Don’t Throw Away Those Christmas Cards!

Christmas card basket
Our basket of Christmas Prayer Cards for 2015

What do you do with all those Christmas Cards you received over the last month…even those latecomers that might not have arrived until January 2nd (we got a few of those!)? Why not keep them and let them help you give back to each person/family throughout the whole year?

A few years ago we began a tradition at the Whipple house. I wrote about it on this blog several years ago, but I thought I’d re-write about it this year, because it has been such an important part of our family’s Christmas tradition that usually lasts through the summer and into the fall.

We take all those cards down from display when we put the decorations away, and place them in a basket. Each Sunday, when we have our dinner, one of the kids draws a card randomly from the basket. The younger ones in particular love picking the card. Sometimes there are spirited discussions about whose turn it is. 🙂

We then pray for that person or family every night at supper for the entire week. It is a great way to give back to them by praying for them. I try to let people know that we have prayed for them, but honestly, I often don’t. However, the times that I have called, texted, or emailed the family we prayed for in a particular week, or when I simply know the circumstances in their lives, I am always blown away by the timing of God allowing us to pray for that particular family on that particular week. It has almost always come at a time when that family/individual really needed it! Then again, I don’t know why it should blow me away. His sovereign timing is always right!

SO…don’t throw away those cards! Keep them and pray for those who have been meaningful in your lives and to thank God for them. It is a great example for your kids. We rotate saying the blessing around our supper table, so it is always cool to hear our kids intercede for others…sometimes people that they don’t even know well. Then, it is even cooler when we can tell them how their prayers were very timely!

You may even take the cards and put a note on them and send them back to those who originally sent them to you, letting them know you prayed and thanked God for them. It truly is a blessing to stand in the gap for friends and family and to teach your kids about praying for others.

Make those old Christmas Cards from last year into Prayer Cards for the new year!

And know that if you sent the Whipples a Christmas Card…we will be praying for you!

I thank God in all my rememberance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you allmaking my prayer for you with joy
Philippians 1:3-4


Parents, students and singles must read…

My oldest daughter who is just a freshman in college, but whom God has given lots of wisdom, recently wrote something in her blog that, if you are single, a college student or a teenager OR ESPECIALLY if you are a parent of one of these, you should read HERE.

PARENTS, are you pushing or allowing your teenager to date too soon? Are you encouraging them to get into relationships that they should never even be considering at this point in their lives? I have seen too much of it over the years. It almost always leads to heartache, temptation, and failure…not to mention the money thrown away! 🙂 You have more wisdom than they do and we should teach them early what God’s standards are. It’s not too early to teach when they are young.

Einstein said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  I believe we in the church have encouraged insanity when it comes to dating. Here’s how: we try to attract one another and date (and encourage our kids to date) the way the world does, but because we are Christians, we expect the results to somehow be different. Doesn’t usually happen.

Listen to some wisdom from God’s Word in Song Of Solomon, a word which is repeated three times in this book:

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. (Song of Solomon 8:4)

I think too many times we as parents are encouraging (or at least allowing) our children to do just that and we unwittingly are leading them down a road that isn’t God’s plan.

I have always said something I heard Tommy Nelson teach once, “Dating is like the onramp to the Interstate. The Interstate is marriage. If you don’t intend to get on the Interstate, you better not go up that onramp” Too many kids are accelerating up an onramp that is designed to lead them somewhere they aren’t ready nor wanting to go. Thus they are crashing and burning as they go full speed up a ramp that leads them nowhere. There needs to be a change and the church should be leading the way, not buying in to the World’s methods of dating and attraction and expect we can get different results.

After reading the above verse, read some wisdom from one who is living that right now…one of whom I am particularly proud, because I see what God is doing in her life.

Love the River!

Last Saturday, several of us Ridgers went up to the Ocoee River and went whitewater rafting. Mainly it was teenagers and their parents who went. Love that river! I grew up just a few miles from the Ocoee and I always love a chance to go back to my old stompin’ grounds in “God’s country!” 🙂 I have been down that river probably more than 30 times over the years and I always enjoy it. Here is a pic of our raft. The two kids on the left in the middle are mine: my 13 year old son and 16 year old daughter. It was my son’s second trip and my daughter’s first. As you can see I am the only one muggin‘ I mean working hard! 🙂

rafting pic 09

Jon and Kate, Not So Great

Last night I watched the end of Jon & Kate’s marriage on national TV. What a mess! It was sad to watch two people who, by all appearances, totally can’t see the forest for the trees. I was amazed that they can’t seem to get a grasp on what some of the roots of their problems have been. I am no expert counselor, but as my wife and I talked about it, we were both saddened at the lack of perspective they had. Has anyone been counseling these people about anything other than money and ratings? I don’t know. I don’t condemn them and I would never put myself above them, but I think there are some lessons for all of us in this saga. I hurt for this family who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here are a couple of thoughts and observations we had:

  • Repeatedly they both said, “I don’t really know what happened.” Really? You’re kidding, right? Kate said that she didn’t think the TV show had anything to do with their break-up. Really?! The $$ and the fame and the invasion into their lives had nothing to do with it?
  • Jon said that he had become passive and let her rule the roost. Perfect observation, just a little too late. They let their personality strengths become their weaknesses. This can be true in any relationship. It can be true in family, ministry, leadership, work relationships. Those unique personality traits that God built into us by His design, when not understood by oneself and one’s spouse and other relationships, can become a great weakness. We can easily fall into our natural default and the negative aspects of that trait will rule. Key to that in a marriage is communication, understanding, and SELFLESSNESS. We can let pride rule our lives and consequently our relationships or we can let Christ rule. Pride is most easily identified in the strong personality as arrogance or doing things in our own strength, but it is really anything that focuses on me. Shyness and passivity can be manifestations of Pride, because they are self-focused. Anything that is self-focused is pride and is sin. It’s a constant battle for me. Both Jon and Kate appear to have been struggling with pride. It just looks different in each of them.
  • The seeming antithesis of this however, is in the statements that they both made repeatedly saying that “It’s all about the kids. I love my kids. Everything is for them. This show is for them. This new house and this land is for them. Everything we’ve done is for them. We love them more than anything.” That sounds like a pretty selfless attitude right? Well, that is a problem in most marriages and its a cultural phenomenon that has had a negative impact on more families and, I believe, on our culture…and even the church. It’s a philosophy that says, “Put the kids first. Its all about them. They are our future.”  Sounds logical. The problem is it isn’t biblical and it isn’t healthy for families and marriages. The first relationship God established was between Adam and Eve. At that point, they were a family. (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:22-25) The problem we have that I believe the Enemy has used for too long is that of what some call “child-centered parenting.” What this looks like is the children become the center of everything in the family.
  • Imagine this picture: a husband and wife holding hands forming a small circle, a family. Then the first child comes along. A child centered philosophy places the child in the center of this circle. Sounds fine and for the first couple of months with only on child, it might work out okay. But as the child begins to understand (or even demand) being in the center of the circle, he/she realizes that they are the driving force. Self-centeredness (which we all are naturally bent toward) begins to take hold. The expectations rise. Everything becomes about them and their happiness. This is what seems to have happened to Jon & Kate. We call it spoiled, but it isn’t really something that is intentional most of the time. What happens as the child grows and more children come into the marriage is the most potentially devastating part of the picture in a marriage.
  • Imagine the picture again of the mom and dad holding hands now with several kids in the middle of the circle who have all gotten bigger. It gets crowded. Mom and dad get pushed farther apart. Notice I referred to them as “mom & dad” not “husband & wife” any longer. You see child centered parenting pushes the original, most important relationship in the family farther and farther apart. The identity of those two individuals becomes all about the kids. Now the kids are important, but they are not the most important relationship in the family.
  • Now imagine this picture: the mom and dad holding hands in a small circle. Along comes a child and instead of being placed in the center of that circle, he/she is held with one hand in mom’s and the other in dads, allowing the husband and wife to still stay connected. This makes the circle extend and everyone stays connected…especially the husband and wife. That relationship never changes. Children thus become an extension of the family, not the center of it. The only thing that needs to be in the center of this ever expanding circle is Jesus Christ. The most important relationship in any family, after each individual’s relationship with Christ, is the relationship of the husband and wife. Someone once said, “The greatest security any child can have is knowing that mom and dad love each other“, without question. Child centered parenting…”its all about them”…points the focus in a different direction, and pushes the parents apart ultimately, because the focus on their own relationship with one another becomes secondary.
  • Those kids don’t need any of the things that they’ve been given. The more stuff we give our kids, the less content they will be. They need a mom and dad who love each other and will fight for their marriage.
  • Finally, child-centered parenting is ultimately a pride issue, because it usually becomes about US. It can become, if we’re honest, about how we think other people see US and what they think about US and how OUR kids turned out. My focus needs to be on how people see Christ in my marriage, because it is a picture of His relationship with his bride, the church. My focus needs to be on the mandate of Deuteronomy 6 and the challenge of Psalm 78:1-8. My passion should be about raising up a generation that will impact another generation, not about their temporary “happiness” as seen in the world, right now.

Just a couple of observations that we made as we looked at a very sad situation. I pray for Jon & Kate. I pray that God might miraculously intervene and heal and restore their marriage. I pray that they would recognize that He loves them unconditionally and that He loves their family more than they do. I pray that we as parents might have a Christ-centered perspective on our family. I pray that each of us will focus on keeping that first relationship in the family a priority, second only to our own individual relationships with Jesus. Date your spouse as regularly as possible. Let your kids see how important that relationship is. That will give them GREAT security…and much happiness and contentment.

Momentous Birthdays

Last weekend, my youngest turned TWO. We just had a little family party…well I guess with us there is no such thing as a “little” family party! 🙂 I mean when you have 8 kids in the house, that’s more than most kids have andies-2nd-birthday-007at a birthday party anyway. So, we were having this party and as I was sitting there watching Andie open her presents, I was suddenly struck by something. This has been a momentous year of birthdays at the Whipple house. Honestly, it caught me somewhat off-guard. I had realized it with each individual, but hadn’t put together how many of our 8 children were hitting somewhat momentous, milestone birthdays…all at once!

It started in January with Aisley turning 5…no longer a preschooler, starting Kindergarten this year.

Then in March, my oldest, Aly, turned 18…no longer a kid, an adult, graduating High School and going to college this fall. (I have a blog pending on this…kinda tough to write about, if you know what I mean)

Then in April, we celebrated my #2 daughter, Aubrey’s 16th birthday …we all know how momentous that is!

This past weekend, the aforementioned Andie turned 2 (See my wife’s blog about that too)…momentous because that means there is technically no more baby in the house. Could “no more diapers” be far away? I hope so!

Next week we’ll celebrate my son Aaron’s 13th birthday…no longer a child, but “officially” a teenager.

In June, we’ll celebrate my # 4 daughter, Anna Beth’s 11th birthday…momentous because she is finishing 5th grade…no longer an elementary kid, but moving on up to Middle School this fall.

Along with these, Abby (#5) turned 9 and Aidan (#6 and the only one born in the fall) will turn 8 in October. While not some of the traditional “milestone” years, very significant nonetheless as it is just a reminder that they are quickly growing up too.

I gotta tell you, it was kind of emotional to think about. In some ways it is sad to see them growing up, but in other ways it is exciting to see them becoming who God intends them to be. Parenting is tiring, tough, frustrating, stressful at times. However, the other side of the coin is if we will do the hard work, parenting can be joyful, exciting, rewarding, teen years can be fun, relationships can grow, we get to see God mold and shape His creation for His purposes (and somehow he trusts us with part of that!). My prayer and hope and goal is the same as John’s in 3 John 1:4:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

We have been talking about Leaving A Lasting Legacy @ The Ridge this month. As I have reflected in recent weeks on the momentous milestones we are experiencing in our family, I can’t help but think of how awesome a privilege and responsibility it is to shape the next generation. It makes me want to be more diligent and intentional in my own walk as I seek to pass it along to these that God has entrusted to me for what is really a VERY SHORT TIME.

For what it’s worth, from an old guy who should not still be changing diapers, let me tell ALL of you young parents and parents to be out there… who are struggling with sleepless nights, nasty diapers, endless laundry, spit up on the carpet, Cheerios in the back seat of your car, muddy footprints in the house, bikes and balls all over the yard and garage, and a bunch of other things that may drive you crazy and tire you out… something my mom told me 18 years ago when my first one was born. It is something many have said, but few understand until the time is gone: Enjoy the years. Take the time to invest in these precious blessings. Don’t put it off a day longer. The time really does go by FAST!

1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut. 6:1-9)

Wrapping up and Ramping up

Tomorrow, we wrap up our UFC: Ultimate Family Challenge series. We’ll be looking at the Challenge of the Battle as we wrap up our study of Psalm 127. We’ll also be looking at several other scriptures related to having a generational perspective when it comes to our life and our family and the church. I believe that this Sunday will be a turning point and a setting free moment for many individuals and families. I can’t wait to see how God is going to work in many lives this week!

Listen, I know it has been cold…and supposed to be cold tomorrow morning. I also know that with school out this week, many will be tempted to skip out on gathering with the church this Sunday. DON’T! You do not want to miss what God may have for you this week!

As we conclude the UFC series this Sunday night is JamNite. This is a special workshop night for families where you can get practical advice in a small group setting. There will be stuff for children and youth and a pizza supper for your family. Sign up has closed for JamNite, but we will be offering these about 3 times a year, so make sure you don’t miss the next one. If you signed up, don’t forget to be at Austin MS at 5:30pm. Stop by Connection Point tomorrow for more info.

We are ramping up for our Christmas series beginning December 7th. I am excited about this series. I think it is going to be a timely message that will encourage, challenge, and even bring a spirit of peace in troubled times. What is the series? You’ll have to wait one more week to hear about it. We will also have a great resource available for your family to use during Advent that I told you about HERE. I can promise you these won’t last long! Stop by the Resource Center at Connection Point to check it out.

If you are like me, you are also ramping up for Thanksgiving week. I love Thanksgiving! It tends to be the forgotten holiday, because there isn’t much money to be made by retailers when it comes to Thanksgiving (outside of grocery stores). My whole family has traditionally gathered at our house on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is the one time of year that our whole family gets together. As we look forward to Thanksgiving, I am excited about the next Sunday, November 30th. This will be a day of celebration and vision as we look forward with grateful hearts and anticipation to the vision God has given us for Burkina Faso. I have some great stories to share with you and what I believe is an awesome challenge for each and every one of us from God’s word. You don’t want to miss it. We are also going to be celebrating through family dedication and baptism that day. If you haven’t signed up for either of these you can go HERE to register online. Someone from our staff will contact you directly to talk more about the details.

Don’t miss the next month @ The Ridge! Don’t let a busy schedule crowd out what God wants to do in your life. Be at every gathering of The Ridge you can…and you’ll experience a fresh perspective from God!

Advent is Approaching

Palestine,4 B.C. A shepherd boy shivers against the cold of night — lost, alone, surrounded by jackals. Where could they be, he wonders again of his family. Where are you, Father? I’m sorry I got mad…
After running away from his father’s tents in a moment of anger, ten-year-old Jotham has lost his way, and his family. As he journeys through Palestine in search of his nomadic home, Jotham is helped by a fool, a priest, a zealot and a wise man. Chased by a gang of thieves, thrown from one “foster parent” to another, Jotham slowly discovers the miracle of the first Christmas, and some miraculous things about his own life and his own family…

Growing up and for years in my own family, we didn’t really do anything formal or structured for Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas). It was more or less a time of fun and anticipation. Sadly, we had bought into the secular side of things and tried to throw in the spiritual. We were so involved in Christmas programs and projects that those things became the spiritual emphasis and we didn’t make a concentrated effort to focus on the real anticipation of Advent: anticipating celebrating the birth of the Messiah vs. anticipating opening gifts. Thus there was always a let-down after Christmas day.

Several years ago, my wife came across this book, Jotham’s Journey , that changed our perspective on Advent.

jothams-journeyIt is an exciting story about a boy and his adventures after being separated from his family, which ultimately lead him through death-defying obstacles, narrow escapes from evil villains, amazing encounters with famous characters of faith all the way to Bethlehem. Written as a devotional for parents to read to their children during Advent, Jotham’s Journey unfolds day by day until the exciting climax on Christmas Day. Each day’s installment of the story is followed by a short devotional which will challenge your family to share in Jotham’s discoveries.

Each evening, during the Advent season, we light our Advent candles and read a chapter and share some insight and questions to ponder. Every day the story ends with a cliff-hanger which causes our kids to beg to read “just one more.” The love it, I love it! If you have never done anything consistent as far as a family devotional is concerned, this is a great, easy way to start. If our schedule causes us to miss one night, then we read two the next night. It has helped draw our family into, and kept our focus on, the true meaning of the season more than anything.

There are two additional books in the trilogy, which have been out of print, but will be available next year. These two books, Bartholomew’s Passage and Tabitha’s Travels, all intersect with Jotham’s story. They enable you to have a three year rotation of these Advent stories. We have all three and have thoroughly enjoyed them all.

We will have a limited number of the Jotham’s Journey books available at The Ridge in our resource center. Or you can order one HERE. You’ll need to get one soon, however. Advent begins November 30th!

What I’ve learned watching Michael Phelps

Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last two weeks, you’ve seen and heard about Michael Phelps and his quest for Olympic history by winning 8 Gold Medals in Beijing. I thought about it and several things came to mind that we as leaders, and anyone, can learn. First, look at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which is a very relevant comparison, then chew on what I’ve learned about leadership in the church or your family:

  • INTENSITY– Michael is an intense competitor, not wanting to lose. We should have the same intensity when it comes to the Gospel. Losing is not an option.
  • FOCUS- we need to have a single focus (tough to do for those of us with multi-tasking personalities and ADD). We must stay focused on Jesus personally and on lifting Him up professionally. That’s it. Run the race with your eyes on the prize, the finish line, Jesus.

  • WORK HARD/EXERCISE – Phelps is a hard worker, no question. We need to approach our ministry with the same energy and diligence. Sluggards need not apply. Doesn’t mean we become workaholics, just doing our best, giving a full effort every time. Exercise the gifts you have. Be good at what you do. Strive to get better.
  • EAT- Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day (while training and competing) WOW! He is said to expend over 4,000 calories in a workout/race. If we are going to work hard at a tough race, grueling battle, like church planting, pastoring, teaching, reaching, then we must be fed. A lot! We will drain our reserves quicker and won’t have the energy to finish well. Spend time in prayer, the Word, reading, listening to others, learning, solitude. EAT…A LOT!
  • DEDICATIONnough said!
  • HUMILITY– Phelps was always humble in post race interviews. Not the typical cocky athlete we see in most professional sports. Stay humble, knowing where your strength, abilities, and giftedness comes from. Remember Who you represent.
  • TEAM- In the Athens Olympics in ’04, Michael could have gone for his7th gold to tie Mark Spitz then. However, he gave up his spot on the final relay team so that the USA could have the best chance to win gold. It worked too. He wasn’t about himself in these games either. Constantly praising and encouraging teammates in the relays. Knowing that without them, his record would not have been possible. None of us are islands. We must always remember that there are others around us who make what happens in our churches possible. Some are paid others are volunteer. Be mindful of the team. Keep giving them praise when necessary and deserving. Encourage them when they fumble. We’re all in need of someone to lift up our arms as Aaron and Hur did for Moses.
  • FAMILY IS IMPORTANT – some of the first people he would look for in the stands was his mom and sisters. It was evident that they had a close relationship and that it was important. As leaders, this is the most important relationship, outside our relationship with Christ. Our families must be a priority if we are to have an impact on another generation. Even when things are busy, intense and focused, don’t lose sight of the ones who are most important in your life (and in whose lives you are most important).
  • GO HARD ALL THE WAY TO THE FINISH – in the finals of the 100m Butterfly it looked as if Phelps was going to lose the gold. But as the guy in the lead glided toward the wall, Phelps took one more quick half stroke. That made the difference as he won the gold by .01 seconds. The narrowest of margins. It was a great race, but the difference was that extra stroke. Going hard to the finish as opposed to gliding when things seem won. We have to remember that no matter what, we have to go hard all the way. No gliding.

Just some things God showed me as I watched this great athlete. Lessons that apply to being great leaders in the Kingdom of God. Maybe there’s more. What have you learned?