Sunday, September 23, 2012

Discipling Children: The Biblical Model

"There is clear biblical warrant for acknowledging
the lifelong implications of early childhood experience."
Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp)

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a foundational passage for Biblical parenting. It gives us one of the best and clearest pictures on how to create multi-generational faithfulness in families. We must be active and intentional in passing along our faith in Jesus Christ to our children.

It's clear from what we read in Deuteronomy 6 that while church plays an important role in spiritual development, it cannot stop there. The parent is a child's first and most important teacher. Spiritual discipleship must start and continue in the home.

Personally, I love this passage in Deut. 6 because of the clear and beautiful picture given to us of how children learn. Scientists, researchers, and child development experts have been studying children, the human brain, and how we learn for centuries. But here it was all along. Plain as day in the very Word of God. In modern times, scientists have conducted experiments and found evidence that gives proof to the wonderful truths God set out for us long, long ago. Researchers have confirmed the words of Moses and validated the methods the Israelites used to teach their children. 

Hear, O Israel:
"Listen up! Pay attention, kids! This is really important, and you need to hear it..."

The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
We are to teach our children that Yaweh, the LORD, is God. He is the all-sufficient, eternally perfect, infinite Ruler over all. There is no other god than Yahweh, and though He exists in three persons, He is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 
We must teach and show our children what it looks like and sounds like to love God with all our heart. We teach them how to worship. No one and nothing should take God's rightful place on the throne of our hearts.
God must come first.
Every time.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  
"Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34). We must store up God's words in our own hearts so that as we converse and interact with our children, we are speaking life and truth into their lives.

Impress them on your children.
Clearly Moses believed that every mother and father was well-equipped enough to understand God's word, teach their own children, and teach them diligently. This is how we create multi-generational faithfulness. Parents who realize how much they have been given want to carefully pass on such a good thing to their children and therefore to their grandchildren.

Talk about them when you sit at home
Learning about Jesus, salvation, and God's grace aren't conversations that must remain in the context of church or Sunday school. Discipleship is meant to happen in the home. Teaching God's Word and what He requires of us should be everyday conversation. 

and when you walk along the road,
Children are kinesthetic learners. They learn through movement, action, and "doing." I often hear parents say, "I can't get him to sit still for a whole story. He always wants to get up and move around." That's okay! While there is a time and a place for learning self-control, children naturally want to be on the move. Rather than fighting it, use it to your advantage. Act out the story. Talk as you walk and play. The playground is the perfect place to practice compassion, obedience, and selflessness. Children learn by doing!
This also teaches us that traveling is the perfect time to chat with your children and use your conversations to impress God's truths on their hearts. Rather than turning on the radio or talking on the phone when you're driving, start a conversation.

when you lie down and when you get up.
This implies that discipleship happens all day, every day because children learn through repetition. It also points to some important truths about how God has created us. Research has shown that the times we retain the most knowledge are first thing in the morning and right before we go to sleep.
Make the most of how God has created us by letting the first and last thing your children hear in their days be about the Lord.

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Historically speaking, the Pharisees took this command literally and seriously. They created little boxes, called phylacteries, in which they placed small pieces of paper with Scripture written them. They would tie these boxes to their hands and on their foreheads. The Gospels reveal they were worn all day long by the Pharisees to give the impression that they were pious men, constantly praying.

But God certainly didn't give us this command in order for us to become proud and pious. Rather, He knew something about how we were created that science had yet to discover.

In Deut.6, God is telling us to bind His commands to our foreheads. Fractions of an inch below your forehead is the part of the brain that we now know as the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain associated with making decisions and taking action on a thought. God asks us to keep his word in our prefrontal cortex and on our hands as reminders to live by the Word and not sin. God is teaching that it's all about doing so that we remember.

Again, children are kinesthetic/tactile learners. They love to touch, hold, and manipulate objects and materials. They learn by actively exploring the world around them and through hands-on activities. Playing with toy animals as they learn about Noah's ark, holding their own picture bible as a story is read, and acting out what they hear are all ways to actively engage your child and help him or her learn more effectively and fully. 

Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 
Let our faith be evident to all. Every guest who enters our home should know that we are living for something bigger than ourselves. That our hearts are utterly consumed with love for God, who is God alone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Is This Crazy?

Do these incredibly popular lyrics by Carly Rae Jepsen ring true in the hearts of adoptive parents? I think they must!

Before you came into my life
I missed you so bad
I missed you so bad
I missed you so, so bad

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To surrender a precious dream is a fearful thing,
but to pursue anything but the full measure
of the glory of God's love
is a wasted life.

-Joshua Eddy

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Do What I Do With Deep Conviction

It's been awhile since I've written, but I haven't forgotten about y'all. In fact, it has been just the opposite!

Over the past month I've been able to reconnect with some of my wonderful friends and faithful supporters, share about my incredible and challenging experience in Uganda with one of my supporting churches, and network with some people about how to connect with Ugandan families and African students in our community. It has been great to be in the same place as some of you!

Minnesota friends, I'll be up there the end of this month and hopefully in October or November, too! I simply cannot wait to reconnect with y'all!

In the last month I've starting working at a Christian preschool, joined a small group at my church where I've also starting volunteering as an intern of Family Discipleship, been connected with a family who has a sweet little boy I get to babysit on an infrequent but regular basis, and have enjoyed spending time with my few dear friends in town. There is also talk of puppy-sitting for some friends who'd like to get a dog soon...!

Multiple times a week people will inevitably ask, "So now that you're back what are you doing?"
And I give them some rendition of what I just told you.
It's usually in that moment that I see a somewhat confused look come over their faces. I can see their wheels turning and the look flash across their eyes that says, "Wait... that's it? That's all?"
And sometimes I think, "Trust me. This is not what I had planned for my life at 23 either."
Sometimes they'll go on to give an encouraging smile and say, "Wow, that's great..."

Usually, though, I'll just jump in and explain that since I might only be in the States until next summer I'm not really using this year to
      build up my savings account ( but I could still totally use your support this year!
      get another professional degree
      settle down and establish a life here
      pursue a career...

Nope. I'm not focusing on anything of those things right now.
I realize this is not helping me achieve the American Dream, and it totally goes against the typical American lifestyle.
But as one of my co-teachers said the other day, "And that's not such a bad thing."

So what am I doing?

I think this week I finally narrowed it down from the vague "doing some random stuff here and there" to "using my time and talents to serve others wherever possible and meet needs however I can." My flexible schedule allows me to say "yes" to the family without a babysitter (or puppy-sitter!), "yes" to the unexpected need for a sub in sunday school, and "yes" to a visit up north to reconnect with precious friends! 

Although living in Uganda was good practice, this is by far the least structure in my schedule and the most free time I've had in many years. But it's such a joy to be able to focus on serving others and building relationships without worrying about whether or not I'll have time for all of it.

And it's not such a bad thing.