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Children

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Refrigerator-Door Kids

It hurt down deep in my heart when a grandmother was telling me recently about her adopted grandchild. He’s a teenager now and all the things he loves to eat are the things you’d find in the door of the refrigerator. He loves butter and jars of peppers and ketchup and salad dressing and jelly. 

Enquiring a little further, I found that the reason for his acquired tastes for the “fridge-door-foods” is that those jar foods were pretty much how he stayed alive during the early years of his life. Rescued from a home where the parents were addicted to drugs and neglectful of the child’s needs, the young child had eaten what he could reach—the stuff in the bottom of the refrigerator door. 

While this is tragic and happens all too often, it occurs to me that we may have refrigerator-door-fed kids in a spiritual sense, too. Maybe there are those, even within our churches, who are spiritually malnourished; kids growing up in homes where there’s no significant provision made for a meaty diet of rich and soul-saving spiritual nutrition. If there’s no family Bible time, only sporadic prayers offered before meals, and no attention given to preparation for Bible classes on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, children are left to ingest only what’s available in other homes they may visit or the precious little that occurs in Sunday School. ( Bible class teachers are extremely limited in the time they are given with students.) When there are no Bible classes in the daily school, and the Deuteronomy 6:4-6 kind of parental teaching conversations are rare, then kids are going to make poor ethical and social decisions using underdeveloped and malnourished spiritual muscles. They’re learning from that to which they have access: usually television, peers, and school—a combination that, generally, fails at instilling spiritual values that can navigate to and through a life of faith that leads to heaven. Occasionally, someone else steps in with needed sustenance and children avoid spiritual disease and disaster, but, more often than not, spiritual refrigerator-door-kids don’t grow into faithful and godly adults. More often than not, their chances for heaven, as they emerge into adulthood, are just not great. 

Of course, there are exceptions. And, yes, of course, a well-fed child can grow up and walk away from the good stuff, making choices to eliminate the substantial teachings of the Word and to substitute the ear-tickling subjectivism that permeates religion in our world today. But just because our babies could grow up and eat junk when they go away to college, would we just surrender their health, early on, and allow them to eat only the stuff in the door? 

Quick take-away today: 

Try this weekly family Bible time routine, for a month, for a more purposeful spiritual diet at your house:  

Sunday: Souls….Think of someone your family knows who needs to know the Lord and have the children write out an invitation to an event at your congregation, an encouraging note, or a passage of scripture. Then pray, as a family, for this soul or family of souls. Work your way toward asking for a Bible study. Let the kids be a part of evangelism. 

Monday: Memorization…Have the children learn one passage of scripture during this family time. Keep working till you can say it together. Be sure they know what it means. Start with verses for the steps of salvation. Be sure to ask them to repeat this verse throughout the week. 

Tuesday: Test…make a game of testing your childrens’ memories about a familiar Bible account. Take turns asking each one a question (age-level appropriate) and keep score. Have a small prize for the winner. (…like the winner gets to stay up 15 minutes later and have strawberry milk!)

Wednesday: Worship…Have the children take turns choosing songs of praise and sing for fifteen minutes. Then repeat the memory verse and have one of them lead a closing prayer. 

Thursday…Think. Begin at the beginning of the Bible at creation and relate the account of the first couple of days of creation. Have them think of an example of something you saw that very day that had its beginning right there on day one or two or three. Have them think of something you ate that would not have existed without that part of the creation. Have them think of those who do not use these blessings to His glory. What are some ways we do use these blessings for our God’s glory? Can they think of someone in Scripture who used these blessings in a bad way?  (…like Esau and the pottage or like the rich fool who built bigger barns.) Each Thursday of the month, introduce new material and present scenarios for thought.

Friday: Foundations—Take your “What We Want Them to Know” list (https://thecolleyhouse.org/?s=what+I+want+them+to+know )and cover one thing on that list from some Biblical account. Hammer down the point at hand. Repeat your week’s memory verse. 

Saturday: Service Day—Read a New Testament passage about salt or light or service or humility or feet washing (so many to pick from) and choose a service project ( a nursing home visit, making cards, making cookies for visitors, picking flowers for a lonely person, going to read the Bible to a blind person or making thank you letters for teachers, etc…). Pray for those you re serving.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: The Natural Look

Our little window for tree-cutting was quickly closing on us. The schedule had been relentless and there were a couple of hours in which to cut the big tree that finds its place in the same corner of our living room every yuletide season. We had two of our kids and Ezra and Colleyanna with us. More importantly, the two tree-cutters were also preachers and both of them had two sermons in front of them the following day. (One of them also had a four hour drive home.) Saddened to learn that the nearby tree farm we’d patronized for the last few years had no big trees this year, we traveled a little farther to a beautiful spot in God’s north Alabama world; a secluded tree farm we’d discovered online. It was a beautiful day and the kids and I rode through the farm in the back of the trailer, thinking of fun superlatives for describing the biggest dog we’d ever seen and watching the baby goats (and noticing that NONE of the trees looked like Christmas trees. They all looked like giant bushes that had just grown up in the wild…kind of like the shrubs in front of your house when you never prune; only bigger.)

But just as we were completing our round of travel around the farm, guess who we spotted at the little office building on the property’s entrance. It was the man in the red suit himself. The tree no longer mattered to Ezra and Colleyanna. They saw Santa Claus! (…at which time my son-in-law mouthed the words to his wife “Remember…my sermon. Remember it’s four hours home.”)

There were no other children around. (There might be a reason this tree farm was kind of desolate on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.) Santa was Victorian. He was authentic. He was conversational. He took time with each child. Colleyanna was afraid, at first, but Santa gave her time and space. He spoke to her in gentle tones and let her examine his white gloves. Ezra talked ninety-to-nothing. He told him about the binoculars he wants for Christmas and about how he wanted to look at the night sky with them. He examined the beautiful golden compass that Santa pulled out of his pocket and learned that Santa depends on that thing to always find his way home. Meanwhile Hannah shot about a bazillion perfect pictures. 

The preachers among us missed the whole thing, of course. They were out there among the trees, trying with all they had in them to find a tree that would “redeem the time” it took for us to get all the way over that river and through those woods. They called us over to look at a specimen that was about 14 feet tall. We let the kids play on the sleigh and trudged over to look at 14 feet of a great big bush. It’s branches began at the ground and traveled all the way up…like a bush. Some of the branches at the bottom, furthermore, were going to have to be cut away in order to get the giant bush in the huge bucket we use for a stand. 

Standing there surveying the tree, I could hear my husband talking to the proprietor. I could hear the man explaining how he doesn’t do a lot of pruning and shaping. (We knew that.) “A lot of my customers tell me they prefer the natural look.” This was that.

But seven dollars per foot for the “natural look”?  We stood there and hemmed and hawed. My son-in-law said “I think this is your tree.” (The sermon was motivating him.) My husband said “This could be your tree, but just remember…Lowe’s has some pretty good 12-footers.” 

I knew the tree had problems. I could see that it was going to take some serious tying off to our mantel to even stabilize the massive bush. I knew it would be extremely difficult to decorate. (I mean there were no branches directed “out” for ornaments and tinsel. All branches were several feet long and they all traveled “up”.) I could see that the tree would be even more directionally challenged when we did the necessary trimming of the trunk. in short, this tree was a true, albeit massive, hybrid between “Charlie Brown” and a specimen from Who-ville.”

But the kids had spent a long time with Santa at this farm. They were playing on the sleigh. Santa had taken a lot of time with the golden compass. The huge dog and the little goats and the trailer ride over the bumpy terrain had been the start to a perfect tree-cutting experience. I knew that my choice now was to take home the giant bush (….all of the big trees on this lot were giant bushes) or to tell the kids we were going to the store and buy a tree. I also knew that their daddy was likely not going to even let them go with us to purchase a tree. (There was the sermon.) We’d exhausted every area tree farm possibility. My husband, the patient, good sport that he is, said “Whatever you want to do. Just know this tree is going to be a pretty expensive “Charlie Brown” tree. But it’ll be fine if that’s what you think.”

In my mind, I weighed the options. This was going to be the centerpiece of two or three large gatherings. All my friends have those “perfect” trees. They all think I’m over-the-top, anyway, about old sentimental or vintage or even art deco-rations. What will they think about this old bush…the tree that really belongs on the Island of Misfits? Then I looked over at the children who were anxiously waiting for the part when we yell “Timber”, fell the big tree, load it on the trailer and sing our way home. I looked over at Santa, who had been so kind and personable to our children while we took all of those FREE pictures with the best Santa we’d seen this year. And then there were the sermons.

The perfect tree or the perfect end to the whole experience?? Which?…Easy decorating after the children leave or hearing the kids yell with excitement when the tree (massive bush) comes down?? Salvaging the sentiment of the day at the farm by the river or…well…Lowes? I looked over at the children on the sleigh and said “ We already got our money’s worth with that Santa and all those pictures and, well, it’s just a tree. I think we need to take one home. Let’s cut it.” Sentimentality, in my heart, always wins over efficiency. Every time. Besides, there were the sermons. 

The rest is history. The moment was perfect. Ezra thought the tree was even perfect. (He still will think that when he comes back in a few days and sees it decorated. In his eyes it will be “bru-tiful.”) They took that massive Leyland cedar bush and put it in a shaker machine. Seeing a tree that big having a shaking fit was pure joy for the kids. Ezra imitating the giant jitters was almost worth the price.  

And that was the last thing that was worth the price. Getting the tree in the door, getting it in the bucket, getting it tied off to the walls and windows and mantel, getting any decorations to gravitationally comply, hiding huge gaping spaces in the greenery with every life-sized Coke Santa or large gift, figuring out a way to top a bush that has one long wisp of a sprig sticking out at the top and attempting to bind together some semblance of a Christmas tree shape was the part of the sentiment that became less and less “tender”, shall we say, as the hours up and down the ladder wore on.  

But then again, it was just a first-world problem of a Christmas tree. I’m praying for so many that would love the chance to be decorating a Christmas tree rather than be in that hospital or rehab room. I’m thinking of friends who will not see their children and grandchildren this holiday season at all. Homes where the joy has been stolen this year because of selfishness are reminders that what’s over in the corner of my living room has little real significance at all.  I think about mothers who are agonizing over children who’ve walked away from God this year. 

As I took out those ornaments that had to be hard-wired instead of hung this year, I remembered so many sisters who had made contributions to the funny tree….There were Betty Anderson’s West Huntsville ornaments, Deanne Foy’s porcupine, Wanda Weber’s stars made from road maps and Pam Emerson’s yearly cross-stitches in tiny plastic frames…and the children’s little handmade reindeer and snowflakes! Darcie and Harrison, Colton and Nell…all have their handmade contributions on the big bush. The macaroni and Lifesaver and popsicle stick ones made by Caleb and Hannah in years gone by are there. It’s always the very most meager ornaments shaped by tiny hands that shout our wealth as we put up that tree! 

So it’s over there. It’s propped and tied and hidden and I’m still watering it just like it was pretty.  A hundred people squeezed in around it last Sunday night. We laughed and prayed and ate and drank Coke from old-fashioned glass bottles. (I’m especially glad for the famous  Coca-Cola Santa this year!) And we drank chai tea, and coffee and cocoa and cider and lemonade. And moving around, shoulder-to-shoulder, with my family in Him, I drank in the truth that the Colleys are very rich. It was the best kind of drinking party. 

And 10 other lessons from this year’s tree: 

  1. There is a big difference between a full-grown tree that’s been pruned and one that has not. It’s that way with kids, too. Diligence in cutting away the ugly stuff each year is so important.
  2. Sermons really are way more important than trees and Santa, of course. Priorities.
  3. Just because something is planted on a Christmas tree farm doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas tree. (There’s similar truth about people planted in a church somewhere.)
  4. Just because a big deficiency is temporarily hidden does not mean it has been removed. (Sin is like that, too. You move the big Coke Santa and it’s still there. Everyone else might not see it, but the One who owns the tree knows it’s there.)
  5. Children are the most gracious critics. Maybe that’s why God says we should be more like them. 
  6. Sometimes, the wrong quick decision at the tree farm has consequences that you’re not really comprehending in the moment. (Sin is like that.)
  7. What’s up at the top needs to be substantial, too. (What’s at the top of your world? Is it substantial or flimsy? It’s what people are noticing about you!)
  8. Sometimes just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. (Think of lots of entertainment venues, sports tickets, and worldly pleasures here.)
  9. “Natural” is not always better. (Take the “natural man, for instance, from I Corinthians 2:14. Sometimes we need some cleaning up that’s way beyond our nature.)
  10. The best ornaments are not the ones that take the eye of the world. (Remember the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit in 1 Peter 3?…way better than the gold and pearls and costly array.)
Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Invitation of a Child–Part 2

A few posts back, I chronicled the story of how one small boy’s invitation to a VBS resulted in the salvation of  multiple souls and opened doors indirectly to many blessings for a succession of people (https://thecolleyhouse.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=10944&action=edit). Here’s the poem that was read at the celebration of the marriage of these two Christians, who became such as a result of that “inconsequential” invitation on a regular day. Little people, regular days, a few words, and small events can be game changers. Maybe we should just all pray every day for the normal…the uneventful…the regular, in our lives.  All of these He can  use to affect eternity.

 

For Grat and Kirsten

Baseball, basketball, and running around in capes,

Superman and Batman and planning heroic escapes.

Putt-putt, Ninja Turtles, and hanging around with Nate.

Boy scouts and camp-outs, so much to anticipate.

 

A few short years later, a little girl arrived.

A princess! On sweet friends and fashion, she thrived.

She awoke to this world with an inquisitive heart

Learning languages, cultures and savoring art. 

 

And the little boy, Grattan, grew to be  a man

Went to high school and college and worked out life’s plan

He was so savvy with public relations 

Technology, too…all things communication…

 

And, somewhere, behind Grat, Kirsten would follow

Through Memphis and London and even Guatemala

Birmingham, and Arkansas, Germany and Rome

She  didn’t know yet that Grat’s heart was her home. 

 

Such an unlikely pairing? Who saw that this could be? 

Yet here we are rejoicing, for this happy family.

A little technology…a little more time

Who knows how it happened…the reasons and rhyme?

 

God knows how it happened. He guided their souls.

His Word was their compass…their anchor for goals.

For each of them wanted with all of the heart

To just give Him their wills…to be His from the start…

 

In the home they are making, the children they’ll bear

The decisions of life, the sorrows they’ll share…

The memories they’re making, the worship they give

Just to make him the Master each moment they live.

 

And THAT is what ties them, safe and secure

In all times and stations, for God’s paths are sure.

A rock is our God. A fortress, a shield.

A shelter, A stronghold…And they will not yield.

 

To voices that call them, to tests of their will,

They’re listening to one voice that said “Peace…Be still.”

Whatever the price or whatever reward, 

Married to each other, but first….to the Lord. 

Cindy Colley

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Invitation of a Child

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was blessed to help give a wedding reception for a beautiful Christian couple who now reside in Little Rock, Arkansas. Married in Guatemala, the place where much of the bride’s family lives, this reception was their American celebration. For some of us in that sweet place, it was a blessed collision of precious past moments and present blessings for which we have only insufficient words of thanksgiving. (Pictured above is Nathan and Ellen Anderson, left and right, and the Tuckers, center, at the reception….Oh, and Cliff and Nell Anderson, in arms.)

About 28 years ago, the Westside church in Virginia was getting ready for its annual Vacation Bible school. Little Nathan Anderson, in early elementary school, invited his friend from school, Grat Tucker. Grat’s mom, Diane, let him attend and, since he was her shining star—the only child—she kept the VBS take-home papers; colorful cardboards that meant little to Grat at the time, but were destined to be valuable papers, ushering into his world the best things of this life and even life eternal. But for now, they were placed in a drawer and forgotten.

So Grat and Nathan became best friends. Nathan was Grat’s campaign manager when he ran for class president in the fourth grade. They played ball together in community leagues and ate their lunches together at school.  

And one day several years later, after some temporary reversals in the lives of Grat and his mom, Diane thought it would be good if they started going to church. She opened that drawer to look for those VBS materials and decided they would “try the church where Nathan goes. You remember…that one where you went to that Vacation Bible School?”

And so they did. Someone welcomed them warmly. Someone showed them around the building. Someone invited them back. Someone soon invited them for a meal. And someone asked Diane to study the Bible. Open hearts are easily convicted and the rest is a sweet history. Diane was baptized into Jesus and immersed herself in fellowship, study and growth. It was the beginning of a new way of life for Grat, who was, in a couple of years, himself, baptized  into Christ on the campus of Freed Hardeman University during the Horizons program, where he worshipped and prayed and played basketball with our son, Caleb Colley.

Diane and I sat together in the cafeteria at FHU on that August day when we left our sons as students. They would eventually play intramural sports together, study for communication classes together and finally, spend a couple of years rooming together in Brigance Hall. Grat was a fiercely loyal confidant, a man of determined Christian character and one who always enjoyed a good practical joke. We loved having him in our home on weekends while they roomed together. I did lots of loads of laundry (Remember that time I accidentally bleached that red Nike swish into that faded pinkish color?) and his long legs were under the Colley table lots of times. He came in handy on moving days, with technology (He could  trouble-shoot our computers like no one else we knew…and he was a very cheap technician.)…and he didn’t mind sleeping on the hammock on the porch when the house was bursting with college students. 

Then they graduated and Caleb moved to Montgomery to do graduate work and work with Apologetics Press (http://apologeticspress.org). Grat soon moved to Jacksonville, Alabama to archive materials, develop the website and help Christians have access to the great materials that House to House/Heart to Heart publishes (https://www.housetohouse.com), working in that great ministry for the next nine years. This was the town, coincidentally, in which my father, Lee Holder lived and worshipped.

And that turned out to be a life-changing coincidence. I’m really certain it was life-changing providence. Early in 2012, my father was found unconscious in the Jacksonville church building on a weekday afternoon (https://thecolleyhouse.org/right-turn). An ambulance ride, a  hospitalization, a rehab and many prayers later, Dad returned home. He was well enough to live mostly independently. He still worked and drove and went to the church building at least four times every week. But we needed a presence there at home with him; someone who could check in on him several times a day. Grat was that person. (Here’s Grat with Dad at the church building…and Diane and Grat “silly-posing” with some of the family at PieDaddy’s):

Moving into a quickly converted garage apartment, Grat lived with my dad for five-and-a half years. I can say with certainty that my father loved him very much and wanted to be sure that he was treated just as all the “other” grandchildren at every holiday and family event. (Grat’s on the front right here with the whole gang): The Holder family will always be indebted to Grat Tucker for the hundreds of chair side conversations, the times Dad went to Waffle House without reporting in and Grat had to go find him, the times he drove him to worship because it was storming, the myriad of lost things Grat would find (the hearing aid under the bed, the hearing aid battery in the church hallway, the telephone under the recliner, the Bible in the trunk of the car), the reminders and systems of taking medicines, the constant demands of the pool and the very confounding way Dad wanted that to be done, the scores of Monday Alabama football rankings brought home from work for Dad to read and “discuss” over and over with him, that one night Grat captured the bat in the living room (https://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-tommy-in-trouble), and especially the many prayers Grat offered on Dad’s behalf in those happy years of decline. They were happy because of the great team effort that was put into the care of that nonagenarian and Grat was a huge part of that team. (Here’s Grat on the Holder “farm”):

And then there was Kiki. I knew something was up, when weekends found Grat absent from the farm. That was after we daughters had made the decision to be with my father at his house 24/7. Grat had more freedom those days to travel and, once, when I was in his room checking on the fuse box, or something, I saw an artist’s drawing with the signature “Kiki” at the bottom. That was the first I knew about someone I would come to love and admire…someone who would become Mrs. Grattan Tucker. Grat was studying the Bible with her…and falling in love with her. She is Kirsten…Mrs. Grattan Howard Tucker IV.  Nathan Anderson, the first grade friend, traveled to Guatemala to perform this ceremony in which he presented the gospel to all of this large family. I am very glad Kirsten’s married to Grat. He needed her. I am infinitely more glad that  she is now married to Jesus. Their children will grow up in a Christian home. I think I will one day go and hear a Tucker son preach or see a Tucker daughter bringing up children for Him. It’s the genesis of a Tucker legacy for Him. 

All because of a child’s invitation. Oh, I know it is because of the Word and the blood and the love of John 3:16. But a child at school placed a flier in the hand of a friend…or he made a call to say “Can you come with me?” or he just invited him over on a Monday to play ball and said “Oh…we’re going to VBS, too…Can you stay for that?” 

A child’s invitation. Children found their way to the Savior Who said “Suffer the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I’m glad Grat found his way through that one invitation to Vacation Bible School. A mom, a wife, children and grandchildren. peripheral people who will study with all of these Tuckers…all will gather around the throne because of one child’s invitation. 

Of such is the kingdom.

 

(Grat with Ezra at the Holder Christmas 2014):

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

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. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

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.