Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stormy Thoughts and Stormy Skies...and God's Promise

All of these pictures were taken outside of our home
this afternoon. The rainbow was much more
beautiful in "real life"! 

Stormy Thoughts and Stormy Skies…and 
God’s Promise

By Shelly Burke, Editor and Publisher, Nebraska Family Times, and author, Home is Where the Mom Is

As I pulled weeds this afternoon I had stormy thoughts. Too many friends are facing serious health problems and personal difficulties. I heard news that promises turmoil in my own family’s life over the next few months. There’s no way around these problems; our friends and our family will just have to go through them.

This afternoon we had a nice, much-needed rain shower. After the shower I went outside to see where the storm was moving. I was awed to see one of the most beautiful double rainbows I’ve ever seen. It stretched all the way across the sky and I could see the whole thing, which is very unusual.

Seeing the rainbow reminded me of God’s promise to Noah, as he and his family came out of the ark after the flood.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making
 between me and you…Whenever I bring clouds over the earth
and the rainbow appears in the clouds…I will remember my covenant
 between me and you…Never again will the waters become
 a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9:12-14

My friends and family and I are not facing a literal flood, of course. But the circumstances in each of our lives could be devastating. I was reminded of God’s promises to each of us; that He will walk beside us through any and all of the troubles we experience. That He is only a prayer away. And that, at the end of our lives, no matter how stormy, as believers we will spend eternity with Him! 

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me of Your promises to each of us. We are not alone; You are always with us. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not Written in Cement

Not Written in Cement
by Shelly Burke, author of Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom's Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home, and Editor and Publisher of the Nebraska Family Times

(image from Google Images)
I love summer! It’s great to have a “break” from the regular routine and schedule. When our kids were in grade-school, I made summer goals for them, as well as a schedule for our days. If we didn’t have some sort of schedule we didn’t accomplish anything, and while that’s ok once in awhile, it was still important to do things like chores around the house and nap (or rest) time.

Making summer goals was important to us too! I knew that if we didn’t consciously make and write down goals, we wouldn’t accomplish them. Most of the goals were “fun” things; going to the zoo, eating ice cream at the park, or watching the fireflies after dark (for more suggestions for summer fun, go to "Zoo...and Other Ideas for Summer Fun"  . I added a few practical goals, too, like teaching Cody and Morgan the basics of cooking and laundry, practicing math skills at the grocery store, and reading every day.

While you’re making your summer schedule and goals, remember that they don’t have to be perfect the first time! It’s better to get started with some sort of schedule than to not have a schedule for most of the summer as you’re trying to make the “perfect” schedule. And it’s better to start a list of goals and fun things to do and accomplish at least some of them, than to not make a goal list at all.

Look at your schedule as a suggested way to spend time—not as an iron-clad “we must do this at exactly this time.” Remember to have fun—even if that means staying up way past bedtime to look at the stars or missing a nap to see out-of-town friends who are visiting. Be flexible and willing to change what isn’t working. It’s not written in cement!

Be flexible with your goals, too. If missing naps to take part in the summer reading program makes the rest of the day miserable for a tired child and everyone he is around, create your own summer reading program at home. If an opportunity for a fun all-day event comes up, skip naps that day!

What are your summer goals, for yourself or for your kids? How does your schedule change in the summer?

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

(I’m also blogging at Nebraska Family Times.
Check out the post today, titled “Tired of Enduring.”)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Mother's Reflection on the Final Judgement

(In honor of Mother's Day next Sunday, I'm reprinting this. A stage of motherhood is coming to an end, for me, as our daughter graduates from high school next week and will be going to college in the fall. I'll post more reflections on motherhood at a later date. This week will be spent making mints (I borrowed a cow mint from a friend!), finding pictures, writing thank-you notes to the administration and teachers at Lakeview high school and doing a long list of related graduation and graduation party errands. It will be a wonderful week, especially seeing my parents and one of my sisters and her family! (See for the "controversy" regarding the prayer at graduation at Lakeview.) May God bless all mothers!) 

A Mother’s Reflection on the Final Judgment
(received via internet)

For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink;
I was a stranger and you let Me in;
I needed clothes and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you looked after Me;
I was in prison and you came to visit Me.
            Matthew 25:35-26

“When Lord? When were You hungry and I fed You?”
            “How could you ask that, you of the 3 million peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the 100 ways to fix hamburger—which could have been steak if you hadn’t been feeding Me?”

“But thirsty, Lord?”
            “I was in the lemonade line that came in with the summer heat and flies, and left mud on your floors and fingerprints on your walls, and you gave Me a drink.”

“But naked Lord? And homeless?”
            I was born naked and homeless. You sheltered Me, first in your womb, and then in your arms, and clothed Me with your love (and spent the next 20 years struggling to pay the mortgage, the fuel bills, and keep Me in jeans).”

“Oh, Lord, but I never knew I visited You in prison. I’ve never been in a prison.”
            “Oh, yes, you were. For I was imprisoned in my littleness, behind the bars of my crib, and I cried in the night and you came. I was imprisoned inside a 12-year old body that was exploding with so many emotions I no longer knew who I was, and you loved Me into being Myself. I was imprisoned behind my teenage rebellion, my anger, my stereo set, and you came and sat by the wall of My hostility, took the abuse I heaped upon you, and waited in love for Me to open the door.”

“Now, enter into the kingdom of My Father, prepared for you since the foundation of the world.” 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Children in Church

Children in Church
By Shelly Burke, Editor and Publisher, Nebraska Family Times

I think every parent has had an “embarrassing child moment” in church. I remember Cody’s first Christmas Eve service. He was only 5 weeks old and he was not happy to be in church. I took him to the cry room no less than 4 times during that service (it’s one of my favorite services of the year and I desperately wanted to be in church with my family and church friends). He was crying so loud that people in church were turning around to look at us behind the glass walls of the cry room.

I can laugh about it now…but it wasn’t funny at the time. Whenever my kids were loud in church (or just made a tiny bit of noise) I just knew that everyone was looking at me and mentally “tsk-ing” me because my kids were so obviously completely out of control because I was a terrible mother (yes, I tend to blow things up sometimes, especially when it comes to being a mom!).

 I think the disciples were probably “tsk-ing” the mothers who brought their children to Jesus, as recounted in Matthew 19, which says, Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Jesus clearly wanted the children to be close to Him.

And He wants to see children in church today, too! Moms, bring your kids to church—even if they do make noise! Experiment with the service you go to, where you sit, and how you prepare your kids for church. They will naturally be less likely to sit if they are very tired or hungry. Some kids pay attention better if they sit close to the front—where the action in church is. Some kids will be distracted with toys or books; some parents prefer to teach their children to listen and take part in the service. Your techniques will probably change as your kids get older—figure out what works for you and your family!

And now an important word for church members who don’t have kids or whose kids are grown: Remember what Jesus said; “Let the little children come to me.” In many churches the families with young kids sit toward the back of the church. If you don’t enjoy the sounds of children, sit somewhere else! And please refrain from giving parents whose kids are making noise a dirty look or telling them their kids should be quiet. It’s hard enough to be a mom, trying to do the right thing by taking kids to church, and a nasty comment or dirty look is demoralizing and discouraging.

Instead, offer a patient smile that says, “It’s OK—I know what it’s like to have kids in church and don’t mind a little noise a bit.” Better yet, encourage parents who bring their kids to church! Say, “It’s great to see your kids in church. I know it’s not always easy to bring them, but you are doing the right thing.”

A few years ago, during a baptism at our church, a sibling of the child who was being baptized made a huge fuss when her parents and new brother were in the front of the church during the baptism. The little girl wiggled out of the arms of her aunt and began running around the area where the baptism was being done. The mom looked embarrassed and mortified. After church I witnessed an older lady of the church, who the mom clearly didn’t know, say to the mom, We love children in this church, and we love to see and even hear them. Your family is beautiful!” And I could see on the mom’s face that this made a huge difference in how she would remember the day. Be the person who gives families a positive feeling about having their children in church!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Thess. 5:11

How do (or did) you encourage your kids to sit quietly in church?