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Lord's Day Liturgy

Parents Picturing Parents

I was reminded again this past week that we usually need more reminders more than we need new information. We also usually need cheeseburgers more than we need a new special from some cooking artiste.

I’m going to begin a series of exhortations related to the work of fathers and mothers. I haven’t mapped out how many subjects to cover, or how many times I want to touch the electric fence. But there are many lambs in the flock, and sometimes they get a little jumpy.

One of my strategic twists on the subject is to remind us that we are not raising children, we are raising parents. We are dealing with people who will one day have their own people, and who, at some point down the road, will be responsible for us. Our time as “the boss” is short. You can have your kids do something because you say so, and it’s not always possible for them to understand everything at a given moment, but eventually they need to know. Who else is supposed to tell them? Did you think they wouldn’t need to be told?

Think about a list of qualities you’d love to see someday when you visit your children’s children, say, when you’re having sabbath dinner around their table. What characteristics would you want to see? I think that isn’t merely a subjective or preference question, at least not at the top. It can be answered.

Before I give you what I think numero uno should be, I’ll at least ask, whatever is on your list, are you currently showing them what it looks like?

And as for what should be first on everyone’s list: you want these future parents to trust the Lord, to love Him with all they are and have, to live by faith. You want your kids to be Christians, living from faith to faith. So again, are you? Are you trusting the Lord in front of your kids? Are you trusting the Lord for your kids?

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Against Raising Our Kids to Be Pornographers and Prostitutes

When I first started to think that God was calling me to be a pastor I was still in high school. And I did not want to be a youth pastor. One reason for that was because it seemed, based on my friendship with my youth pastor at the time, that the person who got to talk to the parents of the youth had a more strategic position.

My exhortation to confession today is loosely connected to the sermon text about how our work will be revealed (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 which is aimed at church leaders), and more specifically directed to parents of our junior high and high school and college age young people based on some things I’ve observed about our kids.

I want to start by saying that I am against raising our kids to be pornographers or prostitutes. I assume that we are all in agreement about that, and I wanted to take my initial step where the common ground was secure.

So we can and do agree that certain ends of our kids’ sexuality are no good. That’s good because the godless parts of our culture are in a tailspin of confusion and inconsistent condemnation over sexual corruption. They don’t know what they’re doing. But I want us to consider, do we?

We don’t want our kids to grow up and be prostitutes, but how much perversity are we willing to tolerate for them? We may not like thinking of it in those terms, but what are we thinking when we let them watch it, or mimic parts of it? Would we be okay with their promiscuity as long as it’s heterosexual? No? Then why in the world do we let them play around with transient relationships? Why do we let them practice being slaves to their feelings, because (when it’s not awful) it’s cute? Or because we don’t want to face the wrath of their feelings against us?

When it comes to parental purposes, it seems that we are either not thinking or, worse, our purpose is to avoid an imagined puritanical prudishness that causes too much cultural embarrassment. We have a plan, and that is to let them have fun and have crushes and not have to control their fleshliness too much beyond not getting pregnant.

Shouldn’t the purpose be for purity, in parts and hearts? We should want our kids to get married and be fruitful and multiply, and we are not taking that seriously enough. Parents, our work is on display.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Damp Bounty Paper Towel

One way we know that we’re growing up is by how much we can absorb. I don’t mean absorbing information, though the more mature we are the more we will increase (and be able to increase) in the knowledge of God. The absorbing I’m referring to is the ability and capacity to take up and reduce the intensity of someone else’s difficulty, to help them keep calm and obey on, to swallow up some of the freaking out rather than freak out in return. It’s catching their negative energy with a pillow, not returning it with a ping pong paddle.

There is an absorption spectrum that includes size and soak-ability. There is the dry, giant beach towel on one end, the damp Bounty paper towel in the middle, and the iron screwdriver on the other end. The screwdriver doesn’t absorb anything, will probably get rust on you after a while, and hurts if you hit it at the wrong angle.

Those who are spiritually mature absorb the immaturity and even some of the sinfulness of others. This ought to be our desire: to increase in absorption glory. We definitely don’t want to be dumpers, and there are certain roles that should never dump on others.

Parents ought not spill on their kids. Parents ought to be the ones who take it. Paul told the Corinthians with different imagery that “children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” so that “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:14-15). Generally, husbands should absorb for their wives, teachers for their students, pastors for their sheep.

We do, of course, run out of absorption room at times. Mom was already running at full capacity when half the household started vomiting, at 2am. Dad is in the middle of a busy season at work, and gets into a car accident, has to deal with insurance, and start physical therapy, and the kids “choose” that week to go off the reservation. What do you do then? Pray for grace to find a dry patch of fabric and sew it onto the towel. Remember that we are in Christ. Trust that His soak-ability is made perfect in our wetness.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

On Not Sponsoring Stupidity

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, wisdom for those who need to get wisdom, and wisdom for those who need to give it. Solomon helps the one who already understands obtain guidance and then also give guidance to others.

One of the proverbs most quoted in our house is Solomon’s lesson on the unteachable.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
(Proverbs 12:1, ESV)

The word “stupid” (translated as such in the ESV, NAS, NIV) usually referred to an animal that lacks sense. To hate correction is “brutish” (KJV). Lots of times parents are up against the worst sort of willful stupidity. Some other times parents are the worst at keeping their kids dumb.

Jonathan Edwards illustrated it this way.

If any of you that are heads of families, saw one of your children in a house that was all on fire over its head, and in eminent danger of being soon consumed in the flames, that seemed to be very insensible of its danger, and neglected to escape, after you had often spake to it, and called to it, would you go on to speak to it only in a cold and indifferent manner? Would not you cry aloud, and call earnestly to it, and represent the danger it was in, and its own folly of delaying, in the most lively manner you were capable of? Would not nature itself teach this, and oblige you to it? If you should continue to speak to it only in a cold manner, as you are wont to do in ordinary conversation about indifferent matters, would not those about you begin to think you were bereft of reason yourself? (emphasis mine)

Who has the bigger problem, the child in the burning house or the dad who sees the child in the burning house and acts as if it’s no big deal? He who hates reproof is stupid. He who hates giving reproof when it is necessary sponsors stupidity, and death (Proverbs 19:18). Maybe the most ironic response is hating correction so much that you get fired up to correct the ones urging your kids to get out of the burning house because you don’t like their tone. We should be wiser than that.

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A Shot of Encouragement

Adorned with Divine Delight

A fantastic footnote (#10) found in chapter 6 of The Things of Earth (paragraphs added):

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, ‘Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.’

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, ‘O God, because I am certain that Thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with Thy perfect pleasure. I confess to Thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving Thy creature and Thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised! Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in Thy sight.’

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works….

Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all His angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all His creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.”

—Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage,” in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 2nd ed., ed. Timothy F. Lull (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), 158– 59.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Parents Are Always Parenting

Other real live souls are now depending on you. You are the creator of their childhoods. You are the influencer of their dreams and tastes and fears. You are the emcee of all reality, the one to introduce those small people to the true personality of their Maker (as imaged by your life more than your words). The choices you now make have lives riding on them. Always.

—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 44

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Whole Row

One attribute of God in Genesis one that isn’t always mentioned by commentators, theologians, and preachers is that our God gives. All of creation is overflow. He doesn’t make anything because He needs it, or so that He could take something back from it, or so that He could have servants who will do work He finds distasteful on it. Look at the creation story less as an answer to scientific questions and more as an answer to sociological questions. If this is God, and He made us to bear His image, what should we do?

There is no relationship under the sun unaffected by that constant catechism. But since we have a parenting seminar coming up at the end of this month I thought I’d take a moment to apply creation theology to dads and church. How do Genesis 1, parenting, and liturgy fit together? Is there application for fathers when they recognize that creation sings the Father’s song?

God made us to be particular kinds of people. We are worshippers, but even how we worship should show something of what He’s like. For example, He is a God of order. Our worship should not be chaotic, but should include structure and regularity. Also, God is a God who gives. God gave a place for men, God gave food to men. He gave us stars and seas, fruits and veggies, birds, bugs, and birthing bovine all for man to receive with thanks and joy. God made it all and gave it to man.

That means, among other things, that dads should give to their kids, and the corporate meeting of the church for worship is no exception. Give a place to sit, maybe the squirmiest one right next to you. Give attention. Give direction. Give an arm around his shoulder or a pat on her back. Give a small piece of candy (one they won’t choke on, and maybe unwrap it a bit pre-service if necessary). Give some paper to color. Give encouragement. Give example.

You may need to plan how to make church sweet. But shouldn’t you? I’m not talking about turning your pew into an amusement park. I’m talking about dad leading in giving in such a way that the kids receive these ninety-plus minutes as good. This isn’t just to keep them quiet. This isn’t just because God takes worship seriously. It’s because we are showing what God is like even now.

What are you showing? How are you helping to lead your family in joy? When we think about it that way, who needs to grow up most? It isn’t only our kids, it’s the whole row.

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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.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

THIQ Obedience

Most Christians probably don’t need another acronym for our spiritual walk, and yet a well-applied acronym can slow down unraveling strings when we’re in the fray. YMMV but, at our house, we’ve written a certain acronym on our “heinie remindie” tool (AKA, “the rod”) to remind us all about obedience.

What is obedience? Oftentimes a child who asks the question knows the definition, he’s filibustering to save his fanny. In order to avoid the need for a word study in the heat of a disobedience, we talk about obedience that is THIQ: total, happy, immediate, and quick. Admittedly, that may not be the best logical order but IQTH doesn’t quite roll of the tongue.

THIQ obedience is total, doing everything that was assigned. It is happy, cheerful, without anger or tormented countenance. It is immediate, not traded for an obedience to be named later. And it is quick, not poky, dawdling, or meandering.

I mentioned THIQ obedience that we describe to our kids during corporate worship because worship is one of the best times for parents to model THIQ obedience for our kids. Where should they learn how to obey? They learn as we correct and train them, yes, and they learn by watching us. Our obedience and our worship should be THIQ. Our confession before God should acknowledge when it isn’t.

Are we worshipping totally, whole-hearted and fully engaged? Are we worshipping happily, gladly and without burden? Are we worshipping immediately, that is readily, when He calls, or when we’re ready to get around to it? And are we worshipping quickly, running with our hands on the worship battering ram, or are we just out for a Sunday stroll? If we’re not THIQ, let’s show our kids how we want them to respond when they disobey: humbly confessing our sin and seeking forgiveness promised in the gospel.

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A Shot of Encouragement

Clearly Outrageous

A new post from Rachel Jankovic on the joy that’s possible when we differentiate principles from methods. The principle here applies to much more than mommas pushing their favorite idols techniques. It creeps into any corner where someone says something that’s “clearly outrageous.”

Do not get caught up in method camps and chisel away at the number of saints you can fellowship with every time you read a new article about that thing that has become the most important thing. Do not build for yourself an arsenal of inflammatory topics.

On Women, Divisiveness, and Hobby Horses