Intentional Parenting with a Vision for Your Family

Consider is a word that pops up all over the place in Scripture, and was even on the lips of Jesus as he invited a crowd gathered on a hillside to “consider the lilies of the field.” For most of us, there’s hardly an area of our lives that would not profit from a dose of thoughtful introspection and a few probing questions aimed at the dead-center of our motives and the purpose behind our practices. In First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship, Shelly Hunt Wildman turns a laser focus onto the subject of parenting, inviting her readers into an intentional practice of envisioning the kind of family we want and then, by God’s grace, doing what needs to be done to make that vision become a reality.

Fortunately, Shelly is writing from a place of self-awareness that prevents her from sounding off as a “parenting expert.” With honesty about her shortcomings and failures, she shares her own goal of greater mindfulness with the voice of a fellow-traveler on this bumpy road of parenting.

When we begin asking why, we open ourselves up to a consideration of the purpose behind all the things we do as believing mums and dads. If leaving a Christ-following legacy is at the top of your parental do-list, your family becomes a unique training ground where you and your children together lean in to the demands that are placed upon our lives by the gospel, all the while trusting in the promises for their glorious fulfillment.

Our Charge

“Setting a vision for our family can help us become more intentional about family life.” (Loc 172)

Family devotions in the Morin compound have always been a rowdy affair, and at times it was not obvious that anything spiritual or even educational was happening. There was the howling St. Bernard whenever we sang hymns; there was the odd question posed, now and again, for the sheer joy of derailing our train of thought; oh, and then there was the time the napkin caught fire. And yet, we persevered because, like the Wildmans, we believed, fiercely, that “parents are and should be the primary influence in the lives of their children.” (Loc 243)

Frist Ask Why

However, discipleship that sticks around the dining room table and never finds its way out into the great wide world of practical application is not in keeping with the principles of Deuteronomy 6 which describe a discipleship that happens all day long–a sitting, walking, rising, and lying down learning that takes different forms and looks different in every family.

If our goal is to develop a resilient faith, every thing we do must point our children toward a meaningful and lively relationship with Christ. In doing so, we help them to fulfill their ultimate purpose: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Our Challenge

“Heart work isn’t easy, but it sets the course of [our children’s] lives.” (Loc 175)

Therefore, the goal of parental discipline–or, we could say, the why of discipline– is to develop self-discipline or the freedom of self-control in our children at an early age. With this in mind, discipline becomes “training rather than punishment.” (Loc 593)

This mindset requires a marathon mentality, for we’re not simply in the business of extinguishing annoying or inconvenient behaviors. Instead, the goal is to instill a strong foundation of spiritual disciplines (prayer, Scripture reading, service, giving, worship) that are owned by our children as part of that growing relationship with God. The sooner we can duck out of the position as “middle man” in our children’s spiritual growth, the better.

Our Compassion

“As our kids’ love for God grows, so should their love for others.” (Loc 183)

This love will show up in obedience to God and will be evident in our child’s truthfulness, kindness, willingness to serve, and in their stewardship of gifts and possessions.

While integrity is an intangible concept, Shelly’s shared experiences and application put flesh on the bones for parents who need to become role models of truthfulness themselves and who are unclear about the difference between “being nice” and true biblical kindness. After all, there’s a good reason why the word service (or serve) is used over 400 times in the Bible.

Our Contribution

“Strong families can bless this world, and in so doing, bring glory to God.” (Loc 183)

When our crew gathers, the in-jokes fly so fast that at times I wish for sub-titles in order to keep up with the conversational flow. (And I have an inkling that maybe my obtuseness has become one of the in-jokes . . .) Family traditions and shared memories are strong cords that strengthen family ties and the sense of belonging. Road trips, crazy scavenger hunts and elaborately themed birthday parties, beach days, and big, rowdy gatherings around a loaded table are some of the experiences that have shaped our family’s culture and identity.

Having said that, part of our job as parents is also to reinforce the value of diversity, “recognizing that cultural differences between people exist without assigning them a value–positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong.” Children with strong roots are free to explore other cultures and to step outside their comfort zone through travel, diverse reading and viewing options, and openness to friendships with people of various cultural backgrounds.

Ambassadorial Work

The parenting journey is a mission with the goal of connecting our children with Jesus. Paul Tripp refers to it as “ambassadorial work from beginning to end. . . [P]arenting is not first about what we want for our children or from our children, but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children.” And so, we do our best work when we intentionally seize every opportunity to turn their thoughts (and our own) toward Him.

First Ask Why is not a do-list to stimulate parental guilt. It is an invitation to consider the uniqueness of each child, who they are becoming, and how they can best fit into the plan of God. As we ask ourselves the all-important why questions about our parenting practices, and as we consider the growing and the learning and the letting go of the parenting journey, let us first consider Jesus, for He alone can enable us to make our parenting vision a reality.

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.


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Musings: January 2018

He floats the question, and I almost miss the impact.
Coming as it does in the midst of a firestorm of holy fury against the false prophets who are Jeremiah’s contemporaries, the question sounds rhetorical:

 “’Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?
Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?
Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”  (Jeremiah 23:23, 24)

Immanent and transcendent, God declares Himself to the ears of those who want nothing of Truth, and Jeremiah faithfully stored up His words for us today. We know from reading his howling laments that Jeremiah was no stranger to the sense of God’s absence. A condition that prowls every believer in every era, I wonder if we notice as acutely in our time?

Oswald Chambers warned against it:

“Guard jealously your relationship to God. . .  Are you drawing your life from any other source than God Himself?” If you are depending upon anything but Him, you will never know when He is gone.”  (January 20th)

He who “fills heaven and earth” is certainly never “gone,” but with a Word that comes to us as both fire and hammer, it’s incredible that we miss His voice so easily.

On My Mind

Along with Jeremiah’s Old Testament words, I’m up to my fetlocks in G.K. Chesterton these days. Finally after a number of false starts, I decided the only way for me to make it through his classic work, Orthodoxyis to give myself the entire space of 2018 to do it, and to commit myself to showing up here once a month with a collection of ponderings.

Orthodoxy

You’re invited to join me in this project. I’ve been surprised at how many readers have already said they want to come along for the ride. You can read my first post here. By way of accountability, I’m planning a February 15th post on my reading up to this point. Grab a low-cost version of Orthodoxy for your Kindle, and be sure to share your thoughts and your progress as you read.

Around Our Table

 

The Morin family has entered a new era in parenting. Our youngest son is now 16, and we celebrated for an entire weekend. It was great, and all the ruckus was an appropriate marker to get us ready for the upcoming license test, the new job, and the busy schedule that are part of the package in this growing and changing family.

We enjoyed having our third son home from college over Christmas break, but he loaded up his Ford Ranger and headed back to school in mid-January, so I am once again faced with more leftovers at supper time than I’m accustomed to.

On the Blog

A Guide for Living Well as an Introvert of FaithI’m continually thankful for the insightful comments you folks leave behind whenever you visit. Apparently a good number of you are introverts, so you resonated with the insights offered by Adam McHugh in his wonderful book Introverts in the Church which balances the extroverted culture of the North American church with truth that it is possible to thrive as an introvert of faith.

 

The More You Were Made ForIt’s always a joy to write and to share Truth in community, and God-Sized Dreams extended their customary warm welcome to me in the month of January when I kicked off our read-through of Holley Gerth’s You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream. The post was an invitation at the beginning of this new year to stop listening to the voices who say your dream is not big enough – who say that your dream is not really God-sized because it does not call for a more exotic address or a job title with a greater wow factor. Pursuing a God-sized dream is “not about what you do as much as how you do it. It’s about pursuing life with passion and purpose and going with God wherever He leads.”

I was given the opportunity to feature a new resource for family devotions, a guide for readers who want to practice the spiritual discipline of journaling, and two great books for grandparents who want to love their children AND their children’s children well.

Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental LifeMy favorite post for January was my review of Michelle Ule’s biography of Mrs. Oswald Chambers. Published in 1927, My Utmost for His Highest has sold more than 13 million copies and has never been out of print. Over the course of its 90+ year history, it has been translated into 40 different languages, and Oswald Chambers’s unique and timeless wisdom is quoted far and wide. However, until recently, little thought has been given to the fact that My Utmost was not published until ten years after Chambers’s death, and that it was his wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs Chambers who took on the mammoth task of compiling and editing nearly twenty years’ worth of sermons and lessons.

The snow that is falling outside my window this afternoon is barely perceptible. Even so, it is adding to the carpet of white that has stayed with us for most of the month, and while snow complicates life at times, I’m thankful for its beauty. I’m also thankful for the many ways in which you “show up” here at Living Our Days, and for the opportunity to connect around books and around eternal truth.
Blessings and love to you! 


I have begun to experiment with including Amazon affiliate links here in my book reviews. If you should decide to purchase any of the resources reviewed in this post, click on the title below, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture|
Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling DevotionalTeach Us to Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship through the Year
Journaling for the Soul: A Handbook of Journaling Methods
Grandparenting: Loving Our Children’s Children (Lifeguide Bible Studies)
There’s a Reason They Call It Grandparenting

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Gifts of Easter

In a decision that somehow manages to seem both arbitrary and precise, the Council of Nicaea met in 325 A.D. and determined that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after the first day of spring.  Easter and spring are also holding hands in Anne Vittur Kennedy’s festive board book, One Spring Lamb.

From sparkly cover to peaceful conclusion, children will enjoy the rollicking rhymes and vivid illustrations.  Parents will appreciate the fact that this celebration of the resurrection is also a counting book in which two lilies dance in the breeze, and three little girls and four little boys are all dressed up for Easter Sunday.  The fun goes on all the way up to the challenge of finding and counting ten stuffed bunnies in a child’s cozy bedroom, and the stated conclusion that the best Easter gift of all is the joy of knowing that “Jesus lives and loves me so.”

By the way, that adorable spring lamb shows up somewhere in every scene!  My grandson and I enjoy a lively game of “Where’s the Lamb?  There he is!” when we read it together.  Who will be the first to spot the each time at your house?

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This book was provided by Tommy Nelson, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

Easter Morning and Every Morning

Holding hands around a table; a focus on gratitude and shared celebration; dressed in their Easter best, the Berenstain Bears lead the way into a fun and family-oriented celebration of Resurrection Sunday.  Presenting as normal the discipline of church attendance, prayer before a meal, and portraying the beauty of love and respect among extended family, Easter Blessings by Mike Berenstain (son of Stan and Jan who began the series in 1962) will come alongside the parents of young children with words and ideas for a meaningful celebration.

All the blessings that we enjoy (and take for granted) come through the hand of the God who orchestrated the miracle of the resurrection.  Join the Berenstain Bears in counting and listing Easter blessings.  Beginning with the glory of a spring morning and a cozy tree house, they move in ever widening circles to include friends, the church family, and the public servants who care for us and keep us safe.  In the weeks leading up to Easter, write them on slips of paper to hang on a spring-branches bouquet, or toss them, one by one, into a festive Easter basket and then read them all during Easter dinner.

What a gift to hold this small board book in one hand and to share it with a tiny lap child, to join the Bear Family as they worship in the Chapel in the Woods, and to be reminded of the greatest Easter blessing of all:

Yes, He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

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This book was provided by Worthy Publishing Group in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

A Saint to Celebrate

Soon the Leprechaun traps will appear in our home, constructed from oatmeal containers, Legos, Lincoln logs, and an old cracker box painted green.  They get a bit more sophisticated every year, but the bait is always the same:  the golden Legos and anything else the boys can find that resembles gold.  In the many years that we have been “trapping” Leprechauns, we have yet to capture anyone, and, to be honest, the only real proof that we have of the Leprechauns’ existence is the havoc they wreak upon our house every St. Patrick’s Day Eve (a little-known observance, to be sure).  They’ve been known to turn the milk green, to kidnap stuffed animals and dress them in green clothing, and even to write “Leprechauns Rule – Boys Drool” on our windows in green finger paint.  Our sons are highly motivated in this business of building Leprechaun traps, because the sneaky little guys in green always spring the traps and leave behind some of their treasure:  golden wrapped candy.

Obviously, there is no spiritual significance to this crazy holiday tradition — unless one values the teaching that God invented fun and delights in creativity — but, it certainly heightens my boys’ interest in reading stories about St. Patrick, both historical and fanciful.  Flame Over Tara has been read aloud several times in our home, coming to us as part of our history curriculum, but finding a home on our bookcase and in our year.  Author Madeleine Polland has masterfully woven two young fictional protagonists and their families into the context of the Roman Empire’s expansion across the Channel and Patrick’s arrival in Ireland in 432 A.D.  Macha, a young teen, but of marriageable age in that culture, and her eleven-year-old foster brother Benet meet Patrick on the day of his arrival and are drawn by his mystique, his talk of a foreign God, and their father’s revelation that Patrick’s arrival fulfills an ancient prophecy.

With all of Ireland’s spiritual life in the grip of the Druid priesthood, superstition and magic are all the Irish knew of spirituality.  Patrick’s arrival is met with distrust and outright hostility, especially among the Druidic advisors to King Leary.  Young Benet is swiftly chosen to apprentice under Patrick; therefore,  Macha is seized with restlessness and a desire to learn more about Patrick’s God.  An impetuous decision imperils her family, endangers Patrick,  and spreads political intrigue all the way to the royal palace.

Wise as a serpent, Patrick challenges the rituals of darkness during the Druid’s high holy day, trusting his God, his knowledge of nature, and the brain that God gave him.  Drawn into the crisis, Benet demonstrates faith in God and loyalty to his mentor under incredible pressure, and Macha matures into a deeper understanding of what it means to follow the true and living God.  Polland’s rich narrative provides the back story to many of the blarney tales behind the legend of St. Patrick, resulting in an account that is both historically enlightening and God-exalting.  Flame Over Tara is a great addition to a homeschool curriculum and a great family read-aloud for the month of March!