Favorite Bible Verses About God, My Father

On this day after Father’s Day, I’ve just read many of my favorite Bible verses about God, my Father. I thought you might be encouraged if you read them, too. (They’re all the English Standard Version.)

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” ~Psalm 68:5

“You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.” ~Psalm 89:6

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:15-17

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” ~Matthew 6:7-9

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” ~Matthew 6:14

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” ~Matthew 6:25-27

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~Matthew 7:11

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 10:31-33

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” ~Matthew 18:14

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” ~Luke 6:36

“I and the Father are one.” ~Jesus, in John 10:30

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~John 14:6

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” ~John 15:8-10

I am very, very grateful God is my Father. I hope you know Him, too.

Honoring Dave Koch, My Brother

My brother, Dave, turns 65 today. That’s hard to believe! When speaking to children and teens, I love telling them that their siblings can be their best friends. Dave and I were. We still are.

I’m blessed with many great memories of growing up with Dave. I’ll share just one. Our Great Aunt Tressie sometimes babysat for us. We enjoyed her. A main reason for liking her as our babysitter was that our bedrooms were on the second floor and she couldn’t climb the stairs. We were on our own.

Dave invited me into his bedroom, pulled the sheets loose on his bed, chose a book to read, grabbed his flashlight, and we went into “the tent” head first so he could read to me. Yes, this is a beautiful way my brother loved me years ago.

Although there’s much more I could say about the love he’s demonstrated toward me in our adult years and how proud of him I am, I’d rather have his three adult children honor him on his birthday. They have recommendations for you, too. I pray you’re blessed as we encourage my brother.

From Betsy:

Our dad is so consistent. He was always there for us every night, we always ate dinner as a family and discussed our day, he helped us with homework, and taught us skills like our instruments, sports, and fishing. He is also a very hard worker. He worked all week at his job and all weekend at home. I cannot remember him ever not working hard all the time, and it seemed the only time he ever relaxed was on our summer vacations.

To other dads: consistency and hard work are things that my dad showed us that left a lasting impact on me.

To kids: Know that even if your dad doesn’t say “I love you” all the time, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t. Sometimes they choose to show love through their actions which are much more powerful than just words.

From Katie:

Our dad was a great leader in every way. He led spiritually by studying his Bible, praying for us, and teaching us by example. He led financially by working so hard at every job he had to provide for us. He taught us to love sports-Go Pack Go! He taught us the value of hard work by giving us chores – thanks, dad. 🙂

One of the more impressive things he did was quit his job because it was taking too much time away from the family. It was such a huge sacrifice and leap of faith, but it really taught us what is most important in life.

His favorite phrase is “I suppose.” That usually meant I don’t want to say no, but I’m not totally excited about what’s about to happen. This cracked me up every time. He loved it when we repeated him as kids. You’ll never hear him laugh harder than when you’ve been doing that for 10 minutes.

To other dads: Be the leader your children need you to be. They will become like you regardless so do what you can to transfer positive traits.

To other kids: Appreciate the effort and the sacrifices your dad makes for you. Find something you like to do together and build in regular time to do it. Those end up being such special memories.

From Andy:

Dad taught me what it meant to be a man. He is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. Not only was he committed to his job, but he also constantly kept himself busy around the house – to the point where it is a bit of a family joke that he can’t sit still and watch an entire movie. 🙂

Even though he worked hard, he was still able to balance that with being incredibly present in our lives. We always ate dinner together as a family. He rarely missed sporting events or concerts, of which there were far too many.

He loved mom so well through the years. It might be a small example, but it stood out to me: mom would usually cook dinner, and he would always serve her by doing the dishes.

He led our family spiritually. He had a vision for his life and for our lives, and he made hard choices for the good of the family when needed. He taught me so much, and I am so grateful. I am the man I am today because of my dad.

To other dads: By God’s grace be the man you want your sons to grow up to be and the man you want your daughters to marry.

To kids: Cherish the short time you get to learn from your dad. Take time to appreciate all that he does for you.

Well said, kids. Well said. Happy birthday, Dave!

The Blessing of Flexibility

Today I’m posting a devotional from the book Steve Baker wrote. As a dad, grandfather, and Christian school administrator, he wrote the devotionals in O Taste and See to encourage parents and children to learn from God’s Word together. Each is related to one or more of the core needs I teach about often and that are taught in my book, Finding Authentic Hope and Wholeness. He has seen their importance and wanted devotionals as another way of helping children meet the needs in healthy ways.

I chose to post a devotional about flexibility because those of us who are willing to be flexible will have a better summer than others. Would you agree that parents and children need to be willing to go with the flow? Sharing Steve’s thoughts with your children will provide an excellent avenue to talk about their attitudes this summer. Could it sometimes be the Holy Spirit redirecting us? Also, I love – love! – his “taste test” idea at the end. I think doing that would be a very rich experience.

FLEXIBILITY – the state of being able to easily change or adjust; ability to do different things, adapt to new and different or challenging requirements.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-21

Scripture Text: Acts 16:6-12

When situations in life are a source of irritation, it may be because God is trying to move us in a different direction. God uses our circumstances to guide and direct us. It may be through suffering which He allows us to endure or through trials we face from others that God moves us to a place of constant service and worship in our journey with Him. Being flexible means being attentive and available to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

This was true in Paul’s life as he went on his missionary journey through Asia Minor. Paul desired to go one way toward Turkey, yet the Holy Spirit wanted Paul to go west and cross over into southern Europe. God gave Paul a vision of a man standing on the shore of Macedonia praying and calling out, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” This took great flexibility from the mission team to change their plans; and even a greater need for flexibility as they faced opposition.

In light of the vision, Paul made plans to sail to Macedonia. He and his team eventually arrived at Philippi. They had quick success in reaching a well-known and affluent woman named Lydia. She listened intently to their teachings and trusted the Lord Jesus as her Savior.

Their obedience was also met with suffering because they were followed about by a young demon possessed girl who was used by businessmen to tell the fortunes of people for a profit. Paul cast the demon out of the damsel and this ended the business practice of these local men. Outraged, they caught Paul and Silas, took them before the rulers, had them beaten, and thrown into prison.

Where was the blessing of being flexible to follow the Holy Spirit in all of this, one might ask? God always knows what He is doing. That night as Paul and Silas sang in prison, probably to the amazement of the other prisoners and the jailor, God shook the prison with an earthquake. The events that followed led to the jailor and his whole family’s salvation and the church at Philippi was born. None of this would have happened if Paul and Silas had not been flexible to listen to the leading of God’s Spirit, flexible to endure unjust suffering knowing that God was with them, and flexible to praise God in light of the irritations they endured.

Taste Test:

Take an elderly saint in your church out to lunch one day and visit with them about the character of flexibility.

  • Ask them to tell you stories of when God moved them or changed the direction of their life.
  • Was it hard?
  • How did they respond?
  • Was it worth it if they obeyed?
  • Ask them to tell you the blessing of listening to the Spirit of God.

Scraping the Plate:

Discuss the scripture text in Acts 16:6-40.

Read the whole story.

What might have been different in history if Paul and Silas had gone the other way into Bithynia? Would we have ever heard the gospel or would we have ever heard of Paul? Would God have had to raise someone else up to spread the gospel to Europe? We can be extremely grateful for Paul’s obedient flexibility.

Nanny’s Chocolate Pie:

Our identity as God’s children requires that we are growing in character and changing by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires our flexibility in allowing God to lead us.

Steve Baker has served in ministry for over thirty-five years and is currently finishing his masters in divinity. With his heart for discipleship, he has worked as a senior pastor, associate pastor, teacher, coach, and hospice chaplain. In 2010, God called him and his wife, Joyce, to help launch a University-Model school. He is currently the Principal of Summit Christian Academy in Boerne, Texas. Steve has a passion for families and mentoring believers to walk in this world humbly and boldly as warriors sharing the powerful message of the gospel to all people.

Of Excellence, Passion, And Character: The Cliburn Piano Competition

Every four years, the Cliburn Piano Competition is held in Fort Worth, TX, where I live. It’s been described by The Boston Globe as a cross between the Miss America Pageant, the Olympic games, the Academy awards, and the Pulitzer prize. It attracts the best pianists ages 18-30 from around the world. This year, 290 people applied and 146 were selected for screening auditions in London, Hannover, Budapest, Moscow, Seoul, New York, and Fort Worth. The jurists chose 30 for the competition. It began May 25th and concludes on June 10th when three awards are presented.

With friends, I enjoyed one of the preliminary concerts last Saturday. We heard three of the competitors each play a 45-minute concert. They were stunning. I marveled at their ability to memorize such complex music. They played beautifully. My friends and I struggled to find adequate adjectives to express our opinions. (For someone who is word smart, this is frustrating.)

The top 20 were selected to play another 45-minute concert, including two of those we heard. The top 12 were chosen from this group last night, again including the two men we heard. They’ll play a 60-minute solo recital and a concerto with our symphony Thursday through the 5th. From this group, six competitors will be chosen to play a piano quintet and a concerto from June 7-10th. On the last night, the three winners will be announced. Their prize packages are impressive!

If you and/or your children play or just enjoy talent, you can watch live and on-demand here. The finals will be broadcast in theaters around the country.

Is there more to this post than just a commercial for a fabulous opportunity to enjoy classical piano music? Yes.

These music-smart pianists are still learning. They’re still being trained. They all have teachers and 24 of the 30 are working on undergraduate or graduate degrees. Most practice many hours each day. It’s humbling.

Let’s share this reality with our children. Excellence is birthed in talent. Passion is developed in the heart and mind with character.

If athletes make better examples for your kids, use them. The best athletes and sports teams practice. They warm up. They spend time in the gym.

At the same time Fort Worth hosted the beginning of the Van Cliburn, we hosted the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at the Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop. These body-smart golfers – the best in the world – have coaches and play many practice rounds of golf for every competitive 18 holes.

Sharing role models with children is wise. For logic-smart kids, we can use scientists who spent years developing their work. Word-smart kids may be shocked to discover how many rejection letters their favorite authors received. The possibilities are endless, both when thinking about who to use and the benefits of doing so.

Remind children that excellence is earned. Passion is developed. Skill grows. This summer, if they say they want to get good at something or you know they do, sit down and talk about what they think it will take. Then watch some amazing piano performances or a sporting event together. Read some biographies or autobiographies about people who are positively affecting the world. Talk about the elements observed and what your children need.

Excellence is birthed in talent. Passion is developed in the heart and mind with character. Which part or parts of these statements do you want to talk with your children about? Plan to do that soon.

Lie #4: “I Am My Own Authority”

Last Sunday, it was my great joy to facilitate a small group in my church who has been going through my book Screens and Teens. I was asked to teach about the fourth lie I address in my book: I am my own authority. I thought I would share what we did in hopes that you might find this a valuable way to spend some time with adults or teenagers in your life.

To review and to begin thinking about this lie, I asked what evidence they saw in the past week that each of the first three lies is believed by people. I also asked how that lie is related to the lie that we think we don’t need anyone else’s authority. We had a great discussion and I think you can as well.

  • Lie #1: I am the center of my own

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #2: I deserve to be happy all the time.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #3: I must have choices.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

Then, after reviewing information in the chapter from the book about the authority lie, I asked three questions.

  • What are the dangers of no authority?
  • What are the dangers of bad authority?
  • What are the benefits of good authority?

Discussing these questions with your teens could be profitable. Also, ask them to define “bad authority” and “good authority” and see if you agree. Share your definitions.

How would you discuss the benefits of God’s authority? Or maybe you could spend time discussing reasons God is a good authority for us to trust. That’s what I chose to do.

I listed some of the attributes of God to make the point that it’s Who He is that should allow us to trust Him as authority. And isn’t the same thing true of us? It’s who we are that is going to encourage people to view us as an authority and to trust us as authority. It is not the number of policies or rules we set. It is not how we do or do not deal with those who break them. It’s about our character, our identity, and our essence.

You could discuss this idea, too, if you believe it would be worthwhile or simply reflect on this list by yourself. In what ways do you see the quality related to God’s trusted authority?

  • Wisdom (The ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve these ends by the most perfect In other words, God makes no mistakes.)
  • Infinitude (God knows no boundaries.)
  • Sovereign (God is in control of everything that happens.)
  • Holy (God is set apart from all created beings. This refers to His majesty and His perfect moral purity.)
  • Omniscient (God is all-knowing.)
  • Faithful (Everything that God has promised will come to pass.)
  • Loving (God holds the well-being of others as His primary concern.)
  • Omnipotent (God is all-powerful.)
  • Self-sufficient (God has life in Himself. He has no needs and there is no way He can improve.)
  • Just (God does not conform to some outside criteria. Being just brings moral equity to everyone.)
  • Immutable (God never changes.)
  • Merciful (God is actively compassionate and kind toward those who don’t deserve it.)
  • Good (God is kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.)
  • Gracious (God enjoys acting on His love and giving great gifts to those who love Him, even when they do not deserve it.)
  • Omnipresent (God is always present.)

I’ll end the blog like I ended our group discussion. Here is your homework assignment. If you claim that God is your authority, what is the evidence? In other words, if I spent 24 or 48 hours with you, how would I know that God is your authority? As I thought about this last week in preparation for Sunday’s lesson, I was both encouraged and humbled. I set goals for this week. Perhaps you’ll do the same.

“How to Insure Your Kid Won’t Walk Away From the Faith After Graduation” Guest Post by Sue Bohlin

If you’ve heard me speak lately, you’ve probably heard me mention my concerns about young people leaving their faith and the church behind after graduating from high school. The statistics are discouraging. It’s a reason I was motivated to write Screens and Teens

For many years, I’ve respected the multi-faceted work of Probe Ministries www.probe.org. Perhaps you’ve heard me interviewed on Point of View radio www.pointofview.net with Kerby Anderson, the president of Probe.

Because I want you to know about Mind Games, their summer one-week program for 17-21 year-olds held near Denton, TX, north of Fort Worth, I’ve asked Sue Bohlin to blog for me today. The first four recommendations are for you – no matter the age of your kids. #2 is my favorite. We should all do it. All of us! #5 is send them to Mind Games. I sincerely hope you’ll read through and consider the information if you have a 17-21 year-old.

How to Insure Your Kid Won’t Walk Away From the Faith After Graduation – by Sue Bohlin

That title sounds like clickbait, doesn’t it? What parent doesn’t want to make sure their not-ready-for-prime-time young adult will continue to walk with the Lord, honoring Him with their life, and making wise, biblically-based decisions? Wouldn’t it be great if such a 5-point guaranteed method existed?

Too bad. It’s doesn’t. Life isn’t like that. We can’t control other people like that.

But I can make some suggestions that have made a difference in other families.

  1. PRAY. And never stop. Our children are the targets of spiritual warfare. They are hated by the enemy of our souls who hates God, hates His people, and wants to destroy our children.
  2. From the time they are itty-bitty, play “Spot the Lie.” Pay attention to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:16), and talk about them with your children when you’re sitting at home, when you’re walking and driving, when you’re putting them to bed, and when they get up in the morning (Deuteronomy 6:7). For example, one day when my now-grown children were in elementary school, the car radio played Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance,” which says that God is watching us from a distance. I asked, “Is that true?” My sons thought about it and said, “No! He’s right here with us!” Exactly. We spotted the lie. And called it what is was.
  3. Educate yourself about how to answer the Big Questions of Life so you can talk to your kids about them: How do we know there is a God? How do we know we can trust the Bible? How do we know Jesus is God? Why does a good God allow pain and evil and suffering?

What makes kids walk away from the faith is usually having unanswered questions. They might not ask for fear of a lame answer, or they might deduce that they shouldn’t doubt, shouldn’t question the things we teach them, and they should “just have faith.” Well, here’s the thing: we should trust our lives and our eternities to Christ not because of warm fuzzy feelings, but because Christianity is true!  Do you know WHY it’s true?

Let me recommend a couple of new books, written by moms to equip other parents to be confident in their own faith so they can effectively teach it to their kids.

Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith by Natasha Crain is super accessible and understandable. One of the best apologetics books I’ve seen.

Teaching Others to Defend Christianity by Cathryn Buse is written by a former NASA engineer (now a stay-at-home mom of littles) who uses her “mad logic skillz” to walk the reader through the basic Big Questions of Life in an organized way.

One other resource: a few months ago I was asked to speak to a group of moms on “Apologetics for Parents of Littles.” You can download the recording here and get the handout here.

4. Talk to your kids about these big questions of the Christian life: about God, the Bible, Jesus, pain and suffering. Ask them what they think and how they’re working through these very important issues. Talk about these things before they leave your nest after high school!

5. One final suggestion: send your kid(s) to Probe Ministries’ Mind Games camp, a one-week total immersion in worldview and apologetics, both classic apologetics (those Big Questions of Life) and cultural apologetics, such as Grace and Truth About LGBT, Genetic Engineering, The Differences Between Guys and Girls, How to Watch a Movie, Christian Views of Science and Earth History, and more. It’s a faith-builder and question-answerer, with lots of free time for fun and connecting with other campers. For many of the campers, it deeply impacts their hearts and souls, nailing down the glorious fact that Christianity is TRUE! My husband I have been privileged to pour into high school and college students through Mind Games for over 20 years; it is truly our joy! This year it’s June 11-17 at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas. Check out the videos and lots of information at probe.org/mindgames.

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women’s Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can’t Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her “Proverbs 31 job” while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn’t like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.

I Want You to Talk to Your Kid about My Kid – Guest Blog Post by Dawn Ratzlaff

Advocate: “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc.; a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.”

I have great respect for moms and dads who are advocates for their children. It’s among their most important roles. My friend, Dawn, is that type of parent.

Dawn blogs about “a look inside life with a child on the spectrum” at “A Fly on the Wall.” I’ve known Dawn, her husband, Jon, and their son Enoch for several years. I was glad to meet their younger sons a few weeks ago.

Dawn recently blogged vulnerably about what she wishes other children knew about autism so they could better relate to their son. In honor of moms and their commitment to their children, I’m posting her blog here. I’m also posting it because I agree that we could all benefit from better understanding autism from a mom’s perspective. I hope her passion and information inspires you to sit down and talk with your children.

I Want You to Talk to Your Kid about My Kid – by Dawn Ratzlaff

A couple of months ago, a little girl at church asked me, “Is Enoch a baby?”

“No… He’s six years old!”

Then why does he wear diapers?”

“Well, Enoch hasn’t learned how to use the potty yet.”

“Why?”

“Enoch has something called autism. Because of that, his brain works a little different from yours. So, he hasn’t learned how to use the potty yet. Or talk. But hopefully he will someday.”

“Ok!”

The interaction was short, and my answer seemed to be all she needed in the moment. But, I thought to myself, “They’re starting to notice that he’s different.” 

I wondered if when she went home if she would ask her parents about Enoch. What would they say? Do they know Enoch has autism? Do they understand what autism is? How can they explain my child’s differences to their typically developing child?

Yesterday, we went to the museum. While we were there, a little boy asked Enoch to play with him in the sandbox.

He said, “Do you want to play with me?”

Enoch said, “Yes!”

“Great! Start getting sand.”

Blank stare. “Otay!” (Okay)

“Okay, now you need to do this….” “Why aren’t you talking?” “Why are you talking like that?” “No, use your REAL voice.” “I don’t understand you….”

Enoch just smiled and continued trying to play with the little boy, and the little boy kind of played with Enoch, but he seemed to lose some interest when he realized Enoch was different.

I wanted to step in. I wanted to talk for him. I wanted to tell the little boy that Enoch didn’t have many words, but that he understood everything. Instead, I decided to sit back and observe. We weren’t going to see this little boy again.

The little boy was with a sister, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. What would they say when we left? What did the grandparents think? What do they know about autism? Can they tell he has autism? How will they explain my child to their grandchild?

You may be reading this, and you don’t know my child. But, the chances are you know a child (or an adult) with autism.

The current statistics state that 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum. For boys, the prevalence is higher with 1 in 42 boys on the autism spectrum.

That many.

That is a LOT of children.

Unfortunately, the statistics on adults on the spectrum are not as clear because many went undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as children.

Yet, despite the prevalence, people who don’t live with it don’t understand it.

Even 2 years after Enoch was diagnosed, a close family member asked me, “But, isn’t autism a psychological problem?”

NO… 

Autism is a NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER.

NOT A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM. 

(For the record, I was hurt that after 2 years, this family member had not done any research to educate themselves about my child. Why didn’t they ask questions before? It wasn’t that the question was wrong, it was the perceived notion that they did not care enough to learn.) 

It makes me think: “if a family member of a child with autism cannot learn about the disorder, why would anyone else?”

So, here’s a little bit about autism:

Autism is a neurological disorder. Enoch’s brain works differently. He perceives things differently. Because of this, some situations are overwhelming for him and he may react in a way that does not seem typical.

Autism is a spectrum. I once read, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.” That statement is very true. Over the past several years, I have been able to build relationships with many families who have kiddos on the spectrum, and they are ALL DIFFERENT. While some children are able to talk well, others like Enoch, have very few words. While some may be perceived as anti-social, Enoch is very friendly. He desires so much to have friends.

However, there are things that pretty much everyone on the spectrum has in common (there do have to be guidelines to diagnose it after all).

If a child has not met developmental milestones at the usual time, this is a big red flag. Typically all skills will be delayed including fine motor, gross motor and oral motor. Enoch did not walk until he was 22 months old. At 6.5, he is starting to approximate words. He struggles greatly with fine motor skills. He is still no where close to being potty trained. (I have been changing diapers/ pull ups for 6.5 years straight with no end in sight.) He did not learn to jump until he was 5.5.

These delays are NOT caused by bad parenting. Please do not think poorly of a parent if their child is on the spectrum. They have been through a lot. They have had feelings of guilt. They have questioned if it is their fault. It isn’t. They love their child and they work SO hard to help their child on a daily basis. They take their children to therapy. They take their children to doctor’s appointments. They do not have much time alone because they are constantly alert in watching after their child. At this point, we don’t know WHAT causes autism. Science points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In Enoch’s case, I truly believe autism is something he was born with. 

Communication struggles are highly prevalent in autism. While some can talk, they struggle with connecting with others. They may not speak unless prompted to do so. Enoch’s main method of communication is American Sign Language (ASL). He is also learning to use an Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) device in the form of an iPad app. You may see a child on an iPad and think poorly of the parents. But, that may be that child’s means of communicating. And both sign language and AAC do not hinder communication. They enhance it! Enoch is now starting to approximate words, and I attribute much of that to our work with ASL and AAC.

This does not mean that a child on the spectrum is not smart. Enoch is VERY smart. Despite not being able to talk, he is word smart. He can spell. He can read. He enjoys math and science. He is on a typical Kindergarten level in a majority of his subject areas. His biggest delay academically is in writing (because of poor fine motor skills).

Many people on the spectrum struggle with gastrointestinal issues. When Enoch was an infant, he would have a bowel movement once a week. I remember thinking that was so strange. I asked our pediatrician about it, and he said, “It must be Enoch’s normal.” For the past several years now, we have visited a gastroenterologist for both chronic diarrhea and chronic constipation. There aren’t really many answers for this link, but there is a lot of research in the past few years about the connection between the gut and the brain.

Many children on the spectrum are picky eaters. Enoch is one of them. I can quickly make a list of the limited foods he will eat, and it is getting worse. When we visited with a nutritionist about a year a half ago, and I listed what he will eat she said, “Yep! That sounds about like what all the kiddos on the spectrum that see me will eat.” She was however surprised by his love of hummus and bananas.

Social situations and highly stimulating situations can be overwhelming. Again, those on the autism spectrum perceive their surroundings differently from those who are neurotypical. Enoch tends to have what you might consider a meltdown in some of these situations. For him, haircuts are the absolute worst. Because of that, his hair was very long for a long time. This was much more involved than a child who did not want a haircut. As parents, we would tire of the constant comments. “He needs a haircut.” “He looks like a girl.” “Why don’t you cut his hair?”

Many on the spectrum are drawn to water. (And do not understand the danger associated with it.) This includes Enoch. He is extremely drawn to water. Extremely. I will turn down invitations to anything with a pool or close to a body of water or any kind because the thought of it brings me close to a panic attack (this is NOT an exaggeration). We cannot visit certain family members houses because they have a pool. Even if he had swim lessons (which we will do at some point), because of his poor motor skills, he would not be able to swim at this time. He just learned how to blow. Sort of.

Drowning is among the leading cause of death of individuals with autism.” For more information on safety concerns associated with autism please visit: http://nationalautismassociation.org/resources/autism-safety-facts/

Children on the spectrum often experience sleep disturbances. Enoch has been an early riser as long as I can remember. He seems to be able to function on much less sleep than I have ever been able to. Most mornings, he is awake between 4:00 and 5:00. Sometimes, I hear him before that and need to go in his room to turn out his light, tell him to stop playing and try to get more sleep. At the recommendation of our pediatrician, we lock his door from the outside to avoid potential safety issues. However, we can hear him playing in his room, LOUDLY, so the rest of us don’t get much sleep either. Lately, he is reading to himself, which I love. Who would have thought he would become such a bookworm? Not me. 

All this said, maybe your child knows another child on the spectrum. They know this other child is different. They don’t understand why this child is different. YOU may even look at this child and think they are “weird”. You may be concerned by their behavior because you don’t understand it yourself. I think it is important that children understand now, so that when they are older they learn to be compassionate and not mean when they encounter someone who is different from them.

(And I think this point goes along with ALL differences, but that’s a whole different blog post, and something I know less about.)

A few suggestions:

  1. Talk to the parent. Talk to me. Ask questions. There are not wrong questions. Most parents of children on the spectrum are open books. We want to share with you about our children. We want you to understand.
  2. Schedule a playdate. Let your kid spend some time with the child in a different setting. Perhaps they have only seen how they act at school or church. Sometimes those settings can be overwhelming. Be aware that the child’s parents may rather you come to their home (because their child is more comfortable there). Do it. Don’t take offense, it isn’t because we aren’t interested in coming to your home.
  3. Ask your kid questions. They may have more answers than they know. Ask them: “Why do you think _________ is different?” “Is there anything that ___________ likes to do that you like to do?” ” How does it make you feel when _______________ does that?”
  4. Remind your child that we are ALL different. The one thing we all have in common is that we were all made by a loving God IN HIS IMAGE. God made Enoch. When God made Enoch, He did not make a mistake.

I want you to talk to your kid about my kid.

This is written by Dawn Ratzlaff. She and her husband, Jon, live in Dallas, TX, with their 3 sons. Jon is a minister of music at a local church, and Dawn stays home with the kids. Enoch, their oldest, is 6.5, and has moderate- severe autism. Their twins, Malachi and Titus are (almost) 2. The 3 of them are a handful, and Dawn can’t imagine her life any other way. She enjoys cooking, baking, singing, playing the piano, writing, and drinking (lots of) coffee. If you want to follow her blog, you’ll find it here.

Unity Facilitates Respect And Security

I showed up to the meeting about 10 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. I looked around to see if my friends were there and they hadn’t arrived yet. So, as I typically do, I chose a chair on the center aisle and this time I chose the very back row.

My friends arrived within a few minutes and we visited while we waited for the meeting to begin. We were there to hear our chiropractor and his new colleagues talk about a treatment that might help heal our backs.

I was optimistic and positive before Dr. Gideon spoke because I’ve come to trust him. Yet, I knew listening for truths relevant to my situation was essential.

After Dr. Gideon welcomed everyone in his typically friendly way, he introduced one of his colleagues. Within a matter of minutes, I realized I was totally relaxed and definitely intentional about my listening. This man was engaging and enthusiastic. He was high energy, spoke fast, used humor, and asked us to answer questions. When he said he was glad we were there to learn, it was easy to think he meant it. He was clearly knowledgeable, but didn’t share to impress us. His motivation was clearly to inform and help us.

He transitioned to the next part of the meeting by introducing another business partner who was personal, vulnerable, energetic, and authentic. She was just as knowledgeable and engaging, but she expressed her enthusiasm in quieter ways. I was glad. I saw that the colleagues/speakers wouldn’t be performing and there wasn’t a mold they had poured them into. That would be disrespectful.

After sharing her testimony about the effects of the treatment being discussed, this partner introduced video testimonies and then the next doctor. Like those before her, she was gracious when introducing him as an important member of the team.

It was now his turn to explain why he was totally on board with the treatment being discussed. He reiterated what my chiropractor opened the meeting with – they each believe that the God Who created us is the God Who heals us.

It was easy for me to agree with what we were being taught. The information was clearly explained. Each speaker backed themselves up with data and patient testimonials. But my agreement was due to more than that.

It was the unity among the colleagues. It was compelling. The respect they showed all of us and each other was refreshing. Their public admission that they share the same values and passions made it easy for me to listen and learn. I believed I knew my chiropractor well enough to expect him to align only with fellow believers in Christ. But to see it happening was deeply encouraging. It put me at peace. It was security in them. It was security between them. Security was in the place, and it mattered.

Conversations Count: Talking Never Goes Out of Style

Were you one of the many who read last week’s blogs here and here? Thanks so much! I loved sharing with you that play is valuable. We must never forget it. Playing seems old-fashioned to many, but it will always be valuable. Always!

Did you catch something else that I included in both blogs? Interactions between children and parents have the same positive effects as play. Talking matters. It, too, should never be out of style. Conversations count.

When reading recently about young children’s television viewing habits and use of games and apps for learning, I was struck by these truths: The chief factor that helps young children learn from commercial media and educational games/apps is parents watching with them and reteaching the content. When parents engage with their children when they’re using technology, the children reap the most benefit from what they view and what they do.

Parents matter. Be involved. Listen. Talk. Point to the pictures. Laugh. Reread. Explain.

Like me, do you see many young children (sometimes very young!) using technology on their own? Little children with a parent’s old phone, tapping and swiping and even smiling? None of this guarantees learning will last. They may know their ABC’s in that moment or that a cat makes a certain sound, but it doesn’t mean any of that will last.

I’m concerned that parents may rely on these encounters and not sit with their children to learn the basics in other ways. They may have a rude awakening in the future.

As I wrote last week, taking breaks from technology regularly for other kinds of play experiences is very valuable. When you do let your children use technology, use it together and talk with them. Interact with them when you do things together. Repeat. Use it together and talk with them. Interact with them when you do things together. Repeat.

Take a Tech Break! Play, Talk, and Interact Instead

78% of the parents surveyed in a new study by Barna Research, in cooperation with Andy Crouch, indicated raising their kids today is more complicated than when their parents raised them. Technology was the number one reason they listed. Do you agree?

Let me share a probable reason and some suggestions to help.

The use of technology delays the development of the brain’s executive functioning. This includes impulse control and the ability to self-regulate. That’s why children are more likely to just do what they want, without thinking. And, they have a hard time managing themselves. Planning is hard and they may not be able to judge if they’ve done a good job on a task.

Certainly, this makes parenting harder because the kids aren’t as obedient or as successful.

What can we do? I’ve got great news!

Both impulse control and self-regulating are best learned and taught through play (non-digital, of course!) and by interacting with parents.

Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat. Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat. Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat.

Not all difficult situations need difficult solutions. Praise God!