More Everyday Images for the Christ-Life

On this fifth Tuesday of the month, with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas ahead of us, I’m returning to the basics of Intentional Parenting: discipling our children. Enjoy these three metaphors for the Christ-life found in God’s creation. Like a potter shaping a vase, God leaves his fingerprints all over His creation. These everyday images are endless! Read through these, then share your own at the end.

Calluses/A Hardened Heart

everyday-image-guitar
guitar calluses (c) Carole Sparks

My son plays guitar. The tips of his fingers on his left hand have calluses from pressing on the strings to make different tones. I don’t play guitar, but I sat down to play around with his one day. Because I was pressing my fingers against the metal strings of his guitar, it only took a few minutes for the skin on the ends of my fingers to turn red and hurt. Why? Because I don’t have calluses.

You can press on a callus with your fingernail, and it doesn’t hurt. Sometimes, another person can touch your callus and you won’t even realize it.

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  -Matthew 13:15a

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…  -Hebrews 3:7b-8a

When you love Jesus and you want to make him happy, we say your heart is tender. Any small sin will press up against your heart, and you’ll feel the pain of that sin until you confess. But if you choose to ignore the pain instead of addressing it, you will probably sin again in the same way. But the second time, it won’t hurt as much because the area is already inflamed (like a blister). Over and over you press on the same spot, and that’s what creates a callus. While calluses are good on a guitar player’s fingers or on the middle finger of your writing hand, they aren’t good on your heart. They make it harder to know what Jesus wants and to respond to his gentle direction. Confessing your sin and pushing it away means it can’t press against your heart anymore.

Salt/The Kingdom of Heaven

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  -Matthew 5:13

This one’s straight from Scripture, but here’s a good tactile method of explaining it.

everyday-image-popcorn
popcorn (c) Carole Sparks

Make some popcorn (in a pot, not microwave). Separate it into two bowls. Salt one bowl but not the other, then ask your children to taste each. The one with salt tastes so much better! This is what we’re called to be in the world: unobtrusive difference-makers. You can’t really tell which bowl of popcorn has salt until you taste it, but it makes all the difference. (Salt has preservative properties and other uses, but let’s keep this simple.) If the salt wasn’t salty—if it didn’t make a difference in the popcorn—it wouldn’t have any use. As Christ-followers, if we don’t bless the world with Christ, we don’t have any use either.

Ask your children how believers can make a difference in the world. Answers may range from smiling at a sad person or picking up litter to starting a charity or sharing Christ with a friend. Remind your children of one way they made a difference in the past week, emphasizing their unique personalities. Challenge everyone in the family (including parents) to share one way they plan to intentionally “be salt” in the coming week. Write SALT on a big piece of paper, on a white-board, or on the bathroom mirrors (with dry erase markers) to remind everyone of the challenge.

For more on popcorn, check out one of my previous analogies.

Pebbles in a Stream/Unconfessed Sin

This one’s not original with me, but it’s so good that I thought you should hear it.

everyday-image-pebbles
rocks in a stream (c) Carole Sparks

Every time you sin, it’s like throwing a pebble into a river. One doesn’t really make a difference, but over time, the river will become dammed by the accumulation of pebbles.

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  -John 7:38

The Living Water cannot flow from you if it’s blocked by unconfessed sin. Even though we try not to sin, we all do it. When we ask God to forgive us, however, He removes that pebble from our “river of life” so the water keeps flowing.

Parents, you could make this very tangible while playing outside in the rain. Just find a flow of water and start dropping small rocks into it at a certain spot.

 

So I pray these are helpful to you in Intentional Parenting. Remember, just look for opportunities and experiences to bring up spiritual things as a natural part of your day. Like Deuteronomy counsels, Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Be equipped to talk with kids about spiritual things at any time (Deut 6:7) with these analogies. (click to tweet)

I’d love to hear some of the creative ways God has shown you to understand theology. (That’s what this is, you know.) Please share in the comments. Maybe I’ll post a collection of other parents’ images at a later date.

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How to Study the Bible with Your Grade-School Children (in app. 500 words)

If the thought of opening the real Bible (not the children’s storybook Bible) with your children intimidates you, here’s the help you need! It’s a simple Bible study method to engage you and your children in studying His Word. It requires no weekly preparation and it should be fun.

But first, it’s okay…

…to laugh with the Bible. Have fun; be creative; stretch your imagination. For example, what kind of face do you think Zacchaeus made when Jesus looked up in the tree?

…that you don’t have a degree in Bible. The Word of God is accessible to all. Plus, your kids don’t need a lecture on transubstantiation. They need to know what it means to take the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

…if you or your kids can’t answer all the questions. Everyone can try. You will all get better at it after some experience.

…to use the “grown-up” Bible with your children. Just find an easy-to-read translation such as English Standard Version (ESV) or New International Readers Version (NIrV) and start reading!

Before your first study time, choose a book of the Bible. Start with a gospel such as Mark or Luke—lots of stories. Read the introductory material in your study Bible. That will help you answer questions about the author and situation.

The “How To”

Pray together.

Ask for understanding, patience, listening ears, no distractions, etc.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. -John 14:26

Use stories.

Read one story, along with any preceding transitions or introductions. Then have someone else retell it or act it out. Try letting a child read the story, then you retell it.

(Next time, review previous weeks, then read the next story. Make it like a series so everyone catches the bigger picture.)

Ask interactive questions.

Use interrogatives to discuss the story. Answer the questions together.

  • Where are they?
  • When does this happen?
  • Who is there?
  • What actually happens?
  • How did people respond?

Now take it deeper.

  • What did it mean to the people who were there?
  • Why did the author include this story?
  • What connections do you see to other stories/Scripture?

Finally, application.

  • What have we learned?
  • What do we need to do about what we’ve learned?
  • What action do we need to take (as a family or individually) in response?

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

Create a ‘take-away’.

Find an object to remind you of this story, have someone draw a picture of the story, or (if everyone can read) display an application phrase in a prominent place for the week.

Extend the discussion.

Talk about the story and application as you have opportunities throughout the week.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 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. -Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Family devotions without a devotional book: How to Study the Bible with Your Kids (in <500 words)  <-click to tweet

Try this out, then leave me some feedback. I’d really like to know what you think!

New School Year, New Parenting Practices

4 Habits to Draw Your Family Closer to Christ

It’s that time of year! No, not Christmas (although we’ll see it in the stores any time now). In the USA, it’s the beginning of a new school year. Many of the school systems around us begin classes this week or next, and every homeschooling mom I meet has an imminent date in her mind as well.

As a parent, mid-August feels more like a new beginning to me than early January. With the establishment of new school schedules, after-school activities, etc., this is a fantastic time to implement or refresh some Christ-centered practices in your family life as well. Consider any or all of these four ways to ‘up’ your Intentional Parenting game.

  1. Establish Family Devotions

I will just confess right here that we don’t do this. In fact, my impetus for writing this post is my desire to finally start a weekly study time with my family!

Rather than depending on a pre-written devotional (sorry, writer friends!), try reading through a gospel such as Mark. Do one chapter or one story  each week. Be creative; act it out if your children like that kind of thing or play charades or draw pictures or just take turns reading aloud. Leave time to talk and to pray for God to help you respond to what you’ve received. For older children, you might study a paragraph per week from an epistle such as Philippians.

If the thought of discipling your children like this leaves you weak in the knees, come back next week. I’ll post How to Study the Bible with Your Grade School Children in 500 words or less.

Intentional Parenting perk: When we prioritize Bible study…when we model digging into the Word, obeying what we find, and living according to God’s guidance, our children naturally learn to do the same.

If you just don’t know how to fit this intentional time into your family calendar, look at #4. We’re making it a priority this fall—finally—and I’m praying you see the value in it, too!

  1. Implement Drive-to-School prayer time

We started this last year, and it was such a blessing. If you deliver your child(ren) to school, turn off the radio on the way. Ask what he/she anticipates in the day to come:

  • Academically: tests, homework, projects, presentations, PE expectations
  • Socially: friends, lunch conversation, locker break
  • Emotionally: disappointing grades, difficult teacher

Repeat the names of classmates and friends to help you remember. Ask for clarification if necessary. Show that you are really listening.

After listening, pray aloud as you drive. (Don’t close your eyes, obviously.) If you feel led, offer a very little bit of counsel…maybe a Bible verses that applies. This isn’t the time to advise; it’s the time to support. Let him/her know you’ll be praying through the day.

Intentional Parenting perk: This habit says, “I love you and I care about you, my child.” It also demonstrates that God is interested and active in our day-to-day lives. Just watch after God works in something about which you’ve prayed!

Give God a chance to prove Himself faithful in your child’s life through voiced prayer. (click to tweet)

  1. Create After-School Conversation Time

My introvert just isn’t up to processing her day the moment she gets in the car after school. She needs some quiet. My extrovert wants to talk right away, and he always has multiple stories (some of which don’t make any sense to me, but that’s okay). The when isn’t important. It might be immediately after school, over dinner, or just before lights-out. The point is to spend some time processing with your child, holding him accountable, and helping her see how God did answer those morning prayers.

Avoid yes/no questions, and make sure you ask about whatever they mentioned in the morning. Beyond that, we’ve used these two questions since our first one started Kindergarten. They know to expect the questions, so they look for answers as they go through the day.

  • What was your best thing from today?
  • What was your worst thing from today?

You may have different questions or more questions. Don’t get too complicated or long, though, especially for younger kids.

Intentional Parenting perk: The purpose of this habit is to communicate your enduring investment in your child’s life and to coach them through their days away from you.

  1. Set a Family Schedule

It’s super-easy to over-commit at the beginning of the school year. Everything seems like a good idea: PTA council, STEM scouts, sports teams, after-school clubs, service clubs, tutoring sessions, music lessons, Bible studies. Before you know it, you’re wearing out your mini-van tires on the road to school, church, the field/court and back!

With planning, you can create blocks of open space for family, so don’t say ‘yes’ yet! (click to tweet)

Before school starts, sit down together and, keeping your family mission statement in mind, decide how many activities each child will participate in or how many evenings/week you are willing to be out of the house. Decide this before the offers and ideas start rolling in.

After school starts, wait until everything is ‘on the table,’ include AWANA or whatever evening programs your church offers. (I realize some parents may be shocked by this, but sometimes the best choice for your family will be to skip Wednesday night church programs for this year.) Talk through which parent will drive where, how long the commute takes, what it means for family dinners, finances, homework plans for those days, longevity (such as continuing piano lessons), etc. Some options will automatically be disregarded. For the rest, make decisions as a family. Even the youngest ones can participate. This is hard. Believe me, I know. We have said “no” to so many good-but-not-best things, but our family is stronger and closer to Jesus because of those tough decisions.

Intentional Parenting perk: As your children watch you model responsible, Christ-centered time management, they see what’s important to you and to your family and they learn to make intentional decisions for themselves.

Small changes in your family routine will go a long way toward peace and understanding in your home. Or, to make a bread-baking analogy…

Knead some small changes into your new school routine and watch your family rise into richer Christ-centeredness. (click to tweet)

What about you? What small changes do you hope to implement at the turn of the school year?

Want more? Check out any of these posts:

How to Make Room for the Important by Kelly Smith at The Glorious Table. Kelly has guest posted on Intentional Parenting before, so you know I like her. This post is for the moms and dads who fell led to adjust their own schedules—especially applicable at this corner-turning time of year.

4 Tips to Start Off the School Year by Sarah Anderson at Parent Cue. Sarah has very young kids, so her tips are different from mine, but I found the post insightful.

Also, my Wait, Wait, Don’t TELL Me* post may be helpful if your children are in middle or high school.

3 More Everyday Images for the Christ-Life

God placed us in a world that, because He created it, bears constant evidence of Him.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse. –Romans 1:20

IMG_7479
(c) Carole Sparks

We toured a big cave system recently: beautiful rock formations, spectacular vaults, a random red salamander. God placed all this beauty underground, where it remained in the dark, slowly changing, for centuries. Civil War soldiers hid in the caves, but their wooden torches wouldn’t have illuminated even a tenth of the beauty there. All that spooky beauty, all that magnificence…just sitting there in the dark! God creates for His own pleasure…even if we never see it.

Because creation bears the stamp of the Creator, we can make innumerable analogies for our relationship with Jesus. Here are three more everyday images for aspects of the Christ Life. (See the first four *here*.)I pray that you can use them with your children to help them understand what it means to follow Jesus.

Splinter/Sin

This is a good one, and you’re sure to have opportunity to use it at some point!

A splinter is like sin in your life. It hurts and irritates the surrounding skin, yet children never want to pull it. They fear the pain of removal more than the pain of remaining. If you don’t remove it, however, it becomes infected as your body tries to reject it. An infected splinter in your toe makes it hard to walk. Pulling it out yields a small pain, but then the wound heals.

With sin, it may feel easier just to leave it in your life. It doesn’t actually hurt, and you may be afraid of the pain that might come with removal. But if you don’t remove sin, it will grow, taking over that area of your life and eventually impairing your spiritual walk. Usually, it’s difficult—even painful—to remove, but afterward, God heals you quickly.

Surgery/Sanctification

I was thinking about the lengths to which God will go (and to which we must submit) in order to remove habitual sin from our lives. It was part of my post, “Addiction to Conviction,” from a couple of weeks ago. You might need to change some of the terminology, if you’re sharing with your children, but here’s the whole picture:

Let’s say you need to have your appendix removed. The surgeon takes scalpel in hand and scores your skin, cutting through two or three layers of your epidermis. Then he moves over a bit and cuts through the same two or three layers in a different spot. You might bleed just a little, but he will never reach the appendix buried deep in your abdomen. In fact, you wouldn’t even need anesthesia for this procedure. In order to remove your appendix, he has to cut all the way through all your skin and even the muscle tissue beneath. It hurts so badly that they put you to sleep. Without that pain…without the surgeon’s focus on that one cut until he penetrates your abdominal wall…you will die.

Regardless of how holy we are today, we all need a sin-ectomy. Instead of doing the hard, painful work of excising that specific sin, we satisfy ourselves with shallow cuts that look serious but never penetrate to the spiritual cavity in which the problem lies. Yes, I know there’s no spiritual anesthesia and that we have to assist in this surgery on ourselves. Nobody said sanctification was easy.

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. –Mark 9:43

Hiking/Making Choices

On the same day we explored the caves I mentioned earlier, we also went to an overlook high on a mountain, where you can see multiple states. We drove, but there’s also a walking trail. We chose the wide, smooth, quick, well-travelled path, and it was easy. But I wonder what we missed.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. –Matthew 7:13-14

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Sometimes the narrow path skirts a deep crevice.  (c) Carole Sparks

The narrow path is typically more dangerous, requires far more effort, and takes more time (like, hours instead of minutes). When you’re hiking, however, that narrow path rewards you with solitude, beautiful views, a strengthened body, and that wonderful sense of accomplishment. It’s worth the effort.

In our spiritual lives, obedience often leads us along narrow, difficult paths, but those very paths reward us with personal strength, intimacy with God, and extraordinary views of His glory.

Creation is full of analogies for our spiritual lives! Share 1 with your children today. (click to tweet)

more everyday images

Forget Where You Live? (guest post)

Don't you just stand in awe when your children remind you of an eternal Truth? Not
only is it spiritually beautiful, but it's also a great affirmation of your parenting.
That's what happened to my writer-friend, Cherrilynn Bisbano. Read her sweet story
(chocked full of Scripture!), then learn more about her at the end of the post.
Cherrilynn - meme
(c) Cherrilynn Bisbano

“I am so tired of moving,” I said to my son as we walked to the gym.

“I know mom; can we stay in this house forever?”

We took a few more steps; I smiled as I remembered. “Michael, this is not our forever home, our citizenship is in heaven.”

“That’s right mommy, I forgot!”

Do you forget where you ultimately live?

I find it so easy to get caught up in my earthly address, consumed with mundane daily tasks.

But our citizenship is in Heaven. and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. -Philippians 3:20 (All Scripture quotations in this post are ESV.)

I am blessed to have a beautiful temporary home in Rhode Island. Although the winters can be harsh, I thank God this house has so much sunlight provided by skylights. Even on the dreariest day there is a glimmer of light.

But oh the glorious light we will see in our forever home!

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. -Revelation 22:5

My earthly home has my cats, Peach and Simone. I share this earthly dwelling with my husband, son and sister. Sometimes there is strife, misunderstanding and chaos. We all love each other and Jesus. In Heaven we will all be together…no tears, anger or infirmity.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. -Revelation 21:4

I think of my friends in Togo, Africa, who live in straw huts with dirt floors. How much sweeter heaven will be to them! Now they walk on dirt. In Heaven they will stroll on streets of gold.

…and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. -Revelation 21:21

I could go on and on comparing this earthly world to Heaven, but I digress. Until I reach my ultimate destiny, I will strive to be content here on earth and fulfill all that my Master has for me to do.

As my son and I continued our walk to the gym, we thanked God for our temporary home and praised Him for allowing us to be here to help further the Kingdom.

We still long for heaven where our bodies no longer need exercise, food or healing. Worries will be exchanged for worship. We will be face to face with God, consumed by His love and light.

“Mommy, one thing I really look forward to in Heaven is sitting in Jesus’ lap. I want to look into His eyes, give him a huge hug, and thank Him for dying on the cross for me.”

My heart filled with joy and my eyes filled with tears. I responded, “Me too, Michael, Me too. Heaven is home.”

Did you forget where you live?

No worries, fellow Christian. Our passport is stamped HEAVEN. Jesus is waiting to show us the mansion He prepared just for us.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. -John 14:2

Will you join me is rejoicing that our ultimate home is with the lover of our souls?

Did you forget where you live? Heaven is our home! (click to tweet)

Cherrilynn - w sonCherrilynn Bisbano (pictured here with her son, Michael) is a speaker, teacher, and writer. Her passion for helping people is evident. She encourages and equips women to divide rightly the Scriptures and to be strong in the Lord.

Cherrilynn is Associate Editor at Almost an Author, an online community for aspiring writers. She is a two-time winner of Flash Fiction Weekly. You can find her work published in Amramp, More to Life (MTL), Christian Rep, Refresh and other online magazines. Cherrilynn is also a regular contributor to The Good News Newspaper. Her first book, True Star Quality: Learn to Shine, will be out by summer.

Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard, earning the John Levitow Military Leadership Award. She lives with her fourteen-year-old autistic son, Michael, Jr., and husband of 17 years, Michael, Sr.

Carole here. Give Cherrilynn some thanks by commenting below. Tell her how this story
impacted you!

 

4 Everyday Images for the Christ-life

Sometimes it’s hard to explain certain aspects of the Christ-life to our children. Their brains haven’t developed enough to understand complex, intangible concepts. Honestly, some of the same things are hard for us to understand even as adults. Not to worry; we have an excellent role model for these situations in Jesus. He liked to teach using parables and metaphors…imagery drawn from everyday life, and we can do the same.

The best way to use metaphors is situationally:

  1. When your child asks about the spiritual concept
  2. When you feel that your child needs a better understanding of the concept
  3. When you see or experience the tangible parallel

Today I offer you four such images to help you explain your faith to your children. These kinds of conversations create great discipleship opportunities. Praying they are fresh and helpful…

Fireworks / Jesus earthly life and death

Everyday Images 2
Fireworks (c) Carole Sparks

When you watch a professional fireworks show, it’s a thing of beauty, but noisy. You hear the brief thump as the small rocket shoots into the air. Sometimes you can see a trail of sparks following it. Then there’s that millisecond when the individual flame disappears. In silence, you hold your breath. You think it might have been a ‘dud.’ Finally, it explodes in color, light, and sound!

Jesus’ life on earth was like this. A minor thump at his birth (angels, Herod’s search), then a bit of light through his earthly ministry, then silence for those three days in the tomb. Even the disciples thought He might have been a ‘dud.’ But then! Oh, then! The spectacular resurrection that declared victory over every evil and even death itself: energy, celebration, broadcast near and far!

Popcorn / Conforming to the Image of Christ

Everyday Images 1
Popcorn (c) Carole Sparks

Kernels of popcorn are like snowflakes: each one unique but easily recognizable. No one confuses popcorn for bread (because it’s white) or potato chips (because it’s crunchy) or peanuts (because you eat a handful at a time).

In the Church universal, there is incredible diversity—something I love! Each believer is unique; at the same time, believers are all being remade into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Just like we easily recognize popcorn, we recognize each other and those outside the faith recognize authentic believers. Read more about this in my post, Popcorn Conformity.

Walking the Dog / Guidance of the Holy Spirit

I’ve seen memes and commercials where the dog on a leash thinks it walks the owner. I once walked a huge bulldog that pulled me across the grass whether I liked it or not. My own example notwithstanding, it doesn’t matter what the dog thinks. The one holding the other end of the leash is actually in charge. (Sorry, no picture on this one. We don’t have a dog.)

In this example, we’re the dog, the leash is the Holy Spirit, and God is the dog-walker. (It’s not a perfect analogy, but go with me here.) As believers, we can break our connection with the Holy Spirit and run off into the woods, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. When we walk in the spirit (Romans 8:3-4), we are led by God Himself. We can’t see Him, and we’re often out in front of Him, so we must be sensitive to those gentle tugs on the leash. That’s how we go where He wants us to go…following but in front…hmm…

Mountain Trail Guide / Obedience

Everyday Images 3
Broken Path (c) Carole Sparks

I like hiking. I don’t do it much, but I like it—that sense of freedom, the cleanliness of the air, the views. It can be scary, though. If a storm comes suddenly or if you lose the path or if the mountain drops off suddenly right beside the trail, you can quickly start to think about your oh-so-safe couch and TV remote. A more strenuous hike sometimes requires that you hire a guide. No one climbs Mt. Everest without guides and a full support team, right?

In our lives as Christ-followers, we’re hiking a fresh section of trail every day. We’ve never been in this exact place before, and sometimes it looks treacherous. But we have a Guide who has been here before (Hebrews 4:15) and a God who knows everything before and behind us. It’s only reasonable that we trust and follow Him. (I’ve also written about this before. See Our Mountain Guide.)

4 Everyday Images for Discipleship in Parenting (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!

Getting Beyond “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”

We all crowded onto the bed and bowed our heads. Some of us didn’t close our eyes. (Okay, that was me. I rarely close my eyes to pray. There are reasons, but I won’t get into them here.) Starting with the youngest, we began our bedtime prayers. The words were exactly the same as the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that. And it wasn’t only the youngest. Even I, so very aware of how rote this time had become, found myself praying essentially the same thing as every other night.

Maybe you’ve been there, too. By the time they were three years old, we had moved beyond the memorized prayers such as, “God is great, God is good…”. Or we thought we had. In reality, we simply made our own recitations. At the table, it’s “Thank you, God, for food, friends, and family. Amen.” While I appreciate the brevity of such a blessing (because I don’t like my dinner to get cold), I reject the flippancy of it…the way we hardly get our eyes closed before we pick up our forks. At bedtime, I’ve actually heard the children pray each other’s prayers or repeat their Dad’s habitual words.

What I’m looking for is sincerity, a sense that they (and I) experience authentic gratitude for the blessings of this particular day and confidence in God’s sovereignty over tomorrow. With sincerity in mind, I’m going to try these four questions before we crowd onto the bed tonight. (For my English grammar friends, please forgive the dangling prepositions. I was trying to write like people talk.)

What did you do/think/say today that you know God is proud of?

We often (rightly) focus on confession in prayer, but our kids can encourage themselves by recounting spiritual successes from the day. It’s easy to overlook God’s support in the small things, and remembering a few will help our children see that God is not only interested but intimately involved in their lives. It might be not saying something ugly to a classmate. It might be remembering a Bible verse on the bus. It might be choosing obedience rather than complaining.

What are you proud of?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with our children acknowledging their skills. If it’s beating a classmate in a foot race or making 100 on a spelling test, these small celebrations deserve our attention. By framing them in the context of prayer, we correctly attribute these seemingly “worldly” successes to God, who gave us the abilities/talents/skills to do these things.

What do you need to ask forgiveness for?

When we take a minute to reflect on the times when we disappointed God or hurt another person, we learn from those situations. We can acknowledge them, assure forgiveness, and move on in right relationship with God and our family members. The mere act of confession prompts spiritual growth.

What do you need help/guidance/strength to do tomorrow?

Not “Help me be a better Christian,” but real situations that need God’s clear hand. Push your kids to be specific here. By recognizing their need for God’s help, our children will quickly grow to depend on Him. Plus, they are planting the seeds for tomorrow’s prayer of gratitude. PARENTING BONUS: we hear where they need support through the day tomorrow, and we can bless them by following through in prayer and gentle accountability.

By taking a few minutes to reflect on our days before we bow our heads, we can convert our memorized prayers into authentic conversations that bless the Giver of All Good Things and bring us more fully into His presence.

Authentic conversations with God will replace rote prayers by reflecting on your day first. (click to tweet)

Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How did you move out of habitual prayers with your children? I’d love to hear your comments below.

 

5…3…1 Recommended Reading

Instead of a guest post this month, I offer you some recommended reading beyond this Intentional Parenting blog: 5 things to pray, 3 steps to child-rearing, and 1 book (with a 1-word title). Enjoy…and let me know what you think of these readings using the comments section below!

Praying Higher Things for Your Children by Dr. Walker Moore

“There are two ways to pray for children. The first is to pray them through things like tattoos, skydiving and prom night, and there is nothing wrong with that. But there is also a higher way to pray for them, and that is to pray for their lives to be aligned with His holy Word.”

I recently discovered Weave, a website/blog devoted to help families take their place in God’s global mission. You’ll find many good posts there. One of their contributors, Dr. Moore, has a great sense of humor. (I’m a sucker for a good post that makes me laugh…or cry.) In this post, he offers five Scripture-based suggestions for praying for our children. I think I’m going to print them out and hang them on my mirror!

3 Steps to Raising Disciples by Matt Blackwell

“Mom and dad, you are the leaders in your home and as such you are uniquely positioned to keep your eyes fixed on God and your finger on the pulse of the family. The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. And as their mom and dad you have the privilege, joy and responsibility to lead them.”

Verge Network’s posts on family/parenting are always insightful. I’ve reposted from them before. In this article, Blackwell lays out a simple plan for discipleship-based parenting. It’s very intentional but not at all intimidating. I encourage you to give it some thought and examine where you may need to make adjustments in your home too.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

“We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.”

Do you have a child who clams up immediately after school but then interrupts your dinner preparations with multiple stories from the same day at school? Chances are, that child is an introvert. Quiet is not necessarily a parenting book, but parenting applications abound throughout it. Cain does devote the final chapter to parenting; it’s entitled “On Cobblers and Generals: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them.” This book is worth a trip to the library just for that chapter! Especially if you are an extrovert raising an introvert (or two), please take time to read this book. It will equip you to support your child in the way that’s most appropriate for him or her. Even if you’re not a big reader, Cain’s friendly style and excellent organization make this one easy. Also check out the Quiet Revolution parenting website.

Content and Context (part 7) – Gospels and Acts

We return to our Content and Context Series today (see the beginning *here*)—just in time for the Advent season. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus on Jesus’ life and purpose on earth. Simply pick a gospel and start reading; you can’t go wrong! Then, when it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, turn to Acts. The early church models the called-out life in a way that remains relevant today. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to make a change.

Of course, all the Gospels are specifically and intentionally about Jesus. All tell about the miracles He did and the parables He told, all provide details about His crucifixion and His resurrection, but each has a specific audience or purpose and each is told from a clear point-of-view. That’s why it’s so great to have four of them. We have a much fuller picture of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. For this outline, I have tried to differentiate the four so you (and your children) can see God’s purpose in each. As we approach Christmas, I pray that a fresh understanding of Jesus blesses your holiday season.

THE GOSPELS AND ACTS

Matthew

  • About: Jesus as the expected Messiah
  • Through Jesus, God fulfilled the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and provided a Savior for His chosen people.
  • Big stories: Jesus’ birth, Sermon on the Mount, Great Commission
  • Author: Matthew/Levi (a disciple)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”  Matthew 1:22-23

Mark

  • About: Jesus as teacher and miracle-worker
  • Through Jesus, God gave us wisdom about life on earth and modeled suffering.
  • Big stories: John the Baptist, Greatest Commandment, Passion Week (1/3 of the chapters)
  • Author: John Mark (based on Peter’s preaching)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Mark 14:35-36

Luke

  • About: Jesus as world-wide Savior
  • Through Jesus, God made a way for every person (regardless of gender, politics, social status, etc.) to be saved.
  • Big stories: Jesus’ birth & childhood, Jesus’ focus on women/social
    IMG_6563.JPG
    the author’s childhood Bible     (c) Carole Sparks

    outcasts/Gentiles, parables (more than any other Gospel), Emmaus Road & Ascension

  • Author: Luke (a doctor who traveled with Paul)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Luke 5:31-32

John

  • About: Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man
  • Through Jesus, God demonstrates His love toward us and we are connected back to Him.
  • Big stories: Nicodemus, “I am” statements, Lazarus raised, upper room discourse, Peter’s restoration
  • Author: John (a disciple)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

Acts

  • About: the early church, the life of Paul
  • God uses believers to spread the gospel across continents.
  • Big stories: Pentecost, Stephen’s stoning, Peter’s dream, Paul’s conversion/missionary journeys/trial
  • Author: Luke (a doctor who traveled with Paul)
  • Time: the 30 years following Jesus’ ascension
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8