Mama’s K.I.S.S. #47: Christian Camps

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 47 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

Christian summer camps can be  great service oriented experiences for your children. When I first began writing the Mama’s K.I.S.S. series, though, I would have recommended different camps than I would today. I say that just to place the burden of responsibility on parents to check out the camp before assuming your kids will benefit from going. I heard just today from two unrelated campers in different states who were very young and exposed at camp to conversations with sexual content that wasn’t fit for anyone’s ears, much less the very young. Just be sure the camp has a very high ratio of staff to campers and that the staff is fully committed to guarding the innocence of your young children and guiding them in holiness. I highly recommend the Apologetics Press weeks of Indian Creek Youth Camp (http://www.indiancreekyouthcamp.org) and the amazing West Huntsville week at Camp Neyati in Guntersville, AL. I love POINT camp in Corinth, MS, as well and you can contact Sami Nicholas (https://www.facebook.com/sami.nicholas.3) for more information about that one. 

The point, though, of today’s post is that it’s a great idea to become involved with your kids in a good and sound summer camp. Parental involvement is why we have only about three children to every one adult at Camp Neyati. If your children see you sweating, serving, cooking, and cleaning…and loving it, they are well on their way to doing the same. As you get involved, you can make sure the kids have a healthy balance of fun and Bible study and service, too. Every craft doesn’t have to be carried home with the campers. Gifts can be made in the craft hut for widows or nursing home patients. I recall walking in a a huge group from Maywood Camp, in Alabama, one year, to visit an elderly couple who lived nearby. And I’ve made literally scores of loaves of bread with teens in camps to deliver to those who needed encouragement and to teach the girls to continue a kitchen ministry. We’ve made cards to encourage teachers and visited congregations to conduct children’s classes..all while at camp. We’ve trained to do personal Bible studies and learned to serve at ladies days. 

Camp can be a great service training mini-course. Just be picky and, whenever possible, be a volunteer!

Sister to Sister: Just Sharing A Boost

The sweetest part of my weekend just might have been when a lady approached me as I was eating lunch on Saturday. I had just finished speaking at a ladies seminar near Montgomery, Alabama about the glorious bride of Jesus, the church. She told me her name and how that she had cared for her father until he passed away in his nineties. I could relate to that as I, along with my siblings, have the current privilege of doing that same wonderful thing. But then she said this: “I just want to tell you how very much we love your son, Caleb, over at the University church.”  She went on to tell me some of the things in which he had participated while he was a member at University during the years he attended graduate school at Faulkner. During these years, he also worked at Apologetics Press. All of those things made me smile. But then she said something I’ll always remember: “He used to come over to my house and have a Boost with my daddy.” 

There are at least four things that made me love knowing this:

  1. Caleb does not always like to try new things, especially drinks that are made to help older people ingest a bunch of calories, make up for nutritional losses and gain weight.
  2. Caleb is not a fan of calorie-laden foods or gaining weight, period.
  3. Caleb was extremely busy while he lived in Montgomery.
  4. This elderly, gentle Christian man, at this point in life, could offer very little in goods or services to Caleb, so he offered him a Boost, in more than one way. 

See, there’s really just one reason Caleb would have had a Boost. It was because the frail body and hesitant taste buds of his ninety-plus-year-old brother needed some encouragement to get that drink down. Sometimes, when a young person takes on the responsibility of helping older Christians gain physical strength, the simultaneous  and automatic result is that the young person grows in spiritual strength. That rich drink was meant to strengthen Caleb’s elderly friend. In reality, the biggest boost was probably for the young college student. 

And, because that student was my son, the boost was still being recycled today as this sweet sister told me something good about Caleb that I did not know. Someone could have told me that one of my children had done some great thing and I would not have been more encouraged. But wait, that’s exactly what happened.

“He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Little Eden Nix, age 4, coincidentally asked her mother today “How can God take such good care of us when He doesn’t even have a wife?” Once again, there’s a big spiritual reality for little Eden. God has a wife; the glorious bride of God, the Son (Ephesians 5). She’s the church of Jesus Christ. It is through that “wife” that He does take such good care of us, providing water that permanently quenches (John 4), the Bread that gives life  (John 6:33), milk and meat (Hebrews 12), and, most importantly salvation from sins. And, in Montgomery, Alabama, on those visits to the home of a nonagenarian, it was the fellowship in that bride that provided a Boost from those wrinkled hands to young and agile ones that were learning the joy of “bride” service. I am glad God has a wife and I am so thankful to be married to Jesus. 

To Honor Annie

10011689_10152669580002586_1383661133_oThis weekend, friends in Salem, Virginia laid to rest the body of one of the dearest friends I’ll know in this lifetime, Annie Shrader. It was just about this time of year, twenty-nine Octobers ago, when I came to know her. I was moving to a state in which I’d never lived, to a house I’d never seen, to work with a church of people I did not know.  When I arrived at that empty house, on that crisp October morning, there were wreaths on the doors, donuts on the mantel, coffee in the kitchen and leaves and pumpkins in festive corners. The empty house was not so empty, after all. There was already warmth and there were telling signs of the deep fellowship we would enjoy with God’s people in Salem.  And it was Annie’s doing.

 

I loved those sweet anonymous (at the time) greetings and so did my very young children. It just made for a happy end to a difficult trip and an inviting threshold to a whole new life for our family. It was later that I found out it was Annie who made my home warm that day. And it was later that I learned she was very sick, having had cancer first as a child, and that she would battle it over and over for the rest of her days. My first visit to her home was when our family trick-or-treated at her house that same October. She was confined to her bed that Halloween, but she laughed and laughed at our silly costumes and she made our pictures and kept them on her refrigerator. One year, for Halloween, our family dressed up to impersonate the Shraders.   Halloween became a traditional time of fun with this sweet family and, even after we’d moved to Alabama from Salem, we exchanged silly trick-or-treat cards every year. I’m sad that I will not get those funny cards anymore at the end of October. I will miss them.

So, as I remember Annie, I remember the person in my life who was the most likely candidate for being absorbed with self pity, but the one who was the most caring for those who could use a hand up…the one who brought the most smiles to innocent faces of children…the one who wrote long letters to those who were far from home…the one who took time for the fatherless…the one who made lives that were shattered by sin a little more hopeful. She made those who were left out or eccentric feel included and normal.

Several years ago I wrote the following in which I reminisced about Annie. I’m thinking about her again tonight. It occurs to me that the words I used above, about my new home in Salem can also be used about her new home: “…a happy ending to a difficult trip and an inviting threshold to a whole new life.” She’s pain-free. Her neck and face are not misshapen any more. Her speech is not slurred. I want to see her like I’ve never seen her. I want to see her whole and strong.

 

In honor of the person who never pity partied…In honor of the person who sent me all these Halloween cards that make me smile anew every October when I pull them out and peruse…in honor of Annie:

 

Have you any friends who are party animals? I mean pity party animals?  I do, and I love them, but they are not very much fun.  They always get the raw end of every deal, the short end of every stick, and nobody, but nobody understands their plights. If it’s raining, they’re depressed. If it’s sunny, they’re  sweaty. Either no one pays attention to them or people just won’t leave them alone. They just have perpetual gloom, despair and misery regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Why do we have pity parties?  Why do we allow the circumstances of this life to impede our progress toward the next?  Let me offer a few reasons. Perhaps these can help us to be prepared for pity party invitations and just RSVP in the negative every time. There is always something better on the agenda!
1. Sometimes we forget that we are not alone. 
Our God is described as the ever present source of strength (Psa. 46:1) and He has promised that he will never leave or forsake us (Heb.13:5). The never of this passage is actually a double negative word adding emphasis to the assurance of His presence.
2. Sometimes we forget that Christians see in 3-D.
Having worked extensively with a group of ladies who are newly converted to Christianity, I have observed that it’s very difficult for them to correct the one-dimensional vision that characterizes worldliness. The focus of their existence has always been on themselves. Every decision has been based on “What’s in it for me?”  This inward obsession is simply and sadly characteristic of our society. To begin to have an upward focus and really care about what God thinks is a challenge for ladies coming out of the world.  Then to develop an outward focus, noticing and responding to the needs of others is just a whole new dimension of vision that the new Christian must really work to maintain. Symptoms of the problem are evident. A new Christians may think the fellowship meals are for her, never stopping to think to prepare food and bring it to an activity. A new Christian may have a different problem she wants you to help resolve each time she sees you at a worship service while she may rarely express interest in the problems of others or take the time to pray for them. She may tell you how busy she is and how little time she has for activities of the church, listing all of her job demands, sports activities and hobbies, never even thinking that those who are faithful and involved have tough schedules every week as well.  She may expect to be visited or called, without once thinking of visiting someone herself.
But these ladies are babies in the faith. We must remember that babies are all about themselves.  All of us who are moms understand that babies are not thoughtful of the needs of others. The focus is definitely inward. But for those of us who have been Christians for years the focus should no longer be one-dimensional. Stopping the self- absorption and becoming absorbed in the Word and in fervent, practical prayer has the ironic effect of self-fulfillment.  Likewise, when we see and minister to the desperate needs of the people around us, we ourselves are lifted up. We begin to be great when we begin to serve (Mt. 23:11).
3. Sometimes we stop walking and have a seat.
Idleness is the devil’s workshop.  Sometimes I see widows who go home from the funeral, close the door and just resolve to never be happy again. Other times I see widows who, for a very long time, have been unable to do much else besides care for an invalid husband. But once the long hours of caretaking are over, these godly women immerse themselves in programs of the church, ministry to the needy and the development of godly friendships.  These widows are some of the happiest Christians I know.
I remember when I was in my thirties (you know a couple of years ago), I had a dear friend named Annie. I was amazed at what Annie could accomplish for the Lord. She visited several nursing homes weekly, carrying little goody baskets to several patients. She had a tiny gift for every single child of the congregation at each holiday. (She was the Dollar Tree Queen!) Her four and five’s classroom was amazing as her husband lugged a big box of visuals and activities every Sunday and Wednesday night. She remembered birthdays and anniversaries and took the time to keep children when their parents were sick or just needed a little time away. She brought computer-made banners to the building for us all to sign so they could be posted in a lonely hospital or dorm room. She prepared welcome signs and goody baskets for the hotel rooms of our visiting preachers and teachers. In short, she was “ready to every good work (Tit. 3:1). I think some people thought Annie was just a great person with lots of spare time to do great stuff for other people. Annie was, in truth, a cancer patient, having already had several surgeries with several more to come. She was raising a child with a disability, caring for a mother-in-law who was in poor health, and struggling with severe back problems. I actually remember her attending our Wednesday night ladies class and lying in the back of the classroom on a table because sitting in a chair was both painful and harmful to her back. Annie simply chose not to stop and sit down when life hurt. She chose to keep walking toward heaven.  It was her choice not to have a pity party!

4. Sometimes we forget who fills our tank.  Sometimes when I am driving a long distance, I am frustrated because I have to stop and pump gas. I hate to pump gas. I especially hate to pump gas at night. I abhor pumping gas at night when the price of gas is three times what I paid only two years ago. I can get in a bad slump over pumping gas. When I do start feeling frustration at the pump, it only takes me a minute to think about the primary reason this frustration builds. It’s because pumping gas is a pretty rare occurrence for me. See, I have a husband who will go out of his way to pump my gas for me under normal circumstances. It’s only when I travel alone that I am forced to deal with the bite of the chilling air, the smell of gas on my fingers and the pinch of the price gouge.  Naomi in the book of Ruth said, “God hath sent me out full and brought me home again empty.”  It is true that Naomi had experienced devastating losses while she was away from home. But she, like so many of us today, was quick to blame God for the losses while failing to credit Him with the sustenance, strength, and even the lessons that come with trials. She could have used a quick lesson from the book of Job .

And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

5. Sometimes we like to broadcast the problems and keep the blessings a big secret.
Listen to Naomi’s homecoming statement in full:

But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 
I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20,21)

She said, “Don’t call me by my old name. I would like to be called ‘Bitter’.”
She said, “God treated me very bitterly.”
She said, “God emptied me.”
She said, “God testified against me.”
She said, “God afflicted me.”
I believe Naomi had thought ahead about this little speech. I believe she was ready to get a few things off her chest when she got back to her family and friends. Perhaps it was not the first time she had delivered it. But the indictment of the Almighty God, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (Jas. 1:17), was a pity party theme that borders on blasphemy. (Thankfully, the party was brief and she soon had an outward focus once again.) Broadcasting our problems in a spirit of bitterness serves to feed that spirit. It is a call for reinforcements for all that is negative in our lives.  Sometimes Mom’s words, “If you can’t say something positive, then don’t say anything at all,” make a lot of sense.

*(Much of this material taken from Women of Troubled Times, by Cindy Colley, Publishing Designs, Huntsville, AL.)

Mama’s K.I.S.S #45–The G.I.F.T.S. Projects

thAs you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 45 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

This one’s a little different, in that, rather than making a single suggestion for serving, this time I’m recommending a resource that has lots of ideas for serving and growing in Him. The book G.I.F.T.S, by Hannah Colley Giselbach, is a thirteen chapter book for teen girls. Including a myriad of topics like evangelism, influences of the media, Bible study, prayer and dating, the book is Scripture-filled and practical. When Hannah wrote the book, she was sixteen years old, so her perspective was that of a peer rather than merely that of an instructor.

What makes the book fit into the Mama’s K.I.S.S. series is the projects feature included in each chapter. Every chapter concludes with a list of potential projects for girls to complete alone or in groups. These projects range from organizing spiritual events to participating in evangelistic studies. It’s a great way to organize the service efforts of teen girls in your own home and in your congregation. The book encourages fellowship and group completion of many of the activities. Because serving together is more fun than serving alone, this approach will leave teen girls enthusiastic about filling needs in congregation and community.

Below is an example of some of the many projects from which teen girls choose as they progress through the book:

  Send five encouraging notes to five different younger girls during each week this

      month. Include praise for positive attributes and a verse of scripture in each.

 

   Ask a younger girl, or a group of younger girls to sit with you during each

       service  during the next month.

 

  Take a stack of index cards, a marker, and a role of double stick tape to school

      with you one day. Encourage at least twelve people by placing encouraging

      “way-to-go-notes” on their lockers, desks, text books, etc. Include scripture

       when appropriate.

 

  Find five instances in scripture when lying or deception led to more sin. Bring

      your list and Bible references to the next study sessions and discuss with mentor. 

 

  Write a children’s fable or fairy story about someone who gets in big trouble

 because of a lie. Ask one of the young children’s teachers in your congregation if

 you can visit a children’s class and read your story. Be sure to apply the story to

 the children’s lives when you finish reading.

 

   Check the newspaper0r a news website every day for a month for current events or court cases

       that include deception. Compile these in a folder or scrapbook and turn them in 

       to your mentor at the next meeting.

It’s important to remember that our kids need to keep serving right on through the teen years rather than becoming self-absorbed as the culture in which they may matriculate tends to be. G.I.F.T.S. is a rich resource for teen service.

 

You can find G.I.F.T.S. at www.thecolleyhouse.org.

 

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #43–Cooking Times Four

Portrait of happy mother and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 43 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

I’m sure you’ve thought of doing this with your kids, but it’s been a real benefit to ministry on several occasions for this family. Every time I make a casserole, a cobbler or a soup of any kind, I multiply all ingredient amounts by four, prepare the ingredients, and then spoon them out into 4-6 casserole dishes (depending on dish sizes), cover them well with heavy-duty foil, and freeze all of them except the one we are having for supper. I usually place the wrapped dishes in individual giant zippy bags to help guard them from freezer burn. I also label the bags with the name of the dish and the instructions for cooking or re-heating the dish. The casseroles and pies are almost always placed in the freezer before the baking, so you can just grab them from the freezer, thaw them and bake according to directions. Soups only need reheating. This is great math for upper-elementary kids, as they multiply the fractions of cups and teaspoons, and it’s great hospitality and benevolence planning for kids (especially daughters) of any age.

I know I don’t need to explain the benefits of this, but here goes. It’s cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk.  It greatly reduces cooking time because it only takes a few more minutes to make four casseroles than it takes to make one. When you do four meals at the time, you have one mess to clean up instead of four. 

But the biggest plus for me is being able to take a dish to a grieving family on the spur of the moment or to enjoy time with visiting family or friends instead of spending all my time cooking and cleaning the kitchen. It’s great to be able to have food on hand for Sunday dinners or fellowship meals. It’s great to be able to take a meal to someone who has just gotten home from the hospital or to someone who has a sick child. Best of all, your kids are watching and absorbing this active freezer ministry which just becomes a part of your family’s routine. It would be worth the price of my deep freezer many times over just for the consistency of hospitality and benevolence that it afforded our family. Of course we were still not even close to thorough or perfect as we took advantage of having a deep freezer. But still, it was/is a very helpful tool. 

Here are some dishes that work particularly well in the freezer. I’ve included the most recent recipe that I prepared and froze as well. It was very good! Thanks to Diana Shafer in Collierville, TN for sharing! It has already gone to a couple of octogenarians in their home in Tennessee and  to a visiting preacher-student family around our table.

These work well: 

Any kind of soup

Chili

Lasagne

Poppy seed chicken casseroles

Chicken, broccoli and rice casseroles

Most pasta dishes (especially if they are creamy)

Ground beef and vegetable casseroles

Dumpling dishes

Cobblers of any kind 

Dump cakes

Enchilada casseroles

Casseroles with crescent roll type crusts/toppings

Homemade Bread (Wrap well in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil or plastic wrap.)

(If a casserole calls for a cracker or potato chip or corn chip topping, add this after you remove it from the freezer.) 

                                                                                  Creamy Chicken

Ingredients:

4-8 chicken breasts or 1 chicken

1 pt. sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 8 oz. package Pepperidge Farm dressing mix (may use more)… (Also, I think I used a store brand and it was yum.)

1/4 c.milk

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Directions:

Cook chicken (boil or cook in microwave). Cool. Remove skin and cut into bite-size pieces. Line 9×13 dish with chicken. (But you can really use any size dishes. cc) Sprinkle with salt. Combine soups, sour cream and milk. Spread this over chicken.Prepare dressing mix according to directions on package. Margarine may be omitted if you do not like rich dressing. Use broth from chicken or chicken bouillon for liquid required in dressing mix. Spread dressing on top of soup mixture. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. May be frozen before baking.  (This is easy and so very good!)

 

Sister to Sister: Mama’s K.I.S.S. #42– Dropping Opportunities

Fiestas_Patrias_Parade,_South_Park,_Seattle,_2015_-_090_-_child_picking_up_candy_(21574028625)-1As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been presenting installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” This is number 42 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to have servant hearts. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

There are so many of these “dropping opportunities” if moms just look around. It helps to start this one way before your kids are big enough to participate. It’s just courtesy, kindness and deference to others and it will come naturally to teach this to your children if you begin practicing this on your own before it’s time to teach them. Just watch for people, especially older people who drop something. Sometimes she knocks items off of a  grocery shelf. Sometimes she inadvertently leaves a coin purse unzipped and coins roll all over the parking lot as she unlocks her car. Sometimes it’s someone younger and her baby drops a sippy cup or a pacifier from the stroller or grocery cart. A grocery list, a walking cane, a pencil, a kleenex, a pair of sunglasses…even a communion cup from a shaky hand—someone is always dropping something and dropping times are stopping times for moms who want to put service in the hearts of their kids. When your kids get big enough, make it a contest to see who can calmly and safely be first to pick up a dropped item for someone while you are out today. Kids who smile and speak (without a reminder) to the person who dropped the item as it’s returned get an extra point. If the returned “stuff” requires “catching and/or gathering” from the ground, that’s another point.

I know. This is common sense. But common sense about courtesy is becoming less and less common as we incorporate our families into an ever busier and isolated world. This is a simple way to help us preserve the vestiges of courtesy in the places where they are precious to Christian families; most especially our homes. 

Finally, all of you, have… a tender heart, and a humble mind. (I Peter 3:8)