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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C. S. Lewis Tells us to Fake It.

“Let’s pretend!”

As children, many of us have reveled in games of pretend. C. S. Lewis writes in his chapter “Let’s Pretend” in Mere Christianity that as we grow in our walk with the Lord, sometimes we need to fake it. He says it about growing spiritually. Could it also be crucial with our parenting?

That idea is jarring and smells of the worst charge against Christianity: hypocrisy.

Until we think about what he really means by this . . . .

Think about babies. We talk to them immediately–telling them how much we love them, how cute they are, etc. We never, ever think, “I’d better wait to talk until my baby initiates the conversation. He doesn’t know what I’m saying yet anyway.”

No.

We start off pretending they know what we’re saying, and eventually they do. In the same way Lewis tells us to act like nicer people than we actually are. Sometimes we need to act loving to our children when we don’t feel up to it.

By doing this, we can allow the Spirit of God to shape us into better people. We grow into the people Jesus wants us to be—by pretending we already are.

How can this work with our spiritual growth?

If you are like me, your devotional life has its ups and downs. One day you feel super motivated to read your Bible. Other times you feel stuck and not at all motivated. Feelings vacillate.

Unlike our feelings, God’s promises are secure. The more faithful we are in reading his word, the more he will bless us through it.

But we need to remember not to read the Bible out of guilt.

God wants our hearts—not feelings of guilt or shame.

I love that in Jesus Calling Sarah Young reminds us not to feel ashamed that our minds wander. She says God knows we are that way, because that’s the way he made us. We just have to work at getting back on track. Just like with making time for reading the Bible.

What if you plan now for a time to read the Bible tomorrow? Even if it’s only for five minutes. Then write yourself a note somewhere to help you remember.

Choose a time your house is usually quiet. Preferably before you check your phone or go online. For me, deciding to spend this time before checking for messages allowed me to be much more consistent and enjoy devotional time much more.

But we need to be careful not to beat ourselves up about missing planned times with God. Just keep moving forward.

Give it a try, and wait for God to bless you abundantly with a strong sense of his presence in your life. Your child will notice that too.

I’d love to hear what has worked for you and what has been problematic or frustrating.

Not comfortable praying out loud.

Are you much more comfortable praying silently than out loud?

Do you think others always “pray better prayers” than you do?

Do you feel blessed when others pray for you either silently or out loud?

Do you feel a special blessing when people pray for you in your hearing?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you are like the majority of us. Most of us feel blessed when other people pray for us but not comfortable praying out loud. Praying in front of others can make us feel a bit insecure.

This feeling is so normal that it motivated Jesus’ disciples to ask him to teach them how to pray. It also motivated him to teach them the prayer most of us refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.

Doing anything in front of others can make us feel self-conscious, especially praying. All the more reason to start praying out loud with our children at a very early age—and very simply. If we can remember that prayer is talking to God rather than performing for others in the room, we will all do better.

Children who first hear prayers in simple language—without any special churchy words—will easily learn to talk to God themselves naturally.

Simple prayers thank God for food, for family, for friends. They ask for healing of loved ones. They ask for God’s blessing on us for a scary day tomorrow. Or they praise God for being a loving God and for caring for us.

Such simple prayers just talk to God about the ordinary stuff of life. We can best model talking to God well by talking to him the way we do with our children and our friends.

I wish my parents had always prayed out loud with us in restaurants. The first time I was with someone who prayed out loud before dinner in a restaurant, I was weirded out. The first time my sister prayed with me over the phone felt very strange. I don’t know why.

I know God understands how phones work much better than I do. But I had to be led by others to pray in those ways that were uncomfortable for me at first. So it took a while for me to feel comfortable praying that way with my children, but it took them much less time to learn than it did for me.

Most of us feel less self-conscious with our children than with other adults. So it will probably be much easier than praying out loud with them than with adults.

The main benefit is that it will make it easier for our children to pray naturally. A side benefit is that it will probably make us feel more comfortable praying out loud with adults. Take baby steps, and watch God bless you.

How were you first introduced to prayer? Have you had positive experiences or negative experiences with trying to pray out loud with children?

Praying together

What Do I Delight In?

When I was recovering from a traumatic break-up years ago, God gave me a promise: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Relief washed over me. I read that as a promise that my loving the Lord would result in his granting me my intense desire for a godly husband and a family. As I began to claim the promise of that verse, I thought about it a lot. God showed me that the focus of the verse was not on love for him—but on delight in him.

But it was a bit confusing. What exactly was delight? I remembered Edmund disobeying Aslan for the White Witch’s Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I didn’t know how a person could truly delight in God.

I had always delighted in small children, but I needed to grow into true delight in the Lord. How could I learn to turn to him and feel my heart brighten as it does when I see an adorable toddler?

How could I revel in ordinary moments spent with God and in seeing his work in my daily life? Especially when my life was not going according to my plan.

How could I delight in God, when it seemed he was not answering my deepest prayers?

I began to look for ways to enjoy him in my private Bible reading and prayer time. Eventually I discovered that writing down my prayers and thoughts in a prayer journal helped keep me focused. When my mind wanders now, I can pray about those concerns and not forget my focus.

But a strange thing happened. I realized that as God had increased my delight in him, he had lessened my intense desire for a husband and family. I believed I could even be happy without them. I knew that God was my ultimate desire. Wow. What a change in my heart.

Two years later he granted my early desire: a godly husband. Then three wonderful daughters. But God taught me through that struggle what true delight in the Lord is and how important it is that I share that with those around me.

We probably all identify with Julie Andrews’ song about her favorite things—also loving snowflakes on eyelashes and little girls in dresses with sashes.

Do we also delight in time spent praying and reading the Bible? If so, how do we convey that to our children? How will our children see our delight in the Lord?

What is your prayer for the child or children in your life?

Praying with my Baby Now: How Jesus Surprised Me

The other day, surprisingly, required praying with my baby, my fifteen-month-old grandson.

An extremely loving little boy, he is very sensitive to other people’s pain. He was playfully doing peek-a-boo with me using pieces of clothing and then a lap-desk. A little over exuberant, he unintentionally bopped me hard on the nose with the lap-desk.

As I yelped in pain, my friend ran for some ice for my throbbing nose. My grandson’s face crumpled in tears. I told him it would be okay, hugged him, and told him I was not mad at him or at the lap-desk. I told him the ice would make it better. He kept crying softly. Later he whimpered every time he looked at the ice and cried whenever I put the ice to my nose.

I told him that Jesus would make it better.

Also that I knew he had not tried to hurt me and neither had the lap-desk. He did not seem to believe me. Seeing nothing was working, I suggested we should pray to Jesus right then. I don’t know what his face looked like as I was praying, because my eyes were closed with my hands folded around him in my lap.

I thanked Jesus that I knew he was going to make my nose better.

Then I thanked him that my grandson hadn’t meant to hurt me and that the lap-desk hadn’t either. Next I thanked him for loving us so much and told him we loved him too. Amen.

When I opened my eyes, after praying with my baby, his pain was visibly gone.

He was able to engage in play again. For a minute or so he still took pained little breaths whenever I applied the ice. But he seemed to know that things were going to be okay now. Obviously, he could not have understood all of my words.

Nevertheless, Jesus gave him peace. Through my prayer.

I’m sure I never prayed in similar moments with my own babies or toddlers. I had no idea the prayers would have mattered to them. But watching my kids grow up and watching how God has worked in me and in others around me as we hear people praying changed me. I determined to pray out loud much more often than I used to. Whether I’m praying with my baby, praying with someone at book club after hearing a need, or praying with someone in the grocery store, God hears. And God works.

The really cool thing: IT ALSO BLESSES ME.

As I watch God work through my little prayers about tiny things and huge things, my faith grows. The faith of those around me grows, but mine might grow even more. Amazing. What a good God we have. He allows us to be vessels through which he works.

Do you have a child, a co-worker, or a family member who might benefit from an audible prayer from you?

Family Prayer Time: My Favorite Bedtime Tradition

family prayer time jordan-whitt-145327(1)

All three of my adult daughters have commented at some moment that the best thing we did as parents was to have family prayer time.

Does this mean they always felt that way, or that it never felt like a chore to fulfill? I’m sure not. I know we parents often felt family prayer time was something we needed to power through in our exhaustion.

But our little girls experienced some of their best answers in response to family-time prayers. They often also found that time at the end of each day to be a bit of comfort . As a family, we shared concerns together we never would have otherwise.

We sort of stumbled onto it, but we came to value it highly. When our oldest first began talking, we started praying with her at her bed before saying goodnight. Like lots of parents.

My husband and I made a point of both doing this together with her.

That is probably the conscious decision that turned it into “Family Prayer Time.”

We started with very simple “God bless Grandma and Grandpa G.” kinds of prayers. She was an early talker. At two she was praying that I would have a baby sister for her. Then one day she got suspicious: “Mom, you and Dad aren’t praying too, are you?” I had to admit that we were not praying for that yet.

When she did have a little sister, we started having prayer time together in the little one’s room. In early years, it was the youngest who went to bed first. So we prayed together in her room.

Eventually, predictably, we parents began going to bed soonest and called for prayer time when we were ready to head to bed. By then we were so much bigger and older that we preferred the comfort of the family room.

When the girls were teens, prayer time usually took 15-30 minutes. But sometimes it took long enough for a parent or siblings to become impatient and wonder if the time were worth it. During this time I’m sure having to do family prayer time was often an annoyance to our older, busy kids.

One interesting fact, however, is that I have no memory of the girls complaining about prayer time. Church, yes. Baths, yes. Vegetables, yes. But never prayer time.

I asked one of my daughters recently if she had ever resented it. She was a bit surprised by the question: “No. It was just always something I thought was normal.”

The rewards have been tremendous!

We now see our grown daughters take their needs to Jesus regularly. We see them pray with others. And we have even learned of their leading others to know who Jesus is.

All became comfortable praying out loud with others at far younger ages than my husband and I did. We believe this is because of family prayer time.

Is there a version of this that could work in your home? Or do you have a different prayer tradition that blesses you and your children?

[photo by jordan-whitt-1453271.jpg]

 

Do a Three-Year-Old’s Prayers Matter?

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Praying Girl

How much do prayers matter?

Have you ever felt nervous telling your child about something you are praying for? You know prayers matter, but you’re nervous about sharing a prayer with your child because you’re sure God’s answer will be “No.” I have.

Prayers matter more than we know, as my first daughter can tell us.

One morning hours after taking my baby and toddler to a huge neighborhood garage sale, I panicked. I realized I had left my beautiful, new stroller sitting on the busy sidewalk.

My internal debate began: –Oh, no! I can’t believe I was that stupid when I was packing the kids up.
–Please, Lord, let it still be there.
–Oh, I need to pray out loud, so that Katie can see that you are the one we turn to for help.
–But I can’t pray out loud because I know this was my stupidity and not something you are probably just going to fix for me.
–I really don’t want her to decide that you don’t answer prayer, just because your answer is No on this one.
–But I also don’t want her to think we don’t pray about things just because we’re the ones that messed them up.

As I turned the car back toward that busy corner, I explained all of this to my three-year-old.

Little Katie interrupted me, saying, “Mom, you drive. I’ll pray.”

As we drove, she prayed with folded hands and tightly closed eyes. The only way she knew to pray. She peeked every now and then and finally saw the corner.

Katie said, “There it is! I knew God would put his angels around it to hide it from the bad guys.” Today she recalls this as the first time she was sure God was real.

My second daughter’s earliest memory of prayers answered came with her detachable bed bar.

Somehow we had left it in an unknown motel.

Julia instantly decided she was going to pray and knew God would bring it back to her. Though we didn’t argue with her, we nervously thought that it wasn’t that simple.

“The mail carrier will bring it to me,” she told us. A few days later she looked out of her bedroom window and announced, “There comes the mail carrier with my bed bar!” Sure enough, a motel whose address and number we had never written down had found our address. They had shipped our toddler’s bed bar back to us. This experience created in Julia a simple, absolute faith that her prayers matter to God.

Our youngest daughter’s earliest memory of answered prayer was the recovery of her Angela baby doll.

Angela went everywhere with her but one day disappeared. We searched for hours, assuring Stephanie we would find her. When bedtime came and we had looked everywhere we knew without finding her, we were baffled.

During our family prayer time, we prayed that God would keep Angela safe and out of the rain that night. We even prayed that someone loving would find her and adopt her, if she had to be gone for good.

The next morning, walking our oldest to school, I saw notices tacked up on trees and telephone poles down the street: “FOUND. A MUCH-LOVED BABY DOLL. CALL ###-#### TO CLAIM.”

Someone walking his dog before the rain started had found her, evidently dropped out of Stephanie’s stroller. Stephanie was thrilled and knew at that moment that God loved her enough to care about her Angela doll too!

Each of these instances reminds me that God used my broken ways of bringing my daughters to him to create faith in their hearts. He showed them their prayers matter–even when my own prayers were faithless.

 

Eight-year-old Atheist: “Mom, I don’t believe in God anymore”:

eight-year-old atheist

As a budding eight-year-old atheist, I traumatized my parents by throwing over Christianity.

Ours was an overtly Christian household, with both parents having the gift of evangelism. And my dad was a pastor. I had definitely believed when younger. But the influence of an excellent third-grade teacher—a strong humanist—changed that completely.

One night after family devotions, I announced to my family, “I don’t think I can believe all that stuff. Mrs. Allen says there is no God. People just created the idea of God as a crutch to lean on. He’s only an idea for weak people.”

My parents were shell-shocked. My dad spent countless hours explaining to me all the proofs of the reality of Jesus Christ. No dice. After months of frustration with my stubborn disbelief, my mom—in her desperation—decided to do the only other thing she could think of.

She began sharing with me daily examples of her prayers to Jesus.

She also shared how he was answering them. Bingo. I don’t remember what she was praying about most days. Certainly things in her kids’ daily lives. Probably about how yucky she felt while pregnant. I know those are the kinds of things she asked me to pray for after I grew up.

One answered prayer stands out hugely though. That day she ran into the house over-the-top excited because her dentist had prayed to receive Christ with her. We all knew she had been praying for him. She knew he had tough stuff in his life, but she also knew she couldn’t take up appointment time to talk about Jesus with him. On the day of her excitement, he had told her that he had purposely scheduled no one after her, so he could ask her more questions.

It turns out he and his new wife were going through a really rough time with their newly blended family—three teen-aged daughters. Mom’s joy had attracted him. He wanted that for his family. Later the whole family became Christians after my parents met with him and his wife together.

That day I saw the reality of Jesus Christ in the power of my mom’s personal relationship with him.

I now see that she had finally resorted to what the disciples did as the first ones to introduce others to Christ. She told me about her daily companion and Lord of her life. I had no moment of sudden realization–simply gradually returning to believing in Jesus Christ. I’m sure my parents wondered for a long time whether my faith was solid or not. I can’t tell you a time either, but I know Jesus spoke through my mom’s uncertain words to me.

I know many parents and grandparents want their children to know Jesus Christ as Lord. But sometimes they’re unsure what to do. They feel they don’t know enough. Or they feel not good enough to be the best examples.

What has nurtured your faith in the most noticeable ways? Is there an eight-year-old atheist or some other child in your life you could share that experience with?