“Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42, emphasis added).
Welcome to my world. I’m hosting Christmas for oodles of beloved family members, and the Martha in me wants to show my love by making everyone else’s Christmas perfect: Decorations? Check. Clean house? Check. Gourmet food? Check. (“Sort of. Wait. Let me run into the kitchen to prep a few things . . . I’ll be back in five hours.”)
But you know . . . the clean house, and gourmet food, and Pinterest-worthy Christmas decorations, aren’t what’s most important for our family holiday. A great holiday is about time spent together, about laughing so hard you snort egg nog through your nose, about the light of magic shining in our children’s eyes. So I hope you’ll join me in taking Jesus’ gentle words to Martha to heart this holiday season. Let’s “choose what is better.”
And what did Mary choose? She chose to be present. To be engaged. To be with—fully with—the people who had come into her home. To spend time sitting at the feet of the Lord, listening and learning. That’s what makes the holidays great. That’s what is “better.” So won’t you join me?
Let the dishes soak a little longer.
Let the pine needles rest on the carpet a little longer.
Let the meals be a little simpler.
Let’s just be there with the people—and the Lord—we love.
That, my friends, is better. That’s BEST. And Jesus will not take it away from us!
Merry Christmas to you and yours, from the Thompson Crazies! (Here’s hoping we don’t actually GO crazy.)
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As we begin the holiday season, we’re all looking for ways to encourage our kids to be grateful. Here is a family devotion we did last year with our kids to encourage a thankful spirit. We called it…
“Overflowing with thankfulness. Literally.”
How’s that for a creative title?!
This devotion comes with a super silly illustration, but our kids loved it. We started by reading Colossians 2:6–7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Then we gathered around the kitchen table and I asked if they wanted some milk. I put a cup in a bowl, and started pouring… and pouring… and pouring… until my kids were gasping in horror and the milk was spilling out all over the top of the cup, filling up the bowl. The milk was overflowing! We talked about how our gratitude should be like that—so big that we just can’t hold it in, and it spills out all over everything.
Then we stuck straws into the bowl (germs? what germs?) and let the kids drink the milk from the bowl.
Sometimes it feels like the whole world is on a mission to beat down our kids’ confidence. Maybe they are teased by a friend or a sibling; maybe they don’t get the encouragement they crave from a teacher or coach; maybe their own insecurities constantly whisper, “You’re not enough.” And yet, when God created our children, he created them as his masterpiece; when he was finished, he stepped back and said to himself, “Oh, this one is very, very good.”
Lasting, godly confidence comes from God and his Word, not from our own looks or achievements or popularity.
Lasting, godly confidence comes from the unchanging fact that God loves us no matter what. We haven’t earned that love, and we will never have to.
Lasting, godly confidence comes from the staggering knowledge that God’s love doesn’t fluctuate based on how well we behave or even how much we love God back. Of course God hopes his love will inspire us to give our hearts to him and follow his ways, but he doesn’t love us any less when we make mistakes.
If your kids need a dose of godly confidence, try these 13 scriptures. And hey—read them for yourself, too! I bet you’ll walk a lot taller after you’re done.
13 Confidence-Building Scriptures for Kids and Teens
1. Luke 12:6–7
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
2. Ephesians 1:3–8,New Living Translation
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. . . .”
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
*I have to interrupt the list here to make a quick observation:Notice how God responds to Moses. He doesn’t say, “Oh, Moses, stop saying that! Of course you are a wonderful speaker. You are hilarious, and you have the best anecdotes—I love the one about Pharaoh and the donkey!—plus there’s that fantastic vocabulary you gleaned from all those fancy royal tutors.” Nope. God brings the attention back to himself. The point is, God didn’t choose Moses because of who Moses was; God chose him because God himself was powerful enough to use Moses for his purposes. Deep thoughts worth pondering, right?! Of course this will sail right over the heads of our younger kids, but teenagers can begin to grasp this concept and teach themselves to focus more on God and less on themselves.*
4. Isaiah 43:1–2,4
But now, this is what the Lord says. . . . “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. . . . Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.”
5. Zephaniah 3:17
“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
6. Psalm 37:19,23–24
The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty….
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
7. Psalm 71:1–3, 5–6
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go. . . .
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
8. 1 Samuel 16:7
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. . . . We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
10. Galatians 6:9–10
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
11. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
12. Philippians 4:6–7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
13. Psalm 103:11–13
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
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If your family is like ours, right now you’re scrambling to fill out a gazillion back-to-school forms—just as you realize that every kid’s shoes are too tight and their jeans are too short—plus you need to buy $978 worth of pencils and glue sticks. In between fears that you’ll need a second mortgage to help you pay for it all, and wondering why oh why we can’t just fill out the forms online one time for the whole family, you’re scratching your head and wondering what happened to summer.
But our kids need more than just glue sticks and non-holey jeans to get them prepared for the new year. Our children need confidence, peace, and a sense of God’s love and guiding hand as they start this new year in their life. Kids have so many questions and worries as school starts: Will I get the teacher I wanted? Will this year be really hard? Will my friends still be my friends?
Here are 13 Back-to-School Scriptures for Kids and Teens to help our families get spiritually prepared for school. I’m planning to read one or two of these scriptures every morning with my kids over the next few weeks. Armed with glue sticks, new jeans, and these back-to-school Bible verses, our kids are sure to have a great start to the year!
When you’re afraid, or lonely, or wondering if God is with you at school
1. “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” –Proverbs 15:3
2. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” –Joshua 1:9
4. “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying?And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first the kingdom of Godand His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” –Matthew 6:25–34, HCSB
5. “The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” –Psalm 121:5–8
6. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you.” –Isaiah 43:1–2, 4
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8. “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” –Proverbs 3:1–4
9. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” –Proverbs 1:5–8
10. “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” –2 Timothy 2:22–24
How to interact with your friends
11. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” –1 Timothy 4:12
12. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” –Proverbs 15:1
13. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” –Colossians 4:5–6
The Thompson Crazies wish you and your family a great start to the school year!
I recently did a fun devotion time with some children at church, about the importance of listening, and I thought I’d pass it along.
We centered the discussion and activities around James 1:19:
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” We started by reading the scripture and discussing the question, Why is it important to listen before we speak?
Activity #1: The world is talking . . . are you listening?
I took the kids outside, and we all sat quietly for a few minutes, trying to pick out as many different sounds as possible. We listed all the different sounds we heard—several different kinds of birds, a siren, the wind rustling leaves, a car engine, a motorcycle, laughter, an air conditioner. We talked about how much we miss when we aren’t paying attention, or when we are talking so much that we don’t take the time to listen.
Activity #2: Ready, set, listen!
Next, the kids lined up, and I gave them a list of several specific things to do in order, things like: “Run to the fence, spin around in a circle, then run back and sit down at the picnic table with your hands folded,” or “Pat your stomach three times, touch your toes, and shout your favorite color.” We started with only two actions, and worked our way up to four. (With older kids you could go higher than this.) Then the kids took turns giving each other instructions. (They really enjoyed being in charge of the group!) Kevin and I have tried a similar activity at home with our kids, with a twist: We let each of our kids take turns receiving their own set of instructions. They each got a list of three to five specific actions to perform around the house (most of them were very silly things, like “Grab one of your sister’s T-shirts and wear it on your head”). It was more challenging this way, because they couldn’t follow the group—they had to listen and remember the instructions all by themselves. You can add another fun dimension to the activity by adding a time limit.
Activity #3: Feel the rhythm
Last, we sat at the table with our hands in front of us and created complex rhythms one step at a time, building patterns by slapping and thumping the table with our palms and fists. We might start by bumping our fists once on the table, then adding two hand slaps, then two claps, building the rhythm as long as we could until we were all laughing and confused.
After all the games, we revisited our theme scripture and talked again about reasons why it is important to listen, and to listen well. God gives us important instructions or lessons in the Bible that we need to take the time to hear. If we’re too busy, we might miss his instructions for how to live our lives. Sometimes our parents give us a list of instructions to do at home, to keep us safe or to keep the household running—if we don’t stop to listen, we will miss important details. Sometimes our friends have something important to say about how they are feeling, and we hurt their feelings if we don’t pay attention.
Listening is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most children (or most adults, for that matter!)—it must be taught. And as children mature, they need to learn not just to bite their tongue and wait their turn to speak, but to listen with emotional intelligence—to hear and acknowledge the feelings other people express, to learn to ask sensitive questions that draw out other people’s thoughts and feelings, to adjust their own responses in conversation based on how their words make people feel.
Devotions like this are fun and simple, but they make a big difference in teaching our kids to apply Scripture to their daily life. Times like these bring God’s word to life, making it fun and relevant, and show children all the ways that “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12).