Training Our Children for Spiritual Warfare

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My nephew turned six in June, and for his birthday he requested to fly to Florida to see his cousins. Accompanied by my sister and mother, he flew to Tampa to celebrate with our family. That beautiful Monday morning with the palm trees towering just under the sunshine, we loaded up the car and drove to LEGOLAND in Kissimmee, Florida to celebrate. While my sister and I waited with three of our kids for the Flight Lessons roller coaster, I did what all parents do at some point: I worried about the safety of the ride. The what if’s seemed to flutter in my mind.

As we climbed aboard the flight coaster, our feet dangling beneath our seats, I asked the worker, this doesn’t go upside down right? He assured me that this roller coaster didn’t. All the same, as the coaster began, I reached over and grabbed my son’s arm and held on tight. Let go mama! he politely squealed with excitement. No! I am holding on, buddy. As he wriggled his arm away for the second time with the biggest grin on his face, I acquiesced…but then later grabbed on again. In the event that something did malfunction, I am quite certain my arm would most likely have been a futile safety net. But it did wonders for my conscience.

Isn’t your child’s first (or maybe 200th) time on a roller coaster a bit of a foreshadowing of the rush of feelings we as parents have when our children approach adolescence and then soon after head out the door to college? We work to ensure that every precaution is taken, instructions given and followed, or restated, reinforced, and tried again. Then we send them out the door with friends, off in the car for the first time alone, or out the door to make their own way in life most hopefully in the will and admonition of the Lord Jesus. We watch with baited breath as they are given more liberty and freedom, subsequently tempted, and then wait to see how they will respond. Will they stay the narrow course? Will they detour? Will they fall?

To continue reading and for Five Ways to Equip Your Children for Spiritual Warfare, head over to iBelieve.

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A Brief Note to Parents on the State of Humanity

A Somber 4th of July

Today we deeply mourn the loss of life and the latest evidences to the degradation of humanity within our culture. These days we can wear our grief like a cloak never fully making it to the wardrobe.

We have turned on one another; which frankly isn’t new in human history. However, this turning against our brother at this scale and with this fervency is new in the course of recent history within our own particular sphere of the globe.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that little black boys and little black girls would hold the hands of little white boys and little white girls as brothers and sisters. I would argue that his dream has been realized. I am sure of it. I witnessed this dream in action only this morning.

Loading up the kids, we headed to the local zoo. Inside the zoo were a slew of children at the splash park area. Brown, white, yellow, and black children all splashing together in the same water. Oblivious to the hateful murders of the night, they played together in one accord. The children were busy laughing in the warm Florida sun, sharing space and time in the chlorinated waters of the zoo playground where a mere 60 years ago this would have been unlawful for those not white skinned.

The color of a man’s skin need not have been an issue in our past, and it most certainly should not be one any more. Yet, we can’t get away from it all together in the grown-up world. Lord Jesus save us from ourselves.

I do not briefly address the audience on this blog today with any semblance of answers that are easy, quick, or flippant. Nor do so with any intent to sweep away the violence and loss of life occurring as recently as last night. But I come to you today offering hope and a few words of encouragement as we pause and grieve, weep, repent, pray, and express thanks to those who serve and protect.

There is much beauty and goodness in this world if we will take the time to witness it, and to create it. Today, I witnessed it in the laughter and play of children all shades of btown and tan on a splash pad.

Deeply saddened for the loss of life and the loss of humanity we see in our country, we need to remember this: Change starts inside our homes and reverberates throughout our culture and world. Press on dear friends as we grieve with those who grieve and mourn deeply the current situation. Change is possible by the grace of Jesus and our homes are perhaps our greatest, though indeed not our only, conduit for revival. Our job as parents is not easy…it never has been. Our task is significant…it has always been. Our time is now.

Even so come Lord Jesus,

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Valuing Our Children’s Unique Pasts

Please welcome my new friend, and fellow foster-adoption mama, April Swiger, as she shares a part of her family’s foster-adoption story. For more information on the foster-adoption journey, please see the links below to her blog and her new book, Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption. Welcome, April, to This Temporary Home!

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Upon meeting someone a few years ago, Adam and I shared our adoption plans with her.

Without missing a beat, she replied, “You’re not adopting from foster care, are you? All of those children are damaged!”

I didn’t know how to respond. At the time, we were trying to adopt an infant, so I probably mumbled something about that fact, hoping to appease my new acquaintance and end a terribly awkward conversation.

When I recall the thoughtless things that people have said to me, that interaction strikes me as unusually devastating. The issue isn’t that the comment offended me personally—although it did—so much as it is that the comment promoted the faulty belief that children in foster care or from orphanages abroad are not worth adopting, that their lives can’t be redeemed.

Many of the children who have been in foster care or orphanages have experienced neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, homelessness, hunger, and/or domestic violence. The trauma they have experienced often leads children to cope through unusual behaviors. They may rock themselves to sleep in silence because no one is there to hold them and meet their needs, they may use feces to ward off an abuser, or very young children may begin to parent even younger siblings because no one else will. Suffering has trained their brains to respond to events in certain ways, ways that the child who is born into a loving, structured, and stable family has never had to learn.

In addition to abnormal behaviors, children’s responses may take the form of developmental and cognitive delays, attachment disorders, learning disabilities, and other challenges. These challenges likely won’t disappear as soon as a child has been moved into a safe home. Foster children often need to learn how to trust other people again, or for the first time. This learning journey requires time, effort, and thoughtful parenting strategies that may differ from the status quo.

Over the years, I’ve received a handful of comments similar to the “damaged kids” remark. When I find this happening, I try to draw attention to the gospel and to the way that God values human life. My goal isn’t to rebuke others but to remind myself of this truth and to be an ambassador for children who can’t advocate for themselves, who can’t explain that they are not too “damaged” or “too far gone” for adults to invest in them.

Isn’t that the gospel? We were dead in our sin, totally damaged by the effects of the fall, separated from God, and unable to save ourselves. Without Jesus and the resurrection, sin makes us “too far gone” in the sense that there is no hope for salvation through our efforts. God sent his son to live a perfect life, die for our sin, rise from the dead, save us, and bring us close to him. Salvation makes us new creations who have access to the Father’s throne through divine adoption. There is eternal hope in this gospel and immense hope for foster children because there is one God who restores relationships in this life and the next.

To be clear, I’m not advocating that foster parents take on a savior mentality. Adoptive parents are not Jesus, and we are not doing our children any favors by “rescuing” them from foster care, as if adoption is strictly about charity. These children owe us nothing. They are welcomed into our families, fully and completely, regardless of where they come from, how they behave, or who they grow up to be. Adam and I never expect our children to be grateful that we chose to parent them and, ultimately, adopt them.

On a related note, Christians are instructed to care for the fatherless, specifically in James 1:27, which says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Caring for the fatherless is a practical way to live out our faith in Christ. Life is valuable and full of purpose, and foster children, with everything they have lost, deserve a family where they can experience that life.

I say it all the time: We have the best kids. Adam and I often pause in the kitchen, look at each other, and ask, “How in the world did we get such great kids!?” God has been very kind to us.

To be honest, though, I didn’t exactly experience love at first sight when Jayda arrived. In that moment, fear eclipsed love. Jayda had no obvious flaws, but we had never been parents before and were terrified.

After only a few hours, this little boy was winning over our hearts with his high-pitched toddler giggle, extensive vocabulary, and love for eating ketchup on everything. Our affection for him hasn’t waned a bit; it’s only grown since those first few days together. We knew the importance of committing to Jayda, and parental affection flowed from our hearts as we made the choice to attach to a child we might lose.

 

Excerpt from chapter three (Valuing Our Children’s Unique Pasts: Learning How to Honor and Respect Their Losses) from Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption.

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April Swiger is a wife, mother to two awesome little boys (Jayda and Zay), homemaker, and blogger. In 2013, her family moved to her home state of Connecticut, where her husband, Adam, serves as the worship pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church. Living in a 100-year-old farmhouse, being debt-free, cooking nourishing food, and enjoying introvert-friendly activities are some of her favorite things.

You can join her for more “Faithfulness in the Mundane” at www.aprilswiger.com and Instagram.com/aprilswiger/.

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A Guide to Making Friends at Church

Seeking the Imago Dei

Time has not dulled the recollection of being a new member at church. My husband and I were newlyweds of just a few months when we moved back to his hometown and began the search for a church family to call home for us.

I remember asking him if we could look at several churches in the area before we landed on our church home. I was certain that we didn’t need to return to his church just because it was the pre-college fit for him as I felt we needed to explore a few other options to find the right fit for us.

When we landed on his church as our church, I had no friends that I had not merely known as acquaintances because they were friends of my husband. To be honest, being in a new city, in a new state, looking for a new church home for the first time since college, and away from my family more than a mere 100 miles for the first time in my life (the only person I knew was my husband), I was hesitant to jump into old friendships he had—for better or for worse.

Now, nearly 15 years later, I can truly say that I have become a part of the community at our church. I once was a first-time guest with little to no acquaintances, and now I would be hard-pressed to pass through the lobby without seeing several people that I know and could carry on a meaningful conversation with.

What is the secret to belonging at church? How do we go from being a guest looking in, to a member reaching out and joining hands with our sisters and brothers?

Read the Three Essential Steps to Making Friends at Church, here at iBelieve.

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Admitting Our Weaknesses to Seek God’s Strength

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I like to think that I stay on top of tasks and deadlines. However, there come certain times and circumstances in our lives that demand we lighten our load before we lose our mind! Just this week, I had to call and cancel my daughter’s orthodontist consultation for the second time. Actually, the call went something like this:

“Hi, Marline. This is Brooke Cooney. I am scheduled to bring my daughter in tomorrow for her orthodontist consultation. Last week I called to cancel because I hadn’t sent in the paperwork beforehand and also, we had a guest with us all week. Today, I am calling to cancel because I not only didn’t send in the paperwork, but now I can’t find it. Last week one child ran a fever and had a virus all week. This week my younger child woke up with a fever and has the virus too. Also, we are in the middle of an adoption and have just come off a weekend with family in town. I am sorry, but I will need to cancel and just stop by when everyone is well to fill out the paperwork and reschedule.”

Needless to say, Marline received more information than necessary, and was fine with me rescheduling. She was a little baffled that I lost the paperwork, and quite frankly so was I—the yellow folder containing all the paperwork will show up eventually. Cue the power of positive thinking!

I am a Type A woman, and Type A women like myself often want to function out of our own strength. We don’t usually ask for help, and when we are offered help, we hesitate to take it. Additionally, we’d rather not raise the white flag and admit we can’t make all things go according to schedule or as planned.

Right now, my family is walking through an emotionally difficult time as we are walking the slow path of adoption. Further, my husband’s mother is in the second half of a year-long chemo and radiation round to address breast cancer. To top those two situations off, the demands of homeschool, ministry, and work don’t cease. I feel like I am constantly giving and am at times to the point of completely poured out. I know my husband often feels the same. 

Please join me over at iBelieve to continue reading.

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Children and Spiritual Warfare

Children and Spiritual Warfare 

When Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me. Don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” ~Mark 10:14, HCSB

Why is it so hard to adopt mama? This is a question that one or both of our children have posed over the past eight months in which we have actively sought to adopt. The adoption process started almost five years ago for our family, but we ventured the path of foster care initially.

Why is it so hard to adopt? Why indeed?

I believe the answer which Russell Moore gives in the simple, short, and pertinent read, Adoption What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us About This Countercultural Choice,  is true, the protection of children isn’t charity…it’s spiritual warfare. Satan hates children. Jesus loves children. In fact, He came the first time in the form of a newborn babe. Protecting children, be it through foster care, adoption, or advocating and working to end sex trafficking or abortion is recognizing the Imago Dei in every life.

The demonic powers hate babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, 45), the most vulnerable among us, they’re destroying a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes their head (Genesis 3:1;5).

Children also mean blessing–a perfect target for those who seek only to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

When we adopt–and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities–we’re pictureing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.

~ Russell Moore, Adoption What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us About This Countercultural Choice

It only takes a glance at some of the day’s headlines to realize there is a war on children. Planned Parenthood advocating not only abortion, but involved in the selling of aborted babies body parts. The molestation of young boys in Afghanistan which our military has been ordered to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to (see here). The gunning down of a 10 year old boy –who had left fighting in Afghanistan to return to school–by the Taliban. The reported 10,000 missing migrant children who may have been trafficked and lost in a world of abuse. The headlines ream on.

The devil has it out for children (listen to the fourth section of Albert Mohler’s Daily Briefing for more on this topic); the church must stand ready to fight the good fight of faith on their behalf. How are we as the church and as individuals promoting a culture of life? What are some ways in which we can take up our shield of faith, sword of the Spirit, and go with our feet shod with the Gospel message? Let’s stand guard and defend the children of our day.

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Investing in Eternity

 

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

(Psalm 1:1-3, NIV, emphasis mine)

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Investing in eternity. That’s what parenting is. We plant the seeds of God’s word, prune and trim our little saplings, and bring rain and sunshine with life giving words and consistent discipline. Indeed, there are days where our words pour forth torrentially, but most days are steady streams of sunshine mixed with necessary watering and pruning as the need arises.

Our second sapling, Joshua, turned six last week. Over the last six years, we’ve diligently laid down tracks we pray he will continue to follow in the future as we tend to and nurture the young warrior God has given us. One discipline that we wanted to initiate in his sixth year, and soon to be our daughter’s eighth year, is that of saving. We’ve preached and modeled giving to God’s Kingdom, then enjoyed encouraging their dreams of giving their money away. But we haven’t as consistently modeled saving money for future use or for unforeseen needs.

On Wednesday afternoon of this week, I taxied Emily and Joshua to the local bank to open his savings account. He decided to place all of his birthday money into the savings account, which I thought was a wise decision. As we waited for the banker that would be assisting us, the lead teller walked by and we told her of Joshua’s plans. She said, “That will make your money grow!” Joshua looked a me and said, “Really mom? Will it make my money grow?” I smiled and answered his question as simply as I could to a degree satisfactory to him.

Finally, our turn arrived to fill out the appropriate paperwork for Joshua’s savings account. We gave the banker the necessary documentation (for future reference, be sure and have your child’s social security number on hand, I had to drive home and get his) and waited for him to process the request. As the banker walked away to gather the account number, he too stated, “Are you ready to watch your money grow?” When he had left us, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to share with Joshua the ways in which we watch our money grow.

“Joshua, come here sweetie, I want to tell you something,” I coaxed as he hopped into my lap. “There are two ways to watch your money grow, one is to invest your money in a savings account or investments which will grow your wealth on earth. The other, is to give it away to missions, or the poor, and by doing this, you grow your wealth and rewards in Heaven.” He looked at me and nodded his head in understanding, I continued, “I am so glad you are starting this savings account, and I am also glad when you give your money away to God.”

As Joshua nodded and said, “okay mama, I understand,” I gathered that was enough of a money lesson for the time, but I could not ignore the weight of this teachable moment upon me as a parent. Each time we invest in teaching our kids about godly and biblical principles, we are investing in eternity. That moment it happened to be about finances, but it could have easily been something else to do with friendship, honesty, loyalty, or discipline. Each lesson waters the saplings our children currently are to enable them to become mighty oaks planted by streams of Living Water.

What are the teachable moments you have had with a young person or peer this week? How have you sensed the Holy Spirit prompting you to make a disciple? Please share your moment so that we can learn and rejoice with you.

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The Big Ask: Are You Pregnant?

When Someone Asks If You're Pregnant and the Answer is No

The above picture is a current one of me, NOT PREGNANT. Have you ever been asked if you were pregnant when, clearly, you were not? Me too! Travel over to iBelieve today to see how to respond to this question with grace and truth. Because, let’s face it, the big ask stinks if the answer is a big no.

Read more here.

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15 Action Steps to Take to Promote A Culture of Life After You Have Prayed


 

15 Action Steps To Take To Promote Life After You Have Prayed

Many of us are dumbfounded, to say the least, after viewing any or all of the 10 videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress which exposes the money making arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood and Stem Express are making money off the sale of aborted baby body parts. This news leaves many of us asking, what can we do to put an end to this barbarity? Here are 15 action steps for you to consider and take after you pray for an end to abortion, a defunding of Planned Parenthood, and a respect for life from conception to grave.

1. Give to and/ or volunteer at your local pregnancy center.

2. Call your congressman and senator to petition them to vote to defund Planned Parenthood and legislate an end to abortion.

3.”Adopt” a single mom and her kids.

4. Foster a child. The difference a Christian family can make in pointing children in need to Jesus cannot be measured in this lifetime.

5. Adopt. It is a slow and painful process and you are not guaranteed your child will walk with Jesus. However, you are committed to making a disciple and ending a family cycle of drug abuse, domestic violence, and a host of other problems that plague our society.

6. Vote your moral convictions and not your pocketbook.

7. Spread the gospel and let the seeds bear the fruit that they will. We will not reap what we have not sewn.

8.Make disciples within your church who make disciples. Moms and dads change the cultural fabric of our world one child at a time. For good or for evil.

9. Volunteer with children in the foster care system, a local school, or an orphanage. Mentors change lives by the power of Jesus.

10. Give to organizations like the Center for Medical Progress who expose the truth of abortion and the sale of baby body parts for “medical research.” Or, help fund a friend’s adoption. Many times families who want to adopt don’t because of the money.

11. Educate yourself with the facts. Read and research for the truth. You will likely not hear the facts nor the truth on the evening news or in the New York Times.

12. Do for one mom, teen, child, or orphan what you would do for all.

13. Get creative! Use your artistic abilities of paint, pen, or graphic design to get people’s attention and point them towards life.

14. Include your kids in ministering to the poor, elderly, and the orphan. Developing compassionate Christ-centered lives starts early.

15. Run for office and be involved in politics. We need godly leaders in every area of local, state, and federal government.

What would you add to this list? I welcome your thoughts.

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Making People a Part of Your Journey

Life Lessons on Manitou

A month ago, our family attempted our toughest hike to date. The famous Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado.The Manitou Incline is a converted rail-car track. It is an intense one mile ascent with a 2,000 foot elevation gain. Not for the faint of heart or those lacking determination!

Our family was excited and as ready as Floridians could be for this hike. One portion of the experience that I had not factored in were the people we would meet along the journey. We thought we would arrive early enough that very few people would even be on the trail. That was an inaccurate assumption! The trail was full even at 6:00 AM on a Saturday.

There were military service men and women hiking for conditioning, a local set of twin brothers and their younger brother who hike the trail everyday and twice on Saturday, and a woman with a prosthetic leg, along with a host of out-of-towners and tourists just like us.

One man in particular made our acquaintance and a lasting impression as well. His name was Don. Don is a father of three grown boys and a first timer at hiking Manitou. He stopped periodically to ask us questions about our kids and comment on what a great job we were doing as parents for having our kids attempt something so difficult at such an early age. (We may have been crazy, but we accepted commendable too.) He encouraged us and visited with us when he could have carried on and continued with little thought of the family of four attempting the same journey he was on.

But he didn’t.

Don made people a part of his journey, and we benefited from his encouragement and company.

As we neared the summit of Manitou, there was Don waiting on our family and cheering us on to the finish. He waited to take our picture and celebrate with us. He took the time to text the pictures to my husband and give him some pointers for navigating the four mile descent down Barr Trail. Don wasn’t obligated to go the second mile, but the second mile is why he is more memorable than many other people we hiked the Incline with that day.

As we bustle about our everyday jobs and activities, let’s strive to make the second, memorable mile for someone who is walking the same direction we are. Who knows, maybe in taking time to encourage and celebrate another person’s journey will forever change our own.

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*Photo courtesy of our friend, Don.

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