One Good Thing about 9/11

Prayer Focus

The entire nation was shocked when two planes piloted by Islamic Jihadists demolished the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. Our collective sense of security was shattered. Repercussions rippled across our nation and around the world as the horror of the attack sank in. The act of terrorism did, however, serve to unite American citizens under the principles of freedom that are the foundation of our government. 

American flags appeared on homes throughout neighborhoods, non-church goers attended worship services, and the airwaves were bombarded with stories of near misses, survivors, and heroes who experienced the atrocity first hand. That unity crossed the boundaries of religion, ethnicity, and political ideology. Patriotism soared. “Never Forget” became the rallying cry. 

Sadly, within weeks people began to retreat from their united front. Flags flew less frequently and churches were no longer filled as the impact of 9/11 waned. Freedoms previously experienced by travelers were forfeited in the name of safety. Many of our grandchildren who  were infants or not yet born in 2001 have no recollections of airports without security screening or schools without metal detectors. 

Now, 21 years after that horrific act, some school systems are altering references to the event of that day from their curriculums. We are told it is to counter prejudice against people of certain ethnic and religious groups. With a spirit of love for all mankind, we are instructed to teach accurate historical truths to the generations that follow.

Do we need another foreign assault to bring us together? Hopefully not. The next assault against Christians is likely to come from within a nation that has forgotten the laws set down by our Creator God. The battles we face are in our homes, schools, and communities. As members of the army of God, our duty is to pass along God’s Truth to our children’s children.

“ And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws
as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely
so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen
or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
(Deuteronomy 4:8-9)

As it relates to God’s Word, “never forget” is the cry every Christian grandparent needs to exclaim. Our grandchildren are depending on us. If there is any good lesson to learn from 9/11, it is the call for Christians to stand in unison and profess the Word of God to all nations.

Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Unsplash.

A Gem of an Idea

Creative Pursuits

It started with a broken bracelet. Then came the YouTube video tutorials followed by an in-person class, where I made my first pair of earrings. Jewelry making has turned into one of my favorite hobbies. I turned out many gifts and custom-made items for special outfits of my own. It also provided a natural opportunity to have conversations with grandkids and others, both boys and girls, while teaching them how to create their own gifts and personal accessories.

Girls adore the necklaces and bracelets they make themselves; more is better seems to be the rule. I think it’s the freedom to choose the exact components they put in it. Even my grandson occasionally accent his camouflage tee shirt with the masculine bracelet he made from black and silver beads with charcoal gray stones. He also has made necklaces for his mother and sister using their favorite colors and charms. These reportedly get lots of hugs when he presents them to their recipients.

It might be because I started this hobby from a repair perspective that I often hunt through yard sales and flea markets for broken or out of fashion jewelry with interesting beads. I like to pair these finds with store-bought beads, stones, and leaded crystals in one-of-a-kind patterns. For me, the most enjoyable part of the process is seeing how individual components work together in different combinations to create something that is better than the sum of its parts. It’s a lot like observing how we, as uniquely created people, can work together and end our time feeling more upbeat than when we began. 

Making jewelry together, or for that matter, sharing any hobby together, opens the doors to talk about deeper concerns of life. At times, children who are working on a jewelry item with me will drift into a conversation about something that is troubling them or one of their future hopes. It’s an organic way to drill down to the crux of the matter without pressure or pretense. We may end up sharing a prayer of thanks or a petition for intervention to God.

Give it a try. We all need time to refresh our minds and renew our souls. Allow yourself the simple pleasure of engaging in a favorite activity or hobby. It could be anything from fishing with a grandchild or teaching kids how to make bracelets to, well, you fill in the blank. Relax, enjoy the time, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and conversations.

Then drop me a note and tell me about your hobby.

Music to My Ears

Get with the beat. Music has the power to lift spirits when the blues set in, add excitement to an otherwise dull day, and prompt anyone within hearing range to get up and dance (sometimes while they’re sitting in a chair). I am blessed to be married to a man who is a music aficionado. It means my days are filled with happy sounds.

Our grandson caught the vibe, learning to play enough guitar chords to strum the opening chords of Smoke on the Water before he opted for drums. With his Dad’s approval, we encouraged our grandson’s musical choice by financing lessons through his school’s music department. Lessons were done on a single drum pad, so we dangled the carrot of earning a new drum set once he completed every lesson in the beginner’s drumming book he was using. 

He began prompting us about the promise when he was nearing completion of lessons in the workbook. It was difficult to judge his proficiency, however, my husband and I decided to honor our promise. We prayed for God’s guidance in the selection. A few consultations with musical friends and product reviews later, we landed on a beginner’s electronic drum set. Our grandson accompanied us to the music store and practiced on a store model before we purchased a set. At our home where we set up the drums (because our grandson lives in an apartment), he took charge of figuring out how to manage the electronics and portable amp.

Our first opportunity to hear him play on a full electronic set was an answer to prayer. The following week, some friends brought guitars to jam at our house. Our grandson rewarded us by showcasing his strong, consistent drumming and flexibility to tackle new rhythm patterns. 

Through this experience, we learned to let our grandson show us where his interests lie instead of directing him to do what we think is interesting to him. Isn’t that what we all want anyway? The Lord has gifted us all with different talents and abilities. Embrace them in your grandchildren, no matter where they go. It’s all part of a beautiful, diverse symphony of talents.

Fatherhood on Display

During the course of one week, I had the opportunity to twice witness father-and-son interactions that give me hope for future generations. 

The first encounter took place at a retail establishment. While I was waiting in line for the cashier, a father and son entered the store with packaged goods and delivered them to the store office. When I finalized my purchase and stepped toward the exit, this father and his son approached the door at the same time. We all stopped. I gestured for the son to follow his father out of the store, but the father told his son, “Let the lady go first.” The son stood still, respectfully looked at his father, then at me. It struck me that here was a father teaching his son, by example, how to serve the community and how to be a gentleman. “Thank you,” I said, before exiting the store. I pondered, “How many of today’s problems would be averted if every father made the effort to train his child in this way?”

Within a week, while leaving a movie theater, a similar situation occurred. As I walked toward the exit, I came across a man who was holding the door open; a young boy was standing inside. The two exchanged glances and the man motioned for me to exit. The boy stood still until I passed through the doorway before he too left. Once outside, they chatted about the movie and what they would do next. This time, my sense of hope were piqued.

It is important to mention that these father-son family units were of different ethnic backgrounds. In a cultural climate where much rhetoric is expressed against one or another’s ethnicity, what I witnessed is the powerful, positive influence of lovingly engaged fathers in action. Today’s children need committed fathers who are intentional in the way they discipline and train them. 

These are the things I learned from my encounters:

  • Fathers deserve our respect. For too many years, our culture has relegated men to the unnecessary heap in regard to families. That is not God’s plan, and as we can see in our culture, the idea that fathers are not needed to raise children simply does not work. Also, please ignore any preconceived notions that exist about ethnicities.
  • Many good fathers are giving their all to raise their children to be respectable gentlemen and ladies. In the future, when I am in a situation where it is appropriate, I will thank the father for the good work he is doing in the presence of his child. Children need to see their fathers being respected for fulfilling their role in a godly manner.
  • Families matter. I believe it is time to encourage young men and women to marry, and stay committed to each other in the Lord, before they have children. That means I must be willing to share my life experiences with them, including how God helped me and my husband through the tough times by relying on God. Transparency counts.

I am now intentionally observing how fathers interact with their children wherever I go in public. It is heartening to see fathers of young boys or girls patiently listening to them, giving their child a gentle hug, or carefully explaining something to them. Raising sons and daughters is a challenge, but the best of men are out there giving it everything they have. I appreciate them, and I hope you do too.

Superpower Grandparents

I posed a question to a panel of theologians at a family camp designed for Christians. It went: “How would you counsel Christian grandparents to leave their faith legacy for their grandchildren when their parents are unwilling or unable to do so?” A large, collective groan from the attendees confirmed that I am not alone in this need. The panel members, all of whom were in the midst of raising young children, gave tenderhearted answers. Thankfully, they confirmed much of what I already am doing. They also offered added insights.

Their first bit of advice was to pray; pray for our grandchildren and for our children. (Note: It’s never too late to pray for your children.) There is never a time when prayer is not needed. There is never a time when we know better than God what our families need. There is nothing we are experiencing that God cannot change in an instant. I am reminded to lay my burden on God and then step aside and get out of His way. 

Secondly, one pastor reminded us that we are Superpower Grandparents. As the Farmers’ Insurance commercial tagline says: “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two,” grandparents have experienced what our adult children are now going through. It’s not that we swoop to the rescue wearing flowing capes, it’s that we care enough about our family members to prioritize their eternal salvation. We hold a powerful influence over the lives of our grandchildren, demonstrated in the way we speak and interact with them, and the example we demonstrate through our conduct. Second to their parents, we are the most powerful influences in their lives. I encourage you to use this influence wisely.

Finally, we exert a powerful influence over our grandchildren in the messages we speak to them. You have probably heard the saying that children live up to the expectations people assign to them. As influential grandparents, let’s remember to speak positive words into the lives of our grandchildren. When children grow up hearing things like, “You’re never going to amount to anything,” or “Why would anyone want to be your friend?” they believe it. When they hear us say things like, “God has a wonderful plan and a purpose for your life,” or “I thank God for allowing me to be your grandma,” our grandchildren internalize those positive affirmations. 

At the end of the Q&A at camp, one of the panelists strongly suggested that grandparents write blessings that grandchildren can read throughout their lives. It doesn’t matter if your words are profound. It does matter if they come from the heart; that’s what makes you a superpower grandparent. Ask the Lord to give you the words to reinforce your grandchildren’s walk with God.

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10-11

You can stand up against evil. I have learned to rely on God when…

The Gift of Freedom

My grandson and I sat in our folding chairs, watching as the carnies dismantled the festival rides beneath a sky bursting with 4th of July fireworks. It was the first time I viewed fireworks from this perspective, in the middle of a basketball court with a few other family groups gathered nearby doing the same. We chose this location because it avoided the hordes of onlookers that descended on the city’s lakefront where the pyrotechnics were launched.

As crews worked at removing a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and other rides from their positions and loading them piece-by-piece into semi trailers, my thoughts landed on the reasons we celebrate Independence Day.

A huge, sparkling aerial display above the carnival grounds recalled the many battles that had been fought to defend our freedom. It’s the same message that appears on a t-shirt I sometimes wear with the message “Freedom is Not Free” atop an image of the American flag. It seems many in our nation have forgotten this reality. My grandson and I spent a few minutes talking about the sacrifices military personnel have made to ensure our freedom.

The chatter from the work crew prompted my grandson to comment that they were having fun at work. During my younger years, I might have thoroughly enjoyed traveling around the country bringing summertime entertainment to different communities. There are seasons in life for us to utilize the various talents and abilities that have been bestowed upon us by God. We are blessed in our nation with opportunities to use and develop our individual gifts.

After the fireworks’ finale, we folded up our chairs and walked back to our car under the dim light of a few streetlamps. As a woman, it is my habit to take note of my surroundings; I felt safe here. That is not true everywhere, including some places in the metropolitan area where we reside. I silently thanked the police officers who watch over our community and respond to calls for help. I appreciate their willingness to head into dangerous situations to protect me should the need ever arise.

None of us have a choice of where or when we enter this world, or the circumstances. We don’t get to decide when we will leave it. But we have been given freedom to choose how we will live out our time and where we will be once that time on earth has ended. When we put our faith in Christ as our Savior, we are assured of eternal life with Him in heaven. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

Christ has already paid the price for our freedom. I am happy to say both my grandson and I, along with many other family members, have chosen His gift. This free gift is available to everyone who asks with a sincere heart. May freedom ring in your heart forever.

Start Summer With a June Blessing

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7

June is the typical start of summer, a season when school-age grandchildren have more free time than during the entire school year. They don’t always know how to use it wisely. To put it another way, even the best behaved ones will probably end up getting themselves into some sort of mischief.

As a child, I found endless ways to get in trouble, even with an overly protective mother watching over me. It is almost guaranteed that your grandchildren will need forgiveness for something they do. Be generous. They need to know your love is given unconditionally, regardless of their failings. 

In Luke 15, Jesus addresses Pharisees and teachers of the law with a parable about a lost son. It’s a complicated account about two sons that make disheartening choices, and a father whose love for them never wanes despite their behaviors. I encourage you to read this parable before you consider what you might say to a grandchild who needs to experience your unconditional love. Then you have the proper mindset to write.

You are loved even when you mess up. God’s love never ends. I know He forgives us because…

Cookies Made for America

The last Monday in May, Memorial Day, is set aside to honor all American soldiers who died in the line of duty. And, my grandson wanted me to make cookies with him. This provided a perfect opportunity bake cookies while teaching him about the sweet freedom we have as a result of sacrifices others have made on our behalf.  

While we baked, I made a point of telling him about our family members and friends who served in the military. There were many. Sadly, the stories included one about someone who did not return home from World War II. We used the colors of the American Flag for the cookies, as a way to help us remember to honor all who made such a sacrifice.

These cookies use simple ingredients and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. I was surprised by how easy they were to make. They are a visual reminder that a price has been paid for freedom, and we are its beneficiaries.

Ingredients

1 cup softened butter

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1-½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

2-½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

Red and blue food coloring

Directions

Cream butter; add sugar gradually; blend in vanilla, salt, and flour. Divide dough into three equal parts. Leave one part white, tint one red, and tine another part blue. Shape portions each color into ½ inch thick strips. Place strips side by side on a lightly floured surface Roll out lengthwise into a rectangle 14 x 3 inches. Cut with a large round cookie cutter so each cookie has a three-color stripe Repeat with remaining dough. Reroll the extra dough to create marbled cookies. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. You get approximately seven dozen cookies.

We have been given a godly command to teach younger generations why we have faith in Christ. Likewise, as citizens of the United States of America, we have a duty to teach young ones about our countrymen and women who died in the line of military service. I hope this easy-to-do idea inspires you to express your gratitude for the many men and women who gave their all in a way that inspires today’s children to become the patriotic citizens of tomorrow.

You May Bless Your Grandchildren

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

I reminded my grandson again today that the last month of school is a time to finish strong. I try to put things in a positive light as much as I can, knowing kids respond more positively to that approach. I sure did when I was a kid. 

The main point I hoped to make with my grandson is that he has been gifted with certain characteristics and abilities from God to use for His good purpose. To that end, I am encouraging my grandson to develop and utilize every bit of talent, skill, and wisdom he possesses.

Among those is the discernment to know right from wrong. That is, to recognize the moral code God has embedded in each of us. You know what I mean. We all feel that pang of guilt when we do something that grinds against what we know is true. Because we are uniquely created, each one has a different set of wrongs to battle. In your best, most supportive voice, how would you address those characteristics in your grandchild?

Take a moment, or more, to think about it. Then begin to write…

You won’t go wrong if you do what is right. When you give your best in all you do…

Showers of April Blessings

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

One of the most popular verses in the Bible, found on coffee mugs, wall hangings, or bookmarks is Proverbs 3:5.

I suspect this is because we find comfort in knowing God looks out for us. When life is going according to our plan, it is a lighthearted reminder. And, when we face the inevitable difficulties of life, this verse becomes a spiritual lifesaver, especially when it is accompanied by the next verse, Proverbs 3:6, that reads “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. 

God never fails to deliver on his promises.

When my grandson was less than one week old, I asked him to give me the opportunity to teach him about Jesus. God’s faithful response throughout the decade that followed made it clear that he wants me to follow up on my commitment. Whenever my path seemed to be heading to a dead end, an opportunity opened up to continue with biblical training. 

What the Lord has done for me, he can do for you. Your testimony is uniquely your own, however, the command to bring your faith to light with grandchildren is common to all believers. It begins with your request for favor over your grandchild, and your unique style of sharing your faith in God. 

You can always count on God. I know God will care for you. Trust Him when…