Friday, June 17, 2022

For The Children


If anyone asked you if you love your child, almost certainly you would say, "Yes. Of course I love my child." And we do. Yet, we sometimes we let them down. 

We can't be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. It's an impossibility. So I want to say right up front please do not beat yourself up for what you may see as failures. Failure is part of life. It helps us to learn and to grow. However, I encourage you to listen to the Lord. He can change your life and that of a child.

What can we do as parents to nurture and teach our children in the ways of the Lord? How can we fail less?

Children need so much. There is a long list that begins with love and not enough space or time here to cover it all. It would take a book or two or three. And I'm not qualified to write those books. But here is what's on my mind today.

 All this week, our church has been putting on a VBS program for local kids ages 4 - 12. There was a good turnout of children eager for fun, goodies and news about Jesus. There was singing, stories and games. Experiences laid down in a child's memories.

Of course, many weren't there.  I understand extra activities can't always be fit into a parent's schedule, but we need to try ... for the kids. Some children were ill and others had conflicts or were out of town on vacation. There were multiple reasons. But some were not there because they had no one who cared enough to get them there.

Even as I write those words I cringe. It sounds harsh. And maybe it is. I apologize if I'm being unfair. All of that must be between you and God.

 I have a soft spot for VBS. It was part of what motivated me to seek Christ. It planted seeds in my little girl heart. Those seeds remained hidden until I was an adult and sent me in search of my Savior. He was waiting for me and knew I was coming to Him. Just the idea makes me teary and so very thankful for the neighbors who invited me to VBS and who made sure I got there. 

I grew up in a good solid family. So much of who I am is because of the honorable and upright lives of my mother and father. But Jesus wasn't part of our life.

We went to church on an occasional Easter or Christmas, but that was pretty much it. My mother in later years used to tell me of an incident that was wedged in her heart like a thorn. I was about ten years old and had a terrible, tragic kind of day at school. When I came home I was distraught and I asked her if she could tell me how to pray. I needed Jesus. As my mother told the story tears would well up in her eyes. All those years ago, she didn't know how to answer my question. And felt that she had failed me. 

I didn't meet my Lord until I was twenty-three. A long and painful journey led me to Him. Even if my parents had introduced me to Christ as a child I still might have taken that same terrible journey. Only God knows. But I know Him now and I'm thankful for that.

I wouldn't undo my life. It has so much to do with the person I am today. I am imperfect in many ways, but I know my Savior and we're walking the path of life together. Sometimes I think about how wonderful it would have been to grow up in a family that placed God and His Son Jesus at the center of our lives. That would have been a beautiful gift, but that's not how it happened. Yet, God had a plan.

Children don't know that the world is a dangerous place where evil does its best to bring them down. They don't know that satan hates them and longs for their eternal damnation. We want to protect them from the ugliness. We want them to have a beautiful and joyous childhood. We, the parents, grandparents and friends have the opportunity to protect them and teach them of God and His love and of the beautiful world that He created for us. In fact, kids are counting on us to do that.

Are we letting them down?

How many Sundays have we decided that getting ready for church is too much trouble? Or that a special program for the children is too much work? Or we're just too weary to spend time sharing the love of God with the little ones and helping them discover who God is? It is pure joy to experience the happiness of a child who giggles at a frog in their palm or a butterfly on their fingertip. And Bible stories shared and discussed can be riveting, especially when the questions a child asks cut straight to our heart.

What if this is the time, the only time for that child - the one who is counting on you? Will you take a few moments to pray with them, hold them close, or discover God's beauty together, maybe travel to a VBS meeting or children's church while your little one chatters on about the wonders they see in the world?

We can be the difference. There is no greater blessing than to partner with The Father as He draws children close and tells them how much He loves them.

Experience the wonder with them. You will not regret it.

Grace and peace to you from God,

Bonnie Leon

Sunday, June 12, 2022



A few weeks ago, a band of men in our church headed out into the foothills of the Southern Oregon Coast. They spent four days together at a remote campground.

In the weeks preceding the retreat there was a lot of talk about shooting guns, sleeping in, and kicking back around a campfire while eating roasted meat. All that sounds fun, but I was curious about the real reason most of the men trekked out of town to band together.

My husband has attended many retreats through the years and most often has returned rejuvenate and ready to jump back into life. I asked him about why he was going on this one and after chatting about it I decided it might be fun to send a questionnaire along with the men to see if I could gain more insight. 

I know what women's retreats are generally like. There are activities planned to encourage fellowship between the ladies, good teaching, quiet time allowed for meditation and big chunks of time just for fun. And usually if we have a dedicated hospitality leader the women will likely find a chocolate on their pillows. 

So, what is it the men are looking for? 

The guys were good about answering the questionnaires. They offered me a better understanding. 

In recent years it has been my observation that society has done a great disservice to our men. We have insisted that our guys should be something they are not. And if I deciphered the questionnaires properly it's clear that that is part of reason the men gather. Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in a time of need." It's not easy to maneuver through this life without good and true friends. Time away, together, encourages bonds to be developed and deepened. It's an opportunity to put down the roots of true and lasting friendships.

A few men mentioned Proverbs 27:17. "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." The men are serios about their faith. They recognize the need to be held accountable, which requires true friendship. With the help of others and the Holy Spirit a man will learn what it means to walk humbly and upright before the Lord.

Yes, the guys wanted to have a good time, to kick back, have some delicious and likely unhealthy food, talk about things like cars and football and they did a fair amount of shooting. I even heard that some of the teen boys had a hands-on lesson in how to skin a fox.  Eww ... yeah, I'm a female who doesn't find that appealing. But that's the point ... I'm not a guy. Men need to get away from the daily grind and spend time with other men. It's part of building Godly relationships.

The "fun" activities help to break down barriers and to encourage the men to connect. And then they can get down to what is really important and why they showed up in the first place.

When I went through the questionnaires it was clear, the guys wanted to close the distance between one another and get acquainted on a deeper level. They valued the teaching and personal time with God. They found things to admire in each other and they began to see some of the men as role models. We all need those.

Several men brought their sons. Offering time for fathers and sons without the distraction of cell phones or other devices was appreciated by the dads and I would guess after a bit of grousing, the sons were also glad for the opportunity to disconnect. Creating an opportunity for meaningful interaction cannot be overrated. 

Although the world would like us think that none of this matters to our men they would be dead wrong. The enemy lies to us. We need to stop listening to him. 

Something else happens at these retreats. Men are reminded that it's okay to be men. There is pressure placed on men to be more sensitive, kinder, to be in touch with their feminine side, but maybe we need to rethink this a bit. I do want my husband to be sensitive and kind but I also recognize that he is not me. He's a man. Men think and behave differently than women. And that's how it should be. I Corinthians 16:13-14 says, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."

I think we need to step back a bit and recognize that our guys need to be guys. If they were meant to be women, God would have created them as such. Though I have whined a bit through the years about my man sometimes being too tough, I am thankful he possesses that part of himself that drives him to be strong and protective. Me and the kids have depended on him. We've trusted him to watch out for us. And to be tough when we needed it.

The men won't find a chocolate on their pillow when they turn in at night, but the friendships and valuable conversations, and spiritual growth that takes place on their forays into the forest will stay with them and help them along life's journey. 

Yes, retreats are fun, but they are so much more. The next time you hear of a retreat being organized for the men in your church, encourage the one's you love to join in. They will be happy they took the plunge and so will you.

Grace and peace to you from God,