Friday, August 24, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting {Chapter 9}

Discipline That Preaches

The chapter this week has probably been the most practical yet, in that it has some specific steps and instructions for disciplining kids.  Farley lays out a suggested model for discipline, based on eight steps for how to connect discipline to the gospel.  His most important point, I thought, was to "use the discipline event to rehearse the gospel."  (pg. 169)  Unfortunately, he didn't give very much as to what this looks like or sounds like in a real life situation.  I have found this to be very important in my own parenting, so I have had to learn how to do this in a discipline situation.  I haven't done it perfectly - especially in the beginning.  I would say that because my previous understanding of the gospel has really been to hear  revival-type preaching, followed by an altar call where I would "re-dedicate" my life (again) to Jesus, I had a lot to overcome in learning what this meant, so that my poor kids didn't get THAT everytime they were disciplined.  In order to avoid this in your home,  I would suggest that you really dig into some resources regarding what the gospel really is about- make sure you understand it!   Explain it to your kids over and over again in non-discipline settings, so when the emotion of discipline comes about, you don't sound like a hell-fire preacher who is bent on converting their sinful souls.

Last chapter I recommended Tedd Tripp's book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, because it is so careful and thorough about presenting practical steps to follow when disciplining your child.  After reading the chapter this week, I feel even more strongly that you need to read Tripp's book to get a good handle on what Farley is saying about discipline.  I sort of felt like in this chapter that Farley had read Tripp's book, but he breifly summarized (some) of Tripp's method and moved on.  The how-to of discipline, especially the use of corporal discipline can be a very difficult subject and I don't think that Farley does it justice just to claim that it is necessary and biblical.  In this day and age, he really needs to do a more thorough job of explaining his reasoning, answering objections and helping parents to understand this in the right light.  Tripp's book does that.  Not only that, but he emphasizes other very important elements that need to be a part of discipline besides just the corporal discipline.  Tripp discusses child development, authority, biblical and unbiblical goals, unbiblical discipline methods, and then several chapters on biblical methods - three on communication, one on appeal to the conscience and one on "the rod".  This is the kind of thorough coverage of the subject of discipline methods that I appreciated as I was considering how discipline should look in our family. 

In addition to Tedd Tripp's book, I would also highly recommend Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, Give Them Grace.  This book is also very specific in what a conversation with your child sounds like that "rehearses the gospel" - from everyday corrections, to specific discipline events.  Where Gospel-Powered Parenting opened my eyes to the importance of using the gospel and not just the law in my parenting, Give Them Grace and Shepherding a Child's Heart gave me specifics and practical help. 

Here are some links to the books recommended today.  I didn't use any affiliate links, because I don't want you to think I have promoted these books for my own gain.  I won't receive any compensation from your purchasing any of these books.  And you really should get them!

Give Them Grace by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick
$7.99 for Kindle at Amazon
$9.99 for Paperback at CBD

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
$4.99 for Kindle at Amazon
$8.99 for Paperback at CBD

And this is a good (free!) video from Jessica and Elyse on the content of their book... if you want a little bit more information and insight into what it is about. 
Parenting Issues: A Mother and Daughter Perspective (Elyse Fitzgerald and Jessica Thompson)

Other book club posts can be found on the Book Club Page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School Traditions

Last week was our first week of school for the new year.  It is our sixth year homeschooling, and our first with all three boys in grade school.  We have a 1st, 3rd and 5th grader this year!  Six years ago, when it was time to send the oldest to kindergarten, I knew I was excited about homeschooling, but still unsure about what he might be "missing".  All those first day traditions, riding the school bus for the first time, carrying a lunch box, meeting his sweet kindergarten teacher who would read "The Kissing Hand" or one of those other "back to school" first books.  I began to search for some back to school traditions for homeschoolers - I found lots of ideas, but I'm not real crafty, so our traditions became what was realistic for me and seemed the most like "us".   I also wanted it to be something pretty simple - no need to be elaborate, because it is harder to sustain elaborate.  I wanted whatever we chose to be something we could do every year.

We always have a fun breakfast, usually a special request from the boys or a "treat" like waffles with whipped cream and strawberries.  This year it was french toast and bacon, by request.

We are a music loving family, so I usually have a song picked out to play to start our school day and call everyone to the couch to start our day with the Bible.  This year our first week song was "Put on Love" from Seeds Family Worship.  You can hear it here.  It is a fun setting of Colossians 3:12,14a. 
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience... and above all these put on Love!" 

Here are the two youngest, "puttin' it on"...

School Supplies!
It's always fun to get new "stuff"... so I save the fun school supplies for a surprise.

Oh, and a little treat, too.  (Pop Rocks, with an silly note!)

First Day Pictures!
Every year we take pictures by the same tree in the backyard, so we can see how the kids grow.  This year, since they were going on the blog, we used some "disguises" because I decided I don't really like to post individual pics of the boys on the blog for just anyone to download.

These are all pretty simple traditions, but it is fun to at least give the school year a little bit of specialness to start off.  Of course, each year has it's unique traditions too - sometimes we have a field trip the first week, sometimes a special outing or activity.  This year, we ended our "first week" with a pizza party, ice cream and movie night - celebrating our accomplishment!  (No one was very excited about starting up this year, so we needed to celebrate that it was a good week and not as bad as everyone expected.  Some years are like that.)

Your turn.... 
What traditions do you have to celebrate back-to-school?

I'm linking up today with iHomeschooling Network's "Not-Back-To-School" Blog Hop.

Monday, August 20, 2012

All I Have is Christ

I'm singing the gospel this morning with this song from Sovereign Grace running through my head...

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ -
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!

(Song by Jordan Kauflin, copyright Sovereign Grace Music)
Hear it, buy it, get free lead sheet downloads here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Schoolroom Panic Attack

Last week I spent the week cleaning and purging our school room, moving furniture and re-stacking bookshelves with new books and school supplies.  Somewhere in the middle of all the clutter, I had a minor panic attack.  You see, like many of you who may be visiting from the "Not-Back-to-School-Blog-Hop", I have seen lots of blogs with really cute ideas of how to organize a school room - some complete with matching furniture, cute posters, tons of craft supplies and creative learning space.

I sat looking at all my mismatched desks and bookshelves, faded couches, plastic bins and dust bunnies and desperately tried to figure out how to make it look "cute" or "functional" ....or maybe just "clean".  I was suddenly overcome with discouragement.

No matter how many times I rearranged the desks, I couldn't get one corner to accomodate what I had in mind for my desk and not only did I feel my lack of appropriately sized furniture, I felt my lack of ability at working with 3-D space.  (I'm not much of an interior designer.)  I called my husband at work and much to his surprise, started sobbing... not over our lack of space or our lack of stylish furniture, but MY lack... of talent, creativity, spacial awareness, housekeeping, and decorating skills.  Have you ever had one of those snow-ball days?  Well, it didn't end there, the blizzard of self-doubt and self-pity had just begun.  (As usual when I unload my burdens on my husband, he listened empathetically and said he would help me out however he could when he got home.  Poor guy, it's hard to deal with an avalanche of feminine emotion when you are at work!)

In the past when I have had emotional meltdowns over all of my imperfections, unmet expectations and self-critical evaluations, I have eventually tried "talking to myself" using various strategies to try and crawl out of the pit.  It usually sounds something like this...

"You should be thankful for the things that you do have, think of all the people you know who don't even have a school room and wish they did."
"You should be proud that you aren't like all those other people who have to have 'fancy' things to do their school - you are thrifty, a good steward of your resources."

"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, you should just go take a bath, or eat some chocolate, or splurge at IKEA - you deserve it!"

"You should remember that it isn't about the stuff you have but the stuff you learn that makes a good homeschool."

All of these answers have a little bit of truth to them, and some of them are definitely more "spiritual sounding" than others.  The problem is, none of them do anything to fix my wandering heart.  I may be thankful today, but my heart is prone to wander again.  Is my measure of thankfulness really the solution to the problem?  Being thrifty may be a valuable quality, but don't you think I sound a little prideful about my frugality?  Then there is the self-gratifying indulgence of my chocolate or buying binges - probably not a good long term solution.  And how long is the last argument going to last when it comes to the end of the year and I start assessing what we have learned?  I sense a whole new panic attack coming along... I'll need to get some new coping strategies... 

So where is the hope for me?  What do I really need?  I need power to change my idolatrous heart, not just more "shoulds"... laws that I can't ever live up to.  I don't need more "thankfulness", I need a Savior!  It is not the measure of my thankfulness for my "stuff"  that makes me acceptable to God, or that will make me more content.  It is the measure of Christ's sacrifice that makes me acceptable to God and it is the power of the Holy Spirit that opens my eyes to seeing CHRIST as more beautiful and more valuable than all this world and all the best school rooms have to offer.

So, I WILL be thankful, but not in my relative abundance, or in my humble lack....
I will be thankful for the gospel...  the GOOD news... will you rejoice with me?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:1-11)
Thanks be to God!

As for the school room...

It's still hodgepodge, a little less dusty, a little more organized...

...and brightened by some beautiful flowers that my husband brought home for me that day. 

Not a rebuke, a lecture, a quick fix, a to-do list.
Just flowers.
Undeserved love and grace -
just like Jesus.
That's what they remind me of.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Praying for You and Your School Year

This is my prayer for my family as well as yours as you begin (or continue) your school year this year...

"...we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

(Colossians 1:9-14, ESV)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting {Chapter 8}

Foundations of Discipline

Are all children (and yours in particular) born basically good?  Are they sinful only when they have committed their first sin, and accountable to God only when they reach a particular "age of accountability"?  This chapter taught me that our theological beliefs about sin, really do have an effect on how we choose to parent and specifically how we discipline our children. 

It is tempting to look at our sweet babies and think of them as total "innocents", and in a sense they are.  They are completely in need of our care and protection and when those things are neglected, or as in some families they are shamefully abused, we all rightly say, "They are innocent!  They don't deserve that!"  In this sense of the word, I would absolutely, wholeheartedly agree.

In the biblical sense of innocent, however, children and babies are just as corrupted in their nature as we adults, who have been sinning our whole lives.  Because of original sin, and the sin nature that we inherited as members of the human race, we are born with hearts that are oriented wrongly.  That is, turned away from our Creator.  Our natural tendancy, as soon as we are able to express it, is rebellion.

If however, you believe that children are not born tainted by original sin, that they behave badly only because of bad examples, environment or sickness (mental or physical), then you have not rightly understood how the bible explains the basic human condition.  In fact, you may not be aware, but these beliefs I have just described (called Pelagianism) were opposed vigorously by Augustine and  declared a heresy in the year 418 AD at the Council of Carthage.  (Reference here.)

In spite of the fact that these beliefs were long ago considered heresy, you will still find them in existence today.  A person who believes these things might then go on to write a parenting book, espousing techniques meant to deal with the problem of children's disobedience that totally miss the mark.  This book review of one of those parenting books is a good example of how that works.

In our book so far, I think we have seen that Farley has clearly shown us that the main issue of parenting is not managing behavior, and preventing sin but getting to that rebellious, stony heart.  As members of the human race, our hearts are automatically oriented away from our Creator, and sooner or later (usually sooner) we will begin to express that, despite our appearance of sweet innocence.

What are the tools that God gives us as parents for getting to the heart?  They are the same tools that God himself uses as he parents his children.  The discipline and instruction of the Lord  (Eph. 6:4), and the Gospel.  Drawing from Hebrews 12:6 and Proverbs 3:12, Harvey makes it clear that "Biblical discipline always expresses God's love."  Then Harvey goes on to explain two important foundations that effect the how and the why of discipline.  He first emphasizes the importance of understanding the biblical concept of indwelling sin (which struck me the most and I have discussed above.)  Secondly, he explains the importance of authority as a crucial parenting issue, when we see it through biblical eyes - namely, in the authority displayed within the Godhead itself.

Since our culture strongly rejects both of these aspects (indwelling sin and loving, gracious authority), it is important to have a foundational understanding about what the Bible says about these things.

One aspect of this chapter that I didn't feel was as strong was his emphasis on corporal punishment.  Although I tend to agree that corporal punishment is an acceptable and biblical concept, there is a lot left unsaid about this subject that I think could use a stronger treatment.  Harvey's point in this book is more ideological than practical, so I guess I didn't expect that he might go into the details of how punishment is delivered, when it is appropriate, what dangers there might be and numerous other questions that come up when we discuss the form that our punishment takes.  For an excellent and very practical treatment of discipline that includes not only a discussion of biblical corporal punishment as well as other forms of punishment that doesn't neglect addressing heart matters as well, I strongly recommend Tedd Tripp's book, Shepherding a Child's Heart.  What I like the most about his book, is a very detailed description of a controlled, calm and purposeful method of discipline using corporal punishment that is redemptive and restorative in it's implementation.  There is not a single time that I have used Tripp's specific advice on discipline and spanking that it was not beneficial and healing to both the kids and to me as well.  Almost any other time I have spanked without his specific method, I have regretted it.  (This recommendation probably leaves you with more questions than answers, so you will really have to go get the book... and let me know what you think!)

Next week, Harvey will discuss more about what he mentioned at the beginning of this chapter - that "communicating the gospel becomes the end (goal) of effective Christian discipline." (pg 146)

As always, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and questions on this chapter or any other chapter that you have read so far.  You may comment on this page, or any of the other chapter's posts found at the Book Club Page tab.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Prayer for My Children's Mother (Me)

O LORD God of heaven,
The great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, to hear the prayer of Your servant that I now pray before You day and night for my children.  Grant them continual patience and forbearance to live with me, a wicked parent.  For I have sinned against You; I have acted very corruptly against You by forsaking my responsibility to lead them in righteousness and the fear of You;  I have not kept Your commandments, Your statutes, or the rules that You commanded Your servant Moses.
     Prevent them from following my old self - when I am unfaithful to Your Word, when I neglect prayer, fail to redeem the time, speak carelessly, walk foolishly, fail to hope in You, seek great things for myself, become anxious about tomorrow.  Protect them from my own indwelling sin-when I am beset with the fear of man, the cares of the world, or the love of money.  May they never lose confidence that, in spite of my many iniquities and shortcomings, I am Your servant whom You have redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.
     O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant.  May they delight to fear Your name, and give success to them today, and grant them mercy (Nehemiah 1).

From Setting Their Hope in GOD:  Biblical Intercession for Your Children
by Andrew Case
For a free PDF or e-book visit His Magnificence.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gospel Powered Parenting Book Club {Chapt. 7}

Gospel Fathers

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to get my husband's input on this chapter, (since it IS about fathers, of course) and I am finally getting around to the post.  I hope you had a chance to talk with your husband too!  First, let's review what the chapter was about.

Main Idea

This chapter is primarily about the importance of fathers as the spiritual leaders of their families.    Farley says, "When men abdicate, their children suffer.  When men assume their proper role, parenting thrives."  (pg. 126)  He quotes lots of statistics and explains why this is true to support what he has said. 

As the parent who is NOT the father, I began to feel a weight of despair.  I would venture to guess that you might have as well?  There are many reasons for this.  You might have a husband who is a non-Christian.  You might have a husband who is a nominal Christian.  You might have a husband who, though he is a Christian doesn't express his faith much, attend bible studies or initiate spiritual discussions with the family.  Or, you might be like me - although your husband is a Christian and a leader, you realize that YOU do not have primary control or influence - (which can be a very scary thing for someone who likes to control everything- like me!)

Farley then goes on to ask the question (that I was already asking!), "What can we do to attract men to our churches, to excite men about fatherhood?"  Here are his three answers: (pg 133)
  1. (Churches should) emphasize the objective truth of the gospel
  2. (Churches should) develop masculine role models (by emphasizing the model of biblical masculinity found in Christ and through men who have been impacted by the gospel)
  3. We should encourage women to promote biblical masculinity.
Since the first two solutions need to come from the local church body and other men, the last solution is really the one we as wives and mothers should focus on, (while trusting in God to provide for our husbands in the first two areas.)

Four Ways Women Can Encourage Biblical Masculinity

Contrary to the often tried, but ineffective methods of nagging, guilting, condemning, worrying, panicking, controlling and usurping - Farley suggests a better way.

  1. Direct the children to their father when they have questions.
  2. Respect your husband especially in front of the children. 
  3. Pray for your husband's masculinity to be defined by Christ's example.
  4. Enourage your husband to lead - not by nagging, but "by calling attention to evidences of grace at work in him".

Some Thoughts...

It can be really difficult for dads to learn to take the reigns of leadership (spiritual leadership especially) in their families.  One reason is they may not have had an example of  Christ-like biblical masculinity as they grew up.  But another reason has to do with the roles and responsibilities that moms take on early in a child's life. 

From the time a baby is conceived mom is pretty much in charge of the child's nurturing and well-being.  The very nature of pregnancy and childbirth tends to make the mom more interested in finding all the best ways to nuture, feed and prepare for the child.  Once the child is born, breastfeeding, sleep patterns and staying at home with the baby can also be primarily the job of the mom.  Although we agreed on the choices for our babies, I was basically the one who did the research, chose what I thought would work best (since I would be at home with them) and shared my findings with my husband.  His job was to say, "Yes dear, can I give you a backrub?"

As we began to make decisions about school, we both agreed that homeschooling was a great choice.  But the tasks of choosing curriculums, methods, schedules and then actually teaching really fell to me.  As a result - nearly all of the leadership functions in the house regarding the kids ended up falling to me.  "Son, listen to your mother," and "Yes dear, can I give you a backrub?" was about all I wanted to hear.

Now my oldest is on the verge of the pre-teens and this statement from William Farley is really starting to hit home...
In terms of intimacy, care, and nurture - crucial functions- Mom's role is primary. But it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of differentiation from home and engagement with the world "out there" he or she looks increasingly to the father for direction.  (pg. 131)
In other words, I am starting to see my influence with the boys begin to wain.  They are definitely looking increasingly to their father for direction and identification!  

How can I as a wife and mother encourage, support and assist my husband in taking on this role as spiritual leader when most of the day to day leading has always been on my plate?

Maybe I should ask my husband?!  

So I told my husband that I need some help and wanted his thoughts on something.  He was definitely up for it, so we are just waiting for a date night to finish the conversation.  Here are the questions that I came up with for us... you might want to use them as well, or use them as a starting place to work on some questions that would more uniquely fit your family.

  • As the boys grow older they will begin to differentiate and look to you for spiritual leadership.  How can I encourage that?
  • How can I provide opportunity for that?
  • How can I help you?
  • What are your fears about that?
  • What obstacles will hinder this and how can I assist or help find assistance in dealing with those obstacles?
  • What do I do that hinders your leadership?
  • What do I do that encourages your leadership?
  • What do you think my greatest weakness is in submitting to your leadership?
  • What do you think your greatest weakness is in initiating leadership?
  • Are you still supportive of our decision to homeschool? 
  • What areas do you think we could/should focus more on or less on?
Those are just a few conversations starters - some of them are similar ideas said in different ways. 

Your turn...

What things do you do to encourage your husband's spiritual leadership?

How do you think your responsibilities as the "primary care provider" sometimes contribute to diminishing your husbands leadership role in the family?

Any other thoughts about this chapter?

If you are reading along with us, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the chapters you have read so far. You can comment here, or on the posts from any of the previous chapters. You can find all of the posts on the new Book Club page.