Memory Monday

Memory Monday: "Will You Read Us the Bible?" (2 Timothy 3:16)

My girls were stalling.

"Read some more."

"No, it's bed time."

"No, it's not. We still have 10 minutes."

"We're at the end of the chapter."

"Please."

"No."

"Well, can you read the Bible?"

How can a mom say no to that request? I knew my girls were just making up requests to keep from going to bed, but my heart couldn't say no when they asked for the Bible.

"OK, any requests for a particular story?"

"Noah and the ark," said my oldest.

"David bringing the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem," said my 9-year-old. What an odd story for her to choose, I thought.

What started as a stalling tactic, ended as a half hour conversation about God and the Bible. You see, my kids have heard the story of Noah's ark over and over again, but I'm not sure they've ever read the actual version in the Bible. We do a family devotional as many evenings a week as we can manage. We talk about God and the Bible as often as we can fit it into the conversation. We look up verses in the Bible to make a point. But it dawned on me last night as I swiveled my head from child to child to answer their many questions that we rarely just read the Bible to them.

When I asked my younger daughter why she had chosen the story of the return of the ark of the covenant, she said, "We learned about it at church, but they made it sound more exciting than what you read." I explained that it was exciting, but her class had probably tried to put it into terms the kids would understand. It dawned on me that even in her class at church, she wasn't that often using her Bible.

My kids went to bed a half an hour late last night, but that half hour was probably the most important one of their day. You see, we can send our kids to all sorts of church classes, we can do family devotionals, we can talk with them about God, but our kids won't accept that the Bible is the source of wisdom if they never read it or use it.

Make it a point in your home to read the Bible with your kids. Stop and answer their questions. Let them understand the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed   and is useful for teaching,   rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

We want our kids to be "thoroughly equipped." They can only do that if they have access to and are constantly exposed to God's word. Take a few minutes today to read the Bible with your kids. It will be the best-spent time of your day.

Looking for ways to use God's word with your kids, check out our free resource, Using Scripture with Kids, on the Free Stuff page.

Linking up today with Graceful and The Better Mom.

Standing with God (Romans 12:2)

The stuffed animals were tossed carelessly on the floor in a pile -- all of them. My 9-year-old lay in her bed alone. "Why are all the animals on the floor?" I asked.

"I'm not sleeping with them," she said.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Everyone says only babies sleep with stuffed animals," she replied.

"Do you want to sleep with your animals?"

She nods as tears pool in her eyes. "But the kids at school all say stuffed animals are for babies."

"Don't let others make your decisions for you," I said. "If you don't want to sleep with your stuffed animals, that's fine. But don't make the decision simply because of what someone else thinks."

My heart tore as she struggled to decide what to do. Eventually, the animals were returned to their rightful place in her bed and all was right with the world again.

But I learned something. I discovered that even the strongest-willed child can be swayed by the opinions of others.

I want my kids to make their own decisions. I want them to stand up for what they believe in. I want them to choose their own path. I don't want them to simply follow the crowd.

Yet, too often, I'm complicit in showing them how to do just that. How often am I swayed by what others think? I stand in front of the mirror and compare myself to the beauty standards of movie stars and models. I choose clothes based on the fashion whims of designers an ocean away. I decide what movies to see, what books to read and what cars to buy based on the reviews of others.

And sometimes, I choose my friends based on what others think. I make decisions in my marriage based on worldly standards. I define my success as a mother by how my kids behave compared to other kids. I feel successful in my job based on the praise of others.

Even though Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," I conform instead of letting myself be transformed.

How can I expect my children to make decisions based on their own principles when I fail to do that so often? How do I let them know it's OK to make an unpopular decision because it's the right thing to do when I sometimes choose not to?

None of us makes the right decision all the time. All of us can be swayed by the opinions of others. When I do stand up for what's right, I'm rarely standing on my own. I'm standing on God's strength. I'm looking for His opinion, not the opinion of others.

And that's what I want to teach my kids. I don't want to teach them to stand on their own. I want to teach them to stand with God. I want them to rely on His strength and wisdom when making their decisions. I want them to know they're not standing alone against the world. I want them to know they are standing next to God, and He will never let them down.

So, the next time I'm letting the world sway my opinion, the next time I have a choice to make about where I'm going to stand, I want to choose to stand with God. Because that's how my kids will learn to stand there, too.

Linking up today with Graceful and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: Saying No (for now) to the Hunger Games (Proverbs 4:2)

I made my 10-year-old really mad last week. She's been asking to read The Hunger Games. Nearly everyone in her grade has read it, and she feels like she's missing out.

Until last week, I had not read The Hunger Games. From what I had heard about the books, I didn't think they were appropriate for a 10-year-old, especially not one who is prone to nightmares. But instead of giving my daughter a flat-out "no" based on what I had read, I told her I had to read them first.

I'll be honest. I had no desire to read these books. Everything I had heard about them made them sound gruesome and without redeeming value. However, after I read them, I found that they were actually pretty good literature. They're thought-provoking and raise some great conversation points. But I still felt that they were not appropriate for my 10-year-old.

My concerns were three-fold. First, I felt there were certain scenes in the books that would give my daughter nightmares. We deal with nightmares on a fairly regular basis, so I'm not willing to do anything that's going to deprive us of even more sleep around here. Second, while I think the books raise some great questions about the role of government, the things people will do in extreme situations and what a world without God looks like, I don't think my 10-year-old is old enough to grasp those concepts. Last, one of the main story lines is a love triangle, which while very clean, I don't think my daughter would grasp all the nuances of and would raise more questions than she's ready to handle.

So, I made my daughter mad and told her she couldn't read the books right now. I told her other parents might make different decisions, but my decision for her was no, for now. I told her we would revisit the subject when she was older and I felt she would better understand the books, but for now, the answer is no. She thought I was being unfair. She thought I was the meanest mom in the world. And that's OK because I'm not always supposed to be her best friend. I am supposed to be her filter.

We have a screened-in back porch on our house. I love to leave the back door to my house open to let in the breeze. Yet, we also like to leave the door to the back porch open so the dog can go in and out freely. Leaving that porch door open, though, defeats the purpose of a screened in back porch, so a couple weeks ago, I bought one of those mesh screens that just hangs on the doorframe. It has magnets down the middle so people and animals can go in and out without letting in the bugs. It's not the perfect solution. Some bugs still get in, but it's a definite improvement over the open back door.

As parents, we're a lot like that hanging screen. It's our job to filter out the things that our kids aren't ready for. We want to be like the author of Proverbs, who says to his son, "I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching" (Proverbs 4:2). My kids don't spend every waking hour with me. Just like the screen can't keep all of the bugs out, I can't keep every objectionable thing out of my kids' lives. But I can filter most of it.

Sometimes being the filter means we have to be unpopular with our kids. But it's important for our kids to know that we're not filtering things out because we're being legalistic or following a rigid set of rules. Our kids need to know that we act as a filter on the things they read, see or wear because we love them. If our filtering actions are motivated by love and our kids know that, then when we say "no" to certain things, our kids know that we aren't doing it just to be mean or to make them a social pariah. It's much easier to accept a decision motivated by love than one motivated by adherence to an unknown set of rules.

As I explained my decision about The Hunger Games to my daughter, I gently explained that I was telling her "no" because I love her. As the tears rolled down her cheeks, I explained all of my reasons. She went to bed upset with me, but the next day she came home from school and gave me a short list of the other kids in the grade who weren't allowed to read the books. "Those are the responsible parents," she said. I had to smile. She had taken our conversation and put it into the context of love.

Acting as a filter is hard. Sometimes it's way easier to say yes than it is to deal with the fallout from saying no. But acting as a screen for what our kids see, read and wear is a job we shouldn't take lightly. Protecting our kids hearts and minds and helping them to see the reasons for our decisions lets them know that we make our decisions with their best interests at heart.

Where do you need to act as a filter for your child today?

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two  and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: Focusing on Easter

On the way home from church yesterday, I asked my kids what they talked about during their classroom time. "We talked about hope," they replied. Ok, not a bad thing to talk about the Sunday before Easter. "What was the Bible story about?" I asked. I got blank looks. "Did you talk about Jesus entering Jerusalem?"

Now, that might seem like an odd question to ask. A lot of kids probably came home from church yesterday with palms. Of course, they talked about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. But our church sometimes does things a little bit differently. We stopped giving out palms years ago. While I miss the tradition, I also appreciate that buying palm leaves for hundreds of children is expensive and may not be the best way to steward our resources.

My kids did talk about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion in their classroom time yesterday, but they did it in the context of hope. It was a new way of thinking about a very familiar biblical account for most of those kids. A lot of our kids have been in church, hearing the account of Jesus' death and resurrection for years, some for their whole lives. Every Easter, they hear the same thing. It's as familiar to them as their favorite bedtime story.

The challenge for us as parents is to make the Easter account new and inspiring for our kids. Think about it. The God of the universe came to earth as a man, died on a cross, then three days later rose again -- all so that we could have a relationship with Him. That's pretty amazing stuff, better than any superhero story.

The wonder of Easter is summed up in Luke 24:6-7 "He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Jesus is the only person who has ever beaten death, the only one who rose again. That is the hope of Easter.

This week, we're going to focus on simple ways you can bring the awe of Easter to your kids' attention. Jesus' death and resurrection isn't a story, it really happened. Our kids need to know that and understand the hope that Easter brings us. Start your week off with these simple conversations:

  1. Ask your kids to tell you what they know about Easter. Talk with them about how the account of Easter is real. If you have older kids, check out the book Resurrection iWitness. We're reading through this together as our family devotional at dinner each night. It's a book that talks about the accepted scholarly facts around Jesus' death and resurrection, then uses those facts to show that the biblical account of the resurrection is the only possible explanation that meets all the facts. You can learn more about it here.
  2. Talk about Jesus' death on the cross. Ask your kids if they understand why Jesus died. For smaller kids, keep it simple. Talk about how we all do things that are wrong and that separates us from God. Jesus died and rose again so we could be close to God. Create a bridge out of blocks and explain that we're on one side and God is on the other. If Jesus hadn't died, then we would be forever separated from God. Jesus acts as a bridge. With older kids, talk about sin and how the Bible tells us that the consequences of sin is death. Without Jesus' death, there would be no way for us to have a relationship with God.
  3. Talk about the resurrection. Often, we focus so much on the crucifixion that our kids don't understand the significance of the resurrection. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another guy who claimed to be God. In defeating death, He proved He is who He said He was. Don't let your kids miss the wonder of the empty tomb. Ask your kids if they know of anyone else who was dead for three days, who then came back to life. Explain the Jesus is the only one who ever did that.

Talking with your kids about Easter is a great way to start off this holy week. Make time to have conversations with your kids about Easter. Check out this month's dinner discussions, too. All month you'll be talking about spring and Easter. Keep the conversation going because our amazement at the events of Easter shouldn't stop on Sunday.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two , Working Kansas Homemaker and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: The Praise of Children (Psalm 8:1-2)

I sit with my cup of tea, my Bible open in my lap. My to-do list sits forgotten at my side. I read words I've read dozens of times before, and I am struck speechless by what I read. It's as if the words are new, as if I've never read them before.

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

(Psalm 8:1-2)

The praise of children silences Your enemies and Satan. How did I miss this? Why have I never seen this before?

You don't need swords. You don't need armies. You only need a child whispering Philippians 4:13 before a test, a toddler singing "Jesus Loves Me," or a teenager pouring out his soul to You to defeat Satan.

And I, I, am charged with raising up members of this precious army. You have given me two beautiful souls to direct to you. And I am overwhelmed. Who am I to be trusted with such a precious gift and such a weighty responsibility?

And then you remind me. I am not alone. You are walking beside me, giving me everything I need to raise these precious warriors for you. You remind me that every word of praise that slips through their lips is a victory for you. And I am humbled that You care. I am humbled that You love me. I am humbled that You trust me with two of your most prized gifts.

So, together, we will praise You. Together we will beat back Satan with words of praise.

And every time one of my children thanks You, every time one of them recognizes your glory, every time one of them asks you for help, I will be reminded that their words are defeating Satan -- and that only you could use the precious praise of children to accomplish that.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two , Working Kansas Homemaker and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: When You Don't Feel Thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

It's 5 a.m. I woke up at 2 a.m. with a migraine. At 3 a.m., my youngest daughter woke me up to tell me her stomach hurt. At 4 a.m., I woke to the sounds of a puking child. Welcome to the first day of spring break. I'll be honest. I'm not feeling very thankful right now. I want my head to stop pounding. I want my daughter to feel better. I don't want to worry all week about whether anyone else is going to get sick. We have plans for this week. We have playdates and a short family vacation coming up. I don't want to spend the week with sick kids. I want to have fun with them. I want all my plans to work the way I planned them.

Yet, this morning, as I held back my daughter's hair from her face as she puked and as I cleaned the floor in her room, all I could think about was 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

"Really, Lord?" I asked. "Because I'm not finding much to feel thankful for at the moment. I'd much rather be asleep in my own bed."

"Really," He said.

I think 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of the toughest verses in the Bible. It doesn't tell us to be thankful for our circumstances; it tells us to be thankful in our circumstances. It's a small difference, but an important one. I don't have to be thankful my daughter puked or that my head is pounding. But I do have to find things to be thankful for despite my circustances.

So, here are the things I'm thankful for this morning with my pounding head and puking child.

I'm thankful:

  • my daughter didn't get sick this weekend and miss her AWANA event.
  • my husband got up to help me clean up the mess.
  • my older daughter didn't wake up.
  • it was almost time to get up when all this happened.
  • my daughter's not sicker.
  • my circumstances gave me something to write about this morning.
  • my daughter didn't get sick last week in the middle of her state assessment testing.
  • that my daughter went back to bed.
  • that we went to the library yesterday so we have plenty of books for a stay-home day.
  • that God's got it all under control even if my plans for the day just went up in smoke.

It's not easy to be thankful in all circumstances. Sometimes it requires us to think hard. Sometimes it requires us to simply focus on God, on who He is and what He's done for us.

Our attitude in difficult circumstances teaches our kids how to deal with difficult circumstances. If we learn to give thanks no matter what the exterior pressures are, our kids will learn to do the same.

What can you find to be thankful for in your circumstances today?

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two  and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: Seeking Wisdom (James 1:5)

The fingerprints on my back door keep getting higher. It means my girls are getting older and my role as a mom is shifting from protector to guide. I find I have to let my girls make some of their own decisions, and I find that letting them do so is not always easy. In the midst of this shift, I've learned that being wise in my role is difficult. That's why I'm so thankful that God is the source of true wisdom, and He's ready to hand it out whenever I ask.

James 1:5 says "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." God is just waiting for us to ask for His wisdom.

On Friday, I introduced you to the girls over at Sisters in Bloom. Today, I'm privileged to be guest posting over there. Learn more about the fingerprints on my back door and how God uses them to remind me to seek His wisdom by joining me at Sisters in Bloom today.

Memory Monday: Love Requires Action (1 John 3:18)

Whenever our girls do something that hurts someone else, we tell them to apologize. Sometimes, those apologies come through gritted teeth. Even though my daughters might be saying the words, you can tell in their hearts that they don't really mean it. Their true heart comes through in their actions. It's really easy to say words we don't mean. Sometimes we say things because it's simply easier to agree or apologize than it is to create conflict. Sometimes, we think we mean the words, but we never get around to following through with our actions. Sometimes we say what we don't mean out of anger or frustration.

My oldest daughter had the word hypocritical as a spelling word last week. Before she could master it on her test, she had to know what it meant. We talked about how being hypocritical means that you say one thing and do another. God doesn't want us to be hypocritical. He wants our actions to reflect Him. 1 John 3:18 says "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."

It's easy to let words come out of our mouths. It's much harder to follow those words with actions. Yet, our actions usually show the state of our hearts much better than our words. God calls us to love each other with actions. It's easy to say that we love our family and our friends, but if we walk away from those relationships at the first sign of trouble, then our actions say more about love than our words. It's easy to say that we love the poor and the orphaned, but if we're not doing anything to help those people, then our actions show how we really feel.

We want our kids to know that love is about more than hearts and words. Love requires action. Love means we set aside some of our own wants and needs to see to the wants and needs of others. Love requires sacrifice. It means putting other people in front of yourself. This is a tough concept for kids, who are by their nature generally selfish. Kids think the universe revolves around them. Putting others first doesn't come naturally to anyone, but it's especially difficult for kids. It's the rare child who automatically thinks about other people more than he thinks about himself.

We can start teaching our kids that love requires action from a young age. What we teach our toddlers and preschoolers is the action of love. We teach them to share and be kind to others -- not because they understand the motive behind it but because we want to form the habit. As they get older, we can teach them about the heart attitude that makes them want to put others first.

Whether your kids are toddlers or teenagers, help them learn that love requires action:

  • If you have toddlers and preschoolers, start teaching them that we share because we love others. If your child is having another child over, help her choose a few toys that she wants to share with the other child. As you're choosing the toys, tell your child that sharing is one way we show we love our friends. Talk about how God wants us to love other people.
  • If you have grade-schoolers, help your kids begin to find ways to show love to others on their own. Help them look for opportunities to put others first. At dinner one night, make a list of actions they can take to show others they are loved. Post your list somewhere that everyone can see it as an easy reminder that God wants our actions to show love.
  • If you have teenagers, encourage them to look for ways to use their actions to show love to others. Talk with them about whether the choices they are making and the way they are acting are evidence of God's love. Ask them to think of three ways they can show love to their friends and make their actions match up with their words. Ask them to identify ways in which their words and their actions aren't matching up. Encourage them to take steps to change those things.

Many times words are easy. It's not hard to say, "I love you." Following through on those words with actions can be tough. Helping our kids understand that love requires action makes them better examples of God's love to others.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two , State of the Heart and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: Tough Decisions

It snowed here last night. It's the first measurable snowfall of the year for us, which is really unusual. My kids went to bed last night, hoping today would be a snow day. As I write this, their school district has yet to call off school. I'm a bit surprised by this. The roads are snow-covered and  the weather forecasters are predicting more snow followed by sleet and rain. However, it's also one of the last weeks before the kids start taking their state assessments. And the kids were out of school on Thursday and Friday for conferences. It's a tough call whether to close school on days like today. The roads will probably get better in a hurry once the snow stops falling. There's really not that much snow -- maybe an inch. On the other hand, sleet and rain on top of slick snow could make even the residential roads a mess by pick-up time.  No matter what they do, they will make some portion of their constituency unhappy. Working parents will be upset if schools are closed, and it clears up soon. Some parents will be upset about endangering their kids on slick roads. It's a tough decision for those in charge.

There are days when parenting is a lot like trying to decide whether to close schools on days when the roads are bad. Days when you know that no matter what decision you make, someone is going to be upset. We had a moment like that this weekend. My husband and I, after sitting down and looking at our budget and our calendar, decided the best thing for our family was for my youngest daughter not to play travel hockey in the fall. As adults we know that reducing the financial strain and the strain of constantly splitting up our family every weekend is the best choice for us right now. But we knew it would upset our daughter -- and it did.

Parenting choices are rarely easy. From the time a tiny baby joins the household, every decision seems to hold major import. I agonized over feeding choices when my girls were young. As they get older, we have to make decisions about the activities they participate in and the friends they keep. Then we have to begin deciding how much of the decision-making to let our kids have on their own. It's tough, and it can leave us feeling like we aren't smart enough or strong enough to make the tough decisions.

The great thing about knowing God, though, is that we don't have to be smart enough or strong enough ... because God is both of those things. We just need to tap into the source of wisdom and strength and let Him help us make the tough decisions.  And we need to teach our kids how to do the same, so when they start making the tough decisions for themselves, they know where to turn. 1 Corinthians 1:25 says "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." Can you imagine how great his wisdom and strength are if His weakness is greater than our strength and His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom?

Whenever we're faced with tough decisions, we need to model for our kids the best way to make good decisions. Talk with your kids about your decision-making process, so they know you're tapping into the source of wisdom and strength to make good decisions.

  • Pray. Always start with prayer. God expects us to pray about everything, especially those things that are causing us worry or anxiety. He wants to take that anxiety and replace it with peace, even in the midst of making a tough decision.
  • Search for biblical principles to apply to the situation. Do a topic search in an online Bible Study tool like Bible Gateway. See what the Bible has to say about your particular situation. You'd be surprised by how much is in there. If you can't find something on your specific problem, look for more general applications. For example, there's nothing in the Bible about how busy you should be, but there are lots of verses about taking care of your family and loving your spouse. Clearly these things are a priority over any other activity.
  • Ask godly friends for their opinion. God uses our other Christ-followers to speak to us, but it's important that we've gone to God first before asking a friend for advice. God will use another Christ-follower to confirm what He's told us, but we need to seek Him out ourselves first.
  • Make a decision and give it to God. I have a tendency to do these things, make the decision, then worry about the result. Worry is a sin. It's telling God He's not big enough to handle the problem. Make the decision, then let it rest with God. Ask Him to give you peace. Don't try to control everything. God's got it under control.

Leaning on God when making tough decisions is a habit. We have to do it over and over again before it becomes second nature. But if we start bringing our tough decisions to the source of wisdom and strength, we're going to do a much better job of making decisions than if we decide to go it alone.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two , State of the Heart and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: Creating Valentine's Moments (Psalm 86:15)

We throw around the word "love" a lot. We love pizza. We love our sports teams. We love our families. We love God. I'm pretty sure most of us love our families and God more than we love pizza, yet the English language makes no distinction between the two. We use the same word for both. Because of that, I think we sometimes miss the boat on how much God loves us. We hear the words, "God loves you," and we think, "That's nice," and go on with our day. It's not just "nice" that God loves us. It's amazing. It's awe-inspiring. It's unbelievable. It's humbling. The God who created the universe loves us simply because we exist. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place. The Bible tells us that the punishment for sin (disobeying God) is death (being separated from God forever). God loves us and wants us to be near Him so much that He was willing to sacrifice His Son to make that happen.

There's no word in our language that can describe that kind of love. It's nearly too big for us to wrap our little human brains around. Yet, too many times, we turn our backs on that love or we fail to appreciate it. God asks us to draw near to Him because He loves us, yet many times we choose to walk alone. He asks us to follow His commands because He loves us, but we often turn away to follow our own path. He asks us to join Him in His work, yet we get too caught up in our own work.

God's love is a lot of things that human love is not. It is unfailing, never-ending, unconditional and all-encompassing. It fills us up and comforts us. It allows Him to rejoice with us and wrap us in His loving arms when things go wrong. Psalm 86:15 says, "But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." God is abounding in this love. That means He has more than enough to go around -- enough for all of us.

We're going to hear a  lot about love in the next week. Valentine's Day is coming, and we will become persuaded that true love is expressed with candy and flowers. We'll measure love by what we get and how it is expressed by others. Take advantage of these "Valentine's moments" and help your kids understand the difference between God's love and human love.

  • Ask your kids to give you a list of ways that we show love to each other. Read John 3:16 with your kids. Ask them how God showed His love for us. Compare that to how we show love to each other. Ask your kids which type of love they think is greater.
  • Make a list with your kids of things that they "love." Talk about how the word "love" sometimes means "really like." Explain that we don't want to confuse our love for pizza with how God loves us. Talk about how God's love is so much more than any words can describe. Use 1 Corinthians 13 as a guide for what God's love looks like.
  • Place some candy hearts in a dish on the table. Have each child grab a handful. For each heart, your child chose, have him list one way he knows that God loves him.

It's easy to forget that God's love is so much bigger, so much stronger and so much better than any other kind of love. Use the next week to remind your family that God's love is everything we'll ever need.

Join us all week as we talk about God's love, and how you can create "Valentine's moments" with your kids that help them understand God's love.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two and The Better Mom.

Memory Monday: Taking a Knee in Prayer (Romans 8:26)

A  little boy got hurt at my daughter's hockey game on Saturday. It wasn't serious, but it did cause a stoppage of play during the game. My daughter's coaches have taught her team that when someone is hurt on the ice, they need to "take a knee." They all drop to one knee and wait for the coaches and referees to tend to the injured child. Taking a knee has two purposes. It gets the kids out of the way of the adults who are trying to help the injured child, and it keeps the kids from messing around while there's an injured child on the ice. When the injured kid gets up, all the kids bang their sticks on the ice in applause and get to their feet.

On the way home from the game, my daughter and I talked about the little boy that got hurt and how well her team did at taking a knee. We also talked about how it's the perfect time to pray for the injured child. She's already on her knee, so shooting up a quick prayer shouldn't be too difficult. Of course, my daughter doesn't have to be on her knee to pray for someone, but the visual of being on her knee can help remind her of the importance of praying for the situation.

You see, we're called to intercede for others in prayer -- whether it's a hurt child at a hockey game, a friend who is making poor choices or someone we know that is going through a tough time. God wants us to pray for others. He wants us to follow the example of the Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26 says "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." The Holy Spirit prays for us when we are unable to do it ourselves. He sets the example for intercessory prayer, which just means praying for someone else.

We want our kids to know the importance of praying for others. Pointing out cues that will remind them to pray for others will help them to form a habit of prayer. Use this list to help your kids remember to pray for others. Add your own cues to the list.

  • If your child plays a sport, encourage them to pray for others any time your child is on his knees. If the coach has them take a knee during practice, encourage your child to say a quick prayer for the coach. If they take a knee during the game, ask your child to pray for whatever situation has put him on his knee.
  • Any time you hear ambulance sirens or pass an accident, encourage your child to pray for those in need of assistance.
  • When your child picks up her pencil to take a test, encourage her to pray for the person sitting next to her.
  • Post a list of your child's friends in his room. Before bed, encourage your child to pray for one child on the list. In the morning, have your child choose another friend for whom to pray.
  • If your child is having trouble with another child at school, encourage her to pray for that child when she puts her hand on the doorknob to head out to school in the morning.
  • As your child is packing his backpack each morning, encourage him to pray for his teacher.

Use the everyday events in your family's life to encourage your kids to create the habit of praying for others. God wants to hear from us all the time, and He wants us to bring our requests to Him. Forming the habit of continually talking to God throughout the day when our kids are young, gives them a firm foundation in their relationship with Him that will carry through for the rest of their lives.

What prayer cues can you encourage your kids to use to remind them to pray for others?

As a thank you for stopping by, don't forget to check out the Free Stuff tab to find the list of 10 Ways You Can Use Valentine's Day to Teach Your Kids About God. Tell your friends. It's only available until Feb. 1.

Linking up today with These Five of Mine Plus Two and A Better Mom.

Memory Monday: One-on-One Time (Matthew 16:18)

We spent the weekend taking my youngest daughter to her first in-season National Hockey League game. We don't have a hockey team here, so we made the four-hour trek to St. Louis to see the Blues play. Her big Christmas present was three tickets to the game. That's right, she got three tickets -- one for her, and one each for mom and dad. We left big sister at home with the grandparents. We didn't leave our older daughter at home because we don't like her or because she's a terrible traveler. We left her at home because we wanted this trip to be special, one-on-one time with our youngest. (Just so you know we're not leaving our oldest out, she got soccer tickets that don't include her sister.)

We made the trip with a hockey buddy of my daughter's and his family. And we had a fabulous time. When you have more than one child, it's easy to lump your children together as "the kids." We know that our kids have different personalities and different needs, but when life is moving at 100 miles per hour, we tend to think in terms of "the kids would like that" or "that would be tough to do with the kids." In our brains, we begin to think of them almost exclusively as a group.

That's why it's always good to take some time to hang out with your kids individually. I don't know about your kids, but mine often act differently when their sibling is not around. It's like they have two personalities -- the one that comes out when they're part of group and one that comes out when their alone. It's hard to really understand your child if you never get to spend time with him by himself.

Separating your kids and spending some alone time with each one reminds both you and them that you know they are individuals. It helps us focus on their individual personalities and character, and it reinforces the idea that we can't always treat our kids the same.

Jesus knew this. Check out how He treated His disciples. He didn't treat them all the same. There were times in the Gospels when He would speak to just one of them. One of the most notable examples comes in Matthew 16 when Jesus is talking to Peter. Now, Peter was a lot like my daughter in that he was strong-willed and could be difficult, but in this passage, he showed great insight. Peter answered Jesus' question about who He was by saying "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."(Matthew 16:16). Jesus then gave Peter words that He knew Peter would need a short time later. "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)

Not too many days later, Peter would deny that He even knew Jesus. Jesus took the time to have a one-on-one conversation with Peter, so He would have Jesus' words in his brain when he realized what he'd done.

One-on-one time with our kids is a great time to follow Jesus' example and encourage them. When we get our kids by themselves, we can use that time to pour encouragement and love into them. That encouragement and love may hold them steady through a rocky time ahead.

Spending one-on-one time with each of your kids is also a good way to get them talking. Even though my daughter had a friend along this weekend, each family had its own hotel room. The window in our hotel room had a small ledge that perfectly fit my daughter's behind. She quickly decided her favorite place in the room was sitting in the window. She climbed up there and gave us a detailed description of what was going on outside. It was a glimpse into the things that fascinate her.

Spending time alone with each child also reminds us of all the things we love about each one. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that my youngest daughter can be strong-willed and difficult. This weekend we were reminded that she's also sweet, kind and fun. I needed that reminder to draw on for the days ahead when she will be stubborn, difficult and rude.

Make some time to spend individually with your kids. Remind yourself of all the reasons you love them. It will make your child feel special and the tough days easier.

Memory Monday: The Value of Chores (Proverbs 14:23)

I had a conversation with a friend of mine last night about the helpfulness (or lack of helpfulness) of her daughters. She was having trouble getting them to help out around the house and do their chores. Her kids weren't motivated by money and had no innate desire to help mom and dad get stuff done around the house. Chores always seem to be a battle with kids. From age 4 to 18, kids don't like to do work. As a parent it's incredibly frustrating to do everything it takes to keep a household running and then have to fight over things like putting your clothes in the dirty clothes and feeding the dog.

There are days when I think it would just be easier to do the chores myself. It would certainly be faster, and I wouldn't feel like an ogre. Yet, not giving our kids responsibilities around the house is a disservice to them. It deprives our kids of the opportunity to learn about the benefits of hard work and the consequences of not doing that work. I'd rather my children learn that not doing their work results in consequences at 8, when the punishment is no Nintendo DS for the day, than at 24, when the result is losing a job.

We need to teach our kids the importance of working hard and doing a good job, not because we want the praise of people, but because God calls us to it. When we put all of our effort into a task, we do it not to gain the accolades of others but to please God. God wants us to reap the benefits of our hard work. Proverbs 14:23 says "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."

Over and over again in his letters, Paul commends those who have worked hard for the Lord. In Romans 16:6, he says "Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you." And in Romans 16:12, he says "Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord."

If our kids don't learn to put effort into the small tasks we ask them to do at home, then it will be difficult for them to "work hard in the Lord" when it comes to the big tasks God sets before them. Giving your kids chores to do helps prepare them for the work God has for them as they get older. It teaches them work ethic and encourages them to pull their own weight in a group setting.

Yet, finding the balance between giving your kids responsibilities and expecting them to do them and nagging them to do them is difficult. We've tried numerous chore systems around here. Some have worked really well but have taken too much time or energy on my part to adminstrate. Others have been abysmal failures all the way around. There's no one system that works for everyone, but here are some things to consider in setting up a chore system with your kids.

  • Set the expectations from the start. Let your kids know exactly what you expect of them in each chore you give them. Do the chore with them the first time and give them an example of what you want it to look like when they're done.
  • Decide if you're going to pay your kids for their chores. Our kids have chores they get paid for and chores they do just because they're part of the family.
  • Make chores a priority. Set a deadline for chores being done. My girls can't play anything until their chores are done.
  • Create some type of chore chart, then expect your kids to use it. My girls have a list of things that have to be done every day on a dry/erase board in the kitchen. When the tasks are done, they check off the box for the day. This lets me switch up their chores when I need to. I don't nag to get chores done. My kids know where the list is. If they ask to play electronics or watch TV, I check to see if their box is checked off. If it's not, then I simply say "No" and leave it to them to figure out why not.
  • Institute a no complaining rule. If kids are whining and complaining as they do their chores, they're not learning how to do a distasteful task with a good attitude. Institute a punishment for complaining about chores. Ours is that I don't pay for chores done with a bad attitude.

Most of us would never choose to do hard work, yet God often asks us to do things that are hard or that we would rather not do. Giving our kids the responsibility of chores is simply preparing them to work hard for God.

Memory Monday: A Lesson in Integrity (Proverbs 22:1)

My youngest daughter learned a lot this weekend. No, we didn't make her spend the holiday weekend studying history, English and geography. We let her play hockey, hockey and more hockey. She played in her first ever hockey tournament on Friday and Saturday. Her team finished in sixth place out of seven teams with a 2-2 record. She had a hat trick and a couple of other goals. And she learned some important life lessons about fairness, losing and leadership.

The most important thing she learned this weekend, though, was that how you play the game matters more than the points on the scoreboard. She learned that when you walk off the ice, putting a W in the win column is nice, but being able to hold your head up and know that you played with integrity is even more important.

After a great game on Friday night where her team played well and won, they had to play a really tough team Saturday morning. While my daughter was playing with her regular house league team, the other team had been put together specifically for the tournament, with the goal of winning it. About midway through the first period, the other team started sending their best player out for double shifts. Neither of those things broke any rules, but double shifting in a house league tournament goes against the spirit of house league hockey, where it's all about letting the kids have an equal chance to play.

Our coaches had a choice: they could continue to play our kids evenly or they could put our best players on the ice more often. Our coaches switched up which kids played together, but they kept the playing time equal for all of our kids. We lost -- by a lot. The kids were disappointed, but it was a great opportunity for my youngest to learn that while others don't always play "fair," sticking with the high road is always better in the end.

Losing that game cost my daughter's team any chance for a place in the championship game. Yet every child on her team got to play. They played hard and they left their best effort on the ice -- and they did it within the spirit of the rules of the game.

Proverbs 22:1 tells us "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." A tournament championship would have been nice, but it would have come at the cost of a "good name." My daughter's coaches provided a perfect example of playing with integrity for my daughter. While she was less than happy with the score of the game, she learned a lesson much more valuable than any trophy she can set on a shelf.

We need to make sure we're surrounding our kids with adults who show integrity. We can't expect them to learn to make the right choices if all the adults in their lives are cutting corners and looking out only for themselves.

It's important for our kids to see adults making choices that show integrity. And it's equally important that we talk about those moments with our kids. They can happen in the grocery store, in the car or even at the ice rink. As parents, we need to take notice of those moments and use them to teach our children that the right choices are always right, even when the immediate result isn't what we want.

And, remember, all the teaching in the world does nothing if we aren't living up to those standards ourselves. Our kids need to see us making the right choice even when it's hard. It's the only way they can learn what integrity means.

Memory Monday: Getting What We Need

My 10-year-old daughter went to a birthday party this weekend, and she was the only girl there without a cell phone. She really wants a phone for Christmas. I feel for my daughter. I know it can't be easy being the only one without a phone. Nearly every child in her class has one. But she's not getting a phone for Christmas.

While clearly the majority of the world doesn't agree with us, we don't see any reason for our 10-year-old to have her own phone. She doesn't walk home from school, she never comes home to an empty house, she rarely goes places where she would not have access to a phone and she doesn't talk on our land line that often. It's an extra expense that we don't need right now, and we don't want her tied to an electronic device, texting her friends, when we can't see what's being said at the time it's being said.

Sometime in the next couple of years, we'll probably get her a phone. When she's in middle school and needs a phone to call us to come pick her up after school and goes more places without us we'll probably add another phone to our cell plan. But our daughter is going to be disappointed this Christmas.

This is really the first year we haven't fulfilled the big wish on her Christmas list. She's gotten used to waking up on Christmas morning and finding the one thing she wanted more than anything in the world under the tree. This is the first year we've had to say, "we don't think what you want is the best thing for you."

I think my daughter will get an inkling of how the Jewish people felt when God sent Jesus. You see, the Jews were living under Roman rule. They were oppressed and taxed by the Romans. They had few rights and were subject to laws in which they had no say. It had been centuries since the Jews had been their own nation.

When they read the prophecies about Jesus, they were expecting a warrior -- not a baby. They wanted someone who would save them from their current situation, someone who would overthrow the Romans. They didn't expect that when the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6 was fulfilled -- "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." -- that it would be fulfilled in Jesus.

When they heard that "the government will be on his shoulders," they thought He would rule over them. After years of exile and mistreatment, the Jews thought their Savior would finally put them in charge.

Instead, God fulfilled His prophecies with a tiny baby, born in a smelly stable. He gave all of us what we needed, not what the Jewish people wanted. His Christmas gift didn't fulfill the wishes of the Jews. No, it was much better than that. God's Christmas gift fulfilled the needs of all mankind.

Two thousand years later, we realize that God's gift of Jesus was perfect. We have forgotten the disappointment of many of the Jews. When Jesus died, it was a crushing blow to many Jews. They couldn't see the rest of God's plan.

Our kids need to know that not everyone in Jesus' time was thrilled with God's gift. They need to know that the Jews were expecting something different. And they need to know that God's plan is always perfect.

Illustrate this for your kids by putting something really practical in a box and giving it to them. Put it in a box that's the same size as something they really want. When they open the box and find socks, ask them how they feel. Remind them that they need socks. Socks will keep their feet warm. Talk about how sometimes God gives us what we need rather than what we think we want. Remind them that the Jews wanted a warrior -- someone to throw off the burden of Roman rule. God gave them Jesus who would give them eternal salvation -- not just salvation from their current situation.

Talk with your kids about how God is still giving us the things we need, rather than the things we want. His plan sometimes requires that He withhold the things we think we want because we need something different. And that different thing is always better.

 

A savior for the world was a much better gift than a savior from Roman rule, don't you think?

 

For more practical ways to get your kids focused on Jesus during the Christmas season, check out Lori's new e-book Everyday Christmas. It's available for Kindle, Nook and as a PDF file.

Memory Monday: Moments to Treasure (Luke 2:19)

The whirlwind of the Christmas season has started. We've already been to a live nativity and helped with gingerbread house making and cookie decorating. We still have band concerts, parties, shopping and a cookie party to come. All of this on top of our regular regimen of practice, Girl Scouts and music lessons. It's easy to get so busy simply getting where we need to be somewhere close to the time we need to be there that we forget to stop and treasure the moments. It's easy to go through the motions -- attend church, see a Christmas pageant, read our favorite Christmas books, go caroling and gather with family -- without ever really enjoying the season.

Unfortunately, the most joyous time of the year turns into a time of stress, and sometimes hurt, for many. When our stress level rises, we're less likely to offer grace and patience to family and friends. We're less likely to enjoy the shopping, the baking and the schedule juggling. And we're less likely to savor the precious moments of awe and discovery with our kids.

We took our kids to a live nativity last night. It was actually a walk through the events leading up to Jesus' birth. We heard the story of Adam and Eve from Moses, the prophecies of Christ's birth from David, Isaiah and Micah and saw all of the events involving Mary and Joseph. The highlight was the manger scene, with a real baby and a real cow -- even in the 28-degree weather. The scene was awe-inspiring. It really brought home the reality of a baby born in a stable and what that meant for us.

Watching my kids stand next to the baby, I could see in my mind the shepherds -- some of whom probably weren't that much older than my oldest daughter -- gathered around Mary and Joseph. They had come to see this baby that a host of angels had told them about. And now, I was sharing that moment with my kids. It was a moment to treasure.

Yet, we almost missed that moment. The only time we could get to go to the nativity was nearly at bedtime. It was cold. My youngest was having a tough day. We contemplated staying home or leaving my youngest and daddy at home. I'm so glad we didn't. I'm so glad we decided the moment was more important than our comfort.

This Christmas, do what Mary did when the shepherds came to visit. "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Enjoy the moments of awe and discovery with your kids. When you or one of your kids recognizes the awesomeness of Jesus coming to earth, stop and ponder the moment. Share a conversation with your child. Pray together. Sing a song of worship. But stop in the middle of the hustle and bustle and treasure the moment in your heart.

Christmas is a busy time. There's no sense in pretending that we can clear the decks on our schedules and simply ignore the family gatherings, the office parties and the kids' obligations. What we can do is take a moment, just a moment, in the midst of the busyness and treasure the times when we or our kids find Jesus in the season.

Looking for ways to create moments to treasure with your kids? Check out Lori's new e-book Everyday Christmas: Helping your kids find Jesus in the everyday moments of the season. You can find it on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or as a PDF download at in the store.

Memory Monday: Caught in the In-Between

Whew. The Thanksgiving weekend is over. I don't know about you, but I found it hard to pull myself out of bed this morning. After all the turkey, shopping and family get-togethers, I could use another day off. Plus, the weather has turned cold, and giving up my cozy spot under the blankets is an act of will power. My house is stuck in the in-between state of half Christmas, half Thanksgiving. I haven't yet taken down all of the fall decorations, but I've put up a few of the Christmas ones. The tree is up, but so is our Thanksgiving wall. I have a gigantic Joy sitting on my mantel, but there's a scarecrow in my kitchen. The Christmas lights are lighting up the night sky, but my girls still have pumpkins on their doors.

This week, I'll slowly switch over the decorations to all Christmas, but I think sometimes we also get stuck in the in-between during this season of the year. While Christmas is a holiday filled with joy and celebration, it's also often a season of mixed emotions.

This is the time of year when we miss most the family members who aren't here. Whether they are in a different part of the country or they have died or may even be deployed in harm's way, Christmas is when their absence hits home the most. We know we should enjoy the season. We should make the holiday special for our kids. But some days it's tough because we really don't feel that way. We simply feel sad, and we miss our loved ones. We're stuck in that place in between joy and sadness.

If your family is experiencing the emptiness left by a death, an illness or a famly member separated by distance, don't just ignore it and act like it doesn't matter. If that person was special to you, then your kids are probably feeling the loss, too. Take some time to acknowledge the feelings and to know that, yes, this Christmas will be different. It will feel different. There may be tears. And that's OK.

Help your kids understand it's OK to feel sad, even though it's Christmas.

  • Talk with your kids about the person you are missing. Don't act like they didn't exist or that everything will be the same. Be honest with your kids about how you are feeling about the situation. It's fine for your kids to see you being sad. It gives them permission to be sad, too.
  • Remember the good stuff. Share the happy memories of holidays past when that special person was around. Remember the time Uncle George dropped the cranberries at dinner. Or the time Grandpa tried to play Wii and threw the remote at the TV. Amidst the sadness, you may find laughter.
  • Remind your kids that God is the great Comforter. He knows what it is to be sad -- after all, His Son died. God's comfort is even a reason for joy. Isaiah 19:13 says "Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

So, if your family is caught in the in-between -- that place between joy and sadness -- this Christmas season, acknowledge it. Remember the person you miss. And reach out to God and each other for comfort. This Christmas will feel different, but you can still find joy in the birth of Jesus.

Memory Monday: Don't Judge (Romans 14:13)

My kids are out of school today, so I'm taking the day off from blogging. I'm re-running my Halloween post from last year because I think at this time of the year, it's important to keep our hearts from judging others. There's some strange-looking kids in the Fairchild house today. My youngest has been transformed into Alex Ovechkin (the hockey player) and my oldest is looking a bit like a Harry Potter character. Halloween is today, and we'll be heading out to trick-or-treat.

It always seems when we hit this time of the year that divisions appear in the ranks of Christ followers. Some see nothing wrong with letting their kids trick or treat on Halloween while others want nothing to do with the holiday. Each side has good reasons for their decisions and can use scripture to back up those decisions.

The debate generally continues straight through Christmas with the discussions about whether including Santa Claus in your Christmas celebrations detracts from Jesus. Many times these divisions within the ranks of Christian parents can cause hurt feelings.

In our house, we trick or treat on Halloween, and Santa makes a visit to our home on Christmas Eve. But I have friends who do neither, and some who don't trick or treat but think Santa is OK. So, who's right and who's wrong? In my opinion, no one.

The Bible is really clear about some things -- murder is wrong, Christ is the only way to God, and Jesus died for our sins. However, it gives no clear direction on other things, like Santa and Halloween. In my opinion, you should do whatever you feel is best for your family, making sure you base your decisions on time spent in prayer and God's word. What we should not do, though, is judge others who may think differently. When Christ followers start judging each other on things on which there is no clear-cut answer, we break up the unity of the body of Christ.

Today's verse speaks directly to that issue. "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way" (Romans 14:13). Our understanding of what causes a stumbling block to another person may differ, but if each of us is, to the best of our ability, trying to follow what God is telling us, then we have no right to judge one another.

This passage of scripture was addressing a difference of opinion over what foods to eat. Some people believed that Christians should only eat "clean" foods listed in the Law, while others believed that all food was permissible. The controversy was causing great division in the church. The problem was not the food, but the judgmental nature of the Christ-followers on each side of the issue.

While the points of division have changed, the problem remains among Christ-followers today. As we head toward the holiday season, starting with Halloween, keep this verse in your heart. Remember that while you may differ with another Christ-follower in how you approach the holidays, you are not to judge them. Instead, we are called to love each other.

Healthy debate of the issue is great and thought-provoking for all parties. Judgmental condemnation over an issue like this is hurtful and divisive. If you agree on the important stuff -- Christ died to bridge the gap between our sinful selves and God, and He is the only way to God -- then judging someone else on the small stuff serves no purpose.

So, whether you will have hockey players and literary characters wandering your home or you will be ignoring the day altogether, be loving and respectful of those Christ-followers who make a different choice than you.

Memory Monday: Achievement vs. Character (1 Samuel 16:7)

God looks at our hearts, not our achievements, so this week, Everyday Truth will look at building our kids' character. Today is an overview of character. Tuesday, we'll look at teaching our kids to respect others. Wednesday, we'll talk about compassion, and Thursday, we'll look at kindness. On Friday, I'll have some resources that will help you teach your kids character. We had parent-teacher conferences this past week. My girls' conferences are typically pretty boring with no big issues to discuss. We have one kid who's struggling a bit with the change in math curriculum but overall, we got positive reports.

The best part of the parent-teacher conferences, though, was a simple comment made by both girls' teachers. Both teachers told us our girls were extremely respectful, both of the teachers and of their peers.

You see, there's really not much I can do about my kids' ability to do well in school. I can help them study. I can make sure they have all the tools they need to succeed, but I can't make my kids any smarter than they are. I can't make them better spellers or give them a better math sense.

What I can do is teach my kids to have character. I can teach them to be respectful of others. I can teach them to be kind. I can teach them to be compassionate.

These are the things that matter in the long run. We told our girls we were happy that their grades were good, but we were much more excited about the fact that both their teachers were impressed enough with their respectfulness that they mentioned it during their conferences.

We told our girls that while we're proud of their grades, those grades are just a reflection of how well they've memorized or understood something. When a teacher comments on how you act toward others, it's a reflection of who you are inside. And that's way more important than how you scored on a test.

Society puts a huge emphasis on achievement, and there's nothing wrong with aiming for high achievement, but a grade on a report card says nothing about your character. You can be a horrible person and still get an "A" in math.

God gives us gifts and abilities, and He wants us to use them, but He's most concerned with the attitude of our heart. Achievement isn't a bad thing; it's just not the most important thing.

1 Samuel 16:7 says "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

God chose David to be king, despite the fact that he was a lowly shepherd and the youngest son. These were not outward trappings of achievement. Yet God saw something in David's heart that made Him choose David. It was David's character, not his achievement that made God able to use Him.

We want our kids to have character that shines. That starts at home. We can teach respect, kindness and compassion to our kids from the time they are little. It's those qualities that will make them open to being used by God.

Memory Monday: Make the Most of Today (Psalm 144:4)

We're big race fans in our house. It's something of a family tradition. My dad has been going to the Indy 500 since he was 14. My parents ended their honeymoon at the Indy 500. My husband and I spent our 10-year anniversary at the Daytona 500. We go to the Indy 500 and the two race weekends at Kansas Speedway every year. Rarely does a weekend go by where there's not at least one race on the TV in our house. We've passed that love of racing down to our 8-year-old. She learned her numbers from watching race cars. (She always skipped 15 because there was no car with that number on it.) We've been taking her to races since she was 4. This child who can't sit still for more than five minutes can sit for three hours without moving if she's at a race. She loves the speed, the drivers and the competition.

That's why yesterday was tough. We were at a soccer tournament for my oldest when parents showed up and asked if we had watched the IndyCar race. There had been a horrific crash and when they left home for the game, Dan Wheldon -- the current Indy 500 champion -- had been airlifted to the hospital. A quick check of the news showed he had died.

We were stunned. It's easy to forget how dangerous auto racing really is, but every now and then the reality of it smacks you in the face. We quickly decided not to tell our 8-year-old until the soccer tournament was over. We didn't want to detract from my oldest's game.

When we got to the car, we told the girls what had happened. They both had lots of questions, few of which we could answer. My youngest was a bit stunned, as she's the biggest fan of the two.

Helping our kids deal with death is always difficult. All we can do is answer their questions the best way we know how.

Dan Wheldon's death brings home the reality of how it only takes a split second for things to change. He didn't climb into that race car yesterday morning thinking it would be the last time he kissed his wife and 2-year-old and 6-month-old boys. A slight bobble from a car in front of him caused a massive pile-up. It's not that different from what can happen on the highway.

The truth is, none of us are promised tomorrow. We don't know what will happen when we step out the door today, and we want to live a life that treasures each moment. Psalm 144:4 says "Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow."

Each moment we are given is precious. Our children will grow up and leave home. Friends and family may move away. People we know will die. When we treat each moment as if it matters, we are more likely to find the joy in the moment, we're more likely to tell someone we love them and we're more likely to choose the things that matter over the things that don't.

Don't miss the joy and the love because you're too busy looking at what's happening tomorrow. Hug your kids. Kiss your spouse. Call your parents. Make time for a friend.

Because life is fleeting, and we're not promised tomorrow. Make the most of today.