Incline my heart

Each morning before the house awakes I sit here in my sunroom reading.  A room with so much light has convinced me to begin a small collection of houseplants.  I watch them from day to day determining what needs water or which plant has outgrown its planter and needs an upgrade.  Sitting nearest to me is a small violet in which I have made its home in the cutest little vintage hippo planter.  It started small and I wasn’t sure it would live.  However, over a period of weeks it has flourished and doubled in size.  Recently, I noticed that it was leaning, almost hanging over the planter.  At first I wondered if I hadn’t rooted it well and it was becoming top heavy.  Then my thoughts went to the light.  If you have ever grown plants you are aware that plants grow toward the light.  Why?  Plants turn the light into energy which then allows them to grow or perform any other activities needed to survive.  We also know this process as photosynthesis.

2014-04-28 15.06.01

I decided to conduct a little experiment to determine the reason for my leaning violet.  I turned the planter 90 degrees so the opposite side would face the light.  I didn’t notice anything for several days but a week later I can already see a difference.  It is in a more neutral position.  My guess is that over the next week or two it will again be leaning toward the light.

2014-03-03 12.20.18

Left to my own devices, my own flesh and blood, I have little in common with the violet.  Naturally I do not lean toward the light.  Actually, I lean away from the light.  Romans 3:10-18 explains the evil of my flesh.  Verse 12 specifically says “all have turned aside”.  Turned aside means “to lean in the wrong direction”.  According to John MacArthur these words were used to describe “a soldier’s running in the wrong way, or deserting”.  He also goes on to say that “all people are inclined to leave God’s way and pursue their own.”

What if my little violet were to lean itself away from the light?  What would happen?  My assumption would be that it would not flourish and grow and very possibly it would die.  Isn’t this true for me as well?  What happens if I continue to live according to my flesh, my “natural” ways, leaning away from the light?  Will I also wilt?

IMG_4200

But . . . there is hope for my natural ways!!!!  Jesus Christ!  He was crucified, buried, and rose again in order for me to be able to lean toward the light.  He is the light of the world (John 8:12) and He lives within my soul!  I have the light of life because I am a follower of Him (John 8:12).

Does this mean I am perfect?  Will I always lean, as my little violet, toward the light no matter what position I am placed in?  Absolutely not!  Even though I am a child of the one true God there is still, while on this earth, a battle raging in me between the flesh and spirit.  I will still have a tendency to lean away from the light.

My encouragement in this battle is that I don’t have to wonder how the battle will end.  He is victorious!!

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace?  Romans 6:14 
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33 
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

And as I battle, my prayer is that I will delight in His law and that He will incline my heart to Him!

My delight in the law of the Lord will result in me being like a tree planted by streams of water which yield its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.”   Psalm 1:3 
“Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain.  Psalm 119:36
 
IMG_4287
Advertisements

Is it really up to me?

Anything is Possible
You know that I’m unstoppable
When I try there’s nothing I can’t do
Anything is Possible
I can overcome any obstacle
It’s up to me to make my dreams come true

Cherry Jam’s sweet voice echoes through my kitchen, Roxie Kyle happily crunching her carrot sticks and dancing to the beat.

It would be easy to dismiss this song as just an innocent way to boost kids’ confidence.  But you know, I can’t shake it.  I want Roxie Kyle to have confidence.  I want her to work hard at whatever is put before her (Colossians 3:23).  But I do not want her to think that it’s up to her.  I don’t want her to think that she’s unstoppable.

IMG_3792

We aren’t planning to ban Cherry Jam from our house anytime soon.  It is unrealistic to think that we can shelter her from the world.  However, it is realistic that she can be taught how to be in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:2).  Our children have been entrusted to us and this is not a task to be taken lightly.  It is my desire to guard my little girl’s heart from the world’s teaching.  And as she grows I will strive to teach her how to filter the world’s view through God’s truth.  Gloria Furman (2013) says it like this, “Pass everything the world presents you through the sieve of the Word of God—what does God’s word say about it?” (p. 56)

The world says that it is up to us to make our dreams come true.  We can do anything we put our heart to.  God’s Word says, “apart from God you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  God’s Word says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The confidence I want my children to understand is their confidence in God not a confidence they can “muster up” on their own.  John Piper addresses this in a sermon entitled, “Raising Children Who Are Confident in God”.  Based from Psalm 78:4, Piper (1996) states, “Knowledge that leads to self-sufficiency rather than dependence on God is not true knowledge but flawed knowledge.”

They are already inundated with views from the world at the young age of two.  There’s no time to look at the small things as innocent or harmless.  Now is the time to begin teaching and protecting my children under the truth of God’s Holy Word.

In addition, I must say that this practice of filtering all things through God’s Word is not something that I should compartmentalize for my children.  Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I am “safe”.  Paul addresses the reality of false teaching in his letter to the Galatians.  Whether secular or religious resources I encounter in my adult life, I should do the same.

IMG_3784

B and I are always looking and listening for resources with a biblical foundation to bring into our home.  We have discovered a DVD series entitled “Theo Presents”.   My children have latched on to the series so much that they now ask to watch, “Theo”.  The series is created by Michael Joens who also produced and directed “McGee and Me” and “Adventures in Odyssey”.  His premise is to use cartoon animation to present the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Each DVD has three episodes that average 10 minutes in length.  Each episode focuses on a spiritual topic such as armor of God, forgiveness, fruit of the spirit, and redemption; just to name a few.  In addition, there are parent guides that come with the DVD (they can also be downloaded from the website), coloring pages available for printing, and other resources that can be found on the Theo Presents website.  I would love to hear about the “Theos” in your families’ lives.

Furman, G. (2013). Glimpses of grace. (p. 56). Wheaton: Crossway.
Piper, J. (1996, February 25). Raising children who are confident in god. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/raising-children-who-are-confident-in-god
(2012). Jammin with cherry jam [DVD]. United States. Twentieth Century Fox.

The question is the engine

Catechism.

This is a word you probably don’t use on a daily basis.  You’ve heard it, I’m sure.  But what does it mean?

A catechism can be defined as a “series of questions and answers that systematically teach a body of information” (Hunt & Hunt, 1999).

What does this matter to me or even to you?  Well, I’m a parent.  And you possibly are a parent (or will be someday).  Deuteronomy 6 makes very clear that I should teach my children diligently His words.  Ephesians instructs us to bring our children up in the instruction of the Lord.

IMG_3942

I don’t know about you, but to me this is an intimidating task.  God has entrusted B and I with these children to teach them about God and point them to Him.  Noel Piper, in her book Treasuring God in our Traditions (I highly recommend it!) says, “God can only be inherited from God.”  This takes a lot of pressure off of me as a parent.  She goes on to say that, “We only become God’s children through our faith, not through our parents’ faith.” Again, some weight falls off my shoulders.  I cannot “save” my child.  I can’t force them to be God’s children.  God doesn’t expect me to do that and He knows I can’t do that.  However, I can, as Noel Piper says, “help them know him and understand him in ways that prepare them to believe in his name.” (Piper, 2007)

IMG_3964

So, what does this have to do with the catechism?  Well, I have found that a great way to focus my home is by teaching the catechism.  Let me tell you what this looks like for us.

I start with one catechism question.  There are several questions in the resource I’m using and there’s no exact science on which one I started with.  Honestly, I just started with the ones that seemed easiest for my kiddos.

Question:  “Who made you?”

Answer:  “God made me.”

I repeat the question numerous times to my children.  When I first start asking, I say both the question and the answer.  Eventually the children start answering it on their own.  This question is the engine for other activities that go on in our home.  Once I have a question that we are focusing on I tailor the books I read, the songs I sing, what I pray aloud with them, even the scripture I speak aloud.  Here’s some examples.

Song: God Made Me by Randall Goodgame (All of the slugs and bugs cds are wonderful!!!)

Book: God Made Me by Roger Priddy

Scripture:  Psalm 139:13-16, Genesis 1:27

A neat idea for older children when talking about the catechism of God creating us– would be to travel to the Creation Museum.  There are so many ways you can teach your children about this one question.  (P.S. After I wrote this post I found these preschool activities about the creation story) 

My kids are two years old so I have set a goal of teaching them at least five questions and answers throughout the year.  Each child is different and obviously depending on their ages you can even set a goal to learn one a week or one a month.  Below I am posting some other ideas, some of the resources that I use both in book form and websites. 

I am learning more every day how difficult it is to focus our children on God’s truth in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.  But it is critical, non-negotiable.  So we have to find ways that work best for our families on how to execute this task.  I’ve included suggestions in this post–just ideas that I thought some might find helpful.  Sisters in Christ, fellow moms, we’re in this together!  If you have ideas please share by commenting on this post.  I would love to know what other moms are doing!

Ideas on how to reinforce the question

  • Post the question and answer somewhere in the home for all to see.
  • Plan a writing activity where the children have to express what they think about the question.
  • Provide an opportunity for the children to share the question and answer to others.
  • Create a hands on activity where the question takes the form of a visual to help them remember.

Resources (books)

Resources (websites)

Hunt, S., & Hunt, R. (1999). Big truths for little kids. (p. 5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Piper, N. (2007). Treasuring god in our traditions. (pp. 17-18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.