The Golden Calves Our Kids Worship

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“Mom, I just wanted to tell you I’m so glad you didn’t get us electronics when we were young. If you had I know we would’ve loved them and could’ve ended up addicted.”

I stopped at his doorway silent for a moment.

“I appreciate you saying that.”

He smiled back, “It’s true. I don’t care anything about having a smart phone or any device, but if I had one years ago, I know it would have ended up something I wanted to be on all the time.”

My mind immediately went to the first post I ever wrote about electronics. I had to turn off the comments because some became simply vicious. I was called names, ridiculed, and told my kids would simply rebel.

It didn’t bother me. When you write online, you open yourself to all kinds of attacks. Those types of comments paled in comparison to the ones who agreed with my post and felt the same way.

Commenters told me my children would hate me for withholding electronics from them. The reason my children don’t hate us for this decision is because we have told them and shown them how much we love them, we have shared the why’s, and we have shown them something much more beautiful. We’ve shown them life. Real life.

Real life, real beauty, real conversations. We’ve offered them the real over the fake. What’s not to love about that? The letter I wrote our boys expressed to them that the root of our limiting electronics is the fact that we don’t want to miss out on life with them. They will be 18 in the blink of an eye. I don’t want to miss a minute. When they understand it’s because we love them and don’t want to miss out on experiencing life with them, they see into our hearts.

When it comes to phones, ipads, devices, video games, or anything of the sort, I so often have parents tell me they didn’t want to enter into this world BUT they wanted their kids to fit in.

I get it. But at the same time, I say, “No!” No, we shouldn’t desire our kids fit in if it is in an area we feel contention over. If it opens them to a world you aren’t ready to parent them through, keep that door closed. If it opens a door to a world that is dangerous to their hearts and minds, keep it closed. If it opens the door to a world that is out to devour them, keep it closed.

The dangers are real, and we are guardians over their hearts and minds until they learn how to guard themselves.

When we give our kids over to electronics out of peer pressure, that is what we are modeling to them. How can we expect them to fight their own peer pressure when we show them that is how we make many of our decisions?

Start as we intend to go. It’s much easier stay on course than it is it start down a path, crash into obstacles, get lost in the forest, and try to find the path you wish you had started on to begin with.

This article is heartbreaking – Digital heroin.

That is what we are up against. An addiction equal to a heroin addiction. This should terrify us into an awakening. This should give us the resolve we need to do what is right for our kids at the risk of them not being “cool” in the eyes of some.

Were our kids called to be cool? Or were they called to be set apart?

I don’t want cool kids. I want set apart kids.

It doesn’t take much for an addiction to set in. We are worshipers at heart. The problem begins when we place our natural inclinations toward worship on anything other than God. Enter idolatry.

The current craze is Pokemon Go. Much controversy surrounds this game. Years ago my children became interested in Pokemon cards. A few weeks later strange behaviors began to take place in one of my sons. I began praying through his room asking God to reveal if there was something in our home which opened a door to the enemy. Later this child came to me and said he felt he needed to get rid of his Pokemon cards and his Wii game Skylanders. All went to the trash, we prayed through the room and house. Strange behaviors left with the items we threw out. So I’m sensitive to Pokemon or anything with occult ties and origins.

With Pokemon go, we have a view into how easily our children become worshipers. How quickly they give their heart to something and fix their eyes on the object of their worship. If we are raising our kids to love and honor God, it should concern us when something, anything, grabs their heart in such an obvious, addicting way. (Side note: This is a great article if you have concerns about your child playing Pokemon Go)

We have an opportunity to train our children to worship the only One worth worshiping. A child or teen, or adult for that matter, has no problem with worshiping. It’s a matter of where they fix their eyes and heart. It will be given to something.

What if we teach them from Revelation? Teach them what awaits us. Show them the God who is worthy of our entire hearts?

When we spend more time teaching and showing our kids who God really is, they will thirst and hunger for the One who quenches every desire. They will hunger for the only One who can truly fill them. If we spend time talking about eternity, talking about Heaven, talking about things that matter, we can plant seeds in their hearts that grow into fruit bearing, life giving pursuits.

Unbridle my love, Lord

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To listen to an audio recording of this post, click here.

“Mom, you have to pause right now. You have to come outside and see God’s beautiful world. There is a yellow and black butterfly flying back and forth between the trees. And everything is just. so. beautiful.”

I swiveled my cracked leather chair away from the computer screen and looked into his eyes wide with excitement. His little hands clenched tight to the mason jar holding one tiny rock.

“I found this rock when I was digging. I saved it in this glass jar so you could always think of me. I want you to remember me.”

“Andrew, I will never forget you.” I smiled, closed my computer, and followed him outside. For the first time in days, the humidity wasn’t 95%. The sky was overcast. It was lovely.

“I see the butterfly, Andrew!”

“See, I told you, Mom, it’s just beautiful out here.”

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He led me to the spot where he had been digging. He found bird netting that had grown into the ground and a rock. “Mom, I’m trying to make a hot tub. I decided I would help dig so if we ever get a pool, we will have a hot tub, and you won’t have to hire so many workers.”

I smiled back at him, nodding my affirmation of his plan. He stood up, brushed the dust off his shorts, and held his garden shovel high. “It’s not impossible for a little man with a little shovel to do that kind of job.”

Not with faith and belief like that. For the one who believes that with God all things are possible, then all things simply become possible.

After a few minutes exploring outside, we made our way back inside. We grabbed the book he and I are reading aloud, Misty of Chincoteague. We snuggled close on my bed. The dogs took their spots, one as a pillow behind my head, the other sprawled at our feet. The dialect when the grandfather speaks is tough for me to read and even more difficult for Andrew to follow. Every few sentences, I would stop and explain in plain English what the grandfather was saying to his grandchildren. The grandfather in the story referenced “gentling” a horse. I explained this would be taming a wild horse.

His eyes widened again. “I could do that. I could totally do that.”

“Andrew, honestly, I believe you could. I can absolutely see you having the ability to tame a wild horse.”

A few minutes later, he shared his newly discovered dream with Jacob. “Hey, Jacob, I’m going to calm a wild horse. I’ll just get the strongest rope in the world and bring him to me. Then I’ll get a brush and brush him softly because that will calm him like it calms our dogs.”

Jacob listened as he faked slam dunks on Andrew’s closet basketball goal. “Cool, Andrew, that’s neat.”

Andrew leaned back in his bed with his arms behind his head. He was in deep thoughts of taming wild horses. I softly closed his door for our daily “quiet” time.

An hour later quiet time ended and the boys transitioned to their daily movie or Wii time for 30 minutes. Andrew had lost his screen time because of an earlier in the day episode of disrespect, disobedience, and some serious outbursts of anger.

I sat on my bed writing during that time. He climbed on my bed with me. “Mom, I am just so sad. They are watching a show, and I wish I didn’t have to lose mine. I’m ashamed of myself.”

I put my computer down again. “Andrew, can I tell you a story?”

“Is it a true story?”

“Well, it’s a story from my heart.”
He shrugged his shoulders, crawled closer to me on the bed, and ran his fingers over threads hanging from the comforter.

“Imagine you see a wild horse. Of course, you would want it since you want a horse so badly. And you would love it immediately. In your heart you would promise to love it, protect it, and take good care of it. You would do for it what was best. But that wild horse doesn’t trust you, so it doesn’t know that you will only do what is good for it.”

He looked up from the threads and met my eyes. “Andrew, sometimes you are like that wild horse. You think you know best and forget that I love you and know what is best for you, so you forget to trust me.”

“That makes sense, actually.”

“It really does. We are all like that wild horse at times with God too. God has promised to never leave us and never foresake us. He will always take care of us and always love us. But sometimes we buck and run and He is whispering to us. He is saying, ‘Just trust me. I know what is best for you. Just obey me and love me.’ ”

He nodded as he began to play with the loose threads again. I pulled him tight to my side, kissing his cheek. “Do you know how much I love you?”

He rolled his eyes, “Yes, mom.”

“Do you know how much God loves you?”

His automatic answer, “Yes.” Then he switched his answer, “No.”

“He loves you so much He sent His One and only Son to die for you. That is how much. He loves you way more than I love you!”

His smile broke across his face as he pulled out of my embrace, skipping out of my room. We all like to be reminded that we are loved with a ridiculously wild, indulgent love.

His plans are good, His will is perfect. He asks us to trust and follow. And in response I ask Him to make me love Him wildly. With a love that is unbridled.

Lord, let me trust you with my whole heart. When I’m scared, let me run to you, not away. When I think I know what is best, remind me that you know my heart better than I know myself. Unbridle my heart to love you wildly.

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When I Watched the Gospel Wear Skin

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I sat in the corner of the waiting room where Andrew attends Interactive Metronome therapy twice a week. Jacob stood at the door leading from the waiting room to the hallway. “Oh my gosh, Mom, come here! Andrew is out in the hallway.” The laugh in Jacob’s eyes told me I didn’t want to miss this.

I placed my book on the seat and joined Jacob at the door. Peering around the doorframe, I gasped. Jacob doubled over gripping his stomach through his fits of laughter. From the end of the hall, Andrew shouts back, “What? Stop it, Jacob!” Jacob couldn’t stop laughing.

“Jacob, please go back in the waiting room,” I whispered. Just then Andrew’s therapist emerged from the bathroom holding the shirt Andrew had been wearing. It was soaked.

“Andrew had a little accident on his shirt when he went to the bathroom. I tried to rinse it off and accidentally got his shirt wetter than I meant to and now it’s too wet for him to wear.”

I laughed. He laughed. Then I realized, we really did have a bit of an issue. Therapy time ticked away. Valuable time. It’s been years since I’ve kept extra clothes on hand. He could go shirtless, which would be fine with him, maybe not with the other children. I saw no solution.

I wore a cardigan over my shirt. I took it off to offer it to Andrew. His always over-expressive eyes widened, “Mom! I cannot wear girl clothes! I’ll look ridiculous!”

He pushed his arms in anyway. We rolled the sleeves up, buttoned the bottom buttons, hoping he would roll with it.

“No. No way. Take this off me now. I can not wear this!”

“Do you think one of his brothers would loan him their shirt?”

“Ha! I highly doubt it, but I’ll ask.”

I thought to myself, “There is no way they will give up their shirt, sit shirtless in a waiting room so Andrew can continue therapy.” Having no other options, I entered the waiting room to ask so I could say I’d given it my best.

“Ok, boys, Andrew had a little accident on his shirt, his therapist tried to help him out and ended up soaking the shirt. In order for him to finish therapy, he needs a shirt to wear. I tried to give him my cardigan but he won’t wear it. Is there any way one of you would be willing to loan him the shirt off your back so he can finish therapy?”

Before I completed my sentence, Jacob shot up from his seat. “I’ll do it, Mom. He can wear my shirt.”

Before he could change his mind, I whisked him out of the waiting room back to Andrew standing shirtless in the hallway.

They locked eyes and both burst out laughing. Through his laughter, Andrew said, “Stop it, Jacob.” Jacob couldn’t help himself.

“Jacob, quickly take off your shirt and give it to him so he can get back to work.” Jacob pulled his shirt off, Andrew slipped it on his head. And I watched it dawn on Jacob what he had just done.

Jacob stood exposed.

Andrew looked down at his new shirt. “This fits perfect. Thanks!” And off he and his therapist went. Meanwhile, I handed Jacob my favorite white cardigan.

He looked at it as if it were poison. “Mom, I can’t believe I just gave him my shirt. I don’t know what I was thinking! I am so embarrassed right now.”

I let it all out. Every ounce of laughter I’d been holding in. Watching Jacob put his arms into that cardigan, button up the buttons which went to about his belly button, and looking at his bare chest. Well, it was about the funniest thing I’d seen in awhile.

After I gathered myself, I stood back looking at him. “Jacob, that is the most beautiful picture of sacrifice I’ve seen. You didn’t think, you didn’t weigh the options, you didn’t count the cost to you. You gave to your brother what he didn’t have, you suffered humiliation and embarrassment for his sake. And you did it out of love.”

A blush covered his face, as he gently nodded, eyes cast to the floor. “It was weird, Mom, because I didn’t even think about it until after I’d given him my shirt. It just happened. I really can’t believe I said yes.”

“It’s the absolute perfect picture of sacrifice. When we sacrifice something from our hearts, we often don’t think about it. It comes naturally.”

A soldier who gives his life for a brother isn’t weighing his options and what he will give up. There is no time. A mother who runs into the road to save her child crossing the street isn’t thinking. She is simply acting. Often what we call a sacrifice is simply an act of love to the nth degree.

“Jacob, you had what Andrew didn’t and out of your love for him, you sacrificed. You are embarrassed, you are humiliated. Jesus did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He hung on a cross in complete humiliation. Willingly. It was the ultimate sacrifice.”

I watched the thought wash over him. It transformed his face, and I pray it transforms his heart. I know it will. Because the gospels transforms us. Not just the first time we get it, but every moment we live it.
When we truly get the gospel is when the gospel gets us. And we will never, ever be the same. It’s impossible.

Jacob showed me gospel living. The gospel is meant to be tasted, felt, experienced. The gospel is radical. Extreme. Unnatural. It’s wild abandonment of self and pride. It’s humbling.

The gospel isn’t meant to be boiled down to a Sunday School lesson leading to a sinner’s prayer. It’s so much more. It’s beautifully complex wearing the clothes of simplicity. It’s a simple message meant to be breathed in and out.

With each breath of the gospel, we come alive, and out of the life He gave for us, we can give. We can stand humiliated yet unashamed.

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Total Immersion Is The Way To Bathe Our Kids in Truth

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In 2012 and 2014, we hosted orphans from Latvia in our home. If you visit my posts in December of 2012 and June 2014, you can read all about our experiences. Both children we hosted astounded me with how quickly they learned English. I didn’t purchase a fancy language program or even buy a dictionary. It was total immersion.

In a 4 week period of total immersion, they learned more than any book could’ve taught them over the course of a year or longer. The change was phenomenal.

These children lived with us, a family actually speaking English, for weeks. They saw us living out the English language, putting it in practice moment by moment.

Training our children in the way they should go should be total immersion. In this world and this culture, sprinkling will not do. The key is that we as parents have to live it out. We can’t simply talk about God in general terms. We can’t put them in church programs and hope they become good, moral children. We have to live out the gospel in our homes.

At some point along my journey of faith, I stopped compartmentalizing my faith life and my “real” life. My lives merged and became all about God all the time. God began to change my perspective on pretty much everything.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ” These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I think God is serious about this command. Another way to translate is – Totally immerse your kids in me. Talk about me all the time. Tell them what you know of me. Tell them what I’ve instructed. Don’t ever stop. Driving carpool, fixing dinner, throwing the baseball…whatever you are doing, show them who I am. I am the great I Am.

Last week I shared the most profound parenting advice I’ve ever received. When that advice began to sink in is the point God gripped my heart.

I’ve talked to families recently that shared how empty they feel. They want to grow spiritually but feel dry. Life is busy, hard, and they don’t know where to start. If this is you, I urge you to focus on one small step today. Often we look at where we want to go, and it is overwhelming. If we focus on simply each step in front of us, eventually we will get to where we are going by focusing one step at a time. The staircase as a whole can be quite intimidating, but we can handle one step today.

So what does total immersion look like on a practical level? For me total immersion is an all in approach. I tend to be an all in or all out kind of person.

The worst advice Steve and I ever received came when we were new Christians. The advice was not to get “crazy” with our faith. At the time I didn’t see how ludicrous that advice was. Can we get too crazy for Jesus? This world could use a little more of that in my opinion.

Parenting takes an enormous about of intentionality. It’s easy to focus on intentionally creating memories, intentionally investing in their sports development, intentionally investing in their academics. However, intentionally investing in their soul is by far the most important thing we can do for our children.

Here are practical ways to become a family that is all in for Jesus. A family that desires to become totally immersed.

  1.  Prayer – Prayer is where the power is. Whatever you do, when not guided through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, is our own attempts. If we want our family to be all in, we pray us there. Begin a family prayer journal. Hold family prayer meetings. Pray before meals. Pray as you part ways during the day. Pray when you come together at night. Pray as you close out the night with each child. Pray beyond yourselves. Pray for others. Pray for this world. Pray specifically. Pray boldly. Pray as if you believe He actually cares and listens. Pray as you are driving the kids around town. Pray out loud in the car. Stop and pray immediately for things. Don’t put off prayer by saying, “Let’s pray about that.” Instead, stop and pray immediately. Guide children into the habit of praying without ceasing. 1 Thes 5:16-1816 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  2. Use Car Time Wisely – Families today spend almost more time in the car than they do at home. We are a busy society running our children to school, activities, errands, etc. Some of the deepest conversations take place in the car. Two of my boys accepted Christ while we were driving around town. Don’t discount the value of this time. At the same time, protect this time. Make car time distraction free by not allowing electronic devices to steal these moments. You are guaranteed time in the car together- guard it, protect it, and use it to immerse them. A few ideas for using car time intentionally.
    1. Audiobooks and Radio DramasAdventures in Oddysey, Chronicles of Narnia, The Story. These are a few of our favorites. Adventures in Oddysey is great for all ages. Truth in a story that captivates them from the beginning. The Story in audio is amazing. It is scripture told in chronological order as one big story. It’s powerful and we have listened to it several times through. Narnia, amazing.
    2. Christian music – I listen to one station only, and it plays only christian music. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed that I have no idea who the latest heartthrob is. I can hear a song that the world knows, and I’ve never heard it. And my kids likely haven’t either. Music is powerful. It influences our moods, our thoughts, our beliefs. I don’t believe it’s innocent fun when the lyrics speak in ways that dishonor God. I’m given a high calling to protect the hearts and minds of my kids. At their ages, I greatly control and influence what goes into their ears and hearts. I don’t want them listening to the messages of this world. The prince of this world is satan, and he uses music as one of his weapons that looks completely harmless. On the flip side, I want my kids to worship God always, not just on Sundays. We worship Him in our heart by what we allow in.
    3. Spiritual Conversations – Use this time to discuss current worldviews. Compare them to the truth of God’s Word. When my boys were little these conversations were quite basic. Now that they are older, we have used car time to discuss topics such as sex and purity, politics, abortion. We discuss apologetics, world religions, etc. Yesterday my 12 year old and I had a heated debate when he made a generalization to state his side of the argument. I agreed with his position but his method of arguing it was poor so I attempted to destroy his argument quite successfully. He became defensive and upset, which further helped me state my argument. When it was over, we had a great discussion on why generalizations don’t hold and how he could have argued his case better. This happened in the 10 minute drive from church to lunch. Every minute we have counts.
    4. Just talk – Going back to my earlier point, keep car time a guarded time where electronics aren’t welcome. Protect this time especially if you are a busy family. Great conversation happens in the car. After school is when my kids are ready to let go of the stress of the day and share their days. Enjoy each other. While in the car, nothing competes for our attention, we simply have each other. Laugh, share, invest in the relationship.
  3. Books and Movies – If we want to totally immerse, then the majority of what we read and watch should intentionally reveal God to our children. We read aloud as a family regularly. We read individually to each of the boys each night. We often read during a meal time, it could be any meal. During the summer, we read aloud during the afternoon after we’ve all had some time to rest from the day. We use these opportunities to impart truth. The options here are vast.
    1. Fiction, historical fiction, adventure books – I need to do a whole post on books. And I think I will, but for now a few favorites: The Prince Warriors by Priscilla Schirer, The Cooper Kids Series by Frank Peretti, The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black. My boys love these. I truly have a giant list I need to share outside of this post.
    2. Devotions – Two favorites are Point Me To Jesus  and Josh McDowell’s Family Devotions
    3. Apologetics or non-fiction for kids – I have so many favorites in this category. Jesus Is Alive by Josh McDowell, Heaven for Kids by Randy Alcorn, Lee Strobel’s Case books for kids (Case for Christ, Case for Faith, Case for Creator), The amazing Bible Adventure for Kids by Josh McDowell, The Awesome Book of Bible Answers for Kids by Josh McDowell, The New Answers Book by Ken Ham.
    4. Biographies or books on heroes of the faith. Christian Heroes Then and Now. Incredible. Books like The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom you simply never forget. They impact your faith and encourage you to live boldly.
  4. Slow Down – The less chaotic schedules are the more time there is to have conversations that must take place. Are your kids overloaded with activities to the point you read this list and think there is no way? If so, what can go? And what is most important in light of eternity?
  5. Talk, Talk, and More Talk – Our kids receive messages from the world at a pace that never slows and never stops. The information, the news, the social media, all of it creates a constant stream of worldliness that we have an opportunity to guide them through. But it’s exhausting and we must determine not to take the easy way out. Our kids need a constant bath in truth. A constant bath in what is holy, righteous, beautiful, pure, and good. The world has twisted ideas and blurred lines so that many kids don’t see the harm in what God sees as deadly. Our role is to keep that dialogue steady and strong.
  6. Keep them busy but not entertained – Kids today simply don’t understand boredom. They have everything they want at the push of a button and touch of an icon. And we’ve created environments where our kids believe the world spins around their desires. They struggle to see outside themselves because we spend so much energy catering to their desires. Serving as a family can be a way to walk the walk together.
  7. Read the Bible– This is critical. The Bible is truth. If they don’t know it, they don’t know truth and the world will eat them alive. They need to see mom AND dad reading God’s Word. They need to see it transform us day by day. They need to see us go to it and find answers to life’s perplexities.

I can give this list that sounds wonderful, ideal. And some will read it and think it’s impossible. Others will read it and pick one thing to focus on. Still others will go all in. But there is one key to totally immersing our kids in truth. We must be connected as a family for this to work. If the family unit is split apart because of crazy schedules, if kids spend more time with friends and activities than at home, if the relationships have been broken and torn, then some of what I listed will be met with a fight. So if that describes your family, don’t leave here discouraged. Simply start with step one. Pray. That is where the power is. Let the Holy Spirit direct you to the next step of repairing and restoring strained relationships.

The world has forever shifted. The “world” has launched a full attack against our kids. The attacks often are disguised as anything but an attack. As parents we can find ourselves wanting our kids to fit in and not be alienated. But that is not biblical either. We are aliens here and it’s ok for our kids to grow up as aliens. Otherwise, if they fit right in, they may never desire anything other than what everyone else has accepted.

1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

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The Most Profound Parenting Advice I Ever Received

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To listen to the audio recording of today’s post, click here.

Several years ago a group of us young moms sat around talking about our desire to raise children who deeply loved the Lord. Our children were babies, full of innocence and complete reliance on us. How could we raise them to place their faith in Jesus and grow in Him in a world like this?

A mentor mom listened carefully before she said something I’ll never forget, and it is the very thing to spark something inside of me changing me in ways I never imagined. This mentor mom said, “We can only lead our children as far as we ourselves have gone.”

Let that soak in for a moment. We can only lead our children as far as we ourselves have gone with the Lord.

If I stay at a pace of 5 minutes a day with God, how can I expect my children to give God more than 5 minutes of their day? If I’ve never grown to see God in ALL of my life, how can I expect my children to see God in ALL of their life? If my prayer life consists of basic “God bless us and keep us safe” type of prayers, how can I expect my children to view God as a personal God who desires intimate conversation? If I don’t let the truth of scripture guide every single decision I make, why would I think my kids would do differently?

If I make excuses for why I don’t have time to read His Word, why will my children believe His Word is more important than anything they read or do? If I prioritize my life so that I run around frantic and busy pushing God to the end of my to-do list, why will my kids want to make Him their first love? If I chase other things harder than I run after God, why will my kids want to run after Him?

When I first began to ponder these thoughts, the task seemed daunting. Until I began praying a prayer that changed everything. “God make me love you more than anything in this entire world. Make me love you more and more every single day.”

If the greatest command (Matt 22:38) is to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, I imagine that asking God to love Him more than anything else brings delight to the Father.

I want my kids to know that I love God more than I love them. More important than wanting my kids to know this, is for them to see this played out – authentically. Kids are hypocrite detectors. They know in an instant when we say one thing but live another. If I proclaim to love God more than anything, yet “loving God” occurs only on Sunday mornings, my kids will know that the love I proclaim is love with my lips only.

I talk to moms all the time who tell me they want to spend more time with God, they want to pray more, read the Bible more. They want to live a life that He flows through so that their kids will walk with Jesus and never turn away.

The only way for this to happen in the culture we live in is total immersion. No sprinkling will do.

Satan roams the earth seeking to destroy and devour our children and us. That is his goal. One of his methods is to make us love this world, to see it as mostly good with a little evil. If we view the world this way, we live in this world and we sprinkle in a little God for good measure. We take our kids to church on Sunday. Maybe Awana or VBS. We say our bedtime prayers and we hope that is enough. It’s exactly what satan hopes we do.

This world wants to consume our kids. To battle back, we must totally immerse our kids, soak, saturate them to the very core with Truth. That means reading Bible stories isn’t enough. Going to church once a week, not enough.

If we want our kids to grow up to be a light then total transformation must take place in us first. That will guide everything we do in the lives of our children.

This doesn’t mean that the spiritual lives of our kids rest solely on us. I was raised in a loving home, but one that didn’t have Christ as its first love. God is Sovereign and uses many methods for pursuing His children. Our kids are given to us for a time, and we are good stewards when we raise them to love the Lord with everything in them. Ultimately, the decision to love and follow the Lord rests on our children. But we have a great calling in their lives to model to them the way.

Parents, it starts with us. If we want strong christian kids, it starts right here in our own hearts. We surrender it all to Christ. We come to Him empty and desperate with a simple prayer. “Lord, I’m desperate for you. This world is evil and terrifying, but your Word tells us to take heart because you overcame the world. I desire to love you more than I love anything in this world. I desire to raise a family that loves you wholeheartedly. Lord, make me love you more today than I did yesterday. I’m not capable of loving you even a fraction of a degree the way I want to love you. So I ask you to make my heart love you more. Take me and transform me. Then let your Spirit overflow from me influencing the ones you’ve placed in my life. My heart’s desire is to be a family that follows you wherever you lead us no matter what.”

Often our desire to raise children who love the Lord is so fear-driven that we do the exact opposite of what we should do. We begin to push away our children from the very thing we desire for them. When we let fear rule our hearts, we cling tight, we dig our nails in, we fight. We begin to attempt to control life around us because it’s the only way we know how to fight the fear. When we do this, Christ isn’t flowing through us. We have pushed Him into the shadows. Christ isn’t fear. He is freedom, grace, beauty, and truth.

When we are ruled by Christ, we walk in total freedom. When we have soaked in His truth and know His promises, fear is pushed back into the darkness where it came from.

I tell my kids all the time they can’t control the people or the circumstances around them. All they can control is their own actions and reactions. If my greatest desire is for my kids to walk with the Lord, if I’m not careful that will take precedence over my love for God, which should be more important than my child’s walk with God. If my child’s walk is most important, fear will move in. Little by little.

Satan loves to distract us. His desire is for us to be so focused on raising kids to love the Lord, that we become desperate for it. He will shoot his arrow setting little fires for us to put out that will increase our fear. We will place all our efforts on putting out fires in the lives of our kids in order that they can love the Lord. When really, it’s much simpler than that. We make Him our first love.

When He is our first love, His light shines through and radiates to those around us. Our words won’t be as needed because all that flows from us pours out love. Love changes the world. Love changes our families. Love changes everything. It all starts with love. It all ends with love. All that happens in the middle is because love poured out for us and we’ve allowed it to flow through us to others.

The most profound advice I’ve ever received is to make God my first love. When He is my first love, I will never be the same. When love courses through me, it impacts all around me. This is why it’s the greatest commandment.

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Getting the strong-willed child to obey

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You can listen to the audio recording of today’s post here.

A strong-willed child will not be backed into a corner. They are always positioning themselves to maintain a certain level of control. The more out of control they feel, the stronger their reaction becomes.

When Andrew was a toddler, the strong will was too much to handle. I would enter into battle with him determined to win. To show this child who was really in charge. Until God began to teach me through my own strong-willed nature.

Andrew has a passion for baseball. A true love for the game. His love for the game combined with his uber social nature makes any day that ends with baseball a good day. If Andrew knows he has practice or a game, he will dress in his uniform hours before he needs to. This is why the events that unfolded caught me by utter surprise.

I told Andrew we would be leaving for practice soon and instructed him to get ready. He began to moan and complain. Excuses fell from his lips about alleged ailments that would prevent him from practicing. It was so drastically out of character, that I fell for the first 2 ailments. Then I noticed that I’d solve an issue only to have a new mysterious ailment arise.

Strong-willed children like to cut to the chase. So I laid it out there. “Andrew, what is going on? You love baseball, but today you are looking for excuses not to go. What’s going on?”

It was a new team. A new group of kids and coaches. But this has never bothered him in the past. I’d been at each practice and knew that nothing had happened to him to cause this shift.

“I just don’t want to go!”

We entered into an hours worth of debate. Me instructing him that he made the choice to play on this team. We’d made a commitment. We wouldn’t quit simply because he didn’t feel like playing now. He could choose not to play after this commitment is over. I called my husband for advice. Multiple times.

My husband and voice of reason reminded me that if I allowed Andrew to back out of his commitment out of fear of failure or for whatever reasons, I’m only setting myself up for a tougher battle next time Andrew faces a situation that looks too big and scary for him.

Andrew began to dig his heels in. “I’m NOT going to practice.” With a non-strong-willed child, this isn’t so much of an issue. With my other boys, you simply tell them the consequence for disobedience, and they oblige. Even if not happy about it. With Andrew…not the case.

“Mom, I don’t care. I’ll take any punishment you give me. No matter what, I’m NOT going.”

Deep breath. Deep breath. I began to give myself talks of encouragement. You are the parent. You are in charge, not the child. God, help!

Then the worst happened. He already needed no real excuse to not want to go. Then we realized his equipment was in his dad’s car. Now we entered a new level of freaking out. At this point I’m grabbing big brother’s glove, another brother’s helmet, another brother’s bat.

“Mom, no, this is embarrassing. I’m too embarrassed.”

“Andrew, that is silly. It’s not a big deal. We are late. Let’s go.”

A strong-willed child doesn’t care about time when being forced to go where they don’t want to go. In their head, they aren’t going anyway.

Sweat is now pouring down my back. “Andrew, I really don’t have time for this. Get in the car right now!”

“Fine, I’ll get in the car, but I’m NOT getting out of the car.”

A strong-willed child will always look for how they can maintain control. He might obey, but he still attempts to control the final outcome. Ultimately, he wants to be the boss of him and he thinks he knows best. This is the point I have to remind myself that for his spiritual good, I have to teach him to desire to live under the control of God’s will not his own.

We race away as I begin to thank God for this small act of obedience. In the middle of my praising God, Andrew begins to panic from the back seat. “Mom, turn around. Right now. Turn around. I’m not going. You can’t make me go. Turn around!”

For the 5 minutes of the drive, I tried the rational lines of communication. But if you have a strong-willed child, you know that rationalization never works. When panic set in, Andrew was unable to hear logic and reason. He didn’t care about consequences. He wanted his way.

In his younger years, I would have jumped in my heart to that point of anger. Why won’t this child obey? Why can’t he just do what I say? I’d become frustrated. Often lose my own senses of logic and reason and focus simply on getting him to do what I wanted. It’s funny because it is like a game of battle of the strong wills. We each just want our own way.

There is a difference in a strong-willed 2 year old and a strong willed 7 1/2 year old. A 2 year old will often at some point give in. Or physically you can force them by picking them up and taking them where you want them to go. I can’t physically pick up Andrew anymore. I can’t physically force him out of the car to go where I want him to go.

In all actuality, I’m not in control. Control. This illusion. As a parent, we think we have control. With a more passive child, we believe that we have the secret to parenting figured out. We can even look at other seemingly out of control kids and think the parents should take a cue from us and get those kids in line. I know this because my first two kids were compliant and obedient. Andrew is obedient, but strong-willed. If he didn’t love God as intensely as he does, I can’t imagine how much harder these struggles would become.

Control is like grasping at the air. Parenting isn’t about controlling. It’s about molding, shaping, guiding. More than anything it’s training a child to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

But in the heat of the moment, if I’m honest, I just want the child to obey. I want to train them to love God in the sweeter moments of life. When we are 15 minutes late to practice, I just want them to obey. God doesn’t parent like this. He is less concerned with outward obedience and conformance and more concerned with the heart that arrives there.

We pull into the parking lot and begin a 30 minute, yes a 30 minute, battle. He laid right there on the seat and cried for 30 straight minutes. I tried all kinds of discussions and rationalizations. My husband drove all the way to the field to bring him his own equipment. I was very clear about the consequences he would face for choosing this type of behavior. He didn’t care.

The thing that surprised me is that while I was frustrated, I felt more sad for him than anything. This child loves baseball. He loves being with other kids. He just kept saying over and over how he was embarrassed. And embarrassment is the worst feeling in the world for this child. A fear of embarrassment was causing this.

I looked on him with sadness. I saw how satan was attempting to steal this child’s joy and passion away from him by using fear tactics. And I got angry. Fuming angry. Not at my child, but at the enemy of my child’s soul.

At some point Andrew agreed to get out of the car and walk towards the field. Along the way, he collapsed on the grass multiple times. I felt the burning stares of parents as they looked on our situation from afar. I imagined their thoughts about my parenting. I imagined them saying things like, “Poor child. His mom forcing him to play baseball. He’s so young. He shouldn’t be forced to play.” I imagined them saying, “Can’t she control her child.” Or “Kids these days are just pushed too hard.” Or “If that were my kid, I wouldn’t stand for that type of display.” All kinds of things went through my head. Guess what the root of that was? Fear. Embarrassment. The same emotions taunting Andrew were chasing me as well. I’ve simply had more experience dealing with them.

Out of my fear of what others thought of my parenting, I would get down as close to his ear as I could imagine and through gritted teeth say, “Andrew, you need to get up and walk onto that field. We are now 30 minutes late. You are letting your team down. There is no reason for this.”

Actually, there was a reason. Fear. Embarrasment. Who is the author of that? Satan.

That is when it struck me. Andrew was being controlled by satan’s tactics. Andrew wasn’t in control. He just thought he was.

At this point we were halfway between the parking lot and the field. He planted his feet firmly in the grass, looked at the field, looked at the parking lot, then looked me square in the eyes. His swollen eyes looked deep into my heart. “Mommy, I’m not going. No matter what. I’m not going.”

“Andrew, I need you to listen to me. Who do you love more than anything in this world?”

“God.”

“Who hates God?”

“Satan.”

“Who wants more than anything for you to be scared and embarrassed? And who wants to keep you from doing what brings you so much joy? Who wants you to miss out on playing the sport you love with other kids you love?”

“Satan.”

“Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Right now you are letting him control you. You decide right now to show satan who is boss. Satan is not the boss. You are a child of God. You have the power of the Holy Spirit inside of you. Because of that, satan is not the boss. Show him who is boss, Andrew.”

That strong-willed nature that dwells so strongly in him, straightened his chest and stood a little taller. “I need a tissue first.”

“Ok, hold on.” I raced to the bathroom before he changed his mind. The strong-willed child always looks for some area to control. Like agreeing in his own way to go, but only after getting his way of getting a tissue (which he really didn’t need). And that strong-willed nature doesn’t want to be controlled by anything not of God. That strong will would show satan that God was actually in control.

I watched as he walked onto that field. 35 minutes late. An hour of intense battle. But it was worth the fight.

The fight is for their walk with the Lord. It’s for their confidence in Him. It’s for their need to see that God is in control and when we walk in obedience to Him, blessing awaits us.

At the end of the day, we don’t control our kids. It’s an illusion. The desire of our heart is for them to live under the control and influence of God alone. Not desiring to maintain their control, but to recognize the One who loves them fiercely and desires for them to recognize when satan is attacking them. And in those moments fight back out of that strong will and show satan who is really boss.

 

Don’t laugh at my video but do take the dare

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Last year I attended the Allume Conference, where I met Krista Gilbert (she’s next to me in the middle of that picture). It took all of 2.2 seconds for me to fall in love with her. Her heart for moms, for the family, for ministry flowed right out of her. And I loved her instantly.

One day at the conference, I stumbled into one of my friends, who quickly whisked me away to this little conference room. I had no idea what I was walking into. She told me it was a project Krista was working on, something about making a video, our roommates were in there.

I went along to support my friends and roommates. Had I known I would stand in front of the camera, I might have hung back. I’m not a quick thinker. I’m a processor, reflective in nature. I need time to decide what I think before moving or speaking on it. I like to practice what I will say before I say it to be sure it comes across clearly.

Well, I’m learning about God’s playful side. The part of Him that smiles down with a little chuckle in His heart and twinkle in His eye. I’m learning to laugh along with Him in these uncomfortable spots.

Krista invited me to record a Mom Dare, so I did. And ya’ll. Goodness gracious. Just watch the video. All I will say is that you can see my head looked like someone wound up the excited nod knob and let it go. My head is just a bobbing along, and several times I thought my smile would turn to laughter as I tried not to look at my roommates watching me do what feels soooooo uncomfortable for me!!

There is no turning back now because it is recorded and out there for the world to see. So forget my camera awkwardness and go take today’s dare.

Jump over to Meaning in a Minute and take today’s one minute dare. I do believe it will bless you. We all need to see His goodness a little bit more in our daily grind.

Just for fun here’s the awkward video.