Tag Archives: family

Hitting the Reset Button With Your Kids In Time for Fall

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.”Print

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.”

Family Covenant

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:

Grace

  • 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.”

image3Gratitude

  • 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.

Humility

  • 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.

Unselfishness

  • 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.

Purity

  • 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.

Responsibility

  • 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.

Integrity

  • 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.

Joy

  • 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.). e14713c0fac02d07a2d75c532d7e1dc1--acadia-maine-wpa-posters
  • 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.

Counter-Culture

Christianity is so much more ridiculous than most people give us credit for.  Oh, there are a lot of stereotypes:  we’re narrow-minded or we’re stuffy, we’re anti-intellectual or we’re honorable.  It depends who you ask.  But the truth?

We believe in miracles, and beauty.  We sing — a lot.  We give away a chunk of everything we earn, value children, turn the other cheek.  We give up sex outside of marriage and persevere in marriages that are hard.  We spend a lot of time reading really, really old books.  We expect to be insulted and pray for our enemies.  That is to say, some of us do some of these things some of the time.  But our hero did all of them all of the time.

More than any time since the decadent Romans roamed the world, Christians stick out like a sore thumb.  A group that used to be fairly mainstream is more and more a fringe society, out of place.  We’re like the Amish.  Our ethics are antiquated and even our happiness is old-fashioned.  Almost everything we believe and all actions proceeding from that faith are out of step with the spirit of the times.

For starters, Christianity is built around the worship of a heroic, self-sacrificial, transcendent God-man who preached love, justice, restoration, and purity of heart.  But the zeitgeist worships self; scoffs at transcendence; and preaches scorn, comfort, futility, and self-determined, conditional ethics.  Taken one at a time, these beliefs of ours are radical.  Even the preliminary notion of a hero is a jolt.

It’s a sign of the times that movies with good guys who come out ahead are universally panned by the critics.  Take Steven Spielberg, for example.  Though his blockbuster hits keep coming, critics dog him over and again with the sneering assessment:  he’s too soft.  As Robert Dougherty states in a review for themovienetwork.com, “The seemingly easy solution is to just make a movie that is completely bleak, has no uplifting message about mankind, humanity, family or ordinary men, and makes audiences feel there is no such thing as heroes — basically the hallmarks of ‘prestige’ television these days.”  While the masses like their popcorn flicks, the critics, arbiters of culture that they are, consistently complain that a movie with hope cannot ring true.  So even The Lego Movie proclaims, “I’m dark and brooding, too!”fontcandy-5

No, heroes are for the unenlightened.  And in the absence of a good that triumphs over evil, we’re left without hope.  And since that’s kind of a bummer, we flip a switch and get… apathy.  Pass the popcorn.

Christians love beauty.  Historically, Christianity accounts for some of the world’s greatest architecture (think cathedrals), sculpture (Michelangelo springs to mind), music (hello, Bach) and literature (Milton) ever created.  As C.S. Lewis put it in Till We Have Faces, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing – to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from – my country, the place where I ought to have been born.”

In a world where Robert Mapplethorpe’s pornography is regarded as high art and Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (it’s a toilet, folks) is considered an icon, the Christian insistence on light, hope, and purpose seems naïve and childish.  Not that abandoning beauty was ever the humanist’s goal; there is a persistent wistfulness underneath most of the scorn.  But having jettisoned God, and with him any fontcandy-4sense of otherworldly beauty, there can be no hope, and the best we can settle for is facing despair head-on.  But leaving Eden left a vacuum in the human heart, which our jaded culture attempts endlessly to fill.  And so while Christians seek transcendence, our neighbor lives for his appetite, a gloomy proposition of ever-diminishing returns.

That strange evangelical family down the block?  The one with a half-dozen kids?  They talk a lot about their heritage.  They plan for future generations.  When a friend is in the hospital (probably to have a baby — they seem to have a lot of babies), they drop everything to bring a meal.  When someone needs a place to stay, they cram the kids like sardines into one room to open up a guest bed.  They come and go a lot — church on Sunday, Bible study on Wednesday, their lives oriented around a community of like-minded weirdos, a family that extends beyond the four walls.  In contrast, secular millennials often have no particular attachment to the past.  Family ties are loose.  Relationships are somewhat transient.  Marriage (of any variety) is perceived as a fun option insofar as it comes with a big wedding party; children are a cute accessory, maybe, if and when they don’t interfere with other plans.  According to recent reports, the birth rates for women in their 20s saw a 15 percent drop from 2007 to 2012.  One writer went so far as to suggest giving all working adults the equivalent of maternity leave, baby or no baby, calling her invention “me-ternity.”  Christians tend to look at their secular counterparts and say selfish (yep, Christians can be judgy), seculars shrug innocently and say, logical.  And why not?  Jesus summed up this fancy-free attitude:  “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”

But is it merry, this void of connection?  Christians aim for timeless values, while seculars, feeling free, are paradoxically trapped in time.  Having rejected history and disregarded the future, all they have to live for is this moment, with its gossamer-fragile relationships, its long string of goodbyes.

And so it goes.  Christians espousing personal holiness and self-denial uphold ancient prescriptions for sexual purity: one man, one woman, for a lifetime.  We didn’t set out in our conviction to infuriate three-quarters of the world, but that’s what happened.  While I’m content to be the odd duck and let my neighbor do whatever she wants in her own bedroom, my commitment, my very existence, it would seem, is an affront to her.

In Sweden, forerunners of the gender revolution have abolished gender-specific pronouns in favor of enforced neutrality.  You’ll not likely meet a Christian who feels strongly about grammar, but share with him this development and watch sadness wash across his face.  Why?  We grieve the loss of God-given distinctives.  While seculars literally hold parades for diversity, we Christians quietly revel in it.  Step into my church and meet immigrants, professors, high school dropouts, alcoholics, cowboys, girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, old people, toddlers — all welcomed, loved, and genuinely enjoyed for all their quirks.  We reject snobbish, vapid, body-obsessed androgyny.  We relish our differences.

Do you actually know any Christians?  The word (a religious slur that went viral) means “little Christs.”  Not someone who grew up Lutheran a million years ago or goes to church occasionally or someone who celebrates Santa Claus, but someone who celebrates truth and beauty, love and justice, prayer and worship.  Someone poor in spirit and pure in heart.  Someone who cherishes robust community, authentic relationships, matchless grace and the occasional miracle.  Perhaps we who worship Jesus are even more counter-cultural than you think we are .fontcandy-6