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?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bubble Gum, Repentance and Restitution

*Identities have been removed to protect the guilty.

Son X and Son Y both received two bubble gum balls on their last shopping trip. Son X ate only one of his pieces of bubble gum. Son Y ate both pieces.

At bedtime, Daddy helped Son X put his bubble gum ball on his dresser in a container so it wouldn't roll away.

The next day, Son X comes wailing to Mommy that his bubble gum is gone. Somebody ate my bubble gum! This is a catastrophe of monumental proportions!!

So, Detective Mommy sleuths out the culprit, who upon being confronted, confessed tearfully, "I didn't even enjoy eating it, because I knew it was wrong." Important lesson there!

Mommy reminds Son Y that Commandment 8 says, "You shall not steal." Taking bubble gum is stealing. So, following the administration of the 'board of learning' to the 'seat of education', Son Y comes to Son X and asks his forgiveness for eating his bubble gum: "I'm sorry for stealing your gum, please forgive me!" Son X forgives Son Y.

I received word of the sin, and approved the handling of the situation. ... until this morning!

I just sat down to read a bit of Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scriptures in Child Training by Lou Priolo and was struck by a caption in his chapter on Correcting with the Scriptures. The caption: Restitution.

It hit me: we didn't require Son Y to make restitution. That's important!

Scripture has a good bit to say about restitution. Numbers 5:6-8 establishes the basic principle -- restitution is 120% of the value of the item stolen (see also Lev. 6:5). Exodus 22:1-16 notes cases where restitution runs from 200% to 500%. Obviously, God takes stealing seriously!

So ... I'll be having a talk today with Son Y about restitution and what these verses mean for repaying stolen bubble gum. My plan is to require restitution of two bubble gum balls, since I can't see a feasible way to require 20% of a second bubble gum ball! :o)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lord Garmadon and Proverbs 24:1

At lunch on Monday Daniel announced to the couple sitting with our family: "Daddy found a verse about Lord Garmadon!"

In order to appreciate that announcement, you need a little background. This Spring, Allan came home from first grade excited about Ninjago, a newly released set of Lego characters. It was/is all the rage!

Lord Garmadon, according to Lego's wiki, is the wicked king of the Underworld whose weapon of choice is deceit. His brother, Sensei Wu, and his ninjas are trying to stop him from destroying Ninjago.

Whatever big brother brings home, younger brother drinks in like water to a thirsty camel. It wasn't long before I began to hear, like an interminable mantra, "Sensei Wu and Lord Garmadon" coming from Daniel's mouth everywhere he went around the house.

It didn't seem to matter that he had no first hand knowledge of these toys. He was captivated. I looked up the names he was repeating and wasn't pleased. Figures of darkness are not acceptable objects of focus for my boys. But how to dislodge it?

Sometime last week, I read Proverbs 24 in my personal worship time. Verse 1 reads, "Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them."

So I announced at breakfast: "Boys, I found a verse about Lord Garmadon!" Their eyes got big. Really!? What is it?

After I read the verse, Allan's face fell. Daniel wanted to know what 'envious' meant.

I pressed home the point: "A wise boy does not want to be like evil people, doesn't pretend to be evil, doesn't even want to be around evil men."

"That's why you are not allowed to pretend to be Lord Garmadon. He is evil. The Bible tells us not to make evil men our heros (i.e., those we are envious of or want to be like)."

That's about all I said. Apparently, that's all it took to make an impression on Daniel. That discovery was worth announcing publicly! "Daddy found a verse about Lord Garmadon!"

I haven't heard the mantra again, but if/when I do, we'll review Proverbs 24:1.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scripture for Easter

This week we have been following the last week of Jesus through Matthew's gospel using Thomas Nelson's Matthew, with Jesus played by Bruce Marchiano.

There are several things I like about this dramatic presentation of Matthew's gospel. The first is that it is a verbatim rendition of the NIV text of Matthew, no additions, no deletions. The second is Bruce Marchiano's portrayal of Jesus.

After we watch the day's section, I quiz the boys about what they saw and heard. There's not a lot of deep reflection that takes place (at least that I can see), but it does allow the story of Jesus' passion to grip the boys.

This evening I read the crucifixion account from Matthew to the boys since we got home too late to watch the DVD. I still had their attention, but I could tell it wasn't the same as the other evenings this week.

Either way, it opens the door to questions, discussions, and then spent time thanking Jesus in prayer for allowing his hands and feet to be nailed to the cross for our sins, for wearing the crown of thorns, and taking the wrath of God that we rightly deserve.

I'm praying that the Spirit will make this Easter one of dawning realization for the boys: Jesus loves them more than they can imagine.

How are you implementing Scripture into your family's celebration and remembrance of our Savior's passion this week?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tattling and Matt. 18:15

"I'm telling!!! .... Daddy ...!" If you have kids old enough to know right and wrong and talk, then you've probably heard those words.

If you're like me, you get tired of hearing about every real or perceived misdemeanor. Really tired!

However, there is no verse that says, "Thou shalt not tattle." In fact, just the opposite is true. Scripture commends, even commands, reporting wrong doing to proper authorities (Lev. 5:1; Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Tim. 5:19-20).

But, there is a biblical process. The biblical process is not See a sin > report to authorities. The biblical process is see a sin > rebuke your brother (Matt. 18:15; Luke 17:3) > assist in appropriate restitution (Gal. 6:1). If the brother will not repent, then report it to 1 or 2 who are qualified to serve as arbitrators (that's us parents).

So, I implemented this process several weeks ago. I sat the boys down and had a conversation something like this:

Daddy: Boys, the Bible says, if your brother sins against you, you are to explain to him that he did wrong and ask him to repent. If he repents, you must forgive him.

Boy: So if Brother A hits me, I'm supposed to tell him he needs to repent?

Daddy: Yes, that's right. He needs to say, I'm sorry for hitting you, please forgive me. If he repents, you must forgive him.

Boy: But what if he doesn't repent?

Daddy: Then you come tell Daddy and I will deal with it. If he does repent, then you don't need to come tell me.

It seemed simple enough, but it quickly became more complex. There are certain rules that I want to know about any infraction regardless of whether there was repentance or not.

I can immediately think of ways to abuse this biblical principle: big brother hits little brother, then repents, and insists that little brother can't tell parents, OR little brother commits serious infraction, is confronted, repents, and then insists that mom and dad don't need to know about it.

I'm still working on how to explain when I need a report about wrong-doing and when I don't need a report.

Anybody figure out a clear grid that is easy for 4-7 year olds to apply? All suggestions welcome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Proverbs 11:1, Black Clouds, and Hosea 8:7

This morning I came to breakfast planning to talk about Proverbs 11:1 with my boys.
Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.
I was going to talk about the importance of honesty, why God hates dishonesty, and reinforce the standard "Woe be unto you if you tell a lie!" speech that I heard many times as a kid and have integrated into my child rearing.

The boys were really sleepy at breakfast so I thought I'd let them listen in to me talk to Marianne about this verse. I quoted it and then asked her what she thought it meant.

Almost immediately after she said, "God hates dishonesty," she looked out the window and exclaimed about the really black clouds that were billowing into Cincinnati from the West. That led to a comment about tornado warnings, and the boys were off and running asking questions about tornadoes.

So much for Proverbs 11:1!

Rather than insist upon my previous plan; however, I shifted gears and quoted Hosea 8:7 (No, I couldn't remember the reference this morning, just the first half of the verse!).
They [the wicked] sow the wind and reap the whirlwind [a tornado]
Why not capitalize on little boys' fascination with tornadoes? So we talked about how a little sin reaps big problems. You breath out a few disrespectful words and a tornado descends on you (in the form of a wrathful parent).

I want my boys to know you can't sin and get away with it. Sow a wind, reap a whirlwind!

Friday, April 8, 2011

As you walk along the way: name calling

I overheard the boys calling each other names last evening before family worship. Viola! The topic for family worship: the image of God in us.

James 3:9-10 says, "With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way."

I explained that God made Allan in His image, so when Daniel calls Allan names, he is actually calling God's image names.

It's like having a picture of Mommy in your hand. After you tell Mommy you love her and give her a kiss, then you take the picture and say all kinds of nasty things to it. Or you tear it up in little pieces.

How does that show that you love Mommy? It doesn't, right.

Daniel is a picture of God too. If Allan calls Daniel names, then he is calling God's image names.

I'm not sure it stuck, but it's line upon line. That's the first line, I'm sure there will be plenty of "along the way" opportunities to repeat it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What's the most important thing in all the world?

At least once a week, sometimes more often, I ask my boys: "What's the most important thing in all the world?"

The rehearsed answer is "Loving and serving Jesus!" (cf. Deut. 6:5)

Then I ask, "What's the second most important thing in all the world?"

Answer: "Loving and serving other people." (cf. Lev. 19:18)

This simple catechism reinforces Matt. 22:37-40. There is nothing in life that does not hang upon Loving God and Loving others.

Yesterday, when I asked Daniel the first question, he ran them both together: "Loving and serving Jesus and loving other people."

When I insisted that we have to serve other people, he balked: "Why do we have to serve other people?" And that led to a discussion of Jesus as the greatest servant and his statement, "If anyone would be great among you, let him be the servant of all."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Numbers 6:24-26 and Psalm 67:1-2 -- Blessed to Bless

Sometime last week, during my daily devotions I read Psalm 67. The first two verses immediately struck me as reminiscent of the priestly blessing in Num. 6, which I quote over my boys most every morning.
1 God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us-- Selah.
2 That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.
What struck me about this text is that it explains the purpose of God's blessing: so that His "way" and "salvation" may be known throughout the world. In other words, this is a missionary blessing.

It's not about me and my kids getting and getting, but about God blessing us so that we may be a blessing to the world! What a great text!

So, I printed it up and put it on the fridge. For the last week, we've been saying it together as a family after I say the Num. 6:24-26 blessing. My goal is that all of us will have these two verses memorized so that when I pronounce the blessing, the family responds with this prayer that God will make us channels through which His name is known to the world around us.

I can envision a future time when we will explore as a family the meaning of God's "way," what it means to "know" God's way as well as His salvation, and how all this relates to praying for God to bless us so we can be a blessing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Proverbs at Breakfast: 29:15 today

Proverbs is a parent's book. It contains the inspired instructions from a wise parent to children. As such it not only instructs the parent personally, but models for the parent how to instruct a child.

Since "wisdom is the principal thing" (Prov. 4:7), I want my boys to gain wisdom. To that end, I plan to read a verse or more from Proverbs each day. Using the chapter that corresponds to the day's date, makes it easy, ensures variety, and keeps us moving.

Today's chapter is Proverbs 29, and I choose v. 15 as this morning's verse
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
As is typical for ages 4-6, key words need defining. I asked, "Daniel, what is reproof?" "I don't know."

So I offer a definition: reproof is when someone tells you that what you're doing is wrong.

I asked, "Allan, what is wisdom?" He answered, "Doing what I'm told with a happy, submissive attitude?" ... "That's what obedience is. And it is wise to be obedient!"

"Wisdom," Marianne said, "is thinking God's way." I can work with that definition. (A six year old doesn't have to be able to quote the full definition Dad gives in Wisdom Lit.: "Wisdom is the skill or ability of viewing life and all its components from God's perspective and keeping the proper focus.")

So, I say, "That's right. Wisdom is thinking God's way, and that's what Daddy and Mommy are trying to teach you to do, when we correct you."

Obviously, there's a good deal more to say about this verse, but that was enough for this morning. Line upon line ...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Talk of them when you sit in your house

Deuteronomy 6:7 says You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house ...

The "them" in the verse is God's commandments, or more generally, his word.

Breakfast is one of the times we sit in our house together, so it is a prime time to implement this aspect of Deut. 6:7. One of the ways I do this at breakfast is by quoting Numbers 6:24-26.
24 The LORD bless you, and keep you;
25 The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
26 The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.'
My chosen method of doing this is to place my hands upon my sons' heads and then recite the verses. As I say "May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you," I lift my hands off their heads and then bring them back down on the "give you peace."

My boys have taken to grabbing my hands and seeing if they can keep me from lifting them up. At first I just lifted the boys off their seats as they held fast onto my hands. Can't do that anymore!