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The Gift of Faith

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If you’ve been following the study of The Ministry of Motherhood, the next lesson was giving children the gift of faith. 

First we talked about cultivating a sense of eternity in our children.  Within Christianity, there are different understandings of heaven and the nuts and bolts of eternity.  Whatever our precise beliefs, the important thing is to understand it starts NOW.  Songs like “I’ll fly away” can make us think the goal is heaven and this earth has no hope.  But the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven begins when we embrace faith.  Here.  Now.  We participate in spreading it here on earth.  The kingdom is like a mustard seed.  I learned in the book, Jesus for President, a story of mustard seeds.  Mustard grows like kudzu.  Jews who liked tidy gardens would not permit mustard to grow with their plants.  It doesn’t grow very large but it grows fast and spreads.  It infiltrates.  This kingdom of God begins with frightening smallness and spreads like a weed.   

One result from teaching on eternity is that it gives kids the gift of holding things loosely.  This is such a challenging lesson.  We all, children especially, want to hold things tightly.  How can we teach them?  We brainstormed ideas like using every moment of sacrifice (no matter how small) to demonstrate storing treasures in Heaven.   

When our own things are broken or destroyed (which will always happen when kids are around), we can place love and security higher than the lost thing.  What else?

Second, we talked about faith in God.  The basic gift we all want to give to our children.  Most importantly, we want to have children who really believe “God knows what he’s doing.”  That there is something larger and more purposeful at work.  We discussed times in our lives when we did not see the purpose until later.  Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it is impossible to please God.  Why? 

So how to give this gift?  Well, how does God give us faith?  He allows us to face obstacles and challenges.  And he proves faithful to us through these.  As we see him meeting our needs and walking with us, we begin to trust more and more. 

We show our children faith by example.  Teaching faith takes time.  We must be attached parents.  We give them a secure foundation but we don’t rescue them from every problem.  Instead, we pray with them, use stories of faith. 

Ephesians 2:8 (for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God):  What does faith have to do with salvation?  How can we teach that God’s love is a free gift—no strings attached when so much in life is conditional?

Next we discussed faith in God’s word.  Psalm 119:105 (your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path)…what gives guidance?  We can make the Bible a natural part of family life.  We listed ways we can incorporate the bible into our daily lives?  Deut 6:6-7 (these commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.)  We also talked about appropriate story bibles for young children.  I haven’t found one that I like yet–they seem to teach more about a conditional God.  Some of the moms like one.  I think they said it was this one.

Finally, we talked about faith in the Spirit.  One of my favorite verses is “we have the mind of Christ.”  When I’m struggling with indecision, I say this verse.  Just as we talked last week about being connected to the source…we have access to divine, creative wisdom.  I know the times I live in my own strength.  I can say all day long that I will not lose it.  But if I don’t plug into the source and use the tools the mind of Christ gives, then my resolve won’t last. 

What are your warning signs when you are not connected to the source?  What can help you regain your emotional balance? 

We can’t be the spirit for our children.  They have to connect on their own.

Our Grace-based discipline tool for the week was the five steps

1)       State your request and offer a reason. 

2)      Restate your request—get down on her level, touch, eye contact

3)      Offer help—“I see you’re having a tough time.  Can you _____  or do you need my help?

4)      Help—You’re not _________ Let me help you.  (help is just help.  Not punishment or shaming or negative in anyway.  Does not include a lecture).

5)      Rarely needed—Bear Hug for the child who loses it (squat behind child, wrap arms, speak gently in her ear that you’re helping to stop her and you will let go when she can stop herself.)

The Gift of Inspiration

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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.