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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Looking Forward - An Advent Calendar

What and When is Advent?

The word "advent" means arrival or coming in Latin. Specifically, it relates to the coming of the Christ at the incarnation. Advent is celebrated in the weeks leading up to the day we set aside to remember the birth of the Messiah. It begins four Sundays before December 25, whether that Sunday is in November or December. This year Advent begins on Sunday, November 28th. However, when using an Advent calendar, counting down the days till Christmas begins either 24 or 25 days before, usually on December 1st or 2nd.

Why Do People Celebrate Advent?

Thousands of years before Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, God's people anticipated His coming. They longed and looked for the Messiah, the One who would set things right. During that time of waiting, no one knew when or how God would send the Promised One to redeem mankind.

On this side of Bethlehem when celebrating Advent, in essence, we are re-enacting the many years that God's people waited patiently and anticipated the coming of the Messiah, man's only hope for restoration with God. Now that the waiting is over we have all the more reason to rejoice because of God's indescribable gift of LOVE, His own Son. In a world that has no place for Jesus, Advent really is about preparing our hearts for the Savior - making room for and receiving Him with joy, humility and gratitude into our lives, celebrations and families.

The Advent Calendar - A Wonderful Way to Teach Your Child About the Gospel

Advent serves as a tool to point our children to Christ, the Promised Savior. An Advent calendar as a family tradition is one way children can become acquainted with the details of the incarnation. The calendar counts down to Christmas as the child opens a little door or pocket, etc. each day to reveal some small treasure that is hidden. My Advent calendar - compliments of my mom - uses little felt nativity figures. One day a Magi is revealed, another day a lamb or an angel, right up to the day before Christmas or Christmas day itself. By then, the scene is complete, baby Jesus and all.

 Get directions for this muffin-tin Advent calendar here.

The nativity figures, after being removed from that day's pocket, door, box or envelope, etc., could be ornaments that get hung on the tree or used to assemble a separate nativity scene. There are child-friendly creches available now that are unbreakable (see links below for purchased Advent calendars). A Portion of the Christmas story could be read, corresponding to the nativity figurine for that day until it is completed on the last day.

Start Now to Assemble Your Advent Calendar

There are a multitude of ideas available below. Also, click on the different photos in this post for links to tutorials, etc. If you start now, you should have more than enough time to be ready by December 1st. Take a look at the following links to get started; and don't forget to involve the kiddos in putting the calendar together.

Complimentary Ideas

The nativity advent calendar can be complemented with other Advent calendars. One simple idea is to make a paper chain with each day offering an activity for your child. Tear off one chain per day and have fun with the activity. This link offers such a calendar that can be printed.

For other ideas, do an online search for advent calendars to make. You'll be surprised at the volume of ideas!

If you'd rather purchase a nativity advent calendar, here are some links:

Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic Figures (This site offers reviews for the Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar. Look for the 5 stars under the name for the reviews, but go to the next site listed here for a better price.)

Advent Calendar from Catholic Supply (This site has the highly-rated Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic Figures for much less than has advent calendars to choose from also.

A Unit Study on Advent

For a great online advent calendar with more info than is imaginable, go to this website. Though many of the links found on this site are either broken or have changed, the information at this site alone is more than enough for designing a great unit study about Advent.

How has celebrating Advent in years past changed your family's perspective on Christmas?

Do you have an idea for an Advent calendar that you could share?

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Looking Forward - An Advent Calendar

Monday, November 8, 2010

For The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth - At Macy's?

This is so glorious and beautiful! Can you believe that Almighty God was glorified at Macy's in Philadelphia on October 30th, a little less than a week ago?

Here's how it happened: 650 choristers gathered at Macy's in Philadelphia dressed like shoppers and mingling among them. As they mingled, without any warning, the organ began the intro to Handel's Messiah and the place burst forth with singing.

Even though there were undoubtedly many people that sang as well as listened who do not know the King of Kings, God still gets the glory. If rocks can praise Him, why even those who use His name as a byword, inadvertently will bring Him honor and praise. I cried in worship of Him as I listened. 

In a culture gone wild, angry and vengeful, this "Random Act of Culture" encourages me that there are still many who acknowledge that our country's beginnings and laws were anchored in Biblical truths by men who feared the Living God.

Yes, the Lord God omnipotent reigns at Macy's! Please watch!

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

For The Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth - At Macy's?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part One

Last night, after presenting a devotional at a baby shower, I was asked by many of the young moms there if they could have a copy of it. So I've decided to post it here on the blog over the next few days.

This is an acrostic writing, meaning that each new thought begins with (or is based on) a letter of the alphabet and follows the sequential order of it. In other words, the first thought starts with the letter A, the second thought starts with the letter B and so on all the way through the alphabet.

This devotion will be posted over the next four days since it really is too long for just one post. Today's post covers letters A through F.

Alpha…Make Christ your Alpha – your beginning for true humility. (Philippians 2:3-8)

Brokenness…Learn how to be broken before God. If the grace of God does not bring you to tears often, if you cannot say like the penitent tax collector, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” and weep because He has done that very thing for you, then you are taking God’s grace for granted. Put yourself before His throne of grace and ask Him to give you a heart that is beautiful in His sight. If your heart is cold and unmoved, your parenting will reflect that and God will oppose you. If your heart is broken, humble and contrite, God promises to pour out His grace for your need. (James 4:6)

Correct...your children. It is a proud parent who will not discipline their child as God has commanded, for they think they know better than He does how to train their children. (1 Sam 2:29-30; Ephesians 6:1; Hebrews 12:6)

Deprive...your child of what he asks for if getting it will fuel his self-centeredness, except when it can provide a tangible lesson about the condition of his heart. (Proverbs 29:17)

Equal training...with diverse treatment for each child means that you are committed to training all your children equally in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But to do that it is necessary to recognize each child for the unique individual that he is and apply godly instruction and discipline in ways specific and appropriate for that child. This task requires humble dependency and wisdom from God. (Ephesians. 6:4)

Forgive...Freely forgive as you have been forgiven in Christ. I remember, as a child, when the news broke about five missionary men in Ecuador being slaughtered by a group of tribesmen in the remote Amazon jungle. The American men had been pursuing contact with the Waodoni tribe in an effort to bring the message of Jesus to the inhabitants of that village.

Nate Saint, one of the men who was slain, had a young son, Steve. Now, in 2010, fifty-four years later, despite his young age at the time, he still vividly remembers his mom, Marge Saint, telling him that his dad was never coming home again. At five years of age, he was faced with the searing pain of great loss - a type of loss that many people have never experienced even as adults.

In a recent interview (by Nancy Leigh DeMoss recounted in her book Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom), Steve was asked if he had ever struggled with bitterness toward his father’s murderers. He replied: "I took my cues from my mom and the four other widows. I never, ever, heard any of them even suggest that God may have made a mistake..." These newly widowed women modeled a depth of godly trust that was evident even to their young children.

The power of those young widows’ faith, manifested before their children in forgiveness toward their husband’s killers, was used of God to shield them, young as they were, "from carrying armfuls of man-made baggage into the next generation". (Matthew 6:12-15; Colossians 3:13)

Copyright Sharon Kaufman 2007/2010

The next Parenting with Humility post will cover letters G through L. Please come back to learn your alphabet for parenting with humility.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part One

Friday, November 5, 2010

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part Two

As promised, here is the second of four parts - G through L - of a baby shower devotional I did a few nights ago. If you missed Part One, please go here to read it first.

Give up...your expectations. Each child has certain propensities and interests – physical abilities such as sports, various arts, music, skills, hobbies and other leanings. Humility will let go of selfish expectations and allow the child to pursue the giftedness God has created in him. (Philippians 2: 4)
Honor...your vows to love, honor, respect and submit to the father of your child – your husband. A mark of humility is respect toward those who God gives to lead. If you expect your child to love, respect and honor his God-given authority, then you must love, respect and honor yours. Little ears and eyes observe. (I Peter 3:3-6; Ephesians 5:22-23, 33; Titus 2:4)

Imitate...your Heavenly Father. Be childlike before Him, so that you can emulate Him in love, kindness, patience, joyfulness and sacrifice before your child. By becoming like a child with your Heavenly Father, you will learn from the first and best father how to parent the children He has given you. (Matthew 18:4; Ephesians 5:1-2)

Judge...yourself rightly before the Lord. Confess your sin to Him and, if applicable, ask your child to forgive you. Unconfessed sin cherished in your heart becomes a stumbling block of God’s grace in your child’s life.  (1 Corinthians 11:31-32; James 5:16; I John 1:9-10)

Keep...your home in order. In doing so, you are regarding others as more important than yourself, looking to their needs. But don’t obsess over it, like Martha did. At that point it has become an idol. Remember that people live in your home and they make messes, especially little people. Some quotes about housekeeping: “Your house should be clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.” “Housework is something you do that nobody notices until you don't do it.” “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” “We labor to make a house a home, then every time we're expecting visitors, we rush to turn it back into a house.” “I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.”  (Proverbs 31:27; Philippians 2:3-4; Titus 2:5)

Love... your child. Learn how to love him by sitting at Jesus’ feet and abiding in His love. When you sit at His feet in adoration, you will be transformed by His love for you and, like a mirror reflects light, you will return Christ’s love to Him. When you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will become more and more like Him. The more you are like Christ, the more you will love others, especially those who God has specifically given to you to love. Charles Spurgeon said, “You cannot love a thing without becoming something like it in proportion to the force of love. And just in proportion as you love Jesus, you must become like Him.” (Matthew 22:37-39; John 13:34; II Corinthians 3:18)

Laugh...with your child. Take pleasure in him, play with him, laugh with him and let him know that he has bought much joy into your life. Laughing leaves little room for anger, so laugh over spilled milk. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Laugh... at yourself. Some quotes that illustrate this happy idea: "Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused." (Unknown) "One out of four people in this country is mentally unbalanced. Think of your three closest friends ~ if they seem okay, then you're the one." (Ann Landers) "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." (G.K. Chesterton) “Your burden is lightened when you laugh at yourself.” “Laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks.” “Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.” “If you can't laugh at yourself, life's going to be very tedious and unpleasant.” (Genesis 21:6; Ecclesiastes 9:7-9)
 Copyright Sharon Kaufman 2007/2010

Tomorrow, letters M through S will be posted. Please come back to learn this very important alphabet.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part Two

Love Never Fails, even When Divorce Looms

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 
This is the story of how Shauna Shanks saved her marriage by loving her husband the way 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 prescribes, even after becoming aware of his infidelity in their marriage. Renewing her mind through God's word, she was able to resist focusing on her personal anguish. Keeping her eyes on Jesus and her identity in Him, she was empowered by the Spirit of God to exhibit a compassionate, Biblical perspective toward her husband. Shauna testifies that God is able to redeem relationships that seem as good as dead.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Love Never Fails, even When Divorce Looms

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part Three

Part One is here and Part Two is here. You do not have to read them in any kind of order, however. I pray that these thoughts have been helpful to you. Following
Mercy…Extend mercy to your child when he fails, even when he is obviously working against you. Forgive your child of his few offenses as your Heavenly Father has forgiven you of your immeasurable offenses. Win your child by your undying love, as Christ has won you with his dying love. (Ephesians 4:32)
Nourish your child in body, soul and mind. Give him nothing but the best for physical, spiritual and emotional health. Demonstrated through you, God’s truth and grace is health for his spirit; prepared by you, provisions of good, nourishing food builds his body, and expressed through you, the love of Christ will nourish him emotionally. Humbly ask God for His wisdom and strength for this task. And remember that in doing this for your child, you do it for Christ. (Proverbs 31:14-15; Matt 25:37-40 and; 40; Ephesians 6:4)
Observe all that Christ has commanded you. The one who obediently does God’s will, has humbly given up his own will. Your example of humble obedience to God is crucial in training your child to give up his will in order to do yours and eventually God’s. And since your obedience equals love for Christ, your child will be greatly assisted in connecting his obedience as a demonstration of his love for you and eventually for Christ. (Mark 8:34-36; John 14:15-16)
Pray...with your children and for your children. If you are preaching more than you are praying, most likely you are relying upon your own strength for your child’s salvation. You cannot transform his heart of stone into a heart of flesh, but you know the One who can. Take your children to Jesus throughout the day concerning their greatest need. (Luke 18:15-16)
 Quick…Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Make what you say count after you’ve listened to your child and understood exactly what he is saying and not saying. Jumping to conclusions is a very poor form of exercise. (James 1:19-20)
Repent...promptly. Everyday our hearts sink into unloving thoughts and deeds. Ask God to tune your heart to hear the Spirit’s call to humble yourself before the throne of grace. I’m sure you all are familiar with the store that every child loves – “Toys R Us”. Well, as Christians, our trade mark ought to be “Repentance R Us”. Listen to all of the R words that repentance is synonymous with: renew, restore, relationship, right, return, remember, revive, and rest. Be a repenter. Repentance characterizes one who is living humbly before the God who is gracious and ready to forgive. And God gives grace to the humble which you are in great need on a moment to moment basis as you train your little ones to confess when they’ve wronged another. (Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 51:10-13; 1 John 1:9; Revelation 2:5)
Receive and Relinquish…Receive your child from the Lord and then relinquish him to the Lord. Your child is God’s sanctifying tool for you. Know that he is a gift from the Lord and will be used to grow you up in Christ – to reveal sins that lurk in your heart that you never knew existed. God continues to use my grown children in this way, even though none of them have embraced Christ. (Judges 13:8; Hebrews 11:23)
Also, like Abraham and Hannah, you must relinquish the child God has blessed you with back to Him and, in fact, until you do, he will be a hindrance to your sanctification. You cannot own what belongs to God, but He graciously lends His tools for your use and for your usefulness. (1 Samuel 1:11; 27-28)
Seek wisdom from the Lord. Always tell yourself that there is a better way of communicating than what naturally rolls off your tongue. Even if it is truth, it may not be truth spoken in love. That takes wisdom from on high. (Proverbs 15:1-2; James 1:5 and 3:17)
Copyright Sharon Kaufman 2007/2010
Come back tomorrow for the final post - letters T through Z.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part Three

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part Four

This is the last of the alphabet of parenting with humility. (Find all four posts here.) As you read through these thoughts, consider this quote from Charles Spurgeon concerning our children, "We have come to a turning point in the road. If we turn to the right perhaps our children and our children's children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to His Word." 

Train the heart, not the head; not the outward behavior, but the inner person. When we rely on sure-fire, idealistic methods we produce idealistic, self-righteous, disingenuous children. They look good on the outside, but inwardly they are Pharisees. Charles Spurgeon understood the biggest danger with being self-righteous when he said, “The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”

And don’t think Pharisees are easy to spot. They are not. Jesus said that the wheat and the tares all look alike. When it comes to your own children, you will not be objective enough to make the call as to whether or not they are truly regenerated. The better you train them in this way, the better they look. Personally, I trained my own children in this manner, but I thank God that I wasn’t good at it, and that it didn’t take. They are unsaved and have manifested that reality by being in the world. By God’s sovereign hand, I am burdened to pray for their salvation. Had I been good at this kind of training, I probably would not know how to pray for them, thinking them saved.

Rather than training the outward behavior, learn how to wisely expose what lurks within your child’s sinful heart and point him to Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Even the hearts of the young are desperately wicked, deceiving both their possessor and those who look on. It takes wisdom from the Lord to do this work. It is neither painless nor always pleasant. Sin does not give up easily. It is an impossible task without God’s intervening, both in your training and in their hearts. (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 6:1-4)

Urge your child to place his faith in the One who never fails and help him to understand, particularly by your example, that you trust Christ in this way. (Psalm 78:1-7; 2 Timothy 1:12)

Volunteer to wash the saint’s feet. Christ commands it. And if you think that serving your child is serving the body of Christ, think again. Your child is not a part of the church until he is redeemed, and you will not know that to any degree until he begins to make his own choices as an adolescent or even as an adult. (My children were well behaved and obedient and all made professions of faith as children. We know now that those were only professions.) If you serve only your child, he will think that he is the center of your universe. And if you serve him only, to the neglect of the saints, he is your universe. He must see otherwise that your center is Christ. And that happens when he becomes aware that your first love and loyalty is to Christ, not to him, as you obey by serving God’s people. (1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Peter 4:10)

Welcome your children’s gifts. Jesus welcomed the loaves and fishes of the small boy and as a result, thousands were fed. Imagine what that did for the boy. I am sure we will see him in glory. One gift your child will grace you with is your own training as God uses him to make you more like Christ. Children do not come with instructions; rather they come with lessons to be learned by you. (John 6:8-9)

Expect the unexpected. Trials are inevitable. Neither parent nor child is exempt from trials which come in many forms including physical or spiritual health, finances, and more. Do not be surprised. Rather, “consider it all joy, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” For me, the unexpected came when my children all, one by one turned away from Christ. I think had I not taken their salvation for granted, I would have prayed soberly and been less confident in my methods. (1 Peter 3:12; James 1:2-4)

Yes…Say “yes” to your child whenever possible. Yield to his requests without reproach in whatever he asks if it is within your power and if it is something reasonable and worthy of giving. This is not an indulgence for if the request is not good for the child, you must say no. Our Heavenly Father gives to us likewise, if we ask according to His will. (1 John 5:14-15)

Zenith…Make Christ the zenith of your love and devotion. As humility begins in Christ, your Alpha, so its culmination is also in Him. Look to none other, nor trust yourself, for it is only in Christ that we can conquer our prideful hearts. Only in Him can we live humbly before our God and others. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you. But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Copyright Sharon Kaufman 2007/2010

What would you add to these thoughts concerning your own experience in raising your children in an attitude of humility?

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Parenting with Humility From A to Z - Part Four