Parenting

LEADING OUR CHILDREN THROUGH AN OPPOSING CULTURAL

Ever parents faces the daunting challenge of how to walk our children through the influences and landmines of the surrounding culture.

In this Gospel Coalition interview, parents are given some practical thoughts on leading our children well through a culture which does not honor biblical values

THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED

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Book Review by Debbie Huber

“The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children With Special Needs”

Knowing that I have a special interest and love for people with special needs, Kyle bought this book for me to read on my Kindle. As an occupational therapist I want to have a better understanding for the struggles of families with special needs. 

But this book is much more than what I expected. I believe that what the authors have to say will help all who read it have a better understanding of the goodness and dependability of God and His sovereignty over suffering. 

The authors, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, have two autistic children. The children were both meeting their normal developmental milestones until the age of three when their development started going in reverse. This is called regressive autism. Their challenges are many and they share their pain with raw honesty however this is not just a book about children with disabilities…

This is a book about God. 

I was expecting anecdotes about being parents of autistic children.  But in the midst of sharing difficulties and humor, the reader is pointed to the Gospel.  They share their journey to find that God is all sufficient through it all.

For example, the Wilson’s ongoing, earnest prayer is to get a full night’s sleep. That has not yet happened for them which is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Andrew says that “I think the greatest single challenge to my prayer life has been the fact that so many prayers for sleep have gone unanswered.”  But he has learned that even when we do not know why God is not answering our prayer, we can still trust him and be thankful. 

Andrew was having a particularly frustrating and angry evening while praying for healing for his children and feeling that nothing was changing.  Not knowing where to go in prayer he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“I talked to God and meandered through parts of the Lord’s Prayer I had never seen that way before.  God heard me. I heard God.” He says, “I remember… that praying for healing and blessing at this point, after spending a while responding to God’s love, knowledge, glory, and beauty, meant that my prayers for the children were framed in a right attitude of trust and security, rather than a sofa-thumping anger and frustration.”

Their perspective of God’s grace is so encouraging.  Andrew and Rachel know that they have so much and deserve so little which brings them to a place of humility and gratitude. 

They have begun to notice even the smallest milestones or graces from God every day.  They have chosen to celebrate God’s grace in how much they have and how little they deserve so bitterness is rooted out and gratitude thrives. 

Sometimes we want to “redeem” the story, to write our own happy-ending, to glorify God in the way that WE think is best.  But God’s timing and His ways are often very different from ours. 

Rachel shares a lesson which stood out to me in a new way: 

“So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not.  I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good…(including)every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to love and trust our God more. 

STOP APOLOGIZING FOR GOD!

by Debbie Huber

Are you apologizing for God?

Do your children see and hear that you love God and there is no higher priority in your life?

I am sure that most of you hope so.  But we may not be aware that we, as parents, can come across as “apologizing for God” to our children.

Our children can perceive that God is a lesser priority in how we communicate his importance for our lives.

Are you afraid that your teenager will be bored in church so you feel guilty for bringing them?

Do you give up on family devotions before school in the mornings because you feel sorry that your children will be too tired getting up early?

Do you allow sports and sporting events, birthday parties, or sleepovers to keep your family from being in church together because you feel bad since “they will be left out”? 

 

Do not apologize for the things of God! 

Rather be excited for every opportunity to be with the family of God, to worship Him, to read His word, and to love Jesus more.

The Christian life is an adventure! 

Following Jesus will not be easy but let your family know that it is worth ALL of our life and our devotion.  We “get to” go to church!  We “get to” read the Bible so know who God is! We “get to” be around fellow believers!

We will not regret the sacrifices we made for God but we will regret the “apologies” we made for Him.

 

FAMILY DEVOTIONS, CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM?

 

“Can our family live without having devotions together?”

This a prodigious question for parents with children still at home.

The short answer is, yes you can live.

But the fuller answer is, not anywhere near as well as a Christian family should!

Family devotions are not about parents being scholars, teachers, or having all the answers.

Family devotions are about inserting God and his Word into family life. It an essential process for making sure that the most important truths for life and eternity are given a prominent voice in our home.

If your answer is “My children get enough of God at church and their Christian school.”

My response is NO THEY DON”T!!

What your children don’t get – and this is enormous– is to see that the most influential people to them are committed to loving God and putting him first in their lives. They don’t see that your family is led by God’s Word – unless they experience your family reading and implementing God’s Word

In the end, God has placed the primary discipleship role on parents. God gave your children to you and God made you their parents. Your church has an essential role that supplements, not supplants the role of parents.

If your answer is “But I don’t know where to start and what to do?”

I understand. Keep it simple.

Gather the family

Open your Bible to the New Testament

Read a small portion (they key is consistency not amount)

If an application or comment comes to you, share it. If not, don’t worry about it

Close with prayer

Over time you will become more comfortable doing it. And if you sincerely pray for God to help, he will answer that prayer.

Be encouraged in knowing that God is always the main character in the process.

To help stir up some good ideas for family devotions, I urge you to read this article by Tim Challies. He gives 10 Ideas for family devotions and then adds 10 Tips to help make it work.

FAIRNESS vs GOSPEL OPPORTUNITY IN PARENTING

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by Debbie Huber

Have you ever had a situation where you felt your child was treated unfairly?  Has it happened in your church?  How did you, as a parent, respond?

Maybe your child was not chosen for a solo or asked to be a student leader in the youth group.  Maybe your child was not invited to a sleepover or to a birthday party.  Maybe it seemed like someone in authority was unfair to your child (a coach, a Sunday School teacher or youth group leader, etc.).  These things can hurt and cause disappointment.  As parents, it is hard to see our children sad and disappointed.

How should we, as Christian parents respond?

Unfortunately many times a response is seen in the church that mirrors how the world would react.  It is natural for feel sad for your child’s hurt feelings and to comfort them. But hurt feelings can easily turn into selfishness as children dwell on the “Why me?”. 

Frequently selfishness is validated by the parent letting the child know that their disappointment is justified because it was not fair.  Rather than focusing on the godly response, “fairness” becomes the primary focus.  And often the parent will attempt to fix things by making sure that the appropriate person in authority hears about your child’s hurt feelings and the unfairness of the situation. 

So how can we turn this situation into a gospel opportunity?  

When we deal with situations from the perspective of fairness, the gospel message is lost.  Emphasizing the fairness of the situation is really feeding into our natural tendency toward selfishness. That our child’s rights are more important than grace, mercy and love for others. 

This is the opportunity to turn the situation into helping our child see his great need for the gospel as we lovingly speak to them gospel truths in their disappointment.

God in His great mercy knows the tendencies of our hearts to seek out our rights.   

Remind them of the most unfair thing of all: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8.  The perfect, sinless Jesus became sin in our place so we can stand before God with the sinless righteousness of Christ.  This isn’t fair but it is a precious gift that God gives us through Christ. 

Help them to see that they cannot fix this disappointment and selfishness on their own and that is why Jesus had to come and why we need Him. 

Lead them to the God who calls us His children to seek forgiveness and help for our selfish hearts. 

Encourage them to love and show grace to those who have hurt them as Jesus graciously died for us when we didn’t deserve it. 

Show them that thankfulness for Christ’s forgiveness of our sins is the opposite of worrying about fairness. 

 

QUESTIONS FOR DADS (and MOMS)

Parenting is filled with a wide range of challenges and struggles.

As time goes on the complexities increase, and second guessing the job we’ve done can become a significant burden as our children are about to leave for college or other out of our reach places.

The truth is, none of us will become the first perfect parent.

But each of us can improve in our parenting. One tool to help us improve is asking the right questions. The best questions are those which open our child’s hearts to us, AND questions that reveal how we are doing as a parent.

It takes courage to ask questions that may reveal our failures, but the risk of continuing in failure is not a trait to be admired.

You love your children and they love you. Developing a relationship where these questions go back and forth will help create healthy communication that continues throughout our lifetime.

Rick Gamache is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. Rick has cultivated this habit and shared these questions which he asks his children:

How are your devotions?

What is God teaching you?

In your own words, what is the gospel?

Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?

Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?

What’s Daddy most passionate about?

Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?

Are you aware of my love for you? Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?

Do you have any observations for me?

How am I doing as a dad?

How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?

Does my relationship with Mom make you excited to be married?

Gamache added, “On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationships with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationships. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.”

 Taken from “Stand; A Call for the Endurance of the Saints”  Edited by Justin Taylor

MOM-TESTED TIPS FOR CHILDREN IN WORSHIP

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by Debbie Huber

As each of our children turned six years old, Kyle and I decided that it was time for them to sit in the worship services with me.

Well, to be honest with you, the excitement for this was mostly Kyle’s. I was a little hesitant since that was back in the days when the pastors sat on the platform and he almost never sat with me. I had visions of my very distractible six year old boy causing some type of disturbance in the middle of a sermon.

Fortunately that did not happen but I have memories of spilt communion juice, choruses of “I have to go to the bathroom!…Really bad!”, and both girls’ heads on each of my shoulders while hearing “My tummy hurts!”…”Mine does too!”

But I am so thankful that we persevered. Too often parents are afraid to have their children sit with them in a worship service because they are afraid they will be bored, be distracting to others, or not understand.  It is important to see that one of our responsibilities as Christian parents is to train our children in worship.

To help our children learn to pay attention we began to ask them to write three points from the sermon as they listened.  We would then discuss these points as a family on the ride home. Since their writing skills were only emerging at six years old, this started out as drawing pictures of things they heard in the sermon (there were many interesting pictures of their father and grandfather).

As they got older we asked them to write five points or more. What a joy it was to see them progress from writing just the first five things they heard to writing good details about the whole sermon.  But this took time, patience, and consistency.

Training your children for worship does not just happen on Sunday mornings.  Here are a few other suggestions that are important as well:

1.  Model excitement about going to church.   If mom and dad are reluctant about going to church the children will be too.  Be joyful and excited about the Sunday services.

 2.  Prioritize family worship at home. The more your children hear God’s word at home, the more natural it will be for them to listen to it and pay attention in corporate worship.

 3.  Be patient and consistent. Training for worship will take time.  Show grace to your children as they are growing in their ability to sit and listen in the services.  Each child is different – some may sit attentively after only a few weeks and others may take a few years!  Do not grow weary with such a wonderful and worthwhile part of Christian parenting. 

 

Additional Sunday tips from Kyle:

Sunday mornings can be a little crazy for families with small children. So we started the habit of getting a head start on Saturday night. We would lay clothes and do anything else to make Sunday morning less hectic. We also served toaster waffles for Sunday breakfast, because they could be eaten in the car if necessary.

 

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE TALK

 

We have all heard about, uncomfortably given, or even more uncomfortably listened to “The Birds and the Bees Talk”.

Our children need to have a healthy framework for information which they will eventually be confronted with and use.

However, pastor and blogger Tim Challies points out in this article, that there is now a new talk we need to have with our children long before the Birds and the Bees.

Parents need to have the “Tech Talk” with their children.

The lives of our children are permeated with technology which opens their tender lives to the entire world in all its rawness, brutality, carelessness and sin!

In the online world our children will be confronted with, pornography, predators and bullies.

As parents (and grandparents) we have God given responsibilities to equip and protect our children.

And they need us to provide this help.

I strongly encourage you to start developing a plan if you have not already done so by reading Tim’s article, “Before the Birds and the Bees”.

THIS IS POWERFUL!

5 year old Levi has Down’s Syndrome. And that is the easiest of his physical difficulties. His adversities include four open heart surgeries (and counting).

This testimony by his dad, a student at Bethlehem Seminary, is powerful, perspective correcting, and encouraging!

“Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ” from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

DO YOUR CHILDREN’S SPORTS RULE OVER YOUR HOME?

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Sports are a big part of life for many people.

And when it comes to our children – sports can easily take over life.

Do you find that the schedule of your children’s activities seems to be running your life?

Have weekends become exhausting blurs of activity rather than a helpful time of rest?

Does your family time exist only in the activities of your children?

Do you spend less time with your church family because of sports activities?

If your answer is a sheepish yes to any of these questions, you will find this article by Todd Hill to be helpful.

Todd brings balanced and encouraging reflections for Christian parents concerning our children in sports. He reminds us of what to watch out for and how to keep in perspective the even greater importance of our family’s commitment to Christ.

As Todd makes clear, sports are not bad; the problem is when these activities become the ruling activity of life.

I hope all parents will take 5 minutes and read “Do Christian Parents Flirt with the Idol of Sports”.