One Stone at a Time

One Stone at a Time
One Stone at a Time

Conveying Christ to Kids

Hi, I’m Lisa. I love talking to people, reading, traveling, cooking, baking, gardening, and flower arranging. And I love talking to people about Jesus and how he’s working in my life. 

I often say God pushed me kicking and screaming into writing this blog. But it was actually a lot gentler than that
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God’s Presence

God Sightings: Helping Kids See Him

God sightings: Helping kids see

God sightings: helping kids see him

Years ago, one of our church series focused on “God sightings”–specific places we saw God working. For quite a while we were diligent in asking each other for God sightings during prayer time. It was fun to see our girls recognize God’s work in answers to their prayers. It was even more fun to see them recognize God’s presence in areas we hadn’t thought to pray about. Yet God was blessing us specifically in those areas anyway. Ahead of our prayers. He knew our hearts. We used to say, “Wow. I hadn’t even thought to pray about that yet.” But after a while, we forgot to look for these special moments, those God sightings.

We need God’s reminders.

The people of Israel were like us. For a while they noticed God’s blessings and talked about them. Then they forgot. God knew that would continue to be true, so he used a pile of rocks to help them remember:

21 [Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[a] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4: 21-24)

We don’t live in a rocky country with a huge pile of rocks to stand as a national memorial. In fact, conservationists tell us that we might cause problems in certain habitats when we do leave piles of rocks behind to show that we have been there. So, what reminders can we set up for ourselves? More importantly, how can we point our children to the ways God is working in our lives and in theirs?

Not all reminders need to be physical.

Our traditions can be reminders. Even our daily habits can be reminders of who Jesus is and what he did for us and continues doing for us. Praying before meals, reading the Bible together as a family, praying for each other during the day–all these behaviors God uses to remind us and our kids who he is today. Can we ignore these reminders? Obviously. Did the Israelites sometimes walk by those rocks without thinking? Absolutely. But God does call us to create our own reminders and our own ways to tell our children about who Jesus is and that he is an active part of our lives today.

We need to be living reminders of the reality of Jesus Christ.

God told the Israelites they needed to love him with all their hearts and talk about him continually with their children (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 NIV). In the same way, he tells us that we need to season our conversations with the reality of Jesus Christ (Colossians 4:6 NIV). To our children, we are the most powerful reminders of Jesus they have. We need to make intentional choices in being those reminders. My husband and I chose family prayer time before the first person went to bed. For us, that has been a lasting legacy for our family–and a powerful stimulus to our faith.

I challenge you to choose either family prayer time, talking to your children daily about God sightings, or some other special tradition to become your spiritual legacy in conveying the living reality of Jesus Christ.

God is good, says my little grandson.

Sitting on the beach playing with my twenty-two-month-old grandson, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness.

This is a baby who was prayed for long before he was even conceived and who came into the world with much trauma. Just before his birth I had also experienced trauma with my back injury and surgery. Now the two of us can sit together on the beach and play for hours. I felt so strongly that God is good.

With my heart overflowing, I said aloud, “God is so good, little one. He has blessed me so much by you.”

His immediate response was, “God is good.”

I was startled and then even teary eyed as he repeated it over and over. At this point he had spoken very few sentences in his life.

Obviously, a little one knows when he has hit on something that pleases an adult. So he said it probably a dozen times, and I repeated it with him, as we continued to play. My joy increased.

But what surprised me just as much was his saying it hours later, while he was eating and listening to the adults talk. His mother was talking about something great that had just happened, unrelated to him.

Our toddler’s nonchalant “God is good” surprised us all.

It is so true in general and fit perfectly as a commentary on the conversation. Even though his mother had not mentioned God in that particular conversation, she tells him regularly about God’s love for all of us. She has taught him to add into their prayers together people and things he is thankful for.

He is learning—before he can fully talk—both the goodness of God and the reality of Jesus Christ in his life. It amazes me how God works in our children before we can even know they understand.

We know that adults sometimes come to know Jesus through sudden commitments and radical changes in their lives. But children—and even most adults—usually come to know Jesus gradually, a bit at a time. We have no idea how early they come to know the reality of Jesus Christ in their lives.

My dad—a church planter—always said most people come to faith in Jesus sort of like the opening of a rose. As we come to most relationships. Some people fall into a “It feels like we’ve known each other for years” relationship, but most develop friendships gradually over time.

So it is with our walk with Jesus.

Though we know that “God is good” from the mouth of a toddler is not a dramatic conversion experience like that of Saul of Tarsus, we know it shows God is working. It also shows the importance of little comments we make around them without much thought.

 

As our late Pastor Norm Meyer said repeatedly, even on the day he told the congregation he was dying of bone cancer, “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.”

 

Weirdest Engagement Ever?

Weirdest engagement ever?

I know my parents did not have the weirdest engagement ever. But it seemed like that to me when I was growing up.

For one thing, my dad was exactly ten years older than my mom. We used to laugh at our parents that our dad could have babysat our mom.

But the weirdest part was how they met and decided to get married.

The story they told us is that one day my dad’s friend, the only other unmarried seminarian in his class, suggested  my dad get a date for the upcoming wives and girlfriends tea at the seminary. My dad’s friend had a girlfriend he wanted to bring, and he wanted my dad to keep him company.

My dad gave the obvious objection: he wasn’t dating anyone at the moment.

His friend had an easy answer, “Ask Mary LaGrand. She’s great. She’ll be up for it.” My mom was a student in a college class he was teaching, and he thought she would be the perfect person for my dad to ask.

Dad was game. As it turned out, Mom was too.

She told us later, “They never let women inside the seminary. I had always wondered what it was like. So I jumped at the opportunity. It sounded fun. And I knew Frank and thought he was fun.”

For some reason we kids never found out, Frank and his girlfriend never showed up that afternoon.

And the event really wasn’t called The Wives and Girlfriends Tea–it was The Seminary Wives Tea.

As could have been predicted, the other seminarians and their wives saw my dad’s entrance with my mom as an announcement. They teased him about “holding out on us.” I met one retired pastor decades later who still refused to believe that was my parents’ first date.

That day as they were leaving the tea, my mom said to my dad, “You owe me. Big time.”

He laughingly agreed: “What do I owe you?”

“Dinner.”

That dinner with its four hours of conversation changed my parents’ lives.

My mom’s version of it: “He knew where he was going and what God was doing with his life. I wanted to go too.”

They evidently had several more dates in the next two weeks before deciding to get married. But they chose to marry, despite the fact that my mom had just finished her junior year of college and my dad was heading overseas to study at the Free University in Amsterdam.

Over the years I asked to hear that story many times, amazed that my rich-girl mom chose to marry my farmer-turned-student dad because of how impressed she was with the calling he was answering from God. She saw the reality of Jesus Christ in his life.

Her other suitors had sought to impress her with their own merits. My dad had pursued God. That had captivated Mom. This “weirdest engagement ever” led to a long-distance relationship and  Mom’s following Dad across the ocean to marry him–far from friends and family.

Though they experienced some predictable difficulties of such a marriage choice, we children always saw our parents united in their desire to answer God’s call on their lives: during almost sixty years of marriage and ministry. Praise God!

 

Broken Reflections of God’s Character?

Are we broken reflections of God’s character?

When our children were little, my husband and I tried to teach them well. We tried to teach them to love Jesus, to behave well, to be nice to each other. Many times that worked well.

But what we did not realize until years into this parenting gig is that children do not automatically accept our values. We know that’s true of teenagers. We brace ourselves for that during those years.

But I did not expect it so early. I did not think of the possibility that my five-year-old would not accept the values of honesty and respect of others’ property.

The fact that lying and stealing are wrong does not necessarily matter to a five-year-old. And every carefully thought-out punishment cannot change that. Believe me–we tried everything.

Then I read Josh McDowell’s Right From Wrong–a book based on extensive surveys of churched and unchurched teenagers. Wow! He was right. I too had been trying to teach my daughters right from wrong through turning biblical principles into behavior.

I had been missing the why. The perfectly righteous character of our God is the reason we need to act justly in love and truth. As his children we need to reflect his character to those around us.

But too often we are broken reflections of God’s character.

As are our children. But when we focus on their behavior, as McDowell’s book demonstrates, we reinforce for our children their desire not to get caught rather than their desire to be truly good.

I’m grateful my parents never worried to me about what others would think if my sisters or I misbehaved. But even so, I internalized too much of a focus on good behavior, rather than on the reason for the good behavior.

What I needed to realize is that my experience of living as God’s child should make me want to reflect his perfectly righteous and loving character. We seek to do good not to earn God’s love but to reflect the goodness of the God who loves us.

Reflecting God’s character also needed to be the motivation for my children.

I will never forget the night I sat down with a seemingly incorrigible young daughter–and talked about reflecting God’s character.

I will never forget the night I sat down with a seemingly incorrigible young daughter–and talked about reflecting God’s character.

This evening after a series of misbehaviors, I asked her, among other things, if she was a child of God. “Yes,” she answered begrudgingly. I asked her if God ever lied. “No,” with eye rolling. Did God ever steal? “No,” in an even more exasperated voice.

Then I asked her if children usually look like their parents. Then if she, as a child of God, wanted to look like God. All her answers were easy until the last one. The question that changed her was “What would it look like if you as a child of God were to look like God?”

She probably took two solid minutes to think that over before answering in a bewildered voice: “Not lie. Not steal.”

After she told me she wanted to look like God, we prayed together that God would give her his power to change. God answered that prayer powerfully. The family could hardly believe the change in her behavior. And that it lasted.

But God changed me through that exchange as well. I realized how important it is to strive to minimize broken reflections of God’s character by focusing on him more than on behavior.

[Photo by romello-williams-385888-unsplash(1).jpg]

 

Will Jesus Return on Glorious Fiery Clouds?

Will Jesus Return on Glorious Fiery Clouds?

Will Jesus’ physical presence simply overwhelm every outdoor and indoor space, making all instantly aware of him at the same moment?

No matter how it happens—and whether it happens in our lifetimes or not—we will all know. Immediately.

One of my favorite memories of high school is of ending our Bible study lesson from The Uniqueness of Jesus. That day one of the girls in our new-believer group had an excited question: “Lisa, when it happens–when Jesus returns–promise to call me right away! Okay?”

I assured her that she would know as soon as I would, because Jesus was her savior too.

But I was amused. The thought had never occurred to me. I knew no one would need to call anyone else to alert them that Jesus had returned. But this new believer, only 14 years old, thought it logical. Since I had first told her about Jesus, she thought I would have the news before she did.

Her passionate enthusiasm for the day of Jesus’ return was contagious. She was excited and wanted it to happen soon.

I wanted to want that too. But I didn’t always live with that thought in mind.

In fact, a couple years later I remember asking my mom if it was bad that I didn’t want Jesus to come back yet. She gave me a comforting answer.

She told me that at my young age it made sense that I wanted to be able to live a while to experience so much of what life promised me. There were good things in life that God wanted me to enjoy and to look forward to.

Yet . . . I think we often fail to focus on what a greater reality we have to look forward to in spending the rest of eternity with God.

Do we need to tell our children they need to spend their time longing for Jesus’ return and for heaven? I don’t think so.

When my eleven-year-old confessed mournfully that she didn’t really want to go to heaven, I comforted her, as my mom had comforted me.

I asked her why. She told me that it did not sound appealing to sing all the time. I laughed and told her how normal she was. I said heaven would absolutely not require constant singing. It would better than the best things we can imagine.

Most of us can relate to not wanting to do anything all the time.

But we also do not want to be like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3: 16-17: “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”

How can we cultivate in ourselves the excitement of my young friend? Can we help our children see Jesus as real? And that living face to face with God is going to be unimaginably wonderful?

How can we regain our first excitement and help our children capture it also?

Bullies Taunting: “Fartie Artie! Fartie Artie!”

“Fartie Artie!” taunted Arthur’s classmates countless times a day after his tragic mistake.

The story was that one day when home alone after school, he had been playing with matches and accidentally caught the curtains on fire. He had burned his home down. And now the bullies taunting him would not stop.

Arthur was two or three years older than I was, so I had been unaware of his existence before this event. But now I continued to notice taunting classmates evacuating whatever table he sat down at for lunch.

My second-grade self felt horrible for Arthur in his shunning. I worried to my mom about it. I was afraid Arthur would never feel he belonged again.

She asked me a question I had never thought about: “What do you think Jesus would do if he were a student at your school?”

I grudgingly said, “He would probably go sit with him.”

But Jesus would have been a boy and would have probably known Arthur.

“But I don’t even know him.”

Mom agreed and was quiet.

Then a bit later, “Do you think it would be okay with Jesus if I took my little sister with me?”

Mom assured me that she thought Jesus would approve. Fortunately, my first-grade sister was good-natured and very willing to accompanying me on this mission.

The next day when we sat down across from Arthur and said, “Hi,” he ignored us except to move as far away from us as possible. This was NOT part of our plan.

My mom assured me that it did not mean our joining him was the wrong thing to do. She encouraged us to give him time. So we did.

I’m not actually sure that Arthur ever spoke to us. After all, girls our age definitely had cooties. Everyone knew that.

But after several days of our odd lunches, a couple of my friends joined me and my sister. Later a couple of his friends joined him.

After a few days of our segregated groups eating at the same table, I decided our task was finished. I never noticed bullies taunting or isolating him again.

Maybe that would have happened naturally in the same number of days—just because kids would have gotten sick of teasing him. We will never know.

I certainly never had a chance to tell Arthur or anyone else that the reason we were joining him is that we were trying to be like Jesus. They will never know.

But my mom’s question for me and her quiet encouragement of me and my sister in our mission taught us a lot about the character of Jesus.

She taught us that Jesus does not shun people who feel like losers. Jesus does not taunt people who really mess up. He loves us all and wants us to show his love to those around us—especially when they mess up.

Disoriented by my Parents’ Indecision

Disoriented

I felt disoriented, almost dizzied by my parents’ indecision.

Parents are supposed to know what’s happening in life and be in charge, right? At ten, my world felt flipped over because of my parents’ not knowing what to do. It disoriented me. First, they believed God was calling my dad to a different ministry. Then they weren’t sure. My mom and dad needed to pray about it more.

For what felt like a long time—probably only a few weeks—my sisters and I didn’t know whether we were going to continue living in Tri-Cities, Washington, or move to Portland, Oregon. The memorable thing is that while my parents were praying and waiting for God’s answer, my sisters and I felt disoriented–unmoored. As children, we obviously found our security not in God but in our parents—and in their knowing what to do.

Our family had moved from California to Washington the year before, which had disoriented us in different ways.

Initially I had experienced great homesickness, believing I’d never again find wonderful friends like the ones I was leaving. But by this time my sisters and I had all adjusted. I think we were not so much scared of the potential move as freaked out that our parents didn’t know what to do. One clear memory is of the three older girls gathered in a closet for a meeting and having a secret “vote.” It was probably my crazy idea. We each gave all the evidence we had on either side and then “voted” by “secret ballot” on whether we thought we were going to be moving or staying.

We were looking for some sort of certainty in ourselves, since we were not seeing it in our parents.

Ironically, the sister vote was unanimous for Portland, but we ended up staying in Tri-Cities. We later learned my parents had also initially believed God wanted to move them into a new ministry. But then God showed them otherwise. During those weeks of their indecision a number of people committed themselves to the Lord and to our local church, giving evidence to my parents that the elders were correct: God had been using their gifts of evangelism. And he wanted them to stay and continue to work there.

God continued to bless their ministry in the church abundantly over the next decade.

Clearly my parents had heard God correctly. What I remember most powerfully, though, is my parents’ waiting to hear what God wanted them to do. I never heard them discuss either the advantages of friends in Washington or the culture and beauty of Portland.

It was simply “What does God want us to do? Where does he want us to serve him?”

As a child, it amazed me that adults would make major  decisions simply because of what they understood Jesus wanted them to do.

Jesus became much more real to me as a result.

I wish I could say I began then to instantly trust Jesus for daily decisions in my life. I didn’t. But I did perceive for the first time this important practice.

How do we show others that we trust Jesus for major decisions?

 

 

Wrestling with God is Painful

Wrestling with God is not unusual for me.

I often feel the need to pound on God’s chest and ask why he seems so slow with his answers. Especially when I’m praying for something good for his children. Hearing “yes” from God seems so essential. And urgent.

But the burden of a parent praying for a child in crisis—physical, emotional, or spiritual—is like no other type of wrestling with God.

And adult children have no fewer scary situations to pray about than young children.  The trip home after the week of visiting our recovering daughter and tiny NICU grandson, born not breathing, was a clear example of that.

Heavy-hearted, we boarded the plane to return home. Our week with our daughter’s family following her complicated C-section and resultant repair surgery had ended. But her painful journey continued.

At our first airport, her text had just alerted us that she might need to return to the hospital for IV treatment of a stubborn incision infection. What about her tiny baby, recently released from NICU?!!

Arrow prayers for new mama, for baby, for new daddy, for healing, for stability, and for their peace in their Heavenly Father’s arms. Furiously I sent texts and messages to as many people as I could think of to ask for their prayers before I boarded that plane.

Then my real struggle began: “Lord, why? They have trusted you through so much already. Isn’t it enough?  You are a good God. Remember your love for your children! Have mercy on them.”

I cried and prayed through the whole flight home.

And God reminded me that his mercy for my children is endless. In my pounding at his door for answers, he reminded me of his so-much-greater pain in Jesus’ death.

I realized that I often thank Jesus for his suffering for our salvation, while neglecting to thank the Father for the agony he suffered in causing his Son to go through such pain for me and for all who love Him.

His pain was exponentially greater than mine. I am in awe.

Father, thank you for your sacrifice as a parent. Jesus, thank you for your life of sacrifice and death of sacrifice. Holy Spirit, thank you for being with us and offering us your peace through it all.

My daughter’s text had requested prayer that quick healing—after so many failed antibiotics—would prevent her forced return to the hospital. If not, she requested prayer that she would be able to glorify God through her return to the hospital.

That request showed me an example of miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his people. The Lord reminded me that he brings healing of all kinds.

He said to me, “Peace, my child. Be still, and know that I am God.”

 

Before God healed my daughter’s body, he healed my heart of a different ailment: the perceived need to be able to take care of my daughter myself. I needed to trust him to do that.

Meeting Death with Little Ones

personal photo

The last time my dad spoke was in joy over seeing his new great-grandson. A few days later he was gone.

Now my mother has died. It took some time for it to sink in that I will never, ever be able to talk to them again—until heaven.

How do you explain death to a little one? We hardly understand it ourselves.

What a shock. The person is alive one day and then suddenly not alive anymore.

And the Bible says so little about our heavenly interactions with others.

So how do we help our little ones understand death when someone near them dies?

Each of our daughters was almost two years old when a grandmother died.

First one great-grandmother, then another, and then the adopted grandmother who lived next door.

These deaths seemed only negative at the time, since we were not ready to lose these special people. We even joked that we had better not have another child–not wanting to lose another grandmother when that child was two!

But the passing years have increased my gratefulness for the timing of those deaths. Each of our little girls learned early how to say goodbye to a loved one who had died.

People sometimes warned that our children would find it traumatic to go to a funeral home. We found, however, that our girls did not experience those visits as traumatic.

Though initially surprised by adult expressions of grief, they learned that death is a normal part of life. They needed to be taught to handle it well.

Though they still missed their special grandmothers, they experienced no trauma from the public grieving process.

Most importantly, they learned that Jesus went to prepare a place for us to live with him after we die. They knew their grandmothers loved Jesus and went to be with him and that we would join them someday.

One of our fun family stories is of our little one informing visiting relatives that Grandma would not be able to go out for lunch with us that day, because she was still in heaven.

I had explained to her when Grandma died, that it meant we wouldn’t be able to see her anymore because she had gone to heaven to be with Jesus.

What I had not realized was that she would think going to heaven was like Daddy going on a business trip. When her time was done, she assumed Grandma would come back.

I thought of that story again in a different way when that same daughter brought her fourteen-month-old son to my mother’s death bed to help me grieve her passing.

Though he is too little to understand it much, we both found it precious to see him wave to his Great-Nana and say “Bye, bye.”

He did not know enough about death yet to be sad, but he knew enough to give her a respectful farewell. It was good. Meeting death with little ones has emphasized for me that God is bigger than death.

 

 

What A Wrinkle in Time gets right

What A Wrinkle In Time gets right

What A Wrinkle in Time gets right is that scripture is essential in the lives of children. And that parents need to bring scripture directly into their children’s lives.

Meg’s dad may not have been adept in his use of Romans 8:28 with her. Especially since she was angry at him for botching her tessering and causing her so much pain.

Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most often poorly used Bible passages, and Meg’s dad’s use was no exception. Meg needed time to recover physically and emotionally before hearing this scripture from her dad. She was angry and needed to simmer down first.

But the passage was spot on from his perspective:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

He had just rescued Meg from the stunningly hypnotic power of IT and enabled the trio to find a way to rescue Charles. He was trusting that he was called by God and that God would use even negative events to serve his overarching purpose.

We may not approve of Madeleine L’Engle’s unorthodox ways of incorporating scripture into her fantasy characters’ lives. But we need to admire a father who calls his daughter’s attention to scripture in times of crisis.

I sometimes got pretty tired of my dad’s reading James 1 with me when people picked on me in junior high. My daughters have also admitted that they sometimes had a hard time relating to the scriptures I shared with them when praying through difficulties.

But James 1 stuck with me. At one point I had it memorized in several versions. It is still one of my favorite passages.

A daughter I shared countless passages with during her struggles came to me later with a request: “Mom, can you write down for me all the Bible passages you’ve shared with me?”

What? Why? How am I supposed to remember them all?

I hadn’t even known at the time that the passages had helped her.

I knew she had a friend going through extremely serious struggles. It turned out she wanted to write these passages on index cards for her friend. She wanted to comfort her with them as they had comforted her. God’s use of his word in my daughter’s life, even when I hadn’t known it, amazed me.

I’m sure that by the end of the novel Meg’s dad would also have heard a much more positive response from Meg on Romans 8:28. By then Meg saw how everything did work out and that the negative event was a powerful learning experience in the triumph.

Meg would have seen with twenty-twenty hindsight that her dad had been seeing with eyes of faith. The tricky thing is that eyes of faith require faith–and have no proof.

How scary it is to speak words of faith into our children’s lives, when we really don’t know how God will work.

We just know he will. And that’s what A Wrinkle in Time gets right.