Sharing the hope of Christ

By Erika Rizkallah

The other day my son and I drove one of his buddies home from school. I got the chance to listen in on an interesting conversation. His friend, Matt, is part of a growing movement of Millennials who believe the earth is flat.

Shocked, I struggled to keep my mouth shut and just listen, but I had to butt in.

secret-2681508_1920

“Matt, do you seriously think the earth is flat or are you joking?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am, I do. I’ve spent months researching it and there’s compelling evidence out there that proves the earth is not round.”

“No mom!” my son shouted, “Don’t get him started — he’ll never stop talking about it.”

Let me first say that Matt is a super smart kid, very respectful and a self-described  “super hard-core Christian.”

And my son was right, once he got going, he didn’t want to stop. I expressed my skepticism and he had answers (good ones!) for every challenge I issued. In fact, a few of his questions made me really think. I admit to doing a little research of my own when I got home.

art-1301872

He said, “How can you be certain we landed on the moon? Did you see it yourself? No, you were told about it in school and you accepted it as truth. Do you know that most pictures of earth are computer generated models? And what about the fake picture of the moon walk?

He told me he wasn’t just going to accept what the government told him about the world without researching it first. He also said his tactics sometimes got him in trouble with school administrators.

board-2584719_1920

While I don’t share his views, they’re popular with a group of people known as the Flat Earthers — an organization founded centuries ago by The Flat Earth Society.

His diligence and unbridled passion about the subject reminded me of the Apostle Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 

Matt taught me a lesson that day — I need to be equally prepared and courageous enough to share the hope of Christ with others. I must be willing to gently argue my case and tell my story to skeptics.

Maybe my efforts will pay off and help someone dig deeper into the message about His love for them.

cross-2925354_1920

How about you? Kids say the darnedest things! What lessons about God have you learned from them?

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving: What would Jesus do?

By Erika Rizkallah

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for many reasons, but mostly because it reminds me of my dad. He was an amazing cook and at each celebration he tried to outdo his efforts from the previous year.

In addition to the traditional turkey with stuffing, his artfully set table was laden with food for a variety of tastes. However, the best part of the day was receiving company. Our dinner wasn’t limited to family only. My dad made it a point to invite a hodgepodge of interesting people who had no place else to go.

person-691357.jpg

After dessert, my brother and I were sent to the kitchen for dish duty (washing by hand), but mostly I did it myself. I loved to eavesdrop on the grown-up conversations and learn a bit about the lives of our guests.

pie-72274.jpg

I can’t count how many stories I heard about estranged and hurting families.

Dad died 26 years ago, shortly before his favorite holiday. It felt weird to sit at the table without him, and yet we were comforted by carrying on the tradition of an open home for others.

The holidays are joyful times for many, but can be miserable for the lonely and those separated from family.

Jesus was mindful of this. Banqueting was a popular ritual for wealthy ancient Romans. It was an honor to be invited and the host would produce a lavish display for his guests, who lounged on couches. The next banquet host would reciprocate and try to outdo him at the same time – a kind of competitive dining experience.

triclinium_meal

One time Jesus went to such a dinner and told his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do they might invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12

Most of us will gather with family and friends this year – myself included – giving thanks to God for all his blessings. But wouldn’t it be awesome to try to include some of those people he mentioned at our feasts? What an awesome way to show God’s love to those who need it most.

Your Turn: Are you planning to invite someone special to share your holiday meal?

 

6 Lessons to remember when your child is bullied

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (New Living Translation)

In my last post I promised to write out the lessons we learned about bullying. There are two types: One from Kat’s perspective (teenager) and one from mine (parent).

I’m breaking them out and giving our bully the nickname “Brutus” for easier reading and because I still love him.

Lessons Kat Learned

Don’t put too much trust in your friends – We all crave family in one way or another and research shows that teens value the opinions of their friends and peer groups above all else. Kat put all her energy into one group of friends and Brutus was her bestie. He’s also the most popular, so when their friendship crumbled . . .

Teens are apt to choose sides, much like adults do when close friends divorce. Making friends in multiple areas of life is essential for helping teens get through relationship adversity.

friends-775356_1920

Forgive people when they make mistakes – Forgiveness isn’t only a biblical mandate, it’s a life skill . . . and it’s freaking hard! In this case Brutus was unwilling; he’d built up weeks of simmering anger. He’ll need to learn how to forgive an offense. Kat learned to forgive herself and others as Jesus does.

Pay attention to warning signs – In other words, trust your gut! God gave us powerful instincts. Kat knew something was “off.” She noticed Brutus’ behavior change and repeatedly asked him if something was wrong. He denied it so she decided to trust his word despite contrary evidence.

attention-803720

Lessons I learned (not including my husband because he just wanted to beat everyone up).

Be available – Like most parents, I’m busy. But years ago my other daughter endured a bullying attack so severe it landed her in the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. When you see your teen suffering or notice a drastic change in their behavior, drop everything. Be available day or night and seek a professional for help.

Listen and don’t judge – Although angry with Brutus, I leaned on Jesus. Who better to lean on than the one who forgives us all? I turned to him in prayer, trust and faith that he knows more than I do and would work it out because he loves all of us.

Jesus on cross

Mother and mentor – Teens often don’t listen to parental advice despite our best effort. In this case we met with a trusted mentor who knows both kids well. This amazing woman validated all I’d said to Kat in our tearful late-night chats. That felt great!

She ministered to her which allowed me to step back from the situation. She comforted and encouraged Kat to endure through the trial as a strengthening experience. I can’t say enough about making sure your kids have Godly mentors in their lives.

Your turn: I’d love to hear any bullying advice you can give!

Father’s Day: My loss is gain

I lost my earthly father 25 years ago; it seems hard to believe it’s been so long. Devastating is the only word I have to describe my feelings at the time. My father was my world – nothing else could take his place in my life. But I know God took him in order to make way for himself because his death was what made me seek after God in the first place.

As always, his timing was perfect because while I was seeking, he brought another man into my life, the man who would later become my husband and the father of my children.

My loss paved the way for two more fathers: God himself and my husband Sam. So I consider my loss gain.

Father’s day is difficult for those of us who’ve lost our dads. But if you (like me at the time) haven’t yet met your Heavenly Father, I urge you to look up. Seek him. He is as real as the earthly father you’ve lost and is just waiting to meet you.

Psalm 50-11

Psalm 68:5 says: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Finding and knowing him is as simple as talking to him in prayer. In the quiet of your heart and mind, all you have to do is ask. Here’s an example of prayer: Father, I want to know you and to have you in my life. I believe you are the one true God. That you sent your son to die on the cross for my sins and then raised him from the dead. Jesus, come into my heart and cleanse me. Guide me to my father in heaven and make me into your image that we may be one in spirit.

And if you’re blessed and will be celebrating your earthly father today, that prayer is for you as well. Two fathers are better than one!

Girlfriends, Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em: 5 Ways to be a great friend!

For women, friendships are the most important relationships we have. But too often I meet women who have very few (if any) strong female relationships. The reasons are many and varied. Have you heard any of these?

“I don’t get along with most women.”

“I’ve been stabbed in the back way too many times.”

“I have nothing in common with girly, ultra-feminine types.”

“Women are too shallow and catty.”

Why do you think this is?

girls-462072_1920

Today my daughter and I sat together on our porch; I was reading a book and she was scrolling through her phone. At one point she says, “Ugh. I feel sorry for the generation of women coming up.”

“How come?” I asked.

“I’m watching a fight between three girls on Instagram. Two 19-year olds and a 16-year old. The 16-year old – who has a baby by the way – says, ‘The joke’s on you bitches. I had sex with both your boyfriends.’ No one has self respect anymore.”

I thank God my daughter was disturbed by this, but I’ve seen similar rants from women my own age played out in social media. I think some of the fault lies with us. After all, it’s up to the older generations to teach the younger ones.

pregnant-690735_1280

Time and again I’ve preached about the value of having good girlfriends to my girls and oh have they tried! But they’ve been been let down and gotten caught up in the gossipy, back-stabbing, competitive girl culture common today.

They already feel like giving up.

As an older woman, I’m committed to training and teaching girls of the next generation. So here’s my attempt at giving advice when it comes to females. To be good friends we have to . . .

Listen. Listening is hard and takes practice – lots and lots of practice. The next time you’re out with a girlfriend, try not talking about yourself. Not even once. Focus solely on her.

girls-685787_1920

Pay Attention. We live such busy lives it’s hard not to focus on ourselves and our troubles, but when we do this we miss out on another person’s perspective. Her point of view can open up whole new worlds to us.

Celebrate. Our friends are special and deserve to be celebrated simply for who they are. Try buying flowers or a special gift for your bestie “just because.”

sparkler-677774_1280

Share. This is one of our first and most important life skills. We’re supposed to learn how to do it in preschool but it always bears repeating. Got an old skirt or piece of jewelry you don’t wear anymore? Try passing it along to a friend who doesn’t often get to shop for little luxuries.

Love. Jesus said it best: “…love your neighbor as yourself.“(Mark 12:33) Our girlfriends are our neighbors and our sisters in Christ. The best way to love one another is by spending quality time, meeting each others needs and treating one another kindly.

What a gift it is to love and be loved! What a better world we’d have if we invested as much time in one another as we do in our entertainment or work.

daisy-712892_1920

What if our work on this earth is to love each other?

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus (John 15:13)

Mother’s Day: One woman with a flower changes history

In two days, Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day, one of the most noted “female” holidays in the world. While walking through a local store I was astounded at the sheer number of greeting cards offered to shoppers.

A thought occurred to me – all these cards are filled with the words of other people writing sappy sentiments to someone else’s mom.

mother's day cards

Has our country become so lazy or illiterate that we can’t write our own heartfelt words?

Now, before you think I’m being snooty, I sent one of these cards to my own mom this year with my heartfelt words tacked on for good measure. I love her card; the artwork is beautiful and the writer managed to create a sentiment that expressed my heart exactly. Crazy!

The history of the American Mother’s Day is fascinating. It started with an idea by a woman named Anna Jarvis, and a simple white carnation worn as a badge by people visiting their mothers. The white carnation symbolizes purity and innocence.

spring-carnation-8101_1920

However, like many other holidays, Mother’s Day has been over-commercialized, something Anna Jarvis fought against for the rest of her life. She even petitioned the U.S. Government to remove the holiday from the calendar.

She’s probably rolling in her grave right now.

Even still, I have to admit I enjoy it. My children and husband usually concoct a wonderful breakfast in bed – gifts included. Then, they give me the best gift of all – a day to do anything I want!

One year I gave this “gift”of a day to my own mother and you know what she asked for? She asked that my brother and I accompany her to an opera in the park. I’d rather send a card any day! It was torture on us, but we did it because we love her and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

On days like these, I’m sad that my mother and I live so far apart. I’d love to pin a carnation on, visit her in person and tell her how much she means to me.

I think this little poem by George Cooper says it best:

Hundreds of dew drops to greet the dawn,

Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,

Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,

But only one mother the wide world over.

Your Turn: How will you celebrate Mother’s Day this year?

Friends are like pancakes

Friends are like pancakes.

Making the first one is hardest and sometimes has to be tossed (or in this case eaten).

pancake fail

They come in all kinds of shapes

pancake 5

colors and sizes

pancake 4

and sometimes they even come with little ones.

pancake 3

The thing they all require is attention, patience and often, sacrifice.

I’ve been struggling in the friendship area lately. Keeping old friends and making new ones in this season of my life is difficult. I find myself unable and unwilling (sometimes) to give attention to those who don’t give at least the same level of care and attention back to me.

And I know that for the most part, this is wrong. Proverbs 17:17 says: A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity. 

My New Year’s resolution is to take the attention, patience and sacrifice necessary to reconnect with some old friends, and make new ones. Hopefully, I’ll make some new sisters in the process.

If I’ve neglected our friendship over the past year, I apologize. And if we haven’t met yet, then I’ll try not to disappoint you.

What about you? How do you feel about your friendships…or pancakes?