Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Knowing God's Word, Obedience, Parents, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Parent Practice

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1

Image result for angry childObviously, I don’t believe that there are children out there reading this blog. However, as Christian parents who are raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, we try to infuse their understanding with scripture.

There have been many times that my children do not want to and have not obeyed me. And when they receive the consequence, their faces are often downcast like Cain’s was in Genesis when he didn’t bring an offering in the right way. They pout and cross their arms, more angry that they are in trouble for their wrongdoing than upset with themselves for having done wrong. There is no repentance in them in these moments.

But I have long felt led to mete out consequences with an explanation. Discipline with the scriptural-behind-the-scenes. I want my children to know that Mama loves them and that God loves them. And because of this, God has placed my husband and I as their spiritual guardians until which time they are able to choose for themselves. But also because of this, God expects them as the children to obey. And not just saying and doing something because that’s what they’ve been told, but Ephesians says obey in the Lord. The Hebrew here could also be translated obey as to the Lord.

We have a saying in our house when it comes to obedience. Quickly and cheerfully. If God asked us to do something, or if we desired to do something for someone we love, we would do so quickly and cheerfully. So obeying Mama and Papa, to God’s glory and honor, should be done the same way.

That does not mean that we will never be wrong. It does not mean that it will always be fair or fun. But if our children learn to obey us quickly and cheerfully now, while they are young, then this same habit and the emotion it carries, will follow with them into their college and career, into their own marriage and family, and for the rest of their lives when the only one that they will need to obey is God.

Mama and Papa? We’re just practice, we’re just getting them warmed up for the real deal.

Posted in Children, Christian Family Devotions, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Knowing God's Word, Loving God, Parents, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

All Day Teachable

“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.” Deuteronomy 6:7-9

Image result for scripture on the wallAs an educator, this scripture really hits home for parents passing on the truth of God, as A.W. Tozer puts it, “undimmed and undiminished.” In verse 7, we’re commanded to impress God’s commands on our children, and then God uses the remainder of this passage to let us know how we can make that happen.

In undergrad, I read plenty of studies about the merits of teachable moments, active engagement, time on task and enriched educational environments. Since God created our brains and understands how we each learn best, it’s no wonder that He prescribed research sound educational techniques for families long before the first schools were ever founded and even longer before even one research study was done on the subject.

Teachable moments are those times when a we seize the natural interest/curiosity of a child as it blooms in front of us and make the most of the opportunity to infuse them with as much understanding as they can get at that time.  When God herein basically tells parents to keep His Word activated throughout the day, the natural result of this is to saturate our children with the knowledge of the Holy in response to their inquiry as life presents them with questions and challenges.

Active engagement means that the student is the one who is directing the investigation and time on task means that it is the student who is actively processing the material. What better way for this to occur than when the family’s daily discourse centers around God’s Word–sitting and walking all day from getting up to going to bed?

Enriched environment means that a history class will have visuals and other materials that keep the whole room focused on the subject of history–specifically the points of history being studied in the current unit. And the same goes for math, health, science, world language, et al. God actually commands His people to take it a step further here. Yes, post them all over your home and even on the landscaping around your home, but also wear them on your body–jewelry, t-shirts, hats…the more we can infuse our lives with the Word of God, the better we will remember it.

Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Loving God, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Hear

“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Deuteronomy 6:4

Image result for ear + imageThe opening verse to the Shema is so critical to growing a family and a personal life in the Lord. First, as Israel was being led into the desert out of Egypt and given heart-set commands from God, He addressed the Egyptian and Canaanite mindsets around them. One they were leaving, and the other they were about to walk into.

Before even this though, God opens what He is about to say with a single instruction.

Hear.

It seems like simple a simple word, one that a reader can gloss over, take for granted. But herein lies a world of trouble for many who would come to Christ.

Hear. To be told or informed of. To be aware of or know the existence of. To listen or pay attention to. To listen to all that someone has to say. To listen and grant.

In our day, many have become ultra-visual receptors. That is that we listen with our eyes. TV, social media, devices, billboards, everything around us grabs our attention and stimulates our understanding through the lens of sight rather than the filter of ears.

But I believe that the Israelites had also become a visually stimulated people, absorbing all of the sights and cultures of their masters in Egypt. That is why God needed to tell them when He uprooted them from the only life they’d ever experienced–because at the exodus, none alive had ever lived outside the bondage of Egypt save Moses–and began to instruct them by telling them to use their ears.

Jesus addressed this deficit as well, saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear” [Matthew 11:15, 13:9 & 14:43; Mark 4:9 & 4:23; Luke 8:8 & 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 2:11 & 3:6].

Why? Because God speaks. He spoke all that is into existence [Genesis 1:1]. He spoke with His Creation–Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:9]. He spoke to Abraham [Genesis 17:9] and the other patriarchs. He spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways [Hebrews 1:1]. He sent the Word of Life–His Son, Jesus–to speak and call the world to repentance [Matthew 9:7]. He spoke on the day of Pentecost to people from every language group [Acts 2:4-6]. And He still speaks today.

And because God also hears [1 Samuel 1:20]. He hears our prayers. We wouldn’t petition the throne of God if we didn’t believe with our all hearts, souls and minds that He alone is able to do beyond all that we could ask or imagine–and that He wants to, because He loves us.

We love Him because He first loved us. Shouldn’t we also hear Him, because He hears and listens to and grants petitions to each of us?

Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Growing Up Together, Loving God, Parents, Prayer, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized, Worship

The Bread of Sincerity

“Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

Image result for injeraIn our society today, it is hard for our children to imagine the need for God to provide food for us. After all, most of us have jobs and are able to make sure that our children not only eat what they need, but much of what they want–as much as they want, as often they want–everyday.

However, we try to impress on our children that even this type of bounty comes only from the Lord. He provides us with our job. He blesses us with the ability to be able to enjoy a variety of foods at each meal and other times throughout the day. He still maintains the seasons and global systems that allow food to grow. By His design our bodies extract nourishment from our food and deliver it throughout our bodies.

So demonstrating sincerity in mealtime prayer as thank God for providing for us is a very real thing. Our children need to see and hear our sincerity. Because we truly would not have the blessings and bounty that we do in our every day lives without God. That is not to preach a prosperity gospel. Not at all. But only to acknowledge that it is God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10]. It is God who provides. It is God who gives the increase.

And it is God who sincerely deserves the glory for the good things that we are able to provide for our children.

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

Family Rock

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24

Image result for house built on rock + imageThe house is our life, marriage and family. The rock is Jesus. Whatever storms may come–and come they will–we will only weather them if we have built on Christ.

How do we build our selves, marriage and family on Him?

Be in the Word. As an individual, as a couple and as a family. Read. Meditate. Discuss. Live out the truth of God with sincerity.

Acknowledge God, and be in a personal relationship with Him. As an individual, as a couple and as a family. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks. Worship and give praise. Live out your love for God with sincerity.

When the storms come, don’t give up on your anchors–Bible study, prayer, praise and worship–but encourage one another through these.

 In this world, trouble will come, but Christ has overcome [John 16:33] and if He is our rock, then we too will overcome.

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?