Guard Your Mind

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8 NIV


When I grew up, life was much simpler, decidedly slower and unquestionably cleaner. Evil wasn’t in your face every time you turned on the television, went to a movie or even walked through the hallways of a public school.

Times have changed. We live in the age of communication. Our children have access to the most perverse and illicit forms of evil imaginable…right at their fingertips via the internet on their smart phones and other digital devises. One of the frightening crazes young people take part in is sexting…using cell phones to take and send pornographic pictures of themselves and others. Parental controls are no match for techno-savvy kids who find ways to get around even the most sophisticated software roadblocks. Students have told me many kids carry a second cell phone their parents don’t even know about, to bypass supervision. Oh how I wish there was a way to protect their minds like a bicycle helmet protects their heads! Sadly, there is not.

The best defense against evil is a strong defense. We can’t make our kids keep their minds pure, and we can’t be with them 24/7 to monitor everything they see and listen to. We have to develop in them a desire to choose purity over unrighteousness on their own. How? Discuss purity issues as a family. Don’t take away or limit access to things without offering better alternatives. Explain why certain movies, words, activities and friends aren’t appropriate. Reasons are always more effective than rules. No disinfectant known to man can disinfect a dirty mind…images last a lifetime. Make it a priority to teach your children to protect and closely guard their minds from filth!


PRAYER: God, protect the innocence of my children by guarding their minds from filth and perversion. Create in them an appetite for good and a distaste for evil. May they never fall prey to the enemy’s temptation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Protect the Ears

“You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked.”

Psalm 12:7 NIV


Kids take some pretty hard hits growing up – other children can be cruel and hurtful with their words, leaving emotional scars that take a long time to heal.

In the early 90’s when we still lived in Abilene, woven poncho jackets were the “in” thing for boys to wear. We gave our 9-year-old son, Drew a red-and-tan striped poncho for Christmas, and he bought a blue-and-green one for himself with Christmas money. He proudly wore one or the other of the ponchos almost all the time. Right after Christmas, we moved to Plano. When classes resumed in January, Drew was faced with starting all over in a new place. On the first day of school, he wore his favorite poncho, put on a brave face and walked through the glass doors of the unknown.

Drew was cute and instantly popular with the fourth grade girls which didn’t set well with the fourth grade boys. Over the next couple of weeks, the boys jealously picked on him, ridiculing everything about him – especially his poncho jackets. He came home in tears one afternoon and threw his ponchos in the trash. In retrospect, I should have talked to the teacher but Drew was embarrassed and begged me not to.

On the outside, kids can appear resilient when they are emotionally beaten up. But many times they build defense mechanisms on the inside, compartmentalizing hurt feelings so they can cope. In some cases, they stash feelings away so deeply it becomes difficult to have a healthy relationship…even with someone who isn’t hurting them.

How nice it would be to place protective gear over our kids’ ears so hurtful words would slide off of them like water off a duck’s back! Without that option, we must make ourselves available – just like Jesus is always available when we need Him – to comfort, offer perspective and provide encouragement. What may seem small and insignificant to us can translate into devastation for our child’s self-esteem. Watch, listen and be ready with open arms to embrace your child when he needs you. A parent’s love, prayers and support are the salve that soothes the pain and prevents a forever broken spirit.


PRAYER: God, may my eyes and ears be keen to observe when my children hurt on the inside. Grant me sensitivity and wisdom to help them emerge from each circumstance without permanent emotional scars. Draw them unto You and allow them to sense protection in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ty the Turtle In the Land of the Can’ts – NEW RELEASE

Susan Rutledge’s newest release is another beautifully illustrated rhyming fable that children will love to read. Set in the imaginary Land of the Can’ts, the story is about a turtle named Ty who becomes discouraged because all of the animals point out everything Ty can’t do. A brave ant approaches Ty and tells him why it’s important to turn the can’ts in your life into cans. Will Ty learn from the wise words of the ant? Find out when you read Ty the Turtle In the Land of the Can’ts.

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CLICK HERE for more information about other books by Susan Rutledge

Loose Teeth Didn’t Stand a Chance

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV


Most kids get excited when they start to lose their teeth because it’s a sign they’re growing up. But at our house, the kids would all agree with me that their DAD was the most excited person when one of their teeth showed signs of becoming “ready”. They usually approached me first, but I don’t do teeth.

Grant, with Frankensteinesque eagerness, employed many tactics to remove baby teeth, including tweezers, slippery fingers, locking surgical forceps, and strings wrapped around the tooth and then tied to a slamming doorknob. Forceps worked the best, but it always took several jarring attempts to get them locked onto the tooth…most unsettling to anyone (like me) with a queasy stomach! Did I mention, I don’t do teeth!?

Seldom was a tooth the winner with Dr. Grant in the house. Following each victorious extraction, after a warm gargle with salt water, the young patient would be all smiles, posing for pictures and anticipating a visit from the “pretend” tooth fairy. To this day, I still have a small glass bottle filled with dozens of tiny enamel nuggets. I’m probably the only one (except my mother) nostalgic enough to wish I’d kept them separated by child.

Baby teeth are just place-holders. They become useless and are meant to fall out so new, permanent teeth can grow and take their place. When we accept Jesus into our heart, our old sin nature is like a child’s baby tooth — it falls away and makes room for our new life in Christ to grow and blossom.

Pulling baby teeth makes a great object lesson for teaching children about letting go of old things (selfishness, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) and allowing Jesus to create new desires, motives and attitudes that glorify Him. Remind them it’s only when the old is gone that the new can come in.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Your world is filled with object lessons! Open my eyes to see them all around me. Help me take advantage of each teachable moment so I can bring Your truths to life for my children. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

On the Outside Looking In


“…man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7b NIV


There are two things every household (with children) needs in the summertime…a revolving door and a fly swatter. When the kids are inside they can’t wait to go out, but when they’re outside, they keep coming back in. I’ll bet the guy who named “In-N-Out Burgers” in California got the idea from little kids!

Children are specialists at seeing what’s going on inside, even when we try to keep them on the outside. Years ago when I called the home of a friend, her young child answered the phone. I actually heard my friend whisper, “tell her I’m not here”. The part about not taking my call was no big deal, but telling a child to lie? Wow. That’s huge.

On the outside, mom didn’t want to talk on the phone and thought nothing of using her child to run interference with a “little white lie”. The sad thing is her daughter was smart enough to see beyond those outside actions…and got an “inside” subtle message that it’s okay to lie if it gets you out of something you don’t want to do.

1 Chronicles 28:9 said the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive. We can’t hide from Him. And most of the time, we can’t hide from our kids. They pick up on our motives more than we realize…good or bad. If we want to be able to trust them when they are teenagers, guess what? We have to lay a foundation of honesty inside of us first…while they are young. Gone are the days of getting away with saying, “do as I say, not as I do”. That doesn’t work anymore.

Identify key character issues and discuss them with your children. Search your own heart and make sure your behavior and motives line up with the behavior you expect from your children. Remember they are always on the outside looking in!


PRAYER: God, I need you now, more than ever. Please purge the things from my heart that need to be gone. I want to lead my children down the right path…help me to get there first! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thanks Dad For Saving My Life

“For He will command His angels…to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11 ESV


We go through life never realizing how much we impact the lives around us. When my grandchildren were little, they absolutely adored their Uncle Drew. In their minds, he hung the moon. Drew dressed cool, taught golf and played the guitar…and he let the boys borrow his hair gel to get that special sought-after spiked look. They wanted to look like him and be like him. He was their hero.

When Drew was five, we took our kids to Six Flags and rode “Judge Roy Screams”. Drew was just barely tall enough to fulfill the hight requirement to ride the roller coaster, but the passenger’s safety bar didn’t come close to securing his wiry little body in the seat. It was an accident waiting to happen. As the cars twisted, turned, climbed and fell, a petrified Drew slipped under the bar and onto the floor. Fortunately, Grant was there to pull him to safety and hold him close until the ride ended. As the ride slowly rolled back to the starting point, Drew looked into Grant’s eyes and with sincere gratitude exclaimed, “Thanks dad for saving my life!”

We can’t always be within arm’s reach when our children face danger. But we serve the God who knows no boundaries and to Whom distance means nothing. The Bible says He will command His angels to guard us…and our children. That doesn’t mean we cast all caution and wisdom to the wind. But at the same time, we do NOT have to walk in fear where our children are concerned.

Pray specifically each day for God to protect your children from harm – physically, mentally and spiritually. Release them into His care at the start of each day. God is both able and trustworthy! Remind your children as they walk out the door that you’ve asked God’s angels to go with them. Not only do you send them out with God’s peace, but you also plant a seed of faith inside them as they see YOU trusting Him!


PRAYER: God, thank You for watching over my children and commanding Your angels to guard them everywhere they go. Place a wall of protection around them and destroy any weapon the devil might try to use against them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Words Mean So Much!

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23 NAS


My fifth grade teacher didn’t like me, and at the ripe old age of 10, even I knew it. To this day, I remember Mrs. Chadwick talking about me and ridiculing me in front of all the other students. I would either pretend not to hear or act like it didn’t bother me. But on the inside, not only did her words hurt, they began to rip apart my self-esteem. It didn’t occur to me I should tell my parents. After all, she was an adult authority figure in my life. Who was I to question her?

Modern society has legitimized sarcasm and labeled it comedy. Many people think its okay to put someone down, call them names, or make fun of them, especially if it’s followed up with the disclaimer, “just kidding”. But it’s not okay.

The Bible teaches us words can be a blessing or a curse. Whether spoken in sarcasm or in an uncontrolled moment of anger, words like “stupid” and “clumsy” or “what’s WRONG with you?” definitely fall into the latter category. We have the responsibility as parents to protect our children. Yet without realizing it, sometimes our words are what bring our children the greatest harm.

Think about the words you use when you speak to and about your children. Do they lift, encourage and affirm them? If not, it’s time for a vocabulary change. Sit down as a family and discuss ways to de-word and re-word your home. It’s a lesson none of us are too young (or old) to learn.


PRAYER: God, forgive me for saying things to my children I didn’t mean. Please heal their wounds and help me have the self-control and wisdom I need to guard my tongue every time I speak to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Who Can You Count On?

“…I [the Lord] will never leave nor forsake you.”

Joshua 1:5b NIV


Several years ago, Grant asked our oldest grandson to help him clean and mulch the large flowerbeds in front of our house. They agreed on an upcoming Saturday both of them were free. When the day arrived, Grant took Caleb for an early breakfast before working him all day in the scorching sun. Caleb was a hard worker and the yard looked wonderful when they finished.

A few days later, we discovered Caleb had missed his first soccer practice (which was scheduled after he’d signed up for yard duty) on that same Saturday morning. We felt terrible knowing how important soccer was to Caleb, and that missing a practice could impact his playing time on the team.

When asked why he didn’t tell us so we could reschedule, 15-year-old Caleb made my heart proud with a simple response: “I promised Papaw first”. There is little doubt Caleb wanted to be on the soccer field more than doing manual labor for his grandparents, but he felt it was important to honor his first commitment…even if it meant sacrificing more than just a Saturday.

Kudos to Gwen and Marcus for modeling strong character and teaching their kids the importance of commitment. When children see promises kept by their parents, it fortifies their faith to believe God’s promises. “Caleb’s resolve to do the right thing brings honor to the God he serves and will take him far in life. He is becoming a tremendous example for others, both young and old.

God does the same thing for us…He promises to be with us always, no matter what. If He ever seems far away, it’s because we’ve run from Him…He hasn’t left us. He is the God of countless wonders, the God of countless answers…a God to be counted on in good times and in bad.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it’s hard to comprehend how wide and deep Your love for me is…even when I sometimes get so caught up in my life I forget You are here. Help me be the kind of person You and others can always count on. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Learn When to Let Go

Shannon on her 1st birthday, 3-16-79

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Isaiah 43:18 NIV


It was a Sunday morning. I was crouched on my knees leaning over the bathtub shampooing Gwen’s long blonde hair while our one-year-old Shannon crawled on the floor behind me waiting for her turn in the bubbles. I’d already plugged the curling iron in so it could get hot. I thought it was safely out of reach on the bathroom cabinet…

All of a sudden, Shannon let out a blood-curdling scream that wouldn’t stop. She was less than three feet from me, but with my back turned I didn’t see her pull on the electrical cord and grab hold of the curling iron when it fell on the carpet.

Despite her hysterical screaming, Shannon didn’t let go of the curling iron. Her tiny hand clenched the hot metallic barrel and I had to literally pry it off. Her hand was severely burned. I later learned that when children (and adults) feel sudden pain, our muscles respond by tightening up. In Shannon’s case, that response caused her to hold tightly to the very thing that was hurting her.

I credit Abilene’s West Texas Rehabilitation Center and a very special physical therapist, Mary Lou Garrett, for saving the use of Shannon’s hand. Every day for weeks, Shannon went in for a sterile hand bath followed by painful debriding of the dead skin. There was nothing easy about this process…this was Shannon’s thumb-sucking hand…and that never changed. She sucked her thumb through medicine, bandages, gloves and every other creative obstacle I could think of.

Almost everyone has painful experiences…some physical and some emotional. We can hold onto bitterness, hurt, disappointment and even anger for a lifetime. It’s a natural reaction. But if we do, the hurt will continue to fester inside of us…and it won’t go away. The sooner we learn to let go of things that hurt us, the healthier we will be!

Teach your children a simple exercise in letting go. When they get upset or hurt and are “hanging on” to an offense, have them imagine that offense sitting in their hands. Is it something they like? Do they want to keep it? Does it hurt when they think about it? Then it’s time to hand that offense to God once and for all. Instead of dwelling on something that hurts them, train them to give it to God and let HIM deal with it…so their healing can begin.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me teach my children to never hold on to past hurts, but to give You those painful things so Your Holy Spirit can bring healing to their minds and their hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

More Effective Than Grounding


“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13 NIV


When our oldest daughter Gwen started taking driver’s education classes, my mother gave us an extra car she didn’t need anymore. It was a little Chevy Citation hatchback – nothing fancy, but the price was right and it was in great shape. Unfortunately, Gwen hated the car. She was embarrassed to even be SEEN in it, and horrified to think of driving it. Grant took pity on her, and as soon as she got her driver’s license, she got his sporty red Nissan and he drove the Citation. Life was good – for Gwen and for me. As the mother of four, I was thrilled to have a new driver in the house who could run errands and drive herself to and from school. The time savings was huge – except when she did something wrong and Grant took her car keys away. It easily added an extra hour of driving to my schedule every day. After a few “groundings”, I had a heart-to-heart with Grant explaining that when he grounded Gwen by taking her driving privileges away, he was in effect grounding me too. Because then I had to drive her everywhere. We were in agreement she needed to be punished. We just needed a different plan – something that would motivate her to make good choices without making my life more difficult. The answer was simple. We wouldn’t keep her from driving. We would make her drive…the Citation.

This was the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) punishment EVER. And it worked! Just a hint Gwen might have to drive the Citation was enough to keep her moving in the right direction.

Staying on the right path is never easy. Temptation is constantly pulling at our kids …trying to seduce them into making harmful choices that can affect their lives forever. As parents, it’s our job to steer them in the way they should go without breaking their tender spirits. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. As “painful” as it was for Gwen to drive that Citation, she was better off in the long run, and likely saved from situations that could have caused her real pain. We must stay on our knees and seek God’s direction for the right kind of discipline needed in each circumstance, so our kids stay healthy and safe as they grow into the young adults God wants them to be.


PRAYERHeavenly Father, I pray You will continually guide each of my children towards the path You have set out for them. When they stray, help me know how to discipline them in a way that brings repentance and not rebellion, in a way that molds but doesn’t tear down and in a way that plants in them a desire to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

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