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Time is Now Fleeting–Are We Passing on Moments to Teach Our Children About God?

Psalm 144 3-4

My favorite part of vacation is by far watching my babies sleeping. Every year, my heart feels a little ding as I notice tiny details that have snatched away their innocence and led them closer to being teenagers. They’ve suddenly become aware of things I wish they didn’t know, and we’ve had more and more discussions about sin and overcoming it.

Another favorite part of vacation is how we sometimes have a traveling church service, organized by my son, who is now nine. He chooses several songs from the book, decides who will pray and when, and writes his own little sermon. My daughter sings along in her sweet little voice. Moments like these, I feel a small twinge of success that we’re doing something right. But then, something worldly creeps into our lives, and I get worried all over again.

Recently it’s struck me how little time I actually have to teach them everything they need to know to grow up as faithful Christians.

Like many, we started our kids off in Bible class a week or two after they were born. Those early classes were nothing more than singing and holding shiny objects in front of them, but the message was clear–like Ma-ma and Da-da, God is someone important who loves you and that you need to love. We’ve worked on memorizing scriptures together, made sure to only miss services when it’s essential (like an ice storm), and even then, we usually have a devotional and worship at home. But also like many, we worry. There’s no guarantee that even with all this preparation our children will choose God’s way.

I’ve heard several people recently compare preachers to salesmen, claiming the analogy that we have to offer God’s truth as some kind of a promotional deal–Hey, for merely a little self-sacrifice and some dedication, praise, and worship, you, too, can have hope of heaven!

And as a teacher, I understand this. A bad lesson when well delivered can be a good sell, and a good lesson badly delivered can be a poor sell. While I don’t like the idea of reducing the gospel to some random product needing promotion, I do feel that some of us need to put a little extra effort into it, especially parents.

Just as some have said in education–parents cannot expect teachers to be solely responsible for delivering the content that will teach their children to love and respect God. And sadly, there’s a finite time we’ve been given to accomplish this task.

I’ve always loved the hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” but I’ve always been curious about opening line of the second verse–“Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing.”

Time is now fleeting. What does that even mean?

Time was fleeting, is fleeting, and will continue to be fleeting. Like it says in James 4:14, life is a vapor. So, to say it’s NOW fleeting is interesting. But I think maybe I understand.

When my babies were little, I didn’t think a lot about protecting them from sin. Their innocence shielded them. And even though time passed at the same fleeting rate, now, the stakes are higher. I have a new awareness of how few moments I actually have to teach them to avoid certain kinds of language and how to be loving and benevolent instead of selfish.

If only I could slow that time.

Well, I can’t do that, but I can choose how much of it I waste. We have to remember as parents that every conversation matters. Every incident in their life can be a teachable moment. We have to seize those moments and nudge them in the right direction.

I’ve heard some say that they don’t want to push religion on their kids so they don’t talk about it that often. They fear that shoving it down their throats will cause them to turn away from it. But this idea is in stark contrast to scripture, and frankly, I believe it’s the reason a lot of churches are losing their young adults.

Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 22:6, which tells us to train up a child, and Deuteronomy 6:7, where Moses instructed the Israelites to teach God’s laws diligently to children.

Hebrews 12:5-11 says:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Three things to draw from this passage. One, if God treats us as sons, we should be treating sons (and daughters) like God treats us. He provides instruction, discipline, and guidance of how we are to follow His ways. Two, God expects parents to discipline and instruct their children, and this is to be respected. Three, discipline and instruction may be painful for all involved at first, but doesn’t that peaceful fruit of righteousness sound worth it?

When we make plans for their education, social engagements, sports activities, etc., we must not forget to plan for their spiritual growth as well. We can make no excuses–after all, it’s part of the God’s plan that we teach our children to be his followers.

Remember, as Proverbs 19:21 says:

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

One Flew Over the Laundry Pile

Proverbs 29

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about defiant children, just further evidence of a problem I’ve observed in my years at a high school teacher. It stuns me how many parents are completely perplexed by the behavior, and how little confidence they have in their own ability to assume authority of their household.

What scares me is that we’re turning our kids into mental patients. We’re telling all of them there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed when a lot of times, we’re that something wrong that needs to be fixed.

I’ve seen an alarming number of parents in recent years go “Nurse Ratched” on their children, taking the attack and shame route. Then, by the time they reach my class at age 16 or 17, they start to rebel in full force. Nurse Ratched starts seeing them as a McMurphy and they almost get to a point where they hate their own children. They’re willing to do anything to get the behaviors to stop, no matter the cost to the kid. Cut them off at the pass. Emotionally lobotomize them.

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with parents of students who are not coming to school and failing classes that they are “out of ideas” or they “have no clue where to start.” And then, at SIXTEEN or SEVENTEEN, they head to a doctor and beg them for meds to control what they should have handled years prior.

The conversation goes something like this. “They were A students in Middle School, almost like the perfect kid. I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”

I want to just lean across the table and scream at them. You went wrong. You quit on your kid. You stopped paying attention and started playing Farmville 24/7. You started leaving them at home by themselves so you could run out to bars and latch onto strange men or women. You didn’t stand up and demand respect when they were younger.

But instead, I offer tutoring and go home that night to pray for them.

In no way do I believe I’m a perfect parent. In fact, I need to do a ton of growth myself. But I do believe that my efforts to be a godly parent are making a difference in my children, and they could make a difference in yours.

I came across this great post today: 20 Important Bible Verses for Parents

A few key summary points:

  • Children are a blessing and we’re to love them (Psalm 127:3-5)
  • Children should be taught to memorize verses and know God’s word (Deuteronomy 4:10)
  • Parents are commanded to train their children (Proverbs 22:16, Ephesians 6:4)
  • Parents are commanded to discipline their children (Proverbs 29:15)

Bottom line, it’s our responsibility as parents, and it’s our fault if we fail at it. God has given us all the tools. We have to stop making excuses, pleasing/satisfying ourselves at their expense, and do the job we were put on this Earth to do–raise up families to honor, love, and glorify God, and to spread his gospel to every creature.

Writing… with Children

Post five in the discussion from Richard Bausch’s “Letter to a Young Writer.”

I should have started writing twenty years ago. All that time I spent sitting around watching MTV and playing MOO games on the Gopher in the days before the World Wide Web could have been put to much better use. If you’re too young to remember that, then you haven’t really lived.

These days, we all have such a media and emotion overload that it’s hard to set aside time to do anything, let alone crank out a 100K novel. Add a couple of kids to the mix, and it’s next to impossible.

Here’s how it works. You sit down at the kitchen table, power up the laptop, and open the file.

“Mo-om. I’m hungry.”

“You’re not eating anything. Get out of the kitchen. I just fed you.”

She hits you with that pitiful face, big brown eyes. “But I’m hungry.”

You resist.

She jumps around the room minion style. “Hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry.”

Sighing, you shove back the chair, pick her up, and deposit her in her overindulgent bedroom. “Find something to play with. You have a million toys.”

You sit down at the kitchen table and look over the last paragraph you’ve written.

“Mo-om. I’m thirsty…”

And so it goes.

Your choices are pretty much to:

a) Let chaos reign, ignore the munchkins and write anyway. (You’ll pay for this later).

b) Play with your munchkins and take the writing time away from sleep.

c) Wait until your munchkins are old enough to not need your constant attention (I’ve heard this happens somewhere around their 30th birthday)

d) Forego your dream and find a new one that revolves around your children

In the early days of writing, I opted for choice B.

Bausch describes the scenario all new parents fall into:

Once when our first child was a baby, my mother came to visit. And after the baby went to sleep, I began tiptoeing around trying to make no noise. My mother said, “What the hell are you doing?” I said, “The baby’s asleep.” She said, “Have some friends over, put some music on, rattle some dishes, make noise. You’re training that kid to be a bad sleeper.” 

We’ve all done this. Some of you are probably doing it right now. But one of the great mistakes parents are making these days is to run around doing everything for our kids and forcing them to operate in our closed, “perfect” boxes.

When I was in college, there were a few semesters when I worked sixty hours a week and took eighteen hours of classes. It was an insane schedule, but one thing I learned is that I could literally study anywhere. I used to make flashcards and tuck them into my waitress tablet. While people were stalling and trying to figure out what they wanted to eat, I was learning that two pyruvates are made from glycolysis.  Sitting at the break table, scarfing down a grossly unhealthy snack, I rewrote my notes and read my textbook. I read my flashcards on a small cassette player and played it in the car. It was easy back then to be resourceful with my time.

The thing is, making writing time for yourself is a choice–children or no children, job or no job, busy life or simple one.

Bausch’s advice is that we should train ourselves to be able to work anywhere. He says this:

If you set up a certain expectation about when and how you’ll be able to do the work, you train yourself to be silent. Shostokovich wrote his famous 7th Symphony, the Leningrad Symphony, during the siege of Leningrad. Bombs were falling all around him and he understood perfectly well that there was a very good chance he would die within the next few hours or days. Teach yourself to write in busy places under the barrage of noises the world makes. Work in rooms where kids are playing, with music on, even with the television on. Work in the faith that if something is really good, it will not escape back into oblivion if you get distracted from it. It will turn up again. There is no known excuse for not working when you are supposed to be working.

It’s so easy to fall into the excuse trap. “I didn’t get anything done today. The kids were wild.” No, you didn’t get anything done today because you chose not to. You chose to let the kids being wild be the reason you didn’t get anything done.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside a time when you make limits for your children and refuse to accommodate their every whim. Sure, it might take a few days of you standing your ground and them having a little bit of a temper tantrum, but when they realize that you’re going to set aside an hour every day, and they’re going to have to wait until that hour is over before you’ll give them that drink or get that toy down from the shelf–guess what? They’ll wait. And honestly, you’ll both be better for it.

That’s not to say you should shut the kids up in their bedrooms and write for four hours. I don’t think it’s necessary to even send the kids out of the room. Learn to write with them in the background. Learn to pause and smile every so often at their inventive play, knowing you’re teaching them that it’s okay for them to take time out of their day and pursue their own creativity. They will be ever grateful for this gift when they are older.

Bausch finishes this point with the following:

Remember that it is an absurdity to put writing before the life you have to lead. I’m not talking about leisure. I’m talking about the responsibility you have to the people you love and who love you back. No arduousness in the craft or arts should ever occupy one second of the time you’re supposed to be spending that way. It has never been a question of the one or the other and writers who say it is are lying to themselves or providing an excuse for bad behavior. They think of writing as a pretext for it. It has never been anything of the sort.

There has to be a balance. If I block off an hour of writing time, I try to make sure I block off time for reading books with my daughter, singing songs with them, or watching my son’s imaginary basketball league.

All you have to do is be purposeful about it. Set yourself a schedule, set your boundaries, and get to writing.