Kids Will Be Kids (No Matter What You Do)

Our children’s behavior reflects on us, it’s true. But there are some things we just can’t control. This month on www.pastorswives.com, I share about one time that happened to me.

Finally! Our three-year-old was old enough to sing in the preschool children’s choir. She was so excited; we were so proud. Sure, it was “Jesus Loves Me” (or something similar), and sure, every church kid ever has done the same thing. But this was our child: our cute, sweet, well-behaved little girl. I put her in her best dress and made sure her pigtails were even for her big debut.

You know something embarrassing is about to happen, don’t you? Catch the rest here. Then leave me a comment over there or pop back in here with your thoughts. Pastor’s wife or not, what do you think?

Our kids will act like kids because they ARE kids. (click to tweet)

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

It’s about creation. It’s about sovereignty. It’s about protection. It’s about salvation.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

I left one of my favorite Sunday School songs for last, and in these days after Christmas, when our minds still dwell on the baby in the manger, these simple words seem even more profound. In the tiny hands of a newborn rested all the world…in every sense of the word. He, through whom the world was made (Hebrews 1:2), figuratively held the Planet Earth in His hands.

He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.

Sometimes when we talk about the world, however, we mean all the people on the planet. Like in Joy to the World, there’s the line, “the weary world rejoices.” In that way, too, He holds us all. He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matt 10:29-30) and the number of days we’ll remain on earth (Psalm 39:4-5). He holds our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows (Psalm 139, Matthew 6:27, 34). Nothing happens without His knowledge. Truly, He is sovereign.

I’m struck here by the combined intimacy and sovereignty of our Lord. Think about that for a moment.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

“Hold my hand,” I told my little ones when we went into public places or crossed a street. In the same way, Jesus holds our hands as we walk through life. The Psalmist wrote,

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. -Psalm 138:7

Those tiny hands that reached for the dust floating in the stable’s light also protect us from everything that is not part of His will for our lives.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

When someone takes responsibility for something, we say, “It’s in your hands.” Christ Jesus, though no longer a baby, took responsibility for our sinfulness when He died on the cross. The nails that penetrated His hands and sunk into the wood behind them at the same time punctured the consequences of our sin so that we became free through His bondage (Isaiah 53:5, Romans 5:9-11, Hebrews 1:3). He carried the salvation of the whole world in His hands.

All these ways we rest in Jesus’ hands? It’s not just you who reads this or me. Recall the other verses of our song:

…you and me, brother

…you and me, sister

…little bitty babies

…the mamas and the papas

…everybody

Maybe it’s simplistic, but this song brings me peace. I find rest in these facts:

  • He is the structure upon which our world stands,
  • He is sovereign,
  • He offers safety,
  • He saves.

The same hands that reached for dust in the stable’s light hold “the whole world.” (click to tweet)

Structure, sovereignty, safety, salvation—all because “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” (click to tweet)

When you sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” what comes to your mind? How does this song make you feel? Please share in the comments below!

Series Conclusion

I’ve known most of these Sunday School songs since before I could speak plainly. Simple or strange, silly or significant (or sometimes both!), they are the foundation of my spiritual worldview. I didn’t realize that fact until now, as I look back on the series. So, for me, returning to them as an adult affirms the fundamentals of my faith. They bring me back to some of the most important truths we possess as believers. Seems like I needed that this year. I pray they’ve done the same for you as we dug into them together.

 

ss-songs-whole-world
(c) Carole Sparks

Attribution: traditional American spiritual (several on-line sources)

 Previously in this series:

This Little Light of Mine

The B-I-B-L-E

Deep and Wide

Zacchaeus

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I’ve Got the Joy

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

Father Abraham

My God Is So Big

If You’re Happy and You Know It

 

 

Discipline is Designed to Disciple

When my firstborn was toddling around—less than a year old—she once stuck her finger in an unguarded electrical outlet. (At someone else’s house. Of course, we had covers on our own outlets!) I grabbed her hand immediately. I got down where she could see my face. I looked her in the eye, and while squeezing her little hand just until I could see that it was hurting her, I said “no” in my most serious voice. If I remember correctly, I only had to do this twice before she learned not to put her fingers in electrical outlets. Yes, I hurt her just a little bit, but way less than if she’d been electrocuted. I thought of it like a vaccine: a little pain now to prevent a lot of pain later. I squeezed so tightly for her own good.

Parental discipline is like a vaccine: a little pain now to prevent a lot of pain later. (click to tweet)

I disciplined her in the only way her young mind could understand. It was an action/reaction concept: if I put my fingers here, then I hurt. The discipline was immediate and tangible because her brain wouldn’t have processed anything else. Why did I hurt her when she was so young?

  • I knew she was capable of understanding it. (The form of discipline matched her maturity level.)
  • I wanted to protect her in the future. I might not be watching so closely next time.
  • I loved her (still do) and didn’t want her to be seriously injured.
  • I wanted her to begin practicing self-control.

I did not squeeze her hand…

  • Because I was angry,
  • Because I wanted her to hurt,
  • Because she irritated, interrupted, or embarrassed me.

This is the difference between punishment and discipline.

Parental punishment is about me: my anger, my needs, my embarrassment, my convenience, my sense of entitlement or frustration with the situation.

Parental discipline is about my child’s physical well-being and spiritual growth. That’s all.

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. -Proverbs 13:24

In Intentional Parenting, we teach our children in advance, but we also watch for opportunities to correct through discipline. There’s no love in pampering them, in hiding their sins and failures from them, in allowing them reckless “freedom” that ultimately enslaves them to their own desires. Discipline is something we do carefully and purposefully because we love our children.

My children have grown since the electrical outlet incident. They’re both in double-digits now, and squeezing hands isn’t the best option anymore. (Sometimes I wish it was. It was so much easier!) This week, however, I had a chance to practice some fairly serious discipline with one of my children.

At first, I was so angry that I had to just send him to his room. I felt like there was steam coming out of my ears, and I’m sure my face was red! I wanted to punish him. I wanted him to hurt. (Don’t judge. You know you’ve felt the same.) Because I was angry, I was in no state-of-mind to discipline properly. Once I calmed myself down, I went to him and told him I needed to talk with his dad about the discipline. I still didn’t trust myself, honestly. As we talked a little, I made sure he knew I loved him. The next morning, having talked with his dad, we sat down and discussed the situation calmly and arrived at some discipline that fit the situation and aligned with his maturity level. I’m praying it helps him grow in wisdom and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Some observations about discipline:

Good discipline comes out of love. We already talked about this one.

Good discipline comes out of humility. I do not present myself as better than my child but as another sinner learning how to please God throughout my life.

Good discipline comes out of obligation. As another Christ-follower, as one called to be his parent, it is my duty to correct my child when he fails. I’m helping him understand how to follow Christ more completely.

Good discipline is a product of peace. I’m talking about Biblical shalom, that confidence in God’s sovereignty over His creation and the security of knowing He loves me. Anger dismisses His sovereignty. It says I deserve something or I have been wronged. With peace, I approach my child in the confidence of God’s economy.

Good discipline aligns with the child’s maturity level and spiritual state. The wise parent desires her child to learn from the error/sin through the discipline. Just like you don’t teach first graders calculus, it takes thoughtfulness (and sometimes wracking your brain) to provide discipline at each age. If the child has accepted Christ as Lord of his life, that significantly influences the way discipline is given.

Good discipline ends. What could be more miserable than to be repeatedly reminded of a failure from your past? Trust the Holy Spirit to work in your child’s heart and lay aside the situation once the discipline is complete.

Good discipline is reserved for disobedience or danger and other clear acts of sin. Children will be foolish and forgetful. They’re ignorant of many things we take for granted as adults. Before enacting discipline, be sure the situation warrants it. Perhaps a good “talking to” (a Southern term) is all they need.

With older children…

There’s a reason discipline and disciple look so much like. Add these to the description of good discipline when your children are past the stage where physical things work best.

Good discipline is mutually-agreed-upon. We discuss ways for him to learn what is necessary. It’s important for him to understand why he must forfeit a privilege or spend time alone or do something extra. He doesn’t like it, but he understands the purpose. If he doesn’t understand why it’s happening, then he will not learn. That’s punishment, not discipline.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -Hebrews 12:11

Good discipline involves follow-up. After the discipline phase is completed, we come back to the subject at least once more to test what he’s learned. If it arises around the same time in a sermon, book, or other medium, we’ll mention it again. (See “Good Discipline Ends” above for the balance on this.)

Good discipline incorporates forgiveness. If I’ve personally been wronged, I must intentionally and specifically forgive my child. If my child has wronged someone else, he must clearly request forgiveness—including an explanation of how he now understands his behavior. He must also ask for God’s forgiveness. Never leave your child wondering if everything is “right” between the two of you afterward.

Good discipline renews trust. A follow-up time gives the parent an opportunity to talk about trust. Can you trust your child again? Do you need to see evidence of a changed heart first? Does there need to be a trial period? Make all this clear rather than leaving your child guessing.

The child who is disciplined in a Godly way will see the wisdom of Proverbs 12:1…and probably enjoy that the Bible calls someone “stupid.”

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. -Proverbs 12:1

11 characteristics of good discipline for #IntentionalParenting. (click to tweet)

prov-12-1-meme

For further reading:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (more for younger kids)

Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp (for teenagers)

Yes, they are brothers. Both of these books offer excellent sections on Biblical discipline. If you’re struggling with this issue, I urge you to take a look at the appropriate one.

Seashell Assumptions

broken-shell
sea shell skeleton (c) Carole Sparks

We wandered down the beach in the early light, the first to imprint the sand with our feet that morning. We stopped with almost every step, scanning the sand for seashells. The sand was much further away for me than for my four-year-old. I was selective, only making the effort to bend over if I saw exceptional colors on perfectly formed shells. She wasn’t so selective. “Look at this one, Mama!” she said for the forty-seventh time in ten minutes. More often than not, “this one” was dirt brown and broken, well on its way to becoming sand.

“Oh, throw that one back. It’s not beautiful,” I told her more than once. “Look at this one, how perfect it is, how nice the colors are.”

“But I like it.” She looked a little sad. “It’s interesting. Look how you can see the inside—all the spaces. I think this is beautiful, too.”

An objection formed on my month but didn’t escape my lips. What was I teaching my child by insisting that “beautiful” and “perfect” or “whole” were the same thing? What did that assumption imply about people? Surely, I didn’t think the only beautiful people were those considered whole, attractive, and pristine in the world’s eyes!

I didn’t mean to teach my child that, but I was.

She saw the woman in the wheelchair at the grocery store. She saw the burned man at the next table in the restaurant. She saw the homeless man wandering down the street, talking to himself as I drove past him. I valued such people—ones the world might consider broken—and knew they were loved. I tried to show respect when I could. But such people weren’t part of our everyday experience any more than walks on the beach, so we hadn’t really talked about it. By rejecting the broken shells, I implied that some things (maybe even people) were more valuable than others because of their appearance. I knew I needed to correct myself before my daughter subconsciously acquired my tainted values.

I squatted down beside her and held out my hand to receive the broken shell. She ran down to wash it off in the water before placing it carefully in my palm. It was beautiful: intricate structure and shades of color that revealed a Creator much more clearly than the smooth outer surface of my “perfect” shells ever could, but it also, through its brokenness, told a story, and even though I didn’t know the story, I knew it was a beautiful story.

The Scriptures say we are each woven together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139), that He has plans for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and that he values us above everything else He created (Matthew 6:25-34). We easily apply these Truths to ourselves but find it more difficult to apply the same standards to others. If I want to live out the Word of God in my own life and as a parent, I must believe these verses are true for every person, regardless of their outward appearance, not just for me as the reader. Then I must intentionally lead my children to believe the same thing.

All of us have prejudices (or at least assumptions). They are part of our sin-tainted worldviews, sometimes buried so deep we don’t even realize they are there. The challenge comes in discovering them because they are so deeply ingrained. With intentional parenting, God calls us to lay bare those assumptions and purge them from our lives and our words before we unwittingly implant them in our children’s minds.

Throw back the broken ones? No, they’re beautiful too, just like people. (click to tweet)

What have you taught your kids without realizing it? What assumptions have colored your conversations so that you had to correct them later? I know I’m not alone in this. Please share!

 

 

 

Respect is a Two-Way Street

We all want—no, expect—our children to respect us. It’s Biblical, right? Both the Old and New Testaments say, “Honor your father and mother” (e.g. Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). We are right to expect respect, but no matter how much we quote these verses, no matter how much we stomp our feet and vociferously demand respect, we don’t always get it.

Why not? Well, part of the reason is the sin nature with which both we and our children were born. Part of the reason is our culture and the influences of media, peers, etc. But may I submit something to you? Perhaps another part of the reason our children don’t respect us is because we don’t respect them. Respect is a two-way street.

In Intentional Parenting, we model respect for our own elders and superiors (at work, church, etc.). We also talk about respect, about how honoring others honors God and other associated Biblical concepts, such as “The Golden Rule.” Sometimes, however, we forget to apply those same Biblical concepts within our families as well.

Need some solutions? Here are a few age-appropriate ways to demonstrate respect toward your children. You can expect that respect to be reciprocated.

At Any Age

Follow through on your promises and commitments. If you said you’ll read a book before bed, then read a book. No excuses. If you said, “One more time and you lose [a certain privilege],” then after one more time, they lose that privilege.

This kind of integrity demonstrates that your words to the child actually mean something. When you begin to do what you say you will do, they will start listening.

Young Children

From the first visit to a playground or first playdate, institute a two-minute warning. Two minutes before you need to leave, tell the child he/she has two minutes remaining to play. (We usually tried to give a five-minute warning as well.) This simple warning has helped us avoid so many tantrums! I know because the times we didn’t give a warning were so much more difficult.

When you, as an adult, are busy on a project or in a conversation, you don’t like to be interrupted. Even worse, you don’t want to be forced to stop without warning. I don’t either. Why do we think it’s any easier for our children?

Early Elementary

Allow your children to make as many decisions as possible. Before you correct (or laugh—even worse!), ask yourself if it really matters. Toy storage locations, everyday clothes worn, books to read, interests to pursue…all these are decisions a six-year-old can make. Maybe you prefer the Legos in the bin on the left and the doll clothes in the bin on the right; maybe there are even good reasons for your preference, but as long as there’s no danger, allow your child the choice. That “ownership” in the location of the toys may even help at clean-up time.

Children at this age long for independence, but they have so little. By allowing their decisions to stand, we demonstrate the validity of their choices and affirm the children as independent thinkers. Besides functioning as a confidence builder and sign of respect, this approach will help your children know that when you do object, there’s an important reason.

Middle-Grade Children

Elementary and middle-grade children have so many stories to tell. Let’s be honest, though. Some of them are boring. Long and boring. As parents, we may be tempted to interrupt with something unrelated or jump in and quickly finish the story ourselves. Don’t interrupt. Allow them to finish the stories. (At our house, we have a sign for “make this shorter” when the story gets too long. It helps.) If it’s necessary to interrupt, say “Excuse me,” just like you would if interrupting an adult.

From the time they could speak, we’ve taught our children not to interrupt us. Allowing them the same honor says their experiences are valuable and their family participation is important.

Tweens and Teens

If your child asks you not to show affection in a certain way or say a certain thing in front of his/her friends, don’t do it. Respect their public image. Public displays of affection, pet names, even cheering too loudly may infantilize our teenagers (at least in their own eyes), and it may be fodder for teasing or bullying among their peers. Our teenagers don’t deserve that. Don’t worry, they’ll still enjoy the hugs, pats, and verbal affection in private. Also, refrain from telling embarrassing stories or showing naked baby pictures no matter how cute they are.

Let’s face it; we will embarrass our teenagers. It’s inevitable. But our efforts to minimize the embarrassment demonstrate our respect for their increased maturity. That respect will surely be reciprocated.

Reciprocate Respect

The world says respect is earned, not given. Contrary to the world, however, the Bible says every person—regardless of position or power—is a unique creation of God Most High (Psalm 139, for example). We begin there: every person deserves respect. This is not a burden to lay on our children (that they should respect us) but a principle to lay under our interactions with our children (that they are worthy of respect). At the same time, however, we parents should live lives worthy of our children’s respect. That’s just a given. We clear the way for respectful responses when we demonstrate respect in our interactions with them. Respect is a two-way street.

Respect your children at every age and you can expect respect from them-5 ideas. (click to tweet)

I thought about sharing stories of parents carrying their children from the playground in the middle of a temper tantrum, but let’s not do that. Instead, use the comments below to share some positive stories of reciprocated respect. Let us hear from you!

respect-2-way-street
Rainy road (c) Carole Sparks

Of Soft Toothbrushes and Soft Answers

She liked to play quietly and she went to sleep without any problems. She was an easy-going three-year-old for the most part…

Except for twice a day, when it was time to brush her teeth.

For some reason, she hated teeth-brushing. It wasn’t the paste (designed for kids). It wasn’t the bristles on the brush (extra soft). It wasn’t the brushing (very, very gentle). It wasn’t my attitude…at least at first. Nevertheless, when she saw me squeeze the paste onto the toothbrush, she inevitably started squirming. She would wiggle and refuse to open her mouth. I would raise my voice. She would start crying. I would grip her jaw more tightly and hope her Dad could be home for the next session. By the time we finished, she and I both needed a time out.

I tried logic: “Brushing your teeth keeps your mouth from getting sick and helps your teeth be strong. You want strong teeth, don’t you?”

I tried identifying with her: “We all have to do things we don’t like to do. Mommy doesn’t like washing dishes, yet she does it every day. It’s just part of life.”

I tried bribery (but not with candy because would have been just too hypocritical): “When we finish here, you can watch a video!”

Nothing worked. This happened twice every day, but we had to brush her teeth. Such things aren’t optional. Still, she and I both dreaded it.

I felt silly, but I took our problem to the Lord. We had awkwardly prayed through potty training, and this felt similar. Like most of us, some of my prayers were of the “change her” variety and only a few were of the “change me” variety. (Just by the way, “change me” invariably works better.)

Not immediately but rather quickly, the most commonplace of verses came to mind:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1 NKJV

Really, Lord? Is that all I get?

I tried it at our next teeth-brushing session. Even when she protested, I stayed calm. I kept my voice soft and gentle. Then, instead of crying and becoming more difficult, my child responded to my gentleness and calmed down too. We made it through the process without tears or harsh words or threats!

Quotefancy-4366-3840x2160
http://www.quotefancy.com

It’s been ten years since those terrible teeth-brushing days, but I’m still thankful God sent us through them. I learned something about my child—about most children who haven’t been conditioned otherwise—that remains true. She doesn’t respond well to raised voices, yelling, or harsh tones. I wish I could say I’ve never yelled at her since those days in the yellow-and-white-striped bathroom, but I can say this: Raising my voice has never been effective with this one.

Reading recently, we came upon this:

Her face was pure, furious, madder-than-mad human. “Did you hear me, boy?”

I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t good at quick answers when people yelled.

-Joy Cowley in Stories of the Wild West Gang

Looks like my child is not alone.

Two things here. I pray they help you with whatever parent-child struggle you are currently facing.

  1. God hears our parenting prayers and often answers them through His Word. (click to tweet) Just pay attention.
  2. In Intentional Parenting, it’s the parent’s responsibility to pay attention to the child’s responses and learn how best to discipline each individual child.

What about you? Use the comment section to tell us how God has guided your parenting though His Word! 

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: Jesus Loves the Little Children

This must be one of the simplest children’s songs we sang in Sunday School when I was growing up. Bonus: it helped us learn our colors! Not that people are actually red or any of the other colors listed, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s start at the beginning.

Jesus loves the little children

SS Songs - Jesus loves children
My first Bible (c) Carole Sparks

When you think of this song, you probably recall Jesus blessing some children. Maybe there was even a picture like this one in your children’s Bible or hanging in your church. That situation happens in Matthew 19:13-15 (also Mark 10:13-16 and Luke 18:15-17). It’s short, so let’s just read it here.

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Why did the disciples rebuke (that means scold or correct) those parents? I can only think of one possibility: they thought Jesus had more important things to do. Maybe they were in a hurry, since the text says they left as soon as He finished blessing the kids. Or maybe the disciples just thought Jesus should focus on the grown-ups, the important people. Far more so than today, children in that culture had very little value. Luke says they were actually babies (Luke 18:15), who couldn’t even respond to Jesus.

But Jesus valued them. He stopped talking to the grown-ups; he delayed his trip a little. Why? So he could smile into their eyes, put his hand on their heads, and bless them. Would they even remember this moment? Only the older ones, but that didn’t matter to Jesus.

Yes, we must teach our children to respect their elders. Yes, we must teach them not to interrupt us constantly. Let’s be careful, though, not to imply by our actions that they are unimportant. Pay attention to the times you say “wait” and the times you divert your attention toward them. Make a conscious decision to train them in respect and/or patience at times or to reinforce their importance—their priority—in your life. This is the epitome of intentional parenting.

Personally, I hate to lose my train of thought (especially when I’m writing). I also hate to miss part of a good news story on NPR. So I confess that I react far more often that I respond thoughtfully, and I’m convicted by this children’s song. *Insert groan of frustration here.*

All the children of the world

Okay, get ready for more conviction. This one is tough.

“All” really means all: the impoverished kid in Africa with no diaper and no shoes, the refugee kid in Greece who will never return to his home, the child of a Muslim terrorist pressing his forehead to the mat in prayers this evening, the minority kid who needs ESL help in your child’s classroom. All these children matter just as much to God as your child. As parents, we’re hard-wired to protect and promote our own children above all others. But God wants the absolute very best for every child in the world. He wants it fiercely, as fiercely as you would fight for your own child!

I know we can’t personally rescue every child in a difficult situation, and I’m not suggesting we open an orphanage or move to the other side of the world. Really, what I know I need (and maybe you too), is an attitude adjustment. It’s so easy to insulate myself, to tie my understanding of God to what happens under my own roof, to think God’s priorities mirror mine. In that case, my kids would always get the best, even to the detriment of other children. The more we can see children (our own and others) with God’s eyes, the better balance we’ll have in this area.

I’m still working on it. If that was you and me near Jesus back in Matthew 19, you can bet I would have been elbowing you out of the way to get my children first in line for a Jesus moment. Pull out the cellphone cameras—this is way better than Santa! (Please infer the sarcasm I intended here.)

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight

None of us are really comfortable with these words any more.  I found one alternative online that said, “Ev’ry color, ev’ry race, all are cover’d by His grace.” That’s pretty good.

At our house, we sometimes substitute the THUMB guide used to pray for world religions: Tribal, Hindu, Unreligious, Muslim, and the Buddhist. That also works.

I already covered the meaning here in the section above.

Jesus loves the little children of the world

The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. –2 Peter 3:9

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. –John 3:16

The next time you hear or sing this song with your little ones, take time to really listen to the words and let God bring balance to your parenting perspective.

Want to share?

Use Jesus Loves the Little Children to bring balance to your parenting perspective. (click to tweet)

Fresh thoughts (for parents) on an old Sunday School song: Jesus Loves the Little Children (click to tweet)

Attribution: Words by C. Herbert Woolston, lyrics by George F. Root (according to this website)

I’ve written about Jesus and children in the past:

Previously in this series:

This Little Light of Mine

The B-I-B-L-E

Deep and Wide

Zacchaeus

Still to come:

  • I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
  • Father Abraham
  • The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
  • My God is So Big

 

Recognize Rest in the Little Moments

I filleted my heart before the Lord. In summary, my prayer went something like this: “I want to spend time in Your Word, Lord. I want to grow spiritually. But I’m buried here, overwhelmed by everyday life.” Through the weeks that followed, He affirmed me in my spirit. There were no audible words, not even from another mother, but I came to understand that wanting to be with Him was enough for this season in my life.

repentance and rest meme

I stopped by Me Too Moments for Mom today. Jump over there to find out how I got to the point I described above and how I learned to “snack” on resting in the Lord when I had little ones in the house.

If my post strikes a chord with you, leave a comment there, or pop back over here and let me know. Let’s create a conversation around soul rest for new moms!

Want to share this post?

Recognize Rest in the Little Moments: a parent’s quick guide to “snacking” on rest. (click to tweet)

 

Reflections on Sunday School Songs: The B-I-B-L-E

Back when I was a little kid, all the pre-school children sang together at the beginning of the Sunday School hour. We sang the same songs so often that they lost any meaning; we didn’t even think about the words. As a teenager, I took over the musical portion of preschool Sunday School for a while, so I reacquainted myself with those same songs. I realized that some of them were keyed way out of my alto range, but I still didn’t pay any attention to the words.

Things about church childcare changed between my own childhood and that of my children. They don’t sing in Sunday School anymore. Heck, they don’t even call it Sunday School nowadays! Feeling nostalgic one day, I got to thinking about what my kids were missing because they didn’t learn those songs. Realistically, from a theological perspective, they aren’t missing much; I’d rather they sing “10,000 Reasons” than “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart.”

Nevertheless, I made a casual attempt to introduce those simple, old songs. In my attempt, our Heavenly Father revealed some surprising truths…and challenges for parents…buried in there with all the silliness.

I wrote about “This Little Light of Mine” last year. For the next few months, I will share a monthly parenting reflection from these children’s songs. This series will replace the Content & Context series that we finished last month.

The B-I-B-L-E

I’m fairly sure I learned how to spell Bible before I could read even the simplest Bible story book. Why did the lyricist spell it? Probably because it’s so easy to rhyme things with E.

Yes that’s the book for me!

My “Go-To” Parenting Book

There are thousands of books about parenting out there. Most of them offer contradictory advice. I’ve found a couple of good ones but these few are good because they are so solidly rooted in Scripture. When it comes to parenting, what’s the book for you? What book will you choose above all others?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17

Feeling a little intimated by the Bible as a whole? (It is big and sometimes random.) Do a search for “parent” or “child” on www.biblegateway.com or another website/app. Prayerfully read those verses and the surrounding context to discover God’s heart for your relationship with your child(ren). It won’t usually give you specifics for the exact situation at hand, but it will point you in the right direction, after which the Holy Spirit can guide you more exactly.

Pointing Our Children to the Word

Not only do we parents seek guidance in the Word, but we also teach our children to use the Bible for their own guidance. Look what Paul wrote to Timothy just before the verses above.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. -2 Timothy 3:14-15

Why was Timothy so strong in his faith? Because he had been learning about the Scriptures and from the Scriptures since he was a baby! Our children are never too young to understand God’s love and desire for their good. Timothy was wise beyond his years because of this training.

The Bible in Our Own Lives

Let’s talk about this for a second. I don’t know how Eunice (his Mom) and Lois (his grandmother) taught Timothy, but they probably didn’t sit down for an hour every day and have family Bible study…although I’m sure they did that sometimes, and probably regularly. I think more often they followed the pattern of Deuteronomy 6:7, where God told the people of Israel to Impress [the Scriptures] 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. In order to talk about the Bible in this manner, you have to know it for yourself.

And thus, we circle back to our song. Is the Bible the book for you? Are you intentionally making space in your life to:

  • learn more than you already know
  • study beyond what is comfortable
  • reflect on what you read
  • obey in a timely fashion?

The Bible will never become the book for your children until it’s the book for you.

I stand upon the Word of God

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. –Psalm 40:2

To stand on the Word of God means to have confidence in it, to rely on it. Remember Gandalf in the Mines of Moria when he confronted the Balrog? Balanced on a narrow outcropping of rock, he declared, “You shall not pass!” He took a stand. (The music in the header photo is from Lord of the Rings, by the way.)

Sometimes in the desire to protect my home from the onslaught of sinful culture, I feel a little like Gandalf, telling destructive habits and attitudes that they “shall not pass” the threshold of my home. I’m standing on that thin outcropping of rock, like he was. Gandalf eventually feel into an abyss. But God is our Rock (Psalm 18:2), and His Word is unmovable. This is where we all have to stand, fellow parents. Our firm place to stand is on His Word!

Our “firm place to stand” is on His Word! (click to tweet)

Struggling with a possible compromise? Feel like giving in to the constant barrage of pressure from the world? The Bible is our standard against which all of life is measured. Go back to His Word. Stand there. Then let everything else wash around you.

The B-I-B-L-E.

When we finished singing this last line in preschool, we would all throw our hands in the air and shout, “Bible!” Oh, the excitement of preschoolers convicts me here. I want to approach the Word of God with joyful abandonment, with hands thrown in the air just because I get to be in His Presence without distraction for a few minutes.

Out of the mouths of babes

As I said, I tried rather half-heartedly to teach these songs to our children when they were preschoolers themselves. I remember the first time our firstborn sang it like this:

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me.

I read and pray, and then obey
The B-I-B-L-E!

“Where’d you hear that?” I asked, “Those aren’t the actual words.”

She replied, “I didn’t hear them anywhere. I made them up.”

In our family, we sing it that way most of the time now. Isn’t it just right? This is how we use the Bible: read, pray, obey. It’s that simple.

 

Author’s Note: I tried to find copyright information or some history for this song, but I could find nothing—not even at Wikipedia. www.childbiblesongs.com says it’s free to use. So I’m going with “public domain” for the song lyrics.

Up-Coming in this series:

  • Zacchaeus
  • Jesus Loves the Little Children
  • I’ve Got the Joy, Joy…
  • Father Abraham
  • The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

How have you been affected by these simple children’s songs? What other songs would you like me to consider? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

9 Good Things My Kids Learn in Public School

Decisions about a child’s education loom large in the mind of every thinking (a.k.a. intentional) parent. I’ve known many parents who lost sleep, wept tears, and passionately prayed about where and/or how to educate their children. While a child’s education path is a big decision, it’s not like you’re giving your child a tattoo. You can change educational formats whenever you need to.

In eight years of formally educating my children, we have experienced every format available except for boarding school: private school, Christian school, homeschool, and public school.  Sometimes the change was the result of a move or shift in circumstances, sometimes it was simply God-directed. Through these many experiences, God has taught me to release the idol of education and place it among my parenting goals, not at the top of my family’s priorities. If my child doesn’t learn to read this year, he will learn next year, and that’s okay. By the time he gets to middle school, it won’t matter. And I’ve never heard anyone say, “If only I had gotten into AP Calculus in high school, my whole life would have turned out differently!” Let’s face it:

  • There is no One Best Way to educate children.
  • That a child learns is far more important than when she learns.
  • Every school environment teaches more than what is gleaned from books.
  • Aside from the fundamentals (reading, writing, basic math), learning how to learn is often more important than what one learns.

In 2014, God very clearly and specifically led us to place our children in public school—one in middle school and one in elementary. Sure, some days are more difficult than they would be if we homeschooled or if they were surrounded by children who shared their Christian worldview. The benefits, however, have been exceptional. While we might see some portion of these benefits in other educational contexts, public school has provided them all…with little added effort on my part. Consider these nine things my kids are learning in public school.

  1. How to interact with different social, economic, ethnic, and religious groups. They constantly rub shoulders with poverty and wealth, agnostics and fundamentalists, recent immigrants and DAR descendants. They are learning to live harmoniously in our multi-ethnic American culture.
  2. How to wait. When they finish their work before others, they must wait quietly. Patience: what a real-life skill to have under their belts!
  3. How to help others through explanation. When they understand something, the teacher will occasionally ask them to help a student who is struggling. This exercises patience, compassion and generosity…not to mention verbal skills in re-explaining.
  4. How to speak up for themselves. In the classroom setting they learn to answer questions with confidence. They learn to express their needs (younger years) and their opinions (older years). Sometimes those opinions don’t correlate with others in the class, so they learn how to defend their position with poise and respect.
  5. How to win and lose graciously. Sometimes their team wins, sometimes it loses. They must “be okay” with either. Sometimes they answer an oral question incorrectly, and they learn to manage the embarrassment. Sometimes they score 100% on every spelling test, and they learn to manage that success without hurting their friends’ feelings.
  6. How to apply Biblical wisdom without adult guidance. In social situations at school, their obedience and faith are tested. The school context provides a safe environment where they can fail without huge consequences—great practice for college and adult life.
  7. How to speak respectfully about their faith. Again, they can succeed and fail in small steps so they gradually learn what Peter meant in 1 Peter 3:15b-16a, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.
  8. How to learn things they don’t really want to learn in ways that aren’t their preferred learning style. Not everything in school is interesting. Not every activity fits my child’s best learning style. He has to learn it anyway, so he learns how to learn even when he isn’t motivated. This is an essential life skill.
  9. How to summarize their experiences and reflect on their days. When the children come home from school, we talk about the good and bad things that happened that day. I don’t need a moment-by-moment account. I need a summary that includes highlights, emotions, and an evaluation of experiences. They are learning to glean wisdom from their own lives.

Every child is unique and every family is different. In the spring, we begin to pray about where/how to educate our children in the next school year. As you pray and plan for the coming year (It’s not too early!), don’t ignore the public school option. It might just be God’s will for your child and family. Then, whatever method of education to which God calls you, embrace it! I support you.