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The Gift of Inspiration

Earlier, I blogged about the mom’s study group and our first meeting topic:  The Gift of Grace.

This week, we discussed the Gift of Inspiration.

Inspiration gets a bad rap with me.  I’ve worked in jobs and ministries in which I was expected to “inspire” people.  We often measured success by our ability to make them cry as if emotional highs would change behavior.  We talked of mountaintop experiences.  I know all the tricks for lighting candles, playing sappy music, making a ritual to create a bang-up cry fest.  I can inspire a group.  It isn’t difficult. 

But the word “inspiration” literally means “with the spirit.”  That definition changes the way I think about it.  “With the spirit” whispers of connection.  One who is plugged in.  Drawing from the Source.  So the best way to inspire is to be connected to the Source. 

We first looked at how to inspire our children’s global purpose.  Jesus said that we would receive power through the Holy Spirit.  There is that word again—spirit.  He says this spirit will be our Source.  We will become good news to the world.  We will do the work of redeeming the earth.  Making it into a Garden again.  That is our global purpose as Christians.  It is our children’s global purpose.  Not some time in the future.  But now.  We discussed examples of children being good news to the community or to individuals.

[I have some thoughts on good news.  I do not think evangelism is the point.  If our ultimate purpose is to convert people, then we have an angle.  Loving on people is the good news.  Conversion is up to God.  Our Christianity should be good news to our neighbors regardless of their belief.]         

Back to the group, we made a list of skills, traits, talents that our kids show.  How can we encourage these traits to be good news now?  For Norah, I listed:  creative problem-solver, can read emotional climate, can make big connections.  For Cedar, I listed passion.  Oh, that little one has a fire inside her.   

We then looked at our children’s individual purpose.  Their vocation.  It doesn’t matter what they will be…what matters is what kind they will be.  Zaccheus didn’t stop being a tax collector but he became a different kind of tax collector.  As Christians, we (should) emphasize different values than the world.  Sacrifice, grace.  We can model this difference by letting our kids be a part of discussions like “how could our family be good news with our tax refund?” or “how could we be good news to Mrs. Smith down the street?”  And these discussions can be terribly inconvenient.  Kids often see very black and white and may begin calling us on our choices.  Which is a good thing.  And we can let go of our hopes for our children to be wealthy or safe.

And we must be careful not to give our kids their calling.  God does this. 

Then we talked about having a sense of God’s presence.  We made a list of all the unremarkable, mundane things we did yesterday.  For all of us, the list included changing diapers or wiping a butt.  The question becomes “are our days dull or the other way around—do we make them dull?”  Do our routine tasks have eternal value?  God meets us where we are.  Because that is where we are.  When we’re wiping butts, that is where God joins us.  Any task can touch the sacred.  How can we connect with the Source in these mundane tasks?  How can wiping a butt inspire? 

Jesus often used object lessons.  He passed a vineyard and he told a story about it.  Or a fig tree.  Or he said, “Consider the lilies.”  How do I help my kids see God in creation? 

Finally, we discussed living missionally.  Not about programs or 3rd parties buffering us from the in-your-face needs of people.  Not about “adopt-an-orphan” in Ethiopia (though a worthy way to give).  Not about encountering only pre-screened, kid-safe people.  It is about those unexpected needs that are right under our noses.  The ones we can’t ignore.  Or shouldn’t.  Sometimes we have only a moment to respond to someone in our path.  I love the dangerous little book, Irresistible Revolution for challenges of this sort.       

The gentle discipline tool we discussed was Playful Parenting.  How to use play for discipline, engaging cooperation, teaching, motivating, and more.  My favorite resource is Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen.

Lots to practice this week.

The Gift of Grace

I’m participating in a mama’s Bible study.  We are going through the book, The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.  Each week focuses on a gift mothers can give to their children.  This week’s gift is grace (my favorite!).

I thought I’d share some notes from each week’s class. 

Grace comes free of charge; no strings attached.  We don’t deserve this love and favor.  Absolutely nothing we can do to get it.  Only receive it.  And give it.  The Greek word for Grace is “charis” and the root is a verb meaning “I rejoice, I am glad.”

We talked about how a key component to grace is that it is unconditional.  Of course we love our kiddos unconditionally.  But conditional parenting can be sneaky.  So what does conditional parenting look like?  It includes

  • perceived love withdrawal:  even if you aren’t withdrawing your love when your child misbehaves, if your child thinks you are…it is conditional
  • “if you…then you” types of statements
  • when kids feel they are competing with something for our love (our work, the computer, facebook, siblings)
  • unrealistic developmental expectations
  • imposing our goals on our children–sports, classes, areas of interest

We looked at the story in John 21 when (after cooking breakfast for his disciples–I love this!), Jesus reaffirms his relationship with Peter and his belief in Peter’s ministry.  He doesn’t lecture, punish, shame Peter for denying him.  He doesn’t even bring it up.  As a mama, I have failed spectacularly and this story gives me hope.  It is also a great lesson on how I can interact with my kids when they fail spectacularly. 

Then we looked at John 13, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.  This story gives a picture of grace through servanthood.  We talked about how Jesus motivated obedience by putting the disciples’ welfare above his own.  Sometimes by giving them power.  We talked about children’s needs for power. 

We talked about the grace of encouraging words.  And looked at my favorite verse:  Zeph 3:17.  How can I quiet my children with love and rejoice over them with singing?

Our final area of grace is forgiveness.  Are our homes safe enough places for confession?  Or will our kids hide their behavior because they fear the punishments?  And when kids mess up, we don’t need to burden our kids with guilt for what they’ve done.  God doesn’t do that to us.  He forgives and forgets. Romans 2:4.  What leads us to repentance?  Kindness.  How can consequences and discipline be tempered with kindness?

We ended the week’s study with a discipline tool:  the Comfort Corner.  A comfort corner teaches children an important life skill:  to learn to step away and regroup when they are in crazyland.  Just as adults need a coffee break, children do, too.  The most important factor in using this tool is to remember the CC is a safe zone.  There is no talk of the behavior or discipline in the CC.  The CC is for having a snack, snuggling, reading a book, playing, cooling down.  The issue or behavior can be addressed later when you and the child have calmed.  There is also no forcing a child to go to the CC.  You can suggest it or even place them there but they can leave when they choose.  I suggest adults have CCs as well!  We introduced a comfort corner to Norah at around 14 months.  Norah’s CC was first a corner of the family room with floor pillows, then it was an indoor tent.  Now it is her bed. 

Next week’s gift is inspiration.