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God did it! He helped Andrew finish his Masters of Divinity at Bethlehem College and Seminary! We are now seeking for a full-time ministry position for Andrew, but we are also serving our wonderfully diverse neighborhood while we "wait." :) God is good, and we want to make Him known wherever we are.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Musings from a post-seminary wife.

It's late, the boys are all sleeping and I should be as well.  But that's typically how new blog posts happen.  So I'll just run with it!

The seminary wives I know have a running joke that every time somebody asks them if they know what they'll be doing after graduation, they reply, "Oh we're going to be astronauts. We're going to Mars when sustainable life can be had and preach the Gospel to the folks up there. They need Jesus too!"  It's ridiculous and hilarious.  I can't count how many times we were asked in Andrew's fourth and final year of seminary if we had any idea of "what was next."  Sometimes it's just easier to give a ridiculous answer and laugh it off instead of replying to your friends (who are already packed up ready to move on to their new, exciting ministry adventure), "Oh, we don't know.  We're just waiting on the Lord!"   Pause for awkward silence. "Oh, ok.  Cool."

And so we are waiting.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  The questions of "what's next?" still come, but they're slowly just trickling in every now and then as, "any news?"  I'm ok with that.  It's not like I hated people asking us that question.  It's all out of love and excitement.  God has called all the men who graduated in Andrew's cohort with different gifts and passions, and He's called them all to follow hard after Him, whenever and wherever that may be.  And we are all excited to see how the Lord will use each of them and their families!

For now, the Lord has called us to a great neighborhood in Columbia Heights, MN while Andrew searches for a Pastoral position and while we wait.  I admit, in some ways it's hard to watch many of our dear friends we have grown to love over the last 4 years move away to their new ministerial positions.  Some have remained, and some are just now packing up to move on to the next thing.  And here we are;  hanging out, living a pretty "normal" life, day in and day out.  I'm still homeschooling our boys. Andrew is working really hard at two jobs and well, he's exhausted.  He burns the candle at both ends still, and I truly was hoping those days might be over.  At least for a little while?  *Sigh* 

But here's a HUGE reason I love my husband:  despite working two jobs and somehow finding time to search for ministry positions in between, Andrew continues to pour out a love and passion for Christ and the Gospel.  He leads a small group on Sunday afternoons, and as I watch him lead our group in devotions, I see him come alive.  He's exhausted and going on little sleep, but he loves God's Word and loves pointing others to Jesus.  He smiles non-stop when teaching from the Bible and has a genuine delight in shepherding people that keeps him striving for their joy in Christ. Sometimes as I watch him, I think, "God, he is the most humble, genuine, people loving, Christ exalting man I have ever known!  He yearns to shepherd your flock! Why is it so hard? Why so many closed doors?"  But even as I wonder, I know the Lord knows it all.  He's working and moving and His plans are beyond our comprehension.  So we wait.  Or so I thought that was just what we were doing: waiting.

Andrew has been helping me to see that even though He doesn't have an actual "Ministry position", we can still serve the Lord right where we are, here and now.   We moved into a house in July.  A 3 bedroom house!!  For those of you who know us, you know we lived 5 years in a two bedroom apartment, 4 of those years with 3 wild little boys bouncing off the walls and sharing one tiny room.  The Lord opened a door for us to move into a bigger space and this mama was REJOICING!!! But life isn't about houses and yards and space for boys to grow.  These things are wonderful blessings (hallelujah, thank you Jesus!),  but this move was so much more than that for us. 

At the beginning of the Fall, we hosted a bonfire in our backyard.  We set up a s'mores bar, had hot coco and hot apple cider and invited all our neighbors to join us.  This was WAY out of my comfort zone.  We were the new family on the block and I'm pretty introverted.  Andrew, however, was determined to get to know our neighbors.  He and the boys went door to door the week of our bonfire and invited our neighbors to join us.  The boys had made many friends already, but I still didn't know the majority of the families on our street.  I knew the kids, but not their parents. I figured all the kids would come once they heard about the s'more and coco, but I wasn't super convinced any parents would come out.  I thought it would be lame. HA!

 That night we sat around the bonfire with 4 other families, parents included.  It was such a joy, and of course, I was so glad we (ahem, I) stepped out of our comfort zones to do it.  The most amazing thing about that night was that 4 different nations were represented around our fire.  A sweet older Serbian couple joined us and told us stories about their home country, Bosnia.  An Indian family from across the street told us about some fun Indian traditions they celebrate during the winter and a Mexican family also came.  By the end of the night the father was talking about his love for fishing with Andrew and trying to figure out if they could go fishing together sometime.  The last couple was a sweet, Minnesota-born-and-raised older couple that have lived on our street for a long time.  Most of us could barely understand each other through thick accents, but it was delightful. 

It struck me that night.  Here we are "waiting," and God has brought the nations to our BACKYARD.  Literally, Serbians, Indians, Mexicans, and Americans sitting around a fire in our backyard.  Andrew and I couldn't stop smiling that night.  God, you knew this all along.  You planted us here while we wait to do your work in some sort of "official" capacity... except we don't have to wait to do your work!! We don't know how long we'll be here, but we have resolved that while we are here, we will do all we can to reach out to these beautiful neighbors.  We will build relationships with them, invite them over for dinner, hopefully grow to know their lives a little bit more and help share in their burdens, whatever they may be.   

This Sunday, the sweet Serbian family will be joining our small group for a pot luck dinner.  I'm beyond stoked.  They will be bringing a traditional Serbian dish and I cannot wait to try it.  I'm excited to learn more about them and how we can better love them and serve them.  And, of course, we desire to share the best news of all with them, within the context of their lives.  Sharing the Gospel will look so much different with them then it will look with the Mexican family down the street, and with the Indian family right across from us, and different from the true Minnesotan couple on the other side of the street.  Oooh, you betcha.  But they ALL need to hear.  And God brought them all to the same street from faraway countries.  And they sat in our yard, and they will hopefully spend evenings in our home, and I couldn't think of any better way to spend this season of "waiting." Except, we're not really waiting after all.  We're doing exactly what He has called us to do right now: post-graduation, working for a dermatology clinic and Home Depot, homeschooling our boys, and striving for the joy of all peoples through Christ Jesus in our own backyard. 

And now, for some pictures of our dear, sanctifying boys. :) 

                                                                          Micah, age 6
                                                                            Isaac, age 4
                                                                          Daniel, age 8

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Homeschooling, year 1

    Ah, Diet Coke.  We have quite the love-hate relationship.  On one hand, I love the delicious calorie free taste.  It is a treat I definitely enjoy on occasion.  On the other hand, because of it's calorie-free nature, it's also actually incredibly unhealthy, and rumor has it, could potentially cause cancer.  Awesome.  Yet, I continue to drink it.  Of course I try to justify myself with the fact that I really don't drink it that often.  I don't buy it on a regular basis.  In fact, I never keep it in the house, and typically only drink it on dates with Andrew, or when I shop at Target.   Nevertheless, it's delicious, and so I enjoy it.
    This post really isn't about Diet Coke, I promise.  It just happens to be the reason I am writing tonight.  Part of the love-hate relationship we share is that the caffeine in the Diet Coke has been known to keep my mind buzzing if I drink it after a certain point in the evening.  Ten o'clock at night is definitely way too late. Therefore instead of sleeping, I find myself writing.  So, I decided to write about our first year of homeschooling.  From Diet Coke to homeschooling.  This should be interesting!
   I certainly don't think I have much wisdom or insight to offer on subject of homeschooling.  I'm still a rookie, without a doubt, and have much to learn.  I have, however, learned a few lessons this last year, and thought I would share a few things for any who might be interested.  Only be aware that I'm   learning and growing, and still trying to figure this whole homeschool life out.  However, despite challenges, hardships, and a lot of discouraging days, know that most of all, I love it.
    I will begin where most first time home school mom's begin.  Delusion.  Ah yes, that picture of delightful, domestic bliss.   As I eagerly poured over the curriculum I chose for Daniel's kindergarten year, I excitedly charted out the whole first month of lesson plans, writing everything out neatly in my notebook.  I couldn't wait to start.  Visions of my children seated happily at our kitchen table with bright sunlight pouring into room filled my mind.  The baby happily hanging on my hip, I would joyfully practice Bible memory verses with my children, do fun crafts, and most exciting of all, teach Daniel to read!  Oh it was going to be great! 
    Well, that picture in my mind lasted a week.  Maybe two.  The reality of it was that life was messy.  Children are messy.  Tantrums interrupt lessons, babies cry, children spill water all over their papers and, quite conveniently, they always have to poop right when you are starting math lessons (yes, I'm serious).  Don't get me wrong, there were great days.  Days where the baby napped really well, Micah sat well with his stickers and markers, and Daniel absorbed everything like a sponge.  The day he read his first book was great.  I was so proud of him.  And best of all, the Lord was using me to teach him to read!  I'm telling you, there were great days.  But there were also hard days.  Days when I would have to go to my room, close my door, sit on the floor and cry.  And pray.  There is nothing like being a mother, and adding to that, your child's teacher to bring out the worst in you.  I was not always patient and joyful in every circumstance.  There were days when I would just lose it after Daniel dropped his pencil on the floor for the 100th time.  I mean, is it really that hard to keep you pencil on the table?  Oh yeah.  He's 5.  :) 
    By the end of the year, Daniel has read more than a dozen books.  He flew through his Kindergarten phonics curriculum, and finished his Kindergarten year halfway through the 1st grade phonics curriculum.  He ended the year sitting at the table, able to complete a whole page of math addition facts, completely on his own while I could get dinner prepped or wash dishes.  At the beginning of the year, I had to spend every second next to him helping him along.  By the end of the year, he could read the instructions for his math worksheets almost entirely by himself.  So somewhere in the midst of those awesome days and those difficult days, there must have been some learning going on.  And by God's grace, the learning was not only on Daniel's end.  I am pretty sure that I have actually learned more than him. 
   I have learned that despite repeated failures, I can still turn to the cross.  I can come to the end of a terrible day, and know that Christ is still my savior.  He keeps me in His love.  I will never be apart from Him.  He will never turn me away when I have failed yet again, and tell me that I screwed up too many times.  No, I am His beloved, He has bought me with His blood, and my pardon is sure.  Praise the Lord for the Gospel.   What a sweet assurance!!  My security in Christ is not dependent upon my performance.  It's dependent upon the perfect and precious blood of Christ.  That is my true, unfading, ever present joy, even in the midst of hard days.  Thank you, Jesus!
   I have also learned just how dependent I am upon the Lord for everything.  I have been learning this from my experiences thus far from being a mom.  Now, even more so, I am learning it as I homeschool my children.  I am weak, and frail, but Christ is strong.  He is able to fill me, and work through me, by His grace, and through His power, so that He might receive the glory.   So many times I thought about this verse in 2 Corinthians:  " 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my  power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamaties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong" (vv. 9,10).  I am weak!  I see it every day.  But as the Lord gives me grace and strength, I am able to get to the end of a year, and say, "see!  Look at God!  He has been so faithful!  He has given me all that I needed!  In my weakness, He was shown great!"  That is ultimately what I want my life, my mothering, my homeschooling years to be about.  God is great.  He is faithful, and patient, and strong when I am weak.  To Him be the glory!
   I look forward to the next year with a little bit of that same delusion.  It's a fresh start, a fresh slate, new curriculum that I'm really excited about, and more sunshine to pour in through my windows.  The baby is another year older and will probably sit at the table (or climb on it rather) and make more of a mess than I can imagine.  But I still envision a delightful year to come.  I also expect many difficult days to come along with many wonderful days, and more than likely, many average, mundane days.  But I know that Christ will be my strength, my help, and my portion.
 "Who have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  (Psalm 73:25,26)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Year Down....Three to Go!

We are almost there! Next week is finals week for Andrew, and then he will officially have 1 year of seminary under his belt! It feels pretty surreal thinking back on the last year and a half. This time last year we were anxiously preparing and wondering what life in seminary would be like. Now, we know! :) Life this last year has been a little busy....okay, maybe incredibly insane might be more like it. We of course had our third son smack in the middle of Andrew's first semester, so that really made things interesting! But all in all, this last year as been rich in God's mercy and providence, and we are so thankful to be where we are!

God has helped our marriage grow stronger, even in the midst of challenges that full-time schooling and constant parenting brings. Our children continue to grow like weeds, and Daniel is even starting to read! Wow! He will be starting Kindergarten this fall, just as a side note. Perhaps I will blog on the beginning of our adventures of homeschooling as fall comes upon us. But overall, life is sweet. Andrew is one incredible husband. Daniel is growing leaps and bounds in so many ways, Micah is expanding his vocabulary and is potty trained (yeah!) and Isaac is the most adorable, sweet little 6 month old baby boy in the whole wide world. Without a doubt. :)

We are also so thankful for the new friends that we have met this year. Andrew's cohort is filled with amazing people, and many wonderful wives and children who go along with them. I am blessed to have made a few really solid connections with some wonderful seminary wives who have proved to be a huge source of refreshment and encouragement to me as we have persevered through this first year together. God is so good! So excited to see what the next 3 years hold!

 For His Glory,

 Rachelle, for the Johnsons!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Testimony of God's Grace

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." 1 Corinthians 9:8

This verse is currently posted on bright yellow card stock in my kitchen. It's right there by my head as I wash dishes, wipe down counters, and prepare meals. I easily spend several hours a day in my kitchen, and many moments of those hours are spent reading and rereading that verse. It has been a verse that I have clung too nearly every day for several months, and even now as I type, I think upon the sweet promise of this verse rejoice for what the Lord has been working in my heart. My sinful, wicked, selfish heart. But we'll get to that later.

I think to fully get a grasp of how the Lord is performing wonderful works of grace in my heart now, it may be helpful to back up just briefly and give somewhat of a framework of my life before this particular season of motherhood I am now in.

Of course the greatest of God's grace in my life began when he first brought me to himself. I was a young girl, only 7, when I believe I became a child of God, and he has continued to pour out his grace upon me throughout my life. Truly, I am amazed as I look back to see his hand in my life. Being brought up by Christian parents who were faithful to bring my siblings and I to a bible-believing church was a blessing certainly beyond what I deserved. God was gracious to use my parents and a church faithful to the gospel to bring about an awareness in my heart of my need for Christ.

Fast-forward about 9 years and I see another of God's greatest gifts of grace in my life next to salvation: Calvinism. Okay, seriously though? I am serious! Upon my introduction to the Doctrines of Grace (I usually prefer this term to Calvinism, but it doesn't matter what you call it, it's biblical!)I virtually skyrocketed in my desire for God's Word, and become introduced to so many amazing people (and authors)who helped me grow to love Christ more than ever before. My family simultaneously began attending a new church, where wouldn't you know it, the pastor believed in the doctrines of grace! There is so much I could go into during these years of my life, but perhaps that is for another post. Through a string of events from this point forward, I ended up pursing a degree in Biblical and Theological studies in Louisville, KY where I met my husband, and gave birth to our first two children. God's grace brought me there. And that is where a new season of grace began to wash over me, and continues to do so with more fervency now in Minneapolis, where I am mother to three sons now, and wife to a hard-working seminary student.

And how exactly is God's grace working in my life now? Well, that is where this season of motherhood comes into play. My excitement and passion for sound theology and doctrine in my late teenage years and early 20's have now given way to practicality. In other words, my theology has taken shape into real, practical life. It's not so much knowledge in my head that I believed with my heart because I know I can trust God's Word. It's more. I know I desperately NEED God not simply because his Word makes it clear (which is true, and good), but because yesterday.... okay, today, I yelled at my children. Okay, big deal. Everyone yells at their kids, right? Well yes, it is a big deal. Because we are to "let no corrupting talk come from [our] mouths, but only such is profitable for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29---this one is red, also posted in my kitchen) And it's not even just a matter of yelling, it's my heart. I began to realize as my first child grew into toddler hood that I had an anger problem. Anger would start to boil up in my heart as that little child of mine would attempt to defy me and wield his will over mine. My first outburst of anger truly startled me. My first year of struggling with this "new found" anger, so-to-speak, was tumultuous. Of course this was not some sort of new sin. It was there, all along. In my heart. It simply had never surfaced.

I was unable to overcome on my own. I might have had a few good days where I really handled my sons well, patiently correcting and teaching them. But, soon enough I was at it again, yelling in anger at my poor children. Then, God's grace showed me something incredible. One day, I heard some neighbors yelling at one another. They were so angry with each other, screaming and cursing. As I heard them yelling, I began to shake my head, but only for a second. God grabbed at my heart and said, "And are YOU any better than they?" Tears streamed down my face. No. Surely, I am not. I too yell in anger, and at my dear, precious children! God had given them to me, to show them Christ, and all I was showing them was my selfish heart. I did not like being disobeyed. I did not like being inconvenienced by having to often deal with disciplinary issues. There my heart was laid bare to me: wicked, selfish and sinful.

But what mercy, and what grace is found in our beautiful Savior! He doesn't leave us there to wallow in our failures. His grace shows us our sin, and his grace helps us to overcome. By His grace I began to understand that just as I could not save myself without Christ and His Spirit drawing me to him, neither could I overcome my battle against sin without him. "Without me you can do nothing." How true. How precious and true it is.

I am so thankful the Lord has used my children to reveal my sinful heart. He has drawn it out in a way that has been painful. Oh but what joy to know that His death and resurrection has defeated the powers of hell and my sin is forgiven! In recent months he has graciously directed me to several resources to continue to encourage me in this area, most especially the verse quoted at the beginning of this post. God is able to make all grace about to me! So that I will have ALL sufficiency, at all times, even in my mothering, to ABOUND in EVERY GOOD WORK! It's a promise! I still battle, of course. But I feel a greater sense of dependence up Him. I am so much more in prayer than I have ever been in my life. And there is no sweeter place to be than resting in His strength. It is all grace that I should even see my sin, and grace that I should be able to turn to him for help! And grace that "he who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:6). I want to end with a song that always brings me to tears. Happy, joyful tears. May you feel God's grace in whatever path he leads you through and find him to be your greatest treasure!

All I Have is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Beginning of a New Season

The Johnson family has had quite the busy and exciting weekend. Andrew officially begins classes this Wednesday, and this last weekend we have enjoyed several seminary events planned to introduce all the incoming first year students to one another, as well as the 2-4th year students, faculty and staff at Bethlehem College and Seminary. Thursday night we kicked everything off with a "Meet and Mingle" dinner where we all enjoyed pizza, brownies and root beer floats and met one another for the first time. I was happy to see so many families a part of this program who were raising young children as well. It's good to know we are not alone, and other people are making it through just fine!

Friday was orientation for all the students, and the wives were invited as well to partake in a delicious lunch with our husbands. We then broke off from our husbands and had our first "Seminary Wives" meeting where we got to know one another a little bit better and also met the wonderful women who lead up our group, Julie Stellar and Sharon Rusten. Both women were young seminary wives as well, and have many years experience now as ministry wives, and I am confident they will have a wealth of wisdom and encouragement to share with us as we walk through these next 4 years with our husbands. I am so thankful for this program and absolutely cannot wait to get to know all these women better and to hopefully develop wonderful, lasting friendships that will Lord willing go beyond even just these 4 years!

Today we went to the "seminary picnic" where we all met up at a beautiful park and simply enjoyed time together again eating hot dogs and other wonderful picnic foods. :) Tonight Andrew is at a Twins game with one of his new friends who is also an incoming 1st year student, and I think that is the perfect ending for him to a wonderful weekend! We have been in Minnesota almost a year already! We moved in September 2010 before Andrew even officially applied for the program, and it has been a long year of preparation and waiting. We are so excited to finally be starting this new season. We are certainly aware of the difficulties it will surely bring, but we know our God is faithful and strong and will give us the grace we need to endure anything that comes our way. I cannot express how blessed we feel that Andrew is able to be a part of this program. It is no doubt worth the difficult years of schooling ahead. God is good. We are thankful for his provision and trust that He will continue to provide and guide our family.

Only may He be glorified and honored in our lives. May he be shown as glorious and great as we depend upon Him these next 4 years. To Him be all the praise, honor and glory, forever!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Part 3: finally =)

I know a bit of time has lapsed since I wrote part 2 of my proclaimed 4-part post discussing the book "Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Plowman. But if you will forgive my tardiness, I will continue on with part 3 and probably stop there for good. :) I obviously am not the most consistent blogger in the world, so I think cutting this down to 3 parts will be for the best.

In this section I want to basically relay to you the practical portion of this book. One of the greatest things I love about this book is that Plowman does not just tell you that disciplining our children is important and getting at the heart issue is key; she goes so much further to give practical examples of how this is done, in a wide variety of circumstances. I cannot reiterate enough how huge this was for me. Plowman equips the reader with the tools they need to put biblical training and discipline into action. There is such a wealth of examples flowing from this book that I will not possibly be able to touch on them all. I will simply try to condense it down to a few that I feel were most important and helpful to me in the broadest range of circumstances.

Heart Probing:

So we know that when we discipline our children, we don't simply want to change their outward behavior. We want to get to their hearts. We want to show them the reason they sin and disobey mommy, daddy and most importantly God, is because their hearts are sinful and selfish. But how can we possibly do this? One thing Plowman suggests is the use of heart probing questions. By asking our children heart probing questions in light of their sin and/or disobedience, we are teaching our children how to search and evaluate their own hearts for sinful motives.

For example: Every time I tell my sons to go wash their hands, they both make a mad dash for the bathroom. Each wants to get there first, and since Daniel is bigger he usually gets there just a tad ahead and then proceeds to make every effort to keep Micah out. He often times will even shove him out of the way so he can go first. Well this of course sets Micah to screaming and crying, and Daniel to bossing him about. As I set off to deal with the situation I can gently pull Daniel aside and ask him, "are you putting Micah ahead of yourself or are you being selfish?" Daniel usually responds with, "I'm being selfish." And I usually respond with "what do you think would be the kind and generous thing to do for Micah right now? How can you put him first?" And Daniel will think for a minute and respond with something like, "let him wash his hands first." Today, Daniel even added, "pull the stool up for him so he can get up and wash first." Asking Daniel these questions causes him to stop and think about his motives. He is evaluating his own heart, and while he is still only 3 years old, it is certainly a good habit to instill from a young age. And even at 3, Daniel is able to think through and respond to these questions.

Plowman offers a variety of questions that you can ask your children with regard to many circumstances, including disobedience, lying, teasing, whining, etc... And going hand in hand with these heart probing questions is the use of Scripture to reprove your children. In the example I gave above, I can remind Daniel that God's Word says to "do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others (like Micah) better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3) As I mentioned in a previous post, the use of God's Word in teaching our children is the most powerful tool we have! God's Word is what changes hearts, and you can never speak the Word of God too much to your children, especially in instances of discipline and correction.

Reproof ("Put off") and Encouragement ("Put On")

Plowman encourages parents to not only use Scripture to reprove our children in teaching them to put off sinful behavior, but to also teach our children to put on righteous behavior. So often we simply take our child aside, swat their bottoms, tell them why they were wrong, and then send them packing. Rebuking wrong behavior without teaching right behavior will only exasperate our children. We need to encourage them in righteous behavior before we send them back on their way. Again, with the example of Daniel and Micah, after Daniel receives his discipline and is told to put off his selfish behavior by putting Micah first, I am then to encourage him to put on righteous behavior. I should not simply say, "Don't be selfish!" But I am to ask him, as mentioned earlier, how he could show love for Micah and how he could put Micah first. As Daniel answered with "pull the stool up for Micah so he can wash first," he was thinking about how he could pursue righteous behavior the next time. So I not only reprove him, but I also encourage him to put on righteousness. Doing so in the long run helps give our children the tools they need to not only do what it takes to avoid getting in to trouble, but to live righteous lives that honor God and accord with His Word.

Avoiding the use of worldly methods of discipline:

Plowman not only encourages you in biblical, heart probing discipline. She goes a step further and tells you what NOT to do when disciplining your children, and the reasons why these methods are harmful to our children. I must admit I find myself resorting to several of these methods at times simply because the biblical way is just too much work! But it's work that is well worth the effort!

*Counting- I was impressed by Plowman's boldness to include "counting" as a worldly method of discipline. The reason counting to 3, or 10 or whatever it is is so harmful to our children is that it is teaching our children delayed obedience. Our children know that when mommy tells them to do something, they don't have to stop what they are doing right away and obey. They simply have to obey by the time mommy gets to that magic number. That's not what God expects of us. He expects us to trust him and to obey. Period. We are the authority over our children, and unless they learn to obey right away--the first time mommy makes a command-- they will not learn to trust and obey; they will simply learn how to keep getting what they want for as long as they possibly can. Their hearts are not pointed toward obedience, but toward their own selfishness. If you tell you child to come to you and you know they heard you, then you are to expect them to come immediately. Not after you count to 5. Right away. And if they don't, they are to receive discipline.

*Yelling/raising your voice/repeating yourself-- This is similar to counting, in that you are teaching your children that they do not have to obey you until you get really mad--until you start raising your voice and yelling at them. This is also teaching them delayed obedience. They don't have to obey you until you start getting red in the face and scream out your demands. And repeating yourself is also a form of delayed obedience. You should only have to tell your child one time what you want. But if you start repeating yourself and only take action after about the 4th or 5th time you tell your child to do something, they will begin to take advantage of your inconsistency and try to get away with doing what they want (selfishness) for as long as you keep up with repeating yourself. All these things are harmful for your child in the long run because you are unknowingly helping them get away with as much as they possibly can instead of teaching them that God expects complete, whole-hearted, immediate obedience. ("Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord" Colossians 3:20)

*A few other examples that I lack the time or space to go into detail are threatening and warning, as well using emotional manipulation to try to get your children to obey. All these things are negative methods that will only point your children away from heart issues, but toward obedience for the mere sake of pleasing man, and not for pleasing God.

Biblical Discipline: The Rod

I know this is an incredibly controversial issue these days, even among Christians. However, I completely agree with Plowman when she states that the best way to discipline our children is also the only biblical way, and that way is "the rod" or, as it is better known, spanking. Now, first let's make something very, very clear. If you think of spanking and envision a frustrated, angry mother or father grabbing their child, turning them over on their knee and then just letting loose all their frustration into their child as they wail into them and want to cry out, "but that's abuse!!" then I will completely agree with you. Wholeheartedly. A parent should never vent their frustrations on their child. They should NEVER, EVER discipline their children in anger. That is NOT biblical discipline, and that is not what the use of the rod is about. Unfortunately for godly parents who desire to biblically discipline their children, this is the stereotype. Therefore anyone who spanks their child has the unfortunate stigma of being abusive. But the Bible is very clear on this matter:

Proverbs 13:24 "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

Proverbs 19:18 "Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction."

Proverbs 22:15 "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him."

Proverbs 29:15 "The rod and rebuke gives wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

The use of the rod is the method that God has laid out for us to discipline our children. It is not abusive, but loving. Of course, it can be abusive if it is done as described above. We are to be gentle, and loving in our discipline. We are to have complete control of our emotions when we discipline our children. If a parent is too angry in the moment to administer discipline, then they should first seek time to calm down, seek the Lord's help, and delay discipline until they are no longer angry. A helpful hint Plowman gave was to tell your child how many times you are going to swat their bottom. That way there is control in the discipline and you are not just wailing away at their bottom. Also, if you do not feel you can walk away from the discipline and completely and freely forgive your child, then do not discipline yet. After the spanking is done, there should be nothing more to hold against your child. You should not hold a grudge, and you should let your child know with a hug that you love them and you completely forgive them. Walk away, and dwell on it no more. These are all helpful tips, I thought, in guarding against spanking unbiblically. "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." Galatians 6:1a.

Well this certainly was a mouthful, but I hope it can be of some help and encouragement to you. Hopefully it will encourage you to get this book and read it for yourself! God really used this book to help me in my disciplining and training of my sons. Reviewing this information all over again has been a refresher for me, and I pray that many other parents out there will seek the Lord for His help and strength in raising their children to become followers of Christ! God bless you in all of your endeavors to honor Him as your supreme joy and treasure in life!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

As I read through this book, I realized I was not just learning practical tips on how to biblically reprove, discipline and train my children. Time and again, I was brought to examine my own heart in the context of training my children. As I finished the book, there were three main sin issues in my own life that God graciously brought to light, and I will expound on these here.

1. I do not have God's Word hidden in my heart as I ought.

One of Plowman's greatest arguments is that in order to truly get at our children's hearts in our teaching and training, we must be constantly speaking the Word of God to them. In every situation we address, from fights over toys to outbursts of anger, parents should always be armed with scripture to speak to our children in moments of correction. God's Word is what changes the hearts of sinners. Period. Hebrews 4:12 says,

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." If we truly desire to see our children come to see their need for Christ, then what greater gift can we give them than to faithfully speak the Word to them each day, specifically in context of their sin? God's Word is powerful to change hearts, even the hearts of children.

Enter conviction. I certainly can draw out a few scriptures when speaking to my children, but in reality, there's not much hidden away there in my heart. My first reaction was to make excuses. I have been sick after all. Two to three months of morning sickness really puts a slow on everything in my life, including the daily reading of God's Word. But honestly, I have not been pregnant all my life. I wasn't pregnant when I first put my hope in Christ at the age of 7. I didn't have morning sickness throughout my teenage years when I could have been using my time to study and know God's Word. I sadly realized that I have had a life of wasted time when it came to loving, treasuring and knowing God's Word. This was extremely difficult to come to terms with. After all, I am a Bible College graduate, married to a man who is studying to pursue full-time ministry. Shouldn't I be saturated in God's Word? Yes. But am I? Sadly, no.

2. I do not pray for my children as I ought.

There are (many) days I find myself completely exasperated. I talk to my fellow mother-friends about issues I have with my children, and we talk for hours on end on finding the right method of discipline that would be most effective for my child. I pour out my heart to my husband at the end of the day when I have faced yet another challenging day with my incredibly stubborn, high energy toddler. I whine. I complain. But I don't pray for my children. I do pray for my children in a general sense, that God would someday bring them to salvation, etc... but I don't REALLY pray for them. I don't pray for Daniel and Micah concerning specific trials we face, and for their hearts to be softened to my discipline.

And the best and most fruitful way that I can pray for my children is to pray for them directly from God's Word. It is to pray in harmony with God's perfect will for my children's' lives. I love how Plowman puts it, "When we pray from God's Word, we surrender our foolish misconceptions of what is best by acknowledging that God's ways are not our ways. To pray from the Scriptures is to seek the will of the Father rather than the will of the parent." I need to pray for my children, so much more!

3. I am not joyful in my heart when dealing with discipline issues, knowing it points them to Christ.

On our fifth or sixth conversation over some disobedience issue or another, I tend to get a bit aggravated. I start to feel a bit offended, really. How dare my son(s) directly disobey me, AGAIN! I return to the dishes that end up taking much to long to complete, angry. And I am to be joyful?! Really, now. Well the answer to that is yes. Plowman gently points out James 1:2-4:

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

I would definitely agree that training children in righteousness, disciplining them on a day to day, sometimes hour by hour basis is a trial. Without a doubt. But I am to consider it a joy to do this. Even if that is all I do some days. But why, exactly, is this a joy? Well, every time I take my child aside, discipline and reprove him, I am pointing my child to his need for Jesus and training him in His Word. If only we could view all of our children's sinful behaviors as precious opportunities to teach them, then we would all be far more joyful, and more righteous in our training. Pointing them to Christ, the greatest treasure of life, and only hope of their salvation is an incredible privilege! This is very easy to say, of course, and most difficult to achieve. However, we are to strive to have our attitudes be like that of the attitude of Christ, and we know that "his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3).

These three things were a bit difficult to deal with at first. But I know that I cannot dwell here in despair. Thanks to the incredible mercy and long-suffering patience of my Savior, I know that I can confess these things to Him and rely upon His strength to grow in these areas.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit." Romans 8:1-4