A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: (Relatively) Painless Ideas to Help Kids Share Their Faith

New to this series? For the thoughts behind it, start here.

It was yesterday, walking to a train, that we met her—I’ll call her Gretchen. Conversation unfolded among us in the blistering sunshine. We were all drawn in by the details of her home country; the stories of her life there. At thirty, Gretchen is pretty and successful. She vacations around the world.

Perhaps that’s why I was intrigued by both my daughter and my son after disembarking the train, when she’d warmly wished us well and waved to us out the window. Completely separately, they asked me if we could pray for her, that she’d know Jesus, too.

I could tell you this is because I’m some kind of fantastic parent, but if anything, I hope you’ve picked up through this blog that I’m muscling my way through this parenting thing like anything else. (I’m sure perfect parenting is on the next blog over from mine.)

Spiritual disciplines, after all, are about cultivating, right? Richard Foster, author of The Celebration of Discipline, writes that in all these disciplines, we just prepare the soil of our hearts (and our kids’). It’s the Holy Spirit who moves. Or as the verse read which my sister neatly painted around the rim of her terracotta plant pot: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

And really? That’s what sharing our faith is about, too. When I was trained as staff with Cru, they taught that evangelism is sharing Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results up to God.

THE KEY: For kids to be confidently equipped and constantly ready to give a reason for the hope that they have—with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16). We encourage them not to view evangelism less as a single, isolated event, more as an ongoing lifestyle of bold love. The point is not for friends to pray a prayer. It’s for them to become true and lifelong disciples of Jesus.

Here are a few ways I see this unfolding with the kids in our lives.

  1. First, the heart. This is the most long-term of any of these ideas. Any child—any human, for that matter—naturally wants to share what’s fantastic in his or her life. When a new cousin’s born, your daughter can’t wait to share it with her class at show and tell. So before sharing our faith comes the experience that our faith is unstoppably worth sharing! Kids who are excited and filled by Jesus won’t share their faith as much as a have-to as a natural outpouring of who they are. To share the hope that they have—first, they must have that hope.

 

And if I may be so bold—a lot of that is a tone set by us as parents, right? Ours is not dogged religion that “works our way to heaven”. Grace is what makes Jesus different from every other religion on the planet. Kids growing up in homes where faith is authentic and grace-motivated are equipped every day to know what their faith looks like in any given situation.

 

  1. I shared in this post about how not to share your faith, and how it’s critical love must fuel all “agendas” for evangelism (please read this post for more). My kids found the video on that post, as well as the one below, hilarious. (Note for Protestant readers: This video has a minor Catholic thrust.)

My husband and I used these to generate conversation about why these methods can be off-putting for the majority of the population. As much as tracts and other tools can give kids brilliant steps and thus boldness to share their faith, I am of increased conviction that traditional methods can actually distance people from our kids because the methods are socially alienating to a modern Western audience–which can hinder loving them well. That’s not the Cross that’s getting in people’s way. That’s our lack of understanding of people—the whole “clanging cymbal” thing.

You may remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. The former’s prayer is essentially, Thanks, God, for making me better than him. The vital message for our kids: We are not the savior, but the saved. We’re about humility, not results.

  1. Equip them. (I know, I know. Now she gets to the practical part.)
    1. Help your kids to articulate their faith. For weeks in our family discussion, we’d quiz our youngest: What’s grace? We’d ask application questions, too. No, it’s not a quiz. But our kids talking to their friends first means they truly get the idea of how God saved us inside and out. Not with confusing platitudes—“I asked Jesus into my heart!”—but in ways that communicate in kid-language what Jesus did.
    2. I found this video to be a great jumping-off point for discussion with my middle-school kids. You might also try this one on sharing your faith without being pushy.
    3. Together, memorize verses that equip kids to talk about the Gospel. Here’s a good top ten list of them. You might find the music and free printable memory cards from Seeds Family Worship’s Seeds of Faith.
    4. Another gem from Cru: “The Gospel flows best through the holes in people’s lives.” In other words, people are most receptive to Jesus in the areas and seasons where they most feel their need for His answers. Talk with older kids about how to compassionately listen and come alongside friends in hard times–with true hope and comfort.
  1. Make your home the locus. Did you know that a significant portion of evangelism in the book of Acts happened from homes? In the past, I was always coached to invite people to church—and this is still a great idea! But the nuanced culture of churches can, depending on the person, occasionally increase the feeling of our friends feeling like outsiders. We’re not inviting them to a social club with all the trimmings. We’re inviting them to Jesus. I wrote here about practical ways to make your home an “open house,” and here about ways to live “sent” in your community.
  2. Pray often as a family for those around you to know Jesus. Let your prayers communicate true love and humility, and that it’s God who is the great Softener of Hearts. After all—He softened ours! He’s bringing us from death to life—and He works the same in our friends. (Prayer changes our own hearts, too.)

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Guest post: 30 Activities for Kids in March

Has your family started the spring break countdown? We want to make our time with kids intentional. But where to start? Over on EverThineHome.com, I’ve got 30 ideas to try this month. Hop on over and check ’em out!

Happy almost-Spring! (And BTW–if you like this, you might love the Relationships page, full of tons of ideas.)

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Essential Social Skills for Kids (and Ideas to Teach Them), #5-7

Missed the first post, on phone skills, table manners with a guest, conflict resolution, and greeting? Grab it here.

5. Gratitude.

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Essential Social Skills for Kids (and Ideas to Teach Them), #1-4

Think of these social skills as little golden keys to the future for your kids: They can get your kids into a lot of places! Bummer is, they can shut some doors, too, when our kids don’t master them. (Disclaimer: Writing this post does not declare my children in mastery of said skills.)

Social skills are key because manners are a form of loving others well. They lubricate the potential friction of social interactions.

(Some of them I’ve broken down because of my own experience with my son’s ADHD, such as giving him “scripts” for social situations; see #1.  I won’t speak directly to special needs in this post. But some of these ideas might work to put tangible steps onto often intangible skills.)

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 13 Easy Ways to Teach Meditation and Contemplation

Missed the first post in this new series? Catch it here.

If you’re like me, you might just be fascinated by the idea of this post because it’s hard to think of your kids meditating on anything than, say, Minecraft.

Meditation’s for quiet families, right? Maybe those who, say, needlepoint together. Not the kind of boys like mine, who I have to remind to remove all Nerf weapons from the dinner table.

Still: Even a rowdy crew like mine needs to cultivate quiet; to create space to chew on God’s Word. And that’s really meditation in a nutshell for me. (We’ll tackle solitude in a later post).

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FREEBIE FRIDAY for educators: peer evaluation/writer’s workshop rubric

I’ve been energized by the enthusiasm for this super-cool rubric (evaluation tool) for peer, self, and even teacher evaluation form for speeches and oral presentations. So I wanted to follow it up with another tool I’ve just created for use with my own students: a rubric for peer, self, and teacher evaluation for students’ writing (fiction or non-), for use in our new “writer’s workshop”.  It’s roughly appropriate for grades 4-6, complete with Lego minifigure clip art! There are two per page. I laminate these for reuse with dry- or wet-erase markers.

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6 ways to take your relationships deeper in 2016, Part II

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Click here for Part I!

 

  1. Tell the whole truth. Vulnerability takes so much security—first, in our vertical relationship with God. I find a direct correlation between my ability to be transparent with other people and my own humility. Honestly, I used to wait for others to pursue me as a display of their concern for me—and sometimes still do. But I need to acknowledge my own need for others to shoulder what I’m carrying (Galatians 6:1); that it’s not good for me to be alone (Genesis 2:18); that I can’t say, “I don’t need you!” to people of my choosing (1 Corinthians 12:21).  Now, Jesus had his own concentric circles of friendship–his intimate three, then twelve disciples, then 72, then the crowds. I’m not saying we trust anyone with our most intimate, painful areas. But friendship is rewarding proportional to the courage and intimacy we’re willing to extend; and the bar that Jesus set–love one another as I have loved you–is one that will take the rest of my life to pursue.

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6 ways to take your relationships deeper in 2016, Part I

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My dad, my mom jokes, has two speeds in life: full-throttle, and asleep.

I know this, because I inherited a lot of it. I am nothing if not intentional (if you’re skeptical, click the ideas page). In fact, before it was honed by some maturity and grace, I’m pretty confident I used to scare people off a bit, plunking down my lunch tray in the college cafeteria and asking people what God’s been teaching them lately. Pass the salt, would you?

But while my intensity may have been a little…choking…what I don’t want to miss in 2016 are relationships that convey more than 140 characters. If I’ve learned anything from the African savannah, it’s that when you’re away from your herd, it’s hard to survive. You may even get picked off.

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12 “Angry” Steps

12 angry steps

I’ve written before about my anger problem. You know. The one I didn’t think I had until I had children.

But as conflict reveals my heart for what it really is, I’m compiling a working list of practical steps and thoughts as God patiently carves away the death in my heart and slowly makes me a conqueror.

  1. Discipline with the consequence, not tone of voice. This is my most prominent goal right now! Rather than the equivalent of “slash and burn” with my anger, I aim to calmly issue a precise, rational consequence. (I’ve had three good days in a row! Yeah!) I love an illustration I heard from Dr. Dobson: When a police officer pulls you over, even before he’s done anything, you’re sweating. You’re not afraid of him because he throws a fit outside your car door. He simply flips open his tablet! A consequence, firmly and surgically delivered, can speak for itself.
  2. Anger incinerates. It’s explosive. Often I used the anger equivalent of a rifle when a BB would do. As Tim Keller outlines in this fantastic sermon on anger, my goal is not no anger, or “blow [up] anger”, but slow anger. Being slow to anger is part of God’s glory (Exodus 34:5-6), and overlooking and offense is a person’s glory (Proverbs 19:11).
  3. When I’m tempted to yell—I should whisper. It forces kids to listen! But even more, if I can control my voice, rather than disciplining with it, I control my blood pressure, too.
  4. God set aside His anger for me. His reaction toward me was grace: not a lack of justice, but an acknowledgment at the fullness of what I did—and then setting aside His wrath to deal directly with my junk.
  5. Analyze it. I’m praying God will probe my heart for the deep, true cause of my anger: what’s precious that’s being trampled on. Sometimes for me, it’s the loss of control I feel over my children, or the inconvenience they’ve caused, something in my “kingdom” (rather than God’s) that I demanded, or my lost expectations. A lot of times, an idol is revealed—that’s become more important than God, or than loving my neighbor (i.e. my child) as myself.
  6. Incinerate the sin, not the child. In disciplinary moments, opt for the scalpel rather than the grenade that cuts out the sin intentionally and precisely. I wonder what would happen if I pictured my anger as a caustic acid—useful only for deleting sin, injustice, and wrong—that will burn when it splashes outside of its boundaries?
  7. Whatever it takes, take time to step away. I hope to give myself a five-minute rule: If I’m super angry, I need to step away until I can have a reasonable degree of confidence that I’m overcome by the Holy Spirit (demonstrated by gentleness, self-control, peace, and faith) rather than drunk on rage. I’ve been known to actually tell my kids, “I need to step away right now because I am going to sin against you [or sin even more against you]”.
  8. Get honest. One reader once recommended keeping track on her calendar; she’d mark “AO” (angry outburst) every time she lost it with her family. I like the idea of motivating myself toward discipline of my emotions, and creating some accountability, whether through friends, my spouse, or even a reward or consequences.
  9. Keep the strict discipline of reconciling and restoring. Playing out the Gospel means repairing, and sometimes even restoring our relationships after I mess up (like spending some cuddle time, or taking particular care to show love). For every trespass against my kids from me, I want them to also receive my apology. I love this author’s point that one of the most important steps in discipline is restoring our relationship with our children–and that goes both ways.
  10. Make it a repetitive source of prayer. If I’m supposed to pluck out my eye if it causes me to sin—am I really hating my destructive, ungodly anger like He does? I want to pray about this habit on a daily basis, and perhaps even fast about it. I’ve got four little Xerox machines running around my house, demonstrating the power of my sin to reproduce itself.
  11. Practice and discuss “Young Peacemaker” principles. Going with my kids through principles and materials like those from peacemakers.org has equipped all of us with vocabulary and principles to deal in godly, practical ways with the conflicts that seem as thick and suffocating as smoke in our house.
  12. Set myself up for success. My soul’s currently tethered to my very physical body with all its needs and, well, hormones. Getting sleep, not skipping meals or medications, taking time to download with friends, allowing myself plenty of extra margin in my schedule (both for holistic rest, and to avoid flying out the door in a “for the love of Pete, HURRY!” rage)—all of these subtract physical symptoms that leave thinner layers of self-control around my heart. I can allow more wiggle room in my demands and expectations in hormone-charged weeks. These strategies also allow me to deal with the issues that are really there, and do so with a level, non-reactive head.

Recommended resources:

“How to be Good and Angry” by Paul David Tripp

“The Healing of Anger” by Tim Keller

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Tell us: What are some of your best anger-management strategies?

 

 

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26 Super-practical parenting hacks

26 parenting hacks

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