Categories
Enjoying the Process

Et Liberi, Et Libri

Do my kids keep me from being productive?

They could, perhaps, and I used to lean more toward that irritation. I prefer quiet for reading and writing, for study and sermon preparation, you know, for the “important” work. But, along with being married and talking with my wife, my kids give me a greater reason to think about things and figure out how to say them. In other words, I may not crank out more words, but God uses my kids to crank me.

Nietzsche used the Latin pun aut liberi, aut libri, “either children or books.” He made the word play about what survives, to legacy through library or through progeny. I don’t know for sure whether he meant to pit them against each other, as if we could only choose one. But whatever he meant, why not both?

Some people—think your stereotypical ditch-digger—need to find some time to read (or listen to) good books. Some other people—think your stereotypical seminary student—have a moral obligation to have kids and spend more time with them. I write for my kids (whether they read it or not, now or ever), and I am learning from them. This relates to my thoughts about all that I’m learning from helping to start a school. I have a life from which to speak, rather than wrongly acting as if speaking is my life.

Most productivity books, writing books included, talk about setting up cognitive space, as in actual spatial spots (in a study, a barn, a coffee shop), that prepare the mind to think deeply and creatively. Get away from distractions. Tell others you aren’t available during that time. And sure, if you have the luxury to choose your cup of tea, drink up. But isn’t art often identified by the constraints? Aren’t some of the best artists the ones who can succeed within the constraints? Then why can’t the “constraints” that come along with responsibilities such as fatherhood enable better flavor?

Jonathan Edwards wrote some profound things, like down near the bottom of mankind’s depth. He was a deep dude. Biographers record that some days he spent thirteen hours a day alone in his study. On occasion he would leave the dinner table, which was still full of his family and guests, in order to go get back in his “zone.” While I strive to honor God with all my affections and industry, I no longer assume that such effort and energy is separate from my dad life, it’s more rich because of it. So let’s adopt the Latin phrase into et liberi, et liber, “both children and books.”

For some additional thoughts, read A Bad Equation by Austin Kleon.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

A Principal Ornament

Our elders are continuing to read The Supper of the Lamb and, in the chapter we talked about at our last meeting, Capon described how “a husband’s hunger is one of the principal ornaments of his household.” Too big a lunch means he’s not ready to be grateful for whatever his wife has prepared. Hunger is a sauce that sweetens even bitter things.

What kid wouldn’t love coming to the table to hear his dad talk about how he’s been looking forward to this meal all day? This isn’t dad being angry if the food takes a few minutes longer in the oven or if the menu is different than what his wife originally planned. He’s satisfied in anticipation, giving thanks before any bites because he knows what’s gone into the preparation.

I am very encouraged at how many of the young kids among us—I’m thinking in particular of those who are old enough to walk and talk but who haven’t been baptized yet—those who see what’s happening, who want to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Of course they could be doing it because it looks like a fun snack. That’s not what it is. But I would rather have that mistake for a while than the mistake of them not wanting to do what we’re doing for a long time. “Look at all those miserable, fearful people. I don’t want anything to do with that.”

Fathers and mothers who come to the Lord’s Table hungry for communion with their heavenly Father and with their spiritual family are showing that this is a table of joy. We know what went into preparing it, in heaven and on earth. May another generation see our glad hunger for Christ and come to love hungering for Him too.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Raking Face

I was listening to a message a few days ago that dealt with our need to repent from sin rather than adjust our definition of sin in order to protect our sin. I paused my run, got off the treadmill, and gathered all the kids together, along with Mo, for a confession.

I know that it’s important to show our kids how to respond, not merely tell them how. I know that yelling at them to stop yelling is an ineffective, let alone ironic, approach. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, yet we keep trying to paint pottery with sledgehammers. Sledgehammers do do something.

Earlier that morning I was in my study preparing the liturgy for our worship service–obviously a very important job–while the oldest three were playing outside in the leaves near that end of the house. Within a few minutes I heard loud, long wails of blood-curdling catastrophe. I pushed myself out of the chair, marched outside, and convened a meeting to find out what could possibly be so terrible.

Apparently there had been an accidental raking of someone’s face. One wasn’t paying attention, one got in the way of said leaf rake, and one gave a muttered explanation of the sorry event. It was all quite inconvenient (to me), quite a big problem (to me), and quite an inappropriate response (from me).

Yes, leaf rakers should pay more attention, and so should I when I approach a situation of little people who are learning how to live with each other, even when one of them hurts another one. Yes, there is no need for dramatic, excessive crying for a small scrape on the face, just as there’s no need for my dramatic, excessive anger about the crying. Yes, explanations should be clear and to the point, and I should show an eagerness to listen.

So I gathered the troops and asked for forgiveness for reacting wrongly to their wrong reactions. None of them had sinned; that was me. I was not loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, or gentle, which means that I was parenting in the flesh. The family granted forgiveness, and we learned that we don’t tolerate bad attitudes because we’re parents/fathers, we confess sin. By God’s grace, hopefully our kids will learn to do the same.

Categories
The End of Many Books

Loving the Little Years

by Rachel Jankovic

Loving the Little Years – Motherhood in the Trenches is the best book on parenting I’ve ever read. I’ll admit that I haven’t read as many books on parenting as I probably should have and I’m sure I’ve forgotten too much of what I have read. That said, every Christian mother and father should own this book, inside and out.

A certain sort of parent will not enjoy this book at all. Parents who view authority as a control mechanism rather than a means to fellowship, who prefer dispensing law rather than following it, and who expect change in their kids before change in their own souls should stay away from this book. On the other hand, parents who want to know and live the standard themselves and who want their kids to know and love the standard will develop much stronger muscles from this workout.

Rachel performs a tricky task, helping us toward the happy conviction that we fail so miserably by reminding us that the gospel of grace works. Death fills happy homes as dads and moms die to bring life, and she makes gospel dying look good. She illustrates that laughter is both a seed and fruit, a great blessing and at times an impossible mission. She observes the beauty of messes and the products of wastefulness. She humorously assaults petty, panicky, and proud parents. It hurts. And it helps, a lot.

I hope all the parents I know will read this book, repent (as necessary), and salt their childrearing with truckloads of God-fearing fun. That goes most for me and I plan to open this book again and again when I need to get a look above the trenches.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
Bring Them Up

You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly

Trapped in Neverland by Carl Trueman underscores the ugliness of today’s world “because it prevents many from ever growing up at all.” Here’s one more tempting bite:

I have had too many run-ins with students who act like five year olds and, when held to account, express all the pouting resentment that one comes to expect from a generation that demands respect but refuses to put in the time and effort to earn it.

I almost hate to tack on this link to Trueman’s sensible article, but for some (sick?) reason it brought back memories of my parents’ favorite song, You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly.