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 …

[Insert NAME Here]

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Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson on Unsplash

One of my favorite things to do is make up new lyrics to popular songs. Most of all, I like to insert names into songs to make them personal. When my grandson was a toddler, he frequently asked me to “sing song” whenever we were together. I knew he meant the Sunshine song with his name inserted to help him identify with the message.

It goes like this:

“You are my sunshine, my only [Insert NAME Here].
You make me happy when skies are grey.

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.” 

Try it with your young grandchildren and watch smiles fill their faces. It’s easy. Plus, you don’t need to have a great voice to elicit their approval. When they can identify with the song personally, it’s easier for the verses to roll off the tongue into the memory. 

In a similar spirit, a friend told me she likes to insert her name in spaces when reading Bible verses that talk about our relationship with Christ.

For example, Ephesians 2:8-9 would read:

“For it is by grace [Insert NAME Here] has been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourself,
it is the gift of God— not by works,
so that [Insert NAME Here] cannot boast. 

This simple technique is a way to remind the ones we care deeply about, in addition to ourselves, that our God cares for each of us intimately and values each of us. Inserting our names into verses does not change the way God loves us, but it may help us to respond to Him personally. And all you need to do is sing a favorite verse with your grandchild’s name inserted. How simple is that!

Share the things you do to stay in personal contact with God at: barbhowe.org.

Read It and Win

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Photo courtesy of Zelle Duda on Unsplash

How fun is that! Reading to your grandkids gives them a lifelong boost. Plus it gives you another excuse to spend time with them.

The ability of elementary school age children to read is one of the strongest predictors of career success during their adulthood. (1) Reading has been shown to improve a person’s vocabulary, creativity, intelligence, and empathy. Plus, reading reduces stress at the same time it helps individuals develop the discipline of perseverance. (2) 

Keep in mind that to be effective, readers needs to be engaged in what they are reading. That is to say, the greatest benefits kick in when reading is done for the purpose of increasing one’s knowledge and understanding of a subject. According to Ellen Parry Lewis, fiction author, reading is a necessary habit for successful businesspersons. (2) 

The choices of reading materials, both fiction and nonfiction, matter as well. When we fill our minds with positive, empowering messages and ideas that influence our lives and encourage community involvement, we can become agents of change. With that in mind, there is no better book to begin the habit of reading than the Bible.

“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 3:16-17) NLT.

When was the first time you read from the Bible with a grandchild? The last time? Grandparents have the power to influence grandchildren. Use it wisely. The best thing you can do for the eternal good of your grandchildren is to start early and continue to share biblical wisdom with them. Find an age-appropriate edition of the Bible that you can both enjoy. 

I know people who hold long distance Bible studies with their grandchildren via text or Skype. Their grandchildren are growing stronger in their faith because of all the love being poured out onto them. Obey God’s command to share His Word and let the Holy Spirit do His good work in your grandchildren. 

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20) NLT.

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.

References: 

  1. Reading and Life Success
  2. Read a Book! It’s Good for Your Career 

The Season is Upon Us

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Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

It seems to be starting earlier this year. Christmas decorations showed up in stores weeks ago, and now everyone I talk to is decorating their homes with trees, garlands, and all kinds of evergreen somethings. And here I am, still planning a Thanksgiving menu. I love the fun of it as much as anyone does, but only as long as the original reason we celebrate does not get lost in the excitement. 

Allow me to interject a chiche’ here. “It isn’t Christmas without Christ.” The gift of eternal salvation surpasses any trinket, electronic, wearable, or consumable you can find in a brick and mortar or cyber store. Amen to that! The question then centers on how to keep Christ at the center of the season.  

I made a list of the people on my gift list and slipped it into my purse. Along with reminding me to shop for them, it is a ready reminder to pray for them. Seeing their names prompts visual images of each person and usually conjures up a fond memory. (Imagine some lady walking around a shopping mall laughing to herself.)

 If you’re like me, grandchildren hit the top of the list. What is the best thing you can give them? Hint: it has nothing to do with running up a huge credit card debt, but it has the power to last an eternity. It is the message of faith in Christ as our Savior. The fun part is that putting this wonderful gift into an alluring package is really quite simple.

Advent calendars, the kind that mark the 24 days leading up to Christmas with daily doses of Bible verses and chocolate, are a big hit at my house. During last year’s Christmas celebrations, my grandson decided to read  each of the Advent calendar messages aloud to our family. It planted Jesus right into the middle of our gifts, where He belongs. Truly, His is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Let’s all get into the true spirit of Christmas. Let me know what you’re doing at barbhowe.org.

“The Others”

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Photo courtesy of Pablo Hermoso on Unsplash

A friend whose married child has children refers to the in-laws as “the others”. It is a lighthearted way of acknowledging a common grandparent role. I’m not sure if this relationship with “the others” is favorable or unfavorable, however, even the best circumstance poses its own set of challenges.

When relationships between in-laws is good and both sets of grandparents have financial resources, they might tend to overwhelm grandchildren with material gifts. We all experience the joy of giving. But, it can be problematic when it turns into a competition, or when the parents do not approve of the types of gifts that are bestowed on their children. As grandparents, we must remind ourselves that our adult children are the primary caregivers of our grandchildren and our role is to support their good decisions.

Alternatively, in-law relationships can be strained due to lifestyle choices, attitudes, or other elements. Let’s face it, being a grandparent does not automatically mean a person has strong moral character. Did I say that politely enough? Sometimes these circumstances require more prayer than we feel capable of praying. It is vital that we exhibit Christ-like attitudes toward people who do not accept Jesus as their Savior or live according to our personal standards. It could mean biting our tongue and earnestly asking the Holy Spirit for guidance time and again.

Above all, rely on the Holy Spirit to guide your attitudes and actions. Rely on God’s wisdom to direct your choices. Wisdom is promised in the Bible; all you need to do is ask for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you,” James 1:5.

As we embark on another season of Thanksgiving and Christmas when families are likely to encounter one another, remember that we who put our faith in Christ have a gift to share with the world that surpasses anything else. Be generous. Share the love you have received with “the others”.

Then, tell me how the Spirit guided your time with “the others” at barbhowe.org.

How Marigolds are Like Grandchildren

20191019_132433-e1572392553845.jpgIt feels like just last week my marigolds were tiny plants. I clearly remember planting them in one of my favorite garden spots. Those marigolds grew to overflow during the summer months, giving a sunny welcome to everyone who came to our house. Recently, while I was pulling the faded plants for composting, my thoughts turned to the reality that grandchildren don’t stay little for long.

And yet, each phase of their development brings its own rewards. Like marigolds, grandchildren develop and spread their proverbial branches. That infant who snuggled against your shoulder may now be trooping off to school, or to work. Nothing can hold back the march of time. Keep the memories, but experience your grandchildren’s lives in the present. 

Clear your calendar to attend their school events, athletic competitions, and music recitals. Your presence speaks volumes about your commitment and love for them. Excuses are easy to find: physical distance, difficult family dynamics, illness, and an endless stream of “I can’t” because of whatever. 

From a biblical perspective, our primary responsibility as grandparents is to share our Christian faith with the generations that follow. If you don’t believe me on this, check out the following verse.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV)

The stronger your relationship with your grandchildren is, the more likely they are to listen when you talk about your faith. Technology diminishes distances between you and out-of-state relatives, soft words soothe misunderstandings, and years of experiences equip us with materials for teaching. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Make the most of every chance you have to tell your grandchildren why you trust Christ for your salvation.

Take a moment to pray for your grandchildren by name. Ask God to create opportunities for you to engage with them on a regular basis. Expect Him to respond in His perfect timing. His answers can be surprising beyond imagination and delightful above all hope.

Share how God has answered your prayers at barbhowe.com.

Three Things I Learned From A Writing Conference

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Photo courtesy of The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

When you think about your “best” work as an ideal instead of an achievable reality, continuous quality improvement becomes the impetus behind everything you write. Think of it as a challenge to expand on existing knowledge. In the same way carpenters fill their toolboxes with new gadgets, we writers need to fill our minds with creative new approaches to our craft.

Here are three useful ideas I picked up from a recent writing conference.

  1. Learn from others. No matter how well I think I’ve done on a writing project, inevitably there is another person who gave the same idea a different twist. That doesn’t mean my idea was not as good. It simply means I now have a new tool for my kit. 
  2. Refresh what you already know. Skills get rusty when they’re not used. Conferences are great places to jump start writing enthusiasm. They may also present an array of publishing, audio, and video resources to explore after the conference.
  3. Make new friends. Chatting one-on-one with a new acquaintance over lunch is a great way to get to know them; it’s called networking. At the last conference I attended, a lady I met invited me to attend a monthly writer’s luncheon group as her guest. A few others made plans to start a writer’s critique group. 

Now, here’s a bonus reason to attend a writing conference. Writing is challenging work. But, God designed us to live in community and give back to others what we have learned from our own experience. Your participation at a conference might be the very thing an aspiring writer needs, your encouragement a spark to help them reach for their “best” work. It’s a wonderful way to share your own legacy of writing.

Now give me your thoughts at: barbhowe.org.

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #5 of 5

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Photo courtesy of J Korpa on Unsplash

Dreams comprise the fifth and final category of my inspiration series. I suspect this is the most underutilized source of writing inspiration that people draw upon. Don’t ignore dreams. They can be a potent wellspring of insights.

During the day, our thoughts are barraged with information and choices. But while our bodies rest, our minds go to work. Decision filters shut down when the day is done and leave the door open for the night crew. Think of dreams as your mind on brainstorm mode, offering endlessly creative ideas without interruption. 

Those periods of transition between consciousness and unconsciousness, when our minds still hang in the balance, can uncover emotional treasuresDreams help us sort through things that matter to us. 

Here’s an example from a memoir:

I awoke this morning from a frightfully vivid nightmare. You have formed the habit of running toward the street whenever we were outside. I stopped you every time. Still, the fear remained that a day might come when my reaction time would be too slow to prevent you from being harmed. Through the haze of awakening, I dreamed I was chasing you down our driveway, grabbing you from the path of a speeding car, and pushing you to the side as the car’s front fender closed in. I was immediately reminded of how precious you are to me.

The message is clear. It also shows that not everything you write in your memoir needs to be an actual event. This example shows the emotional relationship with a child in the context of a pending traffic accident that, thankfully, did not happen. 

Happily, dreams may also uncover our tenderest feelings about such experiences as the moment we first see our grandchild. Make the most out of yours. Use those waking moments to note your dreams and convey your love to your grandchild.

Share your ideas at barbhowe.com.

Click below to read other inspirations.

Inspiration #1

Inspiration #2

Inspiration #3

Inspiration #4

Writing About Grandchildren – Inspiration #3 of 5

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Photo courtest of Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

You have probably experienced times with a grandchild that spark your own reminiscing. These instances happens throughout the year, with or without prompting. Long forgotten memories do pop up when we least expect them. They are not restricted to time or season. 

There is no law saying you can’t share stories from your past. They are always relevant. Your stories of reminiscing give children a glimpse into the reality that human nature stays the same despite all the technological advances that are being made.

In the same way that milestones and special occasions spark ideas, reminiscing can be fun. I think of it as conducting an archaeological dig into the past to talk with grandchildren about memories being made today. Here is an excerpt from a letter written to a grandchild in the days leading up to Christmas:

I remember when you were barely old enough to help decorate our home for Christmas. Setting up our Christmas tree that year prompted one of my childhood memories.

When I was 10-years-old, my Dad lost his job due to a workforce reduction, This was at a time before artificial Christmas trees were common. Our family budget was severely limited while he searched for a new place to work.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, I heard my parents talk about the price of Christmas trees and how they might be able to work it into the budget. I began to wonder if we were going to have a Christmas tree that year. Now, to be honest, I cannot recall any year during my childhood when we did not have one, but I also cannot remember most of those trees.

This tree was different. I clearly remember when…

Imagine the different directions a memory like this might travel. Your stories could prompt your grandchildren to consider how today’s ordinary activities will look different in their later years. They will certainly revisit the time you shared with them. Perhaps the most important element of your reminiscing is giving them a reason for hope when they struggle through the inevitable challenges of life.

So, let your remembrances flow onto paper. Allow your grandchildren to see how people work through their difficulties. Use your words to share a message of hope and faith in our loving Lord.

Shortly after Christmas, the dad in the story found a new job. The entire family emerged stronger in their bonds, and stronger in their faith. Use your life stories as a way to strengthen the faith of your grandchildren. The rewards are eternal.

Share your remembrances at barbhowe.com.