James 4 (For Kids)

Continuing as part of the Matthew 19:14 Project, in which I am paraphrasing the bible in a developmentally appropriate way for elementary-aged children.

James 4

Why do we fight with our Christian family? Isn’t it because of desire – “wanting it?” We fight because we want things that we don’t have. You ache for things that other people have – that’s called coveting – and you can’t get those things, so you argue and fight. You don’t get what you want because you don’t ask God for it. Or, you do as God for it, but with the wrong reasons for wanting it in your heart – you want whatever it is because it makes you feel good instead of wanting it because it shows God’s goodness.

You have cheated on the promise-deal you made with God. You promised to love Him the most as your part of the deal, but you love all the stuff in the world more than Him, and that broken promise sets you against God. Do you think the bible says that God is jealous for no reason? It says He is jealous because He wants to spend time with us without our sin standing in the way and separating us from Him. But, wow, He gives us so much grace – that is, a present that we don’t deserve – even though we should be separated from Him. It says in Proverbs that God stands against people who only think about themselves, but He always gives good things to people who think about others first. So, make the decision that God leads and you follow, not the other way around. Stand up to that bully named Satan, and he will run the other way. Come close to God, and He will come close to you. Clean your dirty hearts that are messed up by sin by doing the right thing. You should feel sad and lost about all the wrong you’ve done. Stop laughing about it. Cry instead. Show God that you know He is great and you’re not so great, and He will help you to become great.

Don’t talk bad about anybody. You don’t have any business deciding who gets credit for following the rules and who doesn’t. You act like you follow all the rules perfectly, but you don’t. There is only One who does: He is the Rule Maker and the One who decides who has followed the rules and who hasn’t – He is the only one who can save you from the punishment you deserve for breaking them. So who are you to point out how poorly someone else follows the rules?

Are you one of those people who plans out every second of every day? If so, you are silly. You don’t even know what’ll happen tomorrow. When you think about all of forever, your life is only like one second long. Instead of planning every second of every day, you should say, “God, I’ll do whatever You want me to.” When you brag about all the plans you are making to do great things, that is evil. If you know there is something you should be doing, but you don’t do it, you are sinning and separating yourself from God.


James 3                                                   James 2                                                 James 1

James 3 (For Kids)

Part of the Matthew 19:14 Project.

James 3

Not everyone should become a bible teacher or church leader. If you are teaching other people how to understand God’s word, God watches you carefully and expects you to be totally truthful and obedient. But everybody makes mistakes; nobody is perfect. Perfect people can control their whole bodies and never mess anything up or say the wrong thing. Nobody can be like that!

Have you ever ridden a horse? When we ride horses, we put a small piece of rope in their mouths – called a bit – and that small bit can help us steer an animal that is even bigger than we are. Or have you ever looked closely at a huge ship? Even though they are gigantic and strong winds can blow on the water, the captain’s wheel is connected to a tiny object that looks like a desk fan – that’s called a rudder – and that steers the whole boat. Just like the horse’s bit and the ship’s rudder, our tongues are a small part of our bodies, but they sure are powerful! It’s not powerful because it is a big, huge muscle, but because what we say using our tongues makes a huge difference! You know, a whole forest can burn down in a fire by one small spark. The tongue is like fire, too. Just by what you say, you can tear other people down, hurting their feelings or changing what people think of them by stories you spread, or even tear yourself down, little by little until you’ve ruined everything, just like the fire does.

You know what’s funny? People are so smart. We can train dogs and horses and lions and whales and snakes and alligators and parrots and hawks until they are sweet and gentle like pets, but no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to train our tongues to always say the right thing. They get us into so much trouble! They never seem to stop hurting people – they are like poison.

We use our tongues to say everything. Sure, we praise God and say nice things to people one second, and then we curse or say terrible things about people the next second. Out of the same mouth comes good and evil! It shouldn’t be like this! Think about water – either you have salt water in the ocean or fresh water in the lake. You don’t have both in the same body of water! Or think about an apple tree or a peach tree. Apples don’t grow on peach trees and peaches don’t grow on apple trees. And you won’t suddenly see salt water coming into a lake! In other words, watch what you say! You can’t be fresh water and salt water. And you can’t be an apple tree and grow peaches. So pick! And I’ll tell you which one to pick:  say kind things to other people and about other people!

There are two kinds of wisdom – that is, being able to think through things and understand them well. Some people show their wisdom through being jealous – feeling like they want something that other people have, and they want to be really good at stuff so that people look at them and like them. They are sneaky and sly. Other people show their wisdom by doing good things and giving God credit, because they understand how to make a good choice and not make it all about themselves. The first kind of wisdom, where you understand how to get what you want from other people so that they will notice you and like you – that kind is not from God. It is from the devil. When people want things just for themselves, that’s where the world gets broken and all messed up. But the second kind of wisdom, where you do the right thing just because it is the right thing to do and to bring God credit for the good stuff – that kind of wisdom is from heaven. It is the right kind of wisdom – clean, it thinks of other people as more important than yourself, it allows other people to be leaders, it doesn’t pick favorites, it always forgives, and it is real – you really mean what you say when you have this kind of wisdom. People who have wisdom like this create peace all around them. They are like peach trees growing the most juicy, delicious peaches. They are like the tiny rudder on the huge ship steering it exactly in the right direction. They are like the cleanest lake water with no salt. Which one will you choose?



James 2                                                                      James 1

James 1 (For Kids)

In my series of posts in which I paraphrase the bible in language that I feel is easier for kids to understand while still maintaining the integrity and (God willing) holiness of the text, I have begun James (For Kids) as part of my Matthew 19:14 Project.

James 1

You are going to have hard times in your life. But instead of looking at them as terrible, be thankful that the hard things are happening, because when you deal with them, you start to learn perseverance. “Perseverance” is the skill to keep on trying when something is hard or when we mess up. And when we keep practice perseverance and get good at it, we are mature. That means we can solve problems well and think before we act instead of messing up and giving up all the time. When we get good at perseverance, we are complete and we have everything we need.

Maybe you don’t feel like you are very smart, or maybe you feel like you don’t make good decisions. If you feel like that, ask God! He gives to everyone without stopping short! He doesn’t look at you like you’re too dumb or like there is something wrong with you. And if you ask Him, he’ll give you wisdom so you’ll be smart and make good choices.

Just remember, though, that you have to believe that God will give you wisdom! If you start to doubt (that means if you feel like maybe you don’t believe), then you are like a big wave on the ocean – when the wind blows hard, suddenly the wave takes on a new shape. Don’t change your shape! Believe hard! If you doubt, then you shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. Those kinds of people can’t make up their minds, and then they are always changing at the last second, and you can’t depend on them.

If you believe in God but you don’t have much, be proud of what you do have! Your belief in God gives you so, so much! But if you are rich, remember that you should think of yourself as low, because your riches could easily pass away. Think about a flower – when the sun shines down very hot, the flower shrivels up and dies and isn’t even beautiful anymore. Riches can be like this. You can be doing your normal thing, just like the flower was doing, and something terrible can happen without any warning, and you can lose all your riches very quickly. They are not something to depend on, but God is.

Remember what I said earlier about perseverance? It means to keep on trying when something is hard or when we mess up. Well, you can only practice perseverance when things are hard. It’s easy to keep going when nothing is stopping you! But when you keep trying when everything is trying to stop you, you get a reward, just like getting an A on a test! You get a crown of life! God has promised that to those who love Him.

Now don’t get confused. When you have hard times, don’t say that God is tempting you. God doesn’t tempt us to do evil. We tempt ourselves, because we have evil in us that wants to trick us and then drag us away. Evil tricks us into wanting it. “Wanting it” is called desire. And think of it like this: desire is like a monster baby still growing inside its mommy’s tummy. When it grows really big and is ready to be born, it becomes sin. That is, it becomes something that can separate us from God. And sin can even start out like a little baby monster – not a cute one, but a scary one – that can grow up and get very strong. As it grows up, it becomes death – the worst kind – the kind that separates us from God forever.

So don’t let sin trick you in the first place. The kinds of good things that you do want – those good things that don’t grow up to become death – every single one of them comes from God. He is made out of light, and He doesn’t change His mind all the time. Instead of being those scary baby monsters in the dark, God lets us be born with truth – His word – so we can be the light, and good and right things – the way He meant everything to be when He created it all.

Think about this: sometimes, we want to talk first and not have to listen or wait our turn. Sometimes people make us so mad so fast! Remember, though, that you should wait to speak. Then you have a better chance of thinking about it first and saying something good when it is time to talk. Don’t react in anger. Don’t let your temper flare up like fire does when gas is poured on it. That’s how things get burned up. When we get super angry, we don’t usually do the right thing like God wants us to. So run away from those wrong things – they are everywhere! Instead, accept that truth that God gave you about what is right, even when it is hard or hurts, because it can save you.

But don’t just listen to the truth and trick yourselves into thinking that is all there is to it. Actually do what it says. Think about how silly you would be if you did your hair all fancy and wore your best clothes and checked yourself out in the mirror, and then the second you walked away from the mirror, you forgot what you even looked like! It’s the same thing if you study the bible carefully and then walk away and don’t even do what you studied. So make sure you study that beautiful truth and then think about it, keep it on you, and actually do what it says throughout the day. Then you will get great things from God!

You can think of yourself as an amazing person who always does what is right, but if you go around blabbing your mouth all the time, you’re tricking yourself, and all that stuff about doing right isn’t worth anything. God looks at you as clean and doing right when you do things – look after people with no parents or who are left alone and those people whose husbands and wives had died. Those people really have it hard. Take care of them, and keep yourself away from sin, which is everywhere in the world. It can easily make you dirty like pollution does, so keep clean!



(I feel like I should start this post with the disclaimer that this post in no way demeans my relationship with my actual parents, who are truly wonderful human beings and who I love dearly and am endlessly thankful for. I wanted, however, to focus a post on my awesome parents-in-law because I know that my love for them is not average or regular. They are awesome, and I want to share some wisdom they have gifted upon me.)

Okay, so I’m sitting at my parents-in-law’s house (is that the proper grammar? Who knows?) at 11:00 on a Tuesday night, and my husband is not here. How many people do you know who feel comfortable bringing their two kids for a day and overnight without their husband to spend it with their parents-in-law? Not many that I know. But I have the greatest parents-in-law on the face of the earth. My parents-in-law have basically adopted me as their actual child. They love me unconditionally. They treat me like a queen. They are endlessly supportive and wonderful and kind and loving and seriously – how many people do you know who can say this?

I think it goes without saying (although I am going to say it anyway) that the typical parent-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is sort of coined as strained. Daughters-in-law love to slam on their mothers-in-law as overbearing, hurtful, judgmental, etc. Mothers-in-law love to slam on their daughters-in-law as not good enough, ungrateful, rude, etc. But the relationship does not have to be this way. I think the great relationship I have with my parents-in-law comes from both sides. Here, I’m going to give some tips based on my relationship with my parents-in-law for cultivating a great relationship with your in-laws for both the child-in-law in question and the parent-in-law in question. (I feel like I should add here that our relationship isn’t perfect, just like all relationships. Sin enters the picture and makes us get frustrated with each other sometimes, and we don’t always treat each other the way I’m about to outline here, although we do try and succeed the vast majority of the time.)

Child-in-Law, Do These:

Respect them.
When I look at my parents-in-law, I see people who truly love Christ. I see amazing wisdom and value. I see an opportunity to grow and get better because they are in my life. And I treat them like this. I ask them for advice and then listen as they give guidance. I talk to them about my faith and my struggles. I speak to them in a respectful tone regardless of how I’m feeling at that moment. Letting them know that they are respected goes a long way. I make sure that they’ll never think of me as ungrateful.

Treasure them.
Love is a choice. Love is action. I choose that no matter what happens, I love them. These people raised my husband. They made him kind, gentle, compassionate, merciful, hopeful, friendly, caring, strong, smart, etc, etc, etc. They made him that way! They contributed to his fun quirks and his good looks. They taught him to love Jesus first. They taught him to work hard for his family. I think a lot of people blame their parents-in-law for the frustrating things about their spouses, but they forget that they fell in love with their amazing spouse for his/her great attributes in the first place! I can easily treasure my parents-in-law when I look at the wonderful attributes in my husband because they put those attributes there in so many ways! I treasure that they love one another so deeply. They demonstrate long-lasting love, which is something that my husband and I strive for. They unconditionally love each other, and we get to see it whenever we are with them. What a treasure that is! Recognizing the gifts/treasures that your parents-in-law are to you is one of the first steps in having a healthy relationship with them.

Look at them as family.
When I look at my parents-in-law, I see relatives. They aren’t random people who I’ve been thrown into life with. Dumping them out is not an option. In fact, it would be a travesty for my husband and for my children, who need their grandparents in their life. With family, you get annoyed and frustrated sometimes (often, lots of the time!). But the key with family is love without condition! You don’t stop loving your own mom when she’s being obnoxious. You don’t stop loving your sister or your cousin. With family, we often shove aside irritating features, or shrug them off, because they are our family and we love them no matter how crazy or messed up they are. My parents-in-law are easy to love, which is, from what I understand, different than with other people. But even in those times when they are less easy to love because of frustration or dumb irritations, they are still my family. And family means that nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten. Oh, man, I started quoting Lilo & Stitch. But you get the point. You don’t abandon family. You work through it. You love in spite of it. If you view your parents-in-law as family instead of random people you’ve been forced to bear throughout life, there will be an underlying sense of commitment present, much like the underlying sense of commitment to your actual blood family that helps you to love them even when you sometimes want to punch them in their faces. This underlying commitment inspires you to love first.

Trust them.
As mentioned above, my parents-in-law just cannot be all that bad because they created and raised the man that I love more than any other person. They made him who he is. If they were able to raise him (and his sister, who is possibly the most wonderful person on the planet), then surely they are trustworthy. Surely, their ideas about raising our children must be okay even when they are different from mine. Surely, their driving is okay, because both their kids were driven around for years without any signs of terrible car accidents at their fault. Surely, their method of budgeting or cleaning or dealing with a difficult person can be trusted, because they have used what God has given them well and their house is always presentable and their children have excellent character. I trust them, and I will listen and try to apply their ideals with humility if they are presented to me.

Treat your spouse well, both behind their backs and especially in front of them.
One of the best ways that you can show love to your spouse’s family is in the way you treat your spouse. I could write another whole post about this, but the brief version is that our society tends to make husbands look dumb and wives look like b-words. The wife is always annoyed and nagging. The husband is always too stupid to do anything right. Both are kind of miserable forever and that’s just how life is supposed to be. This is ridiculous, and life doesn’t have to be like this! For me, this means not spending any time talking about my husband negatively. Sometimes I joke about how he won’t pick up his socks, or I kid around about him being a slob. Sometimes his mom and I bond over how he doesn’t notice or care that the lawn looks horrible and how this baffles us. But this silliness is not disrespect. I am careful to point out my husband’s good qualities and how they compliment his parents’ character much, much more often than I joke around about his not-so-amazing qualities. This has to be done genuinely; don’t be a suck-up and make up false things. But seriously, smack-talking your spouse in front of his/her parents is not going to make them like you better, and it is not going to change those behaviors that irritate you about your spouse, so it really serves no useful purpose except making you look like a jerk. Speak kindly of your spouse. Find genuine, honest, real things that you love about him/her, and point those out in front of his/her parents. It really makes a difference! They will appreciate that you love their kid, and you will actually start to appreciate those nice things about your spouse more because you are focusing on them. Moneyback guarantee, seriously, it works.

But what about…

Maybe you are the parent-in-law reading this, and you are thinking, “Well, sure, but my daughter-in-law is a little brat who doesn’t treat me like that and doesn’t feel that way about me!” Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it), Jesus doesn’t call us to treat others the way we are actually treated. He calls us to treat others the way we want to be treated. He even goes further to say that you should turn the other cheek, give them your coat as well, go two miles instead of one, etc. In other words, don’t just treat others the way you want to be treated. Treat them better than you want to be treated. I hate to say it because it can be hard to hear, but the truth is, if you are the parent-in-law, you have the responsibility as the parent-figure to treat your child-in-law well no matter how he/she treats you. And I bet/absolutely guarantee that treating your child-in-law well will make a wonderful long-term difference in the way he/she treats you.

Parent-in-Law, Do These:

Treasure them.
As a daughter-in-law to amazing parents-in-law, I have to say that this is the biggest one to me. My parents-in-law make it clear that they not only love me, they treasure me. They value me. They like me. They think I’m funny and cute and clever. They laugh at my jokes and make me feel important. They think I’m smart. They acknowledge how hard I work. They let me know that I’m doing okay at this mom thing. They celebrate my joys and grieve my sadness. I matter to them. It’s like I’m their own kid or something!

Look at them as family.
There has never been a single day of my relationship with my husband where I’ve felt like I was worth less than him. They have adopted me just like I’m their own kid. They have accepted me into their home at any time. They have listened to me and guided me like my own parents do. They have helped me through tricky times and awkward situations. They have put up with crap from me to a certain extent and then called me out when I got out of hand. They have come to help. They have dropped everything to watch my kids so I could go to an appointment. They helped me for weeks after my kids were each born. They give us food and help us in times of trouble. These are things you do with family. These aren’t things you do with just anyone off the street. Now, you could argue that some of this is just because they were helping out their son and I am married to him so I got the good deal from that, but it’s more than that. I am included. Those decisions to help and that advice was for me, too, not just for my husband. I matter to them, and I know it because they have invested in my life individually AND in my life with my husband.

Trust them.
My parents-in-law do not ever make me feel badly about myself. I am good enough for their son! I know this because they tell me this! They point out the qualities in my character that are good for their son. They point out the ways we compliment each other. They point out why he needs me. As mentioned above, they tell me how good I am as a parent. They are kind and complimentary, and I know that they trust me with their treasures – their son and grandchildren. There is an ever-present understanding that our presence in each others’ lives is good for us and makes us better.

I understand that the relationship I have with my parents-in-law (like sitting here on their desktop computer in my father-in-law’s office typing at now-11:48pm when my husband is on a business trip in Chicago) is not normal and not easy to cultivate. I really believe, though, that if both parties put forth effort to see the great things about each other, the relationships can become a treasure. I am truly thankful for my parents-in-law, and there is never any doubt of this. Lots of times, people that know my husband’s family say things to me like, “Boy, you sure hit the jackpot with what you married in to!” and I couldn’t agree more.