Over at crosswalk.com. Such an honor to write for these guys!
Last week at our Life is Vapor study we talked about the priority of enjoying God as a family. Our own family was already thinking along the lines of starting fresh this fall to break bad habits and establish a new family vision. After picking up our eldest son from camp, we wanted to take some time to talk through a family covenant — what are we aiming for? What boundaries do we need to enforce (especially regarding technology)? Here’s the deal: we have a pretty darn good family, but as we’ve transitioned into the teenage years, the crabbiness and snapping is ramping up. The ever-present internet is encroaching on our family culture. And the stakes are higher than ever.
The minutes tick down until the day our kiddos leave home. This is it, our one shot to love, our one long road trip to make memories, to laugh, to raise up world-changers. How can we guard this treasure of time?
We decided to walk the kids through some of the classic “one another” passages of the Bible to set the stage, then read through and commit to a family-wide promise to love each other well and enjoy God together. We do realize a shortcoming of our core values list is the lack of outward-flowing service and mission. That probably deserves a whole page to itself! Since this is something we already do a lot of, being in ministry, we didn’t include it (but maybe we should have.) Our need at the moment is more along the lines of love within the four walls. (Why is it often harder to love on your own family??)
For those of you who have a similar desire to unleash the love at a new level in your home, here’s what we came up with. Since you no doubt know the Bible verses we chose really well, you might fly past that part to get to the new info, but talking through them on the front end with our kids “primed the pump,” so to speak, for being able to hear the heart behind the rest of it.
Setting the Stage
I Corinthians 13: 4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Matthew 5:1-16 “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
‘You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’”
II Peter 1:5-10 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
I John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
I John 4:7-8, 20 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love….If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Because it is our family’s highest priority to glorify God by enjoying Him together, we commit to strive towards the following ideals out of love for Jesus and each other:
- We recognize that we are forgiven, so we will extend forgiveness.
- We will try hard to keep no record of wrongs.
- We will make every effort to be kind.
- We know that we have been given much more than we deserve, and we will not demand our “rights.”
- We will actively count our blessings.
- We will verbally express thankfulness.
- We won’t whine, complain, or grumble. Instead we will encourage, rejoice, pitch in, and be cheerful.
- We will consider others better than ourselves, and seek to outdo one another in love.
- We will look for ways to serve one another.
- In our house we will not worry about the opinion of others, but only seek to please God.
- Our gratitude will overflow in generosity as we put others first. We will share, take turns, and refuse to be greedy with our time and money.
- We will work hard not to make more work for others. If we get it out, we’ll put it away. If we get it dirty, we’ll clean it up. If we borrow it, we’ll return it.
- We do not welcome the pollution of the world in our home. Like Job, we covenant to set no vile thing before our eyes.
- If we see something inappropriate, we will turn away, and take steps to prevent seeing it again.
- We will not keep secrets out of shame, but confess our struggles to one another, welcome accountability, and bring everything into the light.
- We agree to function as a team, each with our own strengths, roles and responsibilities.
- We recognize that we must finish what we start, work diligently and with excellence at our tasks, and not shirk our duties in laziness.
- We will approach our work with a sense of honor, not half-heartedly; with optimism, not dread; and with a merry heart, not a grumpy spirit.
- We will always tell the truth.
- We will be true to our word and do what we promise.
- We will accept consequences without seeking to justify our sin.
- We will obey.
- We will do our best to have fun, lighten one another’s loads, affirm one another, and laugh often.
- We will happily join in games, family outings, social events, outdoor recreation, trips, and holiday activities, making our own traditions as we go and creating our own zany family culture.
- We will happily participate in family prayer time or devotions and point each other to Jesus however we can.
Screen Time Rules
Because computers and other forms of entertainment technology can become so addictive and so isolating, we agree to the following rules in order to keep screen time in check:
- Family time takes priority over screen time (including phones, tablets, computers, TV, etc.).
- Outside of school or work, I agree not to spend more than two hours per day alone in front of a screen. This includes surfing the internet, watching a show, playing a game, Garage Band, Skype, email, etc.
- I will not use the internet alone behind closed doors (for instance, alone in my room at bedtime or in the bathroom).
- I will not bring devices to the dinner table or family outings.
- I will not wear headphones in the car (except sometimes on road trips).
- I will not post photos or videos without permission.
- I will never post personal information (address, birthday, contact information) on a public forum.
- I will not develop online friendships with strangers. If a stranger reaches out and I would like to chat, I will ask first. I promise to alert my parents if I receive inappropriate or alarming communication from anyone.
- I agree that screen time is a privilege that may be revoked, reduced, or suspended as a consequence or simply to prioritize other things.
- Schoolwork and chores will come before screen time. If a parent needs my help or involvement in any way, I will pause whatever I was doing without complaint.
- I agree not to hog family devices or borrow equipment without asking.
- I will take care of my own devices — being careful where I put them, how I carry them, how I operate them, and being careful not to waste energy or resources.
- I will use good etiquette (for example, turning off noisy notifications in public or turning off my device to engage in conversation). I will follow rules external to our house (no texting while driving, no internet during class).
- Parents reserve the right to read incoming emails, but will try to respect everyone’s privacy.
- I understand that disregarding these rules will result in my devices being taken away or my privileges being suspended.
It is summer. For a brief season, all of us bound by school-year schedules are free; visions of swimming pools dance in our heads. Lakes and camping, beaches and sandcastles, supper on the patio. The hours ahead seem endless, which the kids are quick to pick up on. “I’m boooorrrred,” whines across the country. We roll our eyes, throw a book. The screen door slams. Laughter spills over the yard.
But summer is also the season of angst, for me, anyway. So many projects, put off all year, so many options every day. What to prioritize? What will get checked off?
I went to a garage sale this week, checked out a hammock. “It’s a little loose,” the lady said. “You can increase the tension.” And there’s the trick — the tension between numbering our days, accomplishing all of the procrastinated projects, or keeping margin, swinging loose. Too loose and I’m bored, guilty, mad at myself for wasted days. Too tight and I cringe when the doorbell rings, grump when I fail, sigh when I realize I missed the joy.
Summer is a microcosm of life speeding by. Seems like forever, but blink and you’ll miss it.
I made a list today: all of the things that need doing. As usual, I made sure to include some I can already check off. (Secret to a good list, right there.) But I think I should go back, add a few:
- make homemade ice cream
- light sparklers on the 4th
- visit Hanging Lake
- read a book by Citronella candlelight on the porch
- go kayaking with the smallest boy
- get coffee with the tallest boy
- go yard sale-ing with the laughing girl
- spend as much money as possible at lemonade stands
- go to free outdoor concerts in the park
- remember that summer is fleeting, life is fleeting, life is a wildflower and then it is gone.
Photo via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/5abcad”>Visual Hunt</a>
What’s a good career path for a girl who just wants to change the world? Stay at home mom, right? Wait…
I’m a person who feels strongly what Courtney Reissig calls the “pull of the spectacular.” I want my short life to count. I want to do eternal things with the days I’ve been given. I wanna imitate the disciples, 12 ordinary guys who turned the world upside down. And the world needs changing. It’s so broken! There is so much injustice, so much poverty; it breaks my heart. In college, I studied great writers, great thinkers, great teachers and revolutionaries. I studied the lives of missionaries and politicians, and I wanted to be one of them.
I’m all about doing big things. If I help to plan an event, I want 1,000 people to show up. If I write a book, I want 1,000,000 to buy it. I want to do big things for God, but that’s not the commission He has given me. Evidently, He wants me to do small things with great love. He wants to take center stage, not to shine a spotlight on me.
So I’m a stay at home mom. I don’t even have a dozen children to boast of, just three. I spend my days assigning books to read, catching up on a sinkful of dirty dishes, and cooking. I don’t even cook amazing gourmet meals — we eat a lot of cereal. My house is always in need of a good scrub, and I’m perpetually behind on school with the kids. So what does it mean to be faithful in exile as a mom? It’s what my husband calls “the peculiar glory of humble circumstances.”
First, I think being faithful means having faith. Having faith, as we teach our little ones, that “God is great,” and “God is good.” He is mighty, He is thoughtful, and He is sovereign over all of the little details of my life. He doesn’t need me to accomplish great things; He’s got “great” covered. Just as I can trust Him for my salvation, I can trust Him to make all things beautiful in His time—including all the little details of my life. And little things can be eternally significant, like little mustard seeds that grow up into towering trees.
I think being faithful means loving God—ridiculously. It means worshipping Him with a glad, full heart, day in and day out, even when my days kinda start to look the same from one to the next. My primary contribution to the world is to adore and enjoy Jesus with my husband, with my children, with all of y’all. It’s not about me at all.
I think being faithful means loving my neighbor extravagantly. In this case, my most obvious neighbors are Michael, Josh, Abbey, and Patrick. When I wash a pan that somebody made a grilled cheese in, I am loving my neighbor. When I do the bills, I am loving my neighbor. It’s not glamorous, but it is God-honoring. And frankly I don’t even do it for my family, I do it for Jesus. Whenever we give a cup of cold water in His name, He receives it as a gift to Himself.
And finally, I think being faithful in exile means remembering that what matters eternally far outweighs what matters for a fleeting moment. Love is significant, because it plants seeds that bloom in eternity. Our lives are really, really short, but every moment that we dedicate to the Lord will have long-lasting impact.
We are in exile here, in a broken and fallen world. There are “thorns and thistles” — obstacles and tediousness and heartache galore. As a stay at home mom, I experience this exile as a long wait, a wait for Home. And whenever I can serve with humility and love, I am reminded of Jesus’ exile here on earth. He did not seek fame and fortune; He came to love extravagantly, to serve ceaselessly, and to lay down His life for you and me. Any frustration I feel at being mired in little chores is swallowed up by awe when I consider the God who came to our little earth out of a great, great love.
This post was written for a quick testimony at church. We’ve been walking through the book of Daniel (check it out!) and considering what it means to be faithful in exile. Each week someone from the congregation has shared what faithfulness looks like in their unique context. This was me taking a stab at it.
I suppose it probably surprised some people when we loaded up our entire family and brought them along for Michael’s D-Min cohort that first time. Shoot, it surprised me. I mean, really? Bring three elementary school kids to Georgia for 10 days for a grad school intensive? Who does that? I suppose it surprised still more people when we brought them on our sabbatical, dragging them, their Legos, and approximately 10,000 pounds of school books from Colorado cabin to Massachusetts cottage — and that’s right, back to Gordon Conwell for more grad school. In the past few years, our children have listened in on more doctoral history lectures than most of their friends’ parents combined. We joked that they were Gordon Conwell’s new mascots. Dr. Rosell has bought them ice cream half a dozen times; they think he’s the dairy fairy.
We went on to bring them to a third cohort, back for Michael’s graduation, and to teach at a Colorado Bible school twice. They’ve romped the Atlantic coast from Maine to St. Simon’s Island as their dad studied his way through 400 years of church history, and snapped selfies with elk in the background while he taught it. This week we’re taking them to a conference outside of Chicago. It’ll be scholars, pastors, college students, and our kids. They’re used to it.
One great thing about our gypsy existence is that our kiddos have seen the country — almost all points east of us we’ve thoroughly explored. (We haven’t turned our attention west yet, but I’m sure one day we will.) They have adventurous spirits, don’t mind traveling for long hours, and have sampled everything from alligator to elk to grits along the way. Hopefully they will remember how to check for bed bugs in cheap hotels. When we couldn’t afford to fly, we drove. Sometimes we camped our way cross-country. I love that we can incorporate our studies into real-life places, real world geography. Our kids have seen the first slave-built church in Savannah, Georgia and the Underground Railroad quarters hidden beneath. They’ve stood in front of the house where George Whitefield died and explored the landing place of the Wesley brothers in Georgia. They’ve strolled the campuses of Baylor and Vanderbilt. I love it. This next week we’ll get to show them around one of the premier Christian colleges in the world and hopefully pass on a vision for all that college can be.
But another perk is the kids’ assumption that intellectual engagement with our faith is expected, and is not reserved for boring grown-ups. I love that they have heard great speakers and sung along with all ages. I love that they continue to meet and develop respect for people from all different denominations and backgrounds. We may attend a Baptist church, but our friends are Presbyterian, Charismatic, Congregational. The world is much bigger than our bubble, and I love that our kids have seen that.
What if “take your daughter to work day” was more like “take your children everywhere year”? What if those designated grown-up activities were expanded just a bit to include the small fry? What if discipling our kids meant letting them see us dive into our vocations, letting them see our faith hit the road? For our own family, it’s been a trip. Like, literally.
The conference next week is held at College Church of Wheaton, and features Ajith Fernando, Bryan Loritts, Phil Ryken, Josh Moody, and the Gettys. Even on that one panel is a wide swath of the human experience. Love it. If you’re in the area…
Last weekend we decided to drive east instead of west. About two and a half hours’ drive are the Pawnee Buttes, rising up out of the flat plains like giant, misplaced sand castles. To get there, you have to hold your nose through dairy towns and take care to stop at one last outpost of civilization before about a 45-minute stretch of boondocks. You’ll be pretty sure you are heading the wrong way; the wooden painted signs are so weatherbeaten that they are hard to read, the asphalt trucks apparently abandoned their paving task shortly off the highway. There is even what can only be called a ghost town there in the sticks — a cluster of abandoned houses that once optimistically catered to tourists of the Buttes. But then, you’re there.
What is so arresting about this little pocket of Colorado? For one thing, you can’t see it coming — it just sort of shimmers into being at the last minute like an apparition from the Wild West. Empty field, empty field –boom. Humongous towers. It reminds me in that way of Black Canyon, only in that case the last-minute jaw-dropper falls down, a yawning cavern hewn out of the earth like the battle scar from some great axe. In both cases, we tourists begin to mutter “nothing to see here” before rounding that final corner.
And that makes me wonder — what else is hiding in plain sight? What gobsmacking wonders of the world lie forgotten on the back 40 of some dairy farmer’s fields? Or, for that matter, in our back yard? On the palm of my hand?
It reminds me of last year’s viral video, the little orange guy who makes us happy. Who knew he was hiding in the back of your brain?
So much depends on having the eyes to see, the perseverance to track down marvels, the determination to squash the muttering. Pinch your nose and take a drive — it’s worth the trip!
Four mamas, nine boys between us. The oldest is fifteen, the smallest fiercely five, and we’ve been through it. From infertility to a whole lot of surprising fertility, from spectrums and conditions to hand-wringing and tears. We’ve seen the inside of a lot of hospitals and churches and counselors’ offices and McDonalds, laughed and snorted and cried and blushed and spent a lot of time with the mouth hanging open and the did-you-really-just-do-that shrieking at a high pitch.
Being a mama of boys (or girls, for that matter, though our particular batch of girls is awfully well-mannered and easy… Girls are not any more or less wonderful or necessarily simpler to raise, but this post is not about them. That’ll keep for another day.) But back to my point — being a mama of boys is not for the faint-hearted. You realize after a while that these little creatures are making plans, and they are not your plans. They are diving into danger with gusto and not much forethought, and pretty soon all the mamas are running full-tilt behind them, hollering out cautions and suggestions aplenty. We are raising little men, and they are rocketing into the future faster than we can rein them in.
These are the men who will shape the world.
You realize when you’ve been around the ring a time or two that after a while the decisions to be made come down to your boy and God. None of the steam you can produce from both ears, none of the dreams you’ve dreamed can alter the story written for him; your boy is on a journey you haven’t scripted, making choices you would undo and letting the chips fall. Think of the long history of the world, the Jacobs and Esaus and Moseses, the Roosevelts and the Edisons and the MLKs. Think of all the mamas, running behind, waving a handkerchief vainly to keep them from boarding that train. Wouldn’t you have cleaned up their stories a bit? Wouldn’t you have wiped away the ugly parts? But then they’d never have become who they were, and our collective story wouldn’t be what it is.
If I were Mary, and I could somehow save my boy from his long, troubled road, I would, I would. But the nail that sank into his story turned out to be the fulcrum that levered the whole broken world out of the mess we were in. That ugly nail was grace.
So how do we pray these boys into men? What do we do when they’re rushing headlong into disaster?
Well, I guess there are a lot of squawks that sneak out before we get the hand over the mouth, a lot of lurching stomachs when we peek through the fingers. God give us the grace to hide our face in His shoulder and let Him do all the watching and worrying.
I find myself praying for grace a lot these days; praying for the grace to let go, the grace to be patient, the love to expect all things, believe all things, endure all things. I pray for faith in the Author and His perfectly beautiful story, and I remember all of the great men who started life as impetuous, not-always-wise boys. I pray for grace to put down what I’m doing and listen, really listen, whenever I can; for the first thing I say in the morning and the last thing I say at night to be sweet, and not overfull of finger-wagging.
I pray for my friends’ boys, the ones with impossible hurdles ahead, and I remember that with God all things are possible.
Four mamas, nine boys. Boys who will break bones and forget homework and visit tattoo parlors and leap off of tall things, scale mountains, raft rivers, join rock bands, and kiss girls. Nine men who will be overcomers—courageous, visionary, strong, kind, humble, and mostly? Very, very loved. Four women who will learn (sometimes the hard way) to trust in our good, good Father, and share His delight in the escapades of silly, impulsive, fearless, wise-cracking little boys.