Posted in Children, Church, Parents, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Building Faith on Q & A

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Image result for kid questionWhen it comes to autonomy, I believe that nothing is more critical than critical thinking. God has not asked us to park our brains when we take up faith in Him. On the contrary, the more I dig deeper into His Word, the more sensible everything–and I mean everything–becomes.

World History, Science, Mathematics, Literature, Anthropology, Current Events, World Religions, Psychology–every bit of it fits together with scripture like a tight truth puzzle, because that’s exactly what it is.

For our children though, they are back at the beginning of trying to discern what truth is and who they should believe is telling them the truth about life and the world. In the midst of being raised in church, there were many years of faith struggles for me and many of my peers. Teen years especially when the school curriculum delved more deeply into the world at large.

During this time, it was critical to develop critical thinking that was founded in the Word of God…the very thing I was questioning. So more critical than that, was that there were Godly men and women that I could ask my questions to–who had answers or who directed me into scriptures for answers. It was important that I learned it was ok to ask questions. Unlike some people, God’s not afraid of them. [By the way, all truth is God’s truth, so He is more than prepared to answer anything you or I can throw His way.]

The bottom line is that if we hope our children will become spiritually autonomous one day, then they need to be able to: 1) ask their questions of the Word of God, 2) know how to discern the answers, and 3) have fellowship with firmly grounded believers who can also guide them to answers.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

More Than Animals

“I will instruct you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalm 32:8-9

IMG_3243.JPGI once heard that the way to teach a circus elephant to stay serenely tied to a little stake in the ground is–when the elephant is a baby–to tie it to a tree it cannot move. Try as it might, the elephant learns that what holds it cannot be moved and stops struggling against its ropes.

As humans, we–like this baby elephant–often feel that authority is a bondage. Though anyone, who can see the result of complete anarchy in world history, knows that authority is necessary and that in every situation there is an authority. Like it or not.

The Bible tells us though that all authority is established by God [Romans 13:1], and that He Himself is our ultimate authority. As such, we are to submit to authority. But show me a rebellious adult, and I will show you a childhood in which the child was not subject to parental authority.

Godly parenting means discipline, not necessarily corporal punishment, but developing disciplines in your children. It means setting boundaries as the authority and instructing and correcting your children. It means that we do each of these things in love.

You see, I tell my kids not to do things that I know will harm them, and anytime they disobey they usually find themselves hurt. As a matter of instruction, as I tend to their hurt, we review:

1) Were you supposed to have done that?

2) Why not? *It’s against the rules*

3) You know Mama loves you and I gave you rules because I know which things can hurt you? *nod and sniff…sometimes when they’re young and not yet furious that they’re not in charge*

4) You know God gives us rules for this same reason? Because He loves us and He knows which things will hurt us. But He also gave us parents to teach us how to obey so that we will learn to obey Him too.

And that’s the truth. God established all authority and expects us to submit to parents and teachers, and eventually bosses and police officers and on up the chain of command, to His glory and honor. When we learn first to obey our parents’ authority, we learn–like the baby elephant tied to the tree that later becomes a tiny stake–to obey the other authorities to come and, ultimately, God.

Through the Psalmist, God cautions us not to be one who does not learn this lesson. Because then we have to be controlled like animals with bit and bridle–and many who disobey authority find themselves in just such bondages [time out chairs, detention, suspension, juvenile detention, prison] where others get to make decisions for them.

But God made us to be more than animals. He made us in His own image with the ability to reason, understand, learn, and develop healthy disciplines based on these. As parents, we need to foster our children’s growth in each of these aspects, ensuring always, a right understanding of who God is–our heavenly Father who loves us.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

From Fight to Light

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Image result for siblings fightingHaving siblings is a great opportunity to learn how to live with and love people God’s way. Especially if we as parents take the moments of struggle and make them teachable times.

In our house, we have found that discipline means developing personal disciplines in our children’s lives, much like a coach or a teacher inculcating effective athletic and academic habits in their players and students.

So when our kids fight–and that is a when not an if–we start by finding out what happened–from both children’s perspectives. Then we ask both children why they chose the action/reaction that they did and what God would have had them to do. If they try to blow it off with an I-don’t-know grunt, we bring them to the appropriate scriptures then ask them to tell us what those scriptures say they should have done instead. Often we have to work through bad attitudes in much the same way. And–as mentioned in an earlier post–we wrap all of this up with both children apologizing for their unloving behavior and asking for/giving forgiveness.

Why do both children get spoken to? It’s been my experience that even the child who has had the toy taken from her immediately reacts selfishly and sinfully in her anger, both contrary to the Word of God. One of the mantras in our home is to look at how schools handle fist fights, “If someone punches you, they’re in trouble. If you punch them back, then you’re in trouble too.” Reciprocating a bad action or attitude isn’t okay.

But doesn’t this take a lot of time? Sometimes it does. Other times, not so much. But it is time well invested in helping our children develop the autonomy of loving actions and attitudes when confronted with unloving ones. Because in real life, the ability to autonomously love others no matter what the situation is the way that others will know that we are Jesus’ disciples.


Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Encouraging a Prayer Life

“This then is how you should pray,” Matthew 6:9a

Image result for children praying + imageThe familiar introduction to the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that Jesus modeled prayer to His disciples, and not just in this instance. But here we find that He teaches them how to speak to God the Father, just as we should pass along the understanding of how to pray to our children.

  • Start by addressing Him as Father, for that is who He is for all of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives [Matthew 6:9].

Children can understand a parent relationship, but they will also spend the first part of their lives watching their earthly father to understand their heavenly one. This is a weighty responsibility.

  • And even though we speak to God as we would our father, revere–honor–His name [Matthew 6:9].

Don’t come to God disrespectfully, by failing to fully understand and acknowledge who He is. This part comes with experience. For a young child, they can be told many things about God and given a formulaic way to sit and pray reverently, but they will spend a good many years working out understanding and reverence for themselves. It is the silent inner struggle we all come through on our way to spiritual autonomy.

  • Your plans and purposes prevail through my life, because you are also God my King. Make me as faithful and obedient as the angels in heaven [Matthew 6:10].

Paraphrased, yes, but the essential meaning of this verse is to recognize God’s sovereignty over heaven and earth and to realign our daily lives with that Sovereignty. But living as citizens of heaven is in direct conflict with the natural sinful state into which we are born. Here we teach young children to begin to ask God to show them if they’ve committed any sin and then to ask Him to forgive them. We also teach them to read God’s Word and pray for God to help them become more and more Christ-like every day.

  • Provide for us.

Now my children early on, developed a funny habit of saying, “I wish…” during portions of their prayer. We took this as an opportunity to make sure they understood that God was not a genie in a lamp that grants all our gimmes. Rather, He is a loving Father who provides for all our needs. So when we teach children to pray, we also instruct them in the difference between needs and wants [though God grants us the desires of our hearts as well–Psalm 37:4–but there is a whole other discussion to be had here.]

  • Forgive us, because we also forgive those who wrong us.

Forgiveness is huge! Because when we don’t forgive others, our sins are not forgiven either[Matthew 6:15]. Even a little child can understand forgiveness. Meaning it, on the other hand, is something they often grow into. In this part of prayer, we’re essentially asking God to make us more loving, more like Him.

  • Keep us from testing, and set us free from evil.

In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome [John 16:33]. And we can ask God to keep testing out of our lives, though sometimes we may have to endure it anyway. Jesus did [Matthew 26:36-56]. But other times He will grant our petition. And we can ask to be set free from evil. This can be taken two ways: 1) for our own salvation from sin, and 2) for protection or removal from the evil in the world around us. Jesus tells us we can ask God for divine intervention in our struggles! Praise the Lord!

We are all probably familiar with this passage of scripture, let us pass it faithfully on to our children, helping them to develop a prayer life from the earliest age to the glory and honor of God. Amen.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

I Don’t Know How You Do It: The Secret to Big Families

IMG_4715.JPGSo often people count the kids my husband and I are walking with and declare, “I don’t know how you do it! I have trouble with just one!”

At first I used to smile and make a Sunday School pat remark about the grace of God, but by and by the Lord challenged me to consider how do we do it. Yes, the grace of God is absolutely necessary! However, He gave us many commands in His Word and the model for raising a Godly family. So it wasn’t just my big heart with God’s grace sprinkled on generously. He had helped us to build purposefully in a way that gives Him glory through our family.

After seeking Him, my answer changed thoughtfully to, “Well, it’s not like we had sextuplets and had to figure this out all at once. God”–in his grace–“gave us each child one at a time.” And each time we had a new child, we adjusted our life a little bit to include one extra person. Simultaneously, each older child naturally assumed more autonomy.

Our oldest and youngest child are nine years and six days apart exactly. Most of the children in between have an age spread of 18-21 months. So the 18-21 month old had to vacate their coveted place on Mama’s lap [always a heart wrenching first morning home from the hospital for me.] But this child then turned to Papa’s lap, and the one just older had to learn to either share Papa’s lap or learn to sit beside us.

Each child became a little more autonomous by virtue of the new addition. And this extended into feeding, dressing, toileting and playtime as well. By the time number six came along, three children were in school, which meant that they were also learning story time autonomy, amongst other things. They enjoyed being asked to help Papa and Mama out with small things. Our oldest wants to become a professional baker and got her start with Grandma around this time. So I could put ingredients on the counter and supervise her baking while I tended to baby. It was a win-win-win [because all the kids were excited to eat her creation, she was excited to have the opportunity to bake, and I didn’t have the hands to do it!]

This is not to say that an only child never learn autonomy, but it is easier to delay this development. In a larger family, children naturally have to become more self-sufficient earlier, because parents can’t possibly do everything for everyone.

This same development can be mirrored in helping children to become spiritually autonomous as well. Allowing older kids to lead devotions, encouraging those who can read to read the Word of God, and having everyone who can speak take turns during family prayer time or with their special night to pray for dinner for all. The more a child can and does do, the more autonomy they will develop while still under our spiritual guidance.

Posted in Children, Church, Growing Up Together, Parents, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

The Habit of Meeting Together

Image result for families going to churchOne of the habits that most stuck with me from my upbringing is that of going to church. Unless we were sick as a dog or dying, if the doors were open we were there. Of course there were days that I loathed this as a child, but the habit was so instilled in me that when the time came to choose for myself, it was only natural to be in God’s house as often as I could.

And Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us to do exactly this. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Because my parents instilled this habit in me, I have been regularly in a place of Godly instruction, meeting with those who pray for me and encourage me in my walk. I am also positioned to serve God and others. Had I chosen to break habit, or had my parents not fostered the habit to begin with, I would not be connected to the body of Christ, ministering and being ministered to, growing and sowing into others.

Thankfully, God gave me a wonderful Christian husband, and we are inculcating the same consistent church attendance habits in our children. After all, if our lives don’t model the inherent value of meeting with the body of Christ, whose will?

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Growing Up Together, Parents, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Kid-Led Devos

Image result for kids reading the bibleBusy. Our household feels like it is constantly on the run. However we want to instill in our kids the value of making time to spend with God.

However, sitting six young kids down to family devos hasn’t always been successful. Often times they wiggle and don’t pay attention, because they themselves are not engaged in the process beyond looking and listening. Even directing a Q & A session can be difficult with this approach.

One way that we have found to improve devo focus with the older kids [currently ages 8 through 12…though any child capable of reading can do this with the right resource] is to have everyone take a 10-minute devotional break after a meal.

How we structure this 10-minutes:

  1. The kids find a quiet spot to read their chosen scripture/passage/devo and reflect on what this means to them.
  2. We call the kids one at a time to come talk to us about what they read, asking questions to get them to consider deeper meanings/connections.

Going forward, we would like to see them spend more time and add prayer. But we’ve really liked the results so far for getting our pre-tweens and tween started on the path to an autonomous devotional life.

Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Parents, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Sorrow and Forgiveness

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

Image result for kids hugging + image“I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” Two of the hardest things to overcome adult pride and say. Partially because in our childhood, preserving pride was probably modeled rather than sorrow [aka being sorry] and forgiveness.

However, beyond modeling true sorrow and forgiveness, as our children’s spiritual guides, we ought also to instruct them in when to be and how to show this sorrow and/or forgiveness as appropriate.

When they are young, we walk them through making their offenses right with siblings and other relatives or playmates. In our house, from the time our children could walk and talk [and take toys, and bite or pull hair, or whatever the childish offense may have been], we: 1) required the offending child to say, “I’m sorry,” and hug the one they hurt; 2) required the offended child to say, “I forgive you,” and hug back the one who hurt them; 3) spoke to both children about how God wants us to truly be sorry for the wrong that we do and make it right with those we hurt, and how He wants us to forgive those who wrong us. Often we included scriptures about loving God and each other as a foundation to the need for sorrow and  forgiveness.

As our children get older, we expect them to start to demonstrate spiritual autonomy in both habit and right attitudes. If they do not, we take the opportunity to bring our children back to the Word and instruct them again, hoping to correct the inner workings leading to the wrong actions and attitudes.

Lord willing, this start on the path of sorrow and forgiveness will take root in their hearts so that, when they are on their own, our children–to the glory and honor of God–will not depart from it. We pray that we will be faithful to instruct our children, so that they will truly forgive others as the Lord forgave them.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Growing Up Together, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Yours and Mine

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6 [NIV]

Image result for train up a childSpiritual autonomy. The ultimate goal of parenting. We know that our children cannot get to heaven, cannot receive the reward of eternal life, based on our faith. They have to make their faith their own.

This starts at the earliest age of training children in the way they should go. And spiritual autonomy–the ability and desire to do something on one’s own– mirrors the development of physical independence.

While a child is unable to walk, talk or reason, they are absorbing habits and forming reactions to regular actions. At this stage we take our children to church regularly, read simplified Bible stories/verses, sing songs, and pray with them.

When a child begins school, their intellectual and physical development soars. So as parents we look for opportunities to also give them spiritual autonomy. They still can’t take themselves to church at this age, nor would we expect them to. And sometimes, they aren’t interested, though hopefully this is not the case. But can they read the simple stories/verses for themselves now? Encourage them to read these to you and then talk about them. They can certainly choose songs to sing and pray for meals and before bedtime. As they grow we can encourage them to grow in this simple prayer life as well.

And as we guide our children through developing this spiritual autonomy, we need always ask: do they have a personal knowledge of our Savior? Does my child refer to God as my God and mean it? Or does she think of Him as Mom and Dad’s God?

Seed spiritual autonomy now and when our children grow up, they will continue to love God personally.