Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Review: Parenting In the Pew

Just over a month ago I came across a review of this Parenting in the Pew book.  I believe I read the review on a Monday following a squirming Sunday service so I decided to purchase the book and try to glean anything I could about how to better prepare Abby for worship. 

Our church is very child-friendly and does not have a nursery.  It doesn't bother our pastor or the members to have wiggly toddlers making noises throughout the service.  (At least that's what I've been told.  I truly think Abby's noises bother me more than they do others.)  I've been on Pinterest and received inspiration about busy bags.  We've tried lots of things to distract her and just keep her quiet.  That's what I've seen other parents doing so I thought that's what you do at this age.  Well, Robbie has helped me understand it's important to teach your child(ren) to be an active listener and participant in the worship service.  She explains how she once attended church for her own benefit and blessing, but then realized she should be there to worship and bring glory to God.  This point was important to me as I found it so difficult when Abby was an infant to attend services.  It seemed I never got anything out of the service, but I think God was more pleased with me making the commitment to be at church.  Some days I wanted to listen to the pastor in the nursery, but was interrupted by other moms sharing their needs.  Those sacrifices only last so long and soon your child is entering a new stage . . . toddlerhood. 

Robbie provides these suggestions for parents:
  • It's the responsibility of parents not Sunday School teachers or Junior Church teachers to teach children how to worship.  (And I'm not convinced that Sunday School/Junior Church is biblical).
  • Worship does take work and requires preparation on Saturday, not just Sunday morning. 
  • Teach your child to tithe with their first gifts of money.  I remember tithing a penny out of my first dime!
  • Make sure your children sit with you as they grow up.  Eliminate diversions and this includes children sitting with their little friends.
  • Teach them at an early age to sing hymns as you point out the words for them to follow.
  • Teach them to imagine the story that is taking place as they sit through an instrumental song or offertory.
  • Ask questions about the sermon afterward to see how much they understood.
  • Don't allow the child to leave for bathroom breaks unless it's an emergency.  Take them before the service and avoid the shiny water fountain.   
I really appreciated Robbie's insight.  I plan to implement several of her ideas, but first I must wean my little one off of the snacks and distractions.  I also want to use some of the listening sheets that can be found on Pinterest now.   It's so important for children to be taught to listen.  I remember my Grandma Barrett pointing out the word "Jesus" to me and I was able to find it on the pages of her Bible before I could even read. 

I think it's important for families to worship God throughout the week.  And it doesn't necessarily have to be too structured at first.  Sit down and have prayer when you hear that someone has passed away or get a call about a loved one's car accident.  Read a Bible story to them before they go to bed.  Tell and act out a Bible story.  I know it's frustrating when they are little and don't want to finish, but it's preparing them for more later.  Keep those appetizers coming!

Robbie is a Presbyterian so there are references to their liturgical worship style and infant baptism.  The book is ten years old, but I still found it relevant.  I did purchase it used and wouldn't recommend purchasing it at full price (which I don't think I've ever done for any book).  It is a short read at 139 pages, but seems to cover an oft-neglected topic.  It definitely made me look at how I worship with differently. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Before the Lord We Bow

Morning at Tuttle Creek

Morning at Tuttle Creek

This Sunday I came across a hymn written by Francis Scott Key in 1832.  I thought it fittingly accompanied the photos of the beauty of creation. 

Before the Lord We Bow

Before the Lord we bow, the God who reigns above,
And rules the world below, boundless in power and love.
Our thanks we bring in joy and praise, our hearts we raise
To Heaven’s high King.

The nation Thou hast blest may well Thy love declare,
From foes and fears at rest, protected by Thy care.
For this fair land, for this bright day, our thanks we pay,
Gifts of Thy hand.

May every mountain height, each vale and forest green,
Shine in Thy Word’s pure light, and its rich fruits be seen!
May every tongue be tuned to praise, and join to raise
A grateful song.

Earth, hear thy Maker’s voice, thy great Redeemer own;
Believe, obey, rejoice, and worship Him alone.
Cast down thy pride, thy sin deplore and bow before
The Crucified.

And when in power He comes, O may our native land,
From all its rending tombs, send forth a glorious band.
A countless throng, ever to sing to Heaven’s high King
Salvation’s song.

This hymn was found here. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Perils of Exaggeration

 Last week numerous states in the Midwest suffered from severe weather.  Our little Kansas town was no exception.  We had some flash floods, dime-sized hail, a few downed power lines and a tornado touched down about 20 miles from us.  And no, I did not take any photos.  This photo is courtesy of Microsoft Office Clipart.  

After the storm I was preparing to email a contact regarding the weather and I found myself beginning to exaggerate some of the details.  I wasn't intentionally try to exaggerate, but I had to stop and calculate how far the nearest tornado was as I was just going to estimate it was 15 miles from us.  Now a difference of 5 miles isn't a big deal, is it?  It does make it sound as if we were a bit more in the path of harm's way though.  I actually discarded my message at that time as I reflected on my tendency to be "sloppy" with the facts.  

What is exaggeration?  Webster's 1828 dictionary states that it is "to enlarge beyond the truth."  The example sentence it gives is: "A friend exaggerates a man's virtues; a enemy exaggerates his vices or faults." So if the truth is not presented in an honest manner is what you say or write essentially a lie?  For a half truth is not the truth.  

What is the motivation behind exaggerating the truth?
  • You are seeking attention or sympathy.  (Drawing attention to one's self, wouldn't the root cause be pride?)
  • You are trying to improve your own self-image.  (Pride would be the root of this behavior)
  • Out of fear you exaggerate facts to avoid a confrontation.  (It seems pride would be involved here also).

A few verses came to mind:
"Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil." Matt. 5:37
 "So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!" James 3:5
 And a frightening statement about accounting for our words:
"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak," Matt. 12:36
Be honest in all you say. While it's wrong to embellish the truth it's also wrong to cover up the facts. Parents, be mindful to model honesty before your children.  Confess your failures when you sin in their presence.  Be purposeful in your conversation so you do not skew the facts.  Employees, don't exaggerate details about your workday.  Pastors, don't exaggerate your accomplishments and numbers.  Don't be sloppy with the facts.  We will all give an account before God one day. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Celebrating Life

"See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil." Deut. 30:15

Tonight Jeff and I attended our pregnancy center's banquet.  As we celebrated a "Culture of Life" and rejoiced in the fact that a local ministry is promoting the sanctity of life, I began to wonder if we take the time to celebrate the new life given to us through regeneration.  Wouldn't it make things simpler if we could give someone a "regeneration" test to see if they tested positive or not?  But alas, the answer is known only to God and the individual. Still, we have the opportunity to see evidences of salvation in individuals that confirm that God has breathed life into one who once was spiritually dead.

After my salvation at age seven I had an aunt who began keeping track of my spiritual birthday.  Each year for several years she would send a card she created to celebrate this special day.  I've never known anyone else to do that.  What a special way to celebrate my new life. 

Can you find ways to help celebrate new life in a believer?  Baptism is a great time for the church body to rejoice and celebrate with the new believer.  Some other ideas would be a quilt, wall-hanging, picture or new Bible with a notation regarding this special event. Isn't it sad we Christians spend more effort and expense celebrating the physical birthday rather than the spiritual? 

In closing, I must share some words on regeneration by some old fellows who walked with God. 

"What comes from this throne of grace is pure grace, and nothing else; clear grace, free grace; grace that is not mixed, nor need be mixed with works of righteousness that we have done. It is of itself sufficient to answer all our wants, to heal all our diseases and to help us at a time of need. It is grace that chooses, it is grace that calleth, it is grace that preserveth, and it is grace that brings to glory; even the grace that like a river of water of life proceedeth from this throne. And hence it is, that from first to last, we must cry, Grace, grace unto it!"- John Bunyan
"Do not think Christians are made by education; they are made by creation... The vital spark must come from above! Regeneration is not of the will of man, nor of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but by the power and energy of the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God alone!"
- C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jesus Only

Right now stores are full of Easter decorations and candies.  Churches and schools are hosting events celebrating Easter, but just like Christmas, so many seemed to have missed the point.  Some argue against Christians celebrating Easter due to it's pagan origins.  I do celebrate it, but try to remain focused on the One who was resurrected. 

As Abby grows I intend to create some Easter traditions.  Maybe next year we will try to make the resurrection cookies together.  Today we "painted" a resurrection butterfly after hearing the story read this morning at our weekly mom's group.  This weekend I plan to read the resurrection story from her Jesus Bible storybook even though it seems I can only get through about one paragraph before her attention span evaporates.  It's been some time since I've read Treasuring God in Our Traditions, but I would recommend it. Noel Piper offers parents ideas about how to honor God in your holiday traditions. 

While we should be celebrating the power of the resurrection of Christ and the spiritual life that has been imputed to us, we are distracted by food, Easter egg hunts, decorations, and candy.  Where is Christ in all of this?  Has He been forgotten and ignored? 

I'm currently reading (in addition to about 10 other books and pamphlets) Jesus Only by good ol' Horatius Bonar.  Here is an excerpt from my reading tonight:
"Do we not often, too, study the Bible as if it were a book of law, and not the revelation of grace?  We draw a cloud over it, and read it as a volume written by a hard master.  A harsh tone is thus imparted to its words, and the legal element obscures the evangelical.  We are slow to read it as a revelation of the love of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; as the book of grace, specially written for us by the Spirit of grace.  The law no doubt is in it, yet the Bible is not law, but gospel.  As Mount Sinai rears its head, an isolated mass of hard, red granite, amid a thousand desert mountains of softer and less stern material, so does the law stand in the Bible- a necessary part of it-but not the characteristic of it; "added because of transgressions, till the seed should come"  (Gal. 3:19).  Yet have not our suspicious hearts darkened this Book of light?  Do we not often read it as the proclamation of a command to do, instead of a declaration of what the love of God has done?"
And another insightful reminder from a previous page:
 "Some have tried to give directions to sinners 'how to get converted,' multiplying words without wisdom, leading the sinner away from the cross by setting him upon doing,  not believing.   Our business is not to give any such directions, but, as the apostles did, to preach Christ crucified, a present Saviour, and a present salvation.  Then it is that sinners are converted, as the Lord Himself said, "I, if I be lifted up . . . will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32)

Will you reflect on the Gospel this Easter and be reminded of the suffering of the cross, the power of the resurrection and the miracle of your own regeneration?

(Jesus Only is an excerpt from the book "God's Way of Peace" which can be accessed here)
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