Shepherding a Child’s Heart Book Study

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Over a year ago, on the recommendation of more than one person, I purchased the Kindle version of the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (on sale right now for $1.99!). I read a few chapters, but then became side-tracked with other things and have yet to finish the book. So when I heard about the Shepherding a Child’s Heart Book Study at Our Out-of-Sync Life, I was very excited to dig in and finally finish the book!

The main idea behind the book is reaching a child’s heart, not just correcting his or her actions. Correcting the behavior (hitting, arguing, throwing tantrums) without addressing the root issue (selfishness, pride, anger, etc.) will never result in effective, long-term change. From a Christian perspective, the root problem is sin, and the cure is the Gospel.

The book study starts tomorrow, May 1, and the assigned reading for tomorrow is the preface and introduction (who reads that, right? Oh wait, as an English teacher I’m not supposed to say that! Winking smile)

So, to keep myself accountable to completing the readings, I will be posting my thoughts and reactions here over the next few weeks.

Let me start by sharing a few insights from the Introduction. At one point Tripp says:

People frequently ask if I expected my children to become believers. I usually reply that the gospel is powerful and attractive. It uniquely meets the needs of fallen humanity. Therefore, I expected that God’s Word would be the power of God to salvation for my children. But that expectation was based on the power of the gospel and its suitability to human need, not on a correct formula for producing children who believe.

This assertion rang true for me. Just this past weekend I had been discussing with some other ladies how we wished there was some way to ensure that our children come to salvation. We want this for them because of the tremendous difference the gospel has made in our own lives and because we know that our hearts need cleansing from sin in order to be reconciled to a Holy God. But of course, as Tripp points out, there is no magic formula. We can do everything “right” and still have children who don’t believe. After all, God’s children, Adam and Eve, had the perfect Parent, and yet they still chose to rebel. Sometimes this leaves us feeling a bit hopeless.

However, I really liked the way Tripp turned the tables from putting our hope in what we as parents can do, and instead trusting in God and His Word because it is “powerful and attractive” and is “uniquely meets the needs of fallen humanity.” While I have a responsibility to make sure my parenting is in line with Scripture and that I am pointing my children toward the Gospel, ultimately their salvation does not rest on my doing everything “right.” I must trust that God and his Grace are sufficient and that the good news will draw my children’s hearts to Him.

If you are interested in joining the study yourself, you can find all the details at Our Out-of-Sync Life. And please share your thoughts here as well! We’d love to hear from you!

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Taco Soup

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While it is technically spring, this week has been cooler and rainy here in the Midwest, and I don’t know about you, but cool, rainy weather always makes me want a big bowl of soup!

This soup is very flavorful and easy to throw together. As I mentioned last week, during my Daniel Fast, I typically made a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week and then ate it along with a salad for lunch throughout the week. This was one of the soups I made and it was delicious!

Vegetarian Taco Soup

Ingredients
1 tablespoon Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3-4 cups vegetable broth (for a Daniel Fast, use this recipe, or just use water)
1 can black beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (14.5 oz), drained
1/2 can fat free vegetarian refried beans
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 Tbsp. Taco Seasoning (for a Daniel Fast, use this recipe to make your own)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

In a large saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add vegetable broth (use more or less broth depending on how thick you want your soup), black beans, tomatoes, corn and seasoning and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in cooked rice and refried beans and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the refried beans have dissolved into the broth and the rice is heated through.

Recipe Notes:

  • For a non-vegetarian dish, use chicken broth in place of vegetable broth and add 1-2 cups cooked shredded chicken when you add the rice and refried beans
  • For a non-Daniel Fast meal, consider adding the following toppings: sour cream, shredded Mexican cheese, diced avocado, and/or crushed tortilla chips
  • Can use regular diced tomatoes if you can’t tolerate spicy food
  • Can substitute 1/2 cup dried polenta for the brown rice

Servings: Approximately 8 (1-cup servings)

Adapted from (Ultimate Daniel Fast)

Easter Fun!

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Last weekend was packed with fun family Easter activities. We had Easter baskets, egg hunts, dying eggs, and a baptism service at church. I thought I’d share a few pictures of our weekend with you!

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I hope you had a happy Easter as well! How did you choose to celebrate with your family?

Leaving a Spiritual Legacy

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This past Sunday, as we celebrated Easter, I couldn’t help thinking about my grandmother. She died last year on Easter morning. We were driving home from church, getting ready to host Easter dinner that year, when we got the call that she had passed. She had been in hospice care so we knew it was only a matter of time, but we were all still saddened by the loss.

However, as sad as I was to no longer have my grandmother with me, my first thought was “wow, she gets to spend Easter Sunday in the arms of her Savior.”

You see my grandmother knew Jesus intimately. She didn’t just attend church services out of habit or a sense of religious duty, she had a personal relationship with God. At her funeral, we were able to see her Bible, and it was touching to see how well worn it was from regular use. They say a Bible that’s falling apart is usually owned by a person who isn’t. This was certainly the case for my grandma.

I still miss my grandmother, but I am thankful for the example she left for her family. My grandmother prayed for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren regularly. It was always such a blessing to hear my grandma tell me she had been praying for me and my boys (and I know she would have been thrilled to hear about our baby girl!).

She didn’t have an easy life by any means, but the joy of the Lord truly was her strength. As we stood at her funeral, looking at all the pictures of her from over the years, I was struck by the fact that Grandma always had a smile on her face. As a single mother, she went through some very tough times, and like all of us she was not perfect, but she kept faith in God throughout her life. Her smile and her deep love for her family and her God are the things I remember best about her. She cried with me during the sad times and she cried tears of joy during the happy times. I am so thankful for her faithful example.

My grandmother left a spiritual legacy that has been passed to our family, and now I strive to pass on to my own children. That is three generations directly impacted by her life and example as she followed Christ.

As I have spent these last few weeks preparing my heart for Easter, it has been my prayer that I, too, may leave a spiritual legacy to my children and grandchildren and everyone I meet. May my life shine for Christ, even during difficult circumstances, and at the end of my life may people say of me that they saw Christ in me.

Tips for Doing a Daniel Fast

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Last Saturday marked the final day of my 21-day Daniel Fast. It has been an exciting time of spiritual growth and renewal, and today I’d like to share a few practical things I learned along the way, in case you are interested in doing a Daniel Fast for yourself!

Here are a few tips and ideas:

  • Begin your fast knowing that the ultimate focus and outcome is spiritual, rather than physical. If you just want to eat more healthy or lose some weight, then you’re really just dieting, not fasting. A true fast should include a spiritual element of prayer, confession, and Bible study, asking God to speak to you as you focus on spiritual nourishment, rather than physical nourishment.
  • Have a spiritual goal in mind while fasting. Maybe you need wisdom before making a big decision, maybe you need direction in some area of your life, maybe you want to begin to have more consistent time in the Word, maybe, like me, you want to use the time leading up to Christmas or Easter as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation. Set a goal or focus, but also be prepared for God to show you new things along the way!
  • Find a devotional plan to use during the time of fasting and get a journal to write down what you’re learning, your prayer requests, etc. The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast has daily devotionals to use during your fast, or use another book or Bible study method of your choosing. I read through the devotionals in the book, but I also did the Easter study from Good Morning Girls. She Reads Truth is another good source of Bible study plans.
  • Figure out your menu ahead of time and shop for necessary ingredients. While I had some of the ingredients I needed, because I couldn’t use things with added sugar or leavening agents, refined flour, etc. I had to go to the store to buy a number of ingredients, and making a meal plan ahead of time helped me to make sure I didn’t make unnecessary trips to the store because I didn’t have one or two ingredients.
  • Decide ahead of time how to fit your fast in with your family’s meals. This is a hard one if your family doesn’t want to participate in your fast or if they are not used to eating lots of unprocessed, whole grain products. When I made up my meal plan, I tried to find ways that I could make things easier by making dishes we normally eat, and just modifying them a bit for myself. That way I didn’t have to make two separate meals every night. For example, our family likes tacos and nachos. I was able to make those once a week and just have them without the chicken for myself (just beans and brown rice with lettuce, tomato, avocado, cilantro, etc.), or I made spaghetti and meatballs, but used whole grain spaghetti (which we eat normally), and just skipped the meatballs for myself, and made sure the tomato sauce didn’t have sugar. The kids were happy for the most part, and my husband was really supportive and decided to just eat whatever I was eating for dinner, rather than asking me to make a separate meat for him.
  • Make things as easy as possible so you’re not tempted to “cheat.” Make sure you have a good variety of things available, especially fresh fruits and veggies. Cut things up ahead of time so they are readily available with minimal work. At the beginning of each week I made a big batch of soup for lunch, and then I would just reheat a bowl every day along with a salad for lunch. That way I knew exactly what I was going to eat, it was easy and quick, and it allowed me to focus on other things.
  • If you have any special dietary needs, you are pregnant, or you are nursing, check with your doctor before beginning your fast, or adjust the fast as necessary. For example, because I was nursing and needed extra calories (and didn’t want to risk any “supply” issues as baby is only a few months old), I chose to include seafood in my fast as an extra source of calories and protein.

That’s all I can think of for now! If you’re planning a Daniel Fast soon, please leave a comment and let us know!

Easter Movies for Kids

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As I mentioned in a previous post, about a year ago our family instituted a tradition of Sunday Family Movie Nights, in which we each take turns picking a movie to watch as a family on Sunday evenings. This has become a fun tradition that my boys look forward to (although Mr. Not-quite-three only stays up for part of the movie).

With Easter coming up this Sunday, I wanted to share a few of our favorite family Easter movies with you.

  • VeggieTales: An Easter Carol – In this Easter veggie version of A Christmas Carol, Mr. Nezzer learns the true meaning of Easter from a music box angel named Hope (voiced by Grammy winner Rebecca St. James). There was one part that scared my little guy at first, when Grandma Nezzer pops out of the picture and Mr. Nezzer thinks she’s a ghost. But she is quick to reassure him that there’s no such thing as ghosts, and that he’s having a vision (“like a dream, with a point”), and then she breaks into song and my little guys was fine after that.
  • VeggieTales: Twas the Night Before Easter – In this cute animated tale, reporter Marlee Meade wants to save the local theater but gets into a “pickle” (pun intended!) when there is competition with the local church production. My kids really liked the “Hopperena” silly song too! This one reminds me a lot of the plot of another Veggie Tales movie, The Star of Christmas.
  • The Easter Story Keepers – In this movie a group of orphans are being helped by a Christian baker and his wife during the persecution of Emperor Nero. During the tale, the baker tells stories about Jesus’s life.
  • The Miracle Maker – this is probably my favorite movie from the list. In a combination of claymation and animation, the story of Jesus is told from the perspective of Jairus’s daughter, whom Jesus raised from the dead. It is overall very accurate and it even includes the scene of Jesus appearing to two followers on the road to Emmaus.

I hope you enjoy the time this weekend with your family spending time reflecting on Jesus’s death and resurrection!

Daniel Fast Part 3: A Right View of God

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So this week is the last week of my Daniel Fast. After today, I have just 3 days to go, and I am excited to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning along the way!

In yesterday’s Bible reading (I am currently going through the Good Morning Girl’s study called “Why Easter Matters”), I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 which says:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

And as I read that passage, I was struck by the first line “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a wrong view of God. When we think of Jesus, we think of a gentle savior, the one who took the children upon his knee saying “let the little children come to me.” This is the one we see on the cover of the children’s Bibles, with long hair and a soft smile, who preached love and turning the other cheek. On the other hand, when we think of the Father, we think of a stern judge who is holy, just, and unapproachable. He is the voice from the clouds in The Ten Commandments (you know the scene where Charlton Heston is on the mountain talking to God – I know I’ll be watching it again this weekend!).

But both of these views are missing the bigger picture and often give us a very wrong view of God. God is not at war with himself. There is not part of God that wants to crush us like bugs the next time we sin and part that wants to skip with us through fields of wildflowers for all eternity. Jesus isn’t having to stand in front of us to shield us from a beating, like a son standing up to an abusive father. Not at all!

Notice in this passage it is God the Father who gives us the victory over sin and death, and that victory is through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son are working together in perfect unity and love to save us. The Father isn’t waiting in the wings to strike us down; he loved us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own son for our deliverance. Way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey and rebel against God, he didn’t abandon them or strike them down and start over with people who had no free will, even though he could have done so. In his great love, he didn’t leave us in this sin-cursed, death-filled world without hope. Even knowing we would rebel and reject him, God still desired to save us from our own sin.

In Genesis 3 God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Here God is pointing forward to the virgin’s offspring, Jesus, the God-man, who would crush the power of sin and death and take the penalty upon himself, in accordance with the Father’s will. Jesus loved people, yes, but he hated sin. He calls the hypocritical religious leaders a “brood of vipers” and he overturns the tables of the money changers, saying they have turned his Father’s house into a den of robbers. All you need to do is read Revelation 1 and you will see that Jesus does not fit the images we have of him from children’s Bibles. 

As we meditate on the significance of Easter, let us see God for who he is – both loving and just, strong and kind, holy and merciful.

Thank you Father for loving us so much that you would send your only Son to pay the penalty for our sins and reconcile us to yourself. Thank you Lord Jesus for taking on our sin, though you committed no sin yourself, that by confessing and believing we might be called sons and daughters of God.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

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As I mentioned last week, I have been having to “tweak” some of my usual recipes to use as part of my Daniel Fast, where I cannot eat meat (though because I am nursing and need extra calories, I have been eating some seafood), dairy, added sweeteners, leavened bread, or processed foods. To make things a little easier, I have been making a big batch of soup at the beginning of each week and eating a bowl of that soup, along with a salad, for lunch every day. This week I used my mother’s recipe for split pea soup, and tweaked it to make a vegetarian version. It was still really good, and I even served it to my mom when she came by for lunch one day and she and the boys enjoyed it with some oyster crackers as you can see from the picture! (I can’t have the crackers as part of the fast, but it was still good without them Smile)

Creamy Split Pea Soup

Ingredients
4 cups vegetable broth (for a Daniel Fast, use this recipe, or just use water)
6 cups water
1 lb. package split peas
1 1/4 cup chopped carrots
1 sliced onion
1 cup sliced celery
4 whole allspice (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
4 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Combine water and broth in large pot and bring to a boil. Put spices in a tea ball or coffee filter tied with string and add to pot. Add remaining vegetables, reduce heat and simmer 45-60 minutes or until all vegetables are soft. Blend thoroughly and enjoy!

Servings: Approximately 8-10 (1 cup servings)

For a non-vegetarian version, add a ham bone to the water/broth (can use chicken broth in place of vegetable broth) before boiling, then skim the fat from the surface before adding the other ingredients.

Easter Books for Kids

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Last week I shared some ideas for sharing the hope of Easter with your kids. Today I’d like to share some of our favorite Easter themed books for kids!

  • The First Easter retold by Catherine Storr – this story begins with the disciples making preparations for the last supper and ends Mary seeing the risen Jesus in the garden. One of the things I like about this book is that is has details from the gospels that are sometimes missing in children’s books, such as the release of Barabbas and Pilot’s wife’s dream.
  • My Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter by Mary Manz Simon – I really like this book as it associates the colors in the Easter basket with the resurrection story. It is a sturdy board book with glittery cut-out pages and has fun, rhyming text. This would be a great book to use during an Easter egg hunt, telling the story with colored eggs to match the text.
  • Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson – this book is designed to be used with the Resurrection Eggs, though it also works as a stand-alone book. It tells the story of a little boy named Benjamin as he follows Jesus during his last days and who collects “treasures” that he uses to tell the story. A similar book is Lily’s Easter Party by Crystal Bowman.
  • The Story of the Empty Tomb by Bryan Davis – with it’s colorful illustrations and rhyming text, this book tells the resurrection story.
  • The Easter Story From the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from Tommy Nelson Publishers – this is a great copy of the Easter story as the text is taken directly from the International Children’s Bible, New Century Version. This version starts with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends at the Ascension.
  • Little Bunny’s Easter Egg Surprise by Joan Hood – while this book is not a religious Easter book, I like the overall message of this book. Here little bunny is the littlest bunny in his family and he is tired of always being so little. Mother bunny tells him that it’s not whether he’s big or little, it’s what’s inside that counts, and Little Bunny learns this when he finds an egg with a special surprise.
  • The Tale of the Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt – This book tells the story of three trees who have big dreams of being important but who end up being used as ordinary, every-day objects. But each of these ordinary objects take on new meaning when they are used by the Savior. Honestly, I have a hard time reading this book without crying at the end!

There are lots of other great books about Easter. What are some of your favorites?

Daniel Fast Part 2: Confession is Good for the Soul

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Last week I shared that I am doing a partial fast, or “Daniel Fast,” in preparation for Easter.
This week I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning. It has now been 10 days since I started this 21 day journey, and God has been showing me a lot throughout this time. As I mentioned before, doing a fast is about taking away food (either partially or fully) in order to seek the Lord during prayer and Bible study. I started this fast 21 days before Easter so that I could take this time to meditate on the true meaning of Easter and prepare my heart for worship during this time.

But ladies, God has been showing me so much more than I expected during this time! One of the studies I have been doing during this time is the “Why Easter Matters” study from Good Morning Girls. Week 1 was about “Why the Last Supper Matters.” Week 2 is “Why the Crucifixion Matters.”

As I’ve read and studied these passages, I’ve been seeing more clearly my own sin as well as the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for me.

When I started this study I wasn’t thinking much about my own sin. I mean I knew I sinned from time to time (um, can you say sin of pride right there? Yikes!), but I wasn’t expecting the kind of conviction I came under as I began to examine my own heart, especially in light of what Christ did on the cross for me. I began to see the angry, critical spirit I have sometimes used when dealing with my children and husband, my desire for personal recognition when all the glory is due to God, and my anxious attitude, which revealed a lack of trust in God.

It has been too long since I have taken a good hard look at my own sin, confessed it for what it is, and asked God to create a new heart within me. In her book, The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast, Kristen Feola talks about the need for confession at the beginning of a fast. She relates how the children of Israel, in the book of Isaiah, fasted and prayed, but did so without confession, and thus received nothing.

So as I read through the passages in the Good Morning Girls study, I started to become more aware of my own sin and the price that was paid to take away my guilt and give me eternal life. In studying the last supper, I was reminded of the command in 1 Corinthians 11 to examine oneself before partaking. I realized that I needed to take this command more seriously and to examine my heart regularly, not just once in a while. When I fail to do this, I am dismissing God’s holiness and hatred of sin. I take his sacrifice too lightly and fail to use the proper reverence due him.

During Week 2’s readings, I was reminded of the heavy burden Christ endured for that sin. Isaiah 53:5-6 says:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

It was my sin that caused him such piercing, crushing, wounding pain. He took the punishment that I deserved, even though he had done nothing wrong.

Never should I forget that I am completely in Christ’s debt and that I can never (and need never) repay it. There is nothing I can do that would be good enough to earn that salvation. Nothing I can do that would make me worthy of such a sacrifice. But I am thankful that I do not have to earn it. I am thankful that in Romans 5 it says Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We don’t have to clean ourselves up or get our acts together to accept Christ’s sacrifice. He died for us just as we are, full of sin, and He is the one who takes our lives and makes us clean. What a humbling thought!