What I Used to Care About

LessImportant

Woah, the past 12 months have been a blur. Much of what I’ve had on my heart to write, my brain has smartly kept me from posting publicly. Much of where my mind has been in this season of transition, has been written with ink on paper in a journal that I’ll treasure for the memory of God’s changing work done in my life.

In the spirit of what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced over the past few months; here is a working list of things that matter less to me than they did a year ago. Not that they aren’t still important to me as an employee, father, or husband, but I’m learning that I don’t share the enthusiasm for perfection in these areas that I used to.

My platform.

Written words that people read.

High maintenance relationships.

My reflection in a mirror. 

My internal criticism of myself.

What new people think of me.

Traveling without my family.

Email. Facebook. Twitter. 

Overthinking the past.

Loud music.

My internal criticism of others.

Organizing too far in advance.

Non-Fiction books. 

The most surprising thing I have learned about insecurity is that insecurity makes you selfish and self-focused. Ironically it is the opposite of what I thought I was. I thought I was being sensitive to the needs and perceptions of others, but I was only sensitive to others because of how it impacted me. If my boss didn’t praise me for a project, I assumed that I must have done something wrong. Never mind that he might have a hundred other priorities that day. The fact that he didn’t take the time to praise me must mean that I had done something wrong. If a friend didn’t return my phone call, she must be upset with me. It couldn’t be because she had an insanely busy day and didn’t have a chance to call me back. Insecurity’s goal is to keep us fixated on ourselves, wallowing in our “I am not enough” fears.

Developing Faith with Catechism

north-star-catechism-banner

My kids are learning so much. The three of them range in age from 9 to 12 and are tackling subjects like: Electricity, Comparative adjectives, Geology, Pre-Algebra, Revolutionary War history, and have written papers on the men and women of history like Pocahontas, George Washington, and even the ancient math-whiz Archimedes.

So much learning, so much content and yet this is only the beginning.

They’ve had to learn how to use the multiple remotes in our living room, that the milk goes back in the fridge after a bowl of cereal is poured, and that you never hug your mother early in the morning before their teeth are brushed!

With all of this memory work happening in their brains, where do we begin faith conversations? How can I capitalize on their impressionable minds with something that ties them to this faith that our family holds dear? How do I make the truths of the Gospel something they can quickly recall and use when it fits their everyday life?

Devotions are a great place to start, but with late Elementary and Pre-Teens I want them to have a great foundation that we can build devotions on as they mature and age. I’ve found something that works great for our family, and the brains of the three growing kids in our house. Catechism. That’s right, you read that correctly. Catechism.

The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katācheō, which means “to teach, to instruct.” The word is used in Bible passages like Luke 1:4 and Acts 18:25. It can be used for any kind of teaching or instruction, but it came to refer to a specific type of teaching very early in church history. In the early church, new converts were taught the basics of Christianity by memorizing a series of questions and answers. A catechism is just that–a series of questions and answers that teach Bible truth.

For example, here are some of the catechisms we’ve learned this year; and there are many more that we will learn in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Who made you and everything? God made everything and me.

What is God like? God is our holy and almighty Creator. He cannot be seen, but he has made everything we can see.

Why did God make you? God made us to enjoy him and show his glory to others.

What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that we enter God’s kingdom through God’s cross by God’s grace.

Why does God tell us, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”? So we will rest in God and remember finished work of Jesus.

We’ve added a few catechism’s to the kids weekly spelling lists. We’ve added them to whatever vocabulary words they are learning, and I’ve thrown them into a few special “get rewarded with ice cream real quick” scenarios I create on a whim. There are many different catechisms out there, but our family settled on the wonderful NorthStar Catechism developed by my friends at Sojourn Church. You can go download a PDF of all of them and even order yourself some playing cards sized ones right now!

I think it’s pretty well stated what catechism is, and when you read over the details of them all you’ll quickly understand what they are communicating and preparing in the hearts and minds of your children. However, for clarity let me state what they most definitely are NOT.

They are NOT just another way to beat my kids over the head with more learning. They are easy to memorize, easy to learn, and fit perfectly alongside all the other things our kids have learned. If you think your own kids are not smart enough to memorize these, then you’re not giving them enough credit. It has worked for us to add catechism to what we were already asking our kids to memorize. You’ll find that they’re just different enough from what they normally memorize that it’s fun and unique.

They are NOT a way to guarantee faith in our kids. The catechisms won’t do much for their souls if learning the Catechisms aren’t marinated in their hearts by engaging in impactful spiritual conversations with their parents and others that love them. The cards are oftentimes a starting point for us, they are not the end point.

They are NOT separate from God’s Word. God’s Word is perfect and each catechism we take the time to make it clear that these answers (and many of the questions themselves) come out of the Bible. The foundation is God’s Word, and anything I can do to help bring that to the center of my kids lives, is key.

There are so many ways to teach our kids faith, and the challenge for us as parents is to find ways to make faith relevant, real, timely, and catchable to our kids. I know that the day will come when they have to decide for themselves who they will serve, but it’s my duty to help them get the right picture of what you are believing when you believe in Christ for eternity!

Things that Matter More

More

Woah, the past 12 months have been a blur. Much of what I’ve had on my heart to write, my brain has smartly kept me from posting publicly. Much of where my mind has been in this season of transition, has been written with ink on paper in a journal that I’ll treasure for the memory of God’s changing work done in my life.

In the spirit of what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced over the past few months; here is a working list of things that matter more to me than they did a year ago:

The places I visit.

The friends I keep.

The stories I’m telling.

The questions I’m asking. 

Silence.

New friendships.

Advice from trusted friends.

Time alone with my wife.

Time together with those that believe in me.

Adventures with my children.

Red-letter words in the Bible.

Resting on weekends.

Memories that last beyond the picture taken.

Written words that nobody reads.

Conversations that last longer than they used to.

When They See That Image

Images

By: Starr Cliff

This is a post about when your children see porn on the Internet. Or receive text messages on their phones of people they may or may not know, naked. Let’s be honest with ourselves and go ahead plan for “when” not “if”.

I read stories like this about the absolute pervasiveness of explicit photos and videos being shared among teens, and I know we have to talk about it. So I take a deep breath, and I say to my children (at the dinner table no less) that when they receive a picture on their phone of someone naked,  they need to tell me or their Dad. I tell them chances are likely that it will happen, and when it does they are not in trouble, nor have they done anything wrong. But they do need to tell us. We can talk about it,  and help make a plan to limit  it happening again.

I tell them that if they happen to know the girl (or boy) in the pictures,  that they might be afraid to tell us. I explain that a fear reaction is completely normal. I tell them that they might worry that I will judge that person who sent or is in the picture,  or get that person in trouble,  or say they can’t be friends with them anymore. I tell them that this isn’t true – that in this house we do not believe in shame or condemnation. We will not love their friend any less, but we will try to help them by loving their friend well. Loving them well means speaking up and getting an adult in their life involved in the situation. So I tell my kids to feel that fear of telling us, know it’s a normal feeling, and tell us anyway in spite of the fear.  They can be brave.

I tell my kids that when they land somewhere on the Internet that isn’t appropriate (*here we talk in detail about what “appropriate” means in our house), that whether they got to that site sorta-kinda-accidentally-on purpose, or truly  by accident, or truly on purpose,  they need to talk to us about that. Again,  so we can talk about it, **remind them why that kind of imagery isn’t best for them,  and help make a plan to limit  it  happening again.

My 9 year old daughter did an image search recently for something totally innocuous,  but in spite of the best of filters on our computers,  something mildly trashy (is that a category?) got through. As I was talking to the kids at the table recently on these topics – of fear and shame and openness and forgiveness –  she teared up,  told us what she saw,  and then said “I feel so, so much better. I don’t know why I kept it a secret.” I know why. Because shame. Shame tells us we must keep silent.

If we’re at fault,  if we’re not at fault…shame doesn’t care.  Shame is not a valuable parenting tool. If our kids are feeling it, we have to give them tools to get free from shame.  It starts with being a safe place for them to unload their burdens.  The good news is that you get to give those burdens right back to Jesus, and He is strong enough to carry them.

Shame

You know the lyrics to that incredible song that say “Come out of hiding,  you’re safe here with me…” Isn’t that a beautiful lyric? I so want to model that place of safety for my children. Where they can come out of the darkness of confusing and scary situations like seeing images they aren’t ready for yet,  and just be loved. Comforted. Forgiven if needed,  time and time again.

Talk to your kids about when they see porn. Be a safe place.

*I feel like I should just add here that I’m no prude. I’m a big fan of sex. (Also, after proofreading this, my husband asked me to make “I’m a big fan of sex” my twitter bio.  I didn’t.) But I want my children to know the difference between what is good and pure, and what is a cheap counterfeit. And friends there is just so,  so much counterfeit available.  They won’t know that the counterfeit is a cheap fake if we don’t tell them.

**If you are one of those “there’s nothing wrong with porn” and “boys will be boys” sorta parents who have thrown up their hands on the matter,  I would implore you to check out this website and reconsider. It’s not okay for our children to see these things.  It damages them in real ways. Let’s all do a better job.

I hope this post isn’t just adding to the noise and increasing the fear that mamas already feel about this stuff.  My heart is that it’s helpful, and gives you a starting place to begin these needed discussions.