By Invitation

Alex, Austin, and Arian in 1991

Alex, Austin, and Arian in 1991

The Hebrew term, yasar (yasar, verb form; musar, noun form), is commonly associated with parenting in the Old Testament. Here’s a verse where yasar describes something that God does and that parents are to emulate: “Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining (yasar) you just as a man disciplines (yasar) his son” (Deuteronomy 8:5). God’s use of yasar models perfectly how fathers and mothers should deal with foolish behavior and train their children in righteousness.

One passage in Jeremiah offers parents some rich insight in how to yasar their kids: “‘Your own wickedness will correct (yasar) you, And your apostasies will reprove (yakah) you; Know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God, And the dread of Me is not in you,’ declares the Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 2:19).

In this passage, God is addressing His wayward children. They have forsaken the Lord God of Hosts because they do not fear Him. So God announces the introduction of a period of discipline (yasar) and reproof (yakah) that will supply compelling incentives for obedience. “Know” and “see” indicate that Israel is going to incur consequences designed to produce a new-found, but profound, aversion to forsaking the Lord. They will know that forsaking the Lord is evil (wrong) and bitter (utterly distasteful). This doesn’t sound like fun times ahead, but the end product will be good (cf. Hebrews 12:11).

Notice in the first part of the verse that the entities doing the disciplining and reproving are named as “wickedness” and “apostasies.” This is a way of saying that these two behaviors, wickedness and apostasy, have issued an invitation for God to do what is necessary for Israel to learn that forsaking the Lord is evil and bitter (God’s way of doing things really is designed for our well being!). Israel’s experience of the painful side of yasar is something they invited God to administer. This same principle is declared a few verses earlier: “Have you not done this to yourself by your forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way” (Jeremiah 2:17)?

So, if we take our cue from God about how to effectively parent our children, we will administer musar by invitation: When our children disobey, they are asking mom and dad for assistance. Optimally, the fear of the Lord should motivate children to do what is right. But when they disobey, they are declaring their need for help. They, by their actions, are asking loving parents to introduce measures that help them see their disobedience as God does, as “evil” and “bitter.” Disobedience to God is not good for us; in fact, it makes us miserable!

Now please understand, the use of this principle, “by invitation,” must be complemented by the use of all eight other musar principles (Eventually, we’ll cover all of them at MomUp.). With that caveat, here’s how this worked when our children were little. When a child disobeyed a clear first report, I would say, “I am so sad. By your foolish behavior, you are telling me that you need my help to do what is right. But I love you too much not to help you do what is best.”

Then it’s time to use appropriate incentives to help my wayward charge develop a view of disobedience that lines up with God’s truth. Consequences have a way of showing children that they really can choose to be happy living God’s way and that living life their way will only bring misery.

This approach has the advantage of uniting the parent and child, putting them on the same team. The child is requesting assistance and the parent is providing it so that they both can work against disobedience. Use of this principle also builds personal responsibility in a child. A child comes to realize that he or she will incur consequences for foolish choices and learns to assume responsibility for making wise choices. A child will actually learn that Mom is not the bad guy; disobedience is! Mom is the loving example of someone who knows what’s best and cares enough to make sure her child is standing in a place of blessing. That’s exactly what God does for you and me!

Posted by Rochelle Fleming

Moral Compass From The Heart

Bible Time 2

It’s Bedtime Bible Time and Creatures are Afoot To Talk About the “10”!

Bible Time 1

The Galleries are Thoroughly Entertained!

When it comes to instructing children in the truth of the Bible, young moms frequently ask, “Where do I even begin?” Sometimes it seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? We really do want to do right by our kids. We want them to know God’s truth, to grow in wisdom, to come to Christ at an early age and stay on His path for a lifetime. God wants that for them too, and has made His curriculum available to us for the accomplishment of this very task!

God has provided the Ten Commandments as a foundational curriculum to ground children in His absolute standard of righteousness. (Click here if you want the full story!) These inspired precepts provide a moral compass, to be sure, but they also demonstrate God’s absolute holiness. The Ten Commandments grow out of the very nature and character of God. They must be what they are because of who God is! Thus, they are not optional, arbitrary, or relative. Rather, they establish universal standards for right and wrong for all people… for all time! This is authoritative, critical truth.

So, we parents must be honest and ask ourselves: Do my children know and understand the Ten Commandments? This question is not merely about being able to recite them from memory, though that is an essential first step. But we must also ask whether our kids have internalized these principles, whether God’s truth has become a moral compass that is aligning their thoughts, words, and actions with the character of God. God Himself has commissioned us (Deut. 6:4-9); this is our holy calling.

Knowing that God has provided the curriculum, and that we are responsible to impart it to our progeny, we must also consider another important truth from Deuteronomy 6:6. “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” The training of our kids starts with us! We cannot impart what we do not possess! In fact, our kids’ ability to learn, absorb, and obey these commands turns on our ability to do so first. When our hearts have been aligned with the holiness of God, and we authentically live out these commands, we stand in the best possible place from which to help our kids do likewise. Frankly, this seems daunting at times. And some may respond, “What if I haven’t studied the Ten Commandments yet myself? How do I impart what I don’t know? Where do I begin?”

If this is new territory for you, here are some ideas and resources to help you get started:

  1. Start with a reliable resource. You could very profitably use J. I. Packer’s book, Keeping the 10 Commandments (Crossway, 2007). It is short, concise, clear, and accurate.
  2. Set aside a special time each day to teach your kids. Learn right along with them if this is new to you. At bedtime, our family read The Droodles Ten Commandments Story Book by Ray and Sally Cioni (David C. Cook, 1983). The stories apply the precepts faithfully, and will prompt much discussion – Currently out of print but you can get a used copy here.
  3. Make your time fun, consistent, and uninterrupted. We utilized puppets, books, learning projects, and family discussion to help our kids memorize and internalize each concept.
  4. Here’s a helpful bit of information my husband and I summarized from our own study. Each of the Ten Commandments can be stated both positively (Do this!), and negatively (Don’t do this!). Below is a quick and easy way to communicate the main idea for each commandment. These “concept” phrases work well with elementary age children too. Big Ten 2
  5. If you have been following the parenting series at Light-Work, you will be interested to see where teaching the Ten Commandments fits in the T-20 chart. (Click here if you want to read the first post in the series. Click here for an introduction to the T20 chart.) Notice that the “10″ are part of the third content block and focus on a child’s moral compass. Studying the Ten Commandments would follow the initial work of musar which concerns the “No” and “Self-Control” blocks. The Ten Commandments also lay essential groundwork for the next content block, “The Gospel.”T20 Master C4

None of us can engage in this challenge without God’s gracious help! Ask Him to show you how to engrave these words on your own heart. Then ask Him how to clearly and creatively impart this truth to your children. You can do this while you’re sitting or working, in the morning or evening. Just tell your kids what God is teaching you about His commandments. Then watch what He does!

 

Posted by Rochelle Fleming

 

Woven Together

I am a wife.  I am praying each day to be refreshed in how I can do for him what no one else can do, as well as how to come alongside him in this life.

I am a mother.  I am praying each day to be strengthened in my call to nurture, train, love and raise up these men of mine.

I am a child of God.  I am praying each day to be humbled and to see His work in and through me in each role I have been given for this time.

In my mind, I imagine that each life on this earth is a beautiful mix of different colored threads that are constantly being woven together.  God is sovereign and always at work.  Yet, He allows me to have a voice in my own life. So, my choices, are vitally important.  My choices declare my allegiance. They outwardly speak to what is most important in my heart. 

I am followed all day by young men watching me make choices. Watching me declare my allegiance. Each choice matters. How am I making sure that I am making choices that matter for His sake?  Life is full.  Some days, it is flowing over.

There is often more laundry that I would like to see on the kitchen table. There is more dust on bookshelves and too many dishes in the sink.  There are too many bills to pay and paint left over from small hands that spilled it onto the floor.

handprints

Choices.  My attitude is a choice that helps set the tone.  And so I choose to also see that…

There is the sound of laughter that is extremely contagious.

There are freshly painted hand prints on pages I will want to keep when they are grown and on their own.

There is the sound of brothers reading and discussions of what it would be like to walk on water and see Jesus raise from the dead.

There are big brothers showing him how to build Legos…(ALL over the house!)

There are doors opened that I would not just walk through on my own, yet I feel His nudging.

There is a letting go of all the complications and just choosing to be here, present with them. Choosing to take on the role He has given me with passion and commitment to do it all for His glory alone.

I can imagine in my head the beauty that life beholds to our Creator, when He looks from His perfect view that encompasses all of time.  All the surrendered cries of the heart, the praise from broken lips and the faith shouting out loud, “YES LORD!”  The choices of faithful servants willing to say, “It all belongs to You.”

I am a wife, a mother, and a child of God surrendering to Him each day.  For He is on the throne and never changes. He is the Master Weaver…

And there is life being woven together.

Posted by Melissa J Carruthers

Deeds That Speak

1988 Woodworking

What we do declares who we are. Solomon understood this: “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right” (Prov. 20:11).

When I see a bumper sticker announcing, “My child is an honor student at Trophies-For-All Elementary,” I am truly pleased for this familial announcement of academic achievement. Really, I am, but have you seen a bumper sticker extolling the virtue of godly character lately? Parents need to bend their efforts toward training children in matters of the heart as much as they promote academics. The enterprise of raising kids who know God and walk in truth takes years of faithful and careful investment. Nothing… nothing matters more. Some days in this discipling process we wonder if the truth is sinking in, let alone establishing deep roots. How do we really know? King Solomon said we would know by our children’s actions–an outward manifestation of the heart.

Our second son, Alexander professed Christ at an early age. His steady growth and transformation were observable right up until the time he was ready to go solo. While he was finishing his degree at the local university, he was also working as an intern for a sound studio in town. He worked long hours and was rarely home. One day while I was dusting and vacuuming, I noticed a verse he had mounted above his computer screen. “But the noble man devises noble plans; And by noble plans he stands” (Isaiah 32:8). This verse had become his credo, and it showed. He had consistently demonstrated integrity, a tireless work ethic, self-sacrificial service to others, and faithfulness in his spiritual disciplines. He was a man living up to his name, “Helper of Mankind.” Titus 1:7 describes an elder as one who has “children who believe.”  Some scholars maintain that this phrase means “children who are trustworthy,” while others hold that it describes “children of faith.” Whichever view one takes, Alex had clearly demonstrated by his track record that both ideas aptly described him. We had every reason to trust him. So, when he decided to take a job with an Atlanta-based ministry, Jim and I were completely on board. We trusted his decision implicitly and helped him load up the U-Haul trailer bound for Atlanta.

Fast forward a few years. It was a Saturday morning, and I was just cleaning up the kitchen and starting the laundry. As the phone rang, I glanced at the caller id. Alex’s name popped up. “Hello, Alexander. How are you, son?” He enthusiastically responded, “I am great, Mom, and I have some good news!” That sounded promising…. He continued, “I have met a phenomenal woman. Her name is Lauren, and I think she’s a keeper! I want you and dad to meet her soon.” I was overjoyed! My response could only be, “That’s wonderful news, Alex! We can’t wait to meet Lauren!” Both Jim and I were able to embrace Lauren, not because we knew her at that point in time, but because we knew Alex, and trusted him to make a wise choice.

Their wedding day was a joyful testimony of God’s blessing! My husband, Jim, performed their marriage ceremony on March 27, 2010. The whole clan was there to witness their vows and welcome Lauren to Team Fleming. We embraced this day and our new daughter with open arms in gratitude for God’s rich gift.

When our children are grown and have shown who they are by what they do, it frees us as parents to embrace their decisions with confidence and trust. As we have had opportunity to build a relationship with our new daughter, we can heartily affirm, “She is a keeper!”

alex & lauren

Posted by Rochelle Fleming

 

Must-Do Moments

A friend unexpectedly called and invited one of our boys to play for the afternoon.  He was at camp and she volunteered to pick him up, so I had an extra 30 minutes!

I envisioned knocking one project off my list at home when my middle son joyfully asked, “Can we go to the park since we have extra time?”  Oh, how differently we envisioned spending that extra time!

“Absolutely!” I responded. 

So much of our life is organized by have to-do lists that we sometimes miss the must-do moments.  I am currently reading a book that encourages moms to look at life in terms of life management, rather than a triage center for crisis management. When we, as moms, are too busy, everything that happens from lost shoes, requests to play at the park and unexpected doctor visits seem like a crisis. However, my challenge for myself and for you is to view these times as an opportunity for life management and peacefully meet the need. Think “temperate” not “triage!”

In this thinking, I truly believe we will find more time to really spend with our kids.  I shared here with you a few weeks ago about making intentional time to spend with your children. Today, I thought I would share a list of 15 fun things to do even if you only have an extra 15-30 minutes.

1. Play leap frog with your kids! They will think this is hilarious and you will find out how much less limber you are the older you get! 🙂

2. Make sugar cookie dough that has to sit in the fridge for a few hours. Your kids will have something fun to look forward to doing when you get back home.

3. Read a Bible story and give them a fun practical principle to practice the rest of the day. (We love alliteration in our house!)

4. Pray for a missionary, the president, your pastor and your kid’s teachers.

5. Ask your kids, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?”

6. Have a family chore race. Assign each member a doable chore and see who can do it the fastest, but still do a great job! Examples: wipe counters, collect trash, wipe mirrors, empty dishwasher, start a load of laundry, pick up 15 toys.

7. Stop at a near-by park and play with your kids on the jungle gym set.

8. Play hide-n-go seek🙂

9. Make an appreciation card for Daddy, the grandparents or someone else that is special to your family. Pray for them!

10. Each of you make a fun postcard for a friend, then drop it in the mail when you are out and about. Pray for your friends.

photo(1)

11. Teach your children a new hymn or praise and worship song. Don’t worry- they don’t care if you can’t sing!

12. Practice flash cards for school.

13. Recite your favorite Bible verses for each other. My kids love to hear me say verses I am working on. They eagerly read along in their Bible to make sure I don’t miss any words🙂

14. Look at pictures from your childhood and tell your kids a special story about you being their age!

15. Gather pantry items in a bag and plan to deliver them to your local food bank the next time you go out. Put them in the car now, so you don’t forget! Pray for families that don’t have enough food to feed their family.

The list could go on, but the most important point is to find something to do and spend the time wisely with your kids. Every day I remind myself to prioritize my must-do moments over my have to-do lists.

Posted by Melissa J Carruthers

Time Well Spent

I stopped and sighed. “Why, dear Lord, does this precious child insist on taking every book out of the rack?” Do you have moments like this? If you are a mother, I am going to guess this occurs in your house!

Titus 2:4 tells me to love my children.  Further study of this verse tells me that “No one can do for them, what I can do for them!” So, I ask, what am I doing for them? I was chosen to be their mama and although there are tough days, God chose me and I am equipped each day to be their mama, not anyone else!

In her book, The Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson so beautifully states, “children, by nature, are designed to take up our time. We develop the heart of our children by spending time with them, just as Jesus spent time with his disciples. He not only taught them truth but also practical application. Jesus invested in them and gave them his whole life.”

And so my calling is to invest in my children each day.

This kind of investment requires that I yield my ways to God’s way. Not half heartedly, but whole heartedly to the vision He gives me for motherhood. His original idea works and it is the path to much joy, contentment and peace. It is the path that allows me to show my children their need for a Savior.

When the highchair needs to be cleaned again, laundry never makes it to the drawers, homework needs to be done, sibling rivalry needs to be dealt with at the heart level and bills needs to be paid, the circumstances do not seem to produce much joy. But our view is skewed in this thinking. The joy is in the investment of time spent with my children each day, not in the circumstances themselves.

Whatever vision of motherhood I have, I need to filter it through God’s word to see that it aligns. Then I have to “clean house” and get busy about being the kind of mother that builds life into her children and produces joy in my home.  I need to see the books as a way a child finds the perfect one to settle down and read.🙂

The depth of my relationship, produced by spending quality time with my children, provides them with stability. It provides me the platform I need to point them to Christ. They will either believe my words because they see my life authenticating them or they will know the shallow depth of my attempt at connecting with them.

Love is spelled T.I.M.E. in the eyes of a child. What else is more important than cultivating their hearts for the precious message of Christ’s love for them? I simply cannot think of anything…

Posted by Melissa J Carruthers

 

A Tale of Two Toddlers

Austin 3

“Today, you and I are going to the frame shop so we can help daddy finish getting his office ready. There will be a lot of picture frames stacked on the floor inside the store. You may not touch any of the frames. You may look, and even point, but you may not touch. I want you to stay with me the whole time. If you leave my side, or touch the picture frames, that would be a foolish, disobedient choice. I want you to make wise choices today. Can you do that?” He replied in earnest, “Yes, Mommy. I will obey.”  I affirmed, “Great, good choice; let’s go.”

Having given my preschooler his first clear report, we marched into the discount frame shop. As we entered, sure enough, there were large columns of frames neatly organized by size and price. We walked around the shop until we located the desired section. The bell on the door chimed as another young mom bustled through the doorway with her preschooler in tow. Immediately, her son freed himself from her grasp and sprinted to the many towers of frames, plowing through the neat stacks and scattering them helter-skelter like blocks from his toy bin. I looked up and saw the disapproving face of the proprietor. The boy’s mother, without even glancing up, continued shopping and intoned, “Sam, come here right now. I mean it. Sam… now don’t be getting into those frames. Those are not your toys. Sam… come here! I’m gonna count to three… One… Two… Two and a half…. Don’t make me come over there. Samuel, are you listening?”

By that time, my son and I were checking out at the cash register. My little charge kept looking at Sam’s trail of disaster, then looked back at me, then at the mother, then back at the shop owner. Finally, he could no longer restrain himself, clearly and loudly exclaiming, “Oh, Mommy, look at that boy; he is bringing shame to his mother!” The store owner who had been grumbling under his breath suddenly became still, as did the other customers. All eyes were on the unrestrained tornado. An awkward silence pressed in. A wave of compassion washed over me as the young lad’s mother, embarrassed and flustered, grabbed her son by the arm and quickly exited, threatening, “This is the last time I’ll ever take you with me shopping!” As they hurried to their van, all inside the shop heaved a sigh of relief.

I was saddened. This mom did not understand that her words had no effect on her son’s behavior. Sam’s actions revealed who was really in charge, and even my three-year-old observer could clearly see what Sam’s mother did not. I turned to my son and whispered, “We will let his mommy deal with his disobedience.” We paid the cashier, and quietly left, frames in hand. I couldn’t very well chide my young one for his outburst. We would work on discretion another day. As we hopped in our vehicle, I praised him. “You did a great job of obeying me today! You made wise choices. Good job!”  He calmly and matter-of-factly replied, “I am so glad I didn’t bring you shame today, Mommy.”

I thanked God silently: “Thank You, Father, that this precious one is learning your statutes. Thank you for this window into his heart.” After all, some days on this roller-coaster ride of parenting make one truly wonder how much spiritual progress is being forged. But this day revealed God’s grace at work… what a good day.

Proverbs 29:15
The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”

Posted by Rochelle Fleming