Flashcards as Faithcards

They are simple pieces of cardstock with words and sometimes images on them. Our teachers drilled us on the alphabet, multiplication tables and later French verbs flipping rapidly through them. They are one of the simplest but most effective educational tools invented – flashcards.

We don’t know who first used them, but we know that they came into use in the 1800’s. Paper had become readily available but was still too expensive for many to buy. In their desire to spread the Word of God, religious groups in America began offering free reading classes to those who could not pay to go to school. Among those promoting this was John Lancaster, a Quaker. He suggested putting spelling words and other material on boards to for the teacher to hold up and instruct the children, an early precursor to the flashcard.

Around the same time in England Favell Lee Bevan, who oversaw religious education for children on her father’s estates, developed a system of teaching reading with phonics on cards. Soon, using flash cards was a standard educational practice.

Among the reasons flashcards continue to be a popular learning tool is that they lend themselves to any subject. Recently my youngest son made a set of cards from the company website with the photos and names of all the employees at his new job. He arrived for his first day knowing the name of everyone on his team.

Flash cards are also immediately reinforcing, as you quiz yourself and make higher and higher stacks of cards you got correct.

One might think that technology has done away with flashcards; instead, it has provided a new way to deliver flashcards. Many e-reader textbooks come with a flashcard function as a way to review key concepts. You can also create your own for any book in an e-reader through the notes function. Apps from companies such as Brainscape offer flashcards on subjects from foreign languages to medical and legal terms that can be downloaded to your phone or computer.

Like those early students, flashcards have had an impact on my religious life. While in college, I was introduced to the Navigator’s Topical Memory System made up of verses on small cards to make it easy to memorize and meditate on portions of Scripture. (You can now get the memory system as an app). After completing their course of study, I began making my own Scripture cards as a way to fix God’s Word in my heart (Deuteronomy 11:18). Carrying the card for the verse I am currently learning helps me not only progress in the memorization but also gives me an uplifting thought as I go about my day.

I even use flashcards in my prayer time. I put a person’s name at the top with requests below. I often add a Scripture verse concerning the petition, which builds my faith as I pray.

They are simple pieces of cardstock, but they have eternal value.

What about you? How could you use flashcards to build your faith?


Road Trip Worries

My oldest son made a cross-country drive from California to Virginia this week. His trip is proof that I should be a fiction writer. When I heard about the trip, I immediately imagined all kinds of tragic scenarios for the journey.

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky

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At first, he planned to add a little vacation to the drive with a two-day stopover in Moab, Utah. Why Moab? Because according to biking sites it is the mountain biking capital of the world. It has “some of the most challenging biking anywhere.” Translation: a high potential of careening down steep inclines and over rocky cliffs. Why even pack animals that used to carry supplies through there had difficulty getting a grip on Slickrock Trail.

The Moab bike trip was nixed. The next plan was to take the route through the mountains for a scenic ride into Colorado. That route would have taken him through Donner Pass, and we all know what happened at Donner Pass. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t the 1800’s any more or that it isn’t winter; it could still snow there. On the last day of summer last year the snow plows had to be called out to clear the pass. Nor did my worries take into account that he isn’t likely to starve there now;  dozens of restaurants have been built around the Donner summit.

He ultimately chose to drive I-40. Did that ease my mind? No. This route involved a drive through the Mojave Desert. I wondered would he take enough water for that heat? Would he pack a sleeping bag in case he broke down and had to spend the night? It gets cold in the desert at night. Would he zip the sleeping bag tight so that a rattlesnake looking for a warm place to sleep in the desert cold couldn’t crawl in? (My son has had an encounter with a rattlesnake before – not in his sleeping bag but under his boot. Since then I always have to mentally check out if there is the possibility of a rattlesnake encounter).

At some point in all of this imagining, I realized my worries were ridiculous. My son is over 40 years old. He’s driven through Iraq and Afghanistan dodging IED’s and gunfire. What’s a little drive across the USA after that?

I was behaving like the mother I read about in the Reader’s Digest. She attended a homecoming ceremony for her Marine son returning from Iraq. When she saw him running to catch one of his buddies to give him a bayonet, she shouted across the field, “Kevin, don’t run with that knife in your hands!”

Mothers just can’t stop being mothers and too often that turns into anxiety. Jesus warned us that worry doesn’t do any good. “Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:34).

What are we supposed to do with worry? Turn it into prayer. Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

So, that’s what I did. I prayed him across I-40 giving thanks that he was getting to see so much of our beautiful country.

What about you? What worrying could you turn into prayer? What is there to give thanks for in the midst of that concern? Leave me a note, and I’ll pray with you.

I Don’t Text


Photo by it’s me neosiam from Pexels

In a recent conversation, a friend said, “I don’t text. If I did, I would never hear my children’s voices.”

I understood her sentiment. Texting seems to be the preferred mode of communication of my grown children. I know texting offers benefits that a call does not. Texting tends to lend itself to shorter interactions than phone calls; with the busy lives people lead today, they don’t often have time for long conversations.

Texting is often seen as less intrusive. It can be answered at a person’s leisure whereas a call seems to demand, “Answer me now.”

Another advantage of texting is it gives a written record of information. This is helpful when passing on flight numbers and arrival times, where someone wants to meet for lunch, or the cost of tickets to a suggested event. Perhaps these benefits are why, according to a recent Chicago Tribune article,  people use texting five times more often than they use phone calls.

Of course one of the reasons I like receiving texts from my children is they often send photos and videos with them.  This gives me a running, family history. Scrolling through my phone, I  see the houses my children have bought, the arrival of each of my grandchildren, the first steps those babies took, hikes they have recently taken through the woods. There’s a record of community and church involvement in the pictures of service projects my grandchildren have done.  I can vicariously participate in piano, trombone, and dance recitals.  And, though I live far away, I get to share in simple moments like the first bike ride or the fun of mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Still, there are things a phone call gives that a text does not. A call involves a real conversation; there is an immediate response to what we’ve asked or said.  A call provides us with the tone of voice, which lets us better interpret the meaning of the interaction. Without it, we may have to guess what was meant. Take the simple word, “Yeh.” Depending on the inflection it might be a question or an enthusiastic yes. It could be a sarcastic comment or a way of saying that’s a great idea.

With a phone call, emotions come through. Emoticons may give us the general feeling but sending a smiley face when my friend tells me about the latest book she bought is not the same as the happiness that comes through when celebrating with a dad calling to say the newest baby has arrived. An emoticon just cannot communicate that joy.

The Bell Telephone slogan from years ago expressed precisely what my friend was feeling – “Oh, it’s so good to hear your voice.”

I think that’s how God feels too. Though I know He appreciates the quick prayers I shoot up as I go about my day – he longs for more. Like any parent, The Father likes a long, heart to heart conversation. In fact, I think I hear Him calling now.


Bottle Collectors

assorted bottles bright clean

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My grandfather was a bottle collector. He bid on bottles at auctions and scouted them out at flea markets. He even dug a few out of the dirt. Unlike some collectors, he didn’t specialize in one type of bottle. His collection included medicine bottles, milk bottles, soda bottles, ink bottles, perfume bottles, and mason jars. At one time he had more than 600 of them. He displayed them on shelves in arrays of aqua, amber, cobalt, brown, purple and yellow at an antique store my mother owned.

Like all collectors, he liked swapping stories about where he found his treasures and bargaining over a sale price if he decided to let one go.

His interest must have been contagious because both my mother and I were infected. She concentrated on milk bottles and set about obtaining bottles from all of the local dairies from bygone days. She also sought out dairy containers from the Biltmore Estate. My great-grandfather had been a dairy herdsman there and my great-grandmother worked in the creamy. That family connection made those quart,  pint, and cottage cheese containers precious. She has passed a few of the Biltmore bottles on to me and they are among my prized possessions.

When I started bottle collecting I decided to go for something more exotic; I chose perfume bottles. My collection made it to three: a square, cut glass one, an octagonal one made in Czechoslovakia, and a tall, amber and black, art deco one. I quickly learned that antique perfume bottles didn’t fit my high school budget. Seeing the price of a similar art deco one that recently sold on eBay convinced me collecting perfume bottles is still out of my budget. Further evidence is the tear-shaped bottle with an algae motif that sold at a Japanese auction in 2012 for $370,000.

Being a bottle collector puts us in good company. God has a bottle collection, but he considers what’s inside much more valuable than the bottle. The Psalms tell us that the Lord collects our tears in them, “Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8 NASB).

That knowledge has been a comfort to me in times of grief. But I have to wonder, are there more bottles I should have filled with tears for the lost, for those still without God’s Word in their language, those languishing in prisons because of their faith? Will the shelf reserved for “Connie’s Tears” be an array of full bottles showing my commitment to the Great Commission or just a few flasks, evidence of self-focus?

The events on the world stage this week, as attention was focused on North Korea, were a reminder that there are those who are still suffering for their faith. We know from history (even recent history – think of the Berlin Wall) that prayer can bring release to prisoners. As we hope that the summit will bring changes in civil rights for the North Koreans, may we remember them in our prayers and perhaps shed a few tears over their current suffering.

Little Prayers, Big Faith​

d2777826b7bb822c2d00caf64eaca392I must confess, I am one of those people who prays for parking spaces. I also pray about lost car keys, for motivation to go another quarter-mile on my fitness walk, and for guests to be delayed just a little while so I can finish dinner preparations.

My prayer list has included missing puppies, sick chickens, and lame cats. (I was a children’s church leader and prayers for pets were frequent requests.)

Requests for small things make up a large portion of my prayer life. They create a running conversation between the Lord and I as I go about my day.   Browsing yard sales I ask to be led to just the thing I’m looking for. In the grocery store, I’ll ask for ideas for the week’s meals. Playing with scrapbook paper I’ll say, “Who should I make a card for today?”

There are many who think if you are going to pray, you should pray big. John Newton would agree with them and the sentiment on the sign. His hymn, Come My Soul Thy Suit Prepare, has the line,Thou art coming to a king, large petitions with you bring.”

He knew what he was talking about. He was a man instrumental in seeing slavery outlawed in England. His words have inspired me to pray many bold prayers that I have seen answered. Among them are: for a dictator to come to Christ, for my daughter-in-law to carry her babies to full term after losing twins early in a pregnancy, and for the completion of Bible translations in several tribal languages.

Praying big shows we expect great things from God. Praying big gives us impressive testimonies to share.

But are the answers to little prayers any less impressive? Aren’t they evidence that Jesus is interested in and paying attention to the details of our lives? Didn’t He tell us, “the very hairs on your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30)?

Rosalind Goforth wrote, How I Know God Answers Prayer, a book filled with examples of bold requests and miraculous answers from her many years as a missionary in China.  But she also knew the value of prayers for little things. She said, “It is true that there is nothing too great for God’s power; and it is just as true that there is nothing too small for His love.”

Those answers to our small prayers convince us of God’s love and build the big faith we need when we face overwhelming problems. After all, if you can’t trust God for a parking space, how will you ever have faith to be healed from cancer? (Which I have also had to do.)

So, I pray big and bold but I don’t give up the little prayers.

What about you? What are the big, bold prayers that you are praying that will show God’s power? And what little things are you asking for that will remind you of his love?

Spend a day without complaining

“Spend a day without complaining,” Rochelle Melander challenges in her book A Generous Presence. It’s a challenge I decided to take up today.

I think of myself as a cheerful person who doesn’t complain much. But when the temperature falls (like it is doing today) I start griping about the cold. My “I hate being cold,” lament is something my husband gets tired of hearing long before Christmas arrives each year.

He also gets tired of my running commentary about what’s wrong with the government. I like to stay abreast of current events. I think it’s important so that I know how to pray about what’s going on in the world. If I add up the time I spend griping, though, I’m sure it’s more than the time I spend praying “for all those in authority” as Paul admonishes us to do in 1 Timothy 2:2

Complaining does have its place. I saw that in my eighteen years as a counselor. It’s a way people process the disappointments and challenges in their lives. But if they remained stuck in complaining mode, things didn’t change. They had to learn the antidotes for bellyaching: find what’s good about the situation, express gratitude for one’s blessings and take action.

That’s a prescription I’m applying as the economic downturn hits the publishing world. Many of the magazines that I have written for have ceased publication within the last year. It’s something I’ve complained about to my husband. It’s something I’ve complained about to my writing friends. It’s something I’ve complained about in my journal. But I am finding good in the situation — I’m being forced to explore new markets and areas of writing, including writing for the web. I’m thankful for my son who is very knowledgeable about all things cyber space and can give me guidance. And I’m taking action by writing my blog.

I’m learning that when I want to complain, God’s plan for me is to “look around, give thanks and get up and do something.”

As I look outside, I see that the mercury has dropped ten degrees. It’s time to give thanks for modern conveniences, light the gas logs in my fireplace and settle in with my prayer journal.

I’m feeling more cheerful already.