children Posts

The Time of Your Life

time_of_your_lifeWe often don’t understand and appreciate the time of life we’re in, or we make choices that make our time of life harder than it needs to be. It’s true that we are all individuals who can’t be pigeonholed into a set grid, but there are also some generalized times of life for people. Even though it’s different for each of us, God has designed now to be the best time of our lives. We just need to look at things through His perspective.

Your life is not a sprint; it’s not even a marathon. It’s more of a cross-country race or a steeplechase. There are ups and downs, curves and straightaways, rivers to ford and meadows to meander, times that are fast paced, and times of coasting, pacing yourself and catching your breath.

Each time of our life morphs into the next; it doesn’t usually happen abruptly, although there are times it may feel sudden and unexpected. When we stop and reflect, there are almost always little changes we’ve adapted to that are leading to the next time of our life. They were just gradual and not very noticeable. For instance, a mom may feel like her last child going to school all day was sudden, and may wonder what she should do now. She may feel like her identity as Mom is slipping away, never to return. But the reality is, those little ones have been moving toward independence, day by day, since they were born; they were made for that.

Just like there are seasons of the year that signal change and difference, there are seasons of our lives. Just as there are places where there are distinct changes in the weather and climate, so there are also changes in our behavior. For some, summer is a time of being outside, with activity and fun, whereas winter may be a time of slowing down, staying inside by the fire and reading a good book. We need to recognize and get in step with our life seasons to make the most of the varied times of our lives.

Rather than trying to get back to the last season of life, we need to recognize the values of the new season and take advantage of them. Even the Proverbs speak of the ant that gathers in the summer for the times in the winter when there is nothing to gather (Proverbs 6:6-8). There are seasons of our lives that are fast paced, crazy busy and almost maddening. We will be much better prepared for those seasons of life if we have relished in and taken advantage of the slower paced season when we could charge our batteries and recharge our emotional strength.

Lastly, a bit of advice (from someone who has not always practiced this), no matter what season of life, no matter what time of life you are in, take time to lift your head and look for two things.

One, look for what is ahead of the immediate “right now.” It’s so easy to put our head down and forget that this is just a season, or to just coast and forget that the hairy, busy time will come. Two, look at what the Lord is doing in your life, your marriage, your family and your community of friends, and get in step with Him and what He is doing. Ask Him, “God what are you doing? What do you want me to learn? How can I get in step with you in this time of my life?” By doing so, you can live life to the fullest now, the way He intended you to live it.

Biblical Families: Spiritual Growth

Rick and Judy discuss what it looks like to grow spiritually as individuals and as a couple, seeking Him first in all things (Matthew 6:33). They provide some ideas about how you can find your personal rhythms and how a husband and wife can grow spiritually together.

Biblical Families: Discipline

Discipline is not about controlling children. Rick and Judy explain the point ofdiscipline is teaching children the purpose, value and habit of self-discipline. It’s about helping them explore life while allowing appropriate freedoms so they learn to make their own decisions and become responsible adults.

Biblical Families: Parenting

There are a lot of misconceptions about parenting. Rick and Judy discuss what the Bible says about helping children learn how God designed life to be lived, and how they should respond appropriately to a parent’s authority, and ultimately, to the authority of God.

 

The Many Faces of Love: A Child’s Love

A Child's Love

When Judy and I began having children, we were convinced with each one that they were going to be the most loving person in the world. It didn’t take very long with each one to realize, like parents learn about every child, that they were actually quite selfish.

Each child that comes into this world is born completely dependent on others to make living possible, which naturally contributes to their selfish tendencies. It doesn’t take long for them to begin to think the world revolves around them. Looking back on my own childhood, that includes me as well. Parents exist to grant a child’s every wish. Siblings exist for a variety of selfish reasons: to take out their frustration on, to compete with them and win, or to get even with each other for the way they were treated growing up.

Most parents truly love and cherish their children. They sacrificially give to and for their children without the slightest expectation of anything in return. And slowly something can begin to happen in their children.

A parent can go way out of their way to just bring a smile to their child’s face, only to get that smile with an attitude of, “You just did what parents are supposed to do.” No “thank you” or anything of the sort. But if the parents keep showing love, one day they may notice their child handing one of their stuffed animals to a sibling or friend as an act of sacrificial love.

Then at some point a child may actually give their parent a Valentine or a birthday present (that someone else actually paid for, of course) and with a proud face hand it to Mom or Dad. Often they will expect the parent to make big a big deal over their gift, since that selfishness is still lurking beneath the gift giving.

At some later point, they may learn the words, “Thank you” and “I love you.” They may even eventually say those words with some heart behind them, actually meaning them. It seems that by the time children grow into their early teens, they are finally learning a little bit about how much a parent has actually sacrificially loved them, but at this point they are often too shy to acknowledge it out loud. For later teens the shyness may turn into being too “big” to say such words. Some will. Some won’t.

Love is designed to be an acquired way of living, and as children grow and become adults, and start having their own children, some realities start to dawn on them. I can remember one of our adult sons asking me many questions over the phone, including, “Dad, how did you afford those soccer cleats for us each season?” As a parent, he was getting a better picture and clearer perspective that had eluded him in childhood.

Recently, our oldest son drove 11 hours to come and see us, and his grandmother who was in the hospital and then in hospice. I told him how much I appreciated it. I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him for the man he had become. He simply said, “Well Nana always loved us so well, always moved with us when we moved. It’s the least I could do.” He didn’t say a bunch of mushy stuff, but his actions were actions of love.

The next weekend, our other son and his whole family came to visit their Nana as well. They loved her and us by just taking the time and putting out the effort to show up. Our daughter also flew out from Little Rock, Arkansas to visit Nana and us. She took a lot of time and spent a lot of money because she loves her grandmother and her parents.

I love each of our children for who they are. I’d give my life for any of them. Love tends to grow where love is shown, and one of the best things in life is seeing our children growing in sacrificial love for their spouses, for their children, for each other, and even for Nana, Judy and me. And I’m extra grateful for their effort in coming to see their Nana one last time before she went to be with Jesus.

The Many Faces of Love: A Mother’s Love

A Mother's Love

As I write this, I am sitting in the hospital with my mom – again. This is the second time in three weeks she has had to be rushed to the emergency room and then admitted to the hospital with a critical blood infection the doctors can’t seem to get rid of.

As I watch my mom fight to live, I find my heart aching for her and my mind reflecting back on so many years of her love for me. Just the thought of her love brings tears to my eyes. I have always heard and felt her sacrificial love for me.

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, living in a small white house on John Street in Evansville, Indiana, our house backed up to a donut shop on Division Street. About 5:00am every day you could smell those donuts being made. What an alluring smell! And every Saturday morning my dad would walk those 100 steps or so to that donut shop and buy a half dozen fresh, warm donuts. He’d walk in the house and we’d sit down to a big glass of milk and two donuts each.

My mom loved donuts. In fact, she has always had a major sweet tooth. Every Saturday my mom would eat her first donut very slowly, while I wolfed down my two. Then my mom would say, “I’m not very hungry this morning. Want my other donut, Ricky?” Without hesitation I took her up on the offer and ate that third donut pronto.

I know now that being hungry or not had nothing to do with her offer of her second donut. My mom loved to see me happy and excited. She would do anything and everything she could for me – even to a fault at times. But it was always motivated by her deep love for me. I realize so much of what I know about love, I learned from my mother’s love.

From the earliest days I can recall, I have heard my mom, referred to as Nana by her grandchildren, say two things frequently: “I love you” and “I’m so proud of you.”

Even now, as she lays in her bed fighting for her life, the most common thing she says is, “I love you so much, Rick! What a blessing you are to me.”

And my heart speaks back to her, “I love you so much, Mom! I’m so blessed to have you as my mom.”

 

Note from the author: My mom went to be with Jesus last night. She is finally experiencing the complete peace and joy of being free from the pains of this life and being in the presence of God. She loved so well and was loved by so many. Thanks to all for your thoughtful words and prayers.

Children Come With a Job Description – Part 4

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As I said in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series, I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: “To figure out how God designed life to work.” And He puts them into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.

Consider this passage:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are two imperatives in this single verse. The first is “do not provoke.” The second is “bring them up.” There are three key words and phrases in this command statement. The first is the imperative, or command, to “bring them up.” The second is “the discipline…of the Lord.” The third is the “instruction of the Lord.”

The Greek words used here for discipline and instruction both speak of education and teaching, but by different means.

The Instruction of the Lord

The Greek word used here for instruction is the idea of educating, teaching or instructing – with information. This is the idea of giving children the information, truth and verbal guidelines they need to live life by God’s design.

Going all the way back, deep into the Old Testament, we see this emphasized as well. Moses told the nation of Israel:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart (so you can show them with your life). You shall teach them (give them information) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”[1]

Our children need to know a lot of information, and the more from us as Christian parents, the better. Judy and I wanted our children to hear about sex from us before, and rather than, hearing it from their friends. We wanted our children to hear about a philosophy of life from us rather from the world around them. We wanted them to hear about God and His design for life from us rather than from others.

When Bryan and Eric were seven and eight. I told them I would be in a certain small room in our house at 6:30 in the morning for a half hour. If they wanted to be part of the boys’ club, there was a special knock on the door, a special handshake and special rules. The rules were that they had to bring their Bible, read their Bible for the first 15 minutes of our time, and then we would talk about anything they wanted during the last 15 minutes.

Sometime we talked about what they read in their Bibles as they came across questions. Sometimes we discussed what I read from the Bible during that time. And sometimes the conversation was about very different things. It was during this time that the boys asked about the birds and bees for the first time. “Where do babies come from? How does that happen?” Fun morning!

We as parents can’t and won’t give children all the information they will get to live life by God’s design. There is just too much information and too many sources providing it. But as parents, we are the ones God is holding accountable to make sure they get what they need and to help them process that.

During high school our children were in a very intense educational situation, but some of what they were learning was being taught by people with very different values and beliefs than ours. They were all in different classes with different teachers, and there was a lot of debriefing that needed to take place, mainly around the dinner table.

We would ask them what they were learning at school, and when we heard something a little off from what we believed to be God’s design, we would ask, “What do you think about that?” They would tell us what they thought, and if we were still concerned, we would ask things like, “So if that is true, then how does that fit with…?” We asked many similar questions, trying to help them critically think through what they were hearing.

It wasn’t perfect by any means, but we worked hard to bring them up in the instruction of the Lord and learn how to be adults in a world they had to maneuver through on their own.

 

[1] Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NASB95), content in parentheses added

Children Come With a Job Description: Part 3

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As I said in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I believe all children come into this world with one primary job description: “To figure out how God designed life to work.” And He puts them into the arms of parents to help them fulfill that job description.

Consider this passage:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are two imperatives in this single verse. The first is “do not provoke.” The second is “bring them up.” There are three key words and phrases in this command statement. The first is the imperative, or command, to “bring them up.” The second is “the discipline…of the Lord.”

The Greek words used here for discipline and instruction both speak of education and teaching, but by different means.

The Discipline…of the Lord

The Greek word for discipline that Paul uses is the idea of educating, teaching or instructing – with actions. We might call this modeling or training in a skill today. We are being told that one of the means of bringing up a child is to show them and get them involved in living life by God’s design.

Our actions and words need to be consistent or it will confuse children. Old joking statements by parents such as, “Do what I say and not what I do” are not part of God’s design. In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul talks about how he has given up everything to follow Christ. Then in verse 17 he says, “join in following my example….”[1] He is essentially saying, “follow me as I follow Christ.”

That is a great admonition for parents. We should desire and grow as disciples of Jesus so that we can say to our children, “Follow my example of following Christ.”

So what does the “discipline…of the Lord” look like in practical terms?

Nothing more than being a model, an example of how God intended life to be lived. That’s all.

But whoa. That’s pretty overwhelming.

And the more we understand our role as parents the more it ought to humble the knees of our heart before God until we say, “God we can’t do this on our own. We need your help!”

This whole set of instructions speaks more to parents than it ever does to our children. We so often focus on the kids and wonder how they are going to turn out, but here God is saying to us, “Look at your own life.”

Are you living and growing as a disciple of Jesus? Are you continuing to follow Jesus with the goal and desire to become like Him? God put us in our children’s lives to “show them” (the word for discipline here) who God is and what He is like, as they observe our lives.

You have to ask yourself:

  • “Is your heart increasingly Humbly Submitted to Jesus as the Lord of your life?”
  • “Is your mind being increasingly Biblically Formed by His Scriptures?”
  • “Are you becoming increasingly Sacrificially Generous in your choices?”
  • “Are you becoming increasingly Morally Discerning in your choices?”
  • “Are you becoming increasingly Relationally Healthy in your choices?”
  • “Are you increasingly being an Intentional Blessing in your compassions?”
  • “Are you increasingly being Culturally Engaged in your compassions?”
  • “Are you increasingly practicing Inclusive Community in your compassions?”

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A number of years ago a famous basketball star, Charles Barkley, made a short black and white Nike commercial. He bounces the ball a couple of times, looks into the camera and states, “I am not a role model.”

There was such an outrage by the public that Nike pulled the commercial in just a couple of weeks. The next month Sports Illustrated had an editorial response to the commercial by another famous player, Karl Malone, a friend of Barkley. In his comments to Barkley, he said, “Charles, you can deny being a role model all you want, but I don’t think it’s your decision to make. We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”[2]

So it is with us. And it never stops.

When my son Eric was 28, living away from home and pursuing his new career, he called me. He kept asking a lot of questions about me, how I was feeling, how I was handling certain things. Finally, I had to ask him, “Eric, what are you doing? Why the 64 questions about me?” Eric simply said, “Dad, you’re my dad. I just want to learn how to live life when I’m your age. I’m watching you.”

Now he’s 37, and just the other day he texted me and talked about looking forward to being a granddad. Then he asked, “Got any tips?”

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

[1] Philippians 3:17

[2] http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1138690/