Jump to content
FeelingBlessed

Growing Spiritual Children

Recommended Posts

This article was written by our new minister, William O. "Bud" Reeves, and appeared in the August 18, 2006 issue of Arkansas United Methodist:

Parenting is a sacred mission, a spiritual trust. If you are in charge of raising a child, as a parent or a grandparent, that is at least part of the reason God put you on the planet. It can bring great joy and great frustration. It's a challenge most of the time, but I can't think of a greater, more awesome responsibility than to prepare a young life for productive adulthood.

The Bible is full of wisdom on family relationships. The Fifth Commandment tells us to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Jesus would often take the children into His arms and bless them; He said they give us a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. He also warned that "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:1-6).

Paul exhorts children to obey their parents, but at the same time cautions parents not to be harsh on their children, or they will turn away from the right path (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20). There's always a balance to be struck, and different circumstances call for differing amounts of law and grace.

As parents, our role is defined in two words: limits and leadership. We are given the responsibility by God to mark off the field on which our kids can play. Some of the boundaries should be like brick walls -- health and hygiene, proper diet, doing as well as possible in school, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual activity, and spiritual training. Other limits can be more flexible -- extracurricular activities, music and TV and video game enjoyment, curfew. Some things, frankly, aren't worth fighting about -- length and color of hair, neatness of bedrooms, etc. (Can you tell I've raised teenagers?) The limits we set reflect our priorities.

If we want to be faithful to our mission as parents, we cannot let our children set the limits. This is not their job; we are the parents. Unfortunately, our culture condones an atmosphere of permissiveness. For years I have heard well-meaning parents say, "My little one just doesn't want to come to [insert church activity here], and I just don't think I ought to make him." Usually this statement is followed by the excuse, "When I was a child, I was forced to go, and I don't want to do that to my children." I always try to be relational in my response, but depending on my mood, I think inwardly, "That may be why you turned out to be a decent human being," or "I guess they made you brush your teeth as well. Have you stopped doing that?" Some things should not be optional for our kids; in our secularized culture, total immersion in church should be one of the priorities.

The other L-word is leadership. Setting limits is necessary but negative. Leadership is positive; it shows our children the way they should live. There are three E's to leadership: example, encouragement, and enthusiasm. As parents we lead by example. Our kids watch us more than they listen to us, and they get their real cues from our behavior. If we are not actively involved in church, then it won't do any good to tell our kids they ought to be.

We can also lead by encouragement, by praising every little thing they do right or well and by being involved in their activities as much as we can. Within the boundaries that we set, our kids need to know we love them unconditionally and are supporting them 110 percent. Enthusiasm goes hand in hand with encouragement. If we are constantly critical of school or community activities, or if every Sunday dinner includes a course of "what was wrong at church today," how can we expect our children and youth to want to participate? It all works together -- example, encouragement, and enthusiasm -- to provide leadership for positive outcomes.

So what is the positive outcome? A friend recently shared with me what a blessing her family is to her. She has two grown children who grew up in church. They are now married and active in other churches. Both have good jobs, and they have given this woman and her husband three beautiful grandchildren. Her face just glowed as she told me, "You just can't imagine how proud I am of them, and how I thank God every day for the way they turned out!" That's the promise of our mission. There are no absolute guarantees, but chances are if we set the limits and provide the leadership and make the spiritual growth of our children a priority, they will become a blessing to us and the Kingdom. To that end we strive!

Edited by FeelingBlessed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an excellent message for all parents, Karen... thanks for sharing it! Whenever I hear of parents who say they don't think it's necessary to expose children to their birthparents "until they're old enough to decide they want to meet them" I am reminded of those people who say they'll "let (their) children decide when and where they want to go to church."

Do they apply that same logic to their childrens' bedtimes? homework? nutrition? shots?

The Bible spells out the importance of parental guidance and influence. "Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

If children grow up without witnessing their parents' commitment to-- and practice of-- faith, then they are unlikely to learn to value it, themselves.

If children grow up without witnessing their parents' affection for-- and relationships with-- the birthparents, then they too are likely to struggle with their roots and their beginnings.

I personally believe that church families have the potential to add so much to our lives, and those of our children. We live in a world filled with confused values and dubious role models and uncertain outcomes; anchoring our kids to something as solid as the Church and surrounding them with love and faith and the power of prayer seems to me to be one of the most important foundations we can build beneath our families, to hold us up in times of trouble as well as those happier days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an excellent message for all parents, Karen... thanks for sharing it! Whenever I hear of parents who say they don't think it's necessary to expose children to their birthparents "until they're old enough to decide they want to meet them" I am reminded of those people who say they'll "let (their) children decide when and where they want to go to church."

Do they apply that same logic to their childrens' bedtimes? homework? nutrition? shots?

The Bible spells out the importance of parental guidance and influence. "Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

If children grow up without witnessing their parents' commitment to-- and practice of-- faith, then they are unlikely to learn to value it, themselves.

If children grow up without witnessing their parents' affection for-- and relationships with-- the birthparents, then they too are likely to struggle with their roots and their beginnings.

I personally believe that church families have the potential to add so much to our lives, and those of our children. We live in a world filled with confused values and dubious role models and uncertain outcomes; anchoring our kids to something as solid as the Church and surrounding them with love and faith and the power of prayer seems to me to be one of the most important foundations we can build beneath our families, to hold us up in times of trouble as well as those happier days.

Elizabeth,

All I can say is AMEN to that!!!

I don't know if I would be the person that I am today without going to curch growing up!! I certainly woudn't be the mom that I am today without Maya's birthfamily. Gos bless them all. We are now all family! What a blessing it is!!! :D

Thank you for your inspiration and for all of your posts. I love to read whatever you write.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Singh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great article Karen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is part of an interview Christian author Beth Moore did with Terry Meeuwsen on being a "real" parent:

I believe that children are, by nature, very forgiving. I don't think children expect their parents to be perfect. I think they demand that their parents be real.

One of the things that God taught Keith [beth's husband] and me early on, and I have to give him credit, because this where credit is due, Keith was one of those people who was not raised in the same part of the body of Christ that I was. What I thought as a young adult is you act like you have it together whether or not you do because that is what church people do. That is not what God has called us to do. He really does want to heal our hearts and bring us some wholeness from the inside out that is real and genuine. Keith wasn't raised like that at all, so he considered it his calling to call out anything in me that did not appear to be genuine, any way that I did not appear to be following through with what I said I believed. I can remember one time saying to him, "You don't do it either." And he said back to me, "I don't say I do." This was back in our mid-20s, and he just got me over and over again. What he was insisting upon was, "This is what you say you're all about. I want it to be real to the bone. If you're going to say it, it ought to be true in this house." And it would be...50-60 percent of the time! So it became such an important thing. He really taught me how to live out the real thing, that if I was hurting, to say so. If I was having a bad day, say I was having a bad day.

The same thing was true in our parenting. I can remember one time saying to my oldest daughter, and she was probably about 7 years old at the time, "Listen, I want to tell you something. I've just had my prayer time, and God told me I better come and apologize to you." She looked at me. I'll never forget the grin on her face. She says, "You got in trouble?" She loved it! She just loved it because she had been in trouble with me and she loved that I got in trouble with God. I said, "Yes, I did get in trouble. I need to come and ask your forgiveness because even though what I had to correct you about you needed to be corrected about, still Mommy was too fussy about it." Those were ways that God taught us, "Be real with them."

There is a Scripture that I think about so often in parenting, and it's what I have tried to base my parenting on. It's a Scripture in Deuteronomy 6 that many people are familiar with where it goes, "Impress these truths on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on their foreheads. Put them on doorframes of your houses and your gates." Instead of saying to do it literally, it's saying, "Live the thing in everything you do. Every way you walk it out, I am a part of your life. In everything you do, talk about Me, talk about My truths, see how it works in the real life."

But it begins by saying this: before it gets into how we're supposed to impress these things on our children, it says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." This is what God began to teach me, to love Him with everything I've got. Then it will be the most natural thing in the world that He works into every conversation. I don't mean being legalistic about that. I mean, as it comes up.

I can remember when we'd drive to my mother's house when the girls were little, and we would drive through the country to get there, and even seeing a calf out in the middle of the pasture with its mother, to be able to talk about what God has done and how it shows His glory, to be able to talk about all sorts of things, to sing songs with them in the car, to make it a part of living. But I'm going to tell you something: without the love, it's just the law. I think that sometimes mothers that mean well, we go to church, we learn God's truth, and we are going to teach those truths to our children if it kills us! We're just going to beat them over the head with it, and they don't see the love and they don't see the joy.

I remember once being in a situation where it was a group of moms sitting around talking about our children, which is what we do, and she was just talking about how it was going to be. She said, "My children don't get to do this, and they don't get to do this, and I'm not about to let them do this." It just overwhelmed me to lean across and go, "What do you let them do?"

If we characterize our Christianity by what we can't do, rather than what we can, the only reason God would ever say "I want you to turn from that, I want that out of your life" is to make room for the blessing He wants to pour out on our lives where He gives us satisfaction and true meaning, true purpose in life. If we're just going to teach a 'thou shalt not' mentality to our children instead of "the reason why we don't do this is because God wants us free to do this, because He wants to bless us in this particular way and He wants your life to be fruitful and it's to the Father's glory that your life bear forth much fruit," this whole idea of "I'm going to beat the law into my children," it doesn't work. They get to be 18 years old, they leave home, and they don't darken the church again.

Even if we got some of it wrong, even if it was awkward, even if we made a lot of mistakes, there's a lot of forgiveness. If it was real, if they can say, "My parents loved God; they didn't always get it right, but I'm going to tell you, they loved Him; they had the joy of the Lord in their hearts," that works. That is good parenting.

We don't always know what to do in all these circumstances, but I'll tell you what. If we have a love for God that shows, and it is genuine, they even know we're correcting them with a tear rolling down our cheek that says, "Child, don't you understand? I am for you, not against you. God wants to bless your life, not just take from you." When they see that authenticity, they buy it.

Edited by FeelingBlessed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Karen, thank you for posting that article. I start another one of her bible studies tonight. And on Sunday, I start teaching a Parents with Young Children Sunday School class at church. Both of your posts and Elizabeth's will be excellent resources to add!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a great article by one of our great American authors, Anne Lamott, on Why I Make Sam Go To Church. This originally appeared on Salon.com; the text appears below, in case the link goes bad.

BECAUSE I'M THE MOTHER

Anne Lamott

July 4, 2003

My son hates church, but I make him go anyway. It's good to do uncomfortable things -- it's weight training for life.

Sam is about to turn 14.

I am not sure how this happened. Maybe I fed him too much. Maybe I got distracted by trying to resist the cruelest administration in history, by a joyful love affair now 18 months old, and did not notice time passing so quickly. Thirteen is different: It's training-wheels adolescence. Fourteen is hardcore, biker adolescence. And yet, I can often see the boy he has always been -- inventive, sweet, playful, gangly, magic -- even as I can glimpse the man he is becoming. He's handsome, stylish, thin as a rail. He still has a deep goodness: Once on a bad day, when he was 2, I realized I hated children and was going to have to let him go, but my friend Pammy said, "Sam has a deep sweetness." So I kept him. Now there's the sweet boy, the man he's becoming, but also, as I have previously mentioned , there's an evil presence I call "Phil" who has chosen Sam as a host body.

Phil is hairy and scary and awful. He was here yesterday. When I asked him to take his dishes to the sink, he looked disbelieving, as if he'd heard wrong, as if I had just asked if he'd carry his dishes to the sink. Why didn't he just go ahead and carry rocks up from the quarry for me?

But he did it, and a little later, Sam came back, and we played with the dog and sat on the couch together for a while -- I read, he drew. That night we went our separate ways -- he to "The Hulk" with friends, I to the marvelous Maori movie, "Whale Rider." He was home by 11, his curfew, with two moosey pals. They think I'm semi-OK because I have dreads, and because they are not stuck with me.

We all got up at 10 for church. Sam has to go to church with me every two weeks, and his friends often tag along. They don't hate church, because no one is making them go. They are actually all believers, too, cool guys, who sometimes pray. One of them prayed with us when we were caught in a snowstorm on a ski trip. I know Sam believes that Jesus is true -- why wouldn't he be? Still, he mocks me for being a Jesus freak, even though in the middle of the night when he can't sleep, he wakes me up for prayer and a backrub.

But he hates church.

So why do I make him go? Because I want him to. These are bewildering, drastic times we live in, and a little spiritual guidance never killed anyone. And I think it's a fair compromise, that it's only every other week. Also, I make him go because I can -- I wrote a piece about this years ago, about why I made him go to church, and this was the main reason. And I still can. He has no job, no car, no income. He's basically a freeloader. He needs to stay in my good graces.

I love him more than life itself, but while he lives at my house, he has to do things my way. Also, I think there are worse things for kids than to have to spend time with people who love God; teenagers who do not go to church are also adored by God, but they don't get to meet some of the people who love God back. Learning to love back is the hardest part of being alive.

Many good people think you should let kids find an authentic spiritual connection in the world, by letting them experiment with different traditions and worship services. That's very nice. Many good people also think Bush is our duly elected president, and that the war is over in Iraq. I can't go by what other people think. Besides, since Sam is the only teenager he knows who has to go to church, I can't send him to other churches, or temples, or mosques, or Zen practice, with his friends' families, because they don't go.

I try to help it go down as easily as possible. We stop at McDonald's on the way, we hang out at Best Buy on the way home. He doesn't complain all that much. Maybe I've broken his spirit; my wild pony of Chincoteague.

When we got to church last Sunday, he and his friends went to sit with the other teenagers, in the back. This is one of the main reasons I still make him go, because there is a youth group now, that meets every two weeks, in a room away from the grown-ups and the little kids. The leaders give them special snacks, cocoa packets and pastry. Some might call this a "bribe." I certainly would. I'm all for bribery when it's for a good cause. I think God does a lot of bait-and-switch. Peter gets a boatload of fish, then gets to become a disciple. We're herd animals, donkey-people, and sometimes a bright orange carrot is the only thing that will get us to move.

I make him go because the youth-group leaders know things that I don't. They know what teenagers are looking for, and need -- they need adults who have stayed alive and vital, adults they wouldn't mind growing up to be. They are terrified that growing up means you become the anxious, overworked adults who surround them. And they need radical acceptance of who they are, to receive welcome in whatever condition life has left them -- needy, walled-off, glowering. They want guides, a certain kind of adult who knows how to act like an adult but with a kid's heart. They want people who will sit with them and talk about the big questions, without answers, adults who won't correct their feelings, or pretend not to be afraid. They are looking for adventure, for experience, pilgrimages and thrills. And then they want a home they can return to, where things are stable, and welcoming. I mean, how crazy can you get?

Sam told one youth leader that he knows instinctively that God wants him to have life. That God would want him to surf and be alive and out having fun on a Sunday morning. That it's physically painful to sit indoors on a Sunday.

"Then why are you here?" the man asked.

"Because my mother wants me here to share it with her," Sam said.

"I think that's a really good reason," Mark said.

This morning I watched Sam sneak glances at Mark. I know he wants what Mark has -- not the faith part, necessarily, but the humor, the great vibe. ("Vibe is everything," Sam confided in me after a recent youth group with Mark.)

Most of the kids in the youth group came over to give me a hug during the Passing of the Peace. I was their Sunday school teacher before they were teenagers, and they trust me: I helped it go down more easily for them. I loved them, gave them good snacks, drawing paper. I let them go outside for the Sacrament of the Lawn, to blow bubbles and play catch. Terrible things have happened to some of them. They have lost years and siblings to foster care and institutionalization. They have lost parents to violence and addiction, and according to this administration, their parents are the undeserving poor. There's no help with healthcare or education and tutoring. We've got a war to run! Many of them have fallen through the cracks their whole lives -- but not here, not on Sundays.

When Sam came over to hug me this morning during the Peace, it was like being hugged by the Frankenstein monster, but he let me smell his neck for a moment: heaven. Then he hugged Mark, and the old black women who reach for him during the Peace: This is another reason I make him come.

I half listened to the children's sermon, but mostly thought about the whales in "Whale Rider." They're covered with clusters of barnacles the size of platters, all that stuff that attaches itself to the whales because of its need, not the whale's. It's obviously good for the barnacles -- it's a better ride, and they're bathed in nourishment, but I can't see how it would improve life for the whales too. I started thinking of my mother, as both mother whale, and barnacle. In her last 10 years, she lived on me, literally. She couldn't help it; she wanted to stay alive, and I was her ride. Looking around at the frayed and beautiful faces of the people in church, I can see their barnacles, too -- jailed and dead children, faithless spouses, lost jobs, all our old failures and sorrows, all the loss and ruckus of life that they have survived, excreted through the skin. When I run my hand over the skin of my psyche, that's what my hand catches on. Yet in "Whale Rider," the barnacles are what the girl held onto like a saddle horn as she rode the whale. Without them, she couldn't have climbed on.

I watched Sam listen to the choir this morning, fidgety, glowering, but he listened off and on. The choir is a major reason I make him attend. I listen to his horrible music all the time, he can listen to the music I love most every two weeks. The music is raw and exquisite and subversive -- you can tell that the singers will not be moved, except by the Spirit; they will not be nipped and tugged at by stupid details and lies. They know who they are -- who we all are, one family on this earth, and they sing with their heels dug in, like kids who trust enough to fall backward into someone's arms.

After the song, the teens trudged off together, avoiding eye contact with the rest of us. They're so distrustful and spikey -- life is weird and doesn't deliver, and adults try to lead them like horses in the direction they think will make them happy, but mostly, they won't go. But the teenagers can't make the congregation stop smiling at them; they can't make them stop singing. The church feels blessed by them, and we pray for them, at church and at home. I have always called the oldest members when Sam and I are in trouble. When Evelyn, our second oldest member, prays with you or the congregation, she looks like a marionette hanging there waiting for the strings to be cut so she could drop her body and go all the way over.

I was glad for Sam when he got to leave and go off alone with his peers and teacher. The youth group is so much less embarrassing. Of course he doesn't want to come to regular worship -- it's so naked, built on the rubble of need and ruin, and our joy is so deeply uncool -- but by the same token, he doesn't want to floss, or do homework, or weed. He does not want to have any hard work, ever, but I can't give him that without injuring him. It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life.

He and his friends were in good moods when church ended, but then we had to drop the friends off at their houses. They had things they had to do with their families, things they really did not want to do. Sam was bored and complaining, so I made him lunch, and went to bed with the cat and the Church of the New York Times. When I woke up from a nap, there was a great commotion in the living room. It turned out he had gathered a dozen of his old stuffed animals, and divided them up into two warring camps -- the bunnies vs. the bears. The bunnies were inside a fortress of books, but a bear had been sent over the walls with an exercise-band catapult. There were great growling, roars -- very angry bunnies -- bashing, wipeouts, beloved old animals gone bad. It was a ferociously hilarious installation. He let me watch. Somehow he called on his reserves of silliness to break through, and connect again, with his embarrassment of a mother. Something made him willing to step off the storm-tossed rocks, glowering and sinking, and hold onto me, our home, his childhood, like the Maori girl held on. The ride is so thrilling and important, but all that we've lived through is what gets us there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for this ... it is very timely for me, as our son Brian was none too thrilled that we made him come to Good Friday services at our church yesterday. It kills me that he can watch a tv show for an hour or an hour and half and not move, but once we get to church even at 13 1/2 it's "can I get a drink, can I go to the bathroom, I have to blow my nose". He only gets to leave once during the service. This was very helpful for me! Thanks again!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We can definitely vouch for the needing to leave every 10 minutes for something or another! I too can remember being the very same way! Luckily, our church has a spot for the youth to sit together. Kait will sometimes sit with them. It is great. At the very front so everyone can see them! Funny how she doesn't seem to get up near as much up there!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Talking about growing spiritual children... I have to mention this one. It made my heart melt 3 times already. Marcelo, Dante and I were on our way to church on Saturday evening for the Easter Vigil service (Dante celebrated his 1st Communion) when we drove up and he saw the Church and said Happy. We realized we had forgotton our camera, so turned around and headed home to get it. As we drove up to Church once more out from Dante's mouth comes Happy!

Thinking it just might be a coincidence, Sunday morning he did it again! Believing now that church has already had such a great big impact on our little one. He even does the sign of the cross, says Amen and Pastor! :P

Claudia

Edited by MarceloandClaudia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took Lily to help Beth set up for a retreat about a 2 weeks ago. On stage, she saw a cross and smiled. We asked her if she knew what it was.

She said "Uh Huh, it's a cross."

We said "do you know who was on the cross?"

She said: "Uh Huh. Jesus!"

We asked why Jesus was on the cross... "Because He LOVES us!" :D

For a 3 1/2 year old, she's coming along just fine :)

She's really enjoying children's choir too though we'll just say the tone & pitch still need a little work ;) (of course coming from me, I have NO room to talk about singing abilities :P)

-A

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel like I have messed up real bad in regards to when I began introducing my children to the church and it's teachings. See, I had my own issues with the Church, and because of my own not-so-good feelings about church (from childhood), I was not able to see the bigger picture for my children until recently.

How does a parent know if and when your pushing your child too much religiously? I have thought and thought about this because that is how I always felt (as a child). I think maybe (finally) I am recognizing the difference, it's not just about going to church and Sunday school, it's more about living Christian values everyday, living what you learn in Church, showing and talking with your children about how the church helps us grow spiritually. Just showing up in Church every week doesn't put it all together for our children, although it is a start.

Our family is facing the consequences of delaying being active in the Church. Easter was not a good experience for my eldest daughter this year. Amanda saw the Jesus video at Sunday school the week before Easter and it frightened her. She came away with the wrong message, somehow thinking she will have to die for us to keep on living. To say the least, she was disturbed by the video. We have talked and talked about it. Easter morning she refused to go to church because she was scared. I feel terrible and mad at myself (because I could not recall when I learned the story of Jesus, it's like I just always knew it and I definitely do not remember feeling scared). I wanted that for her too, but it is too late.

I am making an appointment (today) with our pastor, so that Amanda can talk about her fears.

I would welcome any insight.

Karen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Karen -- One thing I would suggest is that you and Amanda (and maybe even your youngest daughter) see if you can start or join a small group Bible study with other mother-daughter teams in your church that may have more "history" of being active in the church. There are several really good studies out there specifically designed for mothers and daughters. And, there are also several good studies about growing up as young women with Christian values -- that may be a good place to start with Amanda so that you can ease into the subject. I do think it is very important for you to be involved with her in this religious journey she is undertaking -- she needs your support right now, and she needs to see you "modeling" the behavior of turning to the Bible and spiritual leaders whenever you have questions.

If you can't get involved in a study with other moms and daughters, then think about asking an older woman in your congregation whom you respect to act as a "mentor" to you and Amanda -- you can design your own script of how your meetings will go -- maybe have dinner once a month where the three (or four) of you discuss some relevant "growing-up" issue in the context of what the Bible says about it -- maybe have a "craft" time where you work on a project together and talk "religion" at the same time -- the possibilities are endless. Or, if your church (or even another church in town) has a Stephen Ministry program, ask to be assigned a Stephen Minister that can help you and Amanda work through some of these difficult issues.

Whatever you do, please don't ever think that it is too late for Amanda to get over this fear of Christianity ... which is probably just a lack of understanding what Christianity is all about. Yes, it is going to take an investment of time ... and I know time is a precious commodity in the lives of busy families. But, you are talking about an eternal investment here, something that is well worth the time it requires. The Bible says: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) So, ask God in prayer to help you with this situation; seek out help (as you are doing) through your church, reading the Bible, and talking to other believers; and keep knocking at Christ's door because only He can open the door to Amanda's heart.

My prayers are going out to you and your family for lots of spiritual encouragement ...

Edited by FeelingBlessed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Karen,

I, of course don't have all the answers, but I think that the appointment you plan to make with the Pastor is such a great start and a huge leap. It's not easy to admit where we could have made a different choice. We aren't perfect and you based your decision on what you had experienced personally. You can't blame yourself for that one. The main thing is that you are trying to make changes that can better the current life of your children and their future.

Karen, I'll share why what you are doing is so important. Speaking like a child... I needed my Mom and Dad to show me God. I didn't ask them too, but I am thankful they gave it to me. It was a gift I can never, ever repay.................

Speaking personally, I can't imagine not having a relationship with Jesus. Granted, it took time to get here, but with all the struggles we endure in a lifetime and at times feeling so alone... I am so thankful that in the midst of it all, I was never alone. I had God to talk to and get me through pain when I thought there was no light. Now, I truly know that no matter what happens there has to be a lesson in it and that tomorrow WILL be a better day. Christ has helped me look at the good that can come from bad and that there will always be something to be thankful for. I pray that this is what we will teach Dante as he grows as a member of the body of Christ... I don't worry too much about pushing it on him. We plan to give him his space to find Christ by taking him to Church where he finds peace, understanding and closeness to God. If one day he chooses otherwise, that will be his decision. It just feels right to help him be a part of something that has enriched Marcelo and my life tremendously. I do understand what you mean about living your life as a Christian day by day. When I was a child, teenager and so on, my parent's took us to Church every Sunday and we were involved in the Youth Group etc. Sometimes, I would wonder what it was all for if my Mother was constantly yelling at home and arguing with my Dad for petty things. I now can appreciate that what they were trying to do was show us something to help us live life and that they too were and are imperfect trying to live a "good" life too. All we can do is keep trying.

I think one thing you can share with your daughter is that God loved us so much that his son Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross so that we didn't have to.

Best wishes on your family's journey. Praying for you.

Claudia

Edited by MarceloandClaudia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much Karen and Claudia, I needed to hear your kind words and suggestions today.

We have an appt with our Pastor on Saturday.

Karen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I feel terrible and mad at myself (because I could not recall when I learned the story of Jesus, it's like I just always knew it and I definitely do not remember feeling scared). I wanted that for her too, but it is too late.

Oh, Karen... it's never too late, where God is concerned! because He can make all things right.

I'm posting some links under the Happy Easter topic, too, but here are some resources for helping children understand the crucifixion story:

Children & the Crucifixion

A Psychologist's Advice on Explaining Crucifixion to Children

Why Do People Suffer?

Lessons on Crucifixion for Younger Kids

Kids & Easter: Bread of Life

For Grown-ups Struggling to Understand Easter Issues

Teaching Kids about Easter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wanted to post a short version update. Amanda and I met with the Pastor on Saturday (of course it was bad timing, as only Mom could manage to do, because our appt interferred with a birthday party Amanda was attending, but I felt it important to keep the scheduled appt, showing Amanda how important it is, balancing that with letting her know she could return to the birthday party when we were done, which she promptly did).

So Amanda was not in the best of moods, sat there with her arms folded, wanting to hurry up and get back to play time. I could feel the Pastor getting frustrated, even said to Amanda that she did not feel she was helping her, but I do feel that she helped tremendously. First of all, the Pastor was expecting us (that is always a great feeling), she had already watched the video herself from the perspective of learning/seeing the story of Jesus for the first time, showing Amanda her notes and comments. She admitted to Amanda that parts of the video frightened her too. Amanda bravely admitted that she did not expect to see what she saw that morning, so much abuse to Jesus, that is what disturbed her the most. The pastor wished Amanda had been better prepared too and was very sorry for that. They talked quite a bit.

Because of our coming forward, the church is putting in extra safeguards in regards to watching videos in Sunday school. Here are a few...

*notifying parents ahead of time, encouraging them to stay with their children on those days

*preparing the children for what they are about to see (not assuming everyone already knows)

*allowing extra time after the video for plenty of discussion

I think all of these things would have made a difference for Amanda.

So we are moving forward. On Sunday, Amanda was ready to go back to Sunday school, without us making her and without as many fears. This new day was a positive one (for her), adding another layer of spiritual comfort, one day at a time...

Thanks be to God.

Karen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And here's some good news, about the Good News: it's healthy for children! Researchers are finding that attending worship regularly with parents has positive results for children growing up in church-going homes: Research Shows Religion is Good for Kids. Text appears below, in case the link goes bad.

Study: Religion is Good for Kids

By Melinda Wenner, Special to LiveScience

posted: 24 April 2007 09:39 am ET

Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.

The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.

John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.

The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children's parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued abut religion in the home.

The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services-especially when both parents did so frequently-and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.

But when parents argued frequently about religion, the children were more likely to have problems. "Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family," Bartkowski noted.

Why so good?

Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also "take more to heart the messages that they get in the home," he said.

Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These "could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response," he said.

Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said.

University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who was not involved in the study, agrees. At least for the most religious parents, "getting their kids into heaven is more important than getting their kids into Harvard," Wilcox said.

But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that's still somewhat of a mystery, said Annette Mahoney, a psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, also not involved in the research. Mahoney wondered: "Is there anything about religion and spirituality that sets it apart?"

Unanswered questions

Bartkowski points out that one limitation of his study, to be published in the journal Social Science Research, is that it did not compare how denominations differed with regards to their effects on kids.

"We really don't know if conservative Protestant kids are behaving better than Catholic kids or behaving better than mainline Protestant kids or Jewish kids," he said.

It's also possible that the correlation between religion and child development is the other way around, he said. In other words, instead of religion having a positive effect on youth, maybe the parents of only the best behaved children feel comfortable in a religious congregation.

"There are certain expectations about children's behavior within a religious context, particularly within religious worship services," he said. These expectations might frustrate parents, he said, and make congregational worship "a less viable option if they feel their kids are really poorly behaved."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good to know.

And here's some good news, about the Good News: it's healthy for children! Researchers are finding that attending worship regularly with parents has positive results for children growing up in church-going homes: Research Shows Religion is Good for Kids. Text appears below, in case the link goes bad.

Study: Religion is Good for Kids

By Melinda Wenner, Special to LiveScience

posted: 24 April 2007 09:39 am ET

Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.

The conflict that arises when parents regularly argue over their faith at home, however, has the opposite effect.

John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.

The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children's parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued abut religion in the home.

The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services-especially when both parents did so frequently-and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.

But when parents argued frequently about religion, the children were more likely to have problems. "Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family," Bartkowski noted.

Why so good?

Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also "take more to heart the messages that they get in the home," he said.

Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These "could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response," he said.

Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said.

University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who was not involved in the study, agrees. At least for the most religious parents, "getting their kids into heaven is more important than getting their kids into Harvard," Wilcox said.

But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that's still somewhat of a mystery, said Annette Mahoney, a psychologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, also not involved in the research. Mahoney wondered: "Is there anything about religion and spirituality that sets it apart?"

Unanswered questions

Bartkowski points out that one limitation of his study, to be published in the journal Social Science Research, is that it did not compare how denominations differed with regards to their effects on kids.

"We really don't know if conservative Protestant kids are behaving better than Catholic kids or behaving better than mainline Protestant kids or Jewish kids," he said.

It's also possible that the correlation between religion and child development is the other way around, he said. In other words, instead of religion having a positive effect on youth, maybe the parents of only the best behaved children feel comfortable in a religious congregation.

"There are certain expectations about children's behavior within a religious context, particularly within religious worship services," he said. These expectations might frustrate parents, he said, and make congregational worship "a less viable option if they feel their kids are really poorly behaved."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some helpful resources for family faith-building and teaching children to pray:

M & M and Amens!

The Power of Family Prayer

Prayer as a Family Bonding Exercise

Especially for Catholic Families

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is something I sat in church and thought about, this morning... my children have gotten very good at saying their bedtime prayers ("thank-You-God-for-Mommy-Daddy-Christian-Matthew-amen!") and every evening Matthew says "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" while Christian knows the Lord's Prayer by heart... but it concerns me that they seem to see prayers as being something to be "recited" rather than perceiving that they're actually talking to God?

Maybe this is just how children understanding praying at this stage (ages 4 and 5), but I want to help them learn that God really is listening on the other end, and that they can talk to God anytime, about everything that's in their hearts and on their minds... how can devoted parents encourage this in an age-appropriate manner, and how do we teach our children to listen for God's response?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the best way is by example. And encouraging them to say their "own" prayers. When Joshua was younger, he recited prayers also, but as he has gotten older, he says prayers from his heart. Sometimes they are short and sweet and sometimes they can be rather lengthy! :lol: At bedtime, we would pray first and then Joshua would pray. We also asked questions like, what are you most thankful for today, who do we know who needs prayer, what do you need prayer for...and then we would encourage him to pray for those things.

I think this is definitely an "age thing." But it is so precious when they really start to get it. I also try to point out when God has answered a prayer. We also pray other than just at bedtime and mealtime. If he gets in trouble, I encourage him to ask God to forgive him and help him to not do (fill in the blank). If we see a firetruck or ambulance drive by with their sirens on, we pray for the safety of the firefighters/paramedics as well as those they are going to help.

We prayed a lot for a baby brother or sister. One time I almost cried when Joshua said he was ready to "give up" because we had been praying for so long with no answer. I knew how he felt, but was able to respond that we must never give up in prayer...God is always able to give us what we need. Of course, when this prayer was answered, I made sure we talked about that!!

What an important subject, Elizabeth!! I would also love to hear what other parents do!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If we see a firetruck or ambulance drive by with their sirens on, we pray for the safety of the firefighters/paramedics as well as those they are going to help.

We do this, too! and I like that it focuses my sons on asking God for help for others, rather than the more frightening aspects of whatever crisis we may be passing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×