Stop the Parenting Wars

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A friend of mine once said that our first child should be sent home with a gallon of pink amoxicillin and a How-to-Fix-It-Book. Parenting.  It’s a word that brings great joy, but it also causes all kinds of other emotions.  Fear.  Anger. Disappointment.  Pride.  Love.  Hilarity.  You name it, I think parenting can make us feel, well, almost anything.

There are a gajillion parenting theories out there to help us get through this journey of joy, fear and love all rolled together.  A few days ago, I read a couple of articles on discipline that I would label “extreme.”  They represented each end of the spectrum.  One advocated little discipline, the other almost adult-like discipline.  Both articles made me cringe.  Talk to any parent, and they will give you a different opinion about what works and what doesn’t.  And now, parents can sign up for classes to teach them how to be better parents!  Attachment Parenting, Grace-Based Parenting, Love and Logic, Dare to Discipline, The Five Love Languages for Families are all names of books and schools of thought that have attempted to give the Christian parent a sure roadmap to raising emotionally and spiritually healthy and mature children.

Through the years of raising our own three daughters, being far from perfect, making plenty of mistakes and working with families in church and military life, I have learned some helpful insights:

1)  Whatever the advice is, we need to hold it up to Scripture and know the entire context of the biblical passages.  Does it line up biblically?  And are we taking verses out of context?  The Bible is full of parents, good (Timothy’s mother Eunice) and bad (several of King David’s kids had ALL kinds of issues) to study, as well as endless wisdom.  I have been guilty of putting a certain author or speaker on a pedestal where only God and his Word should be.

2) What works for one family may not work for another.  What works for one child may not work for another.  We learned to glean from all the advice, taking the good and separating the bad for our particular family dynamics and personalities or where perhaps we disagreed with the advisor.  We also learned to lean on prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

3) Discipline is not a bad word.  Biblical discipline (a) is consistent and true, (b) emanates from a legitimate authority (c) establishes boundaries and compels action and/or change.  Biblical discipline is concerned about the whole child and presenting a child to maturity!  The original word in the Greek implies an action that presents one who is mature and complete, lacking in nothing, reflecting  the very glory of Christ.   In other words, it’s how you raise your child into adulthood, not a method of punishment!

4) We must be careful to discern cultural expectations.  Perhaps the best insight I’ve learned over the years is one I first became aware of in one of the counseling classes Pastor Mike (my husband) and I took in seminary.  Family dynamics can be co-dependent, independent or interdependent.  A person can be codependent, independent or interdependent.  The very nature of American  culture teaches that independence is best.  The biblical and sociological reality is that God never intended us to be independent but interdependent!  Interdependency teaches that we need a relationship with Christ and fellow believers.  Inter-dependency teaches accountability for actions with family members and society in general.  God created the family to be the very foundation of society!  For it to work, we need to foster healthy relationships that are mutual and caring.

5) We need to be parents of grace and not push our children to adulthood before they are ready.  Children mature differently.  We tend to define maturity by age and how our legal system defines age-appropriate milestones, such as driving and voting.  Maturity depends on many factors, and we need to consider each of our children individually.  We need to have grace for not only our family but also other families.

6) Developing grace-based godly character should come above all else.  We need to be an earthly example of the grace that God extended to us through Jesus Christ.  And we need to help our children – and grandchildren- be secure in a world that is increasingly changing toward Christians.  May our families be Psalm 1 families:

Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners,

or join in with mockers.

2But they delight in the law of the LORD,

meditating on it day and night.

3They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

and they prosper in all they do.

4But not the wicked!

They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

5They will be condemned at the time of judgment.

Sinners will have no place among the godly.

6For the LORD watches over the path of the godly,

but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and know you are not alone.  It is possible to refocus and be intentional about your parenting.  A new year is a good time to reassess and set goals for your family.  I’ll touch on Intentional Parenting in the next blog.


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What Are You Waiting For?

A twenty-something star-crossed beauty, decked out with a scarf around her neck and sweater UGGS over her jeans, craning her neck for a sighting of her fiance.  A busy 2 year old boy, blowing frosty impressions on the glass as he watches the planes, holding a sign “Welcome Grandma and Grandpa!”   Parents anxiously checking their watches, then the arrival board, wondering aloud if their college student remembered to pack enough clothes for the 5 week break between semesters. Soldiers in uniform, burying their heads in the shoulders of wives and babies and parents as spontaneous applause erupts around them.

Airports.  I love airports, especially around Christmas.  There is an excitement, a buzz of emotions that can’t help but catch me and wrap me up as I join the throng of humanity in advent of homecoming.  I usually end up shedding a tear or two as I happily wait to hug family that I haven’t been able to touch in months, except through the virtual world of Facetime.

We enter the season of waiting.  Waiting for packages to arrive from UPS or the Postal Service.  Waiting for Christmas music 24/7.  Waiting for A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph and Frosty and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town to be available on Netflix or aired on TV.  We prepare grocery lists and menus.  We decorate the house and wrap presents, all in preparation for The Big Day.  Christmas.

Advent.  The dictionary defines advent as “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.”  But for something important to come, we must wait first.  Waiting isn’t always easy, and sometimes we don’t know what we are waiting for. You may be waiting for a toddler to reach a developmental milestone or a teenager to pick up their room or a prodigal to come home. You may be waiting on a friend to forgive you or a husband to notice you.  Maybe you wait for the overwhelming torrent of grief to be replaced by just a heartstring pull and sweet memories.

Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus wait, in Luke 11:1-43.  I used to think of the story of Lazarus as mostly an account of resurrection.Which it is. But it is also a story about waiting. I love this account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It teaches us so much about our own humanity. I love the disciples. We see their human side.

When Jesus tells the disciples that he is going back to Bethany, they immediately start trying to talk him out of it. “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

When Jesus tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep, but He’s going back to wake him up, the disciples then think they’ll give Jesus advice.

“Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.”

Clearly, the disciples don’t want to make this journey back to Bethany.  Dear Thomas, who probably wasn’t the most naturally brave of them all says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Can’t you just see Thomas? Squaring his shoulders, sitting up straight and, realist that he was, determining already in his mind that Jesus was going to die if he went to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

And Jesus doesn’t just wait a day or two after Lazarus died. No, he waits 4 days after Lazarus died.  What was He doing?  God, what are you doing?  Do you hear me?  Don’t you understand the situation?  Why do I have to do this?  How long do I have to WAIT?

We have Jesus who seems to have taken his time and arrived too late. We have disciples who are trying to give the Son of God advice and talk him out of his plans. We have sisters, dear friends of Jesus, who are grieving.

What does God teach us about waiting?

1) Waiting teaches us that God understands us and grieves with us even though He already knows the outcome. Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead. Yet, when he came to Bethany and saw the sorrow of Mary and the others, he wept with them. God knows our frailty.

2) Waiting teaches us who is in control. It might seem sometimes like our circumstances are in control, or governments are in control, or any number of things (even our emotions!) but ultimately, the God of the Universe is the one in control. This is one of the foundations of my faith.I  can trust a God who has an ultimate purpose for my life and that purpose is to conform me to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

What did Thomas do?  He assumed the worst, didn’t he?  He thought about the “What if?” and assumed that they would all die. How often do we get way ahead of God’s purposes and assume the worst?  We need to wait expectantly for all of the amazing things God will do so that we can say, “God’s hand has surely done this!”

3) Waiting teaches us to go on with life.  This is one of the hardest of life’s lessons. Mary and Martha had to go on with life while they waited for Jesus to come. They had to go through the ritual of preparing their brother’s body and burying him. There was more to the grief than just that Jesus didn’t come “in time.” Jesus was a dear friend. They wanted to see him in person.

4) Waiting teaches us that God is purposeful in every thing He does, even when He seems to delay.

From the very beginning, Jesus stated His purpose: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

When Martha and Mary both say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” I used to think they were reproaching Jesus for not coming. However, read what Martha says next : “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Luke 11:21, 22 What an acknowledgement of who Jesus was and is!

Where are you today? Are you waiting on circumstances to change? Be encouraged! God knows, he empathizes with you, and he has a plan. Just as His plan for our salvation through the advent of Emmanuel carried through time, even before it was time.  He spoke hope into the darkness, the void, the nothingness.

He is WITH YOU.  Emmanuel.  God WITH US.

It is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it!  Luke 11:4

 

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Be Present

Obedience.

Do I comprehend how a simple act ripples like a finger dipped in water?  How it disturbs the inertia and sets the physical into motion?  HE created it to be that way, you know.  Just as water can’t remain still when gravity pulls out or down or a hand interrupts the shower from a spout, our obedience intervenes the oblivion of fear.

God asks me not to be caught in the lying web of the “have to.”  God asks me to resist the tyranny of the virtual and be present.  Because this

Becomes this
and this
becomes this
 
Overnight.
 
And the sun comes up and the sun goes down and you can’t stop time.  You can’t. stop. time.
Hands held tight round the dinner table.  Laughter so hard our kids snort milk.  Green beans hidden in napkins.  Yellow school bus and waving hands. 
 
Brave kindergarten smiles.
Brave college smiles.
Tears and toasts and weddings.
The echo of Michael and Maile’s love
begins the song of another generation.
 
Can we ever turn the hands of the clock back?  
 
“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5
 
YES, Lord, to being present.

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Road Maps

“Recalculating.”
The word that strikes fear into every owner of a GPS.  Recalculating can mean “traffic jam up ahead” or “you’ve taken a wrong turn” or “I am a computer, not a nice lady, so I am blipping and you are going to end up in an corn field.”  When my husband was in the military and we were stationed in Germany, our GPS, after “recalculating” several times, took us through a narrow, 2 lane mountain pass in the Austrian Alps with few railings and daredevils on speed motorcycles.  Let me just say that we learned from that experience.

I no longer trust our GPS completely.  I look up directions on GoogleMaps, Map Quest, and an actual, physical, paper map.  Yes, we have learned that a GPS is not always the best guide to get to an unknown place.  And even after so much planning, there may be detours, road work, or accidents.

Raising children is a little like that.  We have what we think is a high tech road map to bring them to some kind of success.  Today’s parents, more than ever, plan their children’s future.  They plan the classes they will take, beginning them at an early age and enrolling them, sometimes hours a week, in sports or dance or music or perhaps all three. I can look back at my own mistakes as a mom and see that, at times, I was focused on the wrong kind of success for our girls.  What do we define as success for our grown children?  Education?  Talents?  A profession that brings in a lot of income?  Or character, selflessness, godliness?

Do we give more encouragement when our children perform well and look good?  Or do we let them know we appreciate qualities of justice, compassion and mercy?  In the words of Jesus, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36

Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

What does it mean to “train up a child” and what, exactly, is “the way that he should go?”  Here is the ultimate road map for raising kids, one that will not steer us wrong.

First and foremost, it had to do with the culture of the land which involved the instruction of godliness.  Secondly, the Hebrew roots of the words give the general idea that each person has a life planned by God, a “bend” if you will, for what he or she is to do in life.  Clark’s Commentary on the Bible puts it this way:

“Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has intrusted to your care.  These things observed, and illustrated by your own conduct, the child (you have God’s word for it) will depart from the path of life.”

Join me as I ask God to give me the wisdom and strength to live a life of character, selflessness, and godliness and to encourage our children and grandchildren.  I pray that He would show me areas in my own life example that hinder them from seeing, seeking and giving the love of Jesus.  This parenting thing is not easy at any stage.  How thankful I am for a God of grace who works through me and works apart from me!


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