A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tag: Jesus

Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: (Relatively) Painless Ideas to Help Kids Share Their Faith

New to this series? For the thoughts behind it, start here.

It was yesterday, walking to a train, that we met her—I’ll call her Gretchen. Conversation unfolded among us in the blistering sunshine. We were all drawn in by the details of her home country; the stories of her life there. At thirty, Gretchen is pretty and successful. She vacations around the world.

Perhaps that’s why I was intrigued by both my daughter and my son after disembarking the train, when she’d warmly wished us well and waved to us out the window. Completely separately, they asked me if we could pray for her, that she’d know Jesus, too.

I could tell you this is because I’m some kind of fantastic parent, but if anything, I hope you’ve picked up through this blog that I’m muscling my way through this parenting thing like anything else. (I’m sure perfect parenting is on the next blog over from mine.)

Spiritual disciplines, after all, are about cultivating, right? Richard Foster, author of The Celebration of Discipline, writes that in all these disciplines, we just prepare the soil of our hearts (and our kids’). It’s the Holy Spirit who moves. Or as the verse read which my sister neatly painted around the rim of her terracotta plant pot: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

And really? That’s what sharing our faith is about, too. When I was trained as staff with Cru, they taught that evangelism is sharing Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results up to God.

THE KEY: For kids to be confidently equipped and constantly ready to give a reason for the hope that they have—with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16). We encourage them not to view evangelism less as a single, isolated event, more as an ongoing lifestyle of bold love. The point is not for friends to pray a prayer. It’s for them to become true and lifelong disciples of Jesus.

Here are a few ways I see this unfolding with the kids in our lives.

  1. First, the heart. This is the most long-term of any of these ideas. Any child—any human, for that matter—naturally wants to share what’s fantastic in his or her life. When a new cousin’s born, your daughter can’t wait to share it with her class at show and tell. So before sharing our faith comes the experience that our faith is unstoppably worth sharing! Kids who are excited and filled by Jesus won’t share their faith as much as a have-to as a natural outpouring of who they are. To share the hope that they have—first, they must have that hope.

 

And if I may be so bold—a lot of that is a tone set by us as parents, right? Ours is not dogged religion that “works our way to heaven”. Grace is what makes Jesus different from every other religion on the planet. Kids growing up in homes where faith is authentic and grace-motivated are equipped every day to know what their faith looks like in any given situation.

 

  1. I shared in this post about how not to share your faith, and how it’s critical love must fuel all “agendas” for evangelism (please read this post for more). My kids found the video on that post, as well as the one below, hilarious. (Note for Protestant readers: This video has a minor Catholic thrust.)

My husband and I used these to generate conversation about why these methods can be off-putting for the majority of the population. As much as tracts and other tools can give kids brilliant steps and thus boldness to share their faith, I am of increased conviction that traditional methods can actually distance people from our kids because the methods are socially alienating to a modern Western audience–which can hinder loving them well. That’s not the Cross that’s getting in people’s way. That’s our lack of understanding of people—the whole “clanging cymbal” thing.

You may remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. The former’s prayer is essentially, Thanks, God, for making me better than him. The vital message for our kids: We are not the savior, but the saved. We’re about humility, not results.

  1. Equip them. (I know, I know. Now she gets to the practical part.)
    1. Help your kids to articulate their faith. For weeks in our family discussion, we’d quiz our youngest: What’s grace? We’d ask application questions, too. No, it’s not a quiz. But our kids talking to their friends first means they truly get the idea of how God saved us inside and out. Not with confusing platitudes—“I asked Jesus into my heart!”—but in ways that communicate in kid-language what Jesus did.
    2. I found this video to be a great jumping-off point for discussion with my middle-school kids. You might also try this one on sharing your faith without being pushy.
    3. Together, memorize verses that equip kids to talk about the Gospel. Here’s a good top ten list of them. You might find the music and free printable memory cards from Seeds Family Worship’s Seeds of Faith.
    4. Another gem from Cru: “The Gospel flows best through the holes in people’s lives.” In other words, people are most receptive to Jesus in the areas and seasons where they most feel their need for His answers. Talk with older kids about how to compassionately listen and come alongside friends in hard times–with true hope and comfort.
  1. Make your home the locus. Did you know that a significant portion of evangelism in the book of Acts happened from homes? In the past, I was always coached to invite people to church—and this is still a great idea! But the nuanced culture of churches can, depending on the person, occasionally increase the feeling of our friends feeling like outsiders. We’re not inviting them to a social club with all the trimmings. We’re inviting them to Jesus. I wrote here about practical ways to make your home an “open house,” and here about ways to live “sent” in your community.
  2. Pray often as a family for those around you to know Jesus. Let your prayers communicate true love and humility, and that it’s God who is the great Softener of Hearts. After all—He softened ours! He’s bringing us from death to life—and He works the same in our friends. (Prayer changes our own hearts, too.)

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For the Day You Feel Powerless, Part III: On Hope and Longing

Missed the first two parts? Grab I and II here.

When my husband and I were dating, he had this (irritating!) habit of asking what I wanted. Example:

Him: Where do you want to go out for dinner?

Me: I don’t care. [I really didn’t!] You pick.

Him, pulling over into a parking lot: No problem. We can just sit here until you know what you want.

See what I mean? Good grief.

Truth: I’m not great at knowing what I want. At least, not since high school. Before high school I knew what I wanted. But that’s when—due to some unhealthy insecurity and a mildly healthy desire to serve and surrender to what God wanted—I uncovered a great delight in pleasing. (My husband maintains that I can please with the best of them, but that lurking underneath is still a strong will to be reckoned with. He even goes so far to suggest that this strong will is attractive to him. I mean, can you trust this guy? Really?)

This has been gut-wrenching lately because when it comes to staying in Africa or moving back to the U.S., I actually did want something very much. I wanted to stay. And after giving up a lot of the things that don’t matter to me, it has at times felt almost a betrayal that God might ask me to give up one of the things that does.

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How Not to Share Jesus with Your Friends

(…And now for a completely controversial post! Over to you, Janel.)

Several years past, my husband and I were selling our little yellow house by owner. It was one of those crazy years when we were covered in toddlers and preschoolers. For every house showing, we’d shove all the kid detritus into the washer, dryer, and dishwasher, lay down some vacuum tracks, and scurry off to the playground just in time.

I remember standing in my garden when she rang: A realtor eager to sell my house for me, rattling off her exuberant pitch. At first, I was honored she called (“Your house is so cute!”) and interested to hear her spiel. But soon my shoulders fell. I was getting a subtle vibe she cared more for her agenda than she cared about the needs of my family. I politely declined, sighed, slid my phone back in my pocket.

Weeks later she called to confidently schedule a showing for one of her clients: “I’ve got someone who’s perfect for your place. I’m going to sell your house today!” Her certainty buoyed my sagging spirit. We rearranged our schedule entirely, cleaning in a frenzy. Of course it was in vain, and her words meant to inspire assurance left my frazzled self…smoldering.

It’s a lesson, I think, in a lot of things (my own stupid reactions included!). But I think of that a bit when I consider talking about what I believe; about the One who’s changed my life so profoundly.

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Off-season: When you’re not where you wanted to be, when you wanted to be there

Why does it seem like everyone else my age is promoted, and I’m stuck in Gruntwork Land?

I should be married by now.

I am so. Tired. Of the little kid season. Why did I quit my job?

He started at the same time as I did. How did he get so much further ahead?

Who goes back to school at my age?

I had no idea w hat I gave up when I got married.

What was I thinking?

Everyone else has a baby.

Why in the world did I major in that? I jeopardized my entire career.

 

Ever feel like your season of life seems…off?

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Interview-your-Child Fridays: The Christmas Interview

For ideas on how to make the most of these questions, see the first interview.

interview your child fridays

  1. In the Christmas story from the Bible, what character would it be the coolest to be?
  2. What’s one of your favorite activities to do around Christmas time?
  3. What’s one of your best Christmas memories? What did you love about that time?
  4. What is your all-time favorite Christmastime snack?
  5. What do you think the world would be like if God never sent Jesus?
  6. What do you think God would want for Christmas this year? Parents, this is a cool time to talk with kids about God wanting our hearts. My kids also repeatedly ask to use What God Wants for Christmas, a book with surprise gift boxes to open that tell the nativity story. You could use Micah 6:8 to guide you: He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: To do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Rather than just pushing “good behavior”, this is a chance to show that Jesus is the One who creates this in us!
  7. If you could have one Christmas wish, what would it be?
  8. What one gift would be the most meaningful to you this year?
  9. What’s one of the top gifts you’ve ever received for Christmas?
  10. What gifts has God given you this year?

 

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You might also enjoy my free ebook, Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture!

 

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A Note for the Day You’re Feeling Powerless

I woke up the other day feeling—well. Feeling needlessly angry. (It wasn’t the first time, lately.)

I drilled down a bit in my surly little soul. Anger, I recall, is secondary; it stems from something: disappointment, fear, hurt, sadness. For me, there were slices of sadness—but also a big hunk of fear. More specifically, I felt powerless.

As I was scrawling thoughts for this post, I felt rather sheepish for even labeling that. The reasons I feel powerless are nothing like some of you reading this, huddling (or scramming) when an abusive spouse comes home. Or perhaps you’ve got a boss who makes you feel about an inch high, or even threatened—but you’ve gotta pay the rent. Or maybe you’re a person of color, feeling terrified and estranged after the last election. Or you have a dark diagnosis and a couple of small kids.

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Deeper: 12 (Printable) Journaling Ideas for a Christmas of the Soul

One thing I picked up from my Christmases in Uganda: All the glitter and hype of Christmas does have a purpose beyond the secular.

God created seven feasts for the Old Testament Hebrews, which clues me in; these occurred in the same seasons. Maybe the Israelites knew Hadassah made the best matzoh, or Great-Aunt Hephzibah made the best lamb broth, or that the air was filled with chaff after harvest. Heck, Jesus’ big debut was making wine from water for a wedding. The Bible ends with His own wedding. God’s the pinnacle of our joy, of our feasts and revelry. And I think He uses our senses—the whiff of evergreen; the clam dip (it’s a Breitenstein thing); the twinkle lights; Jack Frost nipping at your nose—to cement our minds to what we can’t see.

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How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part III–FREE GIVEAWAY

Missed the first two posts? Get Part I here and Part II here.

6.  Love = Telling the truth.In love. Is a status update artfully alighting upon all my strengths the same as telling the truth? Like a camera, we all choose what we zoom in on. But is it possible we’re airbrushing our lives, and creating a climate of unnatural expectations? (Check out this post on perfectionism vs. pursuing excellence.) Though we may look for sympathy when our kid smears poop on the wall or throws a fit in Target’s housewares aisle, our lives on social media generally lean toward the photoshopped side of things.

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How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part II

Missed Part I on Monday? Grab it here–and make sure to come back for the social media giveaway on Friday!

4. If social media is to love others, it’s gotta stay in its proper place. I highly value this post on 6 Ways Your Smartphone Is Changing You, in which the author asserts that our smartphones can take the place of embodiment—of simply being fully present with the real, live folks around us.

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