Thank you to those of you who participated in our Annual Parents Survey over the past few weeks. These results have been compiled into an Annual Report and have helped inform some goals we have set for the upcoming year. All of these can be found in the PDF version of our 5 page Annual Report. Below is a preview of the first page.
The following is a great illustration from an old (1981) sermon by John Piper. Here are a few quotes…
Noël and the boys and I went out to Dick and Irene Tiegen’s place last week. They have a big dog as tall as Benjamin, which greeted us with barks and growls from where he was chained. But after we were there and in the house with the dog, he was friendly. Then we went outside again and Irene gave the warning: Don’t run from him. But as Karsten was heading out to the car, the dog came trotting up behind, and instead of slowing down and petting the dog, Karsten started to run, and immediately the dog barked and growled. What a lesson in the fear of God. Irene was Moses and she says to us Israelites, the Piper family, “Do not fear to draw near, but keep the fear of the dog (the fear of the Lord) before your eyes, lest you try to run away (lest you start to fall into sin).” God is a joy to be near and a terror to those who flee. The comparison breaks down, however: Irene put the dog in the basement, but nobody puts God in the basement.
If you are running from God because you are afraid of him, then you are not yet as afraid as you ought to be. In fact, your very flight is a mockery of God, presuming to think that you could outrun this German shepherd. If you really fear him and love your own life, stop running, turn around, and hug his neck for dear life, and he will lick your face. The fear of the Lord is fear of fleeing out of his fellowship into the way of sin. Therefore the fear of the Lord is full of peace and security and hope. It keeps us near to the merciful heart of God, our fortress, our refuge, our sanctuary, our shield, our sun. Isaiah 8:13says, “The Lord of Hosts, . . . let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, and he will become a sanctuary.” A proper fear of the Lord keeps us under the shadow of his wings where we need not be afraid.
Suppose when the dog started to growl at Karsten, he stopped running, stepped toward the dog, and put his arm around his neck, and then went slowly on toward the car. And suppose I called out, “Way to go, Karsten. Beautiful. That’s just the way to do it. I love it!” What would be the effect on Karsten? It would strengthen his hand and heart to keep on going and not give up. So it is with those who fear the Lord and hope in him. There are always temptations to allure us away from the fear of God: temptations to fear financial insecurity more than we fear God (cf. Proverbs 23:17), to fear rejection by our peers more than we fear God, to fear the loss of time spent in good deeds more than we fear God. We are tempted again and again to let go of our Great German Shepherd and run after some silly poodle. Again and again we must have our hand strengthened in God. We need to hear a saintly person say, “Well done. I love the way you fear the Lord.”
It’s the end of another long day, and it’s bedtime. My kids are old enough to get themselves dressed now, and don’t really need a “tucking” into bed. Their rooms are upstairs, and I’m out back on the porch enjoying the crickets and solitude. It is often tempting to let them meander themselves to bed, turn out their own lights, and then I’ll see them in the morning.
However, in my quest to make a lasting impression on my kids, I rise from the porch and commit myself to the last consistent rhythm to each day: Putting My Kids to Bed.
There are a few things that happen every night, and a few other things that happen upon request from the kids:
The GoodBye Handshake. You’ve got one with your kids, right? It’s secret, and we practice it everyday. It’s unique to just Dylan and Dad, but don’t worry, because Dylan has another secret handshake with Mom too.
Kiss the Girl. I kiss my boys, but they never ask for it. My daughter however, insists on it. Why would any sane father pass up a request like that? I’ve heard from older dads that it won’t always be there, and that fear alone makes me rarely pass on signs of affection from my little girl.
Saying Thank You. Many nights I work to find something really excellent my kids have done on that day, and tell them that I saw it. Maybe it’s a clean room, or a good grade on a spelling test, but I always try to leave them with something I really love about their day. Sometimes it can be difficult, but it’s usually there somewhere.
Ask about Tomorrow. Anything on your mind for tomorrow? Want to pray for anything that’s coming up?
Pray. I wish I could sincerely tell you that I pray with my kids each night, but it just doesn’t happen every single night. I read once that our kids aren’t given to us, as much as they are gifted to us for a season. That being true, I always use it as an excuse to pray this prayer:
“Thank you Jesus for letting Ryan live in my house and be my child. I’ll always be grateful for the gift that he is to this family. Help me to be a father he will follow, and help Ryan grow just a little closer to you every day. Amen.”
A rhythm is something we do with regularity. Maybe it’s everyday, or every few days, but it’s something that you could set your clocks to because it will happen. It’s my goal to leverage my normal rhythms to make the investment that lasts in my kids lives.
We are a family of 5, and inevitably every few days entails Starr or I running an errand. Whether it’s the post office, grocery shopping, pharmacy, grocery shopping for what we forgot the first time, or just skattershooting around town; we spend a lot of time in the car out and about. While it can be tempting to let the kids stay at home, and do my stuff faster, I’m learning to resist that and take them along. Here’s how it works for me:
They have to want to go.|| I don’t make my kid go with me to the store, unless they just have to. I’ll tell you that if you can make the trip worth it a few times, then they’ll be begging to be with you.
Give them a job. || Always, always, always find a reason that you could use their help on your journey. Pushing the basket, carrying something into the house, or holding something in their lap while you drive there. I sincerely do need their help sometimes, and my kids have all loved feeling needed in this way.
Ask Questions. || So you want some private, alone time with that 9 year old? Here you go. The kid is buckled into their car seat and you have them with you for however long it takes to get where you’re going. I’ve talked about this many times before, but learn to ask leading questions and use the conversation to get to know these great young leaders in new ways.
Create a secret. || I’m not a huge fan of buying my kids junk at the store, as it breeds selfishness and begging down the road. However, there are times that stopping for a milkshake and encouraging them to drink it before we get home is a golden moment to a 7 year old. I’ve bought things when we’ve been out, let them start the ignition with the car key (with me behind the wheel), shift the car into reverse and drive, sit up front on a short drive, and pick their own music on Spotify from the iPhone. All of these things are “our secret” and they love it.
Be exceptionally patient. || With 3 kids shopping, it can be an unnerving experience sometimes, but with one kid I can afford to take my time, and let them figure out things on their own. Maybe this is my issue alone, but I find it much easier to slow down when only having one kid at a time on an adventure.
Here’s the real fear parents: Your kids won’t always want to go with you. I know that day is coming and it scares me to death. Join me in making the most of the time we have and leveraging every opportunity to let our kids know us and us to know them.
Deuteronomy 6:7 “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
As a parent it can be exhausting to “find the time” to talk about what’s important. There is tremendous value in finding the time that is already there to get you started. Here is an actual nearly daily event that my family has found to be valuable.
Driving to school each morning is our first main interaction as a family.
I know, I know…we are around each other much earlier while getting ready, and sometimes eating breakfast; but we are not morning people in our house and any meaningful conversations tend to happen on the way to school.
I try not to “teach” on this car trip, as much as just remind them that I’m praying about the things that matter to them at school that day. I simply ask,
“What happening that’s a big deal at school today?”
It’s through that conversation that I can remind them how they are gifted to get through whatever their answer is. It’s also when I find out what’s on their mind in the morning, and it’s where I can speak into how excited I am for what their day holds.
It’s also on this car trip that we get to set the tone for our day. I point out beautiful sunsets, foggy meadows, and dew on the grass. I’m a nature inspired follower of God, and I get to share this with my kids each morning driving to school.
When we finally get to the end of our 5 minute drive, I always, always, always, always tell them that I believe they were made for the day they are about to have. It’s my way of coaching them into what could be a very important day for them. I’m not a rah-rah sort of dad, but why miss an obvious chance to send them off with some love?