4.12.17

Besides Love, the Best Gift for Baby's First Christmas

by Sally Matheny

(The Best Gift for Baby's First Christmas)
If God has blessed you with a precious, new life this year, I’m sure your Christmas morning will be extra sweet! 

Your little one already may have a cute stocking hung, and brightly wrapped gifts under the tree. Or, perhaps due to his adventurous spirit, all the gifts are well out of reach!
No matter what gifts you’ve chosen, I hope you've considered one spectacular gift you can give your baby, especially for his first Christmas.

22.11.17

Ideas for a Fun, Family Thanksgiving: Go Vintage!

by Sally Matheny


    

(Have Fun with a Vintage Thanksgiving
Photo by Pixabay)

Are you searching for fun ideas that will bring the family together this Thanksgiving? 


Me, too. My family doesn’t know it yet, but I plan to go vintage this year.


love traditions, especially during holidays. Yet, our current technology is threatening to exterminate one of our most cherished traditions—family time. I promise this post is not a ranting against technology. I’m actually thankful for it. It keeps me connected to family and friends.
     

However, when we are able to come together in the same place, I want face-to-face, heart-to-heart, talking, laughing, and everyone-fully-engaged-time.


So, we’re going vintage—the pre-cell phone, pre-computer, pre-iPod, pre-satellite dish, pre-electronic gaming system era. 


True vintage items must be at least fifty years old. No need to panic. You may be surprised how long many of your favorite things have been around. Want to go vintage with us? 

Challenge your friends and family to turn off the distractions for at least three hours this Thanksgiving. Focus your full attention on the people gathered in your presence and enjoy the blessings. 

16.11.17

THIS DANGEROUS BOOK by Steve & Jackie Green: A Review & Giveaway

 by Sally Matheny

This Dangerous Book
“Research shows over 80 percent of Americans own a hard copy of the Bible. More than half of agnostics and skeptics own a Bible.

But have you ever asked, ‘What is this book, really?’” 
                 -This Dangerous Book

The release of THIS DANGEROUS BOOK coincides with the opening of the Museum of the Bible located in Washington D.C. Steve and Jackie Green, the founding family of the museum, co-authored this book with Bill High. 

It’s a book about three journeys—that of the Bible, the Green’s, and the Museum of the Bible.

The Greens interweave vignettes of their own faith journey while sharing fascinating information about the Bible and the effect it has had on people throughout history. They are transparent about their Christian faith in the book, yet they have chosen not to proselytize within the museum.

        “We would not promote our faith but could present the facts.”

No doubt, some people will say there’s not enough of Jesus represented at the museum, while others will say there’s too much.

“Yet throughout the process, we’ve continued to pursue a factual presentation of the Bible…I know that we won’t satisfy everyone. There will still be critics who will challenge our methods and motives…Like it or not, the Bible simply cannot be ignored.”

The mission of the museum is to “invite all people to engage with the history, impact, and narrative of the Bible. It is the largest museum in the world “devoted solely to the presentation and the preservation of the Bible.”

THIS DANGEROUS BOOK opens with almost twenty endorsements from folks such as Lee Strobel, Dr. David Jeremiah, and Korie Robertson. After a foreword by Rick Warren, the book contains five parts:

Part 1: The Story Begins
Part 2: The Book
Part 3: Collecting Secrets
Part 4: Appeal to Heaven
Part 5: To the Ends of the Earth

Each part contains three to four chapters. Each chapter opens with three or four quotations—some from the Bible, some from people since the Bible’s publication. Most are from Christians but a few are not, such as the one from the fictional Huckleberry Finn.

10.11.17

WWII Veteran’s Letter Inspires Us All

by Sally Matheny


WWII Veteran Charles H. Walker


Twenty-three days before blasting into D-Day, WWII Navy sailor, Charles H. Walker wrote a letter to his mother. 

A section of this letter has stuck with me over the years and I want to share it with you. No matter how big or small we think our contribution is in life, this WWII veteran's letter inspires us all to give our best.

(excerpt):


May 14, 1944

“Dear Mother,

I will write you a few lines tonight to let you hear from me. These few lines leave me in good health and getting along fine. I hope you are well.

Mother, I think of you and Dad a lot these days and would like to very, very much see you. Of course, I don’t think it will be as long as it has been until I’ll be back in the states. Not for good, but for a leave, I hope. I think of the rest of the family, too. Of the little girls and of Sis. I know that it will be one more happy day for me when I do get home.

Right now, I’m going to do all I can to get this war over with. My part is only a small one, but I’m proud I can do it, and I’m going to do it as best I can.

Mother, I’ve been in the Navy fifteen months now. And I’ve never been on report or had any extra duty or anything yet. I’m going to try and have my record as clean as if I stay in for 15 years. It’s just as easy to do it right as it is wrong. . .” 
    
Good night, Mother. 

Your Son, 

Charles


Charles Walker served as the senior electrician on the U.S.S. LCF #27. The twenty-two-year-old thought, compared to others, his part in WWII was small. I disagree.

If the electricity failed, the sweeping for mines came to a halt, the rockets did not launch, and more lives may have been lost. 

Every person on board had a job to do. Whether it was sweeping for mines or sweeping the deck, it all mattered. Doing it well mattered even more.

Charles decided, regardless of the significance of his job, he planned to give his best. He persevered through many monotonous days at sea. Occasionally those days were punctured by kamikaze pilots so close he could feel the plane's force as it plunged past him. Later, as he fished the body out of the water, Charles found the pilot's death, at such a young age, unsettling.

A similar empathy came when he observed the frightened German POWs on the shores of Normandy. Charles said many were his age or younger. He felt sorry for them because they looked terrified.

Thank you and Happy Veterans Day
Some of Charles' days were exhausting, stressful, and lonely. Other days, not so much. But he still longed for home. He would see the American flag rise at Iwo Jima and serve until February 1946 before heading home for good. And he was right. It was “one more happy day” when reunited with his family!

It’s not an easy job serving in the military, especially if you’re far away from the people and the country you love.

I salute Charles Walker, who is still persevering and giving his best at age 95. I wish a Happy Veterans Day to him and all the veterans who chose to serve honorably, or as Charles said, to “do it the right way.”

Veterans, whatever you consider a “small part” in serving our country, I consider it monumental.

Thank you.


1.11.17

Book Review & Giveaway of ADORED- 365 Devotions for Young Women

by Sally Matheny

ADORED by Lindsay A. Franklin
With all the pressures of the world, the day-to-day stresses of school and other responsibilities, young women and teen girls will appreciate the encouragement offered in ADORED.

Each page begins with a scripture verse, followed by a short, but solid, devotion relevant for today’s young women.

Life issues such as dealing with insecurities, remaining sexually pure, and choosing to trust Jesus on a daily basis are just a sampling of the topics introduced, These are written with a Christian worldview and are consistently correlated with God’s Word.

One of the reasons I admire this book is because it isn’t full of fluff. The author, Lindsay Franklin, doesn’t use the weighty devotions to pull the reader down though. Rather, she presents the truth of God’s Word in an encouraging manner, inspiring young women to apply it to their lives.

29.10.17

Love in a Shoebox: Operation Christmas Child

by Sally Matheny

Love in a Shoebox (Photo courtesy of Samaritan's Purse)

 Since its beginning in 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered 146 million shoebox gifts to children in more than 180 countries and territories. Twelve million shoeboxes are needed to meet the goal for 2017. Who knew so many children would first experience the love of Jesus from a shoebox?

Our family has participated in this ministry of Samaritan’s Purse for several years. However, I recently learned some things that may be new to you as well.



Did you know other countries help pack shoeboxes? I thought only America packed shoeboxes, but caring folks from these countries pack shoeboxes for the ministry as well:

Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, the U.K., Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Spain, and New Zealand

Every year, around 500,000 people around the world volunteer their time to collect, ship, and distribute the shoebox gifts. Talk about uniting for a great cause!

You may already know that Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, oversees Samaritan’s Purse, which is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. The Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry is a project of Samaritan’s Purse.

Whether you’ve packed a shoebox of gifts before or not, there are some changes this year. Increased customs regulations prevent the delivery of toothpaste, candy or food of any kind.

However, there are TONS of things you can send. You can find a complete list here. Small toys, craft supplies, clothes, picture books, personal hygiene items, and even small toolkits are welcome.

In most countries, children have the opportunity to hear the gospel message when they receive their shoeboxes.

If the country allows it, Samaritan’s Purse includes a booklet, The Greatest Gift, which shares the scripture and good news of Jesus Christ. Also, an optional follow-up discipleship program is offered to each child. Children learn from trained, local volunteers what it means to follow Jesus. Each student is given a copy of the New Testament and selected passages from the Old Testament. When they complete the program, they invite their family and friends to a special service where the gospel is shared again.

So many wonderful testimonies have blossomed from this ministry—from those who give and from those who receive the boxes. God is working miracles through these little shoeboxes. Lives are affected—from the volunteers to the people in the villages.

One of my favorite stories is about 101-year-old, Ms. Eve Bossenberger. She said she felt called to do one “small” thing for the shoeboxes. God took her small offering and multiplied it.

Ms. Bossenberger gets up before sunrise to sew cute, little smock dresses to go in the shoeboxes for girls. Samaritan’s Purse filmed a short clip of her story. The video has over 9 million views so far, and God is using it to touch a multitude of lives.

Humbled by the great response, the seamstress said,

“The Lord gave me hands with no arthritis. I’m doing what the Lord has asked me to do. . . I hope it brings a lot of people to the Lord.”

I have two, precious videos of sweet, Ms. Bossenberger that I wanted to include here. However, even though they are only a few minutes long, they were taking too long transferring to the blog. They loaded quickly to my facebook page if you'd like to view them there. I promise it's worth the hop over but before you go. . . 

24.10.17

Christian Halloween Alternatives Offer a Golden Time to Shine

by Sally Matheny

(Dreams of the ultimate mother-load of candy.)
    

Children's eyes dilate and their palms sweat with anticipation this time of year. Dreams of the ultimate, motherload of candy swirl in their minds until they’re dizzy with excitement. What possibly can be better than that? 

Christian parents, stay with me here. Halloween is a golden time for us to shine. 



17.10.17

Soothing a Child’s Sour Attitude

by Sally Matheny

Soothe a Child's Sour Attitude (Pixabay photo)
Grumbles. Moans. A sour attitude seeps from my young son. My smile stays fixed while maintaining a cheery tone. Sometimes those work in soothing a child's attitude. Perhaps there is still hope for a peaceful morning.

I watch the possibility of quietude dissolve in my son’s furrowed brows.

Complaints about math begin to spew. Today, he chooses to tackle the subject—not by making an effort, but with harsh words.  

Usually, my encouraging spirit holds firm during these occasional tirades.


Not today. This cheerleader tosses her pom-poms aside and grabs the ref’s whistle. Mentally, I call a time-out to address the heart issue.

“Why are you complaining about math before you even open your book?”

“I hate it.”

“Why?”

“Because it stinks.”

I know he’s playing the blame game. In truth, he’s angry about the time it takes to correct yesterday’s mistakes before studying a new math concept. He’d rather move on in the book so he can finish the day’s assignment, and get to the hobbies he enjoys. So I press further
.
“Why does it stink?”

“Because I’m not good at it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

“Not everyone likes math. I don’t like math, either. Which should let you know how much I love you to sit here and help you with math every day! But think about people who do love math. Why would they like doing math?”

“Because they’re good at it.”

“How did they get good at it? When they first read about a new math concept, do you think they were great at it?”

“Maybe.”

“Yeah, maybe things clicked right away. Perhaps they understood the new concept because they had already mastered the steps leading up to it. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“Why do you think they were successful at solving those problems?”

Hesitant now, because he knows where this is going, he mumbles, “I guess they practiced.”

“Kind of like when you master a level on your video game. At first, you get frustrated. But you keep at it until you figure out the solution, how to advance to the next level, and then how to win. Right?”

“I guess.”

“Look. I don’t like math. You don’t like math. We’d both rather do something else. But, it’s something we need to practice and master so we can move to the next level. Some of the skills we learn, we may use every day. Other concepts we may never use.

The thing is, we don’t know which skills we will need in the future and which ones we won’t need. We do know we have to take tests on these things in order to advance to the next level, the next grade, and on to graduation.

We may make plans for our futures but we don’t know with absolute certainty what God has in mind for us five, ten, or twenty years from now. We need to learn what is required of us at this moment and give our best. Besides these math problems teach us life skills.”

5.10.17

LOVED BABY Book Review and Giveaway

by Sally Matheny


LOVED BABY  written by Sarah Philpott
Do you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage or infant death? Are you at a loss of how to comfort them? Perhaps you’ve experienced a loss and someone’s words of “comfort” were hurtful.

Everyone reacts differently when they hear the news.

I felt great when I went for my twelve-week pregnancy check-up. Surprised that the doctor wanted to do an ultrasound, I wished I had asked my husband or someone to come enjoy it with me.

On the ultrasound, I saw the profile of our baby’s sweet face. His elbow was bent with his hand up. Five perfectly shaped fingers extended as if to say, “hi.”

Or “bye.”

His body was still. His heart, silent. Our beloved baby had been welcomed into heaven.

And I was ushered into the first stage of grief. In the coming weeks, I experienced something I had never fully understood. My perception of what women go through after a miscarriage changed drastically.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. One in four American women experiences pregnancy loss. Just as all mothers’ birthing stories are unique, so are the journeys of those who experience pregnancy and infant loss.

Sarah Philpott has penned a new book, Loved Baby, which addresses nearly every aspect of this journey. She’s not a medical doctor, but she’s used the research skills, gained while earning her doctorate in education, to enlighten readers about the various facets of pregnancy and infant loss. She expresses empathy by sharing her own story of two miscarriages. She offers encouragement by sharing her heart for Jesus.

Brief comments from other women who’ve experienced loss are sprinkled throughout the book as well. Readers may not identify with all the emotions presented, but they’ll come away with a greater understanding of just how varied responses to grief can be.

This book confirms that when dealing with pregnancy loss, there is no one-consolation-fits-all. There is no pat answer that will comfort every person in every situation. Everyone grieves and heals differently.

LOVED BABY book and bracelet bundle
Many mothers choose to heal through a special remembrance of their little one. Some plant trees, some start a charity, and some release balloons on the due date. Another way to remember their loved babies is to wear a special piece of jewelry. 

Fashion and Compassion, a company that gives a portion of their sales to various causes, is offering a special, "loved" baby bracelet with the Loved Baby book through the month of October. I don’t make any money off of this promotion. I’m just sharing the info with you in case you’re interested.

Loved Baby is a hardcover book containing thirty-one “devotions.” Some have one Bible verse while others include several scriptures. At the end of every chapter is a short prayer such as,

Lord, I pray for peace to fill my soul, for I know my child is in heaven. Amen.

Also, at the end of each chapter is something called “Soul Work.” Here, usually, one or two suggestions are given for the reader. A few examples of these are:

Do you have answers to your loss? Do you have further questions? Write them down. Schedule a time to speak with your healthcare provider or conduct a preliminary research from reputable sites.       (Soul Work for devotion #7)

Write down every hurtful comment on a single sheet of paper. Get a marker and mark them out. Then throw out the paper.
Now, write down every single thing someone did that showed kindness. It might be something as simple as a hug or a sympathetic glance. Meditate on these acts of love. (Soul Work for devotion #12)

Some “Soul Work” sections suggest getting into God’s Word.

        Reread Job 3:11-19. Underline all the words that describe heaven.
It can be helpful to visualize your child in heaven. Who is there with your child? Write a letter to them asking them to watch over your little one. (Soul Work for devotion #14)

What I gather from these “Soul Work” sections, and from the rest of the book as well, is that Philpott wishes to meet women wherever they are in their spiritual walk.

The initial chapters deal with anger, hurt, and confusion after a miscarriage. A large portion of the devotions is more informational than meditational. 

Some topics addressed are: dealing with emotions and changes in the body, communicating with family members and with medical providers. How to deal with social media, Mother’s Day, and receiving promotional mail for baby products, plus a multitude of other topics readers may not have considered. Philpott covers it all.

However, as the book progresses, I notice an increasing emphasis on trusting and building a relationship with Jesus Christ. The book ends with a call to accept the saving grace of Jesus.

I think Loved Baby would be a good book to give to someone who is struggling after a miscarriage. I think it would especially appeal to those who are new to the Christian faith or to those who may not know of the comfort, hope, and joy that only Christ can give them.

30.9.17

Bring Your Bible to School Day Means More Than You Think

by Sally Matheny

Students with Bibles


The effect of supporting “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” is greater than you think.

There are 195 independent countries in the world, plus approximately 60 dependent areas and five disputed territories.


According to Open Doors USA, the following countries are where Christians endure the most severe persecution for their faith:




 1.    North Korea
 2.    Iraq
 3.    Eritrea
 4.    Afghanistan
 5.    Syria
 6.    Pakistan
 7.    Somalia
 8.    Sudan
 9.    Iran
10.  Libya

Bibles in their native languages are banned in many of these countries. Persecution includes oppression, imprisonment, and death. While we sympathize, many of us choose to isolate ourselves from the terrors abroad. Those countries are far away from us.

Guess which country ranked #40 on the list of 195 for persecuting Christians?

Our next-door neighbor, Mexico. That totally surprised me.

We can visit Open Doors USA and Voice of the Martyrs for better understanding and to learn ways to help.

But, what does all that have to do with our country and Bring Your Bible to School Day?

19.9.17

A Little Note For Homeschool Families


A Book Review, a Challenge, & a Giveaway!

by Sally Matheny

Kids' Visual Study Bible
(photo courtesy of Zonderkidz)
The Book

Is there a visual learner in your family--someone who lingers over graphic charts and notices the fine details of an illustration? Some folks just prefer using their eyes more than their ears to learn. I know. I’m one of them.

That’s why I am delighted to review a children’s Bible published by Zonderkidz in 2017. The Kids’ NIV Visual Bible has many features your child will enjoy, whether he’s a visual learner or not. And it’s not just for kids. In fact, I’d say it’s best suited for ages 10-18ish. I’m well over eighteen and I find it captivating.

There are over 700 colorful photos, illustrations, maps and some very cool infographics. Plus, there are helpful notes in the sidebars.

Each book of the Bible is introduced with information about the author, the primary purpose of the book, whom it was written for, the key person of the book, where it took place and some of the key stories in the book.


I like the layout of one, wide column of text per page rather than the typical two-columns. I think kids might find that easier to read. It doesn’t state the size of the font but I’m guessing it’s a 10 point font, maybe an 8.

Located in the back of this nice, hardcover Bible are more helpful resources:

Table of Weights and Measures
Infographic Index
Maps Index
Additional Set of 12 Maps

Often times I like to share the books I’m given to review and offer them as giveaways to my blog readers. However, this book will be a great resource for the class of 5th-7th graders I teach each Sunday so I’m keeping this one.


Kids' Visual Study Bible infographic

But, I do have a challenge for you and I do have something to give away!

The Challenge

Some of you may have heard about “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” The event sponsored by Focus on the Family is on October 5th this year. 

Let's encourage children to carry their Bibles to school that day. Not as a cell phone app, not an e-book, but an actual Bible book as a testimony of their Christian faith. For many students, this will take an enormous amount of courage, so begin talking and praying about it with them now.

For Christian homeschool families, we are blessed beyond measure to speak and teach, using the Bible as our guide throughout our day. We bring our Bibles to school every day! So, I want to ask homeschool students to do something just as courageous as the public school students.

I’ve designated October 4th as “Give a Bible Away Day.” 

Give a Bible Away Day - Oct. 4

11.9.17

How to Talk to Kids about God’s Presence in the Midst of Natural Disasters

by Sally Matheny

Where is God?  (Pixabay photo)
As much as we try to protect them, most children will at some point, hear people talk about catastrophic, natural disasters when they occur. 

Many kids will watch coverage of the events on T.V. or see photos in other media. 

Some kids may worry about their own safety as well as the well-being of others. 


Natural disasters cause people to lose electricity, lose homes, and sometimes suffer the loss of a loved one. It’s normal to hear, “Where is God?”


So how can we, as Christian parents, share with our kids about God’s presence in the midst of natural disasters? Here are a few things to talk about.

The Earth’s Fallen State

In the beginning, everything God created was good. Because humankind chose to sin, the earth became cursed. It’s no longer a perfect place to live. (Genesis 3) Sometimes bad things happen.

God’s Sovereignty

We can find strength and peace in knowing God is in control. Chip Ingram wrote a great article about what God’s sovereignty really means and he backs it up with scripture. You can read that at Christianity.com. Depending on the age of your children, consider reading through the book of Job together.

God is the Creator of all things. In the Bible, we read of His ability to create storms and His power to calm them.

It’s not for us to speculate why God allows natural disasters, or any trial for that matter. Only God knows the reasons.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
As we build a relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, we’ll learn to trust His wisdom, even when we don’t fully understand how He works or why.

God’s Love

Remind children of God’s love. He shows that in many ways. The greatest demonstration of His love will always be that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Because Jesus loves us so much, he took on a full understanding of suffering when he bore our sins on the cross. He knows our pain and sorrow.

God’s Mercy

Remind kids God has blessed us with great advancements in technology. Meteorologists are able to track storms more now than ever before. Usually, people are warned in plenty of time before severe weather occurs in order to make plans for safety.

Sometimes, natural disasters issue warnings of a different kind. An article, Where is God in Natural Disasters?, by the Billy Graham Association, stated:

        “…disasters are God’s invitation to us to wake up and see what’s important in life—our spiritual condition.”

The younger children may not be ready to hear that life is short. But, as your children mature, they’ll soon realize that death doesn’t solely wait for the old and decrepit. We must be ready for our appointed time because we do not know when that will be.

“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12.

Time is fleeting. We must share the good news of Jesus Christ with others so they can live a life of hope and be ready for eternity as well.

God Wants to Use Us

Look for the helpers.
(Pixabay photos)
Fred Rogers of MISTER ROGERS NEIGHBORHOOD shared about when he was a child and encountered scary news. He said his mother would tell him to look on the sidelines. She said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Pointing out the helpers may help calm a worried child. Remind him that God is compassionate. God wants to use people to minister to the needs of others.

Parents can guide the worried child from feeling helpless to being helpful. 

Families can minister to those who are picking up the pieces after a natural disaster.

Ways We Can Help

Donate money to trustworthy organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse or the Baptists on Mission.

Look for local organizations offering ministry opportunities that even young children can help with.

Many collect first aid and hygiene kits. Children can help collect items for the kits. They can draw cards and write encouraging Bible verses to go inside the kits and even help deliver them to the organization.

Help your child coordinate a canned food drive in the neighborhood or hold a diaper shower at your church. Perhaps your child may select gently used toys or clothes for a child in need.

If a natural disaster is close to home, perhaps consider offering childcare one evening a week for a family trying to get their lives back in order. Or get your teens involved by helping serve hot meals for folks staying in shelters. Maybe God is leading you to offer a temporary living space for someone.

Look for ways to share the love and hope of Jesus.

Offer Assurance

When disasters strike, make every attempt to prevent media updates from overburdening our children.

When our children seem worried, we should ask them what they know about the situation. Listen to their concerns. Sometimes, all it takes is clarifying something they misunderstood. Other times, a deeper discussion is necessary. It’s okay to say you don’t know all the answers!

We must assure our children we’ll do everything in our power to protect them.
We can comfort our children with the knowledge of God’s love and wisdom. Pray with them about the situation.

Most importantly, as Christian parents, we need to act and talk as if we believe God is in control. Our examples of trust are powerful and they will speak louder than any roar of nature.