Sister to Sister: Barbie’s in Smaller Hands

In preparation for one of my lectures at Polishing the Pulpit (you know, the one that will be delivered in a pretty empty room, because it occurs while the solar eclipse is also occurring…you know the eclipse that only happens every 100 years), I came across a statistic that’s cast a cloud over this grandmother’s afternoon. Here it is:

In the year 1990, the average age of a child who played with Barbie dolls was age ten. In 2000, the average was age three. This was resultant, the article postulated (and, I think, correctly) from the fact that electronic devices have been marketed to ever younger crowds. By the time a child is five or six, he or she has typically lost interest in toys and moved on to become absorbed in the flashier, but far less imaginative, world of video games. 

I realize this is just one more symptom of the real problem. It’s not really the preferences of the children. It’s the lack of direction from the big people. It’s not the absorption of the little people in the games. It’s the absorption of the big people in pursuits that leave little time for looking in the eyes of their children—even less time for exploring their interests, their hearts and their aspirations. It’s just easier to let someone else provide the basic care for our kids and, all too often, even that care is, whenever possible and convenient, relegated to devices that mindlessly entertain, but largely do not challenge and certainly do not nurture. The real nurturing, the conversations about ethics, the sharing about creation, the time in the Word, the stories about real life heroes—well, that stuff just doesn’t find a place in our busy lives.

We have to take a leap of faith in this culture to place the nurturing of our children above the lifestyle of affluence that’s come to be expected of us. Millennials grew up in pressure cookers of affluence—driven to be achievers, I mean driven—literally— to ACT tutors, professional athletic trainers, and personal specialists in whatever fields they were competing. Scores and win/loss records and courting by ball scouts and resume prowess—all of these were emphasized and, too often, character and ethics were not focal points in their families. Some of them suffered, as a result of these pressures to achieve, from eating disorders, prescription medication addictions, and self-harming behaviors. 

And now, they are the parents. I know many of them who are rejecting the parenting styles of the past generation of parents. They’re choosing time with children over 2nd careers, parent-care over day-care, and often, home-schooling over the public system. But the vast majority of the parents of today are still in the passing lane. They are, perhaps for the most part, unaware of any alternative to the fast-paced lifestyle of affluence. They certainly do not intend to raise their children on electronics. But their children are away from them during most of their waking hours. They have movies on in the car as they drive. The television comes on when they walk in the door and it  usually stays on until the last person goes to bed. When a child becomes loud or annoying in a restaurant or social setting, it’s very easy to hand her a cell phone and connect her up to you-tube or you-tube for kids. It’s a whole lot easier at home to hand a child a phone than it is to get down in the floor and play with a bucket of cars or construct a fort with blocks or any of a bajillion things you can do when you pretend. Besides, there’s just not time to spend much of it on the floor with a toddler when you’ve spent your next ten years’ paychecks on the training for the demanding position you’ve finally achieved. Your investment is shouting from behind you all the time. It’s easy to think that, when you jump over one more hurdle, there will be more time for family. But one business success breeds another challenge and, truth be told, you’re moving farther from nurturing and the gap between you and your children is widening. 

I know the Mattel toy company is dismayed at the statistic. (After all, there are several years of Barbie-consumers who’ve moved on to electronics.) But, at the risk of the wrath of office moms everywhere, may I just say that the Mattel company is not the only casualty here.  Worldliness takes many forms and one of them is when we allow a first-world-affluence-chasing culture to pressure us into a conformity that often steals some pretty valuable commodities from our children. There is value in waking up, as a child, whenever the sun, the household noise and the smell of the coffee-pot or the waffles or the bacon wakes you. There is value in being lifted from the bed or the crib by a mom who has a few minutes to say “Good morning, Sunshine. I’m so glad to see you!”—who has a minute to rock you before your diaper change and who has time to sit across the breakfast table with you and talk about what day of the week it is or why the birds are so loud outside the window this morning. There’s value in play—with real toys and there’s even value in watching Mary Poppins or Dumbo, while you talk with your mom about the happy things and the sad things in the story and why they are such. There’s value in going to the mailbox and in caring for younger siblings and in chore lists and in story time before nap. There’s value in learning to wipe up messes and in learning to write thank you notes (even when you’re really just drawing them). There’s value in playing in your own backyard or on your own little porch. There’s value in pretending the puddle is a lake or the chairs you have lined up is a train. There’s value in learning to make a sandwich or bake cookies with mom or ride the horse that Dad can be when he comes home from work. There’s value in long prayers in which every relative and every food item is mentioned. There’s value in taking a nap whenever you are tired and not necessarily when the bell rings and there’s some value in taking it in your own domain when you’re a preschooler. There’s great value in the filter that is your faithful mama. When your faithful mother knows every song you’ve learned and every book that’s been read to you and every concept you’ve encountered in a day—well there’s inestimable value in that. There is just great value, for children, in savoring, even unknowingly the leisure of childhood. But it cannot easily be done on the tight schedules of adults in the workplace or in crowded daycare centers. It just can’t

There are some moms who find themselves regretting the fact that they’re in a spot in life in which they cannot maximize the amount of time spent with their children. They just cannot do it differently. Not right now. Not yet. They are doing the best they can and they need support and encouragement as they work to make childhood more child-friendly for their kids. There are some who, though not in the work place, are still not involved in the hearts and aspirations  and play of their children. These moms are legion in our welfare culture and their children are often in more than one kind of poverty. And then there are some moms who are very involved in the lives of their children and still find ways to earn a bit from home, build little family businesses with kids in tow, or earn a little money in small part-time ventures while children are with dad, for instance. In short, I know, the thoughts of this article are not one-size-fits-all parents. The thoughts are one-size-fits-all children, though. In a perfect (for children) world, kids would be raised, nurtured and disciplined by mothers who spend their days in that pursuit. They would be further supported, nurtured and disciplined by their fathers, who are committed to their spiritual success. And they would be brought to know and honor God by two faithful parents. 

Sister to Sister: Guard the Perimeter

 

 

One evening recently I was visiting and enjoying sweet fellowship on the lawn of a church building in our area. It was almost dusk and cars were passing regularly on the highway several  feet away.  I had my grandson, Ezra, who is two years old with me that night, and he was having a good time running on the sidewalk, climbing the stairs and playing in the bushes. I noticed a frantic sister go and catch him when he neared the sidewalk that paralleled the highway. “Come back! Don’t go near the road,” she said as she ran to make sure he didn’t go in the street. I appreciated her care for Ezra.

That sister probably thought I was a negligent grandmother, letting Ezra play in that yard adjacent to the street. I appreciated her concern. The truth was that while, of course, I wanted Ezra to stay far from the highway, I really didn’t think he would go past that sidewalk. Earlier that day, I had experienced a very hard time convincing Ezra that it was okay for him to ride his scooter on our asphalt driveway…because he thought our driveway was a “woad”. Ezra doesn’t go near the street because his parents have trained him to keep a certain distance between himself and the road. 

We parents and grandparents do this. We give our children boundaries that keep them from danger. They know not only to keep out of the road, but to keep a prohibited space between themselves and the street. They know not to touch the fire, but also to stay back from it. Not to jump off the cliff, but also to stay back from its edge. We do not sit our young children down in front of a mixture of M&Ms and deadly drugs and let them pick out the M&Ms to eat. 

But do we do this spiritually? We fail to guard the perimeter of sin—the area that may still be out of the world, but is so close to its dangers that our children let their guards down. It’s the perimeter…the area all around the danger. It’s the places where the world backs right up to the church. It’s that area where the “ pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 ), allures the senses of our children but its stench can’t quite reach their noses. While we do not want our children to stop attending worship, do we give them our permission to miss it for a very hard test or a very “important” ballgame? (The root word “game” is operative. It’s a game.) We do not want our teens to commit fornication, but we let them “play” in the zone of temptation. We let them watch movies that glorify it. We let them go to dances that promote lust. We let them read books that normalize it and we let them dress immodestly to attract the attention of those of the opposite sex. We let them play very close to that street. We don’t want them to grow up to be gambling addicts, but, of course, we would never deny them the opportunity to participate in the raffle to raise money for their school. (One day the whole state lottery will be about “money for education”.) Do we not see the spiritual danger of allowing our kids to be casual around the perimeter of the world? …Of getting too close to the fire, too near to the street, or of letting them choose the M&Ms before they can distinguish the difference?

Every one of us has the roaring lion (I Peter 5:8) seeking and we may even have the devil sifting (Luke 22:31). His best efforts are expended on the young. His best chance to get your kids is around the edge of your spirituality. Oh that we, as parents, would be as diligent about those dangers as we are about the ones that can only harm our children in this lifetime. The devil’s street traffic can make your kids die eternally. Let’s make spiritual safety zones that make it safer for them. It’s just easier to keep them far from that street while they are young than to watch them venture out when we no longer get to set the perameters for them. 

Let’s guard the spiritual perimeters.


 

 

Q and A: Family Bible Time for Ages 6-12

Question: Okay, I have a couple of questions about Family Bible Time. I know how you would do a family night with the younger kids…but what about Ariel’s age 10 going on 16?  I guess if you could just give me examples of what you and Glenn did, that would be helpful.  Also, did you give a prize EVERY night or just sometimes?  I have given her candy if she recites 5-10 verses depending upon circumstances. I could see where we could play games while listening to Hannah’s 100 in the background – repetition does work it’s magic.  It makes me laugh because if I come across a passage that we’ve learned through your family, I sing it while I’m reading it 🙂

Answer: Well, for Ariel’s age, I think your reading Discovery and the Beginners Evidences Correspondence course from Apologetics Press (Apologeticspress.org) would be a good start at Bible time. if you read a section and talk about it and then have her fill in some of the questions (a very limited amount) or work a puzzle from discovery before the next night, that would be a start. Then I would recommend (for your husband’s benefit) studying “Headed to the Office” (colleybooks.org) as a family. You could tell Ariel that you were putting it in her head so that she could start knowing, even now, what kind of man she was going to look for in a husband one day. I think also, for her age, playing Bible Twenty Questions (let me know if you don’t know how to play Twenty Questions) would be a good thing…and Bible charades. (Don’t have a prize every night…maybe once every two weeks.) Have one night where you have found a faithful missionary to whom Ariel can compose a letter to ask questions about the culture and work and send her small contribution. Let her write for the Bible time. Have another night each week when you find a passage or Psalm about someone who was very grateful (the leper or Mary and Martha) and let her write thank you notes to all the people who have given her gifts or blessed her life in other ways. Have Digger Doug nights, where you watch an episode of Digger Dug’s Underground together (apologeticspress.org). Have a night where she reads aloud a chapter of Ruth from the Easy-to-Read version. Do this for four nights and then on the fifth and sixth nights, get her to make a flip chart (just use a school notebook) of pictures of the story. Then on the seventh night, let her tell you the story using her flip chart. One night have her go outside and pick a flower and then find what Jesus said about flowers in the Sermon on the Mount. One night let her tell you all the things salt is good for…look online. This lesson goes on and on. Then let her find what Jesus said about salt in the Sermon on the Mount. One night, let her find a Bible lands map of the Holy land online and print it off. Then on the following nights you can read through the missionary journeys of Paul in the book of Acts and let her draw the arrows and tiny pictures of what happened in these places as you read through his journeys. Light a candle in your dark house and read by candlelight what Jesus said about candles in the Sermon on the Mount. We also loved certain stories from “The Book of Virtues.” We would read a story out loud to the kids and then let them find verses that taught the same lesson from the Bible. When we studied Genesis together, we put a roll of white paper all around the wall of one of our rooms and each night we let the kids draw what we had read about that night, till we had a whole timeline of Genesis starting with creation and ending with Joseph’s family down in Goshen. Sometimes they would paste things on the time line, like a miniature “coat of many colors” they had cut out of striped fabric or kernels of corn to fill in the shape of a number 7 to signify Joseph’s solution about saving up the corn during the seven lean years. Tell Ariel to let me know when she can sing the whole book of James and I will send her something I want her to have. Be sure to video some of her memory work, so she will know you think it is very important.  Sometimes we just went around the room and quoted verses. You had to quote a verse that began with any word that was in the person’s verse who went directly before you. To make it competitive, sometimes we would challenge dad to quote a verse before or after any verse that we could quote. Sometimes we went through the books of the Bible and challenged each other to say one verse in each book. For sheer fun, we challenged each other to say all of the books of the Bible in one breath. One of us, who is particularly long-winded, can say them through twice in one breath. And, finally, some of our favorite nights were under the stars or in our little living room or in our van…just singing praises. We just went from one person to the next choosing the song…pretty much favorite times we remember. Every time we ended with prayer…still do.  This is a start. Let me know if you need more, but I’m pretty sure they will come to you naturally and you will quickly become a Deuteronomy 6 “all day long” mom. Much love to you and all moms who are molding hearts and lives for eternity!

P.S. There’s also a three week guide for Family Bible Time in the back of the book “Picking Melons and Mates” that’s great for jump-starting your daily time together. It’s an easy DIY kind of outline. You can get it here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/store#!/Children/c/3290196/offset=0&sort=normal

 

Sister to Sister: When My Godly Husband Falls (Part 2)

I will continue to be in the Word every day. Notice I used the word “continue”. I cannot continue something that I’ve never begun. If I have not already made it my habit to study daily, may I begin now, even while beginning this new study, to put the Word in my heart regularly. It will be enriching now, but it may be the source of your sanity if you face the devastation of a spouse gone astray. You do not want to follow after wickedness. Stay close to the Book and you will have a hard time following His lead into sin.                                                             

 They draw near who follow after wickedness;They are far from Your law” (Psa. 119:150).

I will seek wise counsel. As a Christian wife, with a once-Christian husband, you have looked to your husband as a spiritual leader, just as the Bible commands (Ephesians 5: 23, 24). It’s very difficult to stop looking to that man as your mentor… as your spiritual advisor. But sadly, if he has left the Lord, as Saul did, he can no longer be trusted to instruct your spiritual conduct. You may need guidance desperately. May I advise you to seek faithful people; elders who are in the Word or older women who fit the Titus 2:3-5 model. If you seek professional counseling, may I advise you to seek out a Christian counselor, or, at the very least, a counselor who advises in accordance with Biblical principles. I have seen many women follow the counsel of a trusted, but non-Christian counselor, right onto a path that will lead them to hell. 

I will work diligently to protect my kids from spiritual danger. Your children will not come out of a childhood in which they witnessed their father (or mother, for that matter) fall into sin without being hurt. They will not escape unscathed. But I have seen plenty of children rise above such a situation to live faithful lives as adults. However, in most cases, where kids end up spiritually successful, there was a faithful parent who remained faithful even when the going got tough. In cases where the husband’s sin has resulted in his abdication of parental responsibilities, it means you must parent to the point of exhaustion almost every day. It means being sacrificially involved in the lives of your children. It means giving attention to discipline, helping with homework and protecting, as much as possible from the insecurities that come with divided parents; whether divorced or spiritually divided. It may mean walking that fine line between, on the one hand, ignoring, thus normalizing sin and, on the other hand, making it clear to your innocent children that their father is living in sin. There will be tough calls to make, but your life must be filled with prayer, the Word, good counsel and discretion. You cannot allow your emotions to strangle the joy out of your children’s innocent years any more than is already necessitated by the sin. 

I will not even begin to compromise with the world. This world spews forth self-fulfillment as the philosophy that brings us through the tough times:

—“Isn’t it time you did something for YOU?”

__ “You deserve to have a little fun, too.”

__ “You can’t let him rob you of your happiness.”

Or the line that takes the Word out of our concept of His will:

—“I think God wants me to be happy.”

 Of course, all of the above is rubbish.God did not call us to be happy. He called us to be holy (I Peter 1:16). It is important to remember, when making the tough calls in the tough times, that you can do anything for a lifetime. I know it’s hard. I know it’s exhausting. I know, on some days, life seems hopeless and it’s a struggle to go on. But try to see this life as God sees it. It’s a vapor or a flower that appears for a short time and… poof!… it is gone as quickly as it came (James 4:13-17). It is so very temporary and yet, it is the battlefield that decides the eternal victory. Don’t let the devil get you so discouraged that you choose an instant pleasure that results in eternal damnation. You can do anything…for a lifetime. You can bear any burden for the short sojourn to heaven. 

Elephants and Rhinos and Fatherless Boys

Elephant portrait

If you can spare about fourteen minutes, watch this documentary. It will make you think. It’s about elephants and rhinos, but it’s about something else, too. It’s an illustration of, if not a scientific parallel to what’s happened in our culture. It really needs no commentary, but maybe this injunction from the Holy Spirit fits, at least for our human species: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

The video is found at the bottom of the following article: https://www.kotafoundation.org/the-delinquents-in-pilanesberg/

 

 

7 Pounds of His Grace

13912431_928723135739_3489667227565621351_nDear Father, 

I already knew that You are God, Yahweh, the Great I AM. I am the one who speaks and writes and cries about life in the womb because of the holocaust against it in America today. I should say that I am ONE of the ones, for there are still many and we are unwilling to give up the battle for life to those who routinely burn with saline, rip apart, vacuum out and discard those viable body parts, suffocating those screams before  tiny mouths can open to the air that allows them to cry out for themselves. I am not about quietness when I can be a voice for those whose beating hearts are stopped in brutal and painful ways. 

But, today, Lord, I knew more than ever that Your throne of grace and majesty extends into the darkness of the womb. Help me never to forget what I saw today. I know that You have pushed the pause button on the miraculous, but this morning in that doctor’s office in Montgomery was just about as close to a miracle as I will get before Your mighty trumpet blows. 

My little girl’s little girl was there, as big as life, on that screen. In fact, it was the tiny epitome of life. They told us that she weighs seven pounds and four ounces already and her chubby cheeks evidenced that she’s big and healthy.  Lord, I cannot believe that I saw so clearly that right cheek turn to the side. I’m remembering now that you told us to have cheeks that turn. I pray that she will. It will be painful for me if I ever have to witness her cheek being smitten; yet I know she will experience hurt and people will mistreat her. Help her to turn the other cheek—to show mercy in exchange for cruelty. Help her never to be self-centered or to seek for glory. Help her to defer to the preferences of others. Help me to show her the beauty that comes from a meek spirit.

I saw her little hands in her mouth. It’s tight in there now and she’s just all balled up with her hands against her cheeks and against those tiny lips. Lord, they are Your hands. Those fingers will play instruments or hold a baseball bat or a needle and thread. They will turn pages in all kinds of books. They will turn pages in Your book, Lord. One day some handsome boy will put a ring on that chubby finger that I saw today and her daddy will give that hand in marriage to him. Those sweet hands will roll out dough and pat curly tresses and pick up cheerios and mend socks and fold clothes.  I pray that those little fingers will minister for You, Lord; that they will feel burning foreheads and administer Tylenol…that they will hold other hands beside hospital beds and nursing home rockers…that they will change diapers…that they will change lives by opening up Your Word in Bible studies. May those hands hold Yours. May they be daily folded in prayer and reaching to fill needs. 

I saw that tiny heel that Hannah has been feeling—-that even I can feel— as she kicks against the taut skin on Hannah’s right side. I could count the toes and see that little foot so very clearly. Lord, You made that little extremity so perfectly! May her spiritual feet be just as beautiful. May her feet carry the gospel of peace to the souls around her for all of her days. Help us, as her family, to train her to walk—to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May we never take it for granted that she will, but help us Lord to be purposeful for the footsteps of her and her brother, Ezra. The devil is purposeful. He is seeking to devour. On some days it seems like he is making it next to impossible for parents to direct the footsteps of little ones in Your ways. But we can do all things through Your Son. May even we, as grandparents, profoundly impact her footsteps to stay in Your narrow way that leads to life. 

She heard me, Father! That little girl responded to my voice. I knew because when I spoke she turned her head toward me and she opened her eyes wide in response! This is the part I could not believe. I said, “She’s hearing me!” The technician responded “Of course, she is!”  So I told her right there that I loved her. I called her “Sweetness” since I do not know her name, and I told her about You, Lord. I just could not help myself. I made her promises. I made them out loud and  I will keep them. I told her I will teach her about Jesus, Your Son, and that I will teach her Your Word. I told her that we love her so much and that we cannot wait to tell her about You! I sang a bit of “Baby Mine” to her and I was overwhelmed at that moment with Your goodness to me. I am just dust, Lord! How can I thank You for a moment like that?! When I was driving those four hours to arrive in time for that ultra-sound after getting those three hours of sleep last night, I have to admit it. My faith was weak. I thought I would see an unrecognizable bit of blur. I saw YOU there, Father, and I will never forget Your grace in letting me see, in her, Your amazing creative power and unrivaled attention to detail. I stand amazed in Your holy presence!

And then, as she turned to look toward us, searching for the sounds, she opened that huge eye as wide as she could, as if to say, “Where ARE you?” And, in that moment, I fell helplessly in love with that little girl…just hopelessly and forever devoted to her well-being. Father, help me, to show her the goodness in this world; the hope that’s still left in this place. Help those beautiful eyes to sparkle and shine and to shed few tears of sorrow.  But most of all, help us to show her the hope and peace that comes from living for You. Help those gentle eyes to witness, with wonder and awe, the pictures and characters in little Bible story books. Help them to record the righteous examples of service around her. Guard her tender eyes from those things that can trap her at an early age. Give her maturity and resolve before the toughest tactics of Satan catch her eyes. As she grows, give her eyes to search for those who may be willing to listen to the gospel, the message of Your salvation. Open her eyes that  they may see those whose needs may really be doors to evangelism. Lord keep her eyes focused heavenward. 

Reflecting back on this day, I can hardly believe You let me do this. Your Words are true: She IS fearfully and wonderfully made! My only sadness is that her grandfather is preaching Your gospel in Kentucky this week and there is no way I can adequately describe this heart-swell to someone who was not in that room!  Help us Lord, her parents and grandparents. If all is as it seems, You are giving her to us in perfect condition. May we work as a team, Father, to give her back to You, through the gift of Your Son, in that same perfect condition. Father, thank-You for today. I cannot wait  to hold her, fresh from Your hands. I cannot wait for her to see my face and to start learning just how much I love her. But, most of all, I can’t wait to show her You and just how much YOU love her. I want her to see Your face!