2017 at 7:39 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
School days are upon us again. This means broken pencils and slow computers, late night study-sessions and pop-quizzes, classmate conflicts, “light bulb” moments, and lots and lots of reading.
But there’s something even more certain we can count on this school year: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of the days of my life” (Ps. 23:6).
If you are in Christ, goodness and mercy shall surely follow you all of the days of your school year. The bad days and the good days. The days when you fail a test or get left out at lunch. The days when you finish a paper or make a new friend. God’s goodness and mercy are pursuing you like a pair of bloodhounds, each and every day—whether you see them or not.
“Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins,” explains Charles Spurgeon. Goodness shadows us, in the halls of our high school or by the kitchen table at home, providing all of the strength, wisdom, perseverance, and patience we need, to help us glorify God. And Mercy’s right behind, picking us up when we fall, pardoning our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.
We may not know what discouragements or delights await us this school year, but surely God’s goodness and mercy will follow us, every single day.
2017 at 6:11 am | by Janelle Bradshaw
I was talking to my friend, Katie, the other day, and she told me that her newborn is waking up every two hours at night. Another friend has a couple of little ones extremely close in age. The older one has stopped taking naps just as the little one is starting to walk. Anyone tired yet? The season of mothering young kiddos can be completely overwhelming. You have a vague memory of a life where you used to accomplish goals and tackle to-do lists, but these days you marvel when you get a shower before lunch time. It can be so easy to get discouraged. The needs of your children are non-stop. So how do you maintain what’s most important? In the wise words of my mother—YOU SIMPLIFY!
What are the things we cannot neglect? It’s not a trick question, so I’m gonna give you the answer: our relationship with the Lord, our marriage, and those kiddos we were just discussing. And how do we tend to these priorities when we are up every two hours at night? Here’s nice me giving you the answer again: we create a SIMPLE plan.
How can I (simply!) keep my soul happy in God? Maybe you set aside time during your kids’ first nap each day to read God’s Word. Maybe you pray every time you do the dishes.
(I have so many dishes, that really would be “praying without ceasing!”) Ask your husband to take care of the children for thirty minutes each morning, so that you can read Scripture and pray. Or you can set open Bibles throughout your house, like Jean Fleming did. Maybe you use the ESV Bible plan that takes you through the Bible in two years (instead of one) or check-out my favorite ESV Bible plan for Moms with littles. Set a SIMPLE and attainable goal.
And how about the wonderful reason you became blessed with all this chaos—your marriage. Once again, SIMPLE goals! Ask your husband what one thing is most important to him in your marriage right now. If pretty much everything else is getting dropped, what does he want you to hang on to? Just start with one thing and make a SIMPLE plan for that one thing.
The kids, well there really is one SIMPLE focus when they are young. They need to obey, and we’ve gotta teach ‘em. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed as we consider all that our children need to learn in order to grow up into young men and women who live as lights in our dark world. But as my mom loves to quote Annie Sullivan as saying—“Obedience is the gateway to knowledge.” For our children, obedience is the gateway through which we can bring them the great gospel story.
The exhausting and all-consuming season of caring for little ones is just that—a season. Your kids will grow and you will be able to indulge in more complicated plans with little extras like showers in the morning. But until then, take a nap and make yourself a SIMPLE plan.
The other day, one of my sons asked if I liked a certain music artist he had heard about from a friend. “I like a few of his songs,” I told him. “A couple of them are beautiful, but some of his songs are not God-glorifying.” This spun off into a conversation with my two boys about music.
How do we help our teens discern whether or not a song is godly? As I told my boys, there are many helpful questions we can ask (thank you, Bob Kauflin!), but one way we can determine if a song is God-honoring is to ask: “How does this song make me feel?” I know, I know, it sounds like I’m throwing open the doors to whatever music we “feel” like listening to. But hang with me for a moment.
God gave us feelings to motivate us. Emotions move us to action. We feel happy and so we laugh, we feel righteous anger and we defend, we feel compassion and we help. And music? Music stirs up the feelings that move us to action. This is the ultimate purpose for the gift of music: to stir up emotions that move us to God and godliness. We sing praises and play instruments, in order to excite feelings that move us toward God.
So if this is God’s purpose for music, then it is vitally important that we ask: “How does this song make me feel about God? How does this song make me feel about godliness? And how does this song make me feel about sin? Or, more broadly, think about the kind of music you like to listen to. Does the music on your playlist leave you more angry at others, or grateful for God’s goodness? Discontent with your life or desirous of doing good? Hating sin or loving righteousness?
How does your playlist make you feel? Better yet, does the music you listen to make you feel the way that God wants you to feel?
As I told my boys, a song may not contain any “bad words” but still be bad if it stirs up emotions that warm your heart toward sin. A song’s meaning may even be vague or the words enigmatic, but if it stirs up arrogant, selfish, or lustful desires, then it is ungodly. On the flip side, a song may not mention God or his Word, but the words and music together generate feelings of awe at his beauty and majesty in creation, shame for sin, or selfless love for others. This is a good song.
Like medicine through an IV, the music that flows through our children’s earbuds affects every part of them—including their emotions. And their feelings, in turn, influence how they act and think. If we are to be wise parents, we must not simply tell our children not to listen to ungodly music (although we must tell them that!). But along with biblical boundaries, we must also help them curate a music playlist that stirs up and promotes godly emotions.
Asking “How does this song make me feel?” doesn’t lower the standard, allowing a flood of ungodly music into our teens’ libraries. Rather, it raises the standard higher—for them and for us. Music that is pleasing to God is music that generates godly emotions.
Envy isn’t just a kid problem, but kids haven’t gotten good at hiding it yet—which gives us as parents the opportunity to help them see and overcome its tenacious grip. How can we help our kids overcome envy? Three simple ideas.
1. Talk to your children about envy. Talk to them when they are tempted, and before they are tempted to envy. First, explain what envy is. Envy not only wants what someone else has (“Why can’t I have an iPhone too?!”) it resents the other person for having it (“I just don’t like her.”).
Then, starting with the 10th of the 10 commandments, and moving through Scripture (a simple keyword search will get you started), talk about what God thinks about envy (Hint: it’s pretty bad). Show them how envy is what Jonathan Edwards once called “the most foolish kind of self-injury” because it only makes the envier miserable. Take them through John 21 and talk to them about Jesus’s antidote for envy.
2. Help your children repent of envy. If our child has given into the sin of envy, help them pinpoint the who, where, and why. Lead them through a specific prayer of repentance. Remind them of the forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross, and the Holy Spirit’s power to help them change. Encourage your child that God is graciously revealing this sin now as a sign of his mercy and goodness. If they can learn to turn away from envy at a young age, they can be spared years of unhappiness.
3. Give your children a plan for overcoming envy.
1. Spot envy. Help them to recognize the feelings of envy, and what they mean. Emotions of envy are like an alarm that tells us there’s a sinful fire in our hearts, and we need to put it out now.
2. Stop comparing. Comparison is envy’s bread and butter. No comparing, and envy starves and dies. So teach your child to stop looking at others and thinking about what she has or what she looks like or what she gets to do.
3. Start thanking. Envy dies in a thankful soul. Help your child make a list of God’s many good gifts, and then help them add to that list. Have them save their “thankful list” and pull it out whenever they are tempted to compare or envy. For every envious thought about what they don’t have, teach them to pray and thank God for what they do have.
Envy is an emotion that is fed by a habit—a habit of comparison. When we help our children, at a young age, to look up in gratitude instead of sideways in comparison, we can protect them from envy.