“To some this world may seem like no place to bring up a child. And in some respects they are right. But we take that risk anyway with the comforting knowledge that it is not for this world that we prepare them.” (Karen L. Tornberg in The Best Things Ever Said About Parenting)
I’ve come back to this quote again and again during the 17 years my husband and I have been parents.
I look at the world around us and sometimes feel guilty for bringing our girls into it.
But this world is not their home. It is not our home.
This world is the place we can meet and know and learn to love the Keeper of our true home.
It is a place we can disrupt with God’s grace.
My husband and I are far from being the wisest parents ever to be sent home from the hospital with a baby, a bill, a birth certificate, and best wishes for our utterly changed lives. But we’ve tried to feed our girls’ faith, and so we’ve learned a few things about what’s worked for us…and what might work for you, too, while you lead your children along the way home.
1. The priority of prayer. I know it reads like the default first entry on a list like this, but prayer is in this spot for a reason: it works. In fact, nothing else on this list will actually end up working very well if prayer is absent. For one thing, faith is what pleases God. It makes Him happy. And what is prayer but an active demonstration of faith? Because if we don’t believe that God exists and that He can and will do something about what we’re praying for, then why are we praying in the first place? Pray for your kids in the morning and at night and throughout the day. It’s not about specific words…just do the thing. Sometimes I simply say, “God, please help.” Over and over and over.
Are you wondering what good prayer does when God’s going to do what He’s going to do no matter what? I’ve wondered, too. I’ll turn to the inimitable C.S. Lewis to address that tricky bit:
“Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds and wills of men to cooperate with the execution of His will…It is not really stranger that my prayers should affect the course of events than my other action should do so. They have not advised or changed God’s mind–that it, His overall purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures.”
2. Music that matters. What goes into your child’s ears goes into their brain. And what goes into their brain goes into their heart. And what goes into their heart comes out of their mouth and hands and feet. (For more on this, check out “What Are You Listening To?” over on my much-neglected second blog, Sweet For Your Soul.)
Christian music has exploded since the days of Petra and Amy Grant (God bless and thank ’em). There is something out there your child will like. And even if they fight you and your “suggestions,” listen to good stuff yourself. Have it playing in the background of your life. You never know what might stick. Here are some of our family’s favorites for all ages:
- Anything by Go Fish. Their motto is “music for kids that doesn’t drive parents crazy,” and it’s the real deal. The first time I played one of their CDs in the van for my adolescent-aged girls, they both said immediately, “I want every one of these songs on my MP3 player.” (Yeah, this was a few years ago.) But it’s music for moms and dads and toddlers, too.
- Hawk Nelson. Get their Diamonds CD. Just get it. (No, I am not being paid to say that.)
- Lauren Daigle. Where to start? Maybe here: Lauren’s weaving of Scripture and Biblical truth into song lyrics is awe-inspiring. To say nothing of the fact that her music is just plain killer.
- Hillsong Young & Free. Highly recommended by my tween.
- KB. Rap. Hip-hop. I’m not going to listen to him, but my girls love his “stuff” and tell me their guy friends do, too.
- Kristene DiMarco. Worship music, emphasis on the gorgeous.
- The Story. From creation to the second coming, this is the Bible set to music that somehow manages to capture the essence of the truth behind each individual story. Worth it just for Peter Furler-as-Daniel’s full-throttle scream at the end of “No Compromise.”
3. The Word and words based on it. Whether you’ve got a toddler or a teen or a child in between, someone’s written a devotional book or Bible study for them.
- Got younger kids who love sports? Try The One Year Sports Devotions For Kids.
- Got tween girls? Check out The One Year Devos For Girls.
- Got a teen who’s attached to their phone? Download the YouVersion Bible App.
- Got anyone with a pulse? Get your hands on Sally Lloyd Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible in any of its many forms and on Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing, also by Lloyd-Jones.
4. Media with merit. I was late to the Facebook party because I have a very boring life and didn’t think people needed to know I was making macaroni and cheese for dinner. But I jumped into the pool so I could create a group page for my Bible study sisters, and I haven’t looked back. My initial reluctance about social media notwithstanding, I’m so thankful for connections my girls are able to have with Christian friends and with faith-building resources that go way beyond the flannel graph I grew up with. (Because, old.) From websites to Christian mentors, there’s something to be said for someone who talks faith in your child’s language and is–no offense–not you. Check out these field-tested, faith-feeding resources. (And by “field,” I mean “our house”.)
- What’s In The Bible? I grew up going to Sunday School every single week. I went to VBS and Christian summer camps and private Christian college. I’ve facilitated women’s Bible study for 10 years. And I am so grateful for every bit of it. But I learned more about the Bible from watching these DVDs than from all of the rest combined. Not because the rest is so bad but because this series is so good. Truthful teaching that’s high-quality, clever, and creative.
- Project Inspired. “Created for Christian girls to show how awesome God is.” My daughters are crazy about this website.
- Adam Cappa. He’s categorized on Facebook as a musician/band. But his Scripture quotes, dating advice, spot-on direction about seeking a mate, and other bits of wisdom for “ladies and gents” go way beyond music.
5. Body building. I’m not talking about weight training. (Although, note to self: do more of it. You’re not getting any younger, honey.) I’m talking about the way the body of Christ–your local church–can encourage, pray for, lead, guide, direct, and model truth about life with God.
You can tell your son or daughter something about faith or God or the Bible a dozen times and get nothing more than “uh-huh,” only to have them hear it from a Sunday School teacher or youth group leader and come home talking about it like they’ve just had their own burning-bush moment. Which is fabulous.
My girls have been in church almost every Sunday since they were days old, and our branch of the body is crazy about them. They pray for them and cheer them on and ask about their lives and generally show them what community in Christ looks like.
I know intertwining your life with a local congregation is messy and tricky and often disappointing. It’s a lot like, you know, the rest of life. But somewhere out there is a local church that is right for your family, where you and your children can teach and be taught, serve and be served, love and be loved. Not a perfect church, but the right one for now. Finding it will be worth it.
A bunch of years ago, when my youngest daughter was about four, she witnessed me mourning the demise of the cane seat in the chair I use at my computer. The cane had simply worn out and broken through. (I tried not to take it personally.) My daughter heard me complaining about this sad development and drew me this picture:
Translated from her preschool phonics, she wrote: “I’m sorry about the seat. But that’s not the importantist thing, because God is.”
There are lots of important things in my girls’ lives: our family, their friends, their education, their passions and pursuits.
But feeding their faith helps us and them stay focused on the importantist thing.
On what is eternal and true and on what, one day, will be home.