a laugh that lights up a room. Your granddaughter might have a curl in her hair that bounces with excitement when she is happy, a way of cuddling on your lap that makes you wish the moment could last forever. Each child has personality characteristics that make them distinctive.

Spend a few moments thinking about your grandchild. If asked to describe that child, what would come to mind? Allow your imagination to roam a bit, until a mental image becomes clear. Then pick up a pen and begin to write.

Some of my favorite things about you are …

A February Blessing

You are a gift from God.

During the month dedicated to love, these words are not said nearly enough. They are wonderful words to share with a grandchild. We might assume our sentiments are understood, but saying them out loud or putting them into print increase the impact they have on the receiver. 

When you present this message to a grandchild, consider how they are a gift to you. Make it personal. Is it true to say a certain grandchild brightened your day, your countenance, your outlook on the day they were born? Perhaps their personality is one that brings a smile to your face whenever you think about times spent together. 

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)

What did you first notice about this grandchild that tickled your heart. It could have been the color of their hair or eyes, or simply the sweet fragrance of newborn life. Allow yourself to reminisce. Think about your first moments of interaction and that certain “thing” that let you know without a doubt that your grandchild is a blessing in your life.

Then pull out a pen and put your thoughts on paper. Write whatever comes to mind, knowing you can refine the sentences later. You might begin by saying, “ God blessed me when you were born. I know this because … ”

Have You Blessed a Grandchild This Month?

Earlier this year, I suggested a way to pour forth blessings over your grandchildren using a selection of inspirational Bible verses and writing prompts. For me, it is a mindful way to present the ones I love before the Lord.

If you haven’t tried writing a blessing over your grandchild, I urge yo to pick up a pen and some paper. Here is a sample of the kind of message you might convey:

January – You are God’s creation. 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

We met on your first day of life. You were squirming around in an incubator after a challenging entry into this world. Inside a perfectly formed body, your fighting spirit was fully evident. At that time, I couldn’t have known how expertly our Lord had fashioned you for the path ahead. My prayer that day was for God to exert a powerful presence over your life. He has answered that prayer time and again. Your tender heart is one of His gifts. It is evident to people who meet you, even for brief periods of time. I pray for you to continue using everything that God had endowed upon you in ways that honor him and attract others to Christ. 

Choosing a Bible verse to write a blessing for a grandchild is something that brings blessings to both of you.

It’s Snow Time

The northern states experience frequent seasonal blasts of wind-driven snow. These weather phenomenons, known as blizzards, last about a day before they take off for the Atlantic coast. Forget about interstate driving or escaping by air. You should have embarked on that adventure sooner. Now you’re dealing with closed schools and highway travel advisories. Here’s my solution: throw a party instead. Do it to the degree that your comfort level allows, even if that means it’s a Zoom party.

Weather forecasters give us ample warning to prepare. Step one, join the hordes of locals who descend on grocery store shelves like locusts in August. Grab whatever you want to eat, or ingredients for whatever you want to cook, if you’re so inclined. Tidy up the house and call your friends who live nearby. Add them to the ones you’ve already invited while standing in the grocery store check-out line.

Be sure to include the grandkids and their friends. Toddlers through teens, their natural level of activity will get things rolling. All you need to do is have some age-appropriate games or activities set around the house in plain sight. Note of caution: someone might need to jump in occasionally so that lamps and other breakables remain in their unbroken state. 

Music is a must have. We invite guests to bring instruments and sheet music for favorite songs. For non-musicians, the recorded stuff or a radio station works fine. Try a mix of secular and worship tunes, maybe a video or family-friendly movie. Then relax. 

There’s always someone willing to jump in and help. People ask, “What can I do?” They get bored when their only contribution is standing around with their arms crossed over their chests. For distance parties, consider exchanging dishes to share ahead of the storm. I find there’s no easier way to open up conversations than when I’m serving food and cleaning up with a friend. Once you get a comfortable conversation going, deeper, more personal topics rise to the surface. Let them.

Talk about how you first came to know Jesus personally. Share ideas for passing your faith along to grandchildren or how you deal with challenging family situations. Pray with one another. Thank God for the good family and friends in your life. Be grateful for all you have. And don’t be surprised if, before the evening is over, you’re starting to plan for the next snow day.