Browse > Home / Archive by category 'Lifestyle'

| Subscribe via RSS

In theatres October 20

October 2nd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

10 Ideas for Non-Digital Family Fun on Road Trips

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
Whether your family is taking a short trip to Grandma’s house or a cross-country vacation in the family car, these interactive activities will help the time pass more quickly.

With seven children, you can imagine the travel tensions my wife, Ellie, and I have experienced during long road trips: bad attitudes, wars over seat space, and the incessant asking of the timeless question, “How much longer until we get there?”

Whether your family is taking a short trip to Grandma’s house or a cross-country vacation in the family car, having things to do always helps the trip pass more quickly and makes things much more enjoyable along the way.

Sure, it’s easier to turn on a DVD or let the kids use their hand-held devices. But since you already have everyone in one place, why not buck the solo trend and give everyone a chance to connect and enjoy the trip and each other—as a family?

Through three decades of parenting, Ellie and I have adapted some travel ideas from other creative parents, and we developed others out of our own desperation. The following are some of our favorite non-digital activities and games to play on a road trip, short or long. We’ve even included some links to make it easier for you.

1. Mile marker. On all interstate freeways and many major U.S. highways, there are small green signs along the shoulder of the road to mark each highway mile. The object of the game is to call out a “mile marker” before anyone else. Each mile marker earns a point. If a family member incorrectly calls a mile marker (it turns out to be another kind of sign, etc.), a point is taken away. If two people call a mile marker at the same time, no point is awarded. The first person to get 10 mile markers (or 20 or however many you want, depending on how long you want the game to last), wins the game.

2. Alphabet signs. Find all the letters of the alphabet, in order, on billboards, highway signs, license plates, etc. (The only letters off limits are those inside your own vehicle). As a person finds a letter, they call out the letter and the word that contains it. Everyone competes individually, and everyone can call out letters and words at the same time. The first person to finish is the winner.

3. Bible characters. In this variation of the classic game, “20 Questions,” one person secretly selects a Bible character and announces the first letter of that person’s name. All other family members take turns asking yes/no questions to try to narrow down the subject (“Is it a woman?” or “Did he live in the time of Christ?”). Whenever a family member gets a “Yes” answer to his question, he may continue asking until receiving a “No.”

To win the game, a person would ask “Is it _____?”. If the answer is “Yes,” the round is over and the person who guessed correctly gets to choose the next character. If the answer is “No,” the person is eliminated from that round, and the other family members play until someone correctly guesses the Bible character. One more twist: If the person who selected the Bible character can’t answer one of the questions about the character, the family member who stumped him wins. You can also play this game with animals, sports teams, etc.

4. Camping trip. One person, called the tour guide, announces, “I’m going on a camping trip, and I’m bringing a …” To decide what he is bringing, the tour guide thinks of a rule. For example, the rule could be “Only words that start with an ‘F’ are allowed,” so the tour guide could say, “I’m going on a camping trip, and I’m bringing a flashlight.”

The goal is to guess other words and, in the process, figure out the rule. One person might say, “Can I bring a battery?” The tour guide would say “You can’t come,” because he knows that it doesn’t start with an “F.” That person stays in the game, but his turn is over. If the next person says, “Can I bring fun?” the tour guide would respond, “You can come.” The round can end in one of two ways: 1) Those who figure out the rule can keep suggesting items for the camping trip until the other participants catch on; or 2) Someone uses his turn to ask, “Is the rule, ‘Things that begin with “F”‘?” If a person tries to guess the rule and the guess is incorrect, he sits out for the rest of that round.

Other rules that could apply to flashlight might be: words with two syllables, things you’d find in a backpack, words with three consecutive consonants, things that produce light, etc. You can make the game as simple or sophisticated as you want to cater to the abilities of your family members. This game is great for spawning creativity on the part of the tour guide, and building analytical skills for all the other family members.

5. License plate. Each player has a blank map of the United States. When a family member spots a vehicle with the license plate from a particular state, he marks it on his map. One rule: You have to be able to read the name of the state, not just identify the plate by its colors or graphics.

6. The box game. Using a piece of graph paper or a page with 10 rows of 10 evenly-spaced dots, players take turns drawing one vertical or horizontal line from one dot to another. When a person draws a line that completes a box, he puts his initial inside the box. When the grid is fully filled in, the initials are counted, and the person who has the most initials is the winner.

7. Scavenger hunt. Before the trip, develop a list of items that you are likely to see on the trip. When the trip starts, hand a copy of the list to each family member (non-readers can help readers find the items). Our family has broken our items into categories (animals, people, vehicles, structures, landscapes, etc.). The first person to complete a category gets a special treat (for example, any item under $1 at the next gas station stop). Once a person completes a category, he is not eligible for other category awards (this gives everyone a chance to earn a reward), but is still in the running for the big reward, which is given to the first person who completes the whole list.

8. Reading and listening. Plan a visit to the library before your trip. Allow each child to pick out a few books and make sure they have a personal book bag to keep up with their own stuff (you can also add some coloring books, activity books, pencils, etc.). While you’re at the library, pick up some family classics on audio. We actually listened to a dramatized Cheaper by the Dozen during four days of driving. 

9. Progressive scrapbook. Buy a journal or album for each child, along with some tape or a glue stick and car-safe scissors. Wherever you stop, pick up some brochures or postcards. Have the children select pictures or other memorabilia to put in their personal scrapbook, and have them write what they liked about that part of the trip, what they did, etc. Encourage them to write down as many details as they can. They can add family photos to the book once you get home.

10. How much longer? Using Google Maps or another mapping website, print a map of your trip and give it to each family member. When someone inevitably asks, “How much longer…?” have the questioner pull out his or her personal map and point to where you are on the map. Every once in a while, you might announce, “We’re in ______” or, “We just passed Highway ____. Can you find it on your map?”. This exercise gives the children something to do, answers their questions, and teaches them map skills. And you never again have to say in exasperation, “If you ask again, you’ll have a quiet time out for the next half hour!”

Easy S’mores Pretzel Bites

July 5th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle

This recipe makes 24 s’more pretzel bites but you can adjust it as necessary.

Leave them under the broiler until they puff up and get a little brown.

These turned out soo yummy with a little salty/sweet flavor! They were great right out of the oven melting and a few hours later was good. Not sure how long they can be kept though.

Ingredients:

  • 48 pretzels
  • 2 Hershey bars (24 individual chocolate pieces)
  • 72 small marshmallows (3 per pretzel)

Directions:

  • Lay 24 pretzels on a cookie sheet (use parchment paper for an easy clean-up).
  • Pre-heat the broiler to high.
  • Place three marshmallows on each pretzel and stick in the oven for 2-3 minutes.
  • Place a Hershey chocolate piece on each pretzel and put back in the oven for 1-2 minutes so they melt.
  • Stick a pretzel on top of the chocolate.
  • Enjoy them all warm or put them in fridge to chill.

The Perfect 3-Minute Mug Brownie

June 7th, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
If you need a fabulous mug brownie recipe done fast {like 3 minutes fast!} you must try friend Claudia’s Perfect recipe. It is so delicious and will fill your late night chocolate cravings.

Yield: 1 servings

Prep Time:

Cook Time:

Total Time:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of vanilla
  • splash of coffee extract
  • sweetened whipped cream {optional}

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a small bowl {or mug} stir flour, sugar and cocoa powder together so everything is evenly dispersed. Add in wet ingredients and stir to create batter. Spray mug with nonstick cooking spray and pour batter in. Microwave 1-1 1/2 minutes until cake if just baked. Turn out of mug onto a plate and top with whipped cream.

Making Music and Babies: Christian Singers Open Up About Motherhood

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
What happens when you’re in the middle of living the dream… and another dream comes along?

Jaci Velasquez had spent over half her life recording and performing Christian music by the time she gave birth to her first son a decade ago. “I remember thinking to myself, How can I ever go back? How can I ever make music again?” said Velasquez, whose No. 1 singles include “On My Knees” and “Llegar A Ti.”

Many popular female artists spend their 20s focused on their careers in ministry, releasing albums, going on tour, and picking up Dove Awards and Grammy nominations. But around 30, these Christian singers confront the dilemma that women across industries face: deciding when to start a family and figuring out what their jobs look like after motherhood.

Amid her uncertainty, Velasquez—now a mother of two, releasing her first album in five years—remembered that “being faithful to God is being faithful to all the things God has placed in your life, that being my husband, my children, and my ministry.”
Faith offers Christian artists a sense of assurance in the messy realm of balancing motherhood. For them, being a musician or a mother isn’t merely their choice but a calling affirmed by prayer and counsel. Still, that God-given confidence doesn’t eliminate the practical struggles of raising a family while writing, recording, and touring.

“While I was pregnant, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Babies are so portable! It’ll be a breeze in the first few months! He’ll just absorb into my life!,’” said Audrey Assad, a Catholic singer and pianist, who gave birth to a son in 2014. “I couldn’t have been more wrong about our own specific situation.”

For several months, baby Will would only sleep on Assad’s chest, and she stayed up all night nursing him on the tour bus—forced to nap the next day to recover enough to perform. She now schedules shorter tours, flying back to see a happier toddler Will at home.

No amount of popularity, record sales, or sold-out arenas can compensate for the emotions and exhaustion that accompany the earliest months of motherhood. Multiple moms—including Assad and Kari Jobe—described the intense worry that swelled up the first time they returned to the stage.

“I remember just crying to [my husband] Cody and saying, ‘I feel the weight of going back out to lead worship tonight, and I’m worried I won’t remember what to do,’” said Jobe, who went on tour with Hillsong Worship, Jesus Culture, and Passion six weeks after her son, Canyon, was born last year. “I felt so different, being a mom today and a worship leader tonight. I told him, ‘I don’t know how to change these roles.’”

The 35-year-old new mom felt at ease when her husband, a fellow worship leader at Gateway Church, reassured her, “The pressure not on you. It’s on him. God’s got this.” When the two tour together, they take along a sitter to care for Canyon during rehearsals and while they are on stage.

Meanwhile, male artists typically don’t travel with their young kids. “You’d see them backstage before they’d go out, trying to tell their kids goodnight over the phone,” said Jobe, who’s known for her popular rendition of “Desert Song” as well as hits like “Forever.” “You can tell they miss them, and their hearts are aching.”

While singers like Jeremy Riddle and Matt Redman started their big families early (both have five kids each and welcomed their first by their mid-20s), the female singers on today’s Christian music charts became moms a bit later. Women like Jobe, Kim Walker-Smith, Christy Nockels, and Laura Story had their first kids in their late 20s or 30s.

Ellie Holcomb, who sang alongside her husband in Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, assumed that once she started a family at 30, her performing days were over. “I really quit the band to be a stay-at-home mom,” the Nashville-based mom of two said. “I was telling the Lord that’s what I was going to do, and he had different plans for me.”

Instead, she spent her pregnancy writing songs that ended up on her first solo album, As Sure As the Sun. Motherhood essentially launched her own career, and she earned the Dove Award for best new artist in 2014.

The Holcombs’ lives with four-year-old Emmylou and one-and-a-half-year-old Huck can be unconventional as both parents tour—sometimes separately, sometimes together. Holcomb learned that to avoid ratcheting up the inevitable “mom guilt” she’d have to stop looking beside her for comparison and critique and instead focus on Jesus.

“I’ve been sent into serious shame storms by conversations with people at shows who don’t intend to be critical at all, but they ask questions like, ‘How do you do that? Are your kids okay?’” said Holcomb, who just released her second full-length album, Red Sea Road. “You’re like, ‘Well, if it’s God’s will for my life to be doing this; it’s God’s will for their lives too.’”

Working in the music industry has given their family the opportunity to talk about calling and obeying God with their kids at a young age. When Emmylou is sad at a goodbye, they explain God has “adventures and good works” for all his children to do. They tell her about how they have said yes to this calling just like she will one day grow up to hopefully say yes to an adventure of her own.

Even with less quiet time for contemplation and writing, parenthood brings its own kind of inspiration for making music, particularly worship music, and prompts a deeper recognition of God’s love for his own children.
“Anything I sing that references Jesus coming as a baby (like “Humble,” or “Winter Snow”) has much more incarnate significance for me now,” Assad told CT Women.
A couple of years ago singer Sara Groves—whose oldest kids are now teenagers—talked about how impossible it is to separate her family life, her work as an artist, and her faith. She told blogger Jerusalem Greer:

Faith, our gifts, our relationships are integrated, like it or not. We might try to compartmentalize our time, but I think the best and most true creative expression comes when we don’t compartmentalize our lives, when we push back against definition/labels, and let some unedited stuff come out… To get somewhere, you have to let it all flow together.

Over the past year, Jobe has approached parenting as a challenging, exhausting gift. The birth of her son following her sister’s miscarriage flowed into the themes in her new album, The Garden. “A garden is just significant in our life with the Lord. It’s a place of life, it’s a place of no sorrow, it’s a place to watch things grow,” she said. “Canyon’s doing that for us as well.”

Since different evangelical settings have different expectations for women in leadership, female worship leaders lack an established model for their role in the church and for navigating transitions like marriage and family, according to Tanya Riches, a Hillsong collaborator and researcher at the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Centre. (Hillsong’s Darlene Zschech opened up to CT Women a year ago about how her gender was a particular hang-up when she performed in some US locales.)

Riches emphasizes the importance of connecting with fellow female worship leaders for solidarity and advice and going deeper with worship as a personal spiritual discipline. “And if all else fails,” she said, “put on Brooke Ligertwood’s ‘Desert Song’ and remind your heart by singing at the top of your voice: All of my life, in every season, you are still God, I have a reason to sing; I have a reason to worship.”

Throughout seasons of motherhood, artists also find family demands shifting. Now that Velasquez’s sons are in elementary school, she wants to be as present and as clear about her priorities as possible; her parents worked in ministry and at times neglected her older brother’s activities, so she doesn’t want the same to happen with her family.
She recounted a recent discussion with her son Soren, who turns eight this year, over her tracks for her new album, Trust, which releases next month.

“He goes, ‘Mom, do you like your songs more or do you love me more?’ I said, ‘Baby are you kidding me? I love you more than everything! You are my heart! There’s no question,’ And he goes, ‘Oh, okay. I was just checking,’” she said. “I have to make sure to continuously remind them they are much more important than anything.”

For Those of Us Who Grew up in Church, This Article Resonates…

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
Dan Darling talks about how the repetition of old hymns and programs in his church growing up cultivated in him a love for Christ and His church.

Boring Church Services Changed My Life

While I fought to keep my eyes open, the gospel pressed deep into my heart.

I’ve never really had a moment in my life—39 years—when I wasn’t going to church. My parents got engaged and married in the church. I was born into, raised in, and baptized in church.

My parents, first-generation Christians, were devout church-goers. We went every time the doors were open—and many times when they weren’t. My father, a plumber, volunteered thousands of man-hours helping build church buildings. My mother volunteered, worked as a secretary, and later served as a preschool teacher.

Since the age of five, I sat in church services: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I wasn’t allowed to draw. I was required to sit up straight—no fidgeting. And I wasn’t allowed to fall asleep.

Up through my teenage years, I thought of church as a bit boring. Sure, there were some life-changing, soul-stirring messages at summer camp or a special service. But for most of my life, including my years as a pastor, I did pretty much the same thing every week: singing familiar hymns or choruses, standing up and reading Scripture, listening to a sermon.

Ironically, one of the axioms of my childhood evangelical faith was this: Church is more than the service or a building; it is the called-out people of God, living on mission every day. Church, I was told, will not get you to heaven. Only a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ will do that.

I still believe this, more strongly now than ever, but I also believe that in some ways church does—or did—save me. It didn’t save me in the ways you might expect: a spectacular Sunday service, a homerun sermon, or a gripping worship set. God’s primary tool to transform my heart was not the conference speaker or the travelling revivalist or the worship concert. Those events were important, but now I realize that, more often, God changed my life using routine worship services in which I sang hymns I didn’t quite understand and heard messages I didn’t quite grasp.

In dark and stormy seasons, what comes into my head first? The lines of hymns I learned as child in church. The verses I memorized on Wednesday nights in my Awana class. The passages of Scripture we stood and read aloud.

During times of fear and anxiety, I drift back to the words of hope from Martin Luther’s epic hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

When I feel insecure, I recall the lines of the Methodist hymn, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”:

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how he could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

The hymns of the blind poet, Fanny Crosby. The majestic lines from Isaac Watts. The simple melodies of Bill Gaither. These are just a few of the hundreds of hymns that were cemented in my heart from week after week of “boring” church services. As a young child enduring the routines of our Baptist church, I didn’t realize what was happening to me.

In his book, You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith talks about the way our hearts are formed:

There is no formation without repetition. Virtue formation takes practice, and there is no practice that isn’t repetitive. We willingly embrace repetition as a good in all kinds of other sectors of our life— to hone our golf swing, our piano prowess, and our mathematical abilities, for example. If the sovereign Lord has created us as creatures of habit, why should we think repetition is inimical to our spiritual growth?

This repetition built in my heart a deep reservoir of theology. And now, as a husband and father and pastor, whenever I stand and sing these hymns, I can barely contain myself. At times I cannot sing; I can only weep. Some choruses evoke memories: My father serves communion while “Jesus Keep Me near the Cross” plays faintly in the background. Dad fights back tears as we sing “Jesus Paid It All.”

These rituals train our hearts. We sing to ourselves songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. We hear the same gospel preached to us, over and over again. We lift the cup to our lips and the bread to our tongues remembering, again, our place at the King’s table. Through these practices, God takes our hearts and seals them for his courts above, to paraphrase another hymn writer, Robert Robinson.

Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t eschew creativity in the church or stick with only one era of church history to form our Sunday liturgies. We are, after all, “new creation” people, and our churches should find fresh and innovative ways to communicate that old, old story.

But that’s just it. Our creativity should not seek to tell a new story. It should be designed to communicate to our hearts that same, old, wonderful story of salvation.

When I think back on the simple routines—the liturgies—that changed my life, I’m encouraged in my own pastoral role. I’m reminded afresh that the work of ministry is not so much about finding new, tantalizing ways to make people excited about Jesus, but about the timeless rituals that shape their hearts.

Because somewhere in your congregation are children singing words they don’t know, listening to Scripture they don’t understand, and fighting sleep during a sermon that doesn’t hold their interest. They don’t realize it yet, but the Spirit of God is pressing the gospel message, through yet another “boring” church service, deep within their hearts.

Daniel Darling is the vice president for communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). Previously, he served as senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

“Fighting for You Teaching Video” From Tenth Avenue North’s Mike Donehey

March 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle