Fatherhood on Display

During the course of one week, I had the opportunity to twice witness father-and-son interactions that give me hope for future generations. 

The first encounter took place at a retail establishment. While I was waiting in line for the cashier, a father and son entered the store with packaged goods and delivered them to the store office. When I finalized my purchase and stepped toward the exit, this father and his son approached the door at the same time. We all stopped. I gestured for the son to follow his father out of the store, but the father told his son, “Let the lady go first.” The son stood still, respectfully looked at his father, then at me. It struck me that here was a father teaching his son, by example, how to serve the community and how to be a gentleman. “Thank you,” I said, before exiting the store. I pondered, “How many of today’s problems would be averted if every father made the effort to train his child in this way?”

Within a week, while leaving a movie theater, a similar situation occurred. As I walked toward the exit, I came across a man who was holding the door open; a young boy was standing inside. The two exchanged glances and the man motioned for me to exit. The boy stood still until I passed through the doorway before he too left. Once outside, they chatted about the movie and what they would do next. This time, my sense of hope were piqued.

It is important to mention that these father-son family units were of different ethnic backgrounds. In a cultural climate where much rhetoric is expressed against one or another’s ethnicity, what I witnessed is the powerful, positive influence of lovingly engaged fathers in action. Today’s children need committed fathers who are intentional in the way they discipline and train them. 

These are the things I learned from my encounters:

  • Fathers deserve our respect. For too many years, our culture has relegated men to the unnecessary heap in regard to families. That is not God’s plan, and as we can see in our culture, the idea that fathers are not needed to raise children simply does not work. Also, please ignore any preconceived notions that exist about ethnicities.
  • Many good fathers are giving their all to raise their children to be respectable gentlemen and ladies. In the future, when I am in a situation where it is appropriate, I will thank the father for the good work he is doing in the presence of his child. Children need to see their fathers being respected for fulfilling their role in a godly manner.
  • Families matter. I believe it is time to encourage young men and women to marry, and stay committed to each other in the Lord, before they have children. That means I must be willing to share my life experiences with them, including how God helped me and my husband through the tough times by relying on God. Transparency counts.

I am now intentionally observing how fathers interact with their children wherever I go in public. It is heartening to see fathers of young boys or girls patiently listening to them, giving their child a gentle hug, or carefully explaining something to them. Raising sons and daughters is a challenge, but the best of men are out there giving it everything they have. I appreciate them, and I hope you do too.

Superpower Grandparents

I posed a question to a panel of theologians at a family camp designed for Christians. It went: “How would you counsel Christian grandparents to leave their faith legacy for their grandchildren when their parents are unwilling or unable to do so?” A large, collective groan from the attendees confirmed that I am not alone in this need. The panel members, all of whom were in the midst of raising young children, gave tenderhearted answers. Thankfully, they confirmed much of what I already am doing. They also offered added insights.

Their first bit of advice was to pray; pray for our grandchildren and for our children. (Note: It’s never too late to pray for your children.) There is never a time when prayer is not needed. There is never a time when we know better than God what our families need. There is nothing we are experiencing that God cannot change in an instant. I am reminded to lay my burden on God and then step aside and get out of His way. 

Secondly, one pastor reminded us that we are Superpower Grandparents. As the Farmers’ Insurance commercial tagline says: “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two,” grandparents have experienced what our adult children are now going through. It’s not that we swoop to the rescue wearing flowing capes, it’s that we care enough about our family members to prioritize their eternal salvation. We hold a powerful influence over the lives of our grandchildren, demonstrated in the way we speak and interact with them, and the example we demonstrate through our conduct. Second to their parents, we are the most powerful influences in their lives. I encourage you to use this influence wisely.

Finally, we exert a powerful influence over our grandchildren in the messages we speak to them. You have probably heard the saying that children live up to the expectations people assign to them. As influential grandparents, let’s remember to speak positive words into the lives of our grandchildren. When children grow up hearing things like, “You’re never going to amount to anything,” or “Why would anyone want to be your friend?” they believe it. When they hear us say things like, “God has a wonderful plan and a purpose for your life,” or “I thank God for allowing me to be your grandma,” our grandchildren internalize those positive affirmations. 

At the end of the Q&A at camp, one of the panelists strongly suggested that grandparents write blessings that grandchildren can read throughout their lives. It doesn’t matter if your words are profound. It does matter if they come from the heart; that’s what makes you a superpower grandparent. Ask the Lord to give you the words to reinforce your grandchildren’s walk with God.

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

You can stand up against evil. I have learned to rely on God when…

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…

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.