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. 

1.9.17

Talking About Life and Death

     by Sally Matheny
Talking About Life and Death

     We were seventeen years old and looking forward to graduation when it happened.

     Our friendship began only a year and a half earlier. Jan's family had recently moved to North Carolina from Ohio. The school year had already begun. She was the new kid without friends. And she had cancer.

     Our Junior Civinettes club went to her house to welcome her to the neighborhood and introduce ourselves as her new friends. We were nervous about going because we had never met anyone our age with cancer. I knew my boyfriend’s mother had survived Hodgkin’s.  That’s what Jan had so I figured she'd be a survivor, too.


     Jan and I became good friends. We hung out at school and visited each other’s homes. We never talked about cancer or life or death. We didn’t talk about it when her sandy blonde hair began to fall out. She only asked if I’d help her brush off the loose hairs from her sweater.  I did and assured her she looked fine.

     We didn’t talk about life and death when she came to school one day wearing a wig and people began to whisper. And stare. I just walked alongside her.  

     We didn’t talk about life and death when she grew weaker. She only asked if I’d help carry her books.  I did, and when I couldn’t, I enlisted others to help.  Jan had many friends. She always smiled and made conversation easy for those who dared to come close to her. A teen with cancer is a difficult thing to understand. I tried not to think about it. Jan was fun to be with and I knew she would get well.

A teen with cancer is a difficult thing to understand.

     So, we didn't talk about life and death. Not when we had to stop and let her rest a lot when we played tennis, not when she missed school, not when I drove her to chemotherapy, not when she had to have a hysterectomy.

     I thought life and death were the things people talked about when they got old.

     Except Jan didn't grow old.

     She died.

     Then, I panicked. Because Jan and I had not talked about the deeper truths of life. As nice as she was, I didn’t know if my dear friend believed in Jesus Christ. And then, it was too late.

     Sure, I had considered talking to Jan before. But, I was afraid if I talked about such things, she would think I assumed she was going to die. We were a few short months away from graduation and Jan was as excited about it as I was. Despite her illness, she had worked hard and was slated to graduate with honors. She didn't talk about future plans for college, or work, and I didn't ask about them, or where she'd spend her eternity.

     My heart grieved the loss of my friend and ached because I had failed her. The burden became too great. Before the funeral, I talked to Jan’s mom. She assured me Jan was a Christian.

     Relief came, but not peace. I had failed my friend. I could have been more encouraging to her during her difficult journey. We could have talked about the hope we shared in Jesus Christ. Why had I not prayed with her instead of just for her? 

     I was given a bittersweet gift my senior year in high school—a glimpse of how quickly things pass— opportunities, friends, life. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. No one.

Life is fleeting.

     Granted I was just seventeen. Perhaps I was too hard on myself. But I sure wish I'd been braver and talked about important, life-changing things.

     It's not always easy, but it's vital we talk about the reality of death and the hope of eternal life.

Please share ways you've initiated a conversation with someone about their eternity.

What are some ways we can encourage our teens to courageously make the most of every opportunity?


         

27.8.17

Review of Charles Stanley's Book THE GIFT OF HEAVEN

 by Sally Matheny

“We cannot fathom heaven. We cannot begin to even imagine its beauty. Instead, God traces the outlines of it for us. He provides a blueprint through His Word.”                - Charles F. Stanley

GIFT OF HEAVEN by Charles Stanley
We are all curious about heaven as we try to grapple with the magnificent idea of living forever.

Dr. Charles Stanley addresses some of our questions in his book, THE GIFT OF HEAVEN.

This 7” x 7” hardback book is published by Thomas Nelson. The 160 high-gloss pages are full of colorful photos of God’s creation—seashores, mountains, flowers, rocks, sunrises, and sunsets. Most of the page layouts contain regular text on one side and on the opposite page is a key point to ponder.


To me, this book is a cross between a gift book and a devotion book. I guess I’ll call it a meaty gift book! It begins with a mention about “the wages of sin is death,” but the primary focus of this book is the second part of Romans 6:23, “. . . but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There are ten “chapters.” Each one varies in length but all end with a page of scripture verses. The scriptures come from various translations: ESV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and TLB.

19.8.17

Communicate and Persevere: An Interview with Martin and Joanna Pistorius

by Sally Matheny

Martin and Joanna Pistorius
(Photo courtesy of M. Pistorius)

How wonderful would it be to have a story so powerful the world asked for it in over twenty-five languages? 

In June 2015, I posted a review of an amazing book, Ghost Boy, written by Martin Pistorius. The following October, I conducted an interview with Martin’s wife, Joanna. Since then, Martin and Joanna have been living out their testimonies of love, hope, and faith.

Martin is featured in multiple venues including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, USA Today, on the Today Show, and on Fox News. I don’t think it’s just the fact that Ghost Boy is a New York Times bestseller. Martin and Joanna have something special that people want to hear more about.

Before we catch up with them, let me refresh your memory on Martin's story.



Last family photo before Martin's illness
(Photo courtesy of M. Pistorius)

At age 12, he lost his voice due to a mysterious illness. Within eighteen months he became a mute quadriplegic. The doctors compared Martin’s mind to that of an infant’s and stated he would die within two years.

He did not die. He became "invisible."  

For four years, Martin was in a waking coma state in an unresponsive shell, unseeing and unknowing of his surroundings. 

Then, around age sixteen, his mind slowly woke up. But, his body did not.






Martin Pistorius
(photo courtesy of M. Pistorius)

For ten years, his mind was completely aware—aware that he was trapped inside an unresponsive body and unable to communicate with others. Martin wasn't paralyzed, but no matter how hard he tried, he had no control of his spastic muscles, his curled fingers, or the voice that disappeared with his childhood. Without communication, he remained unheard.

Then all that changed when a therapist noticed a glint of understanding in Martin’s face. By 2001, even though his voice never returned, Martin learned to communicate again via use of a computer.




Several years later, Martin, a native of South Africa, fell in love with a social worker in England. He and Joanna were married in 2009. In 2010, Martin started his own business as a web designer. 

When Thomas Nelson published Ghost Boy in 2013, its message of perseverance and hope began circulating the world. It’s still going strong, as are Martin and Joanna, who kindly agreed to another interview.


First of all, congratulations on the celebration of your eighth wedding anniversary!  Several blog readers are newlyweds. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with them?

Mr. and Mrs. Martin Pistorius
(courtesy of M. Pistorius)
“Thank you. 
As it is stated in Genesis 2:24 begin your new life as a married couple by not only physically leaving your parents, but emotionally. Establish boundaries, cling to and depend on each other. It’s important to take the time to become one with each other.

Focus on each other – if your focus is how to serve, support and love your partner then you are more likely to meet each other’s needs. 

Continue to do the little things you did for each other when you first met. It’s also important to make time for each other, even if that is simply to sit in each other’s arms and watch a movie.  

Always be honest and open with each other – you should be able to tell each other anything.”




That’s great advice! Taking time to focus on one another makes a huge difference.
Speaking of making a difference--most writers long to write a book that will influence the world. I know Ghost Boy changed my perspective.

Martin, you’re such a humble man, so I want to ask Joanna this next question. Joanna, I’m sure you’ve heard how Martin’s book has influenced people’s lives. Is there one story that stands out in your mind you’d be willing to share with us?

“Martin received a message from a mother that thanked him for Ghost Boy. Her daughter had been in a vegetative state for over 20 years. Having seen Martin on TV she got the audiobook of Ghost Boy. After her daughter had listened to Martin’s book, her daughter started making attempts to communicate. Through a lot of hard work, and plenty of support, her daughter is now communicating. The transformation has been truly remarkable! “


That is amazing! What a blessing it is to hear stories like that. Communication is so important. Not long ago, I listened to Martin’s TED talk online. He shared a powerful thought about communication.

"Communication is what makes us human, enabling us to connect on the deepest level with those around us. True communication increases understanding and creates a more caring and compassionate world."