3 ways to teach your kids about Easter, death and the cross

3 ways to teach your kids about Easter, death and the cross

My 4-year-old daughter Maggie has always been a bit studious for her age. She knew colors when she was 2, was reading the entire alphabet when she was 3, and by the time she turned 4, could read a digital clock.

So I was a bit surprised when my wife told me toward the end of last year that Maggie had failed a holiday pop quiz. The question from my wife was the same one that Charlie Brown shouted to all of his friends: What’s Christmas all about?

Maggie’s answer: “presents.”

I’m sure she said it in an oh-so-sweet voice, and I bet she even had an oh-so-precious smile on her face, but she also was oh-so-wrong. Christmas, my wife told her, is about Jesus—even if presents can be part of innocent holiday funBy the end of the day Maggie had watched a cartoon about baby Jesus and had been read a book about baby Jesus, and it’s safe to say she went to bed that night knowing that Christmas wasn’t all about dolls, dollhouses and pretty pink necklaces.

Of course, it’s easy to teach children about Christmas, with its spotlight on a sweet tiny baby surrounded by animals and shepherds on a clear, starry night. It’s such a “sterile” and “clean” story that even non-Christians are attracted to its power.

But what do we do about Easter? Instead of a baby, we have a bruised and bloodied man. Instead of shepherds in worshipful awe, we have mocking, hate-filled onlookers. Instead of a stable, we have nails, a crown of thorns and a cross. And instead of a story about life, we apparently have a story about, well, death. How do we teach our children that?
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10 life-changing words to tell your kids every day

10 life-changing words to tell your kids every dayMy 7-year-old son is like a lot of boys his age—energetic, jovial and somewhat loud.

He also has this peculiarity that is prominent among his peers: He pretends he doesn’t like to be praised.

“Great job, son!” I’ll tell him—to which he responds with a shrug of embarrassment or a stare of indifference.

But I know my words impact him—greatly.

One time he and I were having a candid father-son talk when I—unwisely—told him that the Bible says I should love his mom more than I love him. Oh, sure, it was a super-dumb thing to say, even though it had a biblical basis (Ephesians 5) and was factually true. But his 7-year-old heart wasn’t ready to process that, and he went to his room and sobbed. I nearly cried, too.

Sociologists have conducted dozens of studies demonstrating the power of words, but Scripture—more than 2,000 years ago—beat social science to the punch.

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” Proverbs 16:24 tells us.

If we were to analyze the thousands of words we say each day to our children, would they be mostly negative (“I can’t believe you did that!”) or positive (“let’s clean that up together”)? Our words, both good and bad, shape our children in the same manner the talented potter molds the unformed clay.

My wife and I have become intentional in recent months about using more positive words around our children, and we’ve seen our home become an even happier one. The results, though, aren’t always seen overnight. Just as honeycomb and other healthy foods don’t lead to instant good health, sometimes our words have to be sprinkled on our children each day and every week, until months later we see fruit—whether that is obeying better, treating their siblings and friends better, or even making better grades.
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4 (more) New Year’s resolutions for a more Christ-centered family

4 (more) New Year’s resolutions for a more Christ-centered family My youngest son was born six months ago this month. During that time he has learned to hold his head up, grab toys, roll over, and — my favorite — smile.

It’s been an incredible short journey, but it certainly doesn’t seem like he was born six months ago. In fact, it seems more like five minutes.

A friend warned me years ago that when you have children, time accelerates. It’s as if “Back to the Future’s” Marty McFly and Doc Brown are in charge of your life, driving you from year to year in their magical DeLorean—all with the power of that much-needed flux capacitor.

But we don’t need to depend on Hollywood movies to understand and appreciate the brevity of time. God warned us long ago that our lives are like a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). The Bible’s point isn’t to depress us but to give us a sense of urgency—to encourage us to treat each day as if it could be our last. Life, after all, is a gift, and we should live with a spotlight on eternity (Hebrews 13:14).

But with so many distractions in our day-to-day lives, how do we stay focused? Here’s one way: Make meaningful New Year’s resolutions. Last year I listed five resolutions on this blog: Each day vow to read the Bible with your child; get home from work earlier; say more positive words around your child; spend less time on your smartphone and love your spouse more in front of your children). This year, I’m listing a few more—for me and perhaps for you, too.

If you’re looking for a few resolutions for 2016, consider these:

1. Pray for your kids. I’m not referencing the weekly or monthly “dear-God-please bless-my-child” prayer. I’m talking about pleading with God each day—and even throughout the day—for your kids. Yes, pray for their health, their grades and their relationships, but also pray for their future. Do you want them to have a great career? Marry a godly spouse? Give you wonderful grandchildren? Then pray for it. The Bible says there are blessings from God we don’t receive because we don’t ask (James 4:3). That’s convicting, isn’t it?
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Will I love my biological child as much as my adopted ones?

Will I love my biological child as much as my adopted ones?The bright computer monitor in the hospital delivery room read 151, then 155, then 153. My wife and I traded smiles. It was my unborn son’s heart rate, and the reading was—the nurse said—perfect. The sound, though, was what put a tear in my eye.

Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump it rapidly went, telling anyone who knew our background: God is amazing … and He has a sense of humor.

We had decided to call him “Isaac,” simply because we, like Abraham and Sarah and their own son by that name, literally laughed when we learned my wife was pregnant. That’s what you do when you become pregnant in your 40s, seven years after adopting your first child and three years after adopting twins. It’s what you do when you learn you’re pregnant 10 years after visiting a fertility doctor, crying and wondering what the future holds. It’s also what you do when you become pregnant after you give away your baby carrier, your baby toys and all your baby clothes.

It’s not the path I would have chosen but, in hindsight, I would not change a thing.

Many couples struggling with infertility—like we did—look at their options and contemplate a question they’d rather not voice publicly: Can I love an adopted child as much as a biological one?

But before Isaac was born this summer, I confronted a very different question: Can I love a biological child as much as my adopted ones?
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3 awe-inspiring, life-changing lessons from a simple ultrasound

3 awe-inspiring, life-changing lessons from a simple ultrasoundGrowing up, you often look forward to that series of “firsts” — your first car and first date, and then your first job and first child.

Your first ultrasound, though, probably isn’t on the list. But perhaps it should be. I’m thinking about that now because of what I witnessed the other day, an experience that can only be described as life-changing.

I had seen hundreds of ultrasound images during my short life, but nothing like these.

These were pictures of my son – a tiny baby I have yet to hold or kiss or hug, but a son who I already love just as much as my other three children. There, on the screen, were his eyes, his nose, his fingers, his toes. There was his hair – his hair! And there was his little heart, pumping so fast that I could barely count the beats. On this day he was quite active in the womb, and we enjoyed the show as he seemingly did his best to hide from the nurse. He squirmed and kicked, rolled from side to side, and even opened and closed his mouth. I smiled in wonder and amazement … and then cried tears of joy.

Minutes later I walked out of the doctor’s office with a new perspective on life … and with a sense of bewilderment about the never-ending debate over abortion.

You see, this was our very first ultrasound as a couple. Our first three children were adopted, and although we saw all of them immediately after birth, we never saw them live, in the womb.

Historians often debate the greatest technological advancements of the past century, and I’ve got to wonder if ultrasounds shouldn’t be near the top.

Simply put, I now understood why pro-choice leaders oppose the technology at every turn.

It all reminds me of that iconic scene at the end of the original Wizard Of Oz, the one where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion finally make it back to Emerald City to meet the Wizard, an intimidating green monster-looking thing who shouts at everyone in a terrifying, booming voice. He even lives amidst fire and smoke.
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