Keeping Up With The ________

Keeping up with the Jones’ – that common saying that basically means, comparing ourselves to some other family, group, person and trying to live up to what we believe they are, or have, that we do not…but wish we did.

There was a time when this would occur within the confines of our neighborhoods where the casual peek over the fence, or happenstance glance at the new car driving up the road. We’d see it or experience it on a small scale, perhaps with just a few people who were near to us.

Now, in this time, the Jones’ and the rest of the world are at our fingertips, sharing their lives, their high points, on every screen in front of us through social media.   And if we aren’t careful we can find ourselves perpetually wishing we have or are what someone else is sharing.

Let me be clear: I am not anti-social media, nor do I think that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are necessarily bad things. They are and can be amazing tools and resources that connect all of us in a better way reaching across, in a limitless way, the globe. Just like any good tool, it can also be used in the wrong way and cause damage.

The power and strength of connection and re-connection that these mediums provide is amazing and at times overwhelming. And we must remember that most people, most of the time, aren’t posting their worst moments …but usually only their best.

I often wonder when watching people view their social media pages on their phones what is going through their minds.  Is it simply the enjoyment of sharing moments with their friends and loved ones that they otherwise may not have been aware of? Or, are they experiencing feelings of jealousy and self-doubt that can come with comparing their circumstances with those they are viewing?

We all compare ourselves at some point or another to someone and gauge How am I doing? in comparison to someone or some standard we have set for ourselves.  This can be a healthy approach to keep up with how you may be progressing in a certain area of your life that you have chosen to work on improving.  However, the pitfall exists where you shift from providing yourself with a healthy mile stone or measuring stick to wishing your situation was like someone else’s.

When viewing social media, if you find yourself feeling jealous, envious, or even just wishing that was yours…stop, put it away, and take in what you do have and what you are blessed with.

Enjoy and celebrate with what others share—but don’t feel the need to keep up with the whoever’s or whatever’s.

Just keep up with yourself and the blessings you have.

 

–Wade Jackson

Family Dynamics Institute collaborates with Churches, Companies, and Community Organizations to help them provide a Comprehensive Marriage Ministry to help married and engaged couples grow stronger at all ages and stages of marriage.

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Read and Lead

A Reminder from Joshua 1

Sometimes God must tell me something more than once. Does that ever happen to you? Sometimes it seems that ever devotion I read, every sermon I hear, and every Bible study I attend has the same words, telling me the same truth over and over, driving the message into my thick skull. God knows I learn through repetition, I guess!

Joshua must have been a bit hard-headed too. The Lord told him the same thing three times in nine verses! “Be strong and courageous” (vv. 6,9). “Be strong and very courageous” (v. 7). Joshua was about to assume the role as leader of the Israelites, a daunting task for sure. God assured Joshua of His presence, His power, and His protection. “I will never leave you,” He said in verse 5. And because of that promise, Joshua could go in confidence and boldness, because “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (v. 9).

In what areas of life do you need courage? What is God calling you to do in His name? Be bold. Be tenacious. Be resolute. God is with you.

 

Brenda Harris is the prayer coordinator for Kendrick Brothers Productions.

 

Christmas, Single Parents, and Immanuel

Christmas. Many of us think of it as a time of celebration of our Lord’s birth; a time of joy, creating and reliving childhood memories; music, family, food, and holiday cheer. This is the one season that seems almost magical- the most wonderful time of the year. For a single parent, however, this can also be one of the most difficult times to endure.

While everyone else is posting pictures on social media and sharing tales of their family gatherings, celebrating all their children’s funny antics and what their spouse did to surprise them with the perfect gift, single parents often must rejoice with those who rejoice, all while covering up the pain of loss and loneliness in their own lives. They can feel forgotten or disregarded. I’ve been there, and in many ways, I still hurt during the holidays too. But rather than taking on a spirit of defeat, let’s choose this year to celebrate Immanuel, God with us.

 

We can know Jesus is with us…

  • When there is an empty chair at the table because this is your first year as a single parent, He is God with us.
  • When we don’t have our children on Christmas Day because they are at the other parent’s house, He is God with us.
  • When everything seems to be caving in financially, and you can barely afford presents for your children, let alone anyone else, He is God with us.
  • When we are choking back the tears because the pain and shame seems too much to bear, He is God with us.
  • When we feel like everything around us is crumbling, including our faith, and no one even seems to notice, He is God with us.

 

The greatest gift of all…

Even if we relate to any of the examples above, we still have a GREATER reason to celebrate because of Jesus this year: He IS God with us! He is the perfect gift, buying us back into relationship with our heavenly Father. He fills the void no one else can, reminds us that we are on a continual journey with Him, and never leaves us, even when we wander. He fills in all our tangible needs, calms our hurts, and fills us with a peace this world will never provide. The reason Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, is because He created us, has been where we are, and has cleared the path for us to be assured that He is with us—always.

 

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. –Luke 2:10-11 (NASB)

 

Single parents, will you celebrate the holidays with joy this year, knowing that in all circumstances God is with us?

 

Written by Matt Haviland of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.

Throw or Tell: A Fathering Lesson About Rocks

Most every man I’ve known has had fun with rocks in his childhood. I’m guessing you did too. Maybe it’s the whole made-from-the-dust-of-the ground thing that is inherent in the male population to draw them to the earth. Who knows?!

And even though you probably know more about rocks than I do and don’t need a geology lesson, I’ll continue by stating the obvious. Here are some things that can be done with rocks. You can:

  1. Throw them. (Of course, this is the number one answer I hear from men when I ask them this question.)
  2. Skip them (across water). 3. Construct something with them.

But the thing that usually isn’t mentioned is:

  1. Build something, namely a monument.

Lest you credit me with that last item, it actually comes from a story in the Bible from when God led His people (who are called Israelites) to cross the Jordan River as He held back the water until all of them passed through the riverbed. Let’s pick up the story with their leader Joshua giving instructions to the men:

“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7)

One thing I love about this story is that the challenge from God to dads includes both building and telling.

First off, these dads are holding rocks on their shoulders and carrying them to the other side of the river in order to build something that will stand as a forever memorial. These fathers and their children had to have been side by side through the process. Seems like a great fathering model, don’t you think? Dads modeling responsive behavior—to God and their leader—in front of their children.

And secondly, these fathers were instructed to tell their kids the story of the miracle that happened for years to come. And because we all know that kids love to ask questions, there is no doubt that this story was told repeatedly…by dad.

As we can see, the rocks served as a reminder of the story that accompanied them. And this gave me an idea for a way to bring this idea into the twenty-first century.

Dad, what if you started a tradition where every time God did a big miracle in your family—like unexpectedly providing money to pay a huge bill or healing someone in a powerful way or answering a specific prayer or observing a milestone in your children’s lives—you took your kids to a quarry or a Home Improvement Store (like Home Depot or Lowe’s) and together you all picked out a sizable stone to commemorate the event?

Then, just like these dads did centuries ago, you can build and tell.

Think about what this would be like if each time something of significance happened in your family that a rock was added to an ever-growing monument that you build with your kids in your yard where future generations will hear the stories that each rock represents.

And through it all, Dad, you are the one leading the whole event, just like the Israelite men of the Old Testament.

Instead of just skipping and throwing rocks this year, why not let the rocks tell the story. And why not let it be YOU who builds with those rocks and tells your kids the story again and again.

 

(Excerpt adapted from my book, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart, chapter 43)

Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon and has served in that role for the past 18 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to dial in with more intention and consistency, and has recently released her first book entitled, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart. She invites you to visit www.drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero they want to be and their daughters need them to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drmichellewatson and Twitter @mwatsonphd.

A Jar Full of Marbles

4 Ways to Make Your Next Camping Trip a Success

Camping is the best way to get back to nature, and it is one of the best ways for children to get a good grasp on how the environment affects us, and how we harm the environment. Although it would be nice to head off into the middle of the wilderness, it’s unfortunate that most kids don’t see it this way.

 

Campsite Choice

These come hand in hand and can make or break a family camping experience. The campsite that you choose has to be based on your abilities and also take into account the interests of your family. If you and your family are novices to the whole camping ideal, choosing a site that is in an established campground or a national park would be a good idea to start.

If you are a family who likes to explore the local towns or hike/cycle during the day, it is advisable to choose a site that is close to your activity destinations. As a final word, if your family is not too keen on roughing it 100%, select a site that has toilets and running water.

 

Which Tent?

As for your tent, it may be suitable to have one that fits two adults, yet when a family is concerned, you will need a little more space. Families are advised to choose one that can easily cater for double the size of your family. This gives your kids plenty of room to move around.

Child-friendly sleeping arrangements are a necessity. They will be the first ones who complain. If you have more than one child and you want to make them as comfortable as possible and save floor space. You can opt for a double camping cot which kids will enjoy.

One of the best and simplest camping hacks you can find is your pillows. Rather than lugging pillows around with you, just take pillow cases and stuff them with your jackets while sleeping.

 

Entertainment

Camping is getting away from it all, and leaving everything behind. Children will at some point want a little extra to play with, especially if the weather is not the best. You can take along some toys and entertainment for them that will either make them more involved with nature or keep them quiet if the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Here are a few camping toys that will keep your kids happy:

  • Balls – Most ball sports can be played while camping as can a frisbee.
  • Magnifying Glasses – these can keep younger children occupied for ages, as can a pair of binoculars. They will love exploring what’s far away or what is right under their feet.
  • Squirt Guns – what better way to keep kids occupied in warm weather and if you are close to a water supply.
  • If the weather does take a turn for the worst or you need something to keep your children occupied on an evening, there are also a few options that can improve family bonding rather than rely on electrical gadgets:
  • Coloring books – these can keep your children occupied for a couple of hours, and they don’t take up much space in your camping gear.
  • Playing cards – there is nothing better than a game of cards between the family. Just make sure the game is not too complicated for your children.

If your children need a little more space to play and do their own thing, you can take a smaller tent for this purpose. You will know where they are and you don’t have to worry about standing on any of the toys or games you have taken along.

 

Meal Times

Children can be the hungriest and fussiest eaters on the planet, so stocking up on what will keep them satisfied is essential. Snack times will be the hardest as they will want something to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Packing dried fruits can give your children an energy boost while meeting their sugary needs without filling them full of man-made ingredients. Trail mix and health bars that are made from all-natural ingredients can do much the same thing. All you have to be wary of is if any of your children or family members have a nut allergy.

Fresh fruits can also be good to keep on hand; they are not only healthy and nutritious, but they also come in their own packaging so there will be no wrappers flying around the campsite.

One thing you do have to take, and this will please your kids and give them the idea how much fun sitting around a campfire can be. Bring on the S’Mores! This will satisfy not just any kid, but also the big kid in all of us. What childhood would be complete without memories of S’Mores around a fire?

 

Chris Cole is the head writer at naturesportcentral.com. He is passionate about the great outdoors and writing.

Build Memories, Not Just Moments

I love taking my grandchildren to Disney, to the playground or to the beach. These activities are fun, but do they create memories that keep on keeping on even after this lifetime has passed.

 

A lifetime runs out,

but eternity is a very, very long time!

 

Build…

Buildings that have no foundation will never stand the winds of time. Wow, how profound. Life’s trials will come and go, but the foundations you help build in your grandchildren’s lives will last for a life time

The key words I think of when building anything is “structure” and “Intentional.” What kinds of structures are you intentionally building into your grandchildren’s lives that are done with a purpose and done on purpose?

 

Build with purpose.

Build on purpose.

 

It’s hard for your grandchildren to see God’s purpose working out in their lives just as it is for us. God does not do anything by accident. All we have gone through is all part of what God wants to build in us. Year by year, challenge by challenge, decision by decision, God uses them all to build his image in us.

Think about how you can intentionally build in each of your grandchildren. Here are some things I want to build in my grandchildren and in myself.

 

It is more caught than taught.

The world around us is in direct conflict with what we want to see in our grandchildren’s lives. The world creates expectations that may have nothing to do with God’s purposes. We must live and actively proclaim the truth over the lies. As a grandfather, I want to be one of the louder voices saying to our grandchildren that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. Words, thoughts and actions can build up or tear down, which do they hear and see from us?

 

What you want your grandchildren to remember

must be said and lived now.

 

Memories…

 

The best legacies you will ever leave

are the memories you create.

 

If I were to ask each of my grandchildren what was their most memorable moment I hope there are seven, one for each of my grandchildren. Why? Let me say it again, because they are all individuals. We must see them as individuals and seek to build memories that last for their life-times.

 

Memories are made over time.

 

I am sure all of my grandchildren will remember the great time we had at the lake, at an amusement park or on a Disney cruise. But what memories would each of my grandchildren recall as being special; working together on a project, a mission trip to the Navajo Nation, maybe playing Scrabble or Dominoes and beating Papa over and over again? Those memories have very specific meaning, because of the time and conversation we have while doing them.

 

I want to change history and memories on purpose.

Memories by accident can be scary.

 

Build, structure, and create the times you want to live and the memories you want to leave. Recently we spent a week in Breckenridge, Colorado, and the best things I did with our grandchildren was make snow angels. It did not cost us one dime. It was not the reason for the trip; it was simply spontaneous and great fun. We have the pictures!

 

Your grandchildren will not judge you by the car you drive,

the house you live in or by the stuff you own

but by the memories you live and leave.

 

For a Lifetime

 

Maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, for a lifetime!” “There is plenty of time for that.” Really? Only God knows for sure, and you ain’t God! So what are you waiting for?

 

How much lifetime do we really have left?

Oh, you don’t know!

You might want to get on with it now.

 

May I make a suggestion? Well, I’m going to do it anyway. Ask each of your grandchildren this simple but leading question, “If I could do anything for you or with you that I can afford, what would you like most?” What would they say? If you don’t know, at least ask. I promise I will, too!

 

Remember…

Money and stuff will be spent and rust away but memories last for a lifetime.

 

When you ask them what you could do for them remember they are different ages. You may need to ask the parents for some insights.

 

Reminder: YOUR greatest investments or achievements are not found

 in your “what’s” – possessions, power, privilege or prestige –

but in your “Who’s” – God, your wife, family and

the legacy you live and leave.

 

 

Written by our dear friend, the late Dr. Dan Erickson. May the memories we have of him live on as we create new memories with our loved ones.

Bible Bullet: Tragedy in Texas

Recently, our nation has witnessed tragic, unjust and horrific events. The massacre in Las Vegas, the terror in New York, and the slaughter of the innocents in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Evil seems everywhere—flowing directly from the one who opposes God the most.

The Bible teaches in Genesis 3 that Satan led Adam and Eve into sin by deception. He questioned the goodness of God and undermined the authority of God’s word to Adam and Eve. When they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our world drastically changed. Disbelief and disobedience led to a breech in their relationship with the Creator, their marriage experienced shame, and the creation around them was no longer harmonious. Their sons experienced conflict, and jealousy and envy led to the first murder (Genesis 4).

The violence that has occurred in Nevada, New York, and Texas reminds us that we live in a sinful, fallen world.  Unfortunately, the same evil experienced by the Christians at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs has plagued Christians for years around the world.

Is this evil a subtle power, a generic force, or some type of impersonal energy? Not according to the Bible. Both Jesus and Paul referred to Satan as an evil force (cf. Matthew 13:19, John 14:30, Ephesians 2:2, 2Corinthians 4:4); and Paul teaches that “creation was subjected to futility”, but the “creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).

No one can give a simple answer to evil in this world.  If anyone had a reason to ask the question why? it was Job.  Having lost his children, his flocks and herds, material goods, and even his health, Job asked God the reason for his suffering. When God finally spoke out of the whirlwind, no answer was given to satisfy intellectual understanding. God’s word to Job was to worship in the midst of his suffering, and so Job did: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

We don’t need intellectual understanding—we need God. Rather than seeking an answer to the question why, we are to seek Him. His presence is our answer. Join me in praying for bereaved families—that they will experience His presence and the “the peace that passes human understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

I share these biblical truths to remind us of what we already know. Often comfort comes as we encourage ourselves in remembering who God is, what He has done, and His amazing creativity in bringing good from evil. Remember that Almighty God turned the worst event in human history—the murder of the sinless Son of God—to the greatest achievement in history: the provision for the forgiveness of sin, our justification before a Holy God, and the gift of abundant and eternal life in Christ. God always has the last word, and His last word at the cross was the resurrection.  Even so, He will have the last word in these tragic events.

There is much we don’t know, but through God’s word there is infinite knowledge of Him “who has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Peter 1:3). Be encouraged as you ponder on these truths from the Bible:

 

  • Death for God’s people is not final (cf. Isaiah 25:9, Revelation 21:3-4).

 

  • Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for us (John 14:1-3).

 

  • Life in Christ is abundant (John 10:10).

 

  • Life in Christ is eternal (Matthew 28:20).

 

  • Jesus’ victory over death becomes ours (John 11:25-6).

 

  • The same power (the Holy Spirit) that resurrected Jesus resurrects us (Romans 8:11).

 

  • Just as Jesus suffered and was glorified, so those in Christ will be glorified (Romans 8:18).

 

  • Nothing—not even physical death, can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

 

  • Our relationship with Christ is sufficient for life and death (Romans 14:7-9).

 

  • Even physical death is used for God’s purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

A glimpse into glory: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. —Revelation 21:1-4

 

–David Maddox  

 

O, Give Thanks to His Wonderful Works!

Whether your family is hosting the meal or traveling to grandmother’s house, there’s a lot to do in preparation for Thanksgiving. Slow down for a few moments before the cooking, chaos, chatter and clutter begins. Prepare your heart to focus on the Creator, the God of heaven and earth, the ultimate reason to give thanks.

Read Psalm 105:1-7 aloud from your favorite translation. Pause after each phrase and truly absorb what you’re reading. Center in on the prayer-directives the Psalmist gives and reflect on the abundance of blessings you enjoy (v. 1). Pray aloud for those who are serving “among the nations”, those who “tell of all His wonderful acts” (vv. 1-2). Seek His guidance and rest in His power (v. 4). Ponder His acts of mercy (v. 5). Rejoice that you are one of “His chosen ones” (v.6). Breathe in the mercies of God (v. 7).

My former pastor, Dr. Jay McCluskey, reminded us that “God’s faithfulness does not come with a limited warranty.” God is with us—in good, bad, sadness, sorrow, success, commonplace, and extraordinary.  Dr. McCluskey also proposed a novel idea: What if we cancelled Thanksgiving Day and designated one day a year for grumbling and complaining? Maybe we would get it out of our system and then have 364 days left for praising and rejoicing. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

So, this week, don’t grumble! Reflect on the blessings of God, ask Him to heal our nation, to restore peace and harmony in families, communities, churches and countries around the world. Entreat Him to provide places of tranquility and healing for those who are abused and hurting, blessings on those who proclaim His name both here and abroad. Will you be a channel of blessing and thankfulness or a woe-is-me grumbler? Just look around you and then thank Him for the abundance He generously gives. Prepare your heart to step into a glorious life of thanksgiving.

 

Brenda Harris is a student of God’s Word…and a wife, mother, and grandmother! She loves uncovering truths and promises in Scripture. Brenda serves as prayer coordinator for Kendrick Brothers Productions.