Tag Archives: parenting

Long Story Short

This is a post written by my husband and posted on our mission website, GospelLife.  I wanted to share it here as well:

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a dad is leading family worship.  Fathers have the duty and privilege to train their children in the fear of the Lord, and the best way to do this is little-by-little, consistently over time.

To help with this task is the new book Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.  The current volume covers the Old Testament.   The New Testament volume is still forthcoming.

I have read the introduction and a preview of the first two weeks of devotions, which are available here.  Let me outline a few reasons why I am excited about this resource and why you should check it out too:

It is simple. You don’t need an hour every night.  All you need is ten minutes, five times a week–fifty minutes a week.  Furthermore, all that is needed for dad to prepare is a simple read through–at most five minutes.  That makes discipling your children not feel like such an impossible undertaking.  You can let the Word of God transform your children’s lives with only fifty minutes a week.

It spans age ranges.  The author explains in the introduction how with some tweaking the material can target children from four to teenagers, and also how to use the material when you have a combination of ages and maturities.

It is creative. Every week begins with a creative activity or object lesson to introduce the week’s topic.  Almost every day contains an illustration to help the kids understand.

It is systematic and comprehensive. The entire curriculum for both Old and New Testaments will take a family three years to complete.  The topics and stories are intentionally chosen to give your child a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.  Once you have finished the three years, then it is time to start over again since about every three years your child reaches a new developmental stage.  They will be able to think about the stories and questions in a way that is different and more complex than in the previous cycle.

It combines teaching of stories with teaching of the Story. This is probably one of my favorite parts.  It is hard to find resources that both teach the details of individual Bible stories and show how it connects to the great Narrative of Scripture–the Story of Jesus.  One night of every week is spent showing how the current topic connects to Jesus.  Many resources simply give Bible stories with moral lessons, but the story of David and Goliath, for example, is not about having courage in the face of adversity.  It is about how God’s anointed king is empowered to destroy the enemies of God, which points us to King Jesus.  In the “Introduction to Parents,” the author explains:

A man-centered gospel is always threatening to supplant the cross-centered gospel we read in the Bible. But if we trade Jesus, who bore our sins and received the wrath of God, for a Jesus who is merely a good example, we don’t have the same gospel. If we remove a call to repentance and replace it with an invitation to be God’s friend, we’re not passing on the treasure of the gospel in accordance with the Scriptures (p. 1).

So, you can trust this resource for both Bible knowledge and Gospel-centrality.

It gets children to use their Bibles. This is not a Bible storybook.  Bible storybooks have their place, but this is a book to be used alongside your Bible.  Children will turn to and read directly from the Bible rather than just being told about what the Bible says.

It is not based in a  particular translation. When quoting from Scripture the book uses the ESV and NIV, but the questions and answers are not bound by the words of a particular translation.  So, you are free to use whatever translation your family chooses.  In my opinion, it is best to use a single translation throughout a child’s life rather than using a “simpler” translation like the NIV or NLT when children are young, and then graduating children to a more literal translation like the NKJV or ESV.  Gone are the days when all English speakers read, know, and quote from the same translation.  However, in your home, it is good to be consistent, and thereby plant the words of Scripture firmly in the minds of children.  Children will passively memorize Scripture through repetition, just like many of us who grew up in Christian homes can almost quote verbatim passages from the KJV that we have never tried to memorize.  Therefore, I think it best to stick with one translation throughout a child’s life, and I think a literal translation is best.  We use the ESV in our home, and this resource allows for that choice.

Jude is still too young to use this book yet, but we are looking forward to the time when we can give it a real test-drive.  However, those of you with children a little older should go ahead and check it out.  God will bless you as you are faithful to teach your children the words of Scripture and bring them before the throne of God in prayer.

Preview and Buy Online

 

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It Will Change Your Life

the boy who made me a motherThe boy who made me a mother.  I love him so much that my heart hurts.

Josh is taking an online Family Ministry class this fall, and one of the books he is reading for it is Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood, edited by Wayne Grudem and Dennis Rainey.  This morning, he had me read a section out of it that stopped me in my tracks; it is possibly the most beautiful description of motherhood that I have ever read:

Time is running out for my friend.  While we are sitting at lunch, she casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of “starting a family.”  What she means is that her biological clock has begun its countdown, and she is being forced to consider the prospect of motherhood.

“We’re taking a survey,” she says half joking.  “Do you think I should have a baby?”

“It will change your life,” I say carefully, keeping my tone neutral.

“I know,” she says.  “No more spontaneous vacations…”

But that is not what I mean at all, and I try to decide what to tell her.  I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes: that the physical wounds of childbearing heal, but that becoming a mother will leave an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever vulnerable.  I consider warning her that she will never read a newspaper again without asking “What if that had been my child?”  That every plane crash, every fire will haunt her.  That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of bear protecting her cub.  That an urgent call of “MOM!” will cause her to drop her best crystal without a moment’s hesitation.

I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood.  Oh, she might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting, and she will think about her baby’s sweet smell.  She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her child is all right.  I want my friend to know that everyday decisions will no longer be routine.  That a 5-year-old boy’s desire to go to the men’s restroom rather than the women’s at a restaurant will become a major dilemma.  That issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that men’s restroom.  However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive friend, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself.  That her life now, so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child.  That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also hope for more years—not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish his.

My friend’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the ways she thinks.  I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is always careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his son or daughter.  I think she should know that she will fall in love with her husband all over again, but for reasons she would now find very unromantic.  I want to describe to my fiend the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to hit a baseball.  I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog for the first time.  I want her to taste the joy that is so real it hurts.

My friend’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.  “You’ll never regret it,” I finally say.  Then squeezing my friend’s hand, I offer a prayer for her and me and all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this holiest of callings.

The above quote was written by Dale Hanson Bourke (a woman!), and originally published in her book, Everyday Miracles.  I have typed out the section in its entirety here because I was unable to find it anywhere online.  I hope that’s okay, since I am giving full credit to the author.

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Tools for Dads (And Moms, too!)

Big thanks to a very special guest columnist–my very own husband, Joshua Caleb Hutchens– for this awesome post!

Fatherhood comes with great responsibility.  American culture portrays dads as either stern and distant or goofy and unreliable.  Contrary to these depictions, it is the father–not the mother–who has the primary role in teaching the children about God.  When Moses commands Israel, “You shall teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children,” he is speaking directly to fathers–the heads of the households and clans (Deut 6:6).  This is why he can say that God is the God of their fathers (Deut 6:3).

Proverbs is essentially an entire book focused on the father-child teaching relationship.*  Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”  So, while Proverbs recognize the indispensable role of a mother, the father is portrayed as the primary teacher of wisdom (a.k.a. the fear of the Lord).

We fathers tend to think of our role as provider in material ways alone.  It is our job to “bring home the bacon.”  We need to remember the words of Jesus:

“Do not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 6:19-20).

Material things are precarious and temporary.  The spiritual treasure is eternal and of far greater worth.  If we provide for our families materially but do not provide for them spiritually, then we have failed.

Like every job of fatherhood, a dad needs a good set of tools to instruct his children in the fear of the Lord.  So, for this father’s day I’d like to share a few tools that our family has found helpful in beginning to teach Jude about God.

Hymns

I start with this one because it is free.  In my humble opinion, few modern songs can come close to the theological and emotional depth of hymns, especially the really, really old hymns.  We put together a PDF document of lyrics, titled Lullaby Hymns, of the hymns that we sing most often when putting Jude to sleep.  If you don’t know the tune, NetHymnal can be really helpful since they have the tune for tons of hymns online for free (as far as I know, this is the only website today still using those midi files that we all thought were so cool in the 90s).  We also enjoy Indelible Grace, a group committed to helping churches recover old hymns.  We know many of the hymns in our Lullaby Hymns collection from listening to their music.  Or if you can read music, just pick up an old hymnal.  Whatever you do, sing hymns to and with your children.  Fill their little minds with lyrics about the greatness and the love of God.

The Big Picture Story Bible

There really is nothing like this story Bible on the market today.  It doesn’t focus on individual stories like Noah’s Ark, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, or Daniel and the Lion’s Den.  It tells the “big picture story” of the entire Bible.  This focus on “the forest rather than the trees” is something that you really must do as a teacher.  The Bible isn’t a book of isolated and unrelated stories like Aesop’s Fables.  It is a book with a single story about God establishing his kingdom.  All the individual stories are encompassed in the grand narrative.  Children must be taught the big story, and this book does exactly that in a way that is understandable for kids and enjoyable for parents.  The illustrations are great and will keep your kids’ attention.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Now of course it is also important for your children to know the individual stories of the Bible.  This book is great for doing just that.  The problem with many story Bibles for little ones is that it ends up moralizing the story.  The story of David and Goliath is given the meaning of courage in the face of adversity, while in fact the story points to Jesus by showing how God conquers his enemies through his anointed king.  An important question to ask yourself when teaching the Old Testament is–”Would a conservative Jew agree with me or want to kill me?”  It is obvious in the book of Acts that the Apostle’s interpretation of the Old Testament caused the latter reaction.  The Old Testament wasn’t meant to teach us how to be nice moral people.  It points to Jesus.  This book tells the individual stories in a captivating way with wonderful illustrations, while at the same time showing how each story points to Jesus.  We gave our copy away and are excited that our parents are bringing another when they come visit next month.

Seeds Family Worship

We’ve just discovered this in the last couple weeks.  This group puts Bible verses (from the NIV) to music.  The value of putting things to music for memory is universally recognized.  So far, Seeds has five CDs based on themes like faith or courage.  The songs are not the annoying children’s tunes that drive you bonkers.  They are enjoyable to listen to, and except for the reserved use of children’s voices you wouldn’t even know that it is children’s music.  CDs are fairly priced and also available on iTunes.  If you can’t afford them all at once, you can still listen online for free.

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God

Admittedly, we haven’t used this with Jude much yet since it has older children in mind, but we have already been familiarizing ourselves with this book.  It is theologian Bruce Ware’s attempt to reconstruct the many conversations he had with his daughters about God and theology.  He explains things clearly and uses some great illustrations.  It will be a great resource for family worship in the future, and I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to read a short overview of systematic theology in layman’s terms.

“Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies”

This CD is mostly fun.  It is a great combination of songs about God, silly songs, and lullabies from daddies.  It has everything from the song “God Made Me,” where they sing, “God made me like he made the sea; he filled it up with green and blue.  He sent his Son, his only one, to fill me up and make me new,” to “Bears,” where they sing, “Bears, bears, they got no cares.  Bears don’t drink from a cup.”

“How I Pastor My Family”

This is a short article by Pastor Justin Hyde of Christ Church Brenham, Texas.  It has some interesting suggestions and encouragement for dads.  If you are a dad, then you are the pastor of your family.  You will lead your family spiritually.  The question is–in what direction?

There are many great children’s resources out there.  These are just the current tools we use with our son.  Even though he is just sixteen months old, it is never too soon to begin teaching.  I suspect he is understanding much more than we can know and than he can communicate.  All of these resources will be helpful at least through early elementary school.

Other resources that are on our wish list that you might also find helpful include:

Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book

Books by Debby Anderson

Books by Carine Mackenzie (especially the “Learn about God” series)

The “Big Book” Series by Sinclair Ferguson

*Some scholars believe that Proverbs was based on the teacher-pupil relationship since teachers were often addressed as fathers and likewise called their students sons.  Even if this is so, that such language was adopted for the teacher-pupil relationship only serves to prove the point that fathers are instructors.

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Some Thoughts on Overtiredness

As I write this, after 9:30 pm, Josh is pacing and singing with Jude in our backpack carrier while Jude screams and cries because he is too tired to fall asleep.  We’ve been trying to get him to go to sleep for over an hour to no avail.

For the first year of Jude’s life, this was how it went at every nap and bedtime—endless hours of pacing, singing, and screaming—and we thought it was normal.  Or, rather, we just didn’t know what we could possibly do differently (besides letting him cry-it-out, which is not something we have ever considered to be an option).

Now, maybe most new parents have more common sense than we do, or “easier” babies, or something… I don’t know…. but I feel compelled to write this post because it would have saved us a LOT of misery if someone had told me a year ago that overtiredness is a very strong adversary of sleep.

It wasn’t until after reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Elizabeth Pantley (she has another book specifically for babies, too) that I realized that we were waiting way too late to start putting Jude to sleep.  We were waiting until he was noticeably tired—yawning, rubbing his eyes, getting frustrated/upset more easily, etc.—to start getting him ready for bed.  The problem was that, by the time we figured out he was tired, he had already switched into overtired mode.  The tricky thing is that overtired mode is really fun and cute, so he would get really hyper and funny and we would think, “well, this is the happiest he’s been all day, we might as well enjoy it and let him get all of this energy out before trying to put him to bed.”  And then after about 30 minutes to an hour of that, he would switch from overtired to just miserably tired, and we would begin the hour or more of pacing, singing, and screaming, generally not getting him into bed before 9:30 or 10:00 pm.

So now, although I am not in favor of strict scheduling of small babies, I realize that it is in his best interest for us to recognize the times of day that he naturally gets sleepy, and to start his nap/bedtime routine (having a predictable wind-down routine is also something I learned from Pantley’s book) just before that time hits.  Right now, at 15 months old, those times are 11:00 am and 7:00 pm.  So he usually doesn’t even seem that sleepy at 10:45 am or 6:30 pm, but if we were to wait just 30 more minutes, he would be in overtired mode.  On a good day, when I am able to time it just right, he falls asleep with almost no effort.

Today, however, was not one of those days.  Sometimes, for various reasons, we are not able to get him to sleep before overtired hits and we wind up with a miserable little boy who is too tired to fall asleep, and miserable parents who are tired too.  But when we have a night like this (which is increasingly rare as we recognize just how important good sleep scheduling is for him), we remember how we used to go through this every night, and are thankful that the Lord finally showed us a better way!

We are the farthest thing from having any pretense of having everything figured out, but we pray every day that he would continue to guide us and give us wisdom for raising this wonderful little boy that he has blessed us with.  I pray that he would use this to help someone who reads it, because I know it would have definitely helped me if I’d have known this a year or more ago.

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Shoes Transmit Disease… YUCK!

I grew up in a home where we did not leave the rug by the door if we had on shoes.  There was always a pile of shoes by the door.

Now that I have a baby, I am even more careful about not wearing shoes in the house than my mom!  I was just having a discussion online about how gross it is to bring all of the germs and nasties from outside into your house on your shoes, when I found this article: Shoes Transmit Disease, Leave Them By the Door.

From the article:

“The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors,” said Gerba. “Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated with bacteria.

Any germs picked up by bare feet, knees and hands will then be transported to the crib at naptime.”

Yuck!  So, for the health of your family, please think twice before tromping through your house with your shoes on!

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Happy 1st Birthday, Jude!

My baby is 1 year old today!  *sniff sniff*

One year ago today was a very difficult day.  After 12 hours of labor, things were not looking safe for Jude to be born naturally, so we made the difficult decision to go to the hospital for a c-section.  Exactly a year ago from the exact time that I am writing this, I was in the most traumatic part of the day, actually being admitted to the hospital and prepped for the c-section.  Yes, I said traumatic.  Anyway… moments later, our perfect 10 pound, 3 ounce boy was brought into this world.  Nobody could believe how big he was!

The first few months were very difficult.  Jude had silent reflux and I didn’t fully recover from the c-section for 3 months.  Josh pulled through for all of us with more strength and endurance than I knew was possible.

Jude is such an incredible blessing.  Every time I look at him, my heart swells with love, joy, and thankfulness to God.  He is full of energy, enough so that keeping up with him has proven to be all of the workout plan I need.  🙂

Happy birthday, baby.  I love you, and I love being your mommy.

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Too Young to Date?

This is awesome.  More Christians need to be telling their children this:

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