Journaling: How I Conquer Overwhelm

Guest Post by Simona Kragh

 

prayer journalingI am with you always, until the end of time.Matthew 28:20

We all know the Lord’s reassuring words, but do they make a difference for us when the mound of laundry is taller than the washer, the floor is dirty (again), the older kids can’t seem to remember their spelling, the younger ones’ playdate (and her very critical mother) will be over in two hours, the baby is happy only in our arms, poor hubby is working fifty hours a week for the foreseeable future, and friends and relatives who could lend a hand make themselves scarce because, “Well, you are the one who wanted a big family…”?

If Jesus can be with us always, this would be a good time for Him to show up and help!

The fact of the matter is — He does. Speaking for myself, I can’t always open my eyes to His presence unless I journal. I am not talking about memoir-style writing. In my diaries, I just speak directly and plainly to Jesus. I tell Him exactly how I feel and what I need as if He were with me, because He is. He told us so; therefore there is no doubt. He already knows everything I will ever tell Him, but He also knows that I must vent, feel His presence, realize that I am not alone, and receive the help I desperately need. Of course, this is not a revolutionary way of managing life, but an old way of praying that has sustained me for years.

Here is how and why journaling with Jesus works for me in conquering overwhelm:

  • It forces me to acknowledge that Jesus is right there with me, He was all along, He is not going anywhere, He always has time for me, and He will help me.
  • It allows me to catch my breath and reassess the situation with my best Friend at my side.
  • I can take as long or as little time as I am able. (I have written entries that consist of one word: “Why?” It’s enough to experience the benefits.)
  • I can vent without fear of offending Him. Even Jesus asked His Father, “Why have You forsaken me?”  He understands.
  • Writing well or sounding just right is not a requirement.
  • It’s easy: it only takes a pen or pencil and a notebook.

When I journal my prayers, I can remember the request and recognize the gift. I can go back and see that, when I asked a question, He answered me; when I begged for inspiration, an idea took form; and when I poured out my heart in anguish, I found myself at peace. Whether because of my human limitations or because of the work of the enemy, if I did not have this written record, I would not realize that I am living the answer to prayer.

I don’t have to put up a façade when, in reality, I am overwhelmed — because, no matter how bad I feel, Jesus will be there to exchange my sadness and despair for His calm and sense of real hope. In fact, even Jesus cannot solve my problems until I accept His help. The sooner I am honest about how bad things are (or feel), the sooner He can act.

If this whole idea of journaling your way out of overwhelm seems strange to you, you don’t have much to lose by giving it a try. You might be surprised to find that the more you think of Jesus as a real, loving Person, living with you, in you, and for you, the more you will experience His unfailing help in your everyday life.

The time you spend with Him will be given back to you, multiplied. He will guide you to the best choices, inspire you toward the right solutions, and show you how to reorganize your day so you will accomplish all that must be done. He will let you see that what He did not guide you to do was not necessary — at least not today.  He will become a true Friend, more than any human being will ever be. You will learn to recognize His voice, and even when life becomes overwhelming, it will not separate you from Him.

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A native of Milan, Italy, Dr. Simona Kragh holds several degrees in political science, journalism, and nursing. She has taught history and political science at the university level. She and her husband currently make their home in Vermont, where they homeschool their five children, ages fifteen to five.

Visit her at Easy Civics (republicbuilder.com), for tutoring and learning support in civics and political science.

____________________________

homeschool character training

 

Character Building for Families

 

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Coping with Overwhelm (Part 2)

homeschooling overwhelmToday, let’s look at some common areas where we can get overwhelmed and how to alleviate them.

Measuring ourselves by other people’s standards

Maybe you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t get it together like other homeschool moms do!”

If you’ve gotten your image of what the perfect homeschool family looks and acts like from some homeschool magazine or hotshot Internet site, get rid of that notion. It’s not reality. The families on those mags and websites got themselves gussied up for the occasion. It’s called a photo shoot. If you could be the proverbial fly on the wall the rest of the time at their house, you’d see they have issues, just like the rest of us.

People sometimes talk like they have it all together, tempting the rest of us to beat up on ourselves because we fail at being just like them. We want to do it all, because they seem to be doing it all — with a smile on their faces!

The truth is, God doesn’t expect you to live somebody else’s lifestyle or hold yourself to their standards. He just wants you to follow His plan and seek His wisdom for your unique family.

Frustrating curricula

There is no perfect curriculum. No matter how glowing the reports, if the system everybody else told you to use just isn’t working, it’s OK to change to something different. Some of these are short-lived trends anyway.

Some families thrive using a very relaxed approach: exploring their interests at their own speed, using “living books” (non-textbooks), seizing learning experiences as they arise. Others do much better with highly structured materials — perhaps a full curriculum package that covers all the bases. Some even do well with a correspondence course, complete with deadlines. It all depends on you and your children.

If your homeschool materials are causing you or your children to stress out, it’s probably time for a change. One of the wisest pieces of advice I received in our early years of homeschooling came from Mary Pride, in her first edition of The Big Book of Home Learning. She said to expect to spend some money on resources which turn out to be duds. She felt it was just part of the process, and nothing to feel guilty about.

Housekeeping — too clean or too messy

Either extreme can cause stress. I said in Part 1 of this series that it’s likely you will need to lower your standards a bit in this area, but letting it all go to the dogs isn’t healthy either!

Use part of your homeschooling day or week to teach the children to do housework, and then put it into regular practice. You can count this as Life Skills, and attribute school hours to it. In addition to learning how to keep a tidy home, cooking and sewing can be part of this “class.” Older children should be helping care for the younger children’s needs, as well as bearing some of the overall workload.

Child care, home economics, and shop classes are making a comeback in public schools. Why shouldn’t you include them too? You will just accomplish them more informally than an institutional school. If you need ideas, check out my article, What About Life Skills?  for a list of basic life skills our children should be proficient in before they graduate.

Make summer activities work for you

If your state homeschooling laws require a minimum number of hours, get a head start on your next school year by counting summer hours spent doing educational activities. Include summertime trips, sports, reading, clubs, etc. and note the hours spent on them. This is a practically painless way to accumulate lots of learning and lots of hours credited toward classes.

Those historical spots you visit? Vacations to other parts of the state or country? Those are social studies field trips.

Sports? — physical education.

Reading? — part of your language curriculum. Keep a list of the books read.

Arts and crafts with the parks department? — Yep! That’s part of your art course for the year.

Now, what do you do to decrease your overwhelm? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Previous: Coping with Overwhelm (Part 1)

 

Character Building for Families

 

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Coping with Overwhelm (Part 1)

Perhaps you and your children started homeschooling with high expectations of it being an exciting new adventure. You were all going to have lots of FUN together. Much like an avid gardener poring over seed catalogs in anticipation of spring planting, you eagerly researched the multitudes of homeschool curricula available, finally settling on the perfect one for your family. But that was months ago, and now reality has set in. You and the kids are not having nearly as much fun as you thought this was supposed to be, and the workload is overwhelming.

Yes, homeschooling is a lot of work, but there are ways we can make it better for ourselves — and keep the fun in it. Part of it is about changing how we think, part is spiritual, and part is just plain making some practical adjustments.

Cutting back on nonessentials

First of all, if you are going to have the staying power you will need, life will not be able to go on quite the same as it did before homeschooling. Some things will most likely have to slide a bit. Let the nonessentials take a back seat during this season of your life.

Maybe neither you or your family will be able to handle as many outside activities or hobbies as previously. Sports activities and classes for dance, art, or music are great, and can be included as part of your homeschooling experience, but if you are losing your peace or grinding yourself into the ground to make them happen, it’s time to assess which are most important and curtail the rest.

Pre-homeschooling, my house was tidy most of the time. I made all our bread and fixed time-consuming meals. I did a lot of scratch food preparation. But once we started schooling at home, the house wasn’t quite as neat, the meals became simpler, and the bread making died — because if they hadn’t, I probably would have had a major meltdown. Preserving your sanity and staying peaceful are important!

Make two lists of ways you currently spend your time. Label them “Essential” and “Nonessential.” Be ready to cut out what isn’t as important, as you need to. You don’t have to let go of everything all at once, as long as you and your family are peaceful. Modify your lists regularly, because both priorities and preferences change over time.

In my opinion, maintaining a daily prayer life belongs on the essential list. It’s easy to let prayer slide when life gets busy, but if we make our time with the Lord top priority, He has a way of making all the rest of our day go much smoother. In God’s economy, if we make time with Him our top priority, the other stuff tends to get done. I don’t know how He does that for us, but it really works.

Time devoted exclusively to your spouse also belongs on that essential list. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a weekly date night. That works for some, but for others it adds to the stress, especially if finding a baby sitter is part of the equation. It doesn’t have to be a marathon event. If a daily fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time chatting with each other right there in the living room works, then do that. Make it a joy, not another reason to feel overwhelmed.

I never have a moment to myself!

Yes, it’s true. Me-time does suffer. You probably won’t be able to socialize, whether on the computer, phone, or in person, as much as you once did.

Keep in mind, though, that a half hour with the Lord in prayer and Bible reading will do more to help you regain your peace than that same half hour airing your frustrations to your friends. The Holy Spirit refreshes us with His presence. He renews our strength as we wait upon Him, according to Isaiah 40:31. If God says it, we ought to take His advice.

If possible, do occasionally schedule alone time for yourself or coffee with a friend, if you really need those to recharge your battery. Well-rested moms do a better job of parenting and schooling than worn-out, frazzled moms. If you have children who are old enough to watch the younger ones, set aside a day of relaxed activities they can do while you are absent. Some homeschool support groups provide ways for moms to take a break, too, whether by sharing child care responsibilities or scheduling co-op classes, activities, and events. Some of those will require that you take your turn at volunteering, so other moms can have a break; some require a fee to pay the people who are teaching the classes or supervising the activities.

Next time, we’ll talk about a few more ways we can avoid or cut down on overwhelm.

Next: Coping with Overwhelm (Part 2)

 

Character Building for Families
 

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Review: The 101 Series — Biology

Biology for homeschoolDuring our homeschooling years, we stumbled upon a few really wonderful resources put together by homeschooling families. Biology 101, by Westfield Studios (Wes Olson) was one of them. This is a 4-DVD set, with printable PDF guidebook for the student. A “Course Accreditation Program” booklet is also included for families who want to use the program as a year-long course.

We loved these beautifully done videos! They were easy to understand, visually appealing, and entertaining in how the information was presented. God is not relegated to a mere mention here and there; the materials center on Him and His Word, which we so appreciated.

The Olsons recommend the materials for 15 years and older. However, if you like to teach several age levels all at the same time, the videos are appropriate for even small children. In my opinion, 6th grade and above should have no trouble handling both the videos and the guidebook materials.

Biology 101 is accurately advertised as a biology overview. It does not go into as much technical detail as many other biology courses do. While some families may find the materials adequate to cover a full year of biology, we felt we needed to go deeper, so we finished with a more comprehensive Christian biology textbook from Bob Jones University. But we really enjoyed the time spent with Biology 101.

The Olson family has since produced Chemistry 101 and Physics 101. Unfortunately, these were not yet available while we were homeschooling. If they had been, we would have undoubtedly purchased them. You can sample all three in the series by watching generously sized introductory videos at The 101 Series website.

Pricing for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics 101 is currently $69.95 each, with significant savings if you purchase all three as a bundle. Purchase directly from their website.

Protecting Our Children from Supernatural Evil (Part 3)

Christian parentingIn our last two posts, we talked about activities which can lead to harassment from evil spirits. We also discussed principles to help our children grow in spiritual discernment, so that they will know what to avoid. And, I shared a simple process for gaining freedom if you or your children are already experiencing various forms of spiritual affliction, such as nightmares.

Today, we’ll talk about teaching the beginning principles of personal spiritual warfare to  our children. This is a subject which they should become familiar with even in their early years. We want them to know what to do if spiritual attack comes their way. Here are concepts even young children should be informed of:

1.) There is a God, and there is a devil — but God is WAY bigger.

Explain that God is the Creator of everything, His power and knowledge are unlimited, and He is able to be everywhere all at the same time.

Tell them the devil is one of God’s created beings. He was once an angel of great power in heaven, but he and other angels with him rebelled against God. So, the Lord threw them out of heaven. These evil angels now want to ruin God’s plans.

Assure them that, unlike God, the devil and his evil angels are limited in their power. They do not know everything, nor can they be in more than one place at a time.

Learn 1 John 4:4 together: “You belong to God, little children, and have overcome them [evil spirits]: because greater is He [God] Who is in you than he [the devil] who is in the world.”

2.) God will always take care of them.

Assure them that angels are always guarding them. Psalm 91:11“For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

 Each person has a special guardian angel all his own. Matthew 18:10“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for … in heaven their angels always behold the face of My Father Who is in heaven.”

Tell them there are many promises in the Bible that God will keep them safe from evil. (Psalm 4:8, Psalm 91, and Psalm 121 are just a few. I recommend memorizing these psalms with your children.)

3.) The devil tries to fool us with lies — but God always tells us the truth.

Assure them that God speaks good and loving things into our minds, which are in keeping with the Bible. Any thought which questions God’s goodness, or tears down ourselves or other people, is not from God.

Help them understand that the devil and his helpers will insert thoughts or temptations in their minds which are wrong. Explain that they should resist those thoughts.

Tell them that they can make those thoughts stop by commanding the evil spirit to be quiet and leave, in Jesus’ name.

Explain that if they have Jesus living in their hearts, they have the power to command evil spirits to go in Jesus’ name, and they must obey. (This is a great opportunity to lead them to Jesus, if they have not already given their hearts to Him.)

Verses to memorize, which go with this idea:

1 John 4:4“You belong to God, little children, and have overcome them [evil spirits]: because greater is He [God] Who is in you than he [the devil] who is in the world.”

James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

4.) What if they see evil spirits? Don’t be surprised if your children say odd things about invisible people or creatures. Children often see into the spirit realm more easily than many adults. It is not always imaginary. They may see angels; they may see evil spirits.

Teach them that if they see monsters or other scary beings, they do not have to be afraid. Tell them to command the scary creatures to leave, in the name of Jesus — just like if they are tempted with bad thoughts.

5.) What if they have scary dreams? Again, tell them that Jesus and His angels are always there to protect them, so they don’t have to be afraid. And instruct them again that they can command the devil to leave them alone in Jesus’ name.

6.) Jesus has given us spiritual armor.

Memorize together Ephesians 6:10-18. You can do it one verse at a time. Explain the significance of each piece. I have written an article on this, if you need help — Jesus Is the Armor!

Have fun with it by making a paper doll soldier with pieces of the armor. Here are some links to help you:

http://www.dltk-bible.com/crafts/armor/mpaperarmor.htm

https://ministry-to-children.com/armor-of-god-coloring-pages/

http://www.supercoloring.com/coloring-pages/armour-of-god (coloring page)

7.) They are overcomers, because God says they are.

Assure them that even when they feel weak, Jesus is strong, and He fights our battles for us.

Remind them that they have angels to protect them, too.

Tell them the Word of God promises that they will always win their spiritual battles, if they trust Jesus to help them.

Verses to learn:

1 Corinthians 15:57“But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 “Now thanks be to God, Who always causes us to triumph in Christ….”

If you teach these spiritual warfare principles to your children, they will be well equipped from an early age to deal confidently and victoriously with evil spirits.

Previous: Part 2 (Teaching children to discern good from evil)

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Protecting Our Children from Supernatural Evil (Part 2)

homeschoolingLast time, I gave you a list of ways occult influences can gain entrance to our children’s lives. Lists can be useful as eye openers and general guidelines. However, the enemy of our souls is skilled in subtly changing his tactics for ensnaring people. If we only depend upon lists which are relevant today, we may not know how to detect evil which has been repackaged in the latest fad tomorrow. We must teach our children how to discern less obvious evil, so that they don’t get sucked into it.

Discernment can begin with some basic questions:

1.) Is the activity forbidden in the Bible?

2.) Does it promise power apart from depending on God?

3.) Does it promise peace apart from God?

4.) Does it try to control others — or even ourselves? (“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”2 Corinthians 3:17.)

5.) Where does it look to for wisdom, revelation, or inspiration — the Holy Spirit, or some other source? (“In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge … and you are complete in Him….”Colossians 2:3, 10)

6.) Does it have the feeling of darkness or light?

7.) Would Jesus play / watch / read it with you? (Be honest now!)

8.) What do born again believers in Jesus, who came out of false religion or the occult, have to say about that activity?

9.) Do I have complete inner peace about participating in this, or do I have to convince myself that it is harmless? (“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts….” — Colossians 3:15. “Rule” in this verse means to act as an umpire.)

We should train our children to apply these questions as a “litmus test” for whether an activity is safe and appropriate for them as a follower of Jesus.

If you or your children are already having nightmares, great fear, panic attacks, or unexplained chronic health issues, here are a few simple steps you can take to be free:

Stop, repent, and renounce. Decide that you and your family will no longer entertain yourself with evil or compromising things. Ask the Lord to forgive you. But a third step is needed for full freedom: renunciation. To renounce something means to cut all ties with it and the spirits connected to it.

Here is a sample prayer for how to close the entranceways to evil spirits through renouncing them and their activity. You can lead your children through such a prayer, too, simplifying the wording for the younger ones:

Father, I ask You to forgive me for engaging in occult practices or influences in the past. I now renounce those activities completely. I break the ties between myself and all occult spirits. I command them to let go of me and leave my life forever, in Jesus’ name. Now, I shut the door of my life to all occult spirits. I claim Jesus as my Deliverer, and I put the blood of Jesus between myself and these things, in Jesus’ name.

Cleanse your home of any items which may have ties to evil.  Look for reading materials, DVDs, CDs, video games, or artwork which might be entrance points for evil spirits. Souvenirs from a nation or culture where witchcraft is prevalent can be the source of a problem. Ask God to highlight to your attention objects which don’t feel “right.” If you feel uncomfortable with an item, that is the Holy Spirit prompting you to throw it out. (No matter what its value, do not sell it or give it away. Why pass problems on to others?)

Then, in the name of Jesus, command any evil spirits which have been present because of those objects to depart from your home. Declare that the blood of Jesus now stands as protection throughout and around your home, and that all entrances back in are now closed to the enemy.

What if you don’t have any articles of concern in your home? Even if you have had nothing to do with the occult, and you don’t find any questionable objects, there could be evil spirits still hanging around from a previous owner or tenant. This would be most noticeable if you have recently moved in, or if you have been having nightmares or other spiritual problems for the duration of the time you have lived there.

Take the same steps of commanding evil spirits to leave and applying the blood of Jesus, as I’ve shared in the previous section. Create an atmosphere of the Lord’s Presence through immersing your home in worship music and prayer. Evil spirits don’t like to hang around in such an atmosphere.

Next time, we will talk about how to teach our children, even  at young ages, the principles of spiritual warfare, so that they know how to protect themselves. I promise you it won’t be dark or scary. We’ll keep the light of Jesus shining.

Previous: Part 1 (A list of activities to avoid)
Next: Part 3 (Basic spiritual warfare for children)

 

Character Building for Families

 

Protecting Our Children from Supernatural Evil (Part 1)

Christian parentingAt my Out of the Fire blog, the most-visited post of all time is one about getting free of nightmares which involve feeling suffocated, choked, a horror of great darkness, etc. Typically, the dreamer struggles to call out the name of Jesus and has a hard time doing so — but when he succeeds, the nightmare immediately ends.

Many, many believers are experiencing these terrifying dreams, which are actually demonic in nature. Why is this so common? Why are multitudes of Christians afflicted with this? The answer in most cases is that they have had some involvement with the occult – often going back to their childhood.

You may say, “That could never happen in our home. We don’t dabble with the occult at our house.” Good for you! However, it is all around us, showing up sometimes in subtle ways, which aren’t always easily recognized.

It is our responsibility to protect our children from demonic influences, so that they don’t suffer from them through nightmares or in some other way. We must be vigilant to keep them safe while they are very young and to instruct them so that, as they get older, they know how to protect themselves.

Let’s start with an elementary list of some of the things we must, as believers, totally avoid:

  1. Ouija boards
  2. ESP (extra sensory perception) games and exercises
  3. Fortune telling
  4. Seances / mediums / attempting to contact the dead / “channeling”
  5. Astrology (horoscopes) — I might add that quite a few of the personality quizzes and games people indulge in on FaceBook are actually covers for astrology.
  6. Experiments with levitation, astral projection, telepathy, releasing “energy” toward others
  7. Spells and incantations
  8. Feng Shui, Reiki, Taoism, other Eastern religions

Those are fairly obvious no-no practices for most of us, aren’t they?

But there are more subtle forms of occult influence. Some of these should still be obvious, but apparently they are not, since so many Christians participate in them:

Harry Potter, Twilight (vampires), zombies, Merlin — You may think these materials are just harmless entertainment. I have heard Christians hotly defend them. Unfortunately, they are an open door to the influence of evil spirits in our lives, whether we want to admit it or not.

Halloween celebrations — Again, hotly defended by many believers. Ask any Christian who formerly was a satanist what they think about this! We are being very foolish in trying to whitewash, or even Christianize, this holiday.

Pokémon — Short for “pocket monster,” the origin of the characters is Japanese folklore, including demons. Here is an article from Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry which outlines some of what goes on with Pokémon and Pokémon Go. Decide for yourself, after reading. (It’s not one of those hyper-ventilating articles, by the way.)

Dora the Explorer — Now you may really think I am nuts! I’m sorry, but those cute little shows contain magic. It looks innocent, but it is not. With any children’s TV shows, I believe we should pay attention to what is taking place in them before we plunk our children down in front of them. The Holy Spirit will help us discern, if we just ask.

Personally, I would avoid any children’s shows which incorporate mystical powers, magic wands, saying magical phrases, exploring pagan temples, or spooky things. They encourage a taste for these things in our children. In my opinion, it is better to stand conservatively when it comes to questionable entertainment.

Yoga — Whether you utilize the breathing techniques or only the exercise positions, yoga opens doors to demonic influences. You cannot use the breathing exercises and try to listen for the Holy Spirit through them. They open the way for evil spirits to speak into your mind. Each of the exercise stances are dedicated to a Hindu god (demon). It is not possible to Christianize yoga, no matter how we try. Former Hindus who now follow Jesus understand what is involved in yoga, and have nothing to do with it. Maybe we should listen to them.

Masonic things — including the King’s Daughters and the Shriners. These are not social clubs. Freemasonry is completely immersed in the worship of demonic entities, incantations, and placing curses upon oneself and family (even to future generations).

Hypnotism (and any other type of mind control)

Fortune cookies — They are what they are called, folks. Eat the cookie, leave the little paper inside unread.

Energy healing and acupuncture

Mind reading, mental telepathy

Aliens — Many of you are probably Star Trek and Star Wars fans. This is a bit of a gray area. I think some of the things in sci-fi should be avoided as viewing entertainment — like mind reading and mental telepathy, or the concept of equal light and dark sides of “the Force.” That harks back to the Eastern religion concept of yin and yang, while the Bible teaches us that the devil is NOT equal in power to the Lord — not even close, in fact. Besides, God is not an impersonal force we tap into. He is a Trinity of three Persons, with emotions, desires, and love for us.

Entertaining ourselves with stories of aliens is borderline, in my opinion, depending on what goes on. However, do keep in mind that some unfortunate people have had genuine encounters with “aliens,” which are really demonic entities out to deceive people with tales of superior powers and intelligence and wanting to bring peace to Planet Earth. Often these encounters involve gross sexual perversion and mind control.

So, be careful what you allow in sci-fi entertainment into your home, so that you do not inadvertently open a door to the occult.

Some role-playing games Dungeons and Dragons should be obvious, but others (like Pokémon Go) may be less obvious.

Lists are a good place to start in the quest to protect our children from evil, but they are only a beginning. Occult deceptions can be quite subtle, so we also need to teach our children how to discern by the Holy Spirit. Next time, we’ll talk about that.

Next: Part 2 (Teaching spiritual discernment)

 

Character Building for Families