Fill ‘er Up!

“… you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

            I returned home late Sunday afternoon.  As I walked in the door, I stepped over a red toy truck.  I gazed around the room.  Granted, housekeeping is not my strength.  But this place was a mess!   It looked like Fisher Price had exploded throughout the downstairs.  The upstairs was not better.  Beds were unmade, bath towels were sprawled on the floor and an empty popcorn bowl sat on the table beside the big screen tv.  Yep!  Evidence permeated the four corners of my two-story home that my grandkids had spent the weekend with me.

            I determined fifteen years ago when my first grandchild was born, I would not let my house fall apart when my grandchildren came to visit.  Oh, no! I would teach this future generation the discipline of “get out one toy, return one toy”.  But I quickly learned I could be a “neat Nina” or a “fun Nina”. For me, there was no middle ground.

            I plopped on the sofa.  I was exhausted.  It was a good type of tired, though.  But still, I was drained.  Thinking back over the past two days, I relived Friday afternoon at the beach, Saturday at “Bee City”, supper at Smash Burger and TWO trips to TCBY (once on Friday night, again on Saturday night).  This morning we got up early, dressed, gulped down some breakfast and raced out the door to church.  I wondered, “What did I accomplish this weekend?”

            Psalm 78:4 tells me to “tell the next generation of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”.   “I know that verse, Lord,” I said in my heart.  “We read SEVERAL Bible stories each night.”  I thought further, “And we blessed our food!  We even prayed ‘thanks’ for the yogurt!”  Sighing, I murmured, “It’s just so hard, Lord.  I WANT to impress Your love on their tender hearts.  But the young ones are active and the older ones are distracted.”  Throwing back my head, I looked at the ceiling hoping I might see “the handwriting on the wall” informing me of better ways to spiritually impact my family.

            Recently, I was reading in the book of Acts about the early days of the Church.  At this point, I’m sure the disciples were more frustrated with God than I have ever been. Afterall, they had walked and talked with Jesus for three years.  Then, He died.  But three days later He arose!  He appeared to them numerous times.  His final instruction to them was to “wait for the gift my Father promised.” (Acts 1:4) “In a few days,” Jesus said, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5)   The disciples were looking for triumph over their enemies.  They responded to Jesus’ words by asking if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel?  (Acts 1:6) They didn’t get it.  Sometimes, I feel I don’t “get it” either.

            Days later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived falling in a magnificent manner upon the disciples. As Jesus had said, they received power.  Peter, who once had denied the Lord, now stood strong teaching the crowds.  The result was over three thousand people came to know Christ. 

            The disciples had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told them “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, … you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, … in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  My mind absorbs these words.  True to the Lord, witnesses have been carrying God’s message to all nations.  I shift my weight on the sofa.  I may not be traveling to the far corners of the world but I do have five grandchildren here in my world.  I know the Lord called Christians to “The Great Commission”.  But I believe He called grandparents to the “First Mission” of reaching our loved ones for Him.

            Once again, I turn my eyes upward.  I look beyond the ceiling towards my mental picture of the heavenly home of the Lord.  Speaking out loud, I invite the Holy Spirit to “Fall afresh upon me, Lord, that I may powerfully impact my grandchildren. Like the disciples, fill me up with your Spirit.”  I realized at that moment without the power of the Holy Spirit thriving within me, I am a weak vessel for the Lord.  But filled with His Spirit, I can be His witness within my family. Who knows?  If I do my job well, maybe one of them will witness to the ends of the earth.

Setting the Pace for Grandkids

Impacting the Faith of Future Generations Through Family Devotions

I LOVE having my grandkids at my house for an overnight!  We watch movies, eat popcorn and stay up late playing card games.  It brings joy to my heart to love on these children.  But I know my “job” as a grandmother goes far deeper.  I have been called by the Lord to impact their young hearts for Him.  I cannot assume they will follow in my footsteps in the faith.

Do you know that 75% of children raised in Christian churches leave the church by the age of 25 (Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions)? These are the children who go to Sunday School every Sunday and become the leaders of their Youth Group. Yet statistics show once they live independently from their home, often they abandon their church and their faith.

Studies reveal that parents modeling and teaching their faith in the home are the number one influence encouraging their children to keep their faith.  Grandparents are a close second.  Surprisingly, youth pastors are a distant third source of impact. 

Yes, we grandparents have been assigned by the Lord the eternally important job of passing to our grandchildren our faith in Jesus Christ.

The question, then, for grandparents is how do we effectively impact the hearts of our grandchildren?  One of the most powerful ways is reading the Bible together.  I call these times “Family Devotions”.  These moments include reading a Bible story followed by prayer time.  Oh, I know life is hectic and busy.  It is easy to think we cannot cram one more thing into a day.  But time together in the presence of the Lord is invaluable.  It is worth every minute and every effort.  It builds a legacy of faith.

We begin our family time with one or two familiar songs. Next, we read our story.  As my grandchildren age, I transition from Bible storybooks to the Bible.  We talk for a few minutes about the meaning of the story.  Usually, I ask three questions.  What does this story (or passage) say about God?  What does it say about me?  What does it say about my relationship with God?  In the closing moments of our Devotions, we grab hands and pray.  Our prayers consist of some “thank you’s” followed by some “please help us, Lord, with …”.  The children often fill in the blanks.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Actually, it is.  Effective Family Devotions doesn’t require a long time.  Usually, shorter is better.  BUT we all have an Enemy who will diligently attempt to thwart the time between a grandparent and his grandchild in the presence of the Lord.  I know!  Personally, I struggle with this discipline.  Often, I am the one who is nodding off.  Not my four or five-year-old grandchild.

However, I am determined to stand strong.  I long to leave to my children and grandchildren a legacy of loving God’s Word.  One day, when I am in the full presence of the Lord and my family remains on the face of this earth, my prayer is that they will pick up their Bibles.  As the pace had been set in our Family Devotions, may they gather their family remembering the moments I read and prayed with them.  

 “Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Deuteronomy 4:9

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

FaceTime with the Lord

Recently, I experienced the pleasure of FaceTime with my grown children. Since we are scattered across the East Coast, being together is a rarity. My sons arranged a FaceTime family gathering on a Sunday evening. Meanwhile, I texted my kids and told them to mark their calendars as the Jacobs were meeting face to face. At 8:00 p.m., I hit the link my son Chris sent me. Voilà! I saw his face. Over the next few minutes, the others joined. Soon my entire family was online together.

I started the conversation by asking one son a couple of questions. A few minutes later, I asked another one some questions. Quickly, the dialogue between my family members sprang forward. At that point, I reclined in my chair, listening to these siblings and their spouses chat, laugh, and poke fun at each other. With their faces scattered across my computer screen, I was thrilled to watch my loved ones interact with each other. For an hour, I basked in the joy of their company.

Rejoicing …

The next morning, I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to visit with my children. What a treasured evening it had been. Then I remembered a Bible verse I often use as I begin my time with the Lord. I turned in my Bible to Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV 1984 edition, emphasis added).

In the past, I had struggled with the thought that the Lord delighted in me. I questioned if He actually enjoyed my presence. But that morning, for the first time, I understood His joy. Just as I delighted in spending time with my children, my heavenly Father delights in spending time with me. Imagine that! The Lord of the universe loves my company, and I love to read His Word because it fills His heart with joy.

The Power of the Word of God

Living in the twenty-first century, many of us lead hectic lives. Often we are over- committed and exhausted. Wisely, God tells us “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, emphasis added). One way to apply this verse is to read the Bible daily so God can strengthen our surrendered hearts to Him and equip us to navigate this frenetic world. If we desire to impact our children and grandchildren for the Lord, we need to establish a daily routine of meditating on His living Word. You could say it is “FaceTime” with the Lord.

Four Practical Steps

Many grandparents long to spend time studying and reading the Bible. However, they struggle with the logistics. I find it helpful to follow four practical steps. First, determine a reading schedule that is realistic for your current lifestyle. I start by asking the Lord to design my reading time. The second step is to use a Bible that is easy to read and understand. My favorite one is the New International Version (NIV). There are a number of excellent Bible translations. Your pastor or a sales person at a Christian bookstore may be able to recommend a Bible best suited for you. A third practical step for reading your Bible is to bring a notebook and pen to your quiet place. I find it helpful to jot down thoughts that come to me as I spend time with the Lord. The fourth step is to develop a reading plan. Often, I use a devotional book, a study guide or an online reading plan. It is important to establish a structure so I do not flounder when I start my quiet time. The structure keeps me on a timely tract.

Yes, “FaceTime” with the Lord is precious time in His presence. He has provided an amazing book called the Bible. It tells the most compelling story of all time, the story of the true God who longs to be with His people forever. He gave us this heavenly treasure so we can know how to run our earthly race. One
day we will see Him face-to-face. But until then, let us draw near to Him daily by reading and rereading His written Word. Remember, He delights in you. You bring joy to His heart and a smile to His face when you choose to “FaceTime” with Him.

For more information on “Reading the Bible Daily”, you can go to Catherine’s book, Pass the Legacy: 7 Keys for Grandparents Making a Difference at www.passthelegacy.com.

A Crazy Life

Catherine Jacobs

I remember well my crazy mom’s life of raising my four kids. No one warned me it is equally delirious being a grandma. Let’s see, this week I’ve crisscrossed the city not once, twice, but four times. Three of those runs were grandchild related. The fourth trip was to lead a class for grandmothers. Yes, I often catch MY breath as I watch my daughter race from one Mom’s event to the next. But I’m eyeballing her as I scurry hither and yon, repeating to myself, “I can do EVERYTHING through Christ who strengthens me.” The problem is I’m not as young as Carrie…. Sigh ….

Now I’m not complaining at all. I love it. Even though I get exasperated trying to balance this “retired” life, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Oh, I wish my life were nice and neat and orderly. How I long for a simpler, organized life-style. But you know what? I realized that is probably NOT going to happen — not in this life, anyway. So, I grab my keys and GO. When I can, I plunk away on my computer or scribble with a pen across various sizes and shapes of paper (old fashioned, I know). Also, I love to talk, visit or share with other grandparents about this amazing season of GRANDparenting. Notice I capitalized the first letters in the previous word. That is because this second season of parenting is “grand”. It is God’s vision for us as we age, gain experience and, hopefully, become wiser. The jury is still out on how wise I am. Finally, occasionally, churches ask me to speak at seminars, workshops or conferences.

Recently, I was given the awesome opportunity to write a few words to you, the readers on “Gospel Shaped Family”. Compared to the other writers on this website, I’m the “young one”. Not in age (at all!). But in experience of writing and speaking. I am a grandmother who has written a book and spoken a few times around the country. I’ve been blessed to walk with the Lord for over forty years. I base my thoughts on the living Word of God. So, grab a cup of tea and join me soon as I relate to you my struggles, nuggets of God-given wisdom and experiences of raising kids and grandkids in the faith.