Sunday I sat with other kids ministry leaders at my church to plan and pray for our kids and families. One of the concerns we have is the way we teach kids.
This generation is born into the world of the cloud. They learn via visual images on screens that change quickly to keep their attention. This is what our kids are used to. This is the air they breathe. But I think it’s important that we do not trade in matter for the cloud when it comes to how we teach our kids.
I think there’s something spiritual that pushes back against the zeitgeist of AI, virtual reality, and screens when things you can touch are upheld as good and necessary.
Our kids need to touch books, open pages, hold their tiny fingers under the lines of scripture in paper bibles. They need to sit with us on the floor and sing together and dance and clap. They don’t need flashy attention-getting images on a screen. They need dirt in their hands. Leaves under their toes. Arms that are safe to hold good boundaries and love them well.
They need matter.
The Christian’s faith in God in the flesh, bodily risen from the dead is a tangible hope and solid ground for a generation confused and lost in screens.
God made the earth and all that is in it. And he said it’s good.
I fear our children and grandchild are facing an age that believes matter doesn’t matter.
They need the body Christ to have hands and feet and books and gardens and songs and stories told face to face. They need the security of the good creation of God.
I decided to remove the social media apps from my phone for the Lenten season this year. Ask me how many times I’ve put them back on since Ash Wednesday?
More than that.
I ran across this verse in my daily reading the other day and it hit home. That craving for red dots, hearts and likes and comments is real.
Probably like most of you I use social media and I recognize the dangers of it. One of the dangers I see is the strong craving social media creates in me for validation.
We need each other. We’re social beings, even introverts like me. We need communication from other humans to help us be healthier humans. But humans alone cannot fill the insatiable appetite we have for meaning.
There’s this question I’m constantly carrying around, like a growling empty stomach: Is what I’m saying or doing making any good difference?
I want to know that what I say and do matters. That it’s helping someone. That is making life better. And as a Christian, I want to know that I’m honoring Christ and helping others know and love Him.
Those notifications on my phone from what I write in articles or poems or blogs or social media posts is a sort of food that satisfies that craving to make a difference. But it’s satisfaction is short lived and addictive.
Social media likes are white sugar to my craving.
But the word of God, the truth of Christ, the wisdom of the Holy Spirt is a full feast to my soul.
When I check those notifications and feel the spike of sweet followed by the growling craving and keep checking this glass rectangle in my pocket my riff-raffness shows.
But in seasons like this when my soul puts aside the sugar, acknowledging how addicted this riff-raff lady is, and sits with the strange growls in my soul before God, I inevitably find him fulfilling.
Just one look up. One pause to listen. To remember. To hunger. To breathe. To let tears run. To let laughter come too. To remember Jesus.
Here we fast. We crave. We hunger. We taste just a morsel and drink just a sip. For now.
One day this redeemed riff-raff will sit at the table and feast.
I heard the rumble and shout of a train hastening down the tracks alongside US 60 on my way to work this morning. The train announcing he’s coming through. Make way. Watch out. He’s not stopping.
2022 has been a train barreling down the tracks for me. My baby boys have become men and the empty nest has moved into my world, full steam ahead, whether I’m ready or not.
I told God the other day, “I wasn’t prepared for this! I didn’t pray about this! I don’t know what to do with this!”
Life is passing me by, horns honking, like traffic, while I sit at the light that turned green awhile back.
The good news is, I’m paying attention. God’s got my ears tuned like an owl to the sonar pulse answering his, “Whoo, whoo.” And he’s got my tears- a window display of colored glass bottles full of salty prayers.
The train of time chugs away, and I keep praying, waiting, watching, listening.
As I sit here on Christmas Eve, trying to carve out space to meditate on the Incarnation, a candle lit on my little desk, my husband is running a power saw on the roof cutting off the excess wood he used to finish our back patio. And I can’t help but think about the parallels in my life with the dynamic between Joseph and Mary.
Mary held within her, literally, the promise of God. And Joseph struggled to believe it. It took the revelation of an angel for him to believe. And I wonder if, as the years passed and Jesus grew, Joseph didn’t start to doubt the promise. Or at least lose the wonder of it amidst the everyday life of raising a child and trying to provide for the needs of his family.
While he worked with wood he lived with scandal, and he saw no great transformation in Israel or even in his and Mary’s own lives. There was no arrival at Shalom once Jesus was born. Surely Mary and Joseph still struggled with the pain that comes with learning to love someone. Mary must have had days of fatigue and longing Joseph failed to fulfill. Joseph must have had days of irritation and frustration with the struggle to provide for his stigmatized family. They probably got on each others nerves and Jesus still needed to be fed and changed and held.
These are all speculations of course. But Joseph and Mary were not super human. They were broken humans, just like my husband and me. Joseph blends into the background in the story of the incarnation. A man who struggled with unbelief, but was willing to accept and care for the woman and child who would bring to his daily life the reminder of what the angel told him, “…he will save his people from their sins.”
The story of Mary and Joseph feels familiar. I too am a woman with the promise of God in me. Christ is in me. And my soul sings with Mary, “…the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” The Holy Spirit is also filling me with new life that I cannot account for through human means. My husband has struggled to accept this in our 30 years together. Yet God has turned his heart time and time again towards caring for his family.
My second son was born eighteen years ago, two days after Christmas. Being pregnant at Christmas is another reason Joseph and Mary’s story resonates with me. The gift of a child. The gift of a man, who though he doesn’t understand, cares and provides and tries to make room for the scandal and accept it.
The fulfillment of the promise of the Child who will save his people from their sins plays out in my everyday life. And in a lifetime of treasuring promises in my heart, building a home, and most days, seeing nothing revolutionary. This is the Christmas story that lights the candle in my darkened soul. This is the mystery and the hope that carries me. Day after day.
Christ is born. Joy to the world. And to the world-weary men and women.
I picked a dandelion puff yesterday. The weed symbolizes randomness or meaninglessness or whatever… something fluffy. Not certain. Not solid. Not weighty.
Today a hospice chaplain held my dying mother in law’s hand and spoke dandelion puffs over her. It was supposed to be beautiful but in reality it was sad and angering.
Here my mother-in-law lay, orange with bilirubin rising in her bloodstream from the cancer that has invaded her liver, half awake, half confused, in pain, loosing control her body and her will to keep her eyes open, and the hope she’s offered is flying away into the wind like a dandelion- unaware, unfeeling, unreal.
The last full paragraph of conversation I had with my Mom Dougal was a couple days ago when she shared that she wasn’t afraid of dying. She knows Jesus will welcome her. But she is worried for her loved ones who are still hoping in dandelion puffs.
As I was taking that walk yesterday, holding that dandelion, watching it fall apart with just the wind from my heavy sigh, I took note of towering Douglas Fir trees, lacey ferns, jewelry-like fungus or growths of some kind on the dead tree trunks, wild berries, and purple wildflowers. All of these, even the dandelion have a body. They’re tangible. Real. Something I can see, touch, hear and smell.
Death is real. I can see it yellowing a mother’s eyes. I can touch where it’s broken through the paper thin skin stretched over the tail bone. I can hear it in the gurgling cough. I can smell it in the loss of bowel and bladder control.
Talking about death as though its the wind carrying you away, light and airy and free like a dandelion might be an attempt to make us feel better. But to the Christian laying in that bed right now, dying of cancer, there’s no need for “feel better” thoughts. The solid rock truth of Christ’s death and resurrection is the place we rest our weary heads.
The Christian’s hope isn’t in flowery thoughts that make us feel better. We believe things that make us sad, angry and often lonely. And we lament. We believe death is a thief. And hell is a horrible place of separation from every good gift of God and God himself, who is good.
We also believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We know our Redeemer lives and, as Job said, we will see him with our eyes! So when we come to die, as Fernando Ortega wrote, give us Jesus.
Death is horrible. I hate it. But Jesus is wonderful. And he swallowed death and sent it to hell. And one day us ragged receivers of his amazing kindness and love will see him face to face.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25 CSB
This morning I stood in my kitchen trying to force myself to think on what it means that Christ is risen when I’m angry with my son. I stood there waiting for the french press coffee to sit a minute before stirring, thinking, “Christ has risen. It’s Easter, Sheila. That’s what your entire faith rests on. You say it changes everything. So why is it that all you can think about right now is how mad you are at your son for not doing what he said he would do?”
Finally I opened my mouth and asked God the questions brewing in my head. “What does it mean that Christ has risen, right now, to me, in this moment, Lord? What changes?”
I need to know my faith has feet.
I don’t get miraculous answers from God when I ask. I get what most get I suspect. Silence. I went on with my morning.
I left for church talking to God about my struggle with my son and my long born desire to be a Jesus-worshipping family.
I got to church and greeted kids eager to hunt for candy-filled eggs, and then sat with those kids as we talked through the story of Christ’s death and resurrection using the symbols in the Resurrection Egg set.
We used our bodies, making sad faces when Jesus’ friends were sad that Jesus died. We made the motion of the sunrise with our arms and popped our eyes wide, mouths open, when the women found Jesus’ tomb empty. We fell to the floor (in the dramatic ways 5 year olds do) when Mary encountered the angel. And we ran in place with excitement when Jesus revealed himself alive to Mary and sent her to tell the guys he was alive.
I stood and sang and released my arms to fly high declaring to my soul and any powers listening, “Praise the Father. Praise the Son. Praise the Spirit three in one!” Because no matter how I feel, no matter what I am currently struggling with, the God who has laid down his life for me in Jesus and promised me undying life in his rising, is worthy of my praise.
As I held the torn bread and deep red juice in my hands, I heard the Spirit answer my prayer from the kitchen. “His rising means you can reconcile with your son.
“leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:24 CSB
Right there I put down the remembrance of Christ’s body and blood and picked up my phone to text my son an apology and a request to talk face to face. And right there I knew what Christ’s resurrection meant for me in my anger.
“Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.”
John 14:23, 25-27 CSB
Christ has risen and I can’t explain it, but I love him! And that means he and the Father can be at home in me (mind blown) and the Holy Spirit will teach me Jesus’ way ways. And that means when I’m angry, tired, sad, overwhelmed…lost, I can call on him and he’ll lead me.
I think I inherited my mom’s tendency toward rearranging things.
Growing up, I’d come home from school to a practically new house every week as my mom, inspired by something she found at a garage sale, would rearrange and redecorate the living room with what she had.
Today I gave my blog a new look and new name: Cultivating Faithfulness- a planted life | learning to love. The title sums up the theme of notes I’ve been writing down for months.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this book that wants me to write it over the past year or so. My phone and bullet journal are full of thoughts scribbled down.
A couple weeks ago I started editing old poems, writing new ones and compiling them into a book. I pray it will give hope to someone who loves someone they long to say, “Come magnify the Lord with me,” to, and not hear, “No thanks,” in response from.
Today I began working on a monthly newsletter that should go out this month. Hopefully by Easter. I want a place to curate poems, quotes, songs, stories, scripture, photos, resources and thoughts that help the Christian be inspired, encouraged and thoughtful in cultivating a life of faithfulness wherever they are.
Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely.”
As a Christian parent, my greatest desire is for my children to trust and follow Jesus. I want good things for them, but the world is full of frightening possibilities that threaten my kids’ faith and future.
Maybe like me, you find yourself overwhelmed with concern for your kids and you just don’t know where to start when it comes to prayer.
For centuries Christians have written prayers and used the prayers of others as a guide. Even the first disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus gave them what we call The Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes we need inspiration to know how to pray. That’s why I wrote this. I hope this post will inspire and help you talk to God about your kids and the anxieties you carry for them.
Scriptures to pray over your children
Prayer is a conversation with God. When we use our Bibles to pray, God talks first, we listen and respond. If we make a practice of talking to God about what we read in our Bibles, we’ll have plenty of help with what to pray for our kids.
Here are 8 Bible verses and prayers to use as a starting place.
Prayer for your children’s protection
I am guilty of wishing I could raise my kids in a bubble.
Drugs, alcohol, sexual perversions, greed, love of money, abusive people… the options for destruction surround my kids like a pack of wolves. How should I pray?
The famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” may sound childish, but the truth is, the Lord is the one who keeps our kids’ souls. He is our hope for their protection.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- whom shall I dread? Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.”
Psalm 27:4 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for a child in crisis
When we get bad news about our child, or they experience trauma or loss, the overwhelming sense of helplessness is paralyzing. We want our kids to be strong and courageous, but when fear breathes down our necks we too need the anchoring truth of who God is to help us pray.
“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” -Psalm 46:1-3 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for children’s health
God has not promised our kids health. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.(John 16:33)” But Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy that says, “…he himself bore our sicknesses…” (Isaiah 53:4) Though our children may not be healed of mental or physical maladies, we can pray they will trust the Christ who bore their brokenness in his own body, and can raise them to new life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will have life even if he dies. And he who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
Pray like this:
Praying for a rebellious child or teenager
Next to the death of a child, watching a son or daughter rebel against your guidance, and especially against Christ, is heart-wrenching.
In Psalm 51, David writes a broken-hearted prayer of repentance after his sin was exposed. It was only after recognizing his own sin that he was able to teach others to turn to God. In our prayers for our children we must seek God’s wisdom to discern where our own confession of sin and repentance is needed to help our kids return to obedience.
“Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.” -Psalm 51:12-13
Pray like this:
Prayer for your child’s future
God knit our children together, weaving their personality, talents and number of days like a master tapestry, before their first cry. We can pray with confidence in the goodness of the God who holds their future in his hands.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:7,11
Pray like this:
Prayers for your child’s success
Because God’s thoughts are not like ours, the way we and our kids measure success may leave us with an insatiable thirst for more. We want our child’s ideas of success to grow out of God’s thoughts, not their own. Whatever our children set out to do, we want them to be motivated by a desire to glorify God.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for teenage relationships
Next to the “terrible twos,” the teenage years have the most notorious reputation for trouble.
Teens live in a tension between playful childhood and adult expectations. The fact that teenage relationships are between two immature and broken people means there will inevitably be trouble. We can’t keep our kids from this kind of suffering, but we can pray that in their relationships they will learn to love others well.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for my daughter or son to come home
The goal of parenting is to launch our children out into the world equipped to follow Jesus. We want this to be a deliberate and happy launch. We don’t want anger, shame, and lust for the world to drive our kids away from home. When a child leaves home in rebellion, the desire for them to come home is a desire for reconciled relationships. Like the Father in the prodigal son story, we must look for restoration. Praying is how we watch for the day when God brings our child back to a right relationship with us and him.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. – Luke 15:20 CSB
Pray like this:
Never Stop Praying
As our kids grow through the various stages of life we must never stop praying for them. Using these 8 verses and prayers we can begin praying with confidence in what God says. The Holy Spirit will help us when we’re weak and don’t know what to pray.
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
And click here to get free printables of these 8 scriptures and prayers. And here for an editable word document of the same.