Saturday, July 20, 2013

Is Sunday Special?

When you think of Sunday, what comes to mind? Is it primarily restrictions? Seriously, God commands us to take a day off and spend it with Him, and we turn it into a list of things we can't do? God has given us the Sabbath as a day for rest, for relaxation, for connection with God, with family, with Christian friends. No wonder God wants us to delight in the Sabbath.

But what do your children think of Sunday? It's easy for children to focus on the restrictions. Hopefully you've learned to see the blessing in Sunday, but how do you teach your children to see it?

I have some suggestions. Well, to be fair, these are definitely not all mine - a few are mine, several come from Phil Brown and others from my pastor Pat Davis.

I know we've heard this many times, but start Saturday night. Late nights = crabby kids. Shut it down early and have family time, or a time of prayer, stories, or music to prepare them for their day with God.

On Sunday itself, explain why we do what we do and don't do on Sunday. If you take a nap, explain to the kids that God rested on the Sabbath, and so do we. OK, it's unlikely to make them excited about taking a nap, but it does reinforce that Sunday is a day dedicated to God and that everything we do that day revolves around Him. Instead of just saying, "Jesus doesn't want us to buy or sell on Sunday," explain that if we go to the store, that forces someone to be there to serve us and so they have to miss church and their special day with God. If you have friends over for Sunday dinner, explain to the children that fellowship is part of being God's family. Make the whole day about God.

Whether or not you have a large Sunday dinner, make the meal special. I recall as a child asking my mother why, if we weren't supposed to work on Sunday, we always had a big meal that day that involved more work than usual. Her response was that just like God gave Israel feasts, so Sunday is a day of celebration for Christians. Great answer! So make Sunday a celebration - kid-style.  Maybe let the kids make table decorations that focus on Jesus. Maybe have a "Thank You, God" cake (like a birthday cake). Use good china - or use paper plates with Christian decorations on them. Be inventive. Keep it fun, and keep it focused on God.

You can keep specific things just for Sunday. Have stories that the kids only listen to on Sunday. Some great resources for this include Lamplighter Theatre, Adventures in Odyssey, Moody Radio's Just for Kids section, Ranger Bill (an old-time Christian radio show), Jim Hodges audio books, and Kid Answers (Answers in Genesis' kids section). Keep certain music just for Sunday, such as Sunday School sing-along, Aanderud's Children, or Hymns for the Home. Kid Answers also has a large selection of Christian children's videos and other activities. The Visual Bible is a series of films that give a verbatim portrayal of the Gospels of Matthew and John and the Book of Acts.

Children learn of God from their interaction with their parents. Time spent with your children should be a part of your usual Sunday routine. I learned this in grad school, when time was at a premium. Feeling convicted at spending little time with my children and trying to find ways to make Sunday special to them, I decided to intentionally take some time with them after dinner each Sunday. We usually play a game, but sometimes we take a walk or do an impromptu object lesson. It's the time together that's important. Sunday needs to be a family day.

Bottom line: a day when we "just go to church and take a nap" is not very special to kids. As parents, we need to find ways of helping our children look forward to their weekly "day with God." What are some ways that you have found to make Sunday special to your children?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

After Steubenville ...

This post boiled my blood and blessed my heart. It's worth reading:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Your Daddy is Stupid

You never know what lies the devil has been telling your kids ... so I make it a practice to ask them. Has the devil been telling you anything recently?

Bedtime is when I'm most likely to ask, and this week it yielded from Allan: "Yes. The devil has been telling me that you're stupid."

To which I replied, "Why do you supposed the devil has been telling you that?"

He didn't know, so I explained: the devil hates you and wants to destroy you. He knows that God has given you a Daddy who is wise and wants to help you become wise. If he can get you to be wise in your own eyes, then he is making progress in his plan to hurt you. That's why it is so important for you to listen to the wisdom I am teaching you and treasure it in your heart. It will save you from many foolish mistakes as well as from much heart-break.

You may feel a bit odd affirming your wisdom and intelligence, but Proverbs teaches us to consistently affirm that the counsel we are giving our children from God's word is wise, good, life-giving, and leads to happiness.

You don't have to have a great IQ to be wise biblically. Biblical wisdom is the skill of seeing life and all its components from God's perspective and keeping the proper focus.

What lies the devil has been telling your kids?

Another Line from the Devil

Within the last several weeks, we have discovered more things the Enemy of our souls has been saying to our sons. I'll share one of them in this post.

Two weeks ago, Sunday Night, while special music was being sung, Marianne looked over to see Allan crying. The song was neither a sad nor particularly convicting song, so she leaned over to ask, "Is everything ok?"

Allan: "I don't think so."

Marianne: "What's the problem?"

Allan: "What if God doesn't exist?"

How's that for a bombshell in the middle of a service!? Our eight year old is contemplating the non-existence of God! Now, you can be sure that thought didn't come from God!

At home that evening, Marianne shared Allan's question with me, and so I addressed over our Sunday PM ritual of fried eggs and toast.

My best shot at an eight year-old level was to say, "Allan, if God didn't exist, then this world wouldn't exist. The kind of world we live in can only exist if there is a God."

I asked if he understood, and he said he didn't really. :o/ But that was all I could come up with at the time.

A couple days later, I tried again: "Allan, if you shook up your box of legos, do you think there is any chance that a perfectly put together Space Shuttle would emerge from the box after you took off the lid?"

Allan: "No, way"

Me: "Even if you shook it up a long time?"

Allan: "No chance. That could never happen."

Me: "You're right, and the kind of world we live in, where we're just the right distance from the sun, and have just the right levels of oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere, and are tilted at just the right angle for seasons, and everything is just right for human and animal life, could never have happened by chance. That would be like shaking up a box of legos and getting a Space Shuttle."

That seemed to make sense to Allan. Then, because I was curious, I asked: "Why were you crying when you were thinking what if God doesn't exist?"

Allan: "Because if God didn't exist, there wouldn't be any heaven! That would be sad!"

I suspect there are still better ways to answer this question and make it clear to an 8 year old. I welcome your suggestions.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thoughts from Proverbs 29 on Child rearing

Proverbs 29:4   A king by justice establishes a land, but a man who takes bribes tears it down.

How does this apply to fathering? A father who allows children to bargain their way out of receiving justice is overthrowing his ‘land’ or ‘house.’

In what ways do children often offer “bribes?”
  1. I’ll never do it again – repeated indefinitely. Emotional bribery
  2. Threats or assertions that the child won’t/doesn’t love the parent because of discipline. Emotional bribery: offering affirmation of love in exchange for getting its own way.
  3. Threatening or throwing tantrums. Emotional / Psychological bribery: I won’t embarrass you if you do what I want.

Proverbs 29: 15 Rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to itself / abandoned shames his mother.

The implications here are significant:
  1. Children are not good self-raisers.
  2. They are not naturally good and will not turn out fine if left to themselves.
  3. The NASB’s “a child who gets his own way” suggests parental disengagement or pacification. This relates to Prov. 29:4. Regardless of the way or reason for leaving a child unshaped by the rod and reproof, the result is parental shame.
  4. If you are not using rod and reproof on your children, you are abandoning them to your own shame. Caveat: "the rod" in the hand of a loving parent is a tool for restorative discipline; in the hand of an angry parent, it easily becomes a tool of injustice and cruelty.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Write them on the door posts and on the gates"

Deuteronomy 6:9 says, "Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (NIV).
A plaque given to us last year for Christmas
Several years ago when Philip and I began thinking of concrete ways of implementing Deut 6: 7-9 we starting trying to find ways to implement the principles found in verse 9. Traditionally in Jewish culture,  a mezuzah accomplishes this command. The idea is that scripture is to be used in the home in such a way as to bring to mind and aid in the memorization of Scripture. With the explosion of vinyl wall art this is becoming much easier!
Taken from Deut 6 this is right above the main staircase (we live in a second and third floor apt) done in vinyl. It's not finished yet -I'd like to somehow make it look like it's in a large picture frame but still uncertain of how I want to accomplish this to make it more attractive. This is what everyone sees when they are sitting in our living room.

Several years ago we went to the P.Graham Dunn studio here in Ohio and visited their "second hand" section. These were relatively inexpensive.
These are at the bottom of the landing between second and third floors.
The plaques are of Psalm 37:4 and Phil 4:4. I purchased the frames at Walmart and took some mark-down fabric scraps to make the background and match the color scheme for this area.
This plaque of Deut. 6 was also from P. Graham Dunn and placed in a frame over the main bathroom sink. This protects the wood from getting wet and the boys can see it every time they wash their hands and brush their teeth.

Home Interiors used to carry some Scripture decorations (though I've not checked recently). I purchased this heart with Matthew 5:8 above my kitchen sink. The notecards are my memory verses that I'm currently working on - I can wash dishes and work on memorizing them at the same time.

More recently, Philip has begun saying the Hebrew blessing over our family in the mornings after breakfast. When he's done we respond with this verse that I just printed from Word,  put in a frame and placed on the hutch (china cabinet).

In the upstairs bathroom we have 1 John 1:5 above a Thomas Kincaid picture.

This hangs above my ironing board as I'm working (given to me by my brother, Jonathan Slagenweit).

Our goal has been:
  1. Keep scripture in front of them that will remind them of principle truths of God's Word.
  2. Make it attractive - I'll have to admit when Philip first mentioned implementing this principle (I'm ashamed to admit it!) I thought, "How tacky! It's going to ruin my whole decorating style!" What I learned is - "my style" isn't as important as  A. following the commands of Scripture and B. doing what is going to impact my children for good and eternity. This was before wall art and doing a Google search on "Scripture wall art" produced a million results!
  3. Stay within the budget! There are lots of creative ideas for implementing this principle using just a computer and a pretty frame. 
If you're needing some more ideas you might be able to find some at Doorposts (which is a favorite resource of mine!) since they're running a contest with this theme of implementing Scripture into our homes. I'm anxious to see some more ideas that might work for our family.

How do you implement Deut 6:9? I'd love to hear/see your ideas!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Devil's Been Talking To Me

When our oldest son was two and a half years old we had a conversation that will forever mark a change in my parenting thinking. Somehow in the everyday training I kept thinking that if you instill the right principles, diligently teach doctrine and create a loving, nurturing environment in which they can explore and grow then somehow, with much of God's grace at work, these children will be able to withstand attacks of the enemy when they come .... somewhere down the road.

We were traveling home from a family gathering when Philip asked our oldest, "Allan, what has God been saying to you recently?" (I highly recommend doing this for numerous reasons - they recognize that God is a person who wants to have fellowship with them, God is a personal God who is very interested in every aspect of their lives, God can talk to them about problems they are having that aren't readily apparent to us as parents but they let us know things to be watching for.) Allan replied on this occasion by saying that God really hadn't been saying a whole lot (which sometimes happens). There was a pause and then he said, "But the devil's been talking to me." He said it so matter of fact that I was stunned - he's only two and a half!

We hadn't really talked about a theology of the devil other than he's the one who tempts us to do wrong. Philip, who was driving, reached over and turned off the music we'd been listening to. "Tell me what the devil's been saying to you buddy." At two a half years old he replied, "He told me that God really doesn't love me. That it's not true." Two conflicting emotions rose us within me at that point - my heart sank realizing that already Satan was working to undermine both our authority (because we're the ones who had taught him that God loves him and we know that from Scripture) and cast doubt on God's character and I found myself instantly angry! How dare Satan create in my child doubt about God's goodness, love, and trustworthiness!

I then realized for the first time the reality that as Christian parents we are engaged in warfare for our children's minds and souls. I don't tend to look at the world and my part in accomplishing God's will on earth as a battle. But that day I was reminded that there are forces at work beyond my sight, that I have no control over. And so a new dimension of parenting became very important to us. Fasting and praying.

Every  week we take one meal time (currently it's Saturday lunch) to spend time to fast and pray for our children. This dimension of warfare should not scare us but rather drive us to action. And what a blessed assurance to rest our concerns in the hands of a heavenly Father who can see so clearly both worlds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting to Heaven by Chicken Nuggets and Fries

On Monday I (Marianne) took Daniel and Stephen to McDonald's for lunch. On the way home Daniel was lamenting that because Allan was in school, he didn't get any chicken nuggets. To remedy this he said, "Mommy, I'm going to save two of my chicken nuggets for Allan." I told him that was very thoughtful and a good way to love his brother. Then the conversation took a different turn.

"Mommy", he said, "if I share my nuggets with Allan will I go to heaven"?

"No, Daniel, you won't go to heaven for sharing your nuggets", I replied.

His eyes got big and in a loud voice he replied, "WHAT?!.....what if I give him two nuggets AND some fries?"

"No buddy, you won't go to heaven for sharing your nuggets and fries", I said.

"Then how do I get to heaven?" he questioned.

"Well, Daniel, how do you think you get to heaven?" I asked him.

"By loving and serving Jesus?" he asked questioningly.

"That's very important but no...not by loving and serving Jesus" I answered.

"By loving other people?"

"That's also something you should do but no, not by loving other people."

By this time he was wearing out so I told him, "Daniel, those things you mentioned are very good things. But God says in His word that for us to get to heaven, we have to ask Him to forgive our sins and accept His gift of salvation. That's the only way we can get into heaven. There are many people who think that if they do good then they get to go to heaven but that's not true. God tells us in His Word what we must do to get to heaven."

He was very relieved and said, "Oh good! I've already done that and now I'm loving and serving Jesus and I'm trying to love other people!"

Me: "Daniel, if you've asked God to forgive you of your sins, and you're loving and serving Him and loving others then you're doing everything necessary to get to heaven!"

Apart from a right relationship with God we cannot properly love Him nor love others. And I want my children to realize from a young age that we'll never be "good" enough to merit salvation - we have to accept Christ's atonement by faith.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sowing & Reaping Good Things

Allan and I had just finished helping Pop-pop and Gramme (my folks) replace their stove. We're on the way home, and I said to Allan ...

"Allan, do you know why I helped Pop-pop?"

Allan: "Because you love him."

Me: "That's true. But there's another reason."

Allan: "Honor your father and mother?"

Me: "That's another great reason why I'm helping my dad. But I was thinking of another reason."

Allan: "I don't know."

Me: "I'm sowing what I want to reap."

Now that reason wasn't immediately transparent so I explained that some day I'm going to be old and need Allan to help me. So, I'm sowing help to my Dad as his son, so I will reap help from my son.

That led to Gal. 6:7 "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap."

"You know, Allan, there are three laws of reaping.
1. You reap after you sow.
2. You reap what you sow.
3. You reap more than you sow."

... and I explained that with sowing green beans and then applied it to helping my Dad.

Perhaps it was on the heavy side, but I don't think teaching the laws of the harvest can be done too early. Nor do I think it always has to be in a negative context.

When you sow to the Spirit, you still reap after you sow, what you sow, and more than you sow!

What are some ways you've help teach your children the laws of reaping?

Restitution and a bank robbery

On the way to the store to buy bubble gum to make restitution for what had been stolen and eaten, Son Y was not satisfied that justice was being done.

"You're punishing me for something I didn't know was wrong," he said strongly.

Now I knew that he knew stealing was wrong, so I suggested, "What you mean is you didn't know you would have to make restitution if you stole the bubble gum, right?"

"Right! I shouldn't be punished twice for the same thing," he said with a frown.

Now, of course, I agree someone shouldn't be punished twice for their wrong. And, I'm also very sensitive to the biblical concern for justice. If there is anything Proverbs harps on besides wisdom, it's justice, righteousness, and equity (Prov. 1:3; 2:8-9; 8:15, 20; 11:1; 12:5; 16:11; 17:15, 23; 19:28; 20:8; 21:3, 7, 15; 28:5; 29:4, 26). Particularly, in authorities (Prov. 8:15; 20:8; 29:4).

How to help Son Y realize that I'm not double punishing him, and it is just for him to make restitution? ...

So I said: Son, that's like a man who robbed a bank telling the judge: "You can't sentence me to 5 years in prison!" When the judge asks why not, the man says, "I didn't know that robbing a bank carried a five year prison sentence. I thought I just had to give the money back."

To which the judge questioned: "Did you know it was wrong to rob the bank?" "Yes, I knew that." "Well, then, since you chose to do wrong, you have to suffer the consequences whether you knew what they were or not."

Son, since you knew it was wrong to steal, you have to take all the consequences of stealing, which includes restitution.

... silence ...

That must have made sense to him, since he doesn't give up his case easily. That was my best, on-the-fly shot at helping him understand that some sins have extended consequences.

Any ways you've helped your kids understand the justice of restitution?