Finally, there is an answer for all of us moms and dads who have been waiting for someone to give them a formula to successfully parent a child.  The answer is: TRY, FAIL AND TRY AGAIN!!  That’s it folks.  After twenty three years on the job I have come to conclude that parenting is not about methods but is a process, it’s not easy and there is not a single thing that works for all children all the time.   This process will never be complete this side of heaven.

Whether it’s when and what to feed your baby, who the best pediatrician is, what would be the best school for your child, how to discipline your child, etc., the best way is to try, fail (or succeed) and keep trying.  We mustn’t think we are failures if something doesn’t work for us that worked for our friends, family or the professionals in our parenting books.  Every parent and child is different and the way to know whether you are doing what you should/shouldn’t do is to really know each child by heart and ask God how to go about parenting them.  Cease striving to be the best, the “parent among parents”. Cease striving to have the best child among children.  Parenting is not a competition and you will only feel defeated, discouraged and depressed if you are making it one.  Only God should have first place in our lives.

Isaiah 48: 17-18 says, “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.’”  God will give you instruction in parenting if you will listen and pay attention.  The issue most of have is that we are not willing to be still (Psalm 46:10), we are not willing to give up what we want for our children and we seem hesitant to let God show us what He wants for them. We tend to want to do what our parenting books and culture says we should do and not what He directs us to do in His word. His promise for obedience to His commands is Peace!  Oh how we need that in parenting!!

Please do not only look to your peer parents for answers.  Their answers may be right for their child, but not necessarily for yours.  Pray, try, accept failure in effort, rejoice in success and then do it again.  Do this every day for the rest of your life.  God did not give our children to us because He thought someone else would have the answers in raising them.  He gave us our unique children because He knew best that He could use us in their lives to grow them towards Him, and He will use them to grow us spiritually.  Cease striving to parent the way the world directs, daily ask God for direction and remember that “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Here is an equation to ponder in parenting your child and one you will want to remember.
R + R – R = R + R
Rules + Regulations – Relationship = Resentment + Rebellion
(June Hunt)

When Ideals Become Idols

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house where you were servants. Have no gods other than Me. Do not make for yourselves a god to look like anything that is in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.  Do not worship them or work for them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.’” Exodus 20:1-5a (NLT)

How quickly we turn something ideal into an idol!  Good things like marriages, babies, money,  jobs or possessions are great gifts from God but can become our objects of worship if we are not careful. The creation becomes more important to us than the Creator.

Some people want to be in a relationship or married and think the right person will make their life better and happier. In reality only a relationship with Christ can bring total fulfillment and before they know it, they are serving the created instead of the Creator.  If God isn’t our first love, we will have the tendency to put the person we are in a relationship with first, which becomes a huge burden on them and will make us sorely disappointed that they can’t fulfill our needs.

The woman who longs to be a mother thinks that if only she could have a child she will be happy. The ideal of motherhood becomes an idol for some women.  This happened to me before we had our first child.  I thought that once we decided to start a family it would happen quickly and that motherhood would be the acme of life experiences.  It took a long time, many tears and even an operation to get us to the point where we could have a child.  Although motherhood has been beautiful, it’s also been hard at times and quite a challenge.  This type of ideal for some women can quickly become an idol and one can find themself let down as expectations exceed reality.

What about the man or woman pursuing a career and moving up in the company to find purpose.  This person can become fixated on the ideal job fulfilling them and making them happy instead of Jesus meeting that need.  Money can quickly become an idol in our lives.  We think, if only we have enough money for this or that then we will be happy.  Money cannot bring true joy and happiness like Jesus can.

We must make every effort to submit our ideals to God and allow Him to direct us to His good and perfect will for us.  God speaks to us through Isaiah 48.  In verse 4-5 He admonishes, “For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them’.”  Do you have an image, an ideal or possession that you are clinging to more than God?  Are you claiming that this created thing is going to bring about your happiness and is making you who and what you are?  We must fight the tendency to make our ideals (images) become idols.  Every day we must submit ourselves and our possessions to Christ and give Him all we have.  In other words, don’t let ideals become idols…keep Christ first and foremost in our lives.  God can give us much more satisfaction, joy and peace than any created thing.

More is Caught than Taught

It is scary to think that our children are watching what we do more than listening to our words.  Do you remember the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do?” It is a fact that our children are going to do what we do and that our words may fall on deaf ears.

Years ago I was at the zoo with my daughter watching the giraffes frolic.  Right in front of us in BIG letters was a sign that read, “DO NOT FEED GIRAFFES”.  A lady and her granddaughter were beside us (also in front of the sign) feeding the giraffes.  A zoo keeper came out and scolded them and told them that the giraffes have a special diet and feeding them could make them sick.  The grandmother told the little girl…”oops, we got caught”.  I was shocked!  That little girl may grow up thinking she can break the rules if she doesn’t get caught.  This event made me ponder what I was doing and what I was saying and if my actions were speaking louder than my words.

What are our kids learning from us?  Are they learning to be obedient because we are being obedient?  Are they learning kindness because we are kind?  Are they learning to serve others because we do? Or are they learning their way around the rules because we’ve figured it out too?  Are they hearing us talk to others with unkind words or using impatient and inappropriate gestures?  If they see us do something or hear us say something, they are likely going to be doing or saying it too.

Do we want our children to see us seeking things of God or the pleasures of this world?  Do we want them to see or hear us praying and reading the word of God regularly or do we want them to see us watching what the world is doing on television and in magazines and trying to keep up with our culture?  Do we want them to see us seeking God’s approval and peace or do we want them to see us seeking the approval of neighbors and friends?  We must ask ourselves these questions if we truly want to raise our children to know and love God.  If instead of seeking God we are seeking worldly pleasures, the approval of peers and social status, then that is what they will want too.  Our children are our little apprentices.  They are learning more from our actions and examples than from what we tell them they should or shouldn’t do.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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 cannot impress God’s commandments on our children unless we first love God with all our heart, soul and strength as verse 5 says.  We can’t teach them if we don’t know it ourselves and we can’t know it if we don’t seek to learn it.

What is important to you as a parent?  Are academic, athletic and social accomplishments more important than your child’s spiritual growth?  These things in and of themselves are not bad but shouldn’t we want our children to know how to handle these things without compromising what they believe and WHO they believe in?  Wanting our children to succeed and do well in all areas of life isn’t wrong, but as Christian parents we should help them seek for more than what the world offers.  The best way for them to understand what living a Christian life is about, is for us to model it for them.  Does God expect perfection in this effort?   I hope not because that means we have failed before even beginning.  He doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we can’t attain it.  He wants us to love Him with all of our heart, soul and strength and to put forth our best effort to raise our children to serve Him in all they do, whether they are a genius, pro-athlete, debutante or even if they choose to do something even more wonderful, like become a parent one day.

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.