Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year and Raising Awesome Kids

In looking forward to 2007, I thought I'd copy an inspiring and convicting thought from a book called Raising Awesome Kids in Troubled Times:

Jesus expected people to be disciples. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27..."Paul said it this way...For me, to live is christ, and to die is gain." Phil. 1:21..

"We must put first things first. This is the key to everything, not just the impractical theory we discard before getting to the 'real thing' of how to raise kids.

"Why is it that some church-going people find their marriages empty and in shambles and their children increasingtly disinterested in spiritual things? It is because merely being religious will not do the job. Even deep involvement in a fired-up church is not enough. Your kids must see that Jesus is a real person to you and that you walk with him and love him. Your faith must make a real difference in the person you are at home, because that is who you really are. You can't fake it there. There is no acting at home, just real life. Kids can spot a fake, a sham, or external devotion a mile away, and they will be turned off and even embittered by anything they perceive as less than genuine.

"When asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law -- that one thing which God valued most highly -- Jesus answered that it was to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' Mark 12:30. We are not commited to commitment...we are committed to God and disciples of Jesus Christ himself.

"Such a life is attractive. It is winsome. It is above the grind. It is fun, and it is glorious! Your children will look at yhou and marvel. They will admire you. They will want to be like you. They will see that although Jesus calls for commitment, his yoke is easy and his burden is light. They will sense your deep inner spring of spiritual life and long to drink of it themselves. They will say in their hearts, "My dad and my mom have something inside that is real. It gives them love, joy and peace that I see nowhere else. My friends and their parents outside God's kingdom don't have it. My unbelieving teachers don't have it. All the loose-living superstars in the world don't have what my parents have. I must be what my parents are so that I can have what they have...

"To love God first, and to deeply and happily love one another (the authors are talking about a husband and wife here) is the greatest gift parents can give their children."


My husband and I just spent a happy Christmas with our wonderful grown children, my father (my mother has passed away), and my parents-in-law. Our house was merrily full of people, as well as two visiting dogs! I loved it.

While this was a joyful, busy, fun time, I did have some moments of serious contemplation. In seeing the generations represented, with all of our individual strengths and weaknesses in our walks with God, I am more convinced than ever of the truth contained in the paragraphs I quoted above.

In some ways, this conviction comes with the pain of knowing how easy it is for me to get my priorities out of whack. I can rock along for a while, letting Christ be an important part of my life, but not depending on him to be my all in all. It's easy for me to let life's worries, riches, and pleasures make me distracted. Mark 4:19. When this happens, I can come give out a vibe of being burdened and fretful.

But, the great thing about being a Christian, is that when we get off track, Christ lovingly points us back to the way. Often, we need only a gentle nudge to stay on the narrow path. Even if the Lord must dispense some painful discipline, however, what joy that discipline produces. The older I get, the more I love the imagry in Psalm 23 about the Lord's staff and his rod being a comfort.

Our youngest child moved to a new city this summer and started his first fulltime job. He is also wrestling with new questions : "Why is there so much suffering in the world? What about people who don't have a chance to hear the gospel? Why are there so many denominations, since people who aren't Christians get so confused by the great number of groups who see the Bible a bit differently? Why do some Christians do hurtful things to other people?"

We are grateful that our son feels comfortable in coming to us with his questions. We are also grateful that he is surrounded by godly people who love him. I have every hope in the Lord that he will come through this time with a stronger and more proven faith. But, it's not easy to watch him wrestle with these things. I see see from his struggle how urgent it is that we model for our children a real faith that stands up against the world's illusions and temptations.

Our children's faith will not be strong if we shelter them from the world. Neither will it be strong if we shield them from the joyful self-sacrifice that comes from following in Christ's footsteps. Our child with the questions is our youngest. When I look back, I suspect we allowed him to be more insulated and more selfish with his time than we did with our oldest child.

When our children leave home, they will meet many people who either are nominally Christian or who do not claim to be Christians at all. Many people who do not have a faith in Christ are "nice" and even "moral". Many do good deeds; I heard last night on TV about a charity event given by someone who is famous precisely because he advocates a godless lifestyle.

Hence, our children need to see something in us that is greater than merely keeping to the rules of morality -- as important as morality is. They need to see something deeper than living the typical American suburban or rural lifestyle -- as nice and comfy as those lifestyles may be.

Our children need to see not a form of godliness, but its power. II Timothy 3:5 They need to see us continually repenting and receiving grace, so that they understand that this power does not come from human effort but from God. They need to be involved with us in sharing our faith and in serving the poor, so that their own faith grows deep and strong. They need to see us developing deep godly fellowship and working out any conflicts with others according to the principles laid out in the Bible. They need to see us maturing to be more like Christ, rather than stagnating in our faith. They need to see us seeking Jesus and his kingdom first when we make decisions about where we will live and how we will live. They need to see us trusting God that if we do seek him first, the lesser needs of life will fall in place. Matthew 6:33.

Praise God that we don't have to be perfect parents! The Lord's working in our children's life is greater than ours. But, when I look back at what has helped my children know Christ, I can see that it has never been about material things -- but spiritual things. As wives and mothers, we do want to keep a neat, attractive, and orderly home. But, we must keep this in perspective.

When we get ourselves out of the way and surrender fully to Jesus as Lord, what a difference it makes! The Lord pours blessings into our lap that spill over to our families. Our children see what real faith is all about.

Since the new year is upon us, what a great time to evaluate whether Christ is truly first in our lives or if he is merely an important part of our life. And, if there are any areas of our hearts where we haven't fully surrendered, now is a great time for us to turn those areas over to God! Whether our children have yet to be born or whether they are grown and are parents themselves, they will be blessed if we continually seek the Lord first in our lives.

Happy 2007.



Anonymous said...

Great post Elizabeth, hope you have a wonderful New Year :)

Terri said...

This is such an excellent post, Elizabeth. I needed that - I know that many times people tell us that but I really mean it. Just last night, my husband and I sat down with our two youngest children to talk to them about faith, attitudes, our behavior as Christians, and the Lord. They are 13 and 15 and have been raised in church. My husband and I have only been married 3 weeks. We have decided to have family devotionals every night and the children are trying to "buck" us about it. Your post is a very timely one for me. Thank you. And I thank the Lord for sending this to me through you!

Julieann said...

Another wonderful post Elizabeth!! Happy New Year to you too:)