Thursday, May 21, 2015

Delight: My Maker

There is not one blade of grass, no color in this world, that is not intended to make us rejoice. 
-John Calvin

Delighting in my Maker and what He is...
 I tried to find lasting delight elsewhere, but it faded away oh, so quickly 
and left me longing and empty.
I came back to Him when I realized He IS delight!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Joys of Spring

I'm enjoying yard work on these gorgeous spring days!
However, it's a constant struggle to keep the deer and birds and snakes at bay.
We are surrounded by trees and grass with all sorts of yummy edibles and nesting places, but they want to dwell in our potted, hanging plants, eat our fruit trees, and slither around through our mulched haven looking for moles and mice to devour! 


Surely, heaven will have gardening opportunities without snakes! :)

Enjoy these lovely days! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Parenting: Imposing Upon the Will of a Child and Modeling Submission

Richard Shelley Taylor’s book The Disciplined Life has a gem of a chapter which addresses the importance of “imposing” upon the will of our children. Chapter five addresses “The Case for Imposed Discipline.”

Taylor claims the lack of imposed discipline does not produce a strong independent individual. To the contrary, he writes “…humoring the child who has a ‘will of his own’ does not result in a strong will of the right sort. Allowing a child to do as he desires, to cry over nothing, to eat what he wants, to throw on the floor what displeases ‘His Majesty,’ to go into a tantrum when obstructed, to slap at Mother and kick at Father, while everyone chuckles, thinking that he is delightfully cute, will strengthen not only his self-will but his selfishness and his self-indulgence. This will bring his so-called strong will into bondage to his appetites. He is being conditioned to want what he wants when he wants it, without any capacity for deferment or denial. The resulting character will be not really strong at all but pathetically weak.”

Taylor continues; “An unyielded will can never be strong in the best sense. It may be strong to defy, to destroy, to lash out at whatever stands in its way. But it is not strong to adjust to life’s realities, to create beauty out of ugliness, to achieve over obstacles, to control self when frustrated, to work patiently and perseveringly in the face of difficulties. Firm discipline will not destroy a child’s capacity to have a ‘will of his own,’ when he grows up and knows how to use it. We can conquer a child’s will without breaking his spirit. The sober truth is, as many brokenhearted parents have discovered too late, that humored and coddled children do not love their parents more, but less. Their self-love is fed until it chokes out every noble impulse. The young person who already has built-in habits of regularity and obedience certainly has a head start for effective and efficient living.”

We must help our children understand the problem with their will. Taylor addresses this issue. "When children are born," he writes, “there is already a twist toward self-centeredness and lawlessness which will not right itself under the benign rays of Christian environment, but will feed on kindness, turn liberty into license, and grow alarmingly with the years, if not rigorously curbed by firm rule from the cradle onwards. Such curbing, while not able to extirpate the twist, will at least bring it clearly to light; it will also make adjustments to the restraints of an adult society much easier to say nothing of the greater ease in submitting to the rule of God, at first partially, and then with that full submission which enable God to correct the nature at its base.”

This "imposing" upon the will of a child must happen in the context of God-like love for the child. We must be preoccupied with what is in the child's eternal best interest. It must never be done from self-centeredness.

How our children turn out has a lot to do with how carefully we walk with God, how well we understand ourselves from God's perspective, and how carefully and proactively we model the proper relationship to God.

They need to see us following the example Jesus gave us. "My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me."1. They need to see us giving up our will to accomplish the will of God. They need to hear about our growth in our relationship to God. They need to see how a relationship with God actually works.

During our parenting years, both Curt and I experienced, what we believed was, God putting his finger on an area in our life that needed change. We worked through how we were going to go about breaking a habit or developing a new mindset on the particular issue, and then with prayer and dependence on God for His help, we went at doing our part. We talked to our children about the process, and they watched us change. It was powerful and effective in their lives. We have since watched them follow in our footsteps. What joy!

Dear parents, we have more access to our children and more opportunity to disciple them than we do any other souls. May we soberly consider this reality and give everything we've got to bring them to loving submission to us (their God-given temporary authorities) and then may we effectively model a life of submission to the will of God so that we can shepherd them to an understanding of how they are meant to live, submitted to the God who made them because they trust Him.

Godspeed, my dear fellow-parents!

1. John 4:34

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Training Our Children To Know Themselves

While some of life is not predictable, it seems to me, quite a bit is. Many times, if we look carefully, there is at least some method to the madness. There are certain "laws" about living that seem to cycle. As we study history, lives around us, and the Word of God, it is possible to gather wisdom and avoid a lot of heartache.

My mind travels back to early days with our girls. (Just so you don't misunderstand me, while I fully realize life is nowhere near over, and much could change, it seems to me our girls are both fully committed to doing the will of God, trusting in Jesus, and following His example as best they know. That being the present situation as I perceive it, I continue.) Thankfully, we had help in thinking critically about the effects our decisions would create. We were taught there is a continuous cause and effect to choices being made, that actions always bring consequences, and that it was up to us to study the end goal of training our children so that we could do our part (God certainly lovingly does His) in preparing our girls as best we could for what life would bring. We were cautioned vehemently to pay attention to this reality of life; I'm deeply grateful this insight was shared with us.

Training a child to begin the lifetime effort of "knowing" herself begins early. There are numerous parts to the project. On the changing table, when she starts to fling her arms and wiggle away; in the high chair as we train her to feed herself with dignity, when she first begins to express displeasure with having her will crossed; all of these scenarios are early opportunities to train her that there is structure and meaning to life, and she must surrender herself to that structure. As she matures, we must communicate continually, explaining each and every scenario from the Christian paradigm, building the mental framework in her mind that will be the foundation for future understanding. 

I remember Curt going on and on with long explanations to the girls (as he held their little face in his hands, insisting on eye contact) even when they were toddlers. (Some of our friends still tease us about that.) Whether or not those little minds fully comprehended, their attention span was stretched; and eventually we started adding questions to see what they were getting. That led to priceless conversations with quite little people. Any time we saw an action or attitude we didn't believe was right, we described how that action or attitude related to the framework of the Christian paradigm, and then we followed through, making sure it was clear that action or attitude would not be continuing.

For those of you who aren't sure what I mean, let me give examples. There are obvious things like hitting others, yelling at others, or saying no to a person in authority, but I am also talking about things like moodiness, whining, complaining, not concentrating, allowing the desire to be entertained to control you, not doing neat work, being wise in our own eyes, pursuing vanity, or putting ourselves ahead of others. Sadly, these actions and attitudes are often considered to just be expected from children. But when we vigilantly address each and every topic like this, accompanying such things with a discussion on how these things are connected to our problematic "natural" self (or "flesh," as Paul calls it), and we help our children understand themselves in that light, we are building their ability to "know themselves." Such training gives them tools, a framework that matches how life really works. They can use this understanding throughout life as thy face the myriad forces of the "flesh."

Does that make sense? There's really nothing magical about it. It's just consistent hard thinking and praying and acting upon what the Word teaches.

From what I can tell so far, understanding myself is a lifetime process. I have to stay vigilant or duplicity sets in, and before long problems arise. 

May God help us in this process, both as parents and in our own lives.