Guest Post

Raising Empowered Kids

sweet kids

Please welcome fellow author and blogger Jessie Mattis. She is a homeschool mom of three and has a passion for encouraging kids to pursue God. This passion shows up in her Middle Grade Christian book Power Up. I read this wonderful book last year and I highly recommend it. Jessie is currently working on a historical fiction novel. I can’t wait to read it.

We connected as authors and Christians, now I call her friend. I have joked that we should do a book tour together. I can dream. Maybe one day. Jessie blessed us with a fantastic article on practical ways we can lead our kids to follow God. Enjoy this wonderful encouragement. Thank you Jessie!

RAISING EMPOWERED KIDS

Sometimes, it seems, kids don’t get the credit they deserve. As parents and caregivers, we don’t always understand the capabilities and potential of our children, bubbling under the surface, just waiting for guidance and encouragement to rise to the occasion. 

Did you know that 70% of Christians chose to follow Jesus when they were between the ages of four and fourteen? Seventy percent! That means the ages of 4-14 are pretty crucial for our kiddos.

Not that we need more pressure as parents. Parenting is hard and we’re doing our best, right? But even as busy as we are, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more important than leading our kids to Jesus while they’re young. 

Kids who follow Jesus are not only capable, but empowered through the Holy Spirit. Like adults, they can:

  • Speak to God
  • Hear from God
  • Pray for others
  • Use the gifts and leading of the Spirit in various ways

It’s incredible to see kids living boldly in this empowerment. When my youngest daughter was just a toddler, she had (and still has) deep compassion for those around her. If one of her big siblings hurt themselves (which was all.the.time.), it wasn’t uncommon for her to reach her chubby little hand out and pray a simple, Dear God, please help my brother/sister feel better. 

Of course there are no guarantees, and every child has free will (hello daughter of mine who just gave all her dolls ‘baths’ in a bowl and ended up with soaked carpet…oops), but there are a couple simple things we can do to inspire our kids while they’re still fairly moldable. (And thankfully there are bucketloads of grace for those whose kids are older now, and still plenty of time and opportunity for us to model Jesus for them!) 

Let’s explore three basic ways we can lead our kids closer to the living God.

1. Model what walking with God looks like. Children do as they’re shown, not always as they’re told. Unfortunately, lots of churches, parents, and teachers are doing far more telling than showing. Focusing solely on Bible stories and facts (which are incredibly important, don’t get me wrong) misses a big piece of the puzzle. Relationship.

Kids need both—to learn about God, and to be shown how to live alongside an active God. Understandably, this type of teaching doesn’t always come naturally to adults. We’re all at different places on our spiritual journey, but what our kids need most is to see us living as if we believe God is not only real, but also truly good, and involved.

Obviously we can’t lead someone down a path we’ve never traveled. If you follow God but find it difficult to believe he’s truly good and involved in our daily lives, it may be time to explore your understanding of who God is, so that you’ll be able to effectively lead your child toward him.

2. Surround them with Godly community. Good or bad, kids pick up the habits of those around them. Be aware of who they’re surrounded by. Be intentional to involve them in Christian groups, classes, or events. If they’re still young enough, guide them toward Godly friends. Being proactive about their community while they’re young will have lifelong payoffs.

3. Pray. Sometimes prayer is seen as a last resort, but that should be the furthest thing from the truth. Pray for your children and those around the world to meet, know, and experience God. Pray that the Holy Spirit fills them with his presence and power, so that they can live boldly for him every day. Don’t doubt that your prayers have power. God can’t wait to hear from you.

No matter how long a parent has been following God or how well they feel they’re modeling Jesus for their kids, supplementation can be a game-changer, too. Do you remember reading any certain book during your grade-school years that left a mark on you? I do. One in particular stuck with me and inspired me. I want that for my kids, and for yours. Books have a way of encouraging us on levels parents and teachers can’t reach.

That said, I want to quickly recommend a book for anyone age eight and up. Power Up is a novel that demonstrates to children that following God and listening to the Holy Spirit aren’t just for adults—these things are accessible to everyone, regardless of age, and it’s an adventure, not a bore! Power Up shows kids what it looks like to be filled with hope and to live a naturally supernatural life empowered by the Holy Spirit. This book might just be one of the next right steps for you or your child in coming into a fuller understanding of God’s power and goodness. That was my prayer as I wrote it and remains so today.

Show the kids in your life there’s more to following God than showing up for church on Sundays. There’s a living, breathing God who wants to show us his goodness and empower us to dish out his love and encouragement to the world around us. Don’t let those fertile years between ages four and fourteen slip away, and don’t forget how capable and hungry for spiritual truths our kids are. Be intentional. And don’t forget to rest in the grace and comfort of our awesome God in the process. 

Thanks so much for reading, and I would love to connect with you before you go! Just head over to https://www.jessiemattis.com/ where you can find my blog, connect through social media, and download a free printable of my top ten favorite inspirational quotes! Or shoot me an email at jessie@jessiemattis.com. Thanks again and I hope to hear from you soon!

power up cover with award seal

Obedience, Prayer

Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening

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There are so many voices in our lives telling us who we are, what to believe, what to do, and what to think. Social media, news, podcasts, Youtube, movies, shows, and every form of media give us dozens of different messages every single day.

Like this

Don’t like this

I’m right

You’re wrong

How dare you

You’re not good enough

You’re too good

Your views are wrong

Your views are right

You’re bad

You’re good

You don’t care

You care too much

Do more

Do less

Buy more

Buy less

And it just goes on, and on, and on. 

We are being bombarded in our connected world, with other people’s opinions. Most of these people we do not personally know. Yet, they have influence, and can be quite persuasive. We start to believe everything we read, or hear, or watch on the news about ourselves, and the world, and our future. We need to be very careful what we allow in our head. Of course be informed, watch the news–if that’s your thing. But go to the source, God, before you make a decision on who, or what, or where, or why.

How much time do we spend listening to God? How much time do we spend listening to all the other voices? What influences us and our decisions? If you are a Christ Follower, there is one voice that needs to be the loudest, the Lord’s. 

Many years ago there was a child, who listened to God’s voice, and did what He said. Samuel was just a boy when he first heard the Lord’s voice. According to the historian Josephus, Samuel was around 11 years old. God spoke directly to a kid. He was no ordinary kid though. Samuel was set apart for the Lord’s purposes.

Hannah, Samuel’s mother, had prayed for years to have a child. God answered her prayers by giving her Samuel. Hannah gave Samuel back to the Lord. 

She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” 1 Samuel 1:22, NIV 

Hannah brings her very young child to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. She then hands Samuel over to Eli, the high priest, to raise him. (1 Samuel 1:24-28)

Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 1 Samuel 2:19, NIV 

Samuel only sees his mother once a year. She must have loved him dearly to leave him at the temple with Eli. I bet Hannah took great care in making those robes each year. 

Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:21b, NIV

And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people. 1 Samuel 2:26, NIV

Samuel keeps growing both physically and spiritually before the Lord. He’s just 11 years old when something remarkable happens. Samuel hears the Lord’s voice. 

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.

In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 1 Samuel 3:1-7, NIV

Samuel hears the voice a third time and goes to Eli again. Finally, Eli realizes that the Lord was calling the boy. Eli tells Samuel to go lie down and if he hears the voice to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening”. Then the Lord stood there and called, “Samuel! Samuel!”.

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:8-10, NIV)

I love Samuel’s eagerness. He ran to Eli the first time he heard the Lord call him. Samuel didn’t say he was too tired, or just ignore the voice. Samuel ran to Eli. He didn’t know it was the Lord at first, yet Samuel was obedient. 

God is personal when dealing with us. He called Samuel by name, twice. I can picture the Lord smiling at Samuel as He called for him. God loved Samuel deeply, and He loves you and I deeply too. 

Years later, Samuel will anoint a young shepherd boy, David, as the King of Israel. Jesus comes from the line of King David. (Matthew 1:1)

It’s pretty easy to take for granted that God wants to speak to us and actually use us in His plan. He sees the big picture. God sees the entire picture from beginning to end. (Isaiah 46:10) What may seem small to us could be one tiny part of something big God is doing.

God wants to speak to us today. Every Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us. (1 Corinthians 6:19) We also have God’s Word, the Bible. 

The Lord has something to tell you today. Seek Him. Spend time with Him. Run to Him, like Samuel did. Make His voice the loudest in your world. Listen to His voice.

Love you all,

Meghan 

 

Heavenly Father,

You are awesome, Holy God. Thank you that you still speak today. May we hear your voice loud and clear above the noise of the world, above the lies, above the distractions. Speak Lord, for your servants are listening.

In Jesus name,

Amen 

 

Marriage, Uncategorized

24 Years

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This picture is from actual film, from an actual camera. Not a phone, and not a digital camera. Unfortunately, I had to take a picture digitally of this black and white photo, which doesn’t do it justice. I don’t even know if a wedding photographer would use film today. The point is, times have changed, but we are still in love. We may not look quite as shiny and new as that day, but we love each other more, and deeper than in 1995.

Twenty-four years ago, on September 30th, we made this covenant. I know, it sounds like a big scary word. It kind of is. I don’t think I would have even used that word then. But I get it now. It just took a whole lot of years, and God teaching me through my husband, what marriage really is. Last year I wrote about God’s definition of marriage and how it symbolizes Christ and the Church. You can read it here Marriage Is A Blessing

A few things I’ve learned about marriage:

“You complete me” is ridiculous. Thanks Jerry Maguire for putting that false mantra out there. It is not my husband’s job to be my everything. Tom does not complete me. Jesus fills me up, completes me, and is my everything. No person is designed to make another person whole. If I expect Tom to take care of all my needs, all the time, we will both be miserable since it’s not humanly possible. Younger me thought that on some level. That was foolish me.

God uses our spouse to grow us up in our faith, if we let Him. The fastest way to have your flaws revealed is to get married. It all comes out when you are married whether you like it or not. It’s what you do with it, when all the issues and weaknesses come out. Be honest when the ugly is sitting in front of you. We’ve all got some ugly stuff that needs dealt with.

It’s not my job to “fix” my husband. This is that age old stereotype of the wife wants to change her husband and the husband doesn’t want his wife to change. In our early years I made this mistake. I thought it was my job to be Tom’s fixer. Hahahaha! I am not the Holy Spirit. I can change me and that’s it.

Put your spouses needs above your own. We come into the world selfish and we bring that same selfishness into our marriages. Me, me, me. It’s all about me. I’ve got needs and my husband better fulfill those. What I have learned is to put Tom first even when I’m tired, even when I’m needy. God says:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3, NIV)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10, NIV)

God created marriage and it is so good. God ideas are the best. He made marriage and He knew exactly what He was doing. Anything God makes is excellent. Better than any idea I could come up with.

 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, NASB)

Keep God at the center of your marriage. The only way to have a healthy thriving marriage is Jesus. We cannot do it alone, just the two of us. It takes three for success. Again, God’s design, not mine. God’s ways work. I can’t explain it, but I have experienced it in my marriage.

The couple that prays together stays together. You don’t need some lengthy super spiritual prayers with all the right words. Pray together. Simple honest prayers. That’s it. Tom and I pray every night before bed. Our prayers aren’t fancy, just real.

A lot has happened in our twenty-four years of wedded bliss. There have been moments of sheer joy, like the birth of both of our sons. There have been years of exhaustion, like when Tom went back to school. He was working at night, and going to school during the day. That five year period was us just surviving. Not a lot of time for romance and gazing into each others eyes. Those would have been blood shot eyes anyway. But God, in His goodness and grace, carried us through.

I am not a marriage expert. I am good at making mistakes, and sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Marriage is an incredible blessing. God gave Tom and I to each other. We take our marriage serious, and work hard to guard it, and let Jesus grow us in the process.

Happy anniversary to my wonderful husband Tom. You are the best person I know. It’s been the most incredible twenty-four years of my life. I love you always.

And…..I love all of you!

Meghan

Authors, Uncategorized

Q & A with Author Jessie Mattis

power up cover with award seal

I am so excited to introduce author Jessie Mattis to you! Power Up is her debut Middle Grade novel. She wrote Power Up to teach kids about the Holy Spirit. It’s a topic that can seem intimidating, or even a bit mysterious to so many Christians. We easily talk about God and Jesus, but what about the Holy Spirit who lives in every Believer?

I had the pleasure of reading Power Up and thoroughly enjoyed it. You will go on a journey of discovering the Holy Spirit through eleven-year-old Lexi. I found Lexi relatable and honest. You will be drawn in to the story and sweet family. It’s a wonderful book for kids and adults. I was encouraged in my faith. Jessie did a fantastic job explaining the Holy Spirit, and that God wants to use kids too. The Holy Spirit is for every Christian, regardless of age.

Jessie is a kind, humble, loving person. If you met her, you would want to hang out with her. She’s the kind of person you’d want to chat with over a cup of coffee. Her kindness, and warmth pour out of the pages of Power Up. How refreshing to have a family friendly book with such a delightful, faith-affirming message.

Thanks for stopping by, and please enjoy my interview with author Jessie Mattis.

Tell me about yourself.

My name is Jessie Mattis and I am a Jesus-loving, homeschooling mother of three, a wife, daughter, sister, friend…and now a writer. I grew up between cornfields in Potomac, Illinois, graduated from Greenville College with a BA in Social Work, and worked in child welfare for a couple years before becoming a stay-at-home mom (my real dream job).

Since college, I’ve been a ministry volunteer in church on some level, often working with kids. In 2013, my family and I joined a small team of people and helped plant Rolling Hills Vineyard Church in Valparaiso, IN, which was a wonderful, difficult, life-changing experience.

What are you passionate about?

I have always had a heart for kids, and now that I have three of my own, I more clearly see the urgency in exposing them to the truths of the Christian faith at a young age.

I am passionate about raising my kids to love Jesus and reaching others for Him. Sharing the truth that they are loved by Him no matter what, even when life doesn’t make sense, is one of my main goals. Tons of people struggle with their faith as they grow, but if they can grasp this fact (God’s love and goodness) at a young age, it could save them from a lifetime of doubts and uncertainty.

What is your book, Power Up, about?

Power Up is the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Lexi who thinks she’s already learned all there is to know about God, until a new kids’ church teacher comes and shares some new ideas about the Holy Spirit. Through school struggles and a family crisis, Lexi must decide for herself if God is truly good and if this Holy Spirit stuff is for real.

Why did you write Power Up?

I decided to write this book when I was searching for something similar for my own children and couldn’t find it. I want all kids to learn and be comfortable with the Holy Spirit and the various ways he moves and guides us, but I’ve noticed that oftentimes adults don’t expect enough out of children. Kids are far more capable than we sometimes think, and most are perfectly able to think through matters of faith at this age (8 and up). Power Up is my way of telling kids “I believe in you, and know you are capable of actively hearing from and following God no matter your age.”

I felt that getting the story into the hands of “church-kids” might inspire them to view their faith in a new light, activating the Holy Spirit power that was inside them all along, whether they knew it or not. And for children who are already familiar with the activity of the Holy Spirit, I wanted to encourage them in their walks, helping them realize they’re not alone and aren’t “weirdos” or however else they may feel at times. For not-yet-Christians, the book also covers the basics of Christianity, woven into the story line, so they can come away from reading the book with a sense of what Christianity is all about.

Why were you the right person to write it?

Being active in kids’ church for years, in a similar environment that the story takes place, has given me a heart for reaching kids in this way. Seeing children explore and embrace their own faith inspires me, and I want it for my own kids as well as every other child. Right now my kids are ages 11, 9, and 7, so I’m right in the thick of the middle grade parenting years. This gives me an advantage in writing for children because I’m able to get inside their heads and understand their thoughts and struggles a little more readily than some.

How is Power Up different than other books in its genre?

Power Up is certainly more “teachy” than most in this genre, which may sound negative, but I don’t believe this is the case. It is a book intended for an audience of middle-graders who are taking their faith seriously and want to dive deeper. While my goal was definitely to keep it entertaining and relatable, there is certainly a lesson to be learned. It is a book that I can imagine Christian parents and children’s church teachers giving to their children/students, or even reading aloud and discussing as a family.

What do you hope people will gain from reading your book?

My hope is that children and adults alike will read Power Up and find the hum-drum normalcy of their current faith challenged. As they read, they will encounter new ideas and ways of living their faith out loud, and my prayer is that they’ll apply these lessons to their own lives, coming away with a more active, powerful, solid walk with God and a new understanding of who the Holy Spirit is. I want children to know it doesn’t matter how old they are—the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to guide, speak, and walk with them throughout their entire lives.

Power Up is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

View More: http://joyforlifephotographybyelaine.pass.us/chip-jessie-headshots

Faith, God, Jesus, Salvation, Uncategorized

Living Water

IMG_1119Multnomah Falls is one of my favorite places in Oregon. That picture was taken on a trip a few years ago. The source of the falls is underground springs from Larch Mountain. Those deep springs create this amazing waterfall. When I stand on Benson Bridge the powerful water tumbling down releases a refreshing  spray in the summer months. Looking over the edge the water appears to be infinite. All I can see is a constant flow of water.

Now that I live in a much warmer climate drinking lots of water daily is a necessity. Most of the year I make sure to have water in the car. If we are on a road trip anywhere in Texas there needs to be a cooler filled with water bottles. When I am thirsty I take a drink and my thirst is satisfied for a while. Eventually I will get thirsty again. So I repeat the same process and drink more water. This will continue for the rest of my life. Without water I will die within a few days.

Jesus tells us in the book of John that we can have living water. The kind that will permanently satisfy our thirst. He mentions this on two different occasions. In John 4 Jesus was tired from his journey and sits by Jacob’s well where a Samaritan woman comes to get water. He asks her for a drink which was crazy since she’s a woman, a Samaritan, and has a bad reputation. The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:9-10, NIV). Jesus is talking about the free gift of salvation. The Samaritan woman thinks Jesus means literal water and wants to know where to get this kind of amazing water.  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14, NIV). The spring of water is the Holy Spirit.

The second mention of living water is in John 7. It’s the Feast of Tabernacles and this is what happened. On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38, NIV). The streams of living water Jesus is talking about is the Spirit (V.39). 

For those of us who call ourselves Christians this all sounds familiar. If you are not a Christ follower the thought of living water inside of you may sound strange. The use of the phrase ‘living water’ in that time and place referred to streams or rivers. Not pond water or any stagnate water. Life giving water. The water Jesus is talking about is the Holy Spirit living in you after accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. The Holy Spirit is God’s spirit. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 2:24).  In the Greek spirit means breath, which shows life.

The Holy Spirit has many purposes. Here are just some:

Counselor (John 14:16, John 15:26)

Spirit of Truth (John 14:17)

Teacher of all things and reminds us of everything Jesus has said. (John 14:26)

Convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin. ( John 16:7)

God seals us with the Holy spirit when we become believers. (Ephesians 1:13-14) 

Spiritual fruit from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Intercedes in prayer for us. (Romans 8:26)

After you accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ the Holy spirit lives inside of you.  The Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14). God puts His seal on us and no one can break the seal of God.

I am overwhelmed sometimes at the thought of holy God living inside of me. Jesus never says living water will flow inside of you when you get your act together, or you’re good enough, or perfect, or without sin. He’ll take care of the healing, fixing, and mending our broken hearts when we let Him in. He came to save us (John 3:16-17). Jesus came for sinners (Luke 5:32). We just need to admit we are sinners, ask for forgiveness, and ask Jesus to be our savior. That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” (Romans 10:9, NIV). Salvation is a FREE gift. It cannot be earned or bought. You will never be good enough on your own. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV).  

Living water that Jesus offers us satisfies our thirsty souls. The source of that living water is God. It runs deep and it never ends. If you drink of this water you will never be the same. Nothing else in this world will fulfill the way Jesus does.

Love you all,

Meghan