Ascension – Another Forty Days

40, forty

I have some favorite numbers, and 40 is one of those.

I rather think God liked the number 40 as well because it shows up over and over in the Bible. Do you have any idea how many occurrences there are in the Bible where the number forty comes into play? For that matter, there are plenty of events with other numbers – and it’s interesting to note that God has a pattern in this.

When our kids were small, we played a numbers game. When we were traveling or waiting in a restaurant for our food to arrive, we played this game. It kept our kids entertained as the miles passed or until the waiter brought our food. Sometimes we used this game as part of our family devotions. Only, in this case, our kids knew what the “number” would be that evening. Some of them took the time to go through a concordance to try to be the winner for the evening. It made for some interesting times!Forty, 40

If you were to play this game with me today, I’d give you the number “40”. There’s a reason I’d choose forty this month instead of another number.  Do you have any idea why?!

Ready? Let’s play.

What stories in the Bible do you know that include the number 40? GO!

Our kids racked their brains and came up with answers. For starters, even a small child can think of a few stories.

NOAH:

How many days and nights did it rain in the world-wide flood?

MOSES:

For that matter, how many years did Moses function as an Egyptian before fleeing to the wilderness?

How many years was Moses in the desert before God appeared to him in a burning bush?

How many days did Moses spend on the mountain with God – twice?

How many years did the children of Israel wander in the wilderness to get to the Promised Land?

MOSES & JOSHUA:

How many days did the spies spy out the promised land?

SAMSON: 

How many years did the Israelites serve the Philistines before Samson’s deliverance?

DAVID:

How many days (morning and evening) did Goliath, the Philistine, come to heckle Saul’s army before David took him down?

JONAH:

When Jonah was sent to Ninevah, what was the pronouncement of how many days until Ninevah would be destroyed?

ELIJAH:

How many days and nights did it take for Elijah to get to Mt. Horeb when he fled from Jezebel?

JESUS:

How many days did Jesus spend in the wilderness fasting before He was tempted by Satan?

How many days after the Ressurection was Jesus on earth before His ascension?

This year, Ascension Day falls on Thursday, May 25.

Ten days after that, we have Pentecost. (So if you are playing this game, remember Pentecost as occurring TEN days after Ascension. OR you could use Pentecost with a 50 because Pentecost occurred fifty days after the Resurrection.

Jesus spent those forty days after His resurrection getting His disciples ready for His departure to Heaven. He showed Himself to them on various and different occasions. They saw the prints in His hands, His feet, and the scar from the sword in His side. He passed through walls and doors.

He cooked fish by the sea and told the disciples which side of the boat to cast their nets for fish. He showed Himself to men, women, and children. He had conversations with His disciples, including a particular one with Peter about feeding His sheep. On one occasion, He was seen by over 500 people. No doubt about it, He was alive and real.

He was getting them ready, not only for His departure, but for His absence. At the same time, He promised that the Holy Spirit would come (and He did.)

His Ascension occurred exactly forty days after His resurrection. Why not 39 days or 41?

There’s a reason for God’s numerical decisions. He makes no mistakes and He does all things well. I don’t know the reasons, but whatever they are, they are good reasons because they are His reasoning.

I don’t know the answer why Jesus ascended forty days after the Resurrection. Most important is that Jesus died, rose again, and ascended back to the Father and that Jesus is now interceding at the right hand of God.

How do you plan to remember and celebrate Ascension day?!

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On Raising Kids Who Tangle

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Bad report. Sarah Beth’s 1. snoring. 2.getting up close to me in the van. Hit me, teasing me calling me Becky laughing at me lying about me. Grade C+ Please write your name and _______ (Signature: David Slabach)

Some days our kids tangled. Some days they played like the princes and princesses they were not. I’ve got proof in my file drawers of both kinds of days. In cleaning out those file drawers recently, I’ve laughed so much at the papers I found that I cried. Yet, I also recognize that the papers brought memories of some parts of parenting that were difficult.

It takes two to tangle.

That’s what my mother used to tell us (although I don’t think she used the word tangle.)  A lone child can hardly fight with himself. When there are only two siblings, the discord is less because the two have to learn to play together if they’re going to have a playmate at home.

I’m a proponent of larger families (you can read about that here). I still think the “bennies” of a large family outweigh the “fits”, but I also recognize that there are things that happen among multiple siblings that don’t happen with two or fewer kids.

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One of the disadvantages of having a passel of kids is that certain ones can tend to take sides and pit one child against all the others. Sometimes it’s older ones against a younger one; sometimes it’s boys against girls. Other times it is personalities against personalities.

I experienced some of that as a child and I saw it happen among our own kids. It not only happens in homes, but it happens in school or church settings just as easily. It matters not if it’s a public school, Christian Day school, or homeschool, teachers can tend to gravitate to certain types of children that they connect with more naturally. I have seen this happen in all three of these schooling settings.

Tangle One: Sibling Groups Pitting Against Each Other

When you have children with differing personalities, those that tend to think and respond the same way will often unite in their disdain for the child or children who are “different” in talent, interests, or tastes. The minority tend to get shafted by the majority who don’t think the way they do. It’s a most natural progression, but a progression that needs to be recognized and stopped before it causes trouble.  While we would never want to admit it, allowing our kids to treat each other in this way is really putting one group above the other – whether it’s at home, in school or in the church.

Tangle Two: Sibling Rivalry

Normal sibling rivalry can cause conflict.  Children are naturally competitive, especially among their siblings or peers.  Competition can be good as it challenges a child to do his best; yet, it can also lead to damaging rivalry. Sometimes rivalry happens because kids want attention, want to be “first” or don’t want to be tied to a chore. It’s important to recognize unhealthy conflict early.  Don’t let it take root and fester. Like Barney Fife says, “Nip it in the bud!”

Comparing our kid with a sibling also adds to sibling rivalry. “Why can’t you make grades like your brother?” or  “Why can’t you get along with others like your sister does?” or “I wish you were as responsible as your brother” are all ways parents add fuel to an already smoldering fire. Instead of building a case on a comparison, facilitate the celebration of differentness! This will help nix the rivalry.

Tangle Three: Parental Favoritism

Parental favoritism can cause conflict among children as well.  It’s easy to see in others, but hard to see in ourselves. Kids will tangle more when the parents’ obviously favor certain ones. Whether it’s because a child is the same sex as the parent, looks more like his mother or father, or has abilities and talents that are enjoyed more by a particular parent, favoritism happens. When it is allowed to overtly raise its ugly head, unhealthy tangling among your troops is certain to result.

It happened with Isaac and Rebekah, one of the sets of parents recorded in the first book of the Bible. They had twin sons and each parent favored the son who was most like him or her. Isaac was a hunter and an outdoorsman and he easily connected with Esau who also liked the outdoors and enjoyed hunting. Rebekah, on the other hand, favored Jacob whose interests were more domestic. Since Isaac and Rebekah each had their favorite son, they pitted their boys against each other. Don’t believe me?  Check out these verses.

As parents, we do well to recognize any of us can easily make that this parenting mistake.  In the home of Isaac and Rebekah, conflict ensued with devastating results. Betrayal, lying, deceit, and ultimately a family separation resulted. This tragedy could have been avoided had Isaac and Rebekah made a conscious effort to connect with the twin who was least like them. Instead, they gravitated toward the one that thought and responded to life’s situations the way they did and emotionally abandoned their other son.

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When our youngest daughter became frustrated with her siblings’ irritations, she had one means to vent her feelings: giving consequences and grades for their actions and behavior. She’d make her list and fill out the “paperwork” [carbon copy papers from her uncle’s business employment] then bring the papers for one of her parents to sign. I usually told her to give it to her father who was willing to sign with a flourish.

Recently I asked older sister if she ever paid up on this bill! We’re all laughing now – but we recognize that our little pistol-whipping seven-year-old was frustrated because she wasn’t accepted in her own right with her different personality and interests which were so unlike her siblings.

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Sarah Beth you have to give me 100$$ for opening my dresser without asking me. I better have the money by Thursday, November 16, 2000. Thanks Rebekah

Why am I telling you all this? I’m telling you because I know how difficult parenting can be.

I also know how easy it is to feel that we’re failing – when we really are not.

You’ll look back at the things that happened and the way your kids tangled and realize they really were learning interpersonal relationship skills.  You’ll see how they learned to relate to others because of what they learned at home.

You won’t do it all completely right. You can’t because you’re human. You will make mistakes. You’ll have those “Stop the world and let me off!” days.

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In those moments – and those tangle days – here are some lifelines you can grab.

  1. Help your kids find a way to untangle conflict themselves rather than interfering and doing it for them. It will groom them for life.
  2. Allow them to be individuals and don’t try to push them all into the same mold – encouraging them to be who God planned them to be, rather than who you’d like to see them become.
  3. Don’t play favorites or gravitate toward the one who is most (or least) like you – avoid that Jacob/Esau effect. Ask an objective parent to nudge you when they see that happening.
  4. Get advice from parents who you think are doing it (or did it) right. They will be glad to share their successes – and their struggles – to help you.
  5. Ask God for wisdom. He gives it freely when we ask. I know He is faithful because I’ve experienced that wisdom when I asked.

 

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Is There Mother’s Day in Heaven?

May 2010. My first Mother’s Day without my mama. My thoughts then – and now, seven years later.

It’s a lovely morning. Sun filtering through the treetops, birds singing, and flowers lending fragrance to a day in celebration of mothers. I find myself wondering: do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

A pair of bluebirds has built a nest in the birdhouse outside the office window. I watch them and wonder what is happening inside the nest they built together. Mama Bluebird is possessive of her nest, her house, and her babies. And I wonder, is there Mother’s Day in Heaven?

The stray cat that showed up at our door a year ago has grown up. Because she has a crook near the tip of her tail, she was dubbed Crooked but is affectionately called Crook. Her kittens were born a week ago, and Crook has hidden them well. The other felines at our house move out of the way when she comes to feed, for motherhood takes precedence even among their kind. I watch Crook, and I ponder, do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

Out in the pasture, the new cinnamon-colored calf frolics among the blossoming blackberry bushes. Izzy, her mother, guards her fiercely, and not even Roscoe, the bull or the other pregnant cow will attempt to interfere. She gives her commands in low mooing sounds. The calf listens, for, after all, Izzy is her mother. And I find myself wondering, do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

Mother's Day

All around me, there is new life and birth – and mothers with their offspring. Year follows year, day follows day, and season follows season. Every May, we celebrate Mother’s Day. And I question: do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

Mothers give birth and nurture their young. Children grow up, spread their wings, then leave the nest. My sisters and I grew up and moved away from time to time. Some of us got married, had our own babies, and then brought them home for our mother to see, hold, and cuddle. We celebrated Mother’s Days together.

Mama was always there, ready for us to come home. Now I find myself wondering, do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

One wintry day seven Januarys ago, Mama changed her address from home in Grantsville, Maryland, to Home in Heaven. We said “Auf Wiedersehen!” and buried her between her two husbands in the Maple Glen Mennonite church cemetery. A chapter closed in our lives, and we began a new one. And I wonder, do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

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Winter closed its doors, and year after year, spring peeked in slowly, then decided to stay.

Now it is May. Ah, yes, the month of Mother’s Day.

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Again this May, I have not gone to the store to buy a card or written my own verse inside a blank card, even though it’s Mother’s Day. There has been no gift to purchase, no quick phone call to a sibling for a suggestion of what to get for Mama, and no flowers ordered and sent. There will be no phone call on Mother’s Day to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day”.

And I wonder, do they celebrate Mother’s Day in Heaven?

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Praying the Attributes of God for Your Family

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Praying for our family and others should be a priority for each of us.

There are so many ways we can pray that help us become more acquainted with the Word and the character of Christ. Ever since my kids were small, I’ve used scripture as a model for my prayers. Praying the heart of God back to Him for our kids is powerful. Allow me to explain here.

This is the method that I used years ago. Recently I pulled that paper out of my files and decided to update it for use in my prayer time. The idea first came from Krystal Yoder, who was the mother of seven children, two of whom are in Heaven. Krystal is with Jesus now and her children are reaping the benefits of their mother’s prayers, even as adults.

Rather than just a simple, “God bless so-and-so, be with him/her and keep them safe. . . ” this list focuses on attributes we should be praying for those we love. Using the alphabet, one can compile a list of attributes of God and use those attributes to pray for others.

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Instead of simply asking God to protect or bless someone, ask Him to let that person experience Him as the Shepherd of his soul, as the Sure Foundation. Covenant with God to have this loved one be reminded of his Salvation in Christ. If the loved one is not saved, pray that this person will find his Salvation in Christ, will long for a relationship with the Shepherd, and find Him his Sure Foundation.

Each week, use a different alphabet letter and concentrate on attributes beginning with that alphabet letter. Praying like this is authentic and creative, and it will help keep you awake as you find words to put with the attributes you are praying for in the folks you love.

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I find as I focus on specific character qualities, I become more cognizant of Who God is and who He wants me to become. God becomes more vivid to me as I think of Him in terms such as Almighty Author, Benevolent, Compassionate, Deliverer, Everlasting, Faithful, Gracious Guide, Helper, Infinite, Joy, King, Love, Master, Never-failing, Omnipresent, Prince of Peace, Quickening One, Restorer, Shepherd, Truthful, Unfailing, Victorious,  Wisdom, X-Bearer, Yearning One, and Zealous Fulfiller.

Praying

Never forget that prayer is about communicating with our Heavenly Father. He knows our hearts, and He hears our desires, even when we can’t find a way to say what we’re feeling. Scripture tells us that the Spirit prays for us with groanings that can’t be uttered. There is no specific way that a person should pray. This idea is merely a suggestion of a way to help you become more aware of the character of God as you pray more specifically for your friends and loved ones.

I encourage you to make your own list of the attributes of God. I will share mine (combined with the list from Krystal) below.

Attributes of God:

  • Able, All-Knowing, Almighty, All-Powerful, Alpha and Omega, Always Present, Anchor, Anointed Son of God,   Author and Finisher of Faith
  • Beautiful, Beginning and End, Beloved, Benevolent, Bishop of my Soul, Blameless, Blessed, Bread of Life, Bridegroom of the Church, Bright and Morning Star
  • Captain of my Salvation, Caring, Comforter, Compassionate, Consuming Fire, Cornerstone, Counselor, Creator
  • Defender of My Soul, Deliverer, Diadem of Beauty, Divine, Door of Salvation
  • Enthroned, Eternal Life of my Soul, Everlasting Father, Ever-present, Exalted
  • Faithful, First, Flawless, Forgiving, Fortress, Foundation, Fountain of Life, Friend Closer than a Brother
  • Gentle, Glorious, Good Shepherd, Governor Among Nations, Gracious, Great Guide, Great High Priest, Guardian of Soul,
  • Head of the Church, Head over All Principalities, Healer, Heir of my Faith, Helper, Helper of the Fatherless, Holy
  • I AM of the Ages, Indescribable, Infinite, Image of the Invisible God, Inheritance of my Soul, Invisible
  • Jealous, Jehovah-Jireh (Provider), Judge, Just One,
  • Keeper, Key of Knowledge, Kind Shepherd, King Eternal
  • Lamb of God, Light, Living Water, Lord of Lords, Lover of My Soul
  • Majestic, Maker, Man of Sorrow, Master, Messiah, Merciful, Mighty King
  • Name Above Every Name, New and Living God, Never-Failing, Noble
  • Offering, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Only Mediator between God and Man,  Only Wise God
  • Passionate, Patient, Peaceful, Pearl of Great Price, Perfect, Physician, Priest of Most High God, Prince of Peace, Protector, Pure
  • Qualified Opener of the Books, Quest of my Soul, Quickening Spirit, Quiet Place
  • Radiant, Redeemer, Refiner, Refuge, Restorer, Resurrection and the Life, Righteous, Rock
  • Satisfier of my Soul, Savior, Seeker, Shepherd, Shield, Shield of our Salvation, Slow to Anger, Sovereign, Spirit, Steadfast, Strong, Supreme, Sure Foundation
  • Teacher, Tender, The Truth, Tree of Life
  • Unchangeable, Undefiled Son of God, Understanding, Unfailing Love, Unfailing One, Unique, Uplifter
  • Very Present Help in Time of Need, Victorious, Vine of all the Branches, Vision of my Soul
  • Water of Life, the Way, Wisdom of God, Wonderful Counselor, Word of God,  Worthy of Praise
  • X-Bearer for my Sin
  • Yasha the Savior of my Salvation, Yearning
  • Zealous Fulfiller of all Righteousness

Here are some scriptures I use in prayer – these show the attributes of God. Click on the reference to read the verses.

How blessed we are to be able to come to the Throne of Grace for those we love – and for our own spiritual needs as well. Jesus is our Great High Priest, and we come to the Father through Jesus Christ. We need no other go-between and – according to Hebrews 4:16 – can boldly approach His throne.

Go to the Throne. There you will find mercy – and grace to help you in times of need.

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