Everywhere, Everywhere Christmas Tonight

christmas-stockings-and-treeEverywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!
Christmas in lands of the fir tree and pine,
Christmas in lands of the palm tree and vine;
Christmas where snow-peaks stand solemn and white,
Christmas where corn-fields lie sunny and bright;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

Christmas where children are hopeful and gay,
Christmas where old men are patient and gray,
Christmas where peace, like a dove in its flight,
Broods o’er brave men in the thick of the fight;
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all,
No place too great and no cottage too small;
The Angels who welcome Him sing from the height,
“In the city of David, a King in His might.” 
 Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

Then let every heart keep its Christmas within
Christ’s pity for sorrow, Christ’s hatred for sin.
Christ’s care for the weakest, Christ’s courage for right,
Christ’s dread of the darkness, Christ’s love of the light.
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.

So the stars of the midnight which compass us round
Shall see a strange glory, and hear a sweet sound,
And cry, “Look! the earth is aflame with delight,
O sons of the morning, rejoice at the sight.” 
Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight. —Phillips Brooks 

Feeding Hungry Kids

It was a snowy day in West Michigan. So snowy, in fact, that schools had been canceled for the day. While many people were bundled up at home, the local police department was responding to a call of an alarm that had been tripped at an elementary building. When the police arrived they found a young body going to each door attempting to get inside his school. When the police officer asked him what he was doing, the young lad looked at him innocently and said, “This is where I get breakfast.” 

Sometimes we forget how many of our students get at least one or two meals at their school each day. In my community, 49 percent of Cedar Springs students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and in the neighboring Kent City schools, it’s 65 percent.

So when I heard about an organization called Hand2Hand that helped organize nutritious food for hungry students to eat on the weekends, I was immediately ready to sign up! 

Someone once asked me, “Before agreeing to get Hand2Hand started in our city, did you pray about it?” 

“No,” I quickly responded. “I didn’t need to pray about it because I knew Jesus had already said, ‘If you see someone hungry, feed them.’” 

Our Hand2Hand program is currently serving 300 students each week!

Think about that—without the generous and faithful support of so many volunteers and donors, 250 students in Cedar Springs and Kent City would be going without adequate food each weekend. 

Would you consider helping us? 

We have set up a separate website to keep people updated on the current food and volunteering opportunities. We also have a link for online financial gifts. If you would like to make a recurring donation, just $20 per month will provide healthy food for a student for the whole month. Whatever you can do with your time or financial support will be a blessing to so many!

Some of the volunteers that help us week after week

Students help feed their peers

Consequences For Children

Dr. Kathy Koch has some great insights in her book Start With The Heart for anyone who works with children.

“Rather than using the words ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments,’ I recommend using the word ‘consequences.’ This small change helps children own their responsibility in changing negative behavior and maintaining positive behavior. Rewards and punishments are things we give children. Consequences are what children earn because of their choices.” —Dr. Kathy Koch

Check out my book review of Start With The Heart by clicking here. You can also read some other quotes from this book here and here.

7 More Quotes From “Start With The Heart”

Dr. Kathy Koch has given parents—and anyone else who works with children—a marvelously helpful resource in her latest book Start With The Heart. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“God created you and your children with five core, basic needs that must be met. These needs are interrelated. The health of one influences the others:

  • Security—who can I trust?
  • Identity—who am I?
  • Belonging—who wants me?
  • Purpose—why am I alive?
  • Competence—what do I do well?” 

“Children who know their purpose will often choose to look for peers with similar goals and interests. They will want to hang out with people who affirm them and their purpose and be willing to end relationships that are not joyful and purposeful.” 

“When you parent so your children believe three things, their hearts will be impacted and they will be motivated to succeed. This translates into less stress and anxiety and more peace. … Children who believe these things don’t want to be average. They are willing to work for more. … Children’s character will be more Christlike. They’ll want to be more others-centered than self-centered. They’ll be compassionate, brave and able to stand up for themselves and others. 

  1. I have value. Children who do know they have value are often motivated intrinsically, from the inside. They internally recognize what is good for them and respond accordingly.
  2. Learning matters. When children believe they have worth, they are more likely to value learning. … Children who value learning will exhibit many positive character traits, including teachability. This will be true even when they are not convinced that your requests or planned activities are relevant. They’ll pay attention anyway because they know they matter and learning matters. These beliefs strengthen children’s purpose and give rise to competence.
  3. My future can be bright.” 

“Which is better: ‘Be on time!’ or ‘Don’t be late!’? Do you hear the difference? Which one is positive? ‘Be on time’ communicates ‘I believe you’re capable of this.’ It’s more hopeful. It’s about what you want your children to do. ‘Don’t be late’ reminds them of how they’ve frustrated you.” 

“Carol Dweck…has consistently found that children praised for using effort tackled more challenging tasks than those praised just for ability or for the quality of their work.” 

“Sometimes have children tell you what they think they did before you offer your opinions. If they are relatively accurate, affirm them specifically. When they’re not, have the conversation.” 

“Working to provide feedback that can be described with the following attributes will serve you and your children well—specific, believable, helpful, and thoughtful.” 

You can also check out the first set of quotes I shared from Start With The Heart by clicking here.

10 Quotes From “Start With The Heart”

Kathy Koch has given parents, teachers, and anyone who works with younger children, and excellent resource to improve your relationship with your kiddos and empower them to greater success. Check out my full book review of Start With The Heart by clicking here. 

“For your children to want what you want for them, for changes to occur, and for improvements to remain, your hearts must be intertwined. Your motivational power and influence over their obedience comes out of the love you have for each other.” [see Proverbs 23:26] 

“Affirm your children when they do use the character qualities you’re emphasizing and correct them when they don’t. … Specifically, look for gratitude and joy. The lack of one or both of these emotions causes children (and adults) to use character qualities inconsistently.” 

“Here is my list of understandings that can secure children’s hearts and increase your influence so you’ll be able to motivate them to be responsible, brave, and so much more.

  • Parent by faith
  • Parent with grace and mercy
  • Forgive quickly and often
  • Ask to be forgiven quickly and often
  • Tell your children you are confident in God
  • Prioritize children, not their behavior
  • You can dislike what children do while you still like and love them
  • Be who you want your children to be
  • Raise the children you were given, not the children you wish you had
  • Remember needs and wants are different
  • Listen when children are little if you want them to talk with you when they’re older
  • When children have a problem, remember they are not the problem
  • Teach children to fail well
  • Prioritize progress, not perfection” 

“Children are even more susceptible to the influences around them. We should have and model solid character so our behavior, attitudes, and decisions glorify God. We should also prioritize our character so we don’t lead a child astray. Making every effort to use these qualities ourselves matters. And, of course, apologizing when we don’t is key to maintaining a positive relationship.” 

“The desire to develop self-control is birthed in self-respect. Self-control makes it possible to use other character qualities successfully.” 

“Do we choose to see our children’s circumstances and respond appropriately? Although consistency is usually appropriate when raising and motivating children, if we don’t have compassion and individualize our reactions and decisions when it’s appropriate, why would our children? Modeling this character quality matters tremendously.” 

“Initiative: Children may never develop this quality if you remind them of everything they must do. Rather, it’s birthed when you help them grow in appropriate independence. … Is it possible that your children may not be motivated as you’d like because you rescue them to early, too often? … I know you value the things you worked hard for. Don’t rob children of that same satisfaction. Allow them to persevere.” 

“Prayer is a powerful tool—use it! Your personal and specific prayers for your children communicate your deep love for them and your dependence on God. Your prayers are a significant way your children learn who you hope they’ll be and what you hope they’ll do. Pray they’ll develop a heart for Christ. Model and teach what they need for their heart to be transformed into His likeness. This will change their character and, therefore, their motivation and motives, too.” 

“Just making statements like these can be empowering:

  • I need to take off arguing and put on first-time obedience.
  • I need to take off bullying and put on kindness.
  • I need to take off distractions and put on focus.
  • I need to take off ‘I don’t want to’ and put on ‘do it anyway.’” 

“This might surprise you, but all children are motivated. … It doesn’t help to ask, ‘How do I get my kids motivated?’ Rather, we need to ask, ‘How can I redirect their motivation?’” 

Stay tuned: more quotes coming soon…

Saturday In The Proverbs—Don’t Judge By Outward Appearances (Proverbs 23)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

…they are deceptive food (Proverbs 23:3).

Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). That means we have to look beyond the surface; we have to see things as they really are, not as we want them to be. 

Things like…

…the outward appearances of wealth aren’t the same thing as true riches (vv. 1-3, 6, 8)

…overwork doesn’t mean it’s good work or a noble work ethic (vv. 4-5) 

…just because someone hears you doesn’t mean they are truly listening to you (v. 9)

…just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it (vv. 10-11)

…children may grumble in the moment of correction, but they will be truly thankful in the end (vv. 12-5, 22-25)

…sinners aren’t “getting away” with their sins (vv. 17-18)

…people who “party hardy” aren’t necessarily enjoying themselves (vv. 19-21, 29-35)

…pornography and other sexual sins aren’t victimless crimes or “no one is getting hurt” activities (vv. 26-28) 

As the Holy Spirit to show you the truth. Ask Him to show you the ultimate consequences of your activities. Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. 

A.L.I.V.E.—The “E” Is For Engagement Of Christ’s Followers

Let’s get some insight into the Greco-Roman and Jewish mindsets of the first century AD. Specifically, the mindset of men. 

There is a well-known letter written June 17, 1 BC, from a man named Hilarion, who was gone off to Alexandria, to his wife Alis, whom he has left at home. He writes to her: “If—good luck to you—you bear a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” This letter captures the male-dominated mindset in the Roman world concerning women and children. In a word: inferior or even disposable. 

This mindset wasn’t limited to the world the Jews called “pagan,” but it was prevalent in Judaism too. Every day Jewish men began their morning prayer time with, “God, I thank You that You did not make me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” 

With this background, it makes it startling that a Jewish man (who prayed that prayer thousands of times) writing to people in Rome (who undoubtedly had the same mindset as Hilarion), begins his list of thank you notes with gratitude to two women! Paul goes on to list no less than 8 women, even giving preferential treatment to a wife (Priscilla) over her husband (Aquila) when he mentions her name first! (see Romans 16:1-4, 6, 12).

William Barclay wrote, “Anyone who asks the question: ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.”

Indeed Christians changed the lives of at least four groups:

  1. Women (especially in the role of marriage)—divorce was so common that it was neither unusual nor particularly blameworthy for a woman to have a new husband every year. Yet Christians taught men to esteem their wives and for marriage to be honored by everyone (Ephesians 5:28; Hebrews 13:4). 
  2. Children—who weren’t even considered a part of the family until they had grown up and proven their worth to the father. Yet Christians taught fathers to nurture their children (Ephesians 6:4).
  3. Senior citizens—the pragmatic Romans had little to do with those they considered less valuable. But the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free medical dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady.
  4. The weak and sick—when a plague hit Rome, all the young, healthy people left the sick and elderly behind. They ran away, but the Christians stayed to help. The Christians taught that everyone (regardless of age, sex, or wealth) was valuable (1 Timothy 5:1-2). 

That was just the start of Christianity. Men like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln were Christians who opposed slavery; Clara Barton was nicknamed “the angel of the battlefield” and founded the Red Cross; Paul Brand was a doctor who ran to leprosy patients when everyone else shunned them; Mother Teresa loved those poor, dying souls whom others ignored. 

So what’s your conclusion? Throughout history Christians have been martyred for their faith, but not only are they willing to die for their belief that Jesus is alive, but they continue to do good to those who persecute them. Would people do this to perpetrate a hoax? Or does this sound more like the real deal?

Please check out the other evidence I have presented for the resurrection of Jesus:

Saturday In The Psalms—Happy!!

…happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Psalm 144:15).

Happy indeed are people who have learned that there is only One God, and have also acknowledged Him as the Lord of their life.

David lists some fabulous blessings for those have made God their Lord…

  • …are equipped by God for victory
  • …experience His lovingkindness
  • …are intimately known by God
  • …know that God bends heaven and earth to help those who love Him
  • …are protected from evil people
  • …have new songs to sing
  • …experience God’s miraculous deliverance and rescue
  • …see blessings on their children and their work and their home
  • …are used as peacemakers and unity-restorers

Happy, happy, HAPPY!

Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!

Saturday In The Psalms—Generations

I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord… (Psalm 78:3-4).

If George Santayana* was right about the dangers of unlearned history lessons for the general population, he identified something even more vital for those who follow God.

Asaph recounts a history of God’s people where God blessed them, the people became complacent in His blessing, until they turned from God and became subject to His wrath. The cycle, sadly, repeats again and again.

Asaph wants today’s generation to learn this lesson and to break this cycle. 

He calls on this generation to continually remind the next generation of God’s blessings for obedience, and God’s judgment for disobedience—

Make them known to their children (v. 5).

The children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children (v. 6)

For today’s parents this means…
No complacency. 
No assumptions. 
No letting kids “figure it out on their own.” 
Constant diligence.
Constant communication.

May this generation speak words of life to the generation to come!

* George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And he also noted, “A child educated only in school is an uneducated child.”

 

How Guys Unintentionally Sabotage Their Relationships

There is a relationship killer that seems to be particularly hard for men. It’s hard because men’s brains are designed in a way that sometimes prohibits them from even seeing this issue.

Bill & Pam Farrel wrote a book called Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. The Farrels identify how men tend to compartmentalize their lives. That is, guys can be so absorbed in one “box” in their life that they are completely oblivious to the other boxes. For instance, when a man is at work he seldom thinks about the other areas of his life (his wife, his kids, the bills that need to be paid, what he’s going to have for lunch).

In addition, men’s brains are also designed to stay in those boxes where things can be quickly fixed. A guy likes fixing things, so the boxes where he can do something and see an immediate result is a box he’s going to keep going back to again and again.

Here’s the trouble… Relationships don’t fit in nice, neat boxes. Neither are relationships something that can be “fixed.” And relationships are never, ever fixed or improved quickly.

So if a guy isn’t aware of these things, he can be unintentionally sabotaging the relationships around him.

King David illustrated this in his unintentional lack of involvement in three of his sons’ lives—

  • Amnon pursued an unhealthy relationship with his step-sister. David got mad but never did anything about it (2 Samuel 13:21).
  • Absalom got revenge for what Amnon did and then fled the country. When David finally allowed him to return to Israel, they never met to resolve what went wrong (2 Samuel 14:28).
  • Adonijah wanted to be king after David, but the Bible says, “His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” (1 Kings 1:6).

Dave Wills wrote, “We all tend to craft a self-focused view of the world where we emerge as either a hero or a victim in every scene. We’re never the villains in the story. The truth is, though, that we’ve all been the bad guy more often than we’d like to admit. A life of love requires that we look in the mirror and give an honest and humble self-assessment.”

The way to defeat this relationship killer is to become aware of it through humble self-assessment. David learned this truth and shared his prayer with us: “Search me, O God. Show me any areas in my life where I am off-track” (Psalm 139:23-24).

In response to this prayer, the Holy Spirit must have showed David how he had unintentionally starved his relationships with Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, because he became highly involved in his son Solomon’s life.

So much so that as Solomon talked to his children about how they should live, he also told them where he had learned how to do this—his father taught him (Proverbs 4:1-4).

Guys, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been unintentionally in another box. It doesn’t matter how strained the relationship may have become. If you will humbly ask God to search you, reveal to you where you’ve messed up, and ask Him to help you get better … your relationships WILL begin to improve!

Don’t wait another day to pray that “Search me” prayer!

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