Monday, February 25, 2013

Celebrations and Lessons

As we have been wrapping up our Valentine's focus and moving towards the season of Lent and Easter, I have holidays on my mind. I post our seasonal learning, fun and focus like Halloween here and what our Christmas traditions are here, Advent activities are here and here and when we also have Happy Birthday Jesus party.  I blogged about Lent here, Easter here, Valentine's Day here and Thanksgiving here.

What are we trying to convey to our children? We are showing out children that there is no secular and religious. There is no place Jesus is not welcome in our lives. God is in our every day. Going to the grocery store, watching a video, playing a super hero, making a tent. Not cramming, lecturing, preaching, but loving, forgiving, learning and having fun. Was it awkward for me at first not coming from a Godly worldview childhood? Absolutely. But most of my decisions, actions, words, heart beliefs, opinions and views have constantly felt that since the age of 16 when I began knowing God in a personal way. So glad that God's grace covers our parenting!!

Regardless of who first started celebrating something and why, we will continue to invite Jesus in to our every day. I draw materials, crafts, projects and ideas from a myriad of both protestant, catholic, Jewish and non faith based sources to teach my children about Christ. The idea itself is neutral. It is my God given responsibility to talk about Christ and point my children to a Godly world view. We frame the books we read, the videos we watch, the projects, the activities and the crafts within the goal of glorifying God and our desire to live with him for ever in Heaven.

As much as I enjoy our children's holiday books that are straight forward about the literal portions of faith within celebrations, there is something so ingenious about those materials that take the every day and draw the reader back to Christ. I get giddy whether it's a candy cane at Christmas drawing a similarity to the sweetness or the letter J or the color of the blood of Jesus or the Pumpkin parable that talks about how we are like a jack-o-lantern whom Jesus opens up, cleans out and replaces His light inside of us to Easter where an empty eggs can serve to remind us of the empty tomb when Jesus rose and conquered death for us. Celebrations are an amazing hill top parts of life. In a broken, fall world where there is death, disease, violence, hurt, pain, disappointment, hunger, frustration, poverty and broken hearts, homes and lives our hearts yearn for the beauty and the glory of God. In every day life we draw comfort, guidance, acceptance, forgiveness in our Creator.

I can teach my child every bible story, I can try to the best of my human broken ability to be the Godly influence for my children that He calls me to be and I would still only be creating a christian culture. I could have them memorize scripture , which we do, cover our weekly bible stories and Godly character lessons but if the very reasons for why we do what we do does not guide our children back to glorifying God and our desire to live with Him forever in Heaven. Since our weekly time with my friend's little girl ended a few weeks ago I began going to a weekly ladies bible class again as well as meeting with a friend monthly to discuss Godly parenting books. God is using both of these simultaneously to focus, simplify and be intentional in parenting. Our mom study has been talking about a parenting mission statement. I'm also particularly inspired by this book, Shepherding a Child's Heart:

What's my purpose as a Christian parent? It's not behavior modification. It's not control, appearances, manners, and it's not success or power in any shape whether physical, financially, vocationally, academically, socially, morally or even just to get my children saved. It's to glorify God and the desire to live with Him forever in Heaven. Tedd Tripp introduces his book in the first few chapters talking about how we are created to worship. We are not spiritually neutral. We were made to worship and we will worship someone or something.  In the end, I have to remember in this SAHM culture that it's not about a Pinterest board, Facebook photographs, learning activities, faith based crafts or completing a set of tasks either with or for my children so that my house and children all look successful from the outside. Yes, God can work in all of those things but they are not the goal.

 It's about faithfulness not success. There is no one systematic approach to crank out Godly children. We can only control the influence we provide, the rest is entirely based on our children's response. No one has it down, unfortunately all of those phrases we tell ourselves pre-child as to how our child would act, react, accomplish, not struggle with help keep the lack of control at bay are unrealistic at best.  Am I drawing my children's hearts to God? Am I setting biblical standards and goals? Am I showing the love of God and others? It's not about being in church when ever the doors are open or being the most polite, well behaved, obedient or succeeding at bible bowl. My goal isn't the right camps, schools, college, marriage, job, children etc for my children. They aren't a 1950's felt board. They are a flesh and blood human creation of God and HE and HIS plans are what matter for my child. It's about the heart, the motivation. Our children can and will make choices partly based on what we show and tell them has value and partly on themselves and how they react to their life experiences. Make the focus of discipline a reward and punish system, they'll learn to ask what's in it for them. Make it about praise, chastisement, people's feelings, making friends and they'll learn to please you and eventually everyone else around them. Make it about achievement, accomplishment, image and they'll learn manipulation of themselves and others to be successful.

We can't automatically assume they will make the connection one day that their heart belongs to God. The world certainly isn't going to help. One hour of bible class a week isn't going to make it every day real that we treat others with respect not just because it's good and moral, not just because it will hurt someone else's feeling but because that other person is a God created individual whom God loves as well. It hurts God when His children are mistreated and that includes by us. Are we to treat our children if someone else hurts them to fight, or to do what the bible instructs to pray for those that hurt you. We are called to love our enemy. We must understand and have open communication with our children. Our children must be given a safe place to talk, open up and fail. We must meet them as both their authority and a fellow sinner. I must keep in mind to be strong enough to lead and vulnerable enough to share my own failings. I must follow the example of Christ and be a servant leader. Only God can give us the strength to live out His ways on earth. Those ways include not gossiping, not judging, forgiving and seeing other people better than yourself. It's really hard to be angry with someone you're praying for. Is it daunting? Yes! Is it possible with Christ? Yes! Not perfectly, but again, it's not about success, it's about faithfulness, repenting, forgiveness between us and God and living in the hope and strength of Christ to lean closer, learn our lessons and apply it to our lives. God will give us another chance when we don't get it the first time!  Of course, that means I am called to model that for my child. Of course it's not easy, but God's way rarely is. It's hard because it's not about us and our needs, it's about glorifying God with our hearts. So yes, that's why we read our bible and pray to have that connection so that we can understand what best glorifies God. We read the bible not for the rules or heroes (because everyone God used was flawed save Christ), but to understand His love and how to glorify Him by sharing that love with others. We can only do so plugged in to God by asking for His strength to battle against our own daily flesh and selfishness.

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