Baccalaureate

It is May and everyone is thinking about graduation.  Most of us have gotten an invitation or announcement and some are preparing to graduate a child from high school or college.  How did that happen?  The little child we held on our knee, watched as they danced or played tee-ball, is now walking down the aisle in cap and gown.  There is a flood of emotions as we rejoice in their accomplishment of finishing school and yet we ask ourselves if we could have prepared them better for life, for making decisions, for following their Lord.

At our church we have a Baccalaureate dinner and then a service the following Sunday to recognize high school seniors.  The families and clergy celebrate the graduates and pray over them…launching them on their way to college or career.  Five years ago, my friend Corrie participated in this event and I want to share what she wrote to the parents of young children at our church.  She had a graduate leaving home and she had recently welcomed a new baby into her home.  Please read what she wrote from her heart and think how you might prepare your child for his or her Baccalaureate.

Make This Your Baccalaureate

By Corrie M.

This Sunday, 20 high school seniors, including my son, Willliam, will process down the nave of our church for their Baccalaureate service. Thinking about it now makes me teary-eyed, but it also makes me think of you—my new friends in the Early Years Ministry. Your baccalaureate Sunday probably seems eons away, but trust me, it will be here before you know it and whether you plan for it or not.

 Many of you have heard me talk about how God has given me a second chance to be a better parent. Don’t get me wrong. By the grace of God, William has turned out to be more fun and finer than I could have ever imagined. But as I think about where our family was just three years ago, I know that without some crazy intensive work by God, we wouldn’t be participating in any church’s baccalaureate and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to share some thoughts with you. I have the unique opportunity to experience the end of one childhood in time to make changes for another. I won’t bore you with my whole story, but I have some thoughts I’d like you to consider.

This Sunday, I want you to think of the baccalaureate service as yours. Start preparing now… Like right now…

First, pick out five to seven photos of your child, including one baby photo (that’s the easy one) to be part of the slide show for the whole church. What memories do you want to share with your church family? Do they know your children or will the photos be only slightly familiar? The clergy might request photos of your child participating in church activities. Do you have any? I’m sure you’ll have t-ball, piano recital and travel soccer photos. But what about photos from first communion, VBS, fifth grade “fly up” to the youth program, Guatemala or Cuba mission trips, Dynamos, acolyting, reading as a youth lector, Real Life, serving dinner to the homeless as a family mission, summer trips to Universal Studios and middle school lock-ins? Do you have of these?

Second, you need to provide your child’s favorite Bible verse. Does she have one? Does she know the Bible at all? These kids are about to embark on a part of their life where they will probably need the Bible and its teachings the most. Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew your child knew the Bible in his or her heart?

Next, the clergy will say a few words about your child at the baccalaureate dinner. Do the priests know your child? Do they have stories and memories to share? The only way they will know your children is if you make a point to be a part of the church.

Finally, at the baccalaureate dinner you’ll be asked to stand, lay hands on, and say a prayer for your child. I am not sure how I will make it through this part without completely breaking out in tears. Is it right to ask for guidance on a prayer? I wish I could share our special prayer with you, one that we prayed together for years that he would recognize. There’s not one for William, but Phillip will have one!

It all started hitting home for me at the end of his junior year in high school. Where did the time go? In less than a year, he would be moving away from home. He would be making decisions on his own from what time to get up in the morning to choosing a career to how he’ll spend his free time. No one will be there to remind him of whose he is, what is right or how he should behave. My work is done. Or was it? I wish I had thought of all of these things when I made the decision years ago to not put the effort into church.

If you want church and God to be a priority to your child, then you have to start now. I know it’s difficult to get the baby ready for church. It’s much more difficult, however, to get that middle schooler or high schooler to go when you haven’t set the precedent. It is so cliché, but it all goes by so incredibly fast. Before you know it, you’ve committed to travel ball and you miss more church than you attend. Or perhaps you forgot about Wednesday nights activities and classes, and you’ve signed your little one up for ballet that prevents you from bringing the family to church on Wednesdays. I can’t urge you enough to make those decisions with next week’s Baccalaureate service in mind.

In one month, William will be heading off to college. So here’s something else to consider. What do you want for your child as you send them off to college? Through the years you will prepare them academically, physically and socially. What are your plans to prepare them spiritually? Do you put the same thought, time and money into their spiritual development? I bet that most of you already have a college fund. You probably read to them every night because heaven forbid they start kindergarten without knowing how. You teach them to cheer on your favorite sports team. But are you also making time to teach them to pray? Do you read the Bible together? Do you find time throughout your day to talk about your Christian life and the little things that set you and your family apart because of your faith? 

Are you preparing them with the end in mind?

One of our clergy spoke at our brunch last September. His message was loud and clear. Be involved in the church. Studies show that children have formed their spiritual beliefs by the time they are NINE YEARS OLD, and 95 percent of Christians were baptized by the time they were 18! Fortunately, my church understands this importance, hence the Early Years Ministry and the Children’s Ministry. Be active! Have your children be active. Surround them with older kids who make Christianity seem “cool.” Help them develop relationships with adults throughout church that can guide them whenever they won’t listen to you. Teach them the Bible—and if you don’t feel like you know it well enough to teach it, then take classes yourself. There are many adult education opportunities at our church.

The moment I found out that I was pregnant with Phillip (now 1), I prayed to God and committed to bringing this baby up in the church. All along, I have felt that he belongs not just to me, but to my church family. We are all here for each other. We need to encourage each other and help each other keep strong in the faith. We will all experience trials at different times—financial difficulties, family drama, strained marriages… but with God’s power and His gift of each other’s support, we can and will make a difference in the lives of our children.

So this week, as you are changing diapers and Oxy-cleaning onesies, don’t be so hard on yourself about getting everything you need to do done, or worrying about how you’re going to pay for ballet or soccer or piano. Instead, focus on the things that really matter—one baby step at a time. And remember to say a little prayer for the seniors—for this year’s graduates, but also those in your very near future.

 

Fairy Tales

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

This morning I was thinking how fairy tale-like our desire for our life, and the lives of our children, is. We want things to work out well and to be successful in our career, our finances, our parenting, etc.  We have dreams of romance in marriage, precious and healthy babies with chubby cheeks, obedient and sweet children and mostly we want things to go according to a plan…our plan.  All of this is desirable and good, but it’s not the fairy tale we really want but the “happy ever after” ending we long for.

When one looks closely at the fairy tales we share with our children, a great sadness or evil befalls the princess before her happy ever after begins. Think of the beloved Cinderella, before she is swept off her feet by Prince Charming, she suffers immensely with the death of her beloved father and then the oppression and abuse she suffered under her step mother and sisters.  In Beauty and the Beast, Belle was ridiculed by the townspeople and then locked in a castle with a monster before her happy ever after began.  Snow White, Rapunzel, Aurora, and Tiana all suffered before they enjoyed their “happy ever after”.

I think it safe to say that as Christians we do get to live a fairy tale life and thanks be to God we get a “happy ever after”.  All humans are born into sin, we suffer at some point in our life and then we die.  As Christians we have hope of eternal life, which is a very happy ever after with Christ.  This doesn’t mean we don’t face difficulty and suffering in the midst of our walk with Christ, but He walks through it with us and gives us the hope of never suffering again when our days here are over.  Jesus says in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, a yoke is “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (such as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.”  A burden according to the same dictionary is “something that is carried or something oppressive or worrisome.”  When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior we become yoked with Him and He helps us carry the load, the burden of this life.  As Christians we make the choice to carry a burden, suffer alongside Him and give up our own way and follow Him (Matt. 8:34).  The yoke itself is easy because it’s shared, but the burden is something we must endure and allow Him to help with if it is not to completely overwhelm us.

Sadly our children must also suffer. Suffering is inevitable and we should be aware of the importance of our yoking ourselves with them until they yoke themselves with Christ. When my daughter was little I sought to keep her from experiencing any physical or emotional obstacles. For some reason I was under the impression that I had to protect her from every bump, hurt and discomfort. Thankfully, through the wisdom and instruction of godly mentors, I was able to see the harm I would bring her by not allowing her to feel pain. As she and her brothers grew up I sought to walk with them in their difficulty instead of trying to fix everything. This was and is a huge challenge as I am a “fixer”, and as my children have grown into adolescence and adulthood in this ever-changing and unstable world, their burdens have not lessened but increased. For this I am grateful they have made their faith in Christ their own and are yoked with Him…although their burdens will always be felt by me.

What is your burden today?  A sleepless baby, a naughty toddler, a child going through a difficult time with friends at school, one who is acting out or perpetually making bad grades?  A spouse who is disrespectful or disinterested? Maybe you are in the midst of a difficult job change or unemployment.  Are you or a loved one facing a devastating diagnosis?  Maybe it is depression and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for your sadness but it is there regardless, and getting out of bed today was a great accomplishment.  I know this sounds sad but suffering is a reality to many people today and is to be expected by all at some point in life as Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”

Life is hard.  No doubt you already know that.  When we are walking alongside Christ, yoked and carrying a burden with Him, He offers us rests, respite and joy in the journey.  As I wrote in my last blog, there are many NOs, NOT NOWs and WAITs in life but there is also YES in the midst of the NO.  Look for the joy in the journey, make sure you rejoice in the YES and trust His goodness in the NO, and have HOPE in the WAIT.  I write this in the middle of hardship, difficulty and grief in my own life.  Many days I don’t want to leave the comfort of my bed, I don’t want to see anyone or be seen, and I certainly don’t want to face another NO in this temporal life.  Instead of doing what I want based on how I feel, I allow Christ to fasten His yoke to me and I walk with Him through life in this world.  I choose to take heart as Christ has overcome the world, and my greatest hope is in the Happy Ever After when this life ends and eternal life begins.

Seeing the YES in God’s NO

A good parent will say NO many times to their children to protect them.  No will take many forms starting in toddlerhood with “NO, you may not touch…it’s hot” then to the young child, “No you may not play with this friend or at that friend’s house” and then to the adolescent, “NO, you may not attend the party where there are no chaperones”.  Most NOs will be in the child’s best interest.  Sadly some parents have abused the word NO and have used it to break the spirits of their children.  This will make it difficult to see any good in the word NO and will most likely bring rebellion into the parent-child relationship as he/she grows up.   As adults (Christian adults at that) we don’t want to hear NO, sometimes even when it’s for the best.  When someone tells us we can’t do something, that we are NOT welcome somewhere or when we are told NOT NOW, our tendency is to be angry or hurt.  We might lash out at others with our hurt feelings or sit and stew in silence while resentment builds a stone wall around our heart.

What about when God says NO or NOT NOW to us?  When He tells us NO, we are absolutely flummoxed and at a loss at His answer, especially if He says NO to something we think is very good. I was under the impression that if we want something that is good (even ministry good) that He would be happy to say YES. This is not always the case though and as I dig through the Bible, I see God say NO, NOT and WAIT more times than I can count.

At the end of the first chapter of Genesis God declared that all He had created was good.  He told Adam he could enjoy any and every fruit in the Garden of Eden but He specifically told Adam He could NOT eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God’s reasons were not known to Adam, and he and Eve soon found out the devastating consequences of disobedience that we are still reeling in today. (Gen. 2-3)  God said NO to them to protect them.  He knew they would be forever changed if they tasted the forbidden fruit.  God wanted to stay in perfect fellowship with His creation and their disobedience robbed both man and God of this union.

Another NO is found in the gospels.  It is a NO any of us would be unable to say to our child.  God said a very difficult NO to His son.  In Matthew 26: 42 Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  He was wanting to know if there would be any way His Father would spare Him the pain of death.  In Matthew 27, Jesus asks His Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”   After each question there was silence.  Jesus felt the huge NO of His Father in every nail that entered His body.  God did not spare His own son’s life despite His desperate pleas.

God has said NO to my family a lot this year.  A big NO came in August when I felt He was leading me to resign from my job.  In May I was convinced I would be in the position I was in for years and years…He had called me to it against my wishes 15 month before, had equipped me while there and grown a passion for ministry in me, so why would He call me out?  Then God said NO to my husband.  His project came to an end and there was not another job to move into.  Six months and several interviews later and deafening silence from above and we get the “NO” loud and clear. Even when given a chance to go serve in ministry with our son in Africa, a very good thing, God made it clear that we were NOT to go.  It baffles me.  What we are seeking are good things.  We are not asking for a lot, just a provision that many already have and take for granted.

In this season of NO I am encouraged by God to find the YES amidst all the negatives.  I know that He gave a good NO to Adam and Eve and they disobeyed.  The consequences were eternal and with their disobedience I must suffer many more NO answers.  Here are some of the Yeses I have found in God’s NO.   When God said NO to Jesus, He said YES to you and me.   There are eternal consequences in His NO to His son.  Because God said NO to Jesus, we have been given the YES to eternal life in Christ.  I can see His YES to sweet time with my family.  I have been able to focus on being a cheerleader to my husband when he receives another devastating “Dear John” letter.  We have coffee and chat time every morning, something we won’t be doing when he goes back to work.  We have not missed a meal and have been blessed with provision…a big YES.  There have been opportunities to read and study with my son that I wouldn’t have had if I had been working.  In fact, he would have spent much of his day alone which would make him quite vulnerable.  I have also been given a YES as I have had a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow with a vibrant group of women at my church.  I have more time for Bible study, quiet contemplation and rest.  There are a lot of YES answers that are being uncovered and will be visible in hindsight as well.

It is easy for us to be so focused on God’s NO that we tend not to look at the YES He is saying.  Despite the difficulty in hearing a NO, let us ask God to show us His YES in our circumstances.  If He is saying NO to us, He has a reason and we must trust that the eternal YES will be far better than the momentary YES we desire today.

My Dream, God’s Reality

Twenty three years ago this month I became a mother. It was something I had wanted and dreamed about since I was a little girl and what my husband and I had talked about since we got married three years before. We were so excited to finally be starting this new chapter in our lives.  The pregnancy was great, our daughter was born healthy and beautiful…what more could we ask for?

In the first week there was euphoria that trumped the exhaustion.  The second week was spent staring at the child God created and being in awe of the gift we were given.  Week three through six were ROUGH as accumulated exhaustion, painful nursing and a screaming infant were constant.  I doubted my ability to be a mom.  I felt like a failure that I couldn’t get and keep a routine, that my child wasn’t a snuggly baby, that I couldn’t comfort her when she cried.  What was a nice girl like me doing in a situation like this?!

Fast forward to four months…baby sleeps through the night, baby naps often, baby smiles and doesn’t have screaming fits between 5-7 pm, baby is gaining weight and we actually have a routine. At this time I was introduced to Mom to Mom at our church in MA.  It was (and still is) a ministry based on Titus 2:3-4 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=titus+2%3A3-4&version=NLT.  What a pivotal moment in my life!  I had loving, caring women mentoring me in this parenting journey.  I learned so much from these Godly women and I truly believe that without them I would not be confident in my relationship with God, with my husband or with my children.  At the right time, God intervened, saved my husband from a chronically frustrated wife and my daughter from a super type A+ mother.  Lessons learned on Thursday mornings that year and the next were ones I took into parenting little Emily and her brothers.  In fact I still lean on the teachings of Linda Anderson and the wisdom of the mentor moms God brought into my life then and in other churches along the way.

God was rooting me deeper in Him, in His love and He was drawing me closer to my calling to minister to other parents.  We can’t parent without God’s help and thankfully He gives us help in the men and women who have gone before us.  We can learn from what they did right and from what they feel they did wrong.  We can learn that we don’t have to parent perfectly but that we have to strive to parent well.  This is a journey of faith and trust.  We have to have faith that God will lead us down the right path and we must trust Him that He will keep us on that path and that through our obedience He will pour out His blessings on us.

I now pray this prayer of Paul for the Ephesians with and for you.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”   Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

 

 

Rooted

This blog is for parents, grandparents and caregivers of young children.  It is meant to encourage you as you seek to intentionally raise children in the faith and belief in Jesus Christ.  Our goal in this ministry/blog is to encourage you to be:

R – Rooted in the Word of God so you can teach it to your children (Psalm 1:1-3)
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+1%3A1-3&version=NIV

O – Obedient to the Word of God so you can teach this obedience to your children (Deuteronomy 8:6)
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deuteronomy+8%3A6&version=NIV

O – Observant of God’s laws, decrees and commandments in His Word (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deuteronomy+6%3A+1-3&version=NIV

T – Teaching the Word of God to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deuteronomy+6%3A+4-9&version=NIV 

It is our responsibility as parents to impart God’s Word to our children.  Church, Sunday school, Wednesday night programs and other events are all useful in helping us in this endeavor but ultimately it falls on us to be the teachers of God’s Word in the home.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  Training up is our job, God will do the rest and I believe that even if we don’t see it in our life time, the promise is there the they will not turn from it when they are old.