Bio: Susan Ottmer and her husband, Paul, are parents to two beautiful school-aged daughters, Isabelle (8) and Grace (5). She serves in Children's Ministry at New Harbor Community Church and is a credentialed teacher. She has many interests, including gardening, cooking and crafts.
Posts by Susan Ottmer:
Author: Susan Ottmer February is Heart Disease Awareness month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Have you had a heart evaluation lately? How are your interpersonal relationships and your marriage? Does your heart grieve or rejoice when thinking about those relationships? How about your relationship with God? If you are honest, can you say that it is an intimate one?
I am not a medical doctor, but I see a problem with the heart. The Bible has much to say about the heart, and its condition.
One passage that I love is Deuteronomy 6:5-9 “ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
God’s command is not only to love the Lord passionately, but to also share His commands with our children. The heart that he is referring to may be more what we think of as our mind, but what you fill your mind with does overflow into all areas of our lives. “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Mk 12:34 Therefore, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4:28-29,31-32 Do we practice forgiving others? Do we honestly try to get rid of all slander and gossip from our lives?
David is known as a biblical figure who sought after God’s heart. God saw David’s heart before everyone else did. In fact, the Lord said to Samuel of David’s brother Eliab, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7 David was chosen to be king because his heart was conscripted to the Lord. Do we ask for success, but lack the spiritual discipline to be devoted to God in the process?
David wrote in Psalms “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23 Do we regularly ask the Lord to search our hearts or to reveal our anxious thoughts? Anxiety is not only bad for our minds and hearts, but it is a power struggle with the Lord. Our inability to let go of anxious thoughts reveals our pride and our lack of trust in the Lord.
I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to think about these questions and examine your own heart. When you get ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day, think about how your heart and your actions show your love to others and to the Lord. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:12-14
Next Week’s Author: Scott Turansky
I will admit, I have a perfection problem. My husband discovered my secret 15 years ago, when, several weeks before our wedding, I said “I just want everything to be perfect!” His thoughts… ”Oh no, here we go!” My wedding day was absolutely wonderful, you might even say, “picture perfect”, but it wasn’t perfect.
I was recently reminded of this “perfection problem” while listening to my daughter practice piano. She was struggling through a song that she had previously learned, and she was getting so frustrated and upset. Instead of continuing to practice, she stomped out of the room sobbing, “I’m not good at anything!” As I was talking with her in her room, I found myself telling her “You have a perfection problem.” Wait a minute, who has the perfection problem? Is it me, is it her, or is it both of us?
In reality, we ALL have a perfection problem. All of us have been made in the image of God, our creator. (Genesis 1:27) We are hard-wired to crave perfection, as we crave the pure spiritual milk of our maker. But only He can be perfect. “For all have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
Remember when Adam and Eve thought that they could gain equality with God? They ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil because they wanted to be “like” God, to attain all knowledge. Well, that didn’t work out so well for them, or for the rest of us for that matter. Their pride brought them down! Remember the Tower of Babel, when the people
thought that they could build a tower up to heaven? They didn’t fair very well either. God confused their speech and they were unable to continue. (Both stories are found in Genesis, chapters 3 and 11)
One of the first bible verses that I learned was Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yes, I can do it, but ONLY with Christ’s help! I think that we expect to be able to do whatever we set our hearts on because we want it. Every Olympic Gymnast wants to get the gold. But it was Gabby Douglas who got the gold. Gabby wanted it every bit as much as the rest of the team, but Gabby had Christ’s help! Gabby’s faith propelled her forward to win 3 gold medals!
Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Rather than trying to be the “perfect “anything, I encourage you to strive for grace and peace, not perfection. Be encouraged by the gospel, by those who struggle and grow, and by the plain old practice of hard work. We learn more by our mistakes than anything
else. Allow your children to struggle also, knowing that there is a gem of learning somewhere in it! Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does create excellence.
Next Week’s Author: Laura Kuehn
On most Sunday mornings at our church, adults enter the sanctuary and the children go to class in a separate area. As a parent of two young children, our church’s Children’s Ministry program is a huge asset. My children enjoy their teachers, their friends, and the lessons, and I enjoy being able to drop them off and go into a more adult-oriented atmosphere.
But a couple of years ago, our church decided to try “Family Sunday.” Family Sunday is a time for families to attend the entire church service
together. We still have nursery and
preschool classes, but children in Kindergarten through High School are invited
to join their parents in the sanctuary for the entire service.
In the two years that we have been piloting this program, we have found that great things happen when children are included in corporate worship.
- Children learn to sing “adult” worship songs and to see their parents worshipping God through song. When children see you freely worshipping, they may be inspired to do the same.
- Children are more connected to the congregation. Adults in your church who don’t have young children often don’t interact much with children in general. This
allows older adults and teens a chance to meet your children and to take on a greater level of relationship with your family.
- Children are more connected to the Pastors. By participating in Family Sunday, children begin to recognize the Pastors and Elders of the church. When our family
prays for the Pastor’s family, my children are easily able to identify and participate. They have a personal connection with people that they otherwise would not have. They are also much more likely to be friendly to adults at church, and to feel cared for by the congregation.
- Parents become the spiritual role models for their children. Parents model how to participate in corporate worship, prayer, how to use a bible, and even taking notes on the message. Engaging your children in spiritual conversations at home is an excellent way to follow up with the church service. Take time to discuss the sermon with your child again throughout the week. What your child remembers may be a big surprise to you! Reinforce the Pastor’s message in kid language and allow them to ask questions.
- Studies show that 76% of those who become evangelical Christians come to know the Lord when they are between the ages of 5-12. In middle and high school that number drops to 10%, and in college and beyond it hovers around 14%. Children who are raised in church are comfortable in church, and they are engaged in church. In short, they are connected to Jesus through the body of Christ, and they know that Jesus is real because others around them reinforce that value.
Some practical tips to use before Sunday morning:
*If your child has never attended church with the adults before, talk to them about what to expect, i.e. “First there is singing, then we pray, and then the Pastor comes up to talk about God.”
*Make your expectations for your children clear and concise. For example, “When we are singing, I expect you to stand up next to me.” The first few times that my own children
attended church with my husband and I, my children were, well…difficult and behaved poorly. They do much better when I refresh my expectations of their behavior before Family Sunday.
*Encourage positive behaviors by rewarding them. A pat on the back, stickers, or a special treat after service should not be underestimated. Having a notepad and crayons or pencils available to take notes or draw illustrations of the Pastor’s message is helpful, and doodling and drawing often help with memory retention.
*Make sure that you and your children get a good night’s sleep on Saturday. Help them to pick out what to wear the night before, or select a special breakfast to serve on Sunday morning. Put bibles and books needed by the door so you aren’t hindered when leaving the house.
*Pray for your children’s salvation, and that the Lord reveals himself through the Holy Spirit in the Pastor’s message. If your child is having a hard time in one particular area, pray that the message will address that issue.
*Eat eggs or another high protein food for breakfast. This will help prevent blood sugar spikes and allow children to concentrate better.
The more connected a child feels at church, the more they will interact with the body of Christ, develop a personal relationship with God be prepared for a lifelong dedication to the Lord Jesus.
Next Week’s Author: Holly Lien
In our best efforts, we want to set a Godly example for our children. We may have read many books, taken classes, or have advanced degrees (yes, I have done all three!), but find that none of our head knowledge ends up translating to a heart change. Instead, we need to engage our hearts to the Lord. I can think about what I should do, I can reason with others and even convince my husband at times, but the main question remains…Is my heart where it should be? Am I being a Godly example to my children today? Why or why not?
On the best days, we can pat ourselves on the back for a well done family devotional or a happy day at the park, but what about during the storm? What is our response during the tough times of life? Many of us know what we should do, but do we do it?
My argument is this…your response during the good times should be the same response as in the bad times. Let’s be honest for a moment. I know that I struggle with sin even on my best days, and I struggle with sin on my worst days. But God has an answer for every day. Spending time with Him is always time well spent, even if we don’t feel like it or know how to cope.
My husband lost his job recently, which has brought out a litany of “uncharacteristic” responses. I have been angry, lost, let down, worried and bitter. I have also tried to love my husband as best I know how because though I feel these things, I also know that nothing that he did caused this economy’s problem or his layoff.
I want to think that my responses are “uncharacteristic” but then I realize that I often feel this way during the good times as well. I just tend to feel guilty and beat myself up. Somehow, during difficult times, I feel I have a valid excuse to be miserable and behave badly. This is never the case. Christ has already warned us, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b) The beginning of this verse explains it all, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” (16:33a)
I can honestly admit that God is still in the process of changing my heart, and based on pretty much all of the authentic conversations that I have with other Christians, they too are still in a process of being transformed. Romans 12:2 states “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”, and 2 Cor. 3:18 states “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” My mind and my heart need to agree that ALL is for the glory of God. My attitude, my circumstance and my family should reflect the glory of the Lord, not the patterns of this world.
So, how do I set a godly example for my husband, my children, my neighbors, my friends, my church? I take a deep breath and spend some time in the Word. I make it evident that my circumstances don’t change the hope that I have in Jesus. I smile and honestly tell others that I am still a work- in-progress.
This holiday season, make Jesus a priority. I mean Jesus, not the decorations, not church, not family, or anything else that we sometimes equate to Jesus, but first and foremost, examine your personal relationship with Jesus Christ himself. He will make your holidays much more merry and bright than the new LED lights on the tree.
Next, plan to spend time alone with your spouse. Your spouse needs love and attention just as you need his. Hire a sitter, or call Grandma to watch the kids. Turn off the TV and talk sincerely about your wishes for the holiday season.
Third, plan to spend time with your kids…before Winter break forces you to! Help your kids to shop or make gifts to give to others. Help your children to understand that Jesus is what makes Christmas special, not the gifts or anything else. This year I put together our advent so that every day, the girls un-wrap a verse or something that helps them to focus on Christ.
Lastly, enjoy the season with friends, neighbors and family, but don’t make excuses for putting the priority on Christ. I recently had a conversation with a friend, explaining that I truly want my kids to know that Jesus is our focus. She interjected, “Well, and family too.” I replied by simply saying, “Jesus put Christ in Christmas.” Make no mistake about what we are celebrating: it’s not about a Lexus, an iPad, or Santa, or even family. It’s about Christ.
Have a blessed holiday season.
Next Week’s Author: Laura Kuehn
Being a picky eater is a phenomena of the rich. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have gone from barely having enough food, to having a plethora of choices. Nothing can be more frustrating as a parent than to go to prepare a meal or go to a family gathering, only to have your child turn up their nose at all of the food on the table, and then demand dessert!
Genesis 1:29 states “I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”
God has given us everything that we need to have a healthy diet. He has given us what only He can provide, fresh fruit and vegetables! They are full of vitamins, minerals, natural sugar, and fiber, and they are low in fat and cholesterol, lacking gluten, dairy, artificial colors and sweeteners. God created for us what we should eat, wholesome fruits and vegetables.
He also created animals and fish, and gave us dominion over them.
Let’s face it. One of my jobs as a parent is to teach my children about food. Just as I train up my child to know the Lord, need to also teach my child how to eat, especially in today’s world. My other job is to be a good role model. This includes not only eating the way that I wnt my children to eat, but also adopting healthy attitudes toward food and avoiding any kind of gluttony.
Here’s a list of some simple ways to adapt your family’s food attitude:
* Get kids connected to food. Many times, children don’t know where food comes from or how it is grown. My youngest daughter is 4, and she will ask me how God creates things. Help your child to develop an understanding that God creates your food, not a factory. Make homemade bread of muffins (from scratch) and explain that God made the ingredients that go into the food that we eat.
*Create a family garden in one corner of the yard, or in some movable pots. Have the kids select some vegetables that they would like to grow. Have them water it each day and chart it’s growth for fun. Then, have them pick the vegetables and serve them to the family. They will be so proud!
*Have a large variety of natural, raw foods at the table. I always include one or two that I know that my children will eat without complaint (say apples and carrots) and a couple that I know that they might not like, (like mushrooms or cauliflower). I offer them all of the food choices, my only rule being that they eat some type of fruit or vegetable at the meal.
*Single out fruits and vegetables. Let children enjoy a carrot or a watermelon slice by itself. They will be able to taste the fruit or vegetable’s flavors better and develop a better idea of how food tastes “plain”.
*Sit down with your family to eat. Eating is a social behavior. We need to model what it looks like to sit down and eat as a family. I know that it is often tempting for busy moms and dads to put food in front of their children so that they will stop whining about hunger (usually it is the microwaved chicken nuggets) but preparing a fresh meal and eating with your children is so much more satisfying for all.
*Put junk food or processed snack foods away. Don’t leave them out on the counter. Instead, put out fresh fruit and granola bars. Remember that we are mostly on a “see food” diet. If children see healthy foods, it will sink in.
*Have children help to plan and prepare meals. Once a week, find a time for the kids to help with cooking and setting the table. Planning a menu and then shopping for what’s on the menu can be fun for kids and it ensures that you will have the ingredients in the house to prepare fresh food. You will eat much healthier and save money if you make menu and stick to it.
*Attempt to eat a vegetarian or vegan meal at least once a week. Try ingredients that you aren’t used to, such as Beets, Swiss Chard, Barley, Quinoa, Tofu or TVP. Gradually add new foods to your diet as you discover them.
*Visit a family farm or CSA or join a CSA. We belong to a CSA which delivers fresh, organic produce to our doorstep twice a month. It is fun to see all of the different fruits and vegetables and “try out” ones that I normally wouldn’t buy.
*Visit the Farmer’s Market in your town. Let the kid’s sample the produce and select fruits and vegetables for their meals.
*Enroll your child in a healthy cooking class. Even if you struggle to find the time to cook, your child will be able to learn to prepare and cook foods in a fun, learning environment, and they might even eat it!
*Be patient with your picky eater. Taste buds develop over time, and sugar and salt are very addictive substances. By removing manufactured foods with added sugar and sodium, and focusing on fresh, raw foods, your child’s taste buds will change. Food that used to taste bland will have much more flavor, taste sweeter and more delicious.
I have tried all of these ideas, and they do work! Make mealtime fun, not a battle. Though it is not always easy to change the way that you eat, it will be a lifelong investment in your child’s health. Take baby steps, eliminating one food at a time, or changing one item on the dinner plate. Good luck!
Next Week’s Author: Laura Kuehn