Any talks of parenting will inevitably lead to a couple of feelings. It will leave us with a greater sense of responsibility and significance in the things we should be doing as parents. Or we will feel an overwhelming sense of guilt by what we fail to do.
Viewing entries in
When I envisioned family devotions in my head, it was always a picture of my kids hanging onto every word I say as I opened up the scriptures for them. I pictured my son interacting with me about the Bible story.
We have a two and a half year old at home. And on top of that he’s super affectionate, both in wanting give lots of hugs and kisses and in a desire to hit, push, or just smother his sister.
I’m no expert in building houses, but in my limited knowledge of house building I know that the beginning of the building process is very unsexy.
One of the primary desires of any Christian parent is to see their kids grow in their faith. Parents are the primary disciple-makers in the lives of their kids; when Jesus says “Go and make disciples,” this begins in the living room. So as parents, one of our primary vocations is to disciple our children. I’m by no means an expert of this, but there are some things that I’m doing that I enjoy and that I think are helpful in our home.
1. Find a good Bible and read it often.
Reading the Bible is a part of our bedtime routine. We do it every night in some form or fashion and this has been going on since before Eli could even understand we were reading the Bible. My goal in reading the Bible every night is that this would just be normal for our family. I want Elijah and Emaline to never think twice about reading the Bible before bed.
My wife recently blogged about the Bibles we love in our home if you want to know what ones we prefer.
2. Make your church home for them.
Being that I work at our church, this one is especially important to me. I want my family to feel like they own our church. I want them to feel like they are free to be themselves and love to be around “Daddy’s work.” For us, this means I do special things like let Eli play the drums when no one is around or go walking through the offices to see friends and family.
But even apart from church also being where I work, I want my kids to always see our church as their church home. I want it to be a family. And in order for that to happen, we have to be around church a lot - whether that be physically at a church function or simply with those who make up the church.
3. Sing Bible songs together.
I always knew Bible songs were valuable, but I kind of got caught off guard as to how soon they would become important. All of the sudden, I noticed Eli singing the words to “What does the fox say?” At that point, I realized I needed to start making sure that we listened to our Bible songs more frequently. We had already listened to Bible songs, but this prompted me to make sure it was on a regular rotation for our music in the car.
Bedtime also becomes the place where we are always singing. We have a few bible songs that we love by Matt Boswell. And I also always like to sing a few hymns every night to my kids as they go to sleep. And we still throw in some “What does the fox say?” or “Everything is Awesome” for good measure.
4. Encourage your kids to confess their sins.
Elijah is two. And that means he gets in trouble. A lot.
Since we started implementing time-outs as a method of punishment, we also made sure to add into that the importance of confessing our sins to Jesus. Whenever Eli gets sent to time-out (which is often), we set the timer on our phone and at the end have a little talk. It usually involves Eli telling me why he was in time-out, saying he was mean, and asking for a hug. Before he gets down I always make sure he says, “I’m sorry Jesus.” And once he does, as a dad, it’s my responsibility to make sure he knows his sins are forgiven. Then we get up and go say sorry to whoever else needs an apology.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but just a list of some things that I’m learning or have experienced others talk about doing.
What else has been helpful for you?
Everybody has a vocation. Vocation is a really just a fancy way of saying a “calling.” Our vocations are the way that God works in the world serving the world through us as we fulfill our vocations. And we all have these callings. God serves our schools as teachers teach, principals lead, and as students obey. God serves in our families as husbands love their wives, as wives love their husbands, and so on. Our callings extend into our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our churches, and into our homes.
One of the fascinating things about family, however, is that it is the first place that we all experience calling. Because we are all born into the vocation of a son or daughter. Families are full of different callings - each of which have different unique characteristics, responsibilities, and value.
Note: This list is really simplified and meant to scratch the surface. We could spend a lot of time on each of these individual vocations, so if you feel like one doesn’t say all that it should… it probably doesn’t.
The husband is the leader of the home. Ephesians calls the husband to love his wife the way that Christ loved the Church. This is a high calling, to be the sacrificial, loving leader of the home. Service and sacrificing for the benefit of the one he loves.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” - Ephesians 5:25
The wife has been called to her husband and to love her husband as the Church loves Christ. The calling of a wife is a distinct calling from her husband, yet equally sacred and important.
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” - Ephesians 5:21-22
A wife is called to submit to her husband.
Now this word can cause a lot of trouble, but it doesn’t need to. Because this is about mutual submission. She is not called to submit to him for the sake of him “lording it over her” but to submit to and serve her husband as he has also done for her.
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” - Proverbs 31:10-12
A man, if he has kids, not only has the responsibility to lead his wife but to also lead his kids. The father provides for his family, protects his family, and also pastors his family. The calling of fatherhood is a call to disciple your children - to make sure they know they are loved by God and by their parents.
"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." - Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV
Moms have one of the most difficult callings there is. It’s one of the most important, yet it is also one of the most under-appreciated and exhausting callings there is. The most important work that any mom does is the work she does as a mother; and it is an exhausting, unpaid, holy calling to love, care for, and disciple her children.
"She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed.” - Proverbs 31:26
The first vocation that we all have in life is the same. It’s the vocation of being a son or a daughter. This might be unusual, especially because we primarily begin to think of callings as what happens when we become adults. But this isn’t true, callings extend into childhood as - son/daughter, brother/sister, student, and friend.
"My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” - Proverbs 6:20 ESV
We could also add to this list things like brother and sister, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. All of these are unique relationships that God has placed you in. And since God has placed you in those relationships, this also means that he has called you to love him and love others in those relationships that he has called you to.
What are some of the other unique callings within a family that you could describe?
What would it look like if Dads were the pastors of their home? What would our families look like if Dads saw their vocation as father as crucial to the life of their kids and spouse? What if dads saw themselves as the primary shepherd in their home? It is often easy to see the job of pastoring and shepherding as the job of the professionals, but for the dad the pastoring in their home is primarily their responsibility.
In Luther’s small catechism, it actually begins with the words:
“As the head of the family should teach the household.”
Pastor dads are teachers.
When Jesus gives the command to go and make disciples, which includes our living rooms, he also gives instructions on how this is to happen. By baptizing and teaching. As dads pastor their children, the call is to be a teacher to them. As dads, we teach our kids how to follow Jesus. We teach our kids about the commands, about the scriptures, about Christ. And we teach our children how to live like Jesus.
We teach as we instruct through our words. And we teach as we model a Christian life.
We talk about forgiveness. And we show forgiveness. We teach about promises. And we show promises. We teach about sharing our faith. And we actually share our faith.
Pastor dads are shepherds.
A friend of mine describes the word pastor by pointing out how strange it is. “Sounds so archaic. Unsophisticated. Definitely not as impressive as ‘Chief Executive Officer.’” Pastors are shepherds. A shepherd cares for, protects, feeds, and watches over his flock. And while the dad of the home certainly might have to make sure business is in order, the budget is balanced, and the family is sticking to their mission - the dad is also a pastor. Shepherding his little flock.
"Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.” - 1 Peter 5:2
As dads, the first flock that we’ve been given is our own families. And pastoring our family means feeding them spiritually, caring for them spiritually, and shooting the wolves who come to attack.
Pastor dads are leaders.
As dads teach and shepherd, they also lead. Dads lead their homes. They set the pace, the direction, and the vision of the home. Some have even taken this as far as creating a family mission statement. Whatever it looks like, the pastor dad has to be a leader. Because as we make disciples in our family, we do so by being the lead follower. We lead as we follow. We give direction as we follow direction. We are imitators and call those who follow us to imitate us.
Note: I borrowed the title of this post from a Mark Driscoll eBook by the same title.
Mother’s Day is right around the corner. And moms everywhere likely look forward to having one day where people cater their wants and needs. While we should certainly make everyday an opportunity to honor moms, I thought it would be an especially appropriate time to consider the important work of motherhood and how the Gospel shapes a mother’s understanding of the work she does.
I took some time to interview an author and mother, Gloria Furman about this subject. Since I don’t have much experience with motherhood beyond watching my wife, I thought it would be helpful to interview a mom who is passionate about writing specifically to moms.
As a mother of four, who lives in a foreign country, and a wife to a busy pastor (who is also physically disabled), Gloria writes the following about the most difficult part of motherhood for her:
Getting the whole family in and out of the car comes to mind. So does restoring order to the chaos in the kitchen at the end of the day. Physically, motherhood is exhausting! But I don't think that's the most difficult thing. Loving my children sacrificially is the biggest challenge. Without hesitating, I would fight a bear with my bare hands in order to defend my babies. But share my peanut butter banana smoothie? Gently correct tantrums? Count my stretch marks as worth it? Patiently supervise homework? Use my gifts to serve them? Let my coffee go cold so I can... [you name it]? I have to give those things some serious thought. And every day I have to ask the Lord to strengthen me with his love as I lay my life down sacrificially in a thousand little ways.
Me: I’m not a mom, but I’m married to one. I witness the struggles of taking care of a family, being a wife, and finding time for yourselves… but even that fails to really understand what it’s like. Describe what makes being a mother difficult for you?
Gloria: May I just say that I so appreciate that you, as a non-mom, are seeking to understand what it is like to be a mom so that you might encourage mothers? Thank you! To answer this question concisely, I think I'm the one who makes motherhood difficult because of my sin. I've written to husbands about this desperate situation and Christ's sufficient provision in a blog post on the Desiring God:
Every husband should know that stay-at-home moms wage epic battles against chaos.
Epic battles against chaos can come in the form of sibling squabbles, maintenance emergencies, drama at school, competing budget items, scheduling hiccups, relational tension, and more. But these things are easily dealt with. - Read What Every Husband Should Know About Stay-at-home Moms
Me: Oftentimes mothering is filled with very ordinary tasks that don’t seem very spiritual. Tasks like changing diapers, doing laundry, preparing meals, or potty training hardly seems glorifying to God. How do you deal with that as a mother? How do you find the sacred amongst the normal, everyday tasks of mothering?
Gloria: What a great question! I deal with this throughout the breadth of the books, Glimpses of Grace and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. It's funny how some perspective shows that nothing is truly small. I deal with that struggle by thinking through the implications of passages like Col. 3:23-24:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
And also Matt. 10:42.3:
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."
Me: Sometimes moms feel the pressure to be the perfect wife, the perfect home-maker, the perfect employee, and the perfect mom. How does the Gospel free moms from these things?
Gloria: Ah, yes, the Mother of the Year pressure.
I have noticed here (in this global, Middle Eastern city), that even among moms who aren’t believers they can feel unreasonable pressure to have to be “the best mom you can be.” The gospel frees us in so many ways! In speaking to the very specific situation you mentioned, the gospel frees us to see our perfectionism in the light of God's truth. Because the gospel has at its center the cross of Jesus Christ - we recall that the perfect Son of God hung on the cross and died in our place in order to make atonement for our sin. The gospel sheds light on our maternal perfectionism issue and helps us to ask good questions of our perfectionism- for example, Are my perfectionism goals about God's holiness or my own sinful self-righteousness? What is driving me to want to meet this goal of perfectionism? What am I hoping to gain spiritually-speaking by striving to embody this kind of perfectionism?
On a related note, I think the gospel frees Christian moms to spend lots more time wringing our hands about the things that actually separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, which are, precisely, nothing. Praise the Lord!
[gss-content-box color="gray”]Make sure you check out Gloria’s book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full. And if you'd like, Gloria offered this free sample chapter that describes how life after kids affected Gloria’s quiet time and practice of spiritual disciplines.[/gss-content-box]
Motherhood. Being a mom is perhaps one of the most difficult, thankless, overlooked, and exhausting callings that God has created. And it is also one of the most important callings that there is. When I walk in the door after a busy day of work, I am able to leave my work behind and my kids are excited to play and have fun with daddy. My wife on the other hand, when she has a difficult day at home as a mom, she’s still got to be a mom. And while daddy walks in the door for fun times, mommy just spent hours trying to get a meal ready, discipline a two-year-old, and straighten up the house. Have I mentioned that being a mom is difficult?
I’ve heard it said that as a parent the days often feel long and the years feel short. And moms often feel this very closely. A day drags on waiting for some relief from keeping the kids from killing each other. The day drags on waiting for the weather to change so the kids can finally go outside and play. But then the tension comes as your baby is going off to school and you wonder, where did the time go?
Those little things that you do. Playing legos. Cutting the sandwich into triangles. Checking on your kids for the tenth time. The extra bed-time story and cuddles. The counseling after a bad day at school. Running out to pick up flowers to prevent your kid from being embarrassed without them on their first date. And of course the little things that are not so glamorous. The changing the diapers. The time-outs. The loading the kids up in the car for a family trip to the grocery store.
These little things are sacred.
In the midst of the long and difficult days, these things don’t feel like they are sacred but they are. Because God is at work as you do the work of mothering.
God is loving your children, caring for them, protecting them, growing them, and watching over them as you do the work of being a mom. God is at work in the life of your child through the work you do as mom. That’s a sacred calling. And as a Christian we are free to do the work of mothering the best we can, not because God needs us to be good mothers in order to earn anything. But simply because our kids need the best mothers.
"What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels…God with all his angels and creatures is smiling - not because the father (or mother) is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.” - Martin Luther - [LW 45:39-40]
And let’s be clear. You can be a faithful, Christian mother even when you are struggling to give yourself to the spiritual things. Don’t get me wrong, these things are good things - giving ourselves to reading, memorizing, and studying God’s Word is always valuable. But in the midst of the long, difficult days that are filled with endless battles, the struggle can make the Christian mother feel unspiritual as she doesn’t do the “spiritual” things that she longs to do.
One author wrote the following:
“A woman told me about getting involved in a Bible study that demanded strict commitment to the study of God’s Word. ‘You should make the Bible your number one priority,’ she was told. That meant getting up early and the very first thing in the morning doing Bible reading and having a quiet time with the Lord. She did this, but to her consternation every morning as she would start to read her Bible, the baby would wake up. She found herself resenting the interruption. Here she was, trying to spend time with God, and the baby would start fussing, demanding to be fed and distracting her attention away from spiritual things. After a while, though, she came to understand the doctrine of vocation. Taking care of her baby was what God, at that moment, was calling her to do. Being a mother and loving and serving her child was her vocation, her divine calling from the Lord. She could read the Bible later. She did not have to feel guilty that she was neglecting spiritual things; taking care of her baby is a spiritual thing!” - Gene Veith, God at Work
All of work is sacred. And for mothers that means all those little things - the things you love and the things you dread - are sacred. Motherhood is a holy calling. Parents are the primary influences and disciple-makers for their children and mothers get the opportunity to do this day in and day out as they love, care for, and spend time with their kids.
In a matter of weeks, perhaps days, a tiny little princess will be coming home. We've got her room ready with her chandelier hanging, Cinderella's castle is on the wall, and a Rapunzel lantern on her dresser. I cannot wait to be the dad of a baby girl, which has led to me thinking about what it will be like to have a little princess. I cannot wait. The princess movies, the tea parties, the dancing, and I'm sure there are some other princess details that I haven't even discovered yet. Since I’m in the midst of decorating a room full of princesses, I couldn’t help but think of why I cannot wait to treat my daughter like a princess.
Why Dads Should Treat Their Daughter Like a Princess
1. A princess is defined by whose she is not what she does. I already know that I'll love my baby girl; it's not because of the joy that she'll bring me, the cute things she'll make me, or how she will say, "Daddy." I'll love my little girl because she's mine. A princess doesn't earn being a princess, she's a princess because her dad is the king. I want my little girl to know that she's a princess because she's mine not because of how she chooses to dress, act, or think.
"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith." - Galatians 3:26
2. A princess is beautiful. Every little girl needs to know they are beautiful. And I don’t mean beautiful like super-model, magazine beautiful, but really beautiful - inside and out. And when my little girl is old enough to walk into the room and show off her princess dress, I want her to hear it take my breath away.
3. A princess is joyful. Every princess is full of joy. They’re not immune to their fair share of trials, evil step-mothers, or witches, but even in the midst of this a princess sings and talks with the animals and goes about her life.
“Remember you’re the one who can fill the world with sunshine.” - Snow White
A princess might have challenges, questions, suffering, and difficult days, but joy seems to be the thread that weaves through her story. A princess somehow knows how to, “Be joyful always.” I want to teach my princess how to be joyful, even in the times life around us doesn’t give us much to be happy about.
4. A princess will one day marry a prince. The first thing I thought when I found out I was going to have a baby girl was, “Oh, crap.” This was the reason. I’ve been at weddings and have seen dads watch their daughters getting married… I don’t want to even think about that day. But what I do know is that one day my daughter will find some strapping young lad and I’m going to do everything I can do make sure her expectations are set high.
What would you add to the list?
[gss-content-box color="gray"]Be sure to get your free eBook Little Church: Discipling Your Family According to Deuteronomy 6 today for more parenting goodness![/gss-content-box]
In ninth grade, I played on the football team. It was my first time ever playing football. I was a scrawny, little freshman on JV, trying to figure out how to tackle, learn plays, and how to hit a receiver in stride running a fade. At the end of every sports season, we would celebrate with an awards banquet. The awards banquet meant all the fall sports would gather together with friends and family and celebrate the past season, give awards to the Varsity athletes, and honor the seniors.
During the awards banquet, the varsity football coach got up and began giving his speech that would eventually lead into all the different awards. And he began to talk about me. Scrawny, freshmen, just learned to play football, me. And keep in mind, this is in front of my friends and my family and my teammates. And he began to talk about the beginning of football season and how I worked. I showed up. I showed up in early summer at a football camp, having never played a down of football in my life besides at recess. I’d never lifted a weight in my life, never learned a football play in my life. And I showed up and wanted to work and learn to play football. And he talked, in front of all these people, about how hard I worked.
Now when tenth grade football season came around, how do you think I responded when it was time to start putting in that work again? Do you think I just blew it off and said, “Oh, it’s really hard”? Do you think I sloughed it off and said, “You know what, guys, this is not this important; we’ll get to it in August when mandatory practice is starting”?
No, in tenth grade, I worked even harder than ninth grade because my coach saw something in me, and he pointed something out in me. In tenth grade, I wanted to work even harder at football. I wanted to live up to my coach’s expectations because my coach saw something, and he brought out the best in me. That’s what a good coach does. A coach brings out the best in his players.
“When you wake up”
The beginning of the day is a time when you get an opportunity to play the role of coach and bring out the best in your kids.
As a coach, you can look forward into the day with your kids. On the sideline of the day, with your arms around your kids, you can look at all the things your kids are about to face. You can point out the trials that they’re gonna face because you will probably know your kids schedule. You will have listened to them, and you know the troubles that they’re facing, and you can look forward into the day and say, “Here’s what you’re going to be up against today.”
As you prepare your kids for college, you can look forward into all that they’re going to go through, all that they’re going to face, and all the questions that they’re going to have. As your kids prepare to have families of their own, as a coach, you can stand alongside them and look forward to all the things that they’re going to face and not only do you look forward, but you can also point out the best in them. You remind them, “This is who you are. This is who God’s created you to be. And here’s what you’re going to face, but here’s what I know about you.”
Because as a coach, our job is to bring out the best in our kids. And the way we bring out the best in our kids is by loving them. Loving them for who they are and not what they do.
In our world, it’s so easy for our identity, especially our children’s identity, to get wrapped up in performance and in other people’s descriptions. And our kids’ identity gets wrapped up in their academic achievement, their athletic abilities, what their teacher thinks of them, what their peers think of them, whether they’re popular, or whether they’re picked on. As we become adults, and we start to figure out our career, our identity gets wrapped up in how well we do at our job, how well we climb the corporate ladder, how much money we make. It gets wrapped up in what other people think of us, what our spouse thinks of us, what our friends think of us, whether people like us or don’t like us.
And what we can do for our kids is we can affirm them not based on their academic achievement or their athletic ability, but on who they are. Because we love our kids because they’re our children. We love our kids not because of what they do, but because of who they are.
And as parents, you know your kids better than anybody else in the world. And so you, as a parent, can look at them and see the way that they’ve been uniquely wired. The passions, the talents, the gifts that God has given them, the way he’s knit them together in their mother’s womb. You can look at them and say, “You are God’s workmanship, and he’s created you exactly the way he wants you to be.”
As a coach, we can bring out the best. We get to stand on the sidelines of life and cheer our kids on, point out the schemes of the defense, and tell them we are proud of them.
What are some ways you can play the role of coach in your home?
One of the most important needs that your kids have from you as a parent is the need for intimacy. They need to have a relationship with you, as their parent - and not a shallow one, but one that is deep, that goes beyond the surface.
[This is an excerpt from a sermon preached on June 9th, 2013.]
Do you enjoy your kids? Do you delight in them? In the book of Proverbs, in Chapter 3, it says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Now talking about parenting, it could be easy to focus on the idea of discipline, but what about the latter half of that verse, “The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” There's no doubt that if you are a parent you have to discipline, but do you also delight?
Relationship > Lecture
Most of us want to be able to teach our kids well. We want to teach our kids the Scriptures, we want to teach them to value the right things, we want to teach them to do what is right, we want to teach them about Christ. And the list could go on. And if you ever want to be effective in the role of teacher, you have to also play the role of friend. It's easy to ignore this and say, "Well, friendship, that’s not that significant. That’s nowhere near the role of teacher.” But if you want to play the role of teacher, you have to play the role of friend. Because teaching without a relationship is just a lecture. It doesn’t matter how life-changing the content of the things you have to say to your kids is, if the context of that is not in a loving relationship with their parents.
Your kids do not care how much you know. They don’t care the influence you have in your organizations. They don’t care about all the wisdom that you’ve learned. They don’t even care if the very experience that they are going through is the exact same thing you went through when you were their age. They don’t care. But you better believe your kids know how much you care. That they know when you’re there for them. They know when you’re listening to them. They know when you’re present physically but not present emotionally. Your kids know how much you care.