Where Does Love Hide?

Dr. Mary Manz Simon © 2017

I want to reach out and grab it, before the love floats away. Because on this single day each February, love is all around.

After all, this is the month of candy hearts on the coffee table and white doilies glued to red construction paper. The word doesn’t change through the years, but the depth of the emotion changes during the seasons of parenting.

The excitement and passion of romantic love gives way to familiar comfort as the anniversary years add up. The wonder and amazement at the birth of a child gets buried in a flurry of baseball games and gymnastics lessons. In some families, love gets lost in a tangled web of broken relationships and fractured hearts.

Children learn quickly that the very word, “love” can be quite useful. Even a three year old knows that saying “I love you” can trigger mommy cuddles; a tween adds “I don’t love you” to emphasize a point.

In the next twenty-four hours, how many times will your child say the word “love”? Listen for these phrases:

You don’t love me as much as __________.

Most parents would agree that we have a responsibility to help each child develop and celebrate his God-given gifts. But most parents would also agree that it’s hard to raise children without making comparisons.

And yet each child has individual strengths on which we can build. Sometimes abilities and gifts are buried under a strong-willed nature, the moodiness of adolescence, or the hurt of neglect. Each child has a right to be loved for who he is.

Do you love me?

We often assume children know we love them. Yet even the most casual observer would question our love when we yell at a child for dropping a spoon from the high chair or overreact to a report card. Love can get all mixed up with other emotions and even lost in the hassles of everyday life.

Years ago, a mom made the commitment to tell her child at least once a day, “I love you, and Jesus loves you, too.” That’s an appropriate resolution for each of us this Valentine’s Day 2017.

If you loved me you wouldn’t make me…empty the garbage…turn off my tablet…come home early on school nights.

Love is often a handy trigger for parental guilt. It’s true that love is unconditional, but showing love involves setting limits. Because we love our children we teach them about responsible behavior. Because we love our children we require them to meet certain expectations. And we do these things not because it’s easier (often it’s much harder) but because we love them.

If you loved me you would…take me to Disney World…give me a smartphone…serve me ice cream for breakfast.

At an early age, children discover that love can be an effective negotiating tool. Manipulating the word “love” and the accompanying emotion has triggered countless impulse purchases in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Giving things  will never replace giving love. Our gift of self—attention, time, affection—is the essence of parental love.

If you loved me, you would forget that I…didn’t make my bed…hid my phone under my bed…left my bike outside in the rain.

Human nature makes it tough to forget, but because we are Christians, we can forgive.

I’ve never met a perfect child or a perfect parent, but because Jesus loves us, you and I can forgive our children. Because Jesus loves us, our children can forgive us. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). These words are a blessing every day.

Yet even on Valentine’s Day, love can get buried in the busyness. I know: I had three children in less than four years. Life in those years was often chaotic; I’m not sure it’s settled down yet!

I hope sleep-deprived parents will share the precious love children offer so generously when reading my newest book, Where Does Love Hide?  Interacting with a young child who lifts the flaps of this fun book reminds us all that love can be found everywhere.

Challenge your child—and yourself—to discover where love hides at your house on this holiday. And if love seems a bit elusive, reach out with a hug, a caring word or a helping hand. You’ll uncover exactly where love hides.

 

 

Mary Manz Simon is an award-winning author whose titles have sold more than three million copies in the Christian channel and are available in ten languages. A long-time columnist for Focus on the Family, Mary has authored numerous articles for a variety of periodicals. Her speaking venues include Book Expo of the American Booksellers Association (BEA), National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and International Retailing Show of the Christian Booksellers Association (ICRS). She serves as an adviser to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and was quoted in McCall’s magazine as one of “America’s top parenting experts.”

 

 

5 Books to Read with Your Best Friend

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” Thomas Aquinas

Friendship is beautiful, in large part because of its elasticity. Friendship stretches through trial, bends to serve, and winds down the long, curving road of life’s joys and sorrows. I’ve found that I can enjoy anything as long as I’m with my best friend, including reading! Here are a few picks for the perfect books to read with your BFF. These novels will tighten your bond and help you talk about issues common to friendship.

 

Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle

Nobody’s Cuter than You is a laugh-out-loud look at the special bond that exists between friends and a poignant celebration of all the extraordinary people God had the good sense to bring into our lives at exactly the right moments. On a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, friends are the ones who will look at us and say, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”

 

To Be a Friend: Building Deep and Lasting Relationships by Jerry White and Mary White

Much of the conscious development of our circle of friends rests on an understanding of the elements and foundations of friendship. There is no magic formula. They can’t be manufactured. But they are priceless. Walk with Jerry and Mary White in To Be a Friend as they probe and discover together the great adventure of being and having friends.

 

Home Is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong by Sophie Hudson

In Home Is Where My People Are, Sophie Hudson takes readers on a delightfully quirky journey through the South, introducing them to an unforgettable cast of characters, places, and experiences. Along the way, she reflects on how God has used each of the stops along the road to impart timeless spiritual wisdom and truth.

 

 

Grown-Up Girlfriends: Finding and Keeping Real Friends in the Real World by Erin Smalley and Carrie Oliver

Even when life is hectic and harried, every woman has a God-given longing for relationship, and her female friends play an important role in filling that. Using personal anecdotes and scriptural principles, Oliver and Smalley explain ten characteristics of a grown-up friend and offer ideas on how readers can develop these attributes in themselves.

 

Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke

Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hope of claiming the life promised to their father over twenty years before. After surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died. Despite her family’s disapproval, Olivia Wakefield determines to honor her father’s debt. As women begin disappearing from the store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen take a stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters.

 

Find more friendship related products at Tyndale.com! 

Limping Along: What Happens When We Allow Things to Entangle Us by Francine Rivers

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

So a friend called from Hawaii and told me about an injured seagull she saw on the beach.
The poor bird couldn’t walk at all but flutter-hopped in its quest for food.

On closer examination, my friend saw that fishing line entangled the bird’s legs, hobbling it.

She approached slowly, extending her hand in the hope she could remove the line and do something about the bird’s wounds. Frightened, the gull flew off, legs still hobbled and infected.

Sometimes we are like that poor seagull.

We become entangled in bad habits or addictions, in destructive relationships or all manner of fears.

We peck away at our daily tasks, trying to forget the pain. All the while the infection of sin is growing and going deeper until it threatens to destroy us.

The seagull flew away from my friend, who wanted to untangle the fishing line and wash the wounds.

We too often turn away from those who want to help us—and even from God, who is the only One who really can get rid of our sin.

Sometimes we turn away out of fear, other times out of shame.

More often, we turn our backs because of our pride.

We don’t want others to see us at our ugly worst, so we limp along, pretending we’re just fine.

The pain of removing what holds us captive can be frightening. 

Yet if we lay aside all those things that encumber our walk with God, if we strip off the sin that slows us down, as Hebrews 12:1 says, then we find the freedom and healing that come from being reconciled to God.

We no longer have to hobble about in isolation, like the injured seagull, but we can live in communion with God the way we were created to.

When we trust fully in God to help us and refuse to let our pride turn us away from His forgiveness, then He will renew our strength, giving us joy and energy for the tasks ahead.

We will run and not grow weary; we will soar high on wings like eagles.

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is greater—yes, grace untold—

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within,

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin!

“Grace Greater Than Our Sin”

Forgiveness is always free. But that doesn’t mean that confession is always easy. Sometimes it is hard. Incredibly hard. It is painful to admit our sins and entrust ourselves to God’s care.” Erwin Lutzer

How do you react when you’re struggling and someone tries to help you?

When you’re tangled up in sin, how do you respond to God?

Why do you think we often turn away from Him?

How do we benefit by letting God and others help us?

What sins, bad habits, or poor choices might be entangling you and keeping you from living with freedom. What could you do this week to throw those off?

It’s a reality—that Jesus is the One who gives us strength. And it can be a heartache—that too often we let ourselves become constrained by sin. That is what can trip us up, distracts us, and keeps us from living well.

When we’re stuck in sin—we don’t have to get stuck in the trap of turning away from Him.

What can turn everything around in the midst of everything—is turning to Him.

You can feel at the edges of things—God reaching out to heal us.

*****

Learn more about Earth Psalms by Francine Rivers at Tyndale.com. This devotional was originally posted on A Holy Experience.

Nuclear Power for Couples by Greg & Erin Smalley

Like nuclear fission, couples with God as their cornerstone have more potential power than they could ever imagine. A key lesson for couples is how to tap into that power through intentionally connecting to God and to each other. Ephesians chapter three provides context:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge –that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Practice spiritual disciplines together

The key to God’s unlimited power source is to practice daily spiritual disciplines together –that’s the “being rooted and established in love” part of the passage. Remember that you don’t have to be one of those couples who rise in the morning together and devote an hour to prayer. The goal is to work toward finding additional ways you and your spouse can connect spiritually within the scope of the husband’s leadership style as he supports and nurtures his wife’s spiritual gifting. Here are some of Erin’s and my favorite spiritual disciplines for couples:

  • Praying together (Matthew 18:19)
  • Using encouraging words with each other (Hebrews 3:13)
  • Studying God’s Word together (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Attending church together (Hebrews 10:25)
  • Giving and uniting in sacrifice to do it (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
  • Witnessing and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • Caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27)
  • Studying sermons together (Acts 2:42)
  • Meditating on Scripture (Joshua 1:8)
  • Fasting together (Matthew 6:16-18)
  • Memorizing Scripture (Psalm 119:11)
  • Participating in praise and worship (Psalm 95:1-2)
  • Observing a day of rest (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • Reading a devotional together (Psalm 119:105)
  • Participating in Sunday school or small groups (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Keeping a journal of the specific ways God has helped our marriage (1 Samuel 7:12)

Love God wholeheartedly, and then love others.

As we plug into the right power source, we have what we need to live out the second part of the great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This gives us an important order. First, we love God wholeheartedly, and then we love others. The point is that we can’t love others without first getting our hearts full of God’s love. Once we harness God’s nuclear energy within our relationship, then we are to give it away. Think about it: nuclear energy is a mighty force, but it’s useless if the energy isn’t used for something productive.

Nuclear energy starts by rearranging uranium neutrons in a process called fission. Fission releases energy that can be used to make steam, and the steam can then be used to power a turbine to generate electricity.14 A typical nuclear power plant supplies enough electricity to power 893,000 homes.15 A nuclear generator the size of a hot tub can produce enough electricity to supply twenty thousand homes.16 In the same way, the incredible spiritual energy between a husband and wife is unleashed. Don’t keep this power bottled up!

Erin and I have found that developing shared dreams as a couple is like unleashing nuclear energy in and through our marriage. The nuclear math of marriage can be changed again: 1 + 1 = infinity.

*****

This excerpt was taken from Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage by Greg & Erin Smalley. Save 20% on the softcover in February!

Copyright © 2016. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Under Our Skin: A Forum on Race and Faith

In November 2014, Benjamin Watson, then a tight end with the New Orleans Saints, posted a Facebook essay expressing the different emotions he felt after a Ferguson, MO, grand jury voted not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Watson’s Facebook post, which effectively expressed an assortment of emotions that ranged from anger to embarrassment to hopelessness to hopefulness, was “liked” by nearly one million people. After this horrible situation, Watson asked the question that so many have wondered: Can it ever get better?

One year later, Tyndale House Publishers released Watson’s Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race—and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us. Watson’s book unpacks the question that he and so many have wondered: Will things ever get better, and is there hope for honest and healing conversations? In Under Our Skin, which has been referred to as part memoir and part social commentary, Watson examines both sides of the race debate and appeals to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing. The book offers a challenging and fresh perspective on the issue, opening the eyes and hearts of many.

On February 16, 2017, the conversation will continue as Benjamin Watson and other national thought leaders—including author and Hall of Fame football coach Tony Dungy, former NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner Warrick Dunn, Heisman Trophy winner and executive director of Desire Street Ministries Danny Wuerffel, author and speaker Mo Isom, Detroit pastor and author J. Kevin Butcher, University of South Florida head coach Charlie Strong, esteemed broadcaster James Brown, and executive director of Restoration Academy Ben Sciacca—come together at The Crossing Church in Tampa to discuss race and faith. The event will be moderated by ESPN’s Sage Steele, and music will be provided by Lizzy Cameron and Seth & Nirva. Although oftentimes the racial divide is a political position, divisive argument, or debate taking place on TV, very rarely do people leave with a change of heart or plan of action to apply to their everyday lives. Attend the forum unlike any other, in which the participants desire to move this argument and debate to a place of understanding different perspectives by really putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. At this forum, panelists will set their pride aside in order to have an authentic and meaningful dialogue.

“I think it’s important for all of us to let down our guard, to show some empathy, and be open to someone else’s experience, even if it’s different from our own,” said Watson. “Though our forum panelists won’t agree on everything, we’ll be intentional about having honest, heartfelt, and respectful dialogue. We all need a change of heart on the subject where our own lives intersect with this dialogue. Our greatest desire is to equip people who view the Under Our Skin forum with tools to help them engage in their own communities.”

In order to transform hearts toward the racial divide and provide a fresh perspective, the event will not just provide great insights but will give attendees a call to action to take with them to their own communities so that the discussion does not end with this three-hour panel, but continues to occur.

Under Our Skin: A Forum on Race and Faith will take place Thursday, February 16, 2017 at The Crossing Church in Tampa. General admission tickets are on sale now at www.underourskinforum.com for $29.99. VIP tickets (limit 50) are on sale for $199.00 and include an event ticket, dinner with the panelists, a signed copy of Under Our Skin, and a seat in one of the first three rows at the event. Can’t attend the forum? Purchase a livestream feed for churches or groups of more than twenty at $149.00 or for individuals at $9.99. Tyndale House Publishers will be providing a charitable donation to the charity/foundation of choice of panelists.

Please consider inviting your family and friends to join Tyndale House Publishers, along with an impressive panel of leaders, as we come together to take a closer look at the issue of race and faith in America.

 

Article by Celia Leibow