Monthly Archives: July 2006

Cheerful & Timely Obedience

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Here are some thoughts on teaching our children to obey us cheerfully, rather than grudgingly.  As a side note, one of our favorite resources that talks about this subject is the audio cd series called Biblical Childrearing by Doug Wilson.  Anyway, on to the thoughts for today:

 

1.  Our most important way of teaching our children to submit cheerfully is example.  This starts at the top and manages to work its way downward without fail.  For example, perhaps we are noticing our children “grumbling” to obey.  If we honestly think about it, I may realize I've been doing that with Matt, and perhaps he may realize he's been doing it with bosses at work.  We must first seek to discipline our own hearts to respond with grace to the discipline of the Lord in our lives, and, as wives, to the desires of our husbands (as they are our God-given head).  As we learn to do our work heartily and with joy, this will spill over to our children.

 

2.  I must seek to be consistent in disciplining our childrens' poor responses to our instructions.  I've heard it said that if a child is disciplined for something nine times, then gets away with it the tenth time, he will continue to do it for that one in ten chance. Now, I know I am not nearly as consistent as I ought to be in training, and that little formula does not take into account God's grace in our training, but it makes a good point.  If we consistently rebuke our children for disobedience (and I include “grumpy obedience” in this category), they will learn much more quickly to obey cheerfully.  Some days this will take repeated times of discipline, but we as parents must prevail in this, for the good of our children.  When I ask my daughter to do something (tidy the toys in the living room for a recent example), if she does not: 1: start right away; 2: do it all diligently; and 3. do it happily, she will be disciplined, forgiven, kissed and hugged, then sent back to try again (most of the time they still must complete the task; occasionally I will no longer require it- like if they really need to go to bed, or I realize they aren't feeling well or something).  We had to go through this process about three times today, but the fruit in the end was the “peaceful fruit of righteousness”, which the Bible speaks of.  If I have to discipline repeatedly for something, I do try to later have some extra snuggle time with that daughter.  And for something like bedtime (or really anything) if a child is calmly and loving disciplined every time they disobey (by talking in bed for example), the rod (sometimes called a “wisdom worker”) will drive the folly away – they will learn to obey!

 

3.  I try not to give instructions that will overwhelm my girls, thus provoking them to sin.  If, like today, the living room is a big mess, I try to break it up for her and give her a simpler task than to tidy it all up.  For example, today I asked her to do three things: put the pillows back on the couch, put the books away, and put the blocks in the box.  Or I try to help, have sisters help, or at least be right there encouraging her, so she won't be frustrated by her task.

 

4.  I must discipline myself before I discipline my daughters.  I've also heard it said that if I feel like disciplining them, I'm probably not qualified to do so at the moment.  I must make sure that I am not rebuking them in anger, and that if I fail in this I am faithful to seek their forgiveness.

 

5.  Our pastor gave us the wise advice to not only discipline disobedience, but to then discipline again if the discipline was not responded to gracefully.  The end result in our discipline should be that “peaceful fruit of righteousness” spoken of in the Bible.  If we're not seeing it, chances are, the discipline is not over.  We must all learn to be wise, rather than fools who despise the discipline of the Lord.  That includes our children, so we seek to teach them to respond to their discipline with grace.

 

6.  One big important thing to me is that I do not want to have to raise my voice to ensure obedience from my children.  I'm not a big fan of loud noise in general (I know this must sound funny coming from a mother of four preschoolers!), and I don't want to have to use it to guide my girls.  If they are truly obedient to me, they will obey whether I whisper an instruction (if they can hear me, of course) or sreech it.  Of course there are times that I do fail and speak unkindly to my daughters, and again I seek their forgiveness when this happens.  There are also times I find it necessary to use a more authoritative or stern voice (which my daughter can almost always distinguish from an angry voice).  But as a general rule, I try to use the same tone of voice to read stories, talk about the day, give instructions, and give rebukes and discipline.  Matt reminded me a few weeks ago that the Bible teaches us that pleasant words increase learning.  As a general rule, my girls will learn more from me as I use pleasant words.  And if discipline has the purpose of restoring my girls to right behavior, it is not a time for me to “vent” my frustrations to them. That only causes separation and disunity.  I can't tell you how said it feels to have your toddler ask in a quavery little voice “mommy, are you angry to me?”  She hasn't had to ask that in a long time, thank the Lord, and hopefully she won't again! Again, this takes self-discipline on our part, but it is well worth it, and an example that sometimes disciplining our children teaches us as much as them!

 

7.  Know your children!  Sometimes an effective way of teaching cheerfulness looks different for each child.  One of my daughters had a hard time being cheerful while doing her laundry job for a few days.  Since this particular daughter takes a bit longer to come back to cheerfulness after discipline, I was leery of going that route.  So I told her that if she was not cheerful in her work, she would no longer get her one cup of warm juice-cider in the morning.  To her, this would pretty much seem like the end of the world!  I think she lost her juice one or maybe two times.  Now I can't imagine her doing her laundry job un-cheerfully (is that a word?)

 

8.  I try to make it a habit never to say yes to an un-cheerful request.  This can take many different forms, but it is a general principle.  If something is not asked for respectfully and cheerfully, they can't have it.   Sometimes they can't have it at all (like if they complain that I gave them water and cry or pout for juice – they are most certainly having water!), sometimes I let them try again to ask nicely in a couple of minutes.  A little side benefit of this is that temper tantrums rarely, if ever, occur (I say rarely because my girls can still have “silent” tantrums which no one but mommy and daddy may recognize – those have to be dealt with too). 

 

9.  I also try not to repeatedly “warn” my girls, or remind them to be cheerful, when I should simply rebuke and/or discipline them for complaining.  This is often what causes frustration in me.  It's too easy for them to get into a habit of not being cheerful till I've warned, begged, threatened, whatever!  If they can do that, they can just as easily get into the habit of obeying cheerfully the first time (not that I'm expecting them to be perfect – we are all sinners who fall short of God's grace!)

 

10. Coming back to setting an example, I really think a key to much of our childrens' behavior has to do with our example by responding to them.  If I get frustrated easily by my girls' poor attitudes, my attitude is no better, and it certainly won't teach them to do right!  This is what keeps me on my knees – knowing how often I fail reminds me daily that I can only do all things THROUGH CHRIST Who strengthens me!

 

Ok, those are my ten thoughts for the night on cheerful obedience.  Now for one more list: three things I'm thankful for today:

1.  My sweet husband:  he had to wake up early (four hours earlier than normal!) for court this morning.  When he came home, I figured he'd go straight back to bed, but instead he ordered me to bed (he knew I wasn't feeling well today) and took the girls to the park!  What would the world be like without wonderful men like him?

2.  A kind neighbor who offered to put my garbage bags in his can, as he realized ours was overfull this week – sometimes it's the little things that make your day . . .

3.  The way Juliette tightly wraps her little arms around my neck and coos in my ear each time I go to put her to bed!  I don't remember having such a snuggly seven-month-old before!

 

Lastly, one or two pix:

My four little hungry girlies ready for dinner!

 

Hannah wearing a “horsey riding hat” – she really is under there!

 

Isabelle's turn for the “horsey hat” and the horse, affetionately named “Phillip”

Obedience From The Heart

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It's funny how things can creep in little by little, without my even noticing them.  Then by the time I do notice them, it's because they're making me loopy!  I discovered two little sneaky things which have done just that this week.  One is a lack of organization in some key areas of my home – clothes, toys and other such things. I think I shall write about these tomorrow, as I need to write down all of my summer organization goals anyway.  Today I will write about the other “little fox”, which has to do with heartfelt obedience in my children.  Specifically I've been noticing that bedtimes have become somewhat of a frustration, in subtle ways.  Somehow, little by little, a couple of my darlings seem to have “forgotten” the bedtime rules (lay quietly or look at book quietly until you fall asleep).  I won't go into details, as I know all of our children struggle with sin, and it's a big part of our job as mommies to lovingly train them to flee temptation.  But in dealing with this particular “battle” this weekend, I've been thinking over some basic principles of obedience that I realize I've been letting slide.  The thing about letting standards slide is that it's dangerous.  It may seem like I'm really “helping” my girls by looking past “little” sins, but according to the Bible, I'm showing them that I don't love them.  As I do dearly love my girls, I have become convicted of the need to love them better in the area of discipline.  Proverbs 12:24 says “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Now of course I realize there is a time for everything, which includes a time to simply show mercy.  But overall I've been convicted in the area of teaching obedience to my girls, and wanted to share some principles in this vein.  Disclaimer: probably none of these thoughts are my original ideas – I've learned them from the Bible or people wiser than myself, who've also learned them from the Wisest One of all.

 

*True obedience has the purpose of glorifying God; thus the purpose of teaching our children to obey us is to teach them to love, obey, and glorify God.  I don't teach them to obey simply for my own convenience, comfort and enjoyment (though truly obedient children are certainly a joy!)

 

*True obedience will occur whether I am in the room watching or not, but at these tender ages, I must be in the room more often than not to avoid putting my children in the path of overwhelming temptation. (“a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” Prov. 29:15)

 

*True obedience has three characteristics:

1. Prompt:  little one starts obeying right away

2. Diligent:  little one finishes the entire task quickly, not dilly-dallying

3. Cheerful:  little one's entire act of obedience is done with a merry heart

 

*Related to the above, true obedience should be “first-time” obedience. While I have purposely never “counted” to three or ten or any such number to get my children to obey, I often do this same thing by “reminding” them when I ought to be rebuking them for not obeying.  To borrow a phrase coined by someone else (though I don't honestly know who) “delayed obedience is disobedience”.

 

Ok, so these are some basic principles I needed to remind myself of today. Now I shall pray for the grace of God to implement these in such a way as pleases Him and properly shepherds my little girls' hearts.

 

By the way, here's what I ended up doing for the bedtime issue:

I tried listening closely on the baby moniter (we still have one because our room is across the house) and going in each time I heard something “fishy” – that didn't work as one little dear learned how to play almost silently when she ought to be laying down!

I tried leaving their door open whilst I worked on various tasks in adjoining areas – that didn't work as it kept them awake too long, and I was often so distracted by what I was doing that I found myself “letting things slide” again.

What finally seems to have done the trick is this:  I leave their door open with their hall light on.  Then I grab a nice “pillowseat” and either a book or a quiet project to work on (like a daily schedule which needs tweaking, or a school plan for autumn) and plop down just outside their door, where I can see them, and they can see me.  This is working wonderfully thus far (though admittedly I just started it today), and it's killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.  It's giving my girls accountability in this area of current struggle, and it's giving me a few minutes of downtime to read or work on projects I really need to do, but keep pushing to the side.  I could probably sit there and doze a bit, and still have it work well.  Anyway, like I said, it's working great for now (I think it took under 8 minutes for my little gal to fall asleep with me sitting there!), and I'm thankful I can work on a few things in the meantime. I don't expect to have to keep doing this indefinitely: just however long it takes to re-establish a habit of obedience in this are.  Truth is, though, this made me think of one last principle of obedience:

*Teaching obedience is time-consuming work, and I must cheerfully be prepared to take the time out of my day which is necessary for this important task!  Even if I had no quiet projects to work on, sitting there would still be time well spent, I think, as I would be providing gentle accountability to my daughters, who are also sisters in Christ.  When I take time out of our preschool time, or dinner time, or play time to discipline, it may feel like time lost but it is actually time well spent (provided I am disciplining rightly, of course).

 

We mommies must always remember that our time is well spent when we are doing what God has called us to do, and that He will bless our efforts through His amazing grace.  “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9

 

Now I'm off to nurse a hungry Juliette!

The Israel Of God

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My wonderful mother-in-law, Deanna, has such a heart to pray for Israel, particularly as they are in the midst of such turmoil.  Deanna is also of a poetic nature, and I wanted to share a beautiful poem which she wrote recently to express her thoughts about the nation of Israel.

 

The Israel of God

 

An eternal struggle for the Israel of God,

From beginning to end without peace.

They are hated, maligned and murdered still

Though the years multiply and increase.

 

At first they rebelled to their Yahweh, Most High,

Taking laws that He gave to disgrace.

Then over and over again they’d repent

With hearts that were hardened in place.

 

The ultimate test, the ultimate crime

With blood on their hands they partook.

Raising the Son, the Messiah their King

On a cross that they cursed and forsook.

 

Today they are home in the land that was given,

From God to this people so proud.

But the curse of their deed so long ago,

Hangs over them as a blood shroud.

 

Their struggle is great; their tears freely flow,

And they watch as the nations surround.

They fight and they build a great wall to protect

While their enemies keep taking ground.

 

The day will soon come when the time is just right,

For their God to embrace them once more.

To pull from their ranks the remnant He chose,

And like eagles they ever will soar.

 

 

A Couple More Pictures

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When I was looking through my old pictures of Juliette for some birth ones, I came across these three that made me laugh. 

 

Hannah “decorating” her sister with stickers (we have some pix of Isabelle doing this to Hannah when she was little!)

 

A funny transition: from -“Oh, what a sad baby am I!”

 

To – “Ahhh, all better, now I can rest”

 

 

Or maybe it was really the other way around and the flash disturbed her slumber!

From Matt: Worship Is Warfare Part 1

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In 2 Kings 16 we find twenty-year old Ahaz taking over the reign of Judah. In verse 2 we see the description of his reign set by these foreboding words: and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done. The text says that he walked in the way of the Kings of Israel. How so? He sacrificed and burned incense in the high places. He also made his sons pass through the fire according to the abominations of the nations. Notice that the quality of the kingship of Ahaz has to do with how the public worship of Yahweh is conducted. When Yahweh is worshiped according to the abominations of the nations bad things happen. Ahazs focus was off. He was ignoring the God-given statues and regulations dictating how God wanted to be worshiped and was set on mimicking the pagan worship that surrounded him. The text does not say there was a full scale abandonment of the worship of Yahweh; they were not worshiping Baal. It says that the worship rendered to Yahweh, in the name of Yahweh and for glory of Yahweh was not done as Yahweh had instructed, but according to the dictates of the modern pagan culture surrounding Judah (More on this in part 2).

We dont see outright tyranny with King Ahaz, but we see a series of small compromises given firstly in worship (vs 3-4) and secondly in his trust and alliances (vs7) *this is a necessary consequence of false worship**. This is how Ahaz walked in the way of the Kings of Israel the Northern Kingdom. We see them as small compromises, but God sees them as being of the utmost priority. Who we worship, and how we worship is central to our living obediently before our God.

This is an Old Testament text of course, but we need to remember that all of these things were given for our example so that we may learn by them. We cannot dismiss this as being old covenant and therefore irrelevant to our lives and how we conduct worship in the new covenant. The New Testament cannot be divorced from the old, as it would make no sense without it. With this in mind, I would challenge us to look at how we conducting our worship to Yahweh-through Christ-in our modern church. Is it God centered, focused on glorifying Him, or is it full of emotional me-isms? Are we attempting to glorify God as God, or are we trying to make God relevant and relatable to the pagan culture around us? Gods word says in Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. This verse infers that if we are called to serve God acceptably (worship is service rendered to God in obedience) then conversely we can serve Him unacceptably. Are we worshiping God with reverence and godly fear, or are we focused on everyone feeling comfortable and having God meet us where we are? We must remember that He is Holy and God is not to be publicly worshiped for our convenience and our comfort but for His glory and His Glory alone.

Worship is central. Worship is obedience. If our worship is off, then our focus and our entire lives will be off. It is our foundation, it is our battering ram used to fight the high and lofty things set against our God in this world. Worship is not something that we dictate; it is Gods prerogative to dictate how we will worship Him. We do not arrogantly determine in what way we approach God. He has given us the instructions in the bible (Old and New Testaments). Are we obeying those instructions or are we mimicking the culture to make God relevant?

And once more . . .

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Ok, I couldn't resist posting one last bit of wisdom from Corin – she's got lots of it!  She and I were having an email discussion about children sharing, fighting over toys, learning compassion and thinking of others lacking and she said I could post some great ideas they've used in their family:

 

“When it has come to be overwhelming we take everything away.  No toys in the house whatsoever.  We bring in boxes and they help us (surprisingly cheerfully!) box them up, while we explain to them the bad attitudes we've seen in them and how we'd like to go about changing them to having
godly attitudes.  That the bible does not say that toys are important, but does say that issues of the heart and loving each other are important.  Taking the toys not only temporarily stops the issue of needing to share, but with nothing to play with, they must resort to playing with their siblings and creating things on their own.  It's pretty hard to get a sibling to continue playing with you, unless you take their wishes into consideration as well as your own and develop good relationships with each other.  After a few days we consider
bringing toys back in.  When they go 1 entire day (after the first few days) showing nothing but love, cheerfulness and cooperation towards each other we bring in 1 toy that they can all play with at once (such as a Little People playset, Duplo's, etc.).  We don't tell them this.  We just do it.  That way they aren't being nice just to “earn” toys back.  They know what we tell them, which is that we have decided that they have shown that they have godly attitudes towards each other and we will see if they can continue that if we bring toys in.   If the bad
attitudes return the toy once again gets boxed up and returned to the garage.  We currently have 3 big boxes of toys that haven't seen the light of day for over 18 months, but that's alright, we put first things first.

As far as the world revolving around one child (thinking only of self) I have trained this out of one so far.  He had all options taken away from him.  He could not choose his clothes, his sippy cup, what toy to play with, or what to have for a snack, he also could not ask for more to eat after finishing his sandwich (I did keep an eye on how quickly he ate it, so that if he was hungry he was fed).  He not given a choice over anything, he wasn't even allowed to ask.  If he did ask for a certain color of sippy cup I usually would give it to another child, explaining that he would not always get what he wanted and needed to learn gratefulness for what he was given.  As he stopped asking and showed true gratefulness no matter his situation, I began to ask him which of 2 things he would prefer.  Slowly adding more in as he proved himself still grateful, but taking them back away if self centered attitudes began creeping back in.

Keep them ALL with you at ALL times until they develop the qualities you wish to see in them.  I don't just mean not leaving them with a babysitter, I mean having them in the same room with you.  When our problems have been more on the extreme side, I've even gone as far as having them in the bathroom reading books on the floor while I take a shower (that takes a bit of forethought to be able to accomplish modestly with boys in the house 😉 ).  This isn't a punishment, I've found it more as a reminder to myself to be diligent in training them.  With them right next to you, you will be able to quickly correct
undesirable behavior, as well as praise and encourage them.  Once they've developed the qualities that you desire you can release them to go to the next room (but still within easy earshot) and if they are still trustworthy there, you can go on.  If all but one child needs to stay with you longer that's okay.  She can stay with you as long as needed while the others go off to play.  Remind her that God Himself is not fair, but He /is /just.

Praise, praise, praise her when you see the slightest change in her towards her siblings.  Don't just tell her “good job” but tell her exactly what quality it is that you enjoyed seeing(compassion, love, patience etc.)”

Thanks, Corin!

 

One More From Hannah (AKA My Little Silly Goose)

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Ok, Hannah just cracks me up with some of the things she says.  And as Deanna always reminds me, I'll forget if I don't write them down.  Here's one more:

 

Hannah mentioned a few times this morning that her head hurt. The fourth (or so) time she said “my head hurts”  I said, “Well Hannah, why ever does your head hurt?”  With a pensive look on her face, she thought about it for a moment. Then she looked up at me with a look of “Eureka” on her face.  Looking quite satisfied, she said “My head hurts because I pottied too hard.”  So I said “Oh dear, what will we do?”  Again, she thought very hard for a moment, and replied “You could just kiss it.”  So I did, and she was magically better.  J