Expressions from our Youngest

Expressions from our Youngest
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Shepherding a Child's Heart

I'm really enjoying Tedd Tripp's book called Shepherding a Child's Heart for Amanda Pelser's book club.  Last week we had the opportunity to post our thoughts on Chapter 10:  Embracing Biblical Methods-A Life of Communication and Chapter 11:  Embracing Biblical Methods-The Rod.  Just click on the link to participate.  I would like to share my thoughts on these chapters with you.

Tedd Tripp points out that parents who frequently incorporate sacred scripture and use "careful, timely, measured, and controlled" discipline are on their way to ensure their children know the greatest love story ever told.  In turn, this fosters the construction of their childrens' own love stories which reflects a Christian witness in life.  Some ways the Lord's loving story of redemption can be written onto the hearts of our children are through parental involvement in:

1) hearing and acting on God's Word;

2) utilizing the "rod of discipline to drive folly out of the hearts of our children" (p. 105 and Prov. 22:15) which fosters:
          -  witnessing of the "parental exercise" (p. 108) in God-given authority which
              honors and strengthens the parent-child relationship,
          -  portrays a serious "act of faith" (p. 109) to emulate,
          -  shows an "act of faithfulness (commitment) toward the children" which strengthens trust, (p. 109)
          -  shows a parent's determination to "act as God's representative" which fosters purpose-driven
              lives under God's authority, (p. 109)
          -  requires application of discretion used to administer the "proper measure of punishment," (p. 110)
          -  and "rescues" (p.110) children from becoming 'lost sheep' or loosing their souls - yes...parents are
              like little saviors.

3) We need to remember that communication and the rod are part of the picture.  There are other avenues available to parents too.  For example, participation in Church events can provide the family with wholesome service opportunities, relationships, activities, and sacramental blessings within their Christian community of believers.  This too creates memorable heart-felt desire for descipleship.  For the purposes of the book club though, we are focused on these two chapters for now.

Tedd Tripp has a marvelous approach to elevating our marital responsibilities to their designed order by applying biblical wisdom to the process of parenting.  Committed parents "model the dynamics of the Christian life" (p. 95) and so must their children.  The children are to become active participants in God's ways and must be included into the Christian unity of the family.   I've witnessed the stress one wayward child can cause to the entire family.  Believe is not pretty!  This is why it is so critical to "shepherd the hearts" of our children in order to let the love of Christ be the 'nucleus' or 'powerhouse' in  family life.  This takes tremendous time, patience, sacrifice, commitment, dedication, discipleship, name it!

Oftentimes, parents have to be willing to "drop everything else" (p. 94) to devote "time" (p. 94) and offer "flexibility" (p. 94) in their schedules in order to capitalize on a teachable moment...especially while their children are very young.  This is one of the reasons we've chosen to homeschool our children during their early years.  It has given us real leadership and freedom in how we manage the time and members of our family.  Even "the physical and spiritual energy" (p. 95) required for in-depth communication is enhanced through homeschooling with more time available to rest and pray.  Or would you rather be frantically driving all over town to meet someone else's schedule?  This is especially detrimental to very young children and their need for smooth transitions.

Parents who "encourage the faith" (p. 94) in their children will expose them to true wisdom which is knowledge in relationship to God.  It is only through true wisdom that an objective perception of reality is encountered in one's vision for life.  When the Lord is placed at the very center of family life, faith can ignite a fire of loving communication in every word, thought, and deed which elevates our desires to be 'one' in union with Christ without which our days are meaningless.  Our children desire to live out this 'dance of love' even when they leave the safety of our homes.  This is the whole meaning of the redemptive love of Christ and the power of the Holy Cross which helps the faithful fulfill their purpose in life in knowing, loving, and serving the Lord.  This life-giving purpose sets us on a path to our redemption and restores our friendship with God through his mercy and forgiveness.  Parents are the life-giving and unreplaceable instruments in the hands of God to teach these faith-centered realities to their children.

With the Lord's centrality to family life in mind, our parental authority reflects the love of Our Heavenly Father and has a great influence on our children.  God intentionally designed family relationships for parents to have the most "authority" (p. 97) over their youngest children when their minds are the most impressionable.  This is critical to be aware of because our children are not born "ethically and morally neutral" (p. 105), but we are all born with original "sin" on our souls. Most everyone has witnessed a toddler who says, "mine, mine" or "I want, I want" too much.  Our children should learn that living under God's loving authority by obeying their parents helps to eliminate the "foolishness of hearts" (p. 106) when one is "driven by their own 'selfish' wants and desires." (p. 106)  Selfishness leads to the downfall of many and parents are "mandated by God" (p. 110) to replace this attitude with love of neighbor into the hearts of their children.

I can remember when my older son was an infant and my father was watching me take care of him for a few minutes.  He said, "babies are takers.  This is all they know how to do yet."  He was witnessing how I continually had to give the baby all my time to feed, dress, and entertain him.  When the baby was unhappy, it was usually because he wanted something that needed my time and assistance.  Oftentimes, calming a cranky toddler may require discipline "employed as a God-given remedy" (p. 107) from a "faithful parent." No one else has this grace-filled ability from the Lord...not even a teacher.  "Rebellion" in the heart of a child, if "left unchallenged" (p. 107) can become a dangerous obstacle on their path to salvation in the Lord.

I can remember moments where I would have to try and properly balance serious communication while reading bible verses with moments of discipline to instill in my children a proper respect and attitude for the Word of God.  My children quickly learned that they could not fool around or giggle while we spoke about our faith or read from the bible.  In fact I'm going through the same process again with my five year old while I'm teaching his co-op class.  Gentle reminders pop up to help the children to remember to sit still and focus on prayers and lessons about the faith.

When we hear the voice of the Lord during our most impressionable and formidable years, we develop a stronger allegance to recognizing and following this voice of the 'Good Shepherd'...even into our adult years.  Adult choices will more naturally reflect the love of God.  We have been given a firm foundation from Christian parents to enhance our focus and recognition on the ways of the Lord from our earliest and most impressionable years.  Our first love has created unshakable memories and becomes a powerful adherance to life-long commitments in discipleship.  Therefore, we end up loving the Lord who melts away the selfish wants and desires of childhood and prepares us with a Christian vision to put the needs of others first.  Families who work to know, love, and serve the Lord will acquire the beauty and virtue to want and desire God's loving will (vs. their own will) for themselves and for all of humanity.

These families are more apt to have children who willingly agree to their parental influence through the years which directs them to enter full-fledged mature Christian discipleship.  This requires a commitment to live according to God's will to the best of their abilities. Parents can be instrumental in developing these abilities along side the Lord by living and communicating a way of life that mirrors authentic Christianity.  Children learn to trust parents because they've invested their lives around putting the needs of their children before their own.  This portrays the highest level of communicating an unforgettable and desirable language of love in family life.  Words to communicate are powerful and so are silent, humble, compassionate actions.  Therefore, families should frequently make time for prayer and Christian-oriented communication through action, instruction, and discipline to direct family members toward discipleship.

Tedd Tripp explains these same concepts in "Shepherding a Child's Heart" and I highly recommend this book to all parents.  He gives very constructive information and refers to biblical passages often to assist parents in gaining the confidence to fulfill their parental responsibilities.

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