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Jun28

TESTING . . . TESTING

Posted terribly early in the morning by Jackina Stark

For several weeks I’ve been talking about letting our children know how much we love and enjoy them, and just as importantly, teaching them that God loves them too. I’ve had several blogs about teaching them about God by testifying and by trusting. A third way, though it overlaps the others (perhaps they all overlap), is encouraging children to test God’s Word.

They need to know its relevance for their lives. It should both comfort and confront us so that we can be conformed into the likeness of Christ and know the peace and abundant life that come from obeying Him. Test his word in your life and tell you children about it, and help them test it in their own lives.

I had several opportunities to do this. One night when I tucked Stacey in, I made pretty short work of it. When I leaned over and quickly kissed her goodnight, she asked, “Are you all right, Mom?”

I assured her I was fine. But when I turned out the light and started to walk out of her room, I stopped. I wasn’t fine, and I decided this might be a good time to take back my socialized response.

I returned to Stacey’s bed, nudged her over, and sat down beside her. “Actually, Stacey, I’m not quite all right. Something happened at church tonight that bothered me a lot. But I’m in there ironing right now, and talking to God about it, and I will be all right soon.”

Then I told her a little bit about a problem so petty that I couldn’t believe I was struggling with it at all. That night one of my favorite speakers was preaching, and I could not wait to hear him.

But, as the schedule would have it, I was supposed to work in the nursery. Inspiration would probably have to wait. But then I had a brainstorm. The idea was so clever I really thought the Holy Spirit must have given it to me.

Leanne, my daughter who has loved babies since she was one herself, could take my turn in the nursery. Sure, she would miss youth meeting, but could missing one out of every thousand hurt? I didn’t think so. Leanne headed for the nursery, and I found my pew.

I thought everything was perfect. I could not have guessed that when Leanne entered the nursery, a lady insisted that she leave. Because she had been in the nursery during church that morning doing her regularly scheduled duty, this lady said she should not miss any more church by being in there again that night. Nothing Leanne told her made any difference, not even the fact that her mother had asked her to do it. She had to go.

When I asked Leanne how the babies were on the way home from church, I couldn’t believe what had happened. I thought all kinds of ugly things, like how often Leanne had attended functions at the church all these years compared to how often her child attended. “I’m so sure this one hour could matter!” And there’s also the fact that it was my decision to make. How dare someone question or usurp my authority over my own child!

The minute I got home, I went to my room and set up my ironing board. When I felt like this, I needed something to iron. I could do twelve pieces in fifteen minutes. And it was while I was ironing that Stacey called me into her room to tuck her in.

So there I sat, telling her of my struggle. I wanted her to see that doing the right thing, feeling the right thing, is not always automatic. I also told her that when I went back to my room, I would think more about God’s ways and his will, talk to him some more about my hurt and my weakness, and then I would, by his grace, put all this bad feeling away. I would forgive this lady (whom he loves very much, by the way) because God forgives me for all my foolishness. Jesus could not be clearer about this. Those who would be forgiven must forgive (Matt. 6:14-15) and do it with the lavish generosity of the Father (Matt. 18).

Because my husband and I have shared some of our struggles to be like Christ, our children have learned that loving and forgiving aren’t easy—but required. And they’ve learned several other things about being God’s beloved.

 

Jun14

Sweetest Praise

Posted around lunch time by Jackina Stark

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written, but I want to continue and complete this series about teaching our children and their children after them. I’ve been talking about teaching them to trust and want to tell you about a time I came to understand that my child had, in fact, learned to trust God.

This took place during a season that began the day Leanne and her husband Scott were told by a fertility specialist that they would never have children. Up to that time, this was clearly the saddest day of our lives. She had loved babies since she was one, and I had imagined their little arms around my neck since the day Leanne married Scott.

When they stood in our entry and tried to explain to me what the doctor had said, they leaned against the wall for support, and at one point cried in my arms.

But even as they were wiping tears from their faces, I heard each of them talking about God’s goodness and a plan He must have for them.

Some days were so sad for Leanne that she didn’t want to get out of bed, but she turned over each painful day to God. Friends asked her how she could be so happy when it seemed the desire of her heart would never be. She told them she tried to live out Phil. 4:8-“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

She lived a life of praise. In fact, she told me about an experience nearly a year after her diagnosis. She read the events of those saddest of days in her journal and didn’t shed a tear. But when she put her journal down and began to thank God for the blessings that were hers, including his friendship and her hope of eternal life, she began to cry.

I thanked God in my heart for such a child and told my daughter that she had demonstrated spiritual maturity.

Leanne was quite ready for God to change the desire of her heart, but instead he brought an eight-year-old boy into their lives. She had written in her journal that if God ever brought her a child, she would name a girl Mariah, because it means “God will provide” and a boy “Sam” because it means “Asked of God.”

Leanne had trusted God would work things for her good, but she had no idea he’d bring a darling little boy “who needed a family” into her life. Or that his name would be Scott, her husband’s name, and that even while she was meeting Scott she would be pregnant with Mariah and that two years later Sam would complete the family.

Not surprisingly, they have known sorrow since Scott was so sweetly adopted into the family. (Life in this fallen world is seldom easy.) Scott, unsure of what he wanted to do following high school, joined the army and was gravely injured in Iraq, losing both legs below the knee. I believe it was Leanne’s trust that helped them all survive, and eventually thrive, during his long recovery.

There are so many ways to teach children to trust God. Showing them they can tithe (begin by showing them how you did it when it didn’t seem possible), telling them of needs God has supplied, showing them they can do things with the help of the Holy Spirit they thought they could never do.

By doing this you’ll equip them for the hard times ahead and equip them for challenge and growth. When Stacey was in high school, she wrote on an application for a mission’s trip words that cheered a mom who wanted to equip her children for spiritual battle:

     In one word, I would say Jesus is my peace. I feel so confident that no matter what happens to me, however tragic, I will be fine. I will be more than fine, because Jesus is with me and would never give me more than   I could bear. I take great comfort in that.

And I have taken great comfort in children who learned to trust the One who upholds them in his strong right hand.

May24

The Mother-of-the-Year Award Doesn’t Go to Me

Posted around lunch time by Jackina Stark

I don’t even know how many stories I must have told the girls about God coming to my rescue. He is our great provider, both physically and emotionally. Emmanuel is with us, working for our good, even in dreadful or perilous situations. Trusting God is something important we need to teach our children.

My younger daughter Leanne learned this in Sunday school and other formal settings, but she learned it best seeing scripture become reality in her life. Her first memorable lesson took place in the fifth grade.

As I turned out Leanne’s light one unsuspecting night, she burst out crying. Actually she was sobbing.

Not being too awfully busy or just plain crazy, I turned the light back on, went to her bedside, and asked her what in the world was the matter.

Leanne couldn’t talk yet, so I held her until she could stop crying, washed her flushed face with a washcloth and waited.

Finally she could tell me the source of such pain. Her best friend at school had told her earlier that day that she didn’t want to be her friend anymore. In a fifth grade class with 21 girls and 8 boys, there were always problems, but this was serious.

The “ringleader” of the class had decided she wanted Leanne’s best friend to be her best friend. So Leanne was alone—all the more so since she, weirdly enough, had been instructed not to play with any of the other girls either.

Alrighty then. Now it was my turn to talk. And talk I did. I said every wonderful thing I knew to say.

I told her how we couldn’t make other people do what we wanted them to do or be what we wanted them to be. I discussed the difficulty but importance of turning the other cheek. And I elaborated on the ugliness, futility and self-destructiveness of any sort of revenge.

Then I tucked her in again and reached for the light once more, thinking how lucky Leanne was to have a sage for a mother.

That’s when I heard another sob, less hysterical, but much more pitiful. “But Mama,” she said, “I don’t want to lose my friend.”

Oh yes, well, there’s that.

And standing there in the dark, I remembered all the “But I don’t want to’s” of my own life, and knew Leanne needed more help than I was capable of giving her. When I sat beside her this time, all I said was a prayer to the one who could and would help us both:

Dear Father—many time I have knocked and knocked and knocked, and I do not mind. I trust your timing. But if it’s in your will, please answer this request now. Please
somehow give Leanne joy and peace in what for her has become a scary and hostile environment. I have no idea how you will do it, but I trust that you will. And I thank you for this problem, because Leanne is going to see for the first time in her young life, the power of her God!”

At 3:15 the next afternoon, Leanne literally burst through the front door with joy all over her little face.

“This,” she announced, “has been the happiest day of my life!” She told me that everything was fine. Her friend still didn’t speak to her, but a new girl named Krista needed a friend that day, and they played all day and had a great time. “Actually, Mom, I knew everything would be okay when you left the room last night.”

In my heart I thanked God for helping Leanne begin to understand and rest in Hebrews 13:5: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

When she was 24, Leanne proved her faith genuine and her trust in God mature. I’ll tell you about that next week. (By the way—Leanne, who will be forty this July, just reconnected with a friend from grade school and junior high. They’ve been having the best time. Her name is Krista.)

 

May17

Pardon Me, Girls, While I Pull Over and Cry

Posted around lunch time by Jackina Stark

Applying what is around us every day to spiritual truth is another great way to testify.

One Saturday afternoon when I has taking the girls to meet friends at the mall, they told me a story that affected me so much that I pulled the car over to the side of the road and cried. An analogy was about to explode from my heart onto my stunned daughters.

They had told me about a segment in a program called That’s Incredible that they had seen on television the night before with their dad.

The parents of a boy diagnosed as hopelessly retarded were advised to put their son in an institution. The parents refused, and in this case, the love of parents nurtured even such a severely handicapped child.

When the boy’s mother died in 1979, his father took full responsibility for him-dressing him, giving him his shots, and helping him with the smallest tasks such as crossing the street. But that wasn’t what was incredible.

What was incredible was his one, and only one, great ability—to paint. Despite the fact that he was born with cataracts inside both eyes, blocking the light and causing him to paint just a few inches from the table, he paints enough, and well enough, to have had eight one-man shows in one year alone! Some artists don’t accomplish this in a lifetime.

It takes him only three hours for a small picture and two, three or four days for larger ones. He is unbelievable at details and can remember and recreate scenes he’s seen long ago. In order to get the exact color he remembers, he often uses layers of color.

I had been thinking about priorities at the time.

That boy’s story and my somewhat illogical thought that sprang from it deeply touched me. That’s why I pulled the car over, and with tears streaming down my face, told the girls what I was thinking and feeling: “Girls, I should just pray that God would make me something like that boy. I wish he would give me one amazing ability, if I had no others—the ability to praise Him!”

I suppose that was too emotional, but for some reason the girls were not shocked or upset. God was real and our love for him real when we, sitting together in a car on a warm Saturday afternoon, desired to adore Him and never let Luke 13:34 apply to us: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

We talked about such things. And I think it made all the difference.

The girls have become mothers who testify. Stacey’s favorite Christian theme is the freedom Christ gives, and Jake was already beginning to understand that when he was only four. Stacey, who doesn’t cry often, was driving down the street, listening to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christian song, “Free.” Jake, after asking what it was about, said, “Is this song going to make you cry, Mom?”

I believe Stacey was testifying when she said, “It might, Jake.”

May10

Eloquence Unnecessary

Posted in the mid-morning by Jackina Stark

Another way we can testify is telling our children about the times God has heard us. We have done this over and over in our family, for He has heard us often.

One story we talk about took place when Stacey was not even two and her sister was only a few months old.

Stacey had been throwing up for days because of a stomach virus, and she developed a twist and block between her bowels. It could have killed her if her dad, home on Saturday, hadn’t noticed the slight swelling in her stomach and if she hadn’t had a very astute and observant pediatrician.

We took her to the hospital for a life or death operation. But before they could do the procedure, there were the preliminaries to be taken care of.

A nurse came into the room and asked me if Stacey were potty-trained.

“No,” I gasped. Hello, I thought, she’s not even two!

The nurse explained to me that if she were not, then they would have to catheterize her in order to get a urine sample and to prepare her for surgery. I couldn’t stand that. I knew what catheterization was, and my mind could not conceive of such a tiny child having to have that done.

So with little hope on anyone’s part, I asked them to bring me a potty chair and to leave my baby and me alone for just a little while.

I felt like a baby myself as I knelt on that cold tile floor and unfastened Stacey’s diaper. As I sat beside her and held her on that contraption, I prayed, “Lord, please, unless it’s part of your will that I can’t see or understand (I John 5:15), please don’t let her have to be catheterized on top of everything else.”

So mundane. Such lack of eloquence.

Yet almost instantly I heard the sound that told me my prayer had been answered.

My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open in traditional amazement. And, in that moment, kneeling on that hard, impersonal floor, I was aware that my baby girl and I were in the presence of God. Whatever would happen, that knowledge meant everything.

I have said that he made himself known to a naive young mother that day. In that moment, I remembered his name is “I am.” Those moments come.

Tell your children you can understand why Abram fell on his face before God when the Lord made himself known to him (Gen. 17:1-3). Then they will know every word of the Bible is preserved that we might understand God and the relationship he wants to have with us.

Testimonies can also come in the form of analogies. I’ll tell you about that next week, and then I’ll move on from testifying to trusting!

 

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