Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Give Them Grace, The real Chapter 1

Apparently I wrote about the introduction and not "Chapter 1" in the last blog post. My apologies.

Will the real Chapter 1 please stand up?

Oh, hello.

In Chapter One Fitzpatrick identifies the distinct types of obedience we teach our children:

Initial Obedience: Simply responding to a parent's immediate command.
Social Obedience: Respecting cultural norms and practicing good manners.
Civic Obedience: Following the laws of government.
Religious Obedience: What we teach our children to do as part of a life of faith before they come to faith. (ie. tithing, conduct in worship gatherings and prayer time.)

She esteems that it is good and right for a parent to teach these types of obedience, but she also warns sternly on how we teach these things. "None of these levels of obedience... can earn approval from God. In fact, each of these different forms of obedience may actually blind a compliant child to his need for a Savior. But that's where the law of God comes in."
"Even though our children cannot and will not obey God's law, we need to teach it to them again and again. And when they tell us that they can't love God or others in this way, we are not to argue with them. We are to agree with them and tell them of their need for a Savior."
As a parent, what she says next rang so true for me. From a generation that spouted, "If it is to be, it's up to me!" I struggle with admitting that there is anything that I cannot do if I simply apply myself. We claim the verse, "I can do all things" and forget about the last part. She goes on to say,
"The law of God also hinders our advance toward righteousness because, in our pride, we think that if we just try hard enough or repent deeply enough, we'll be able to obey it. We read the promises of life for obedience and think that means we can do it. The promises of life for obedience are not meant to build our self-confidence. They're meant to make us long for obedience and then, when we fail again , they're meant to crush us and drive us to Christ."
She continues to discuss how the law is meant to crush our children, so they will see their need for a savior. I agree with this and teach the children this way. These years with young ones, we are strong advocators of the law. The law is huge for us in the years of the "littles" because we hope that soon they will understand that no one can obey the law and that they need a Savior. We hope for the day they lose hope in themselves and find hope in Jesus. But the entire process of this, I will admit, is painful and harrowing, but absolutely necessary for our children to experience true joy in their God, for them to have any sense of identity, for them to have any lasting hope in this life on earth.

No parent wants to hear the diagnoses that their child has a terminal disease. The message trembles in my bones, the message that my children are enslaved to death. No parent wants to hear that their child is in a hopeless state. But there IS HOPE!

Just as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

Very excited about the next chapter!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Give Them Grace, Introduction

...The primary reason that the majority of kids from Christian homes stray from the faith is that they never really heard it or had it to begin with. They were taught that God wants them to be good, that poor Jesus is sad when they disobey, and that asking Jesus into their hearts is the breadth and depth of the gospel message. Scratch the surface of the faith of the young people around you and you'll find a disturbing deficiency of understanding of even the most basic tenets of Christianity.
-Elyse Fitzpatrick, Give Them Grace

Does this message sound familiar in your home? What are your children hearing when you go together through times of teaching and discipline? I think sometimes this is as far as we get in my home. I was hugely convicted by this sentence. I think I've even said many times how sad Jesus is to see them unloving towards their sibling. I just had to sit in awe and ask, "Is this really what I am teaching my children?" Do I really teach them that their behavior is what matters more than anything? Even in talking about the condition of their hearts, an expectation is set before them, a standard that they must meet. In the hairiness that is parenting, I realized I need to be even more intentional to make time for deeper gospel conversations and be more diligent in my own preparation for them, so that they will flow easily from my mouth in times of frustration and discipline. I recognize that this will be a grace from God.

The reason that sentence is so startling is because it brings light to a way of Christian parenting that has been going on for generations. In the words of Elyse (I may use her a lot!), "...Instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality." Are we giving them more than simply lessons on morality? Yes, we read scripture, and yes we tell the story about Jesus and what he did. But even then, we teach that doing something (asking Jesus into their hearts) saves them. Abraham was saved without moving a muscle but by the saving grace of His Father (and his heir!) We place a huge emphasis for our children on their behavior and obedience (which is not bad, by the way, but it is not the most important aspect of our parenting) Elyse puts it this way, and it is startling, "Instead of the gospel of grace, we've given them daily baths in a "sea of narcissistic moralism" and they respond to law the same way we do; they run for the closest exit as soon as they can."

Another kicker, when we begin to think about what we're really teaching our children, we need to ask ourselves, "Does simply a moralistic teaching really look any different from the teachings of a Mormon parent or that of a moral atheist parent?" What makes the Christian message distinct in how it permeates the hearts of men (and our children!)?

Thinking much on this today...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A new book!

Nathan and I are beginning a new book together. Our last read was a marriage book, which - I don't know why God graced us in this way - was, by far the best book on marriage I've ever read. It was all about the gospel. Every square inch of it breathed gospel. It was incredibly refreshing, realistic, helpful, and encouraging. I LOVED it!
Oh! What was the book? "What Did You Expect?" by Paul Tripp

But on to the new book we're reading. It's written by a Christian counselor (Paul Tripp is also a Christian counselor - I don't know why we tend to love what is coming from this field of labor right now, but we DO). I'm not familiar with Elyse Fitzpatrick, but as we've been waiting for the book to arrive, I've read snippets here and there of her work and have seen a few interviews of hers as she explains what her book is about. I'll put a link to one of the interviews. It's a long one, so I'll tell you that the portion more relevant to parenting is at the 31 minute mark, and then, after that, you won't be able to turn the interview off. She has such a different mentality for parenting, and I LOVE it! I love the language she uses, and gospel, gospel, gospel rolls off her tongue so easily.
Elyse Fitzpatrick on the Gospel and Parenting

Also, I wanted to add one of the first paragraphs that I read in the book. It really causes us to question as parents what we want to see most in our children. Do we want to see them as obedient little ones or as little ones driven by the gospel?
Just in the forward (written, not by Elyse), we see the message take shape.

What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donal Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philedelphia (the city where Barnhosue pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, "Yes, sir" and "No ma'am," and the churches would be full every Sunday...where Christ is not preached.
- Christless Christianity, Michael Horton
Looking forward to the book, especially in the face of parenting woes I'm experiencing these last few weeks. I am seeing how my expectation for right behavior, even Biblical behavior is not enough for these children. They need more. I want to give them grace. Oh! And the name of this book? Give Them Grace, Dazzling Your Kids with the love of Jesus. Very excited!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer Saturday

The children are outside having the time of their lives in a cute little swimming pool I scored brand new from Goodwill. $7.50. Am I thrilled? Yes. Are the kids loving it? Yes.
Every time I get the whale's blow hole going really good and strong, I find Ben all the way in the neighbors' yard. I think he doesn't like that part so much.
We have a huge grocery trip planned today. I hope I survive. I hope THEY survive. Grocery shopping with the children always leaves me a lot fried.
After a few other loosely planned ideas for the rest of the day (including an essential NAP), we're going to the CityFest, which is always a high point of our summer. The fourth Saturday of every summer month, the community puts on this shindig with bounce houses, live bands, catered food, games, and lots of other creative fun stuff, and it's all free. Once it begins to get dark, they show a movie on a huge screen in the middle of the field. We have been at least 5 times, and we LOVE it! This month, Great Clips is offering free haircuts for kiddos 12 and under. Wow! That is so neat!
Anyway, busy Saturday. Lot's of fun planned for these children who are now naked, out of the pool, and needing some guidance in getting dressed for the day.
Grace to you!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Curriculum for next year

I need to wrap my head around this, and so I'll try to write it here. What will I do when I have 3 in homeschooling? Will I be able to remember it all? For Grace and Ben, this Summer we'll be going over the Doorposts charts that we just ordered. We'll be reading over the books, writing memory verses and trying to work through the following charts:
"Go to the Ant"
"Brother Offended"
"Blessings Chart"
"If/Then Chart"

I'm also in the process of ordering curriculum for this fall
Right now I'm looking at the following:
Math: Christian Light, Grade 1
Language Arts: Rod and Staff Nurture, Grade 2
History: The Story of the World
Science: Complete Book of Science (which I've learned is no longer being published, so we may have to rethink this!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Lord Hates

Today, not much to write. Not much for a long time, I know. I wanted to write this out in-between nap times as I'm working through planning how we disciple our little ones. I am so burdened for their hearts. We recently found a wonderful chart that I hope will help them to see how their behavior relates to the condition of their hearts. One of the verses on the chart is about having their eyes plucked out by an eagle. It's a verse on violence. I'm hesitant to dismiss or sweep any scripture under the rug for my little ones, but I thought, maybe I could find one that was more PG but still met the need of denouncing violent behavior (ie. hitting, kicking, biting, throwing). The closest verse I've found was this, (and I've shortened it so it will fit on a one lined handwriting sheet, another reason I was looking for a different verse) - it was, "Those who love violence, The Lord hates."
The Lord hates.
Oh my poor ones. what pain their heart must feel when facing this verse. They haven't even read it yet, but we will read it, and we will weep, and we will talk about how sweet, sweet Jesus is, in light of every thing their hand has done. It is a painful, awkward task, showing a child how ugly their sin is, how the Lord hates them in their sinfulness (and yet wants to love them if they will let Him). I am so looking forward to the day they fully embrace the gospel, and walk totally affected by it.
Back to working toward that goal!
His Grace to you... (if you still read this occasionally!)