Thursday, May 1, 2008

Conversation Starters for the Dinner Table

By Sharon Glasgow

Open-ended questions can get your family talking about God in a natural, unstructured way. Here are some suggestions:

Why do we obey God's commands/why does it matter what we do?

Why does it seem like ungodly people succeed?

How can we know God's will for our lives?

How do we know if the choices we make in life are the right ones?

How do we know God is listening when we pray?

Do our prayers make a difference?

How do I respond when a non-believer asks if I think they're going to hell?

Should we evangelize or are our actions enough to witness to non-believers?

Who is the Holy Spirit and how do I know he is in me?

Are demons and angels real? How do they affect my life?

How do I love my neighbor as myself?

How do you lead a person to accept Jesus Christ?

What should or shouldn’t Christians watch on TV?

What does the Bible say about gossip?

What is your plan for resisting temptation?

Sharon Glasgow and her husband, Dale, live and work on a farm in Fredericksburg, Va., with three of their children, Hannah, Rachael and Elizabeth; and Sharon’s mother, Louise. Daughter Heather, is married and lives in Fairfax, Virginia. and Jennifer lives in Los Angeles, California. Leading women to the heart of God is Sharon’s passion. She accomplishes this by writing and speaking for Him. Visit Sharon’s website for more information:

Living with the Shades Drawn

By Tara Hackney

I live on the banks of a beautiful river in southeastern North Carolina. We have lots and lots of windows and lots and lots of shades to cover the windows. When we first moved into our home, I stood in awe at the beauty each morning as I opened all the shades. Then, life crept in… Preschool and gymnastics and Kindermusik beckoned each morning and opening the shades became a hassle, too much effort, and an unnecessary part of my day.

One evening, I was sitting in my son’s room (which happens to have the best view in the house) and I’m not sure why, but I opened the shade. I was shocked by what I saw – the sunset was spectacular! The sky was filled with varied hues of orange and pink. Sunbeams threw up their arms to reach over the clouds and the river lay shimmering and silver. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing sitting inside with my shades drawn.

As Christian mothers, are we living with the shades drawn? Do we have access to glory and power and strength to get through the day but fail to ask for it because we are so consumed with our busyness? Do we take the time to truly stop and look at the children God has blessed us with? Do we ever stand back and watch as they pretend to be pirates or princesses? Do we ever crouch down to see the world through their eyes? Do we take the time to watch them sleep and pray fiercely - begging God for their health and safety?

Through His creation, which includes our little ones, God reminds us daily of His never-ending presence. All we have to do is take the time to stop and open the shade. Then and only then can we bask in His presence.

Tara Hackney is currently raising her shades in Wilmington, North Carolina where she lives with her husband, Spence, and her sons: Nathan (4) and Christian (2). She is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the family’s newest addition in October. Tara spends most of her time painting, coloring, reading board books, cooking, cleaning, and hugging. She enjoys writing in her spare time and strives for a deeper relationship with Christ.

The Fruit of Summer

By Ann Marie Stewart

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

At the end of this summer, what stories will your scrapbook tell? How many pages will show the fruit of your summer?

I embrace two months of running barefoot in the grass, catching fireflies at night, and sitting around our neighborhood pool. I enjoy sleeping in without pressures or deadlines. The rules slide. Rooms aren’t always kept clean, instruments aren’t regularly practiced, and the only homework is when I finally declare the house a disaster zone in need of house-work.

But a summer without any discipline can yield little fruit. And with irregular schedules and vacations, it’s easy to let church attendance slide. Although summer is a time for refreshment and renewal, it can become spiritually dry. It doesn’t have to be that way. It just takes forethought, prayer, and a little focus.

One summer when my daughters were four and six, we decided to be “fruitful.” Each week we chose a tangible fruit and a corresponding verse for the nine fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We learned the verse, talked about what it meant, and attempted to live it out. The girls determined which fruit represented love, joy, peace, and more, and by the end of the summer, the kitchen cupboards were filled with banana, kiwi, peach, and more, labeled with a corresponding Bible verse. If you want to go deeper in your personal quiet time, you can study Beth Moore’s “Living Beyond Yourself” and then share what you learn with your children. For example, Beth gives the sign language for Galatians 5:22-23, which is a great way to help a kinesthetic student learn this passage.

Another summer, we walked with Jesus by studying the book of Mark during our quiet time on the quilt. We traced our feet on colored construction paper and after each day’s reading we wrote what we learned on a footprint and tacked it up. Pretty soon we had the footsteps and teachings of Christ walking about our kitchen cupboards.

One season, my daughters enjoyed making paper dolls dressed with a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love. They determined which attributes represented shoes, hats, dress, and gloves. We spent seven days dressing dolls from characteristics found in Colossians 3:12-14.

If you have boys as well as girls, try dressing a soldier in the full armor of God: truth, the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, sword of the spirit, and Gospel of Peace (Galatians 6:11-17). These items of apparel will make a great set of new school clothes!

When school let out, a teacher friend of mine headed for the ocean with a beach study she created for her two elementary-aged children. They began by memorizing, “The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:5) followed by making sand mosaics. Each of the six holidays was another fun Bible beach lesson.

Consider a summer treasure hunt, kids love clues and treasures. Hide verses or clues throughout the house. The ending treasure is a promise from the Word and perhaps a prize. What an exciting not-so-quiet time! Then put a large heart on your wall to collect all of these promises from God’s Treasure Book. Keeping time in the Word active and fun brings variety to their study, and makes it something your kids will look forward to.

My cousin Joan and her husband select a Bible verse or passage for their family each summer. One year they studied the 10 Commandments, and before heading to a mission field, they learned verses on evangelism. Perhaps the nine “Blesseds” of Matthew 5:3-11, could be a perfect match for nine weeks and a summer of blessings.

Last summer , we studied the Gospel of John, looking for the seven miracles, and the seven “I AMs.” We watched the John Visual Bible series to reinforce what we were studying. We also looked at the “FUN-damentals” and reviewed important sections of the Bible such as the Ten Commandments, Psalm 23, and the Lord’s Prayer. I haven’t figured out this year’s summer theme, but I look forward to seeing what God wants us to learn for a great ‘08.

Why not ask God what characteristics He wants you and your children to grow in this summer? Perhaps this summer will end in a harvest of fruit. Can you imagine your family’s summer verse inscribed on scrapbook pages and more importantly—IN their hearts?

Lord, show me what to teach my children. Help me find the scriptures for them to study and memorize and then apply. May this summer be a summer of bearing fruit for You.

Ann runs a small sheep farm in Virginia with her husband and two daughters. She loves to make God’s Word come alive with story, song, anecdotes from the farm, and drama. For more information, see and her books Preparing My Heart for Advent: A Spiritual Pilgrimage for the Advent Season, and Preparing My Heart for Easter: A Woman’s Journey to the Cross and Beyond.