Compare Notes

Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Admit it, the world we live in doesn’t always make sense. A quick glance at the news reminds us that our country is undergoing a long season of trepidation and rebellion. Given the conflicting deluge of messages thrust upon us daily, it’s nearly impossible to know what to believe. Thankfully, there is one source of information we can rely upon for absolute truth: the Bible. Eternal wisdom flows from its pages.  

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations
of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Deuteronomy 7:9

We probably all have concerns for our grandchildren’s physical and spiritual well being. Having many decades of experience, we’re reminiscent of the Farmers Insurance ad tagline, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Our perspectives and collective wisdom are vital for these young ones. That old cliche’ reminding us “it takes a village to raise a child” hits home here. Please, allow God to be at the center of it all. 

It is a blessing to have friends that share the same concerns for their grandchildren as I do for my grandson. We support one another with prayer, encouragement, and advice, much as mothers of young children do amongst themselves. Think of it as comparing notes with other people whose ultimate goal aligns with yours: to spend eternity with our grandchildren and other believers in heaven. Be sure to bring a notebook the next time you meet.

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Life At the Speed of Age

Image Courtesy of NASA

My grandson cannot wait until his next birthday. His anticipation begins the day after his current birthday, meaning he dedicates approximately 364 days to the task. Several decades ago, I felt the same way. For children, the months between birthdays seem to travel at the speed of snail. For those who have been practicing adulthood for many years, time seems to pass at the ever-increasing speed of age, more akin to the speed of sound. 

In my youth, I considered life to be a long journey that would culminate in death at some inconceivable future date. Then reality hit home after a few friends and family members died with unexpectedly short numbers of years. All the observations from members of past generations about the brevity of life suddenly became real. 

James 4:14 says,
“What is your life? You are a mist
that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

While I hope for many more years, each day that passes brings me closer to the brink of eternity. Experience reminds me that not one of us knows what will happen tomorrow. We can only put it to use in the present what we have learned from the past. 

The awareness of this life’s brevity and the permanent home that follows ignited an urgency that I am running out of time to fulfill my most important task: sharing my reason for hope with the people in my life. How sad it would be to know I missed an opportunity to share that hope with the ones I love. It’s all about living at the speed of age.

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The Blue Bike

God’s timing is perfect. We know that from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which tells us there are seasons for every activity under heaven, including teaching a child how to ride a bike. From our perspective, it is a matter of patience, strategy, and persistence. I can attest to this.

My grandson is cautious by nature, more cautious than his friends I have come to know. He is also a bit of a perfectionist. It shows in his reluctance to participate in any activity publicly until he has at least mastered the basics. This is where the blue bike comes in. 

Two summers ago, I encouraged him to learn how to ride a bike. He dismissed any consideration of it, opting instead to try scootering. I agreed, figuring it would at least give him practice balancing on two wheels. Did I mention his hesitancy to get back up on wheels after a fall? Luckily, our neighbor’s son also had a scooter and did a better job of teaching the fine art of maintaining an upright stance while mobile. Having a friend also made it mandatory to get up and ride again, or look like a wimp.

For us, that scooter became a regular part of every neighborhood walk. The next step was to get him enthused about riding a bike. My expectation was that he would be gung-ho for a bicycle by the following summer. Wrong! He simply hopped on his scooter and scooted off.

The challenge was on. I launched into a full-out marketing campaign, touting all the benefits of bicycle riding: speed, his dislike for walking (too hard on his feet), bike riding with friends, and riding some of the popular trails in our neighborhood. Slowly, he began to express interest in bicycle riding, until he began asking for a bike. 

My husband and I spent an entire afternoon checking out potential bicycle shops. We wanted to get one that would be the perfect size and fit for our grandson, hopefully with the option of trading it in for an adult-size bike within the next few years. We found it: a 24-inch hybrid model in bright orange. Finally, we were ready to make the purchase. 

Because of restrictions due to COVID-19, only two people per family were allowed in the shop at one time. I opted to wait outside while my husband accompanied our grandson into the bike shop. About 20 minutes later, my grandson emerged from the shop sporting a huge grin and guiding a blue bike toward our car. I literally rubbed my eyes to be sure I was not going color blind. It turns out, this model is ideal for neighborhood streets, sidewalks, and paved trails. 

Within a half hour, our grandson was balancing his way down the street astride his new blue bike. By the end of the day, we were all riding our bikes around the neighborhood, greeting friends from a safe distance and thanking God for giving us patience and persistence to see our efforts come to fruition. It was a wonderful way to see how all things work according to God’s perfect timing, just like it says in Ecclesiastes.

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A Timely Book Review

One of my favorite writers to grandparents is Dr. Josh Mulvihill. His most recent book, Discipling Your Grandchildren, is another fine example of his depth of insight and passion to communicate simple, yet profound Christian messages in an easy-to-use format. Discipling Your Grandchildren is the kind of book you will pull from your personal library shelf throughout your grandparenting years.

Discipling Your Grandchildren is the kind of book you will pull from your personal library shelf throughout your grandparenting years.

Based on solid biblical principles, each chapter covers one specific aspect of discipleship. Calling upon the expertise of Jen Mulvihill and Linda Weddle, this book encourages older generations to prioritize the spiritual growth and development of their grandchildren. Methodologies include purposeful prayer, communication, meal time, and family time, as well as intentional Bible study with grandchildren of every age. Learn creative ways to share such things as long distance dinners, gifts of experiences, and a virtual tour of Israel.

Eleven topics address the intricacies of communicating with grandchildren, near or far, from birth through adulthood. Each is written with respect to the primary role of adult children, and the nuances of dealing with those whose faith may not be strong. Chapters include tips and lists of resources to enhance your effectiveness at sharing the truth of God’s Word.

My endorsement of Discipling Your Grandchildren corresponds with such notables as Valerie Bell, CEO of Awana; Cavin Harper, founder of Christian Grandparenting Network; and Dr. Rob Reinow, founder of Visionary Family Ministries. 

Discipling Your Grandchildren, which is part of the Grandparenting Matters series, is available for purchase at Bethany House Publishing,

Or at Amazon.com.

Home Alone – Not!

We’re getting a big dose of family time at home. Online meetings are nothing compared to the task of guiding children through distance learning classwork. As grandparents, my husband and I are deeply involved in the education process of a third grader. The word “alone” is not typically part of our routine. However, during the course of this new educational system, it is often preceded by the words “Leave me _ _ _ _ _.” 

Don’t get me wrong. I love having my family near. I’m just not used to having them so near so much of the time. Neither are they. We all want to get out to the coffee shops, department stores, and restaurants where we can mingle with other people. But, in the meantime, we are practicing our ability to view life from a grander, eternal perspective.

The Fruit of the Spirit, as presented in Galatians 5:22-23, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I keep working on these, sometimes more successfully than other times. I printed, framed, and set these verses in a place where I see them every day. It reminds me to give my best to the people I love most. 

There are times when I look at my grandson and consider how much he has grown since his first year of life. He has accomplished countless skills and abilities since the day he surprised himself by rolling over onto his tummy as an infant. Watching him concentrate to master new math and language skills, or finding the right bait to catch that big bass reminds me of the swift passage of time. Will his faith exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit as he reaches adulthood? Am I doing all I can to encourage that eventuality?

I view our concentrated time together as an opportunity as well as a challenge. Is my grandson learning how to live out the fruit of the Spirit? My chance to show him comes while we are not home alone. Thankfully, summer vacation brings new opportunities to grow our fruitfulness.

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[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!

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May I Have Your Attention, Please?

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Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I’m beginning to understand what it means to do without things I once considered necessary, activities that once seemed paramount to normalcy. It is remarkable how quickly the world I am accustomed to can come to a virtual standstill with COVID-19. This imposed lifestyle change causes me to ponder, could it be a gift wrapped in plain brown paper? 

God uses circumstances to push us to stronger degrees of faith. James 1:2-3 tells us our trials and temptations can be catalysts to help fulfill His purposes. When our faith is being tested, our perseverance has a chance to grow in ways that cannot happen by any other means.

You may be struggling to maintain contact with children and grandchildren who are not physically or emotionally close. You may be spending more time than usual assisting your adult children with their children’s education. Or you may fall somewhere in between. Wherever you stand, ask yourself: “Have I included God in the situation? Have I put my worries into His hands?” 

In all circumstances, you have an almighty advocate on your side, ready to direct you in the way you should go. James 1:5 advises those who lack wisdom to ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. It is a powerful promise to all who believe and do not doubt. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.” 

Proverbs 3:5-6 

Does God have your attention? Look to Him for guidance. He is never further than a prayer away.

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Thirty-Three Years

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The cemetery where grandpa is buried

An out-of-state ministry trip with my husband included a visit to my grandfather’s grave site. We never met in person, since he passed away decades before I made my entrance to this world. I know him through the myriad of stories family members shared about his life. From what I have learned, my presence here is due to his personal sacrifices.

This grandfather emigrated to the United States from Poland in 1913 during an era of significant unrest, leaving behind his family and successful business. As an alien who did not speak the common language of his new home, he took work upon arrival as a laborer and saved enough of his wages to bring his wife and three children safely to America. My mother was one of those children.

The following year, they welcomed a fourth child into the family. Then, at age 33, my grandfather died of complications from pneumonia. The entire transition from planning their immigration to his death covered approximately three years. He accomplished much in that short period of time.

I couldn’t help but compare the similarities between his story and that of Jesus. Each man dedicated three years to successfully accomplish his mission. Their lives came to an end at exactly the same age. But whereas my grandfather sacrificed his comforts for the well-being of his family, Jesus gave up his royal throne in Heaven to become the sacrificial Lamb for all who put their faith in Him.

The respect I feel for this grandfather is real. It does, however, pale in comparison to the reverence I hold for Christ Jesus. It is because of His great love for me, as well as all who call upon his name in genuine faith, that I am intentional about sharing Christ’s message of salvation with my grandson as well as those around me. I look forward to the day when I will meet all who have gone before me to eternity with the Creator and Author of life, the One who walked this earth for 33 years.

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The following video from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is a guide through the Steps to Peace With God.

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.

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References: 

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

The True Spirit of Christmas Gifts

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Kids are not immune to the ongoing Christmas shopping frenzy. Like adults, they’re inundated with ads and solicitations to get that special something for that special someone. And, if they have any money, they may well be counting their pennies toward a specific item. This is an opportune time to teach them about managing their resources.

My parents used a simple method to teach this concept. Any allowance, birthday bucks, or earnings I received were divided equally into two piles: one to save, and one to spend. Ten percent of the spend pile was my church offering. The remainder was mine to use as I wished. It was a good system that taught me to give back a portion of what I had received, to prepare for long-term goals, and to intentionally steward my resources. 

At times when finances were tight, I made gifts for people. Simple handmade ornaments or home baked cookies always seemed to get warm responses. As an adult, I have come to understand what counts most in a gift is that it shows personal knowledge of the recipient and a desire to fulfill a need or desire. My gifts differ from person to person. But the gift that God offers is universal.

In the true Spirit of Christmas, we recognize that our Father in Heaven sent Jesus to earth in human form where He died and arose from the grave. Christ gave up everything so anyone who puts their faith in Him has the right to be called children of God. All we need to do is accept His ultimate gift. If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, follow this link to The 4 Spiritual Laws, by Bill Bright.

May the children in your life see the joy this simple truth brings to your life. Happy gifting, and Merry Christmas! 

Blessings to you from barbhowe.org.