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Jesus is the Standard December 22, 2007

Posted by Erin in Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

As I am finishing out my year of reading the Bible once again using the M’Cheyne Bible reading program, I am currently in 2 Chronicles and taking another trip through all of the accounts of the kings of Israel and Judah (although Chronicles if more of a focus on the southern kingdom).   Something hit me this morning as I was in chapter 26 where once again the chronicler says that the next king, the son of the former king, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.”  And the trend seems to be that the young kind will often start off walking in the ways of the Lord, but then turn to evil in his later days.

I was thinking about how important it is as parents to not set ourselves up as the standard for our children.  We need to make sure that our children understand that we are sinners as they are and make plenty of mistakes.  We need to be open about our mistakes and repentant of them, so our children can see and learn.  Too often we want to mask our faults to our children because we think they will not respect us if we are not perfect.  In doing so, we miss the opportunity to point them to the One who is perfect and paid for all of our sin.  It is is Jesus who we ought to follow and walk in the ways of.

May we use this Christmas season to humble ourselves under the tiny baby in the manger as our Lord and Savior.  May our children know we too are sinners saved by grace who must go to the throne of mercy every day.  And may we point to Jesus as the One to ultimately pattern ourselves after.

Looking to Jesus,

Erin

Encouragement December 19, 2007

Posted by Erin in General Lessons.
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Joe,

Just wanted to share a burden that has been on my heart as of late before getting back to the priority discussion.  I have seen lately how easy it can be to become a negative person to be around, especially to my children.  Now I am not trying to say we all need to be positive self-talk people, but these motivational/self-help people do have something.  They know how powerful words are.  We can effect ourselves and others so much my our words.  I have seen this more and more as a parent.

It is much too easy to become a parent that is constantly criticizing every little thing my child does.  Of course there are millions of things that need to be change din our children’s hearts and behaviors.  But aren’t there a million in our own as well?  And does God just keep at us about how fall short we fall?  No, He gives us encouragement and hope too.

My prayer for my holiday season is that my children would hear encouraging words coming from my mouth that would give them hope to live.  May I not just run them down with all they don’t do, but may I uplift them in all I am thankful for in them.

Rejoicing with you this holiday,

Erin

The Second Commandment December 13, 2007

Posted by Erin in Blogroll, General Lessons.
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Joe,

Two days late here again! Maybe I should change my post day to Thursday???

So as I am thinking about how I can teach my children (and myself) to best spend their time according to the prioritities that God’s Word helps us to set. Last week I talked about our greatest priority should be our time with the Lord and the different ways we can increase our love for Him. By doing this we will obey the first and greatest commandment that Jesus gave us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The second commandment was of course to love our neighbors as ourselves. As Abby just learned in her catechism questions, everyone is her neighbor, but some neighbors will be closer in proximity than others. And none so more than our family.

It seems in our culture and the day we live in that it is so easy to forget about family. We get so busy doing things and running around to different events, that time with the family gets pushed to the side. One study I saw said that only 30 to 40 percent of families eat dinner together 5 to 7 nights a week. Not that the family dinner is the end all, but it is a strong indicator of things.

So what can we do to make our family a strong second priority? I think one of the biggest things parents miss out on is planning on how much they think it is wise to be out of the home. I know that what happens to us at times is that things come up a lot in one week and by the time we get to the end of the week, we have been out all but one night without even realizing it! (Or course, we quickly realize it when the kids are tired and hit meltdown!) Figure out how many nights you are going to be out in the week, and guard those other nights.

Also, come up with some fun and special events as a family. Some people like to do special family nights with a dinner and then other special event. Other families may go out for special times. A great set of messages to listen to are from the Mahaney’s on their family life. The messages are in a part 1 and part 2 format.

I am sure there is more that could be expounded upon with this subject, but I will leave at that for now.

Seeking with you,

Erin

Making the Most of Our Time December 6, 2007

Posted by Erin in General Lessons.
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Joe,

Sorry I am two days late here on my weekly post.  Great job getting back to a weekly post.  Once a week isn’t that much, but sometimes before I know it the week is gone.   So how can we not only make sure that we do the important things and also include the important things for our children?

As I have said time and time again, I think having a vision for your children and putting that vision into concrete priorities is vital.  So often we see frustrated people (often all we have to is look in the mirror) because their lives are not being fulfilled in the numerous areas that God has designed us to have joy.

In this day it is so easy to try to have your kids involved in 101 things!  As a mother I know the pressure that comes in feeling like you should have your child in one more class or activity or you should be making them a little genius in ome more way at home.   This is when we need to get our priorities from God’s Word as to what will help to raise a well-developed God follower.

There are a few priorities that we must have for a children.  Of first importance is to bring them up in the fear and instruction of the Word so that we make their hearts soft for the opportunity for God to regenerate them.   At a young age, the family time of worship will fulfill this category to a large degree, until children are old enough to teach how to spend individual time with the Lord.  You can also store the word up in their heart by playing Christian music, talking about every day areas of life and how they relate to God and consistently pointing them to the gospel in your daily instruction and discipline.  Of course, these are just a few of many ways.

Our relationship with the Lord should be of first importance with our own life as well.  Nothing speaks more to a child than a parent who is consistently seeking the Lord.  I am thankful that our children are aware that their daddy is down int he basement spending time with Jesus every morning.

This was going to be a short post, but maybe we could use this as a jumping board to talk about other necessary areas of our lives that must be developed in ourselves and our children to make us the full and complete people God created us to be.

Looking to spend my time wisely,

Erin

Al Mohler on Children and Technology November 30, 2007

Posted by Joe in General Lessons, Links.
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Erin,

First, I want to commend you once again for doing such a wonderful job of posting each week.  Your diligence is a consistent encouragement to me.  Today won’t be a long post for me, but I thought it would at least be good to get the habit going once again.

Al Mohler writes about the way in which younger children are demanding technological gadgets for Christmas.  And demand is indeed a good word.  Note the way in which some of the parent’s quoted feel helpless in the face of their children’s demands.  What will become of the next generation?

Also, note the way in which this article reinforces our conviction regarding toys and a very limited exposure to television and movies.  I am so thankful for being pointed to the various books and resources that led us to make such a decision.  Let’s strive to be diligent to provide contexts for them to truly be at play.  For that is what children really want and need.  Computers games, on the whole, simply do not count.  They also fail to bring parents the joy of seeing their children make up their own games and toys.  It really is great isn’t it?

Thankful for creative play,

Joe

Where Does Consistency Come From? November 20, 2007

Posted by Erin in General Lessons.
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Joe,

As I mentioned I have been reading through another of John Rosemond’s books called “Making the ‘Terrible’ Twos Terrific”.  It has brought a lot of great things to mind and reminded me of a lot of parenting principles I need to be reminded of.  I would recommend that every parent read a parenting book every few months to stay sharp and refreshed on the topic of parenting.

As I mentioned in my last post, children are in need of consistency.  And that consistency needs to be seen in daily habits, as well as discipline and expectations.  But you can’t just expect to be consistent on the spot.  Consistency takes planning, or something Rosemond calls “striking while the iron is cold”.

In other words, you need to anticipate problems.  We aren’t to simply discipline things as they come when the child has no idea what is expected of them.   Children need to know what is expected of them in all situations.  This takes a lot more time and planning on the parents’ part, but saves a lot of frustration as well.  So what are some ways as parents we can plan to be consistent?

1. Identify areas of weakness in your children.  Know situations and times when your children are more prone to sin.  For Abby right now, she is having some serious struggles at the dinner table with eating in a timely manner without whining and complaining.  This should not surprise us every night if we have identified this area.

2. Come up with a plan.  Not only do you need to identify the area, but come up with a plan of how to address it.  Be creative and figure out what the child is after and what is inappropriate about the behavior.  For Abby, we saw that much of it is often attention she desires, but that is is also rude and disruptive to the rest of us who are trying to eat our dinner.

3. Inform the child of your plan.  You also must inform the child of what will happen when the situation occurs so there is nothing surprising about it.  Abby is informed before dinner that she will have one hour to finish her meal.  if it is not finished, it will be stored int he refrigerator for breakfast the next morning.  She will continue to be presented with the meal and nothing else until she eats it.  If there is whining and complaining, she will move to another table to eat her dinner alone, while the rest of the family completes our dinner.

4. Follow through on what you say.  Now you must actually put the plan into practice.  it may not be fun, but you have prepared yourself knowing the situation may arise and know the child is well -informed, so there is no reason to get frustrated or angry.  They are making their own decision and must learn to deal with the consequences.

I want to encourage all of us as parents to “strike while the iron is cold” this holiday week.  Remember how overwhelming all of this can be for kids.  Prep them for each and every event with what is expected of them and what the consequences will be if those expectations are not met.  But be ready for some fall-outs!  Don’t put your own personal ease of sitting and eating your turkey over the wonderful fruit that can come from training your children through a holiday!

Prepping for the holiday with you,

Erin

The Need for Consistency November 13, 2007

Posted by Erin in General Lessons.
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Joe,

I was reminded this morning how important it is to keep up with habits that we want instilled in our children. Both Abby and Elijah had had a bit of a hiatus from having alone time in their rooms. I think it had been since last Wednesday since they had had time alone in their room. Now of course, that isn’t all that long, but think about ourselves. If I don’t do something daily for 5 days, for example exercise, my flesh does not want to jump back into that difficult habit.

So we met some resistance form bot in spending time alone in their rooms today, but that was a battle I needed to fight because I think it is a good discipline to be able to be by yourself for a time. I am reading John Rosemond’s “Making the ‘Terrible’ Twos Terrific” right now and he reminded me of this again when he said that one of the greatest signs of development in a three year old is being able to spend an hour alone occupying him or herself without having to request anything of the parent at all.

So let’s continue to do our best to be consistent in those habits we want to instill in our children. I would especially encourage parents to do this in the upcoming holiday season when the rush and activity can push a lot of habits to the side. I would urge parents not to let their private time with God and family time be disregarded for these weeks because getting back into it will be that much harder!

Striving for consistency,

Erin

Loads vs. Burdens November 6, 2007

Posted by Erin in General Lessons.
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Joe,

I had shared part of a message that I had listened to this morning with some people and since you encouraged me to write it down here, some people will be hearing a repeat of what I said this morning!  Anyway, as I was on the elliptical this morning, I was listening to a message by Carolyn Mahaney called “Can You Do It All and Do It Well?”  As a mother, I know that question runs through my mind a lot, and I am sure it does for those dads out there as well.  We live in a time where we have more opportunities to do things due to technology and the ways we are connected to others that we seem to be a generation of over-worked, over-committed, exhausted and often joy-less people.

Basically the climax of her message came when Carolyn said that we see so few people who are bearing their load with joy and ease these days.  She used the word “load” because of its use in Galatians 6:5 where Paul says “For each one will have to bear his own load.”  Carolyn explained that the word for “load” int he Greek referred to a backpack that a hiker or solider would carry on his back.  So heavy, but not impossible to carry on his/her own.  In contrast, she notes that a different word is used earlier in Galatians 6 where we are instructed to “bear one another’s burdens” in verse 2.

Her point was that we each have a load to carry and there is no reason we should not be doing this with joy and ease when Jesus has told us that when we take His burden it is easy and light.  She then went on to give some reasons why we do not see more Christians bearing their load with joy and ease.

One of the first reasons our loads are not borne with happiness is because we are carrying more than God calls us to.  this could be because of a pride in thinking we can do more than God has called us to.  It could be due to fear of man, in that we struggle to tell someone “no” when they ask us to do something.  We may not ask for others advice before taking on tasks and think we have all wisdom, which is again pride, and end up having too much to do.

Another reasons we may not bear our load in a way that glorifies God is because many of us are terrible managers of our times.  As Christians, this really should not be.  We are exhorted in God’s Word to make the most of our time because the days are evil.  We should be the best time managers on the planet!   We waste so much time each day, but then complaint hat we don’t have enough of what we have just wasted away.  We also waste time not by simply doing various frivolous things, but also by not being in efficient int he things we are called to do.  So many people are bogged down because they do not have an effective way of completing the tasks that God has set before them.  they spend twice as long on things because they have no specific system in place for their lives to run smoothly.  I would be amiss not to highly recommend David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done” as a great tool for getting your life into a comprehensive system.  And read it more than once!

Lastly, we may not be bearing our load because we are simply over dramatic about how much we have to do.  A simple thing I wish I had learned earlier is: LIFE IS BUSY.  Call it is busy or full or exciting or fast-paced, but that is life.  And everyone’s life is like that, so our complaints often fall on deaf ears.  Life is not just sitting around sipping tea and relaxing.  Of course, we should have those times of refreshment, but life is also a battle.  One of the best things I was ever told as a new mom, was by my wonderful husband.  I was tired and flustered about life as a new mom, and he looked at me one night and said “I think you need to expect to be exhausted at the end of every day.”  Oh how I needed to hear that and I think there are so many other joyless, burdened, run down Christians who need to hear it too.  It is a joy to do the Lord’s work!  In the words of Nancy Leigh DeMoss, if He has called you to it, then you have enough time for it.

Hopefully this will minister to other parents as we bear our loads today as it did me.  Another thing that spoke to me this morning was how much we need to hear those encouragements.  Parents, let’s not just store up for the day in our morning quiet times, but let’s feed our souls through out the day with Scripture meditation, reading good books, and listening to messages.  There is time for it!

Carrying the load for His glory,

Erin

Questions for the Kids October 15, 2007

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Erin,

Lord willing, we will listen to or watch some (or all) of the messages from the Desiring God Conference this past weekend. I thought I would make sure to share these questions that a pastor Piper knows regularly asks his kids. They are right on, but surely one reason why we don’t ask such things is because we might not want to face the answers!

But that is surely no way to live right. So let’s be diligent to know what our kids see in us. Lord knows, we cannot hide anything from them!

Thankful for the accountability our kids give us,
Joe

Relishing Every Moment Without Being Child-Centered October 5, 2007

Posted by Joe in General Lessons, Random Musings.
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Joe,

As you well know, we tend to go on pendulum swings here around our home. We get on a focus for awhile and then realize we have focused so much on that area, that we have missed out on the other end of the spectrum. So we are in a constant state of not trying to fall of the horse one way or the other!

You made a great post recently about soaking in the kids. I was definitely convicted of that when I took my retreat down to the shore last week. I saw that as much as I serve the kids, too often I don’t just stop and enjoy them. I need to get down on their level and look in their eyes. I made a resolution that I want my children to see me smiling and laughing every day, not just buzzing around the house like a busy bee who is too preoccupied to stop and play with them. They are only going to be at this age one time and I don’t want to miss the special play times that we can have now.

It is amazing how this revelation has affected how I feel for the kids and how it seems they feel about me. I have enjoyed them more and they in turn seem to be more relaxed and enjoying life more as well. But then of course, there is always the time when we step back and look at things, as you did this morning, when you looked at me and said “We need to be careful about being too child-centered.”

Now after just coming home and realizing I needed to enjoy the kids more, this wasn’t exactly what I was looking to hear. But I started thinking about it and thought I would share some of what my thoughts were.

In the past when we have focused on not being child centered, I have felt like we have gone to the extreme of simply not paying attention to them, which of course is not right. But of course, you and I are the kind of people who go for something full force, so if we aren’t going to be child centered, we aren’t! But then we realize that we are missing out on some precious moments with them. So what does it look like to relish those moments without being child centered?

The thing that kept coming to mind was priorities and proportions. We all need to have our priorities set and make sure that our energies and efforts are proportionate to those priorities. So most of us would say that our lives should be focused on God. But just because we want to be God focused does not mean we give no attention to our spouse. In the same way, although we want our second priority to be our marriage, this does not mean that we give no attention to our children.

So what are some ways that we can practically show our children that they come after our marriage, yet still love them and cherish our times together? Here are some ideas I had:

1. Do not focus meal time conversations around your children. Spend your time catching up with your spouse. Prepare your children for this before you sit down (for example, “Abby, we are going to be sitting down to dinner and Daddy and Mommy are going to be talking to each other first.”) But also let them know that there will be an appropriate time for them to share as well.

2. As wonderful as it is for each parent to take a child out for a special “date time” make sure that your dates with your spouse happen more often. And don’t just sneak out at night. Go out while they are awake, so that they know Daddy and Mommy are having a special time together.

3. Don’t let children interrupt the two of you while you are talking. When children can in any way break up a time of connection between a husband and wife it says to them that they are more important than your marriage. Now I am not saying if they can never interrupt you. But for example, Abby loves to do flips and somersaults in the living room. When we are sitting and talking and we are interrupted every 20 seconds, with “Watch this”, that is a time when we can ask her to wait until we are finished and then we will watch what she has to show us.

4. Show more affection to your spouse than your children. I know this can be tough when they are young and especially for the wife. I know from experience (and have seen it too often) how easy it can be to smother your child with kisses and hugs throughout the day and give your spouse a half-hearted smooch when they walk in the door.

5. How often are we buying our children little gifts? When was the last time you bought a special surprise for your spouse? Even what we purchase can communicate our priorities.

I am sure you will have some more ideas, but those were just some things I was thinking of. I don’t think the simple answer is to give our children less attention (although at times this is needed) but often we need to give more energy, attention and passion towards our marriage.

Striving to keep my priorities in line,

Erin