Thursday, 26 July 2012

Train up a child in the way he should go...a challenge for us all.

I had had this on my mind for a long time, when my study with GoodMorningGirls on the Proverbs 31 woman took me to this verse this week: Proverbs 22:6 "Point your kids in the right direction - when they're old they won't be lost. " (The Message). Indeed.

Please don’t look at the title and think ‘This won’t apply to me, I don’t have children.’  Yes, it does. Children are our future and we can all help them grow into the people God means them to become.

I was saddened recently when, at a wonderful local church conference, there were very few children. The event was held over a whole weekend and had carefully planned, age appropriate activities. The leaders were hugely creative and energetic: the children who joined in had a wonderful time. While the Sunday morning was well attended, the Saturday was not. Even a church known for its thriving children’s ministry had only a few children attend. I wondered why.

We are fortunate to live in a place where there are wonderful opportunities for people of every age. Thriving sports clubs; an active Music Centre where talents are developed; and a huge variety of other activities, from cooking to candlemaking, are all on offer. Weekends are VERY busy. Church is fitted in on Sundays around football practice and outings with the family. There is little – or no – time for anything extra.

Yet...where do priorities lie? Do we seek to teach our children how to put God first, when we choose a rugby match over worship, swimming club over walking on water, pantomimes over prayer?  I’m not suggesting that children should not develop their talent for sport, or music, or art and craft, but I do think we need to keep alert for opportunities where our children have the chance to meet with God.

As a teacher, I know how thirsty children are to experience God. A few months ago we hosted a Prayerspace in school. Over the two day period, the children crowded in at lunchtime, forgoing the chance to play football or run around outside. They pored over the prayers put up on sticky notes, chatted about how special they were in God’s eyes and sat thoughtfully in the ‘quiet tent’. A couple of weeks later, when I referred to the Prayerspace in assembly, there was the most incredible sigh of eager expectation from the whole school – a truly holy moment which I have never, in all my years of teaching, experienced.
Children long to know and have an encounter with God.

Now, before I go any further, I am well aware that, whatever we do or don’t do, ultimately a child’s decision whether or not to follow Jesus is entirely their choice. We cannot force, cajole or manipulate them to do so – temporarily, possibly, but not in any lasting way. There are many prodigal children of godly parents and we pray for their return. Nothing we can do will make them love God any more and nothing we can do will make them love God any less.

We can, however, encourage them. To paraphrase Romans 10:1, 13 – 14 (NIV):
‘ heart’s desire and prayer to God for children is that they may be saved... for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?’ And, may I add, how can the children be told about Jesus unless they are brought to places where his life is demonstrated and taught? (Emphasis mine)

Many churches have good children’s programmes running on Sunday mornings, with classes for all ages up to the teens. Often, all may be well until the age of 11. Then children may start to complain, dragging their heels so that it becomes harder for parents to take them. Eventually, as they enter their teens, children refuse to attend church. The primary school age is of tremendous importance, the best chance to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV.)  Attending church every Sunday is a brilliant place to start, but we need to take every opportunity to encourage our children in the development of their faith.

Here are a few practical suggestions:

Put them in places where they can hear the Word  and experience the Holy Spirit. This is, obviously, Sunday school or children’s church on a Sunday morning.
Vacation Bible school – holiday clubs at half terms and during the holidays are wonderful opportunities. Many churches organise these, either themselves or booking a visiting team. If your church doesn’t have anything like this but other churches in the area do, take your children along. Or perhaps get a team of like-minded folk and organise one yourself – even two or three days long. There are numerous resources available to help you.

Age doesn’t matter: children are never too young to experience God. We need only to look at how John the Baptist ‘leapt in his mother’s womb’ when he recognized Jesus, or to Samuel when he heard God calling him in the night. I was privileged to serve on the team for 3 – 4 year olds at one of the New Wine summer conferences: we were soon reminded that God’s spirit is not confined to age, as these tiny children prayed for each other and their leaders, as a consequence of which we saw physical healing take place. Not only that: I was moved to tears as one mother related how the life of her three year old, as a result of attending the sessions for just one and a half hours a day for just five days, had completely turned around. This is not normal: this would not have happened in a day nursery: this is the Holy Spirit.

Encourage children by your example: Let them hear ‘God talk’ around meal times – don’t hide your faith from them but don’t be super spiritual either. Let them hear your prayers;  see you make your home group a priority above your own convenience; welcome friends and strangers into your home, hosting gatherings whenever you can. Inviting a missionary to a meal can have a powerful impact on your children as they listen to the discussion of the missionary’s work and calling.

Model to your children how much you value learning more about God. Apart from letting them see you study your Bible and pray, show your appreciation for their Sunday school teachers with an occasional gift, or discussing their teachers’ good qualities and hard work  over dinner.
Listen to the children when they talk to you and encourage them to ask you questions. Discussion helps develop their interest and understanding in a way that talks and sermons, however good they might be, cannot do.

Take them out of their comfort zone. Nowadays, children can sometimes be over-protected. We are so aware of health and safety in all aspects, particularly ‘stranger danger’, both physically and online, that we are careful to shield our children from anything which might be at all risky for them.
Yet we as adults know that faith is often spelt R.I.S.K. We need to make sure that our children are gently challenged to grow into faith and we can do this by taking them out of their comfort zones, with our loving support. Taking my children to a huge Christian conference was challenging for all of us, not just my children: it was the first time we had experienced worshipping with thousands of others. But it was also the first time that my daughter had a powerful experience with the Holy Spirit – before, even, than I myself. It was an experience which has stayed with her many years later.

Persevere with independence. If there is a child-friendly Christian event such as a conference or holiday club, but you don’t know anyone else attending: take your child anyway. Children may be a little nervous if they don’t know anyone to go with, but in my experience children’s leaders are so welcoming that children rapidly settle in and are more enthusiastic about returning the next day than adults would be. Don’t let them miss out because of initial nervousness.

Choose to act sacrificially.
Putting your child in a place where he or she has the opportunity to come closer to God comes at a cost: time, convenience, money – even status. For example, many parents sacrifice their holiday time to take their children to a Christian conference. This doesn’t quite have the same cachet as a week in Biarritz! Your colleagues or neighbours may think this very strange.
Challenge your children. A  dear friend related how Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators (renowned for its discipleship ministry and emphasis on memorizing Scripture) was visiting her parents. He asked her which Bible verses she knew – not many! She explained that she had a poor memory and couldn’t learn Bible verses. He then started chatting to her about the latest top music hits. She replied enthusiastically, reciting several of the lyrics. When Dawson Trotman gently showed her that she knew the lyrics well simply because she had listened to them over and over again, she realized that she could apply the same principle to learning the Bible and so developed a lifelong habit of memorization.

Encourage godly friendships. Invite other families over: for coffee, to lunch after church, planned or potluck. Make arrangements to do things with other families – pick things the children will enjoy!

Finally, for parents: be careful about the choices you give your children.
There have been several times when I did not allow my children to ‘opt out’ and God blessed them in an amazing way. Another friend, when her children started to complain about having to go to church on a Sunday, took them to a church with a less child-friendly program. Within a couple of weeks they started begging to go back to ‘their’ church and never looked back in their spiritual development. We need to listen to our children while not necessarily giving them whatever they want – we know the truth of this regarding diet, sleep and exercise and this applies to spiritual growth as well.  As adults, protecting  our children can mean saying ‘no’ at times. Choose their activities carefully, as far as you can. Make quite sure that you really do want your child to be a rugby star if  a commitment to Sunday morning practices means that they will not be able to go to church. You may have the chance to attend church on a Sunday evening but, in my experience, evening services rarely cater for the under 11s.

What about older children and teens?
All is not lost! Volunteer to help and get them to come along with you. Although they won’t often admit it, teenagers love to hang around adults when they can listen to interesting conversations. They go through a ‘wallpaper’ phase – as silent as the walls but all eyes and ears. They soak up God talk without knowing it.

I feel passionately about our children’s spiritual development. My own children are now adults:  this has not diluted my eagerness that we should take every opportunity to encourage the children we know. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, neighbours... one of my friends became a Christian because a neighbour first took her to church when she was two.  We should not forget that children are adults in the making: that our prayer for them should be that “ our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage their hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”  (2 Thessalonians 2:16 – 17)
Let us remember that, unlike physical growth, our children’s spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically – God has no grandchildren. We know this deep down but culture tries to tell us otherwise, with its individualistic emphasis on choice and freedom. Let’s take every chance we can to help our children make WISE choices so that they can find true freedom – in Jesus.

So I should finish by pointing you to much wiser sources of help and information in this parenting adventure: here is a link to Women Living Well - a list of recommended reading and a blogging gateway of endless tips and encouragement!

Also linking up with: 

Life In Bloom

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Can you describe a time when you were waiting for something to happen or someone to visit?  How did you feel?

Today we’re thinking about waiting on the Lord.  Christian-speak, even jargon, often heard.  Waiting for...what?
Something to happen. Something to change a situation, a person.
How often do we ‘wait on the Lord’ to hear Him SPEAK to us?

What should we wait FOR?

The right gift. Acts 1:4 - 5, NIV  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The right person. A Messiah to save us.  John 4:25-27  The Message
 25The woman said, "I don't know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we'll get the whole story."
 26"I am he," said Jesus. "You don't have to wait any longer or look any further."
We don’t need to look anywhere else when we are in trouble. Not to family, or friends, or man-made solutions. Just Jesus. And we have the gift of the person of the Holy Spirit, so...first response: prayer!

The right time. John 7 (NIV)
Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want[a] to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do.No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.You go to the festival. I am not[b] going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.”After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.
Jesus Teaches at the Festival
14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”
16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

The right response:
Can you think of a time when you waited impatiently but realised afterwards that the timing, when it actually happened, was perfect? What about when a delay doesn’t seem good, even in retrospect? How do we reconcile that? Can you think of changes – perhaps in the situation, maybe even in yourself, in your attitude – which were good in spite of the delay?
James 5:7-8 The Message Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master's Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

What does ‘waiting on the Lord’ look like? How do we do it?

As I was preparing this, an email from Ed, a Christian writer whose blog I follow, dropped into my inbox with an attention-grabbing ‘ping’.
Do you ever find yourself hoping for an email or a text from a friend or family member? You wait and wait, but nothing happens?  Perhaps you have asked a question, or, after a long message, are hoping for a response, an acknowledgement even, something which communicates that the other person has been glad to hear from you?  I’d like God to ‘ping’ me an email or a text, a quick response to a request or an out of the blue message which connects my emotions to him.
If I’m not waiting at the computer, or near my phone, I won’t hear that alluring ‘ping’.
What does that look like in my life with God?
“I lug a copy of the Divine Hours around the house all day in an attempt to remember to pray a few times throughout the day.
I jot down notes during the sermon.
I sing the same slow song each week at church as a confession of my sins.
I crunch on a juice-stained wafer for communion.
I read a bit of the Bible each morning while eating breakfast.
This is not exciting stuff by any measure. I often have to force myself to open my prayer book in the middle of a busy day or to put aside an amusing book at bed time in order to focus on the Compline. Watching a hockey game, even a Bluejackets game, strikes me as a bit more exciting than prayer or sitting around at church.....
I need to do these “boring” things because they reorient me. Oftentimes I don’t even perceive the ways I’ve been drifting away from God and from others before it’s too late. Lots of times sin works like that: we drift away little by little until temptation pounces on us when we’re far away from God and our defenses are down.
There is something effective and necessary about the daily gentle prods of prayer, scripture reading, and worshipping in community. They aren’t magical remedies for sinful ailments, but they can provide the timely pushes, the sustaining words, and the stories we need to stay on track, to draw near to Jesus, and to stay there.”
So ‘waiting on God’ means drawing near to him with conscious choices to pray, to read, to listen to others speak His truth...
Galatians 5:4-5 The Message When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit.
This is why we would do all these things – to deepen our relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

Above all, we wait with eagerness and expectation, LOOKING FORWARD to what is coming.
Romans 5:3-6 There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
 6-8Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway.

Romans 8:18-25  The Message
 18-21That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
 22-25All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

So waiting is for now, and for the life to come. This is the verse which most helps me wait:
Hebrews 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

In The Message: Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
 1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
I’m there, way back from the starting line of the Marathon, walking slowly forwards. Right at the back, but I’ll get there.  

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


Yes, happily married for nearly 28 years...why on earth would I be posting on courtship?
Just  because I have read a couple of good posts from stayathomedaughter - also now about to be happily married - and, as I can't pin them, I need to save them here for future reference. Someone might ask me for advice one day - you never know.
Okay? So...
5 stages of courtship...
Our courtship story...meeting Mr Right - and the fiance's version, too - both a bit 'over the top' but good, cautious advice for those who don't get  bowled over by instant revelation.
Worth a read, a think, and a pick-out-what-is-useful.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Thoughts on strength...and Proverbs 31

In our study of the Proverbs 31 good woman with Good Morning Girls, we were reminded that:  the joy of the Lord is our strength; that we should do whatever our hands find to do with all our might; and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

We are to be strong physically, mentally and emotionally, and spiritually.

Yes but how?

We need to remember that strength comes from God: it sounds obvious, but how often do we remember this?  I know I don’t – usually muddle along a best I can without particularly relying on God. In the day to day, I become complacent.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:11

Colossians 1:11 says that we are ... strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that (we) may have great endurance and patience...and  Philippians 4:13 that  we  can do everything through him who gives (us) strength.

Some key verses to keep us going and give us strength: TRUST


Psalm 20:6-8  Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed)
    he answers him from his holy heaven
    with the saving power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm.


Isaiah 12:2 says: Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.

 In the great list of heroes, the writer of Hebrews talks of how God gave the prophets strength (Chapter 11 v 34) and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9) said:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

GO IN THE STRENGTH YOU HAVE  – as Gideon did. Things were bad, and Gideon questioned God as to why they were, but God didn’t explain – just told him how things were going to get better.
But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders(A) that our fathers told(B) us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned(C) us and put us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have(D) and save(E) Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”   Judges 6:13-15


We do not necessarily associate the strength of God with joy, yet David, in his great psalm of thanks after bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem says:
Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. 1 Chronicles 16:27

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is with you,
    he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
    he will quiet you with his love,
    he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully

To finish, let us echo the words of David in his Psalm of thanks:
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.
...Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name...Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever. (1 Chronicles 16,
vv 11 – 12, 28 – 29

GoodMorningGirls suggests: follow Phil 4.8 … and think upon things that are good, right, noble …. even in the midst of pain and hardship. We need to flee to the basics of the Christian faith, and set our minds on “the things above,” on Christ himself. God is always good, he is always kind, he is never cruel, he has a perfect plan, he is with us always.