Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Teaching Our Children Empathy

by Laura Hodges Poole

Recently, my son Josh and I were surfing the Internet for a particular charity to which he wanted to donate. With the click of the mouse we made a contribution, and he was off to his next activity. Something troubled me about this, and then it occurred to me what it was: It had been too easy to click and run.

When I thought further, I felt my husband and I had been fairly successful in instilling empathy in Josh for those less fortunate in our world. He understands their plight. But I wondered—does he feel it? Do children today grasp the hardships facing those who are barely getting by? How can they, if their own lives are not impacted by this suffering?

Helping others is simple when you write a check and drop it in the mail, or better yet, go online and donate with a click of the mouse. But our children are easily misled by the instantaneous process of helping someone without physically being involved. It can be difficult for them, based on this kind of giving, to develop a true servant’s heart that puts someone else’s needs ahead of their own interests. And, they miss the opportunity to show Christ’s love to a fallen world.

Many obstacles impede success in this area. Let’s be honest. With the demands of family and homework, it’s challenging for us as working parents to carve out time to physically minister to others. But when we don’t, we lose the opportunity for teaching moments for our children. Furthermore, hurried living can create a disconnection in the way family members relate to one another, reducing opportunities to model empathy for the child.

Other obstacles are the competing forces, including school activities and sports, vying for children’s attention. When they do have free time, children are too often plugged into and saturated by electronic media. Television scenes depicting starvation, homelessness, and calamities are so routine that children are desensitized to the suffering they see without experiencing it firsthand. Regular, hands-on activities are necessary for them to develop true empathy for others in need.

The Bible teaches, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 1:7-8a ).

I got up from the computer that day resolving that Josh’s concept of helping others wouldn’t begin and end with a click of the mouse, writing a check, or the occasional drop at Goodwill store. Sure, we participate in Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes each year and drop our coins into the Salvation Army buckets outside department stores. But I knew we needed to be involved in helping the less fortunate regularly, locally, and in a hands-on way. As a Christian parent, it is my responsibility to teach my children the integrity of doing God’s work.

I phoned a food pantry in town to inquire about their needs, and then Josh and I headed to a grocery store to buy canned goods and bread. At the pantry, we observed impoverished people standing in line, barely making eye contact or nodding as we came in, and a few thanking us or saying “God bless you,” as we walked out. Back in our minivan, I knew the seed had been planted when Josh said, “Mom, did you see how poor those people looked?”

I wanted to do more. Our church youth group feeds the homeless and disadvantaged in a parking lot downtown on Monday evenings. Josh and I baked cookies and arrived that Monday, ready to lend a hand. As we handed out hamburgers and drinks, I observed the impression the experience was having on Josh. He responded to the nuances of people’s personalities, some cordial but quiet, others talkative, but all taking their food with a “thank you” or “God bless.” Many hung around and chatted while we refilled their plates and cups. Although it was a hot summer afternoon in an asphalt parking lot, the time went quickly and no one seemed to mind the feeling of discomfort. After all, most of the people we were serving lived out in the elements all of the time.

During the drive home, Josh and I discussed the men and women we had met, but he had been particularly impacted by the street-savvy children whose lives were so different from his. Several had ridden up on old, rusty bikes, none of which matched its rider in size. For the first time, Josh had been amongst children who needed his help. And they weren’t from faraway countries but from right here in the backyard of our small town in South Carolina.

The experience opened Josh’s eyes in a way that watching the scenes unfold on television never could have. He had felt the plight of those disadvantaged. He understood it by experiencing firsthand the implications of their life situations, and he was eager to return the following Monday.

Despite our family schedules, finding even occasional opportunities and time to participate in service projects is not difficult. Involvement takes purposeful living. Modeling the concept of physically ministering to others is an essential step toward instilling empathy in our children. Their spiritual development is far too serious not to do so.

Laura Hodges Poole resides in South Carolina with her husband and son. She has written for Reach Out Columbia, Evangel, Christian Home and School, Christian Devotions, and WOW-Writing On the Word.. Co-author of Laurie’s Story: Discovering Joy in Adversity, Laura also writes Christian novels and is a member of ACFW. Join her for “A Word of Encouragement” at

Rise Up For Excellent Service

By Lisa Bevere

This word “service” has multiple applications. It is both a verb and a noun. As a verb, it means “to repair, check, tune, and examine.” Jesus did us a great “service” through his sacrifice and made us fit to stand before a holy God. We live in a way that reflects this life-giving service. He was broken so we might be repaired. The noun form of service can mean “ceremony, ritual, or sacrament.”

Sometimes I fear we’ve forgotten that the purpose of a church “service” is to learn how to serve God and one another well. Far too many Christians gather with the wrong expectation. They come to hear how God will serve them. Instead, let’s come together for the purpose of reaching out to those who falter within our buildings and outside our sanctuaries.

With the promise of freedom, favor, and new opportunities opening up before us, let’s move forward in the things of God so that none might fall behind. I love this charge: Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge

(1 Corinthians 4:1–2).

We are to be guides, not security guards. We are to invite others into the kingdom, not keep them outside the mystery of God. We are charged to be reliable guides with accurate knowledge. Let’s be certain to pause at the openings God has made for us, and if necessary, reach back so that others do not fall behind. As a daughter of the Most High, your reach should be both generous and noble. The life of God liberates, while the law burdens. You have been released from the “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” approach to Christianity.

Yet there are far too many partially blind and toothless ones walking around in the body of Christ. Never forget who you are—strong, majestic, fearless, fierce, protective, at rest, and unworried. God repeatedly compared the strength of his royal children to lions and lionesses: “Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her?” (Numbers 24:9, NLT)

If you forget your fierce and fearless nature, then all who look to you for protection and guidance will be at risk. The body of Christ is made up of noble, powerful guardians who have awakened to the realization that God has opened up a wide expanse before us.

Dear sisters, lionesses, and friends… I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Corinthians 6:11–13)

Do you hear this? We have been invited to enter into the wild, wide-open spaces of God. This is a summons to live expansively, here and now. You don’t have to wait until heaven to see heaven’s power released on earth. God is not the one fencing you in.

But the lionesses did not move outside their enclosure until their hunger exceeded their desire to be safe. In the same way, our lack of vision or hunger for something more can limit and restrain us from stepping out into the wild. We are emboldened or held captive by how we see ourselves, our world, and our God. The world “out there” can look daunting if you imagine it a dark, scary place.

Open your eyes and remember who you are—a golden bearer of light who has the power to dispel darkness wherever she goes. “The Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world” (1 John 4:4). It is not even a close match. The Spirit within you far exceeds the might of any opposition you may encounter in this world! It is the Most High God who calls you out. He sent his Son to die on a cross so you might cross over from death to life and from this world’s places of confinement into the eternal expanse. Even before you drew your first breath, he had made a way to release you from captivity.

He chose to confine himself and experience our small, fenced-in life so you could join him in the vast freedom of the kingdom. Even now he calls to each of us, “Cross over and enter in!”

Lisa Bevere is an international speaker who empowers women to live fearless and purposeful lives. She is the bestselling author of “Fight Like a Girl,” and “Nurture,” among others. She co-hosts the television program “The Messenger,” which airs in more than 200 countries. Bevere and her husband John, are the founders of Messenger International (, a Colorado Springs-based ministry.

Excerpted from “Lioness Arising” by Lisa Bevere Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Bevere. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From Princess to Pornography: One Woman’s Struggle with Lust


Pornography, by its very nature, assaults everything beautiful in a woman. It is devoid of beauty, grace, innocence, joy and compassion. So, after becoming hooked at age 13, I constantly found myself questioning how I could have ended up there. I am a woman! How could I be getting some twisted satisfaction from watching the destruction of everything I was created to be? Was I even getting satisfaction if all I felt was guilt, shame and loneliness? What was wrong with me?

Every little girl is born with a certain beauty, grace and innocence that fills her heart. There’s just something beautiful about the joy and compassion that comes with being a woman. For some, though, the fairy tales are squashed before they can ever grow. Hearts are left searching for acceptance, love, compassion, joy and fulfillment. The consequences of that search are dire.

For whatever reason, my heart was searching, and I felt an acceptance in pornography. Grant you, I was being fake. When I wasn’t in a chat room being the blonde-haired blue-eyed “angelface001” I was in my bedroom, isolated, dreaming about my prince Charming. Fantasizing.

Every time, though, I just felt more and more empty—hollow. I was becoming a shell of who I was supposed to be. After being told “women just don’t have this problem,” I gave up hope of ever becoming anything worthwhile. But then, God sent me a rescue.

Seven years after my struggle began, one woman stood in front of 300 young women and said, “We know some of you struggle with pornography and masturbation and we are here to help.” It sent a surge of hope through me, and began my journey to freedom and a restoration to the life God wanted me to have.

In the years since then, I have found that I am not alone. Many Christian women struggle with lust, with masturbation, with fantasy, with pornography. Some are married, some are single, but all are carrying the weight, guilt and shame of their sin. They know what it is to battle alone because they fear rejection at the hand of those closest to them. Fear keeps them from being honest and open, and it keeps them in chains.

Be assured, that if you are a woman struggling with lust, you are not alone. In fact, you are joined by a growing number of fallen princesses, many who probably sit beside you in church. Cling to the promises of God’s word that He will provide a way for you to escape temptation! Pray diligently for an open door to be honest and throw away the mask.

Remember that no matter how far you have fallen and how much you feel you have wasted away, God’s grace is enough to pick up your broken pieces and restore your joy, grace, innocence and compassion. There is freedom for you and hope found in Christ.

Editor’s note: The author’s name has been withheld to protect her privacy.