Category Archives: Christian Parenting

In the “trenches”

Why I Would Never Force my Kids to go to Church

Why I Would Never Force my Kids to go to Church.

One of the best blogs I’ve read in some time! Take two minutes and challenge yourself with this thinking… if you already agree, pass it on to a friend or neighbor!

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Explaining Easter

What do you tell your kids when they ask about Easter? About the real story, the real reason for it. The truth about what Christianity is all about, not the Easter bunny hoopla, hunting eggs…  the fact that Jesus was the only perfect man who ever existed, and was equally God. That none of us could make it to heaven because we’re human, we’re messed up, we are prone to wander and determined to have our own way. The fact that Jesus was and is the only way that faulty, imperfect, sin-prone mankind could ever come running straight to the Father, all debts paid, all sins forgiven, love abounding. What do you tell a young child when they ask?

 I’ve heard and read people’s opinions that you should tell your preschooler or young elementary-aged children that bad guys killed Jesus, and He rose again after paying for the sins of mankind, and that He is our way to heaven. Well, that’s true enough. Except that it isn’t enough.

 If we don’t gently share with our little ones the very real truth that WE are the bad guys, that it is OUR sin that put Jesus on the cross, then some day someone is going to tell them “Jesus died for YOU” and it is going to be an insult. If they grow up thinking that Jesus was taken by force, beaten, mocked and scorned, and then forcibly restrained and nailed to the tree… all because the bad guys took control… then the new information that THEY had anything to do with it, that THEY are the reason as much as any one else in creation, then what is the response? After having grown up fully secure in the knowledge that “bad guys” killed Jesus, what is the compelling reason to accept their equal culpability in His death? No wonder so many kids fall away from the church. The world is telling them that they deserve the best, they are a rock star, they are a winner. Self-esteem is this huge issue, as though any human child needs to be told again and again of their own importance when it is something that kids feel instinctively from birth. And self-esteem, pride, rears back its head and says, “Wait! What? You’re saying that I’m messed up, dirty, sinful? That I’m one of the bad guys who killed Jesus? NO WAY.”

 Since our children were very young, and I’m talking 2 or 3 here, we’ve been gentle but we’ve been honest. We show them their sin. We admit to our own, and apologize to them and to God in front of them. We call it sin. We call ourselves sinners. We don’t pound the pulpit or judge, we simply point out who is in control of our hearts when sin takes place… and Who is in control of our hearts when love takes place. We call it like we see it through the eyes of biblical love and compassion.

We explain to our kids that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was not forcibly taken, restrained, nailed to the cross against His will. No, He did it willingly. He could have had legions of angels immediately rescue Him at any instant. God the Father could have destroyed the Earth in one blink to rescue His Son. But Jesus took the hurt and the shame. It wasn’t “bad guys”, it was all of us… the same ones who were crying “Hosanna!” and waving palm fronds just days before. Why did He do it?

  • Because He loves us, as specific and individual people.
  • Because it was and is the only way that each one of us can get past the stain and ugliness of the sin we carry around in our bodies, and join a resurrected Jesus and His Daddy, His Abba, in heaven. And He didn’t want to live without us.
  • Because that was the plan from Genesis, and repeated throughout scripture, and God’s scripture is always true.
  • And mostly, He did it because His love compelled Him to do so.

 And our love should recognize that it isn’t an “us against them” good guys with white hats versus bad guys with black hats… it’s all of us, sinners, equally unworthy, that are rescued by Jesus and the work that He did.

 I don’t believe that a child can be too young to hear that Jesus chose the cross because He wanted that child to be with Him in heaven, and that there was no other way for that child to be good enough. It should not instill shame in that child to hear that they are so beloved that a Savior would go to any imaginable lengths to assure their safety and security forever.

It is not a curse “You are dirty!” but a cry, “We are all dirty, unrighteous, un-able… but, God…” But, God… was pleased to see His Son die for us, because God loved us that much. But, God… was willing to become man and live a life on the Earth, to share our experiences and to suffer and die for us. But, God… never intended to leave us alone. He always intended salvation. And through Jesus, understanding and accepting that what He did and we celebrate joyously at Easter, He suffered through utter love for us. Kids get it. They see Mom and Dad’s fierce love for them, their joy with them, their compassion and the security the child feels with them… and they understand that God is the source of all of that good, and that they are God-esteemed.

 We do our kids, even our very young kids, a disservice to imagine that they don’t know that choosing behavior that they know to be opposite of the directives of their loving parents is, actually, sin. We do them a disservice to not be honest with them in the explanation that Jesus is the only way to heaven, for ALL of us. None of us are good enough without Him. We do them a disservice to pretend that we do not sin, or to be unwilling to acknowledge and repent of it, change our ways and apologize. We do all of us a disservice not to accept that the Bible says that No one is righteous, no, not one. That ALL fall short of the glory of God. That the only way to the Father is through the atoning work of the Son. We need to prepare them for the truths that they will more fully understand as they get older.  We should be gentle, compassionate, empathetic… but we need to be honest.

 It must never be Rules and Laws, us versus them. It should focus on the relationship, always. We were, and our kids were, created for relationship with Him… so it is us and Him, not us and them. It’s a good thing. It is grace.

Conversations over Supper…

I love creation-based homeschooling two really bright kids. Supper conversation started out with a discussion about hunting, then ranged from how does God love us, to what constitutes sin, to whether or not animals sin, to why we can’t blame Adam and Eve for the decisions we ourselves make daily, to what constitutes the soul (complete with closing our eyes to simulate not bringing our bodies with us to heaven), to how now we can only understand a little bit, like looking through a dark glass or the reflection in a mirror (complete with reading some stuff out of 1 Corinthians and trying to see through the Worchestershire sauce bottle)…to the cardiovascular, urinary and gastrointestinal tracts and how they work, complete with fairly detailed explanations of how the blood takes food energy TO the cells and “garbage” AWAY from the cells, and experiments on whether or not we all think that the urinary tract system sounds anything like the sink faucet. And how God figured all that out.

I’m exhausted. I told Mark to please start reading, I’m gonna need some backup… they’re only 3 and 4!!

Lovin’ Our Little Rascals

Let’s just face it: as much as we love our kids, there are just times when other stuff (like their behavior) makes us want to beat our heads into the wall. Life, with all it’s interruptions, can sometimes empty our “love tanks” to the point where we’re slurping on Empty when it comes to feeling the warm fuzzies of Love.

We tend to think of Love as a feeling, as the world does. But the Bible portrays love (the Greek word agape) as an action. If we look in 1 Corinthians 13, we find out what love is supposed to look like, the “love chapter” with which we are all familiar.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

The word “agape” itself is a noun, but, these verses are a series of verbs, action words – actions to take. Did you catch that? “Patient” and “kind” are verbs! This is the way “love” proves itself, by what we do, not by what we feel.

Love is Patient (makrothymeō) verb – “to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart. To persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles, to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others (to be mild and slow in avenging, to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish).” (Strong’s concordance)

Love is kind (chrēsteuomai) verb – “to show one’s self mild, to be kind, use kindness” (Strong’s concordance)

As parents we are to model love not only because Jesus told us to, but because our children will learn what they see. Love, for a parent, is both for today and tomorrow. But it doesn’t mean that we are to be pushovers for our kids, let them get away with ‘murder’ as we keep on biting our tongues patiently… the Bible is quite clear that a parent who loves their child, disciplines their child. ‘Discipline’ being instruction and correction, not simply punishment, but more as in the term “self-discipline”. Training and retraining until the desired end result is apparent. Discipline itself must be subject to the laws of love, particularly in the administrator of discipline (the parent) being slow to anger. Discipline involves reason and control, and a parent who is not self-disciplined and fully in control of their emotions is in no position to administer discipline to teach their children proper behavior.

This sounds pretty difficult to achieve at times, particularly when our children manage to infuriate us on occasion, to our dismay! But look at the biblical definition of patience: “not to lose heart”. No where in the definition of the word ‘patience’ does it say “a warm fuzzy feeling of absolute calm in the face of stress or calamity.” Well, Thank You Lord is all I can say! He doesn’t require that we FEEL a certain way, He requires that we take the actions of not giving up or losing heart, and responding with mildness (not harshly or dangerously) and then applying instruction and correction rather than with retaliation or revenge.

Learning how to love God’s way develops a Heritage for our children and in ourselves. God does understand that this doesn’t come naturally for us; otherwise He wouldn’t have had to “spell it out” quite so carefully. Jesus gave us the law of love over and over in the New Testament, and the writers of the Bible went on to reiterate it over and over. The two main laws for Christianity are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love others as we love ourselves. “Others” includes our children and our spouses in particular, because they have been given to us by the Lord. Other relationships we can choose, but that of our spouse and children is God-given!

I read something one time that I try to implement. It said to try replacing the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 with your own name, as in, “I am patient, I am kind…” Try it. It’s a great litmus test, your heart will tell you quickly if you’re meeting this standard or not.

Beauty from Ashes

It isn’t until a person has experienced brokenness that they realize how fragile things can be… things like hearts, and dreams, and promises. We want to shelter our kids from the pain that these broken bits can cause them, but at the same time, we have to realize that until they have experienced loss, they will never need to measure their words, or weigh the consequences, or consider their actions.

It’s a fine line to walk, teaching kids how to keep faith in people, when you and eventually they know that people will at some point let us down. There has to be a reserve of strength in us as human beings that can just let things be as they are, let people be as they are, without it rocking our own foundations. That’s why we plant our hopes in the Lord first and foremost – He is unchanging, unfailing, and never ending. Everything else will pass away, but the Word of God will not pass away – God IS and WAS and ALWAYS WILL BE. He can take our brokenness and turn it into something beautiful, and that’s the most important lesson we can teach our kids. If we don’t turn it over to Him, our losses are in vain. And THAT is the true tragedy.

Being Our Kid’s Cardiologist

How often as a parent do we crack down on our kids for their behavior, finally wrangling a resentfully-spoken “I’m sorry” from this small person with crossed arms and a scowl? “Don’t hit your sister! Why did you sneak that candy?! Say THANK YOU!” We have a joke in our home about sounding like the teacher on the animated Peanuts cartoons, “Wah-wah-wah-wahwah-wah.” I’m pretty sure that’s what our kids hear when their hearts and faces are set like flint against one another and we hold forth on the parenting soapbox about kindness and goodness.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “…the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Actions speak louder than words, and actions come from attitude. It is often tempting as a busy parent to focus too much on our children’s behavior and less on their heart (read that as their motivation)… but if we ignore the heart, we will lose the behavior down the road. We need to be the keepers of our kids’ hearts, especially during early childhood. We have to build and maintain strong ties between their hearts and our own, diligently guarding that sweetness of spirit, and expecting it, looking for it.

If we spend effort looking for and commenting on the good attitudes and evidence of positive characteristics in our kids, pointing out to them (and to others in their hearing) these evidences, then we give our kids a vision of themselves that is positive and seeking good. They realize good consequences for good behavior. Alternately, if we focus more on trying to curb their poor attitudes and behavior, pointing those out to them more frequently than we notice their good, they will begin to see themselves as constantly “messing up” and failing to meet our standards.

Children’s hearts crush easily. It is so easy for a parent to come down on a child with harsh words and condemnation for unacceptable behavior… we so often expect better behavior from our children than we do of ourselves, and this with two, three or four decades of life experience behind us! If we can partner with our kids to enjoy them, bringing them up in the way they should go, it’s an entirely different mindset and response than an authoritative “because I said so, that’s why” parenting style. It will keep their little hearts healthy, and probably keep our parental blood pressure in check as well!

Head ’em up and move ’em out…

I’ve just finished the digital equivalent to unloading a bunch of boxes into a new house. You’ll find articles and thoughts on everything from gardening to home canning to round-penning a nervous horse. There’s more to come! Moving in takes awhile…