Children

Medieval parenting

My wife and I were discussing parenting for faith last night as we often do. We reflected on the perilous social conditions that confront Christian parents today.

I cast my mind back to my own parents who were foundational in their influence on my life, especially with regard to faith. My parents were two very different people. My mother believed and knew what she believed and nothing would dissuade her. My dad, on the other hand, had a more tumultuous relationship with his Creator. He struggled with understanding God’s actions, His revelation of himself, His fairness and many other aspects of the God revealed in Scripture. But there was one absolute truth that both my parents abided by – God was real! And that is what I mean by Medieval Parenting – there is no question around the existence of God. It is a given. In Medieval times there were no atheists. In my family, growing up, the reality of God’s existence was always at the heart of our family life. This truth guided our decision making, priorities and also guided us through life, which, at the time, being a migrant family with few resources, was an amazing comfort. We were in God’s hands no matter what happened or whether or not we understood Him..

What I particularly appreciated about my father’s relationship with God was that God was a constant presence in the conversations. In prayer, in family devotions and at Christian gatherings God was always in the middle the conversation. Never on the periphery.

Looking back, I treasure my father’s open struggles in understanding God. It gave me a living example of what we often see in the Psalms – the psalmist questioning God, angry at God, confused by God but always conversing with God.

“Medieval parenting” starts with a living and real relationship with God and the question of His existence is never part of the conversation.

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The Pornification of our Culture

Currently I am reading Carl R. Trueman’s brilliant unpacking of our contemporary social morass in his book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. This mind-bending unravelling of the nature of modern identity in the West is a “must read”. However, I just want to reflect on one chapter: Chapter 8 – The Triumph of the Erotic. In this chapter Trueman explores how Surrealism, inspired by the likes of Marx but particularly Freud, made a concerted attempt to destroy Christianity via the means of a sexual revolution.

The author traces how this process has worked in what he describes as the “pornification of mainstream culture.” We see this in more recent times through the rise of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine in the 1960s through to explicit sexual acts in mainstream television and films in the 2000s. There has been an increasingly overt wearing down of the old sexual morals. What was once hidden  in dark places is now celebrated out in the open. As he points out, in today’s context Hefner looks conservative. Now porn in every aspect our culture is the norm.

The author then goes on to look at the implications for violence particularly towards women, and the impact of this revolution on the feminist movement as a whole.

My precis is brief and insufficient, however, the question this chapter raises for me is, how do we protect our children from this inescapable onslaught? In some ways contemporary society must resemble the situation of the early church in a pagan environment in which the culture was etched into every aspect of daily life. How do you grow up faithful to the gospel in such an environment?

Here are some thoughts, but I would love readers to add their contributions as well. For the church, this is a communal issue in which community must play a crucial role in the response:

  1. Nurturing faith must be a parent and church’s highest priority. Faith is both the foundation for protection but also the restorer when failures occur.
  2. Modelling within the family and church is key: what we say, what we watch, how we respond to the inappropriate must always be consistent with our faith. Children watch our every move and are expert at detecting hypocrisy.
  3. Nurturing responsibility is also important. Age-appropriate steps in trust and responsibility are essential. Teaching strategies in reading and watching and choosing what to read and watch is essential.
  4. Many of the practical parenting ideas given (by a variety of programs) with regard to the internet are helpful, but ultimately children need to be responsible for their own choices and action.

These are just a few broad ideas. But Carl Trueman is right when describes this as an assault. The “pornification of our society” is an attack on faith, the family and the church. There are many who see these as outdated institutions. Therefore, we must be prepared to defend these institutions vigorously and passionately with the welfare of the most vulnerable foremost in our mind.

Categories: Children, christian education, Christianity, Faith | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

One Generation from Extinction

The following is another post written by my wife:

When I married I lost my surname and took my husband’s. My sisters also married and then the name we had since birth was lost from our family. With no brothers to be able to carry the name into the future, it was gone.

My parents-in-law also saw the future of their name disappear. They had two sons, who married and gave them eight granddaughters. Whether by marriage or when they die, the surname will be lost in one generation.

photo 4Our faith heritage can suffer a similar fate. In just one generation the faith of our fathers and mothers can be lost. Who holds this fast? In whose hands can we entrust this faith to ensure that our grandchildren and the generations to come will carry on trusting God?

The obvious, and truthful, answer is there in the question. We trust God to hold us and keep us trusting Him. But that doesn’t allow us to be passive while God does all the work.

Our family will never be big. Probably our two grandchildren (aged one and three years) will stride toward the future holding hands, just the two of them, carrying the family history and folklore and faith with them. From our perspective it is a scary country that they are entering, full of dangerous terrain, uncertain and dark valleys, and threatening inhabitants. As grandparents we come from the relative calm of a Christian era, when even those who were not Christian lived by a Christian moral standard. Today we paused and asked ourselves, how do we prepare these little children for that foreign country called The Future?

Fortunately it is not up to us alone, and I believe this is the key. Of course they have believing parents and we must support them in their role to nurture faith in their children. But they also have five Aunties and an Uncle who will model a life of faith to them. We can and must give every effort to ensuring our faith heritage is not lost. We have a holy task as grandfather, grandmother, auntie, uncle, sister, brother, and parent. And as we do this we are obliged to hold each other accountable before God.

There is a future world in need of the Good News of Jesus. And I pray it will hear this Good News from the lips of my grandchildren.

 

 

Categories: Children, christian, Christianity, Faith, Hetty's Devotions, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

This is another post from my wife reflecting on the struggles of finding a suitable playgroup for our grandson.
Finding a playgroup to take my grandson to has not been easy. It’s also revealed some worrying aspects of how the church sees its role in the world. Let me explain.

I have been involved in many playgroups since I took toddler Jeanette and baby Kathryn to the first in a church hall in Kingston, Tasmania, in 1977. I’ve been both participant and organiser, in both community-run and church-run groups.  So I kind of know what I want for my grandson, and armed with the right questions I picked up the phone. Several churches in our neighbourhood run playgroups so I started with them.
The people I spoke to didn’t know me, I could have been anybody.
Question one: Is your playgroup run by the church? “Well, um, yes, sort of …”
Question two: Is there any Christian content? “What do you mean?”
Question three: Do you talk about God? Do you sing Christian songs, or tell Bible stories? What about saying thanks before snack time?
“Oh no! No, no, no!! I can assure you that we don’t ever do THAT! No, we provide a service to the community, that’s all.”
Okay, so I did fess up and told them that I was a Christian, looking for a playgroup that would help my little grandson explore and enjoy God’s world. I wanted a place filled with adults and kids ready to acknowledge Christ’s Kingship, at least by pausing before snack time, or by telling the story of Jesus’ birth at Christmas. But preferably much more than that.
But then I got an explanation of why they couldn’t do that. “We believe Jesus told us to just love people into the Kingdom.” And “the Bible says they will know we are Christians by our love”.
Church-run playgroups used to excite me. They were urban mission fields. I fear we have forgotten our calling.

Romans 10:14

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
Categories: Children, christian, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Kids of the Kingdom

This post comes from my wife:
A lifetime ago I arranged for a photo to be taken of all the children in the church we attended. All kids under the age of fifteen or so were gathered in the church hall and the photographer stood on a trestle table to take the snap, while proud Mums, Dads, and the rest of the congregation looked on.

It wasn’t until later, when the photos arrived on my desk, that I noticed the banner hanging high on the wall behind the children. It read: Christians are different.

A baptismal font in Karlskrona, Sweden


We used to laugh about that. 

But the truth is, that when it comes to our children, Christians aren’t different enough.
We don’t see our children through God’s eyes. We are like all those adults watching the photo shoot and not seeing the bright yellow banner behind. 

We go about the busy-ness of child rearing; the milestones, the school fees and homework, the music lessons and little athletics. We stress over mixed parties and drugs and driver training, just the same as our unsaved neighbours are doing.
However God has different plans for our children, and He calls Christian families to BE different. One Christian put it thus: 

The Christian family must define Christ to the world, so that the world may find Christ.
May we scoop up that delightful toddler,

May we be caught up with the excited third grader who has won a ribbon for running,

May we hide a secret smile while our lovesick teenager mooches around the house,

But may we never forget that they are part of God’s plan for Gospel-spreading.

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Bible Black Holes

Another blog post from my wife.

Did you know there are black holes in the Bible? There are mud puddles, canyons, and prickle bushes as well.

I know about these because I tell Bible stories to kids.

Have you ever noticed how many empty spaces there are in Bible stories? For instance, what did Jesus and Zacchaeus discuss over lunch? And what was happening on Easter Saturday?

Try telling these stories to children. They’re not afraid of black holes. They will launch straight into them.
Slimy mud puddles that most Sunday school teachers avoid, such as how Mary got pregnant? Kids will take a running leap into that one.
Tricky prickle bushes that college theologians won’t venture near? No problem for the minds of 5 year olds. A group of preschoolers once explained the Resurrection to me.

Grownups can read the signs at the top of a cliff that say “Don’t go too close to the edge” or “Danger. Unstable cliff edge”, but kids only see an opportunity to explore.
Burning bushes, talking donkeys, floating zoos, miracles…
And the best part is that they will joyfully take the grownups by the hand, if we are willing to let them lead us.

Next time you’re reading your Bible and you find a black hole, find a child to tell the story to. Sit alongside them and wonder together. No space suits, flack jackets, parachutes, or safety harnesses required.

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From Generation to Generation

Another blog post from my wife.

A while ago I found a book in a secondhand shop near our home. It had a title that caught my eye – “Portrait of Jesus” by Alan T Dale. I bought it and put it on my bookshelf, alongside all my precious children’s Bible books.
Recently I took it down and discovered what a true gem it is. But more than that, I found potraits of Jesusone of those award certificates pasted onto the facing page.
Amazingly, I know both the Sunday school student who was given the book 28 years ago, and her teacher.
I held the book open at this page and stared at the names. I could see those women before me. A older woman who encouraged me when I was ministering to the children in our church, and a young lady who gave such dedication and devotion to the children in her care that she was an example to me. And now I was using the book to prepare for another teaching moment.

The older woman happens to be a neighbour, so yesterday I went for a walk, with the book tucked under my arm. She answered my knock on her door, invited me in, and listened as I explained what I’d found. Yes, she remembered her student from 28 years ago.
We sat together marvelling at God’s goodness. He gave all three of us faith. He gave us opportunities to share that faith. He placed us, briefly, in the same time and space so we could encourage each other. And then He sent us onto our next mission.

Here in my hands I hold the testimony to this truth.

Categories: Children, christian, Church, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Burying Our Children

The following is a challenging and uncomfortable reflection from my wife.



Burying our children?
What if the talents of Matthew 25 were the children in our churches? What if the servants were the adults, and the elders?

How would the parable look in your church? How would it end?
How many children has your congregation been given?

Does it matter how large or small the original number is? Did the master give the greatest number of talents to the best businessman?
Some churches have very few children or even none at all. Did they bury them a long time ago?

Some churches have children who might as well be buried. There is no sign of them in the liturgy or the worship place. There are no signs that they may occasionally be present, no expectation that some children might appear one day. (That reminds me of a church service we attended with our kids while on holidays. Ours were the only kids in the church and the preacher could not have known that we would be coming, but he had a children’s talk ready.) 
Our services are designed for those aged 20 to 60 years old, of average intelligence, good at listening, reading and singing. (As opposed to being good at looking, watching, drawing, wriggling, dancing, jumping or running.)

  

We conveniently don’t see the rest. We have buried them.
The Master gave children to churches. He expects to get a return on his investment. What does that return look like? 

What will it take to make the investment grow?

How exciting it will be when the Master returns to find his talents have grown a hundredfold!

Categories: Child Theology, Children, Church | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Boy, a Camera and a Church

The following is an observation by my wife: 

 There he was, a boy of 5 or 6 years, standing alone in front of the altar. He danced a little, twisting this way and that, and then he stood perfectly still and raised the camera to his eyes and snapped. His parents quietly moved around the cathedral as the dozens of other visitors were doing. They must have been watching him, but they never interfered with his discoveries and his picture taking.
The cathedral was nothing but the usual Spanish Catholic variety; we had seen many like it. But it was new for this lad and whatever his eye saw was quickly recorded with his camera. The altar table, the decorative railings, the statues, the windows, the tourists.
I wondered and pondered on this for a while. 
A child discovering the church in his own way. 

A child finding the gospel in a language he knows and understands.

A child making memories and questions.

Parents letting go of their child enough to facilitate this.

A church full of images and symbols and furniture to capture a child.

A camera. Technology that a child can use.
How can we – parents, and faith communities – symbolically give our children a camera in the church?

What does it take to open their eyes and hearts to the Gospel?
  

Categories: Child Theology, Children, christian | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Preparing Christian Young People for the Future

As a homeroom teacher who has a group of students for three years from year 10 to year 12, one of the topics that constantly exercises my heart and mind is, how do I prepare my students for the rapidly changing future?  After taking the roll and making the daily announcements, what do they need to hear from me that will assist them, not just for a school day – but for eternity?  I would love to hear from other Christian teachers.

I have a few basics:

The Bible needs to be a constant reference, and prayer is essential. My own example is important because if I don’t walk the talk then anything I say is made void. But that is just the beginning.

Picture 566The anchor must be a regular and ongoing reference to Scripture and its overarching story of redemption with coming of the king and his promised return to fulfill his kingdom plans. This vision of a place in the Kingdom, I believe, must underpin everything I say and do.  It is the foundation.  Regular communication with this personal God is the next layer.  However, the next step is crucial. How do these two underpinnings apply on an ongoing daily basis as these young people prepare for their future? This future, as every adult knows, will have twists and turns, pains and joys – incredible highs but also incredible lows.

Recently we have been exploring the lives of Christians in predominantly non -Christian and often persecuted cultures.  Our children need to know that in the history of the church, Christianity has not always been part of the dominant culture. In fact it has been at its best when marginalised and persecuted. The history of God’s people from OT Exile through to the early church and beyond has revealed the amazing story of God and his kingdom, in the darkest of times. Not knowing the future, my students still need to know that a personal God has his children’s future in His hand.

My students also need to know how the story ends. There isn’t any doubt where the victory lies and who has the victory.  But in the meantime there is work to do as we prepare for the return of the King.

Year 10 students are by their very nature idealistic.  This idealism is a wonderful trait as it can enable them to develop Christlike eyes for the world.  How does Jesus look at injustice, asylum seekers, the poor distribution of resources, persecution, pain suffering and … so on. A year 10 student doesn’t have that hardened adult cynicism but rather looks for the possibilities – possibilities we need to encourage and not stifle.

Our students need to have a vision of hope. In a materialistic and often hopeless or directionless world I need to pick out perspectives of hope: hope for their own heart and lives, hope for the possibilites as they serve their God, and hope for change that is empowered by God himself – change in themselves, others and the world in which they live.

I would love to hear what other Christian teachers do to encourage their students vision for the future – a future that is anchored outside themselves in the God who reveals himself in creation and especially, Scripture.

Categories: Children, christian, christian education, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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