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

TV-Watching, Media-Consuming Sincerity

“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:32

Image result for family watching tvIt’s hard to watch TV as a family. Very hard.

Our oldest son, now 10, is a renegade Patriots fan and was so excited to get to watch his first full Super Bowl–complete with Brady jersey. We’d planned to monitor commercials very closely and to send our children to get ready for bed during the half-time show, but even flipping the channels at inappropriate commercials felt like we were majorly messing up. By the time something inappropriate came up, we couldn’t flip fast enough, and the TV seemed to freeze that last inappropriate image–that we were trying to avoid–on screen while booting up the next channel. Ugh!

Obviously, we figured we’d be doing a lot of channel flipping at commercials. We knew we didn’t want to take a chance on the half-time show, just in case. Yet on any given afternoon/evening after the kids are home from school, the homework and dinner is done, and the kids sit down to watch some kid-friendly, and usually educational, TV programming we run into the same problem.

One thing that I’ve noticed with my kids through all of this, they know what they’re not supposed to see. Just last night, my husband was side-tracked with our youngest daughter when an inappropriate commercial came on, and our oldest son called him relentlessly to change the channel because he knew that the content wasn’t appropriate for himself or any other sibling in the room. Praise the Lord!

Our oldest daughter, now 12, has to search images for PowerPoint homework assignments, and she  clicks out of the image tile screen if something wrong pops up and then changes search terms. Hallelujah!

By our conviction as parents, when we watch TV as a family our children have learned which things they should not allow to enter their vision–and therefore their minds. When one of them asks why we left the channel, we tell them, “They [the characters] weren’t doing something that God is pleased with. They were disobeying His Word.” It’s that simple.

As they get older, we discuss the scripture more in depth so that they understand what God doesn’t approve of and know where He says it in His Word. By our reactions to ungodly cultural portrayals on TV and media, our children see the sincerity of our relationship with God.

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

Impressing God on Their Lives

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23

Image result for worship + imageWorship must be sincere–without wax. God can see the heart of a man, but our children can see it too. They will know if our worship is sincere or not. Because worship of the heart comes out in a life.

God commands us to have no other gods, to not make any images into gods, and to not use His name emptily. He alone created all that is. There is no other like Him.

Our children will know–maybe before we do–if we allow something else to become a god in our life. They will know what images we worship with our time and attention. They will see right through our empty invocation of the name of God Almighty. They will know because they have a God-given intuition when it comes to their parents. They themselves have occupied the place of undiverted love and attention, and because they see our daily lives.

If we worship God in the Spirit and truth, not only will we be the kind of worshipers the Father seeks, we will be the kind of worshipers that our children should emanate. The kind of worshipers whose love will overflow into our children’s lives in an indisputable way. In the way that will leave the impression of God on their lives.

Posted in Children, Fostering Godly Character, Loving God, Parents, Seeds of Faith, Uncategorized

Spilling Jesus into the World

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

Image result for overflowing water + imageAs parents, we are teachers 24-7 to our children. Of course, James did not mean that parents shouldn’t teach their children or that believers shouldn’t become parents. His exhortation simply makes readers aware of the great responsibility born by we who teach–we will be judged more strictly.

By God, yes, because teaching is the highest form of learning. In order to teach, one must have a more intimate knowledge of the truth than those they are teaching. So they are also held more responsible for living out that truth.

But by our fellow man as well. Others will look closely at the life of one who professes God’s Word to others. Does their life align with the truth they are teaching? Are they sincere in their faith and genuine in their love?

Our children will also judge us strictly, for by the life we lead by example, we demonstrate 24-7 what we truly believe about God. We demonstrate whether or not we genuinely have a personal relationship with Him or not. “For all of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ,” [Galatians 3:27].

If the Holy Spirit indwells us–and if we are believers then He does–we are Jesus with skin on as we walk this world. Our first responsibility is to be Christ to our spouse and our kids. To touch their lives with the love that only God can give. Our marriages and families should so overflow with the love of Jesus that it spills into our neighborhood, community and the world at large.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” [John 13:35]. Everyone–starting with your spouse and children, and rippling outward to change the world to the glory and honor of God alone.

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, Fostering Godly Character, Parents, Seeds of Faith, Spiritual Autonomy, Uncategorized

Without Wax

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9

Image result for broken potteryThe word sincere means without [sin] wax [cere]. It was once used to describe pottery that could be trusted to be without defects.

Defective pottery–in the hands of a dishonest merchant–would have the cracks and chips filled with wax that was then painted over, giving the appearance of a perfect vessel. However, when the purchaser of the pot would try to fill it, the wax would break loose revealing the true nature of the piece.

Our testimony to our children needs to be sincere–without wax. Even unborn babies can hear the way that parents speak with one another and feel the presence or absence of love. And a teen can tell in a heartbeat if someone is being two-faced or disingenuous in their treatment of another or their love for God.

No amount of wax and polish can make our children believe that we love God and other people if we truly don’t. They will see right through our fake smiles and half-hearted giving. And our children will learn to love others based on the pattern of love that we parents live out.

Therefore, Romans 12:9 says, we need to cling to what is good. Which means we need to understand what is good. God is good. Cling to God. God’s Word is good. Cling to His Word which tells us to love sincerely. Genuinely. Without Wax.

Is there any area of your love for God or others that is just polished wax? Ask God to show you and to heal that brokenness so that your love for all will be sincere. And so that your children will know it.

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.