The Moan Zone

Photo 70520813 / Complaining © Jbrown777 | Dreamstime.com

Blameless. Pure. 

Children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.

Shining like stars in the sky.

Does this come close to your dreams for your kids and grandkids? It does for me. Let’s look at the passage.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—” Philippians 2:14-16a NIV

Stop the tape. Did you catch the first part? The conditional part of that verse?

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”

Paul is speaking of: The Moan Zone.

At the Root

Complaints and arguments stem from:

1) not getting what we want, or 

2) having to do something we don’t want to do. 

James 4:1-3 puts it this way, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? . . . You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” 

Let’s look at some roots of complaint against God.

1. Our Agenda

For me, letting go of my to-do list was a point of contention. God repeatedly pulled the rug out from under me until I learned to hold the day’s schedule with open hands. Now, I start each day by asking what’s on His agenda. 

2. Trust Issues

For some, the issue may be one of trust rather than a poor attitude. People wounds and misunderstandings of how God works can bring up arguments from the most faithful of children.

Forgiveness. Being vulnerable to someone who has hurt me. Both were places I didn’t want to go. Yet I knew not going would be worse. Still, God and I talked a lot. 

3. Negative Influences

Teasing, comparison, and sarcasm can strike deep. Five positive thoughts are needed to counter a single negative one. Are our homes unbalanced? God says to speak life—self talk included. More and more I come under conviction regarding words. 

Have any of these three made your home a Moan Zone? 

Polish Up Your Shine 

Here’s some ways to help our stars shine.

1. Get in the Word.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Transformation comes when the Holy Spirit and the living Word work in tandem in our hearts. 

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

God is for us. Therefore, submission is a win-win. 

2. Choose joy.

Life is too short for me to spend it grumpy. I want a mindset of “I get to” rather than “I have to.” My feelings don’t have to rule. I choose. 

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Look at the opportunities in these passages to develop healthy thought patterns: rejoice, pray, give thanks. Note: this is the standard behavior. All. The. Time.

3. Close the door on negativity.

Where do negative thoughts gain entrance? Music? Entertainment? Friends? News? Poor attitudes? We are gatekeepers with gatekeepers in training. Don’t expect Disney to handle this. In fact, Disney has always required due diligence.

“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” Psalm 101:3

4. Open the door to truth and light.

How can we counter the dark influences in the world? Music. Art. Scripture. Wholesome entertainment and literature. What leaves us encouraged?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

5. Find the silver lining. 

What about the icky stuff? At the moment? Alzheimer’s and dementia in my mother-in-law and my mom. Life is hard. 

James helps us once again.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything . . . Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4, 12)

Even more good things come from the icky stuff because God filters it. Everything that comes to us goes through Him first and He uses it for our good (Romans 8:28). This helps me persevere. Pure joy? Not there yet, but perseverance and faith? Yes. 

The word of life, which Philippians says we hold out, will never appeal to others if our shining is dimmed by words of complaint. And if we argue and complain to God, we probably won’t care to share Him. 

An attitude of trust and confidant faith in a loving God shines in a world driven by feelings and darkened by chance. God is for me. He has a plan for my life. Nothing is left to chance. Even the hard stuff has purpose. 

Shut down the Moan Zone. Rejoice. Give thanks. Pray.

And shine. 

Activities:

Count your blessings. No, really.

Make a list of entertainment choices that line up with Philippians 4:8-9.

Consider having a jar of coins. Reward positive words. Fine negative ones. Make the reward five times better than the fine. 

Keep a gratitude journal or jar. Make two entries each day. 

Parents, share stories of treasures mined from tough times. 

My Never-to-be-a-Best-Selling Book

Photo 136153806 / Easter © Udra11 | Dreamstime.com

In April of 2019, I wrote Bite-sized Theology for Little Bits, a series of theological concepts on the lower shelf for younger readers. 

My first topic? Sin. Hence, the never-to-be-a-best-seller blog title. 

But God put His fingerprints all over it. He even woke me up at 2 am to work on it.

So, what better time to address sin than April? At Eastertime. 

SIN: Bite-Sized Theology for Little Bits

By Gayle Veitenheimer

Sin. Bad. God. Good.

Sin. Stains. God. Spotless.

What is sin? It’s inside. It’s outside.

A thought. A word. 

An act. A me first. A you never.  

How did we get sin? The first man sinned. And brought sin to us all.

We can’t escape. We’re stuck. 

Can’t wash it off. Can’t work it away. Can’t reach the One who can. 

Stuck.

But God. 

God can wash us. God did the work. God can reach us.

How? A trade.

Our sin for His holiness. Our faith for His grace. Our heart for His Spirit.

But the old parts, the mind, the body, need training to match the new heart.

So, we battle.

When we lose, we confess, and God forgives.

But more and more, 

we win. 

There is a ridiculous amount of biblically based theology in this little piece. Theologians endlessly debate man’s level of depravity and the effects of God’s grace. 

For me, apart from Jesus, I am one selfish, prideful person who looks out for number one. Apart from Jesus, I not only remember your trespasses, but I also resent them and hold a grudge. 

But with Jesus?

I am changed. My story reads differently.

The fruit of the Spirit grows, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, though in a variety of stages. 

When we understand the extent of our depravity and our inability to fix it, Easter gains depth. 

The painful, bloody sacrifice Jesus made drives us to our knees in thanks, then lifts us to our feet with victory on our lips.

Let’s be intentional about what we’re celebrating. 

This is bigger than bunnies and baskets. 

Sin. Death. Evil. 

Conquered.

For eternity.

Starting here and now with you and me.

Because God loves lost and broken people enough to make a way home through the shed blood of His perfect Son. 

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

Family Activities:

1. Construct a simple cross. List your sins. Past and present. Include the shameful ones that haunt you. Nail them to the cross. I mean it. Get the hammer. Pound the nails. And leave that sin where it belongs. On the cross.

2. Talk about the elements required for God to forgive sin. What did sin cost for both sinner and Savior?

3. Watch The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Passion of the Christ, depending on the age of your crowd.

4. Please enjoy making baskets and hunting eggs too. Glenys Nellist, Josie Siler, and Laura Sassi, just to name a few, have great Easter books to fill your baskets.

5. Here are some activities for Passion Week.

How to Cultivate a (Healthy) Fear of the Lord

Photo 201592275 / Trailhead © Mkopka | Dreamstime.com

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Psalm 111:10 NIV

If wisdom is the summit of Pikes Peak, then the fear of the Lord is the trailhead. The starting point. The beginning.

Most of my kids enjoy hiking now, but as children, family hikes required lots of snacks, water, and the company of the family dog to overcome their initial reluctance. How much more of a challenge is it to cultivate a reverent, yielded, and humble heart for God amidst a culture that thrives on disrespect, independence, and pride?

How do we guide our kids to the spiritual trailhead?

God leads the way through His word.

1. God establishes His authority and His might. God’s conversation with Job brings a proper perspective (Job 38-41). Here’s a taste. Job 38:4-5 reads, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!”

Job offers a great reminder of who’s in charge—and it’s not us. Every believer needs to understand this. Just as we check our speed when we see a policeman parked on the side of the road, we need to acknowledge God’s sovereign authority.

2. God establishes His holiness. In Revelation 4:8 we catch a glimpse of the activity around God’s throne, “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’” His holiness inspires our holiness.

In Exodus 20:20, Moses said, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Belief affects behavior for kids and adults alike. Let’s examine our behaviors and those of our kids. Do we tuck holiness into our packs for the hike or have we left it on the floor at home?

3. God established holidays and the Sabbath. Holy days and the Sabbath help us remember His might, His miracles, and His mercy. For the Jews, feasts like Passover and Hanukkah. For Gentiles, Christmas and Easter. A sharp focus on the Godhead during the holidays helps our children keep the main thing the main thing. Sunday reminds us weekly to stop, rest, and worship. Exodus 12:26 reads, “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them . . .”

4. God connects actions with consequences. If we heed God’s call to note His holiness, then we also need to note God’s perspective on sin—and that’s something He takes very seriously. Look at Genesis 2:17, “. . . but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The last several times my husband and I hiked, we’ve seen a snake and some poison ivy. If our grandkids had been with us, we would have kept them at a distance, described the danger (what to look for, how to recognize it), and warned them of the consequences of contact (snakebite or an itchy rash). 

Do we practice such due diligence when it comes to sin? For example, taking God’s name in vain is common. OMG pops up on texts as much as LOL. Yet, this one made the Ten Commandments, etched by God Himself on Moses’ tablets of stone.  

5. A healthy fear of God conquers all other fears. Do other fears edge out a fear of God? Fear of what others think has tripped me more than once.

In Luke 12:5, Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Gulp. A healthy love and reverence for God eliminates my list of fears. He overcomes them all.

Meet you at the trailhead.

Activities:

1. Write God’s resume.

2. Record your personal history with God in a journal. If you already have one, review it. 

3. Make a list of things that are pure (without spot) and holy (set apart). How do they compare with God’s holiness? Do they give us a good picture or do they fall short, showing how great His holiness is in comparison?

4. List your fears. How do they interfere with your obedience?

5. List any sins which just aren’t a big deal to you. White lies. Gluttony. Slothfulness. Ask God for His perspective on them and how they hinder you specifically. 

How to Fuel Personal Worship in 2022

Photo 90567373 / Worship © Tagtraumer | Dreamstime.com

Nehemiah 10:34 snagged me.

The NIV reads, “We—the priests, the Levites and the people—have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law.”

What? A wood offering?

In both Old and New Testaments, the fire on the altar in the Tabernacle, or Temple, was to burn continuously (Lev. 6:12-13) to remind the Israelites of their need for continuous worship, atonement, and reconciliation. 

But there was another more important reason. 

God had supplied the fire Himself (Lev 9:24). 

The Israelites were responsible to keep it burning. 

Fast-forward to after the resurrection. The Holy Spirit’s presence marks every believer. The Book of Acts shows Him manifesting at Pentecost as tongues of, you guessed it, fire, one that 1 Thessalonians 5:19 warns us not to quench. 

As I prayed about this, God pointed me to worship. The Israelites offered whole animals to be burnt on the altar. In Romans, Paul tells us we are to be living sacrifices—and what better fuel for a living sacrifice than worship. 

If you’ve never practiced a personal time of worship, I’ll warn you, once you start, you’ll never want to stop. Here are five things to keep in mind.

1. Privacy: Create a secret place. A place where you or your child can close the door and not be interrupted. If that means you need to get out of the house and walk, do it. Help your kids find their own personal space where they can pursue God. 

2. Props: What ushers you into God’s presence? 

3. Posture: What your body does affects your spirit. 

  • Kneel.
  • Dance.
  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Walk.
  • Stand.
  • Raise your hands.

4. Proclamation: Speak out. Journal. Record His response.

  • Tell of God’s greatness.
  • Speak of God’s goodness.
  • Remember God’s goodness to you personally.
  • Thank Him.

5. Presence: He’s there whether you sense Him or not. 

  • “. . . because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
  • “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16

He is Emmanuel, God with us. Keep the altar fire burning as you worship Him.

Activities:

1. Fix up your child’s (and your own) secret place: A good place to sit, a good light source, materials, water)

2. What props do you need? Perhaps something different for each day of the week.

3. Experiment with posture. How does each affect you?

4. Take time as a family for personal worship, then report back as a group. How did each family member approach worship and what did they learn?

For more ideas, check out my Pinterest Worship Board.

10 Tips for Getting Your Kids Into the Word in 2022

Photo 113333005 / Kids Reading Bible © Krystyna Taran | Dreamstime.com

When we had kids at home, I had a goal of a daily quiet time (Bible reading, memorization, and prayer) for each child before they left the house for school. 

I know. Tall order. 

Our kids attended public school, and I wanted God’s Word in their heads before they stepped out the front door. 

God’s Word changes things. People. Circumstances. Hearts. 

Check out these verses:

  •  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 
  •  “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 
  •  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Getting your kids’ eyeballs in God’s Word is vital. 

How? Here are ten tips.

1. Tackle small portions:

  • One verse at a time 
  • One passage at a time
  • One story at a time 

(See Devour the Bible: Small Bites and Devour the Bible: One Bite at a Time at the end of the post.)

2. Study a character: Who’s their favorite Bible hero/heroine? Villain? Team?

3. Choose a genre: History? Poetry? Battles? Love stories? Proverbs? Parables? Where does your student gravitate?

4. Identify topics of interest (or need): Anger? Money management? Sibling issues? Tie to a Bible character if possible. Trouble with lying? Abraham’s your guy. Sibling rivalry? Explore Joseph and his brothers or Rachel and Leah.

5. Meditate & Memorize: These two disciplines pair beautifully. Think on it (Meditate). Over and over (Memorize). Start with short verses and progress to passages and even chapters and books as they grow. 

6. Find a dramatization of what they are reading. Choices range from a time-traveling trio exploring Bible times in a Hanna-Barbera’s The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible cartoons to Dallas Jenkins’ s The Chosen series.

7. Keep helpful resources on hand:

  • Concordance
  • Study Bibles
  • Biblegateway.com
  • Bible apps 

8. Provide needed supplies and create a special spot:

  • Journals
  • Colored pens, pencils, markers
  • Stickers
  • Highlighters
  • Pillows
  • Good lighting
  • Comfy seating (But not too comfy!)

9. Try different reading plans and study methods.

Study Methods Example: Interrogate the text: Who, what, when, where, why, and how?

What is God saying to me?

Reading Plan: Read one chapter of Proverbs each day for a month.

10. Reward the effort. One of the best things you can do is to reward the behavior you want to see repeated. What hits their sweet spot? A gift card? A trip for ice cream? A new book?

If you feel overwhelmed, I get it. 

When it comes to your child’s race of faith, we parents serve as coaches, mentors, cheerleaders, medical crew, and water station personnel. 

It’s a lot. 

We feel equipped for some roles. Others—not so much. That’s why I created Devour the Bible: Small Bites for preschoolers and Devour the Bible: One Bite at a Time for elementary-aged students.

A key part of any race is moving toward the finish line—Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. A large part of that movement involves time in God’s word: reading, understanding, and applying it, all in relationship with Him. 

Devour the Bible helps kids understand what they read and how to walk it out. Think of it as the fuel offered at a race station. Oranges. Bananas. Water. Gatorade. 

Fuel that will get them through the next leg of their race. 

For your elementary-aged students, Devour the Bible: One Bite at a Time offers one Bible verse with five study points in infographic form you can stick on your fridge. Kids study one verse while learning something new each day. By the weekend, they’ll have hidden a new verse in their heart. 

For your preschoolers, I’ve designed Devour the Bible: Small Bites, a coloring sheet with a shorter verse for easier memorization, five easy applications, and a parent’s guide. 

Fuel today’s race with Devour the Bible. This month, we’ll chew on 1 Corinthians 13:4a. Enter your email in the form below.

If you would like both, just email me and I’ll send you the other link.