Parenting With No Guilt-Strings Attached

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We know that Christian parents must raise their children in a gospel centered way. And we also know that any gospel-center thing must carry the gospel message within and that is this:  We are sinful by nature and need to repent and believe in Christ the Savior. Only Jesus can break the bondage of sin and deliver us from its curse so that we may have abundant life.

But when it comes to raising our children in a gospel-centered way the temptation parents will many times face is do it with guilt-strings attached.

Let me explain. We do want to proclaim the gospel to our children, we want them to know what sin is, why repentance is important and what forgiveness looks like. But the temptation that many Christian parents face -especially when they want to see quick results- is to parent installing guilt in their children.

“If you really love Jesus, you would have not been disrespectful to your dad.”

“If you really, really, repented from that lie yesterday, you would not have lied to me again.”

“If when you said, “forgive me, mom” you really meant it, you would not have disobeyed me again.”

Sin is brought up in each of the examples above, yes, but the cure given will prove to be poisonous.

Many times I am surprised at how much Christian parents are afraid of God’s Grace. We are afraid that our children could abuse it (as if that was even possible!), so we try to build dams to “protect” our children from tasting it. What if they taste God’s amazing grace and then underestimate sin? What if they taste true forgiveness…maybe they will not see their future sins as grievous anymore? What if our home tastes likes grace… maybe they will not taste the horrors of sin anymore?

What is happening here? The truth is that when we act like this we act in unbelief.  We do not believe that when read the Word of God to our children, that when we speak about it as we go on our daily lives, the Holy Spirit can convict them of their own sin. In our unbelief we try to help God by bringing up the sins of our children over and over again -so that they will “have the opportunity” to search themselves to see if there has been true repentance. When we do this we imitate the Devil in what the does best, and so we become the accusers of our own children from the rising of the sun to the end of the day.

Our accusations become the seed, the soil, and the water that bring forth the rotten fruit of insecurity in our children.  How will our children grow to be assured of the Father’s love and forgiveness if we are the ones who are always doubting their motives, their tears, their repentance, their words?  How will our children taste the assurance of God’s forgiveness if we always tell them that “maybe their repentance was not from their heart”?  How will they drink from God’s fountain of grace if we keep them away from it -fearing that they will not see their sin if they come?

May God help us to bring with much joy and much confidence our children to Christ! That we will be instruments in His hand to assure them of the Father’s love! That when we teach them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, they will never doubt that their Father in Heaven hears them when they cry out to Him! God forbid that we, their own parents, become a stumbling block to them!

But you might rightly ask, but what do we do then when our children keep sinning? What we should do is exactly what the Father has taught us to do: We repent, we believe, and from the fullness of Jesus we drink grace upon grace.  We need to open the Scriptures before our children and show them what the Word says about that particular sin they are struggling with, and we tell them that in Christ there is always (always!) forgiveness for those who repent and believe. And then we assure them, from the same Holy Scriptures, of the Father’s love.

And lastly we do something that we almost always forget to do: we equip our children with the Word of God to help them fight sin in their lives. We teach them how Jesus’ way is more precious and joyful and satisfying than any sin. Because like us, they will continue to battle, and like us, they need all the counsel of God to fight and win.

Many parents are prone to point their children’s sins to them -every day and on their face, literally pointing a finger to them, to “remind” them of their shortcomings, to “encourage” them to repent quickly, and then they leave them in tears, but disarmed to fight, to win, to be assured of God’s love for them.

We must stop parenting our children with guilt-strings attached and start parenting them with grace-strings attached. How we need to teach our children the promises that we have in Christ to overcome sin. We must teach them, with our Bibles open, what are the weapons God has given us to battle our flesh, the world, and the Devil. How much our children need to hear of the power of the Word, the power of a prayer life, and the blessedness of the means of grace! How we must teach them to take the sword, which is the Word, and fight to win instead of always sending them to their rooms to do a morbid introspection of their hearts. And, oh, how much, like Paul, we need to pray with them and for them until Christ is formed in them!

Friends, unless we bring our children to Christ so that He can touch them with His grace, unless they see how precious all of Christ is to us, they will not want to come and taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Unless we stop being afraid of giving them grace in the same measure that we have received it, our generations will keep swimming in lukewarm water, never assured of the Father’s love for them.

May our children hear us say with much assurance and joy when they ask for forgiveness, “I too received mercy when I acted in my unbelief. And just like the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ, it now flows for you. Look not to your own heart, my child, but look up to Jesus! He is the author and perfecter of our faith. Come,come with me, let us run and bathe in the ocean of God’s amazing grace!”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

Of Boys and Men

I have wanted to revive this blog for a while. And actually I have a list of things I want to write about but honestly I have been putting them off for another day. I am probably overthinking this blogging thing way too much… Maybe tomorrow? Is this a thing worth writing about? But today, a situation pushed one of the items on the list to the top with such a hard thrust that brought me to this blank page. So, sorry, Friends, there will be no “Welcome-back-to-the-blog-party” today.  That will have to wait.

pexels-photo-261909.jpegMoms of Boys, please, please don’t make excuses for your sons. Please! You will pretty soon regret doing that. Stop that habit now, it will destroy your dear son’s life.

I have been teaching, for almost 11 years, high-school students, and without a doubt, I can tell you that more and more I am seeing moms of boys excusing the irresponsibility of their sons.  And more and more moms are using their sons’ personality traits to do so. He is introverted. He is very smart but you just can’t see it. He is the most responsible 15 yo boy I know and the most hardworking one, but you are not extending enough Christian Grace to him. Please be more understanding and give him some room to grow.  He is too tired, he is growing up, you know? He was late to class because *I* forgot to wake him up, please don’t deduct points from his grade. etc. And so it goes. And so goes the destruction of their sons.

Proverbs speaks to all of us, of course, but it was originally written by a father to his son. And it is very interesting to see how the father urges his son to listen his mother’s instruction (1:8) and to not forsake the teachings of his mother (6:20). So clearly we moms have a huge role to play in the life of our sons. But how are going to use that influence? What we we teaching them? Are we instructing them with the Word of God in hand?

We read the articles around the web and we see what a terrible need there is for truly godly men to rise, for pious men to lead their families in the Lord, for godly men to own their responsibilities and step out and be brave and do the right thing. And at the same time we hear the big question resound all over, Where are these men?  I have no doubt that part of the answer is one that Moms of Boys must give.

I am not writing here to address the problem of lack of Father figures -of Father hunger, I am writing here to address the responsibility moms have in all this.

Moms of Boys, stop making excuses for your son. Let him own both, his own responsibility and his irresponsibility, and the consequences for both. Ask God to give you eyes to see what you don’t want to see. Ask God to open you eyes to see what others see in your son and you keep denying.  Ask God to give you a brave heart to say “No, I am not covering that lie anymore.” “No, I cannot keep this situation from your Dad.”No, I cannot call your teacher to give the explanation you want me to give.”  And even this, “Yes, I agree with you, I believe that the grade your teacher gave you is unjust; but son, I believe that God is allowing this in your life to show you that in this world, not all things are just. You can learn so much from this. Toughen up and do it again. Honor God. Be a man.”

Behind a weak man, many times there is an overprotective mom, a mom that believes her son is the most wonderful, mature, and responsible young man in the world. Behind a weak man, many times there is a mom that puts every effort to make of every situation a safe-place for her son. Behind a weak man, many times there is a mom willing to be the one who faces the teacher or boss, or pastor while her son is playing video-games.

Moms of Boys, take heart, look up to Jesus, the Perfect Man and lean on Him for grace to do what He has called you do.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

P.S. The only announcement today is this: many links in this blog are broken since we moved it from Blogger to WordPress, and it might take a while to repair them. Thanks for your understanding. 🙂

 

 

 

Our Mother Tongue

One of my dear daughters recommended that I should read “In Other Words”, a book by Jhumpa Lahiri. Kate knows me well, so of course I loved the book, and was inspired through its pages in many ways (for example, today I ordered some grammar books, and subscribed myself to a website with hundreds of exercises to perfect -hopefully- my English).

Speaking more than one language gives you more than the title of “bilingual,” it actually shapes you and changes you and the way you think in many unimaginable ways. As we add new words to our vocabulary, more adverbs and adjectives, grammar rules and their exceptions, we advance a bit further in the pool of that other language, we start feeling more comfortable; however, and I find it ironic, is that at the end of the day, we still catch ourselves not finding the “right” word at times. Not in English, not in Spanish, not in French.

I taught my children English (as their second language) since they were very little. My English was not perfect, my pronunciation, accent, and cadence have always been there, witnessing that English is not my mother tongue. But I wanted to give them this gift, and though it was so time consuming and much harder than just teaching them Spanish, my husband and I decided that we would do it anyhow. Now I can confidently say that all of them speak much better English than I do. All of them are my teachers and all of them (including my daughters-in-law) are patient with me when I ask them to help me understand a grammar concept, the usage of an specific word, and how to pronounce words like facade and entree.

All this helps me explain what I want it to be the heart of this post: there is one language that we, Christian mothers, need to teach diligently to our children from morning to evening, Sunday thru Saturday, and that is the Gospel language. We must do it intentionally, we must practice it ourselves, we must do all that it takes so that they may learn how to love it and make it their own.

No matter if we don’t -yet- understand all the ins and outs of it. No matter, if we don’t feel adequate or not. We must do it. We must open our Bibles daily and teach them from it, read from it, pray it with them until they know it by heart, until they can recognize it as their mother tongue. We can do this by faith, expecting that in God’s grace they will become better at speaking it, better at understanding it, better at remembering it, better at applying it, better at living it out than us.

And this is also where I come to realize that no matter how many languages a Christian person can speak, the language of the Kingdom of God, the language of the Gospel, of true love, of self-sacrifice, of compassion, is the language that we all need to be proficient in. The Gospel language is the one that we can never stop practicing. Because we all know that lack of practice is what makes one forget all the Spanish from highschool, ¿verdad?

May God grant us more love for His Word so that we may become more fluent in the language of the Kingdom as we speak to our children, our husband, our friends.

Grace upon grace,

Becky

Before Doing the Next Thing

“Just do the thing in front of you” Elisabeth Elliot said, and I have always believed that statement to be true, but now I am on a different place and I’m seeing things from a different angle. Yes, doing the next thing God calls us to do is mandatory, but sitting still for a while before moving towards the next thing is as important as moving forward. Finding a quiet time is, many times the next thing we ought to do. Especially for those of us who are prone to move.

Our second son just got married, and we are very grateful for the new daughter that we now have. We love her deeply. We are grateful for the many, many prayers we have prayed before our Father who hears us for our son and this wife; we are grateful for the gift of seeing them start their new family with prayer, anchored in the Word. I am truly grateful and very happy. But it is still a hard thing to let your son go. Doing the next thing for me now looks like slowing down and reading my Bible more and making more room for prayer.

My dear friend and I had this conversation a few days ago, that made me think more on what it means to feel this void in the heart that is very hard to explain because, paradoxically, my heart is more full now. She said that when we marry a child we finish a job, and finishing a job is always something solemn and sober that calls for reflection. How I agree with her!

You know, Friend, turning the page quickly to the new chapter of your life sometimes cannot be done quickly. Sometimes it is good and important to take the time to reflect and pray before doing the next thing. To recall the many prayers you have prayed, the answers God has given, the promises that have sustained you is a good thing to do. Morbid introspection has no place here. It is not about us, remember, it is about God’s glory and His promises, it is about His perfect and sovereign plan and us becoming more like Christ. Doing the next thing many times is not necessarily moving forward, but  slowing down and praying more, asking God to give you a promise that you can hold unto in the days and months to come.

Some days and life events should look more like your favorite book: you finish a chapter and you love it so much that instead of not wanting to put your book down to see what comes next, you close it and want to linger on it a bit more. It is so good, so rich, that moving quickly to the next chapter is not a good idea. You need to let the story sink down. And then, when you turn the page, you understand the story better and love it even more.

We are so quick to move, to do the next thing right away that we end up living an unexamined life, and Socrates got it right, an unexamined life is not worth living.

So yes, let’s do the next thing, but first let’s take time to slow down and consider Christ and the work of His Spirit in our own lives.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Are we Busy or Distracted?

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Diego Rodriguez DaSilva y Velázquez

 

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”” Luke 10: 38-42

Wait. Read that passage again. Two more times, maybe?

I have been mediating on this passage and it came to my attention that Martha’s problem was not necessarily being busy, it was something else.

Martha was busy at her home, and she understood that hospitality is a big word that implies big work. She got that part and that is good. But keep reading. Her problem was not that she was busy doing what needed to be done, hers was a heart problem that is seen as follows:

1. Martha was distracted by much serving. Much serving was not the problem, having a house full of guests, or littles at home to feed or grown-ups to listen to, or having to make extra soup for a friend in need, or classes and papers to grade, and doctors’ appointments to make, and laundry and exams, and a husband to embrace and a friend in need to listen to are not the real problem. The problem is how that busyness, how that much serving can distract our hearts and draw our attention to something else that will destroy our relationship with God and others.

Jeremiah Burroughs in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, says that Christian contentment is “opposed to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships towards God, ourselves and others.

This is exactly what I see in the passage. Martha’s heart got distracted and her heart became unsettled and unstable. Instead of looking at Jesus, the object of her service, she looked at herself and in turn, her eyes veered to her sister in comparison.

2.  Notice that after Martha’s heart is distracted, she turns to Jesus, but not to listen to Him. He looks to Him in order to complain. How could He have missed the fact that she was doing more than Mary? How could He not see her diligent service and her sister’s poor attitude towards their duties?

Jesus’ answer goes directly to the heart of the matter. He does not address the “how-much-I-am-doing vs. the-how-much-she-is-not-doing” argument (that we moms have heard from our children too often, just like our Heavenly Father has heard from his children more than often!). Martha’s problem was anxiousness, a troubled heart -not busy hands, and also the fact that she started comparing herself with her own sister. She wanted Jesus to make her an example before Mary. Martha clearly had not learned contentment in the midst of a busy day.

Again we read Jeremiah Burroughs’ wise words: “[Christan contentment] is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God…” and “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious, frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

How challenging and fitting it is for us to read this passage. Many of us are in a season in which our lives are full, trying to do less is what we dream of, but in reality we just can’t.  But we can do one important thing: check the attitude of our heart in the midst of all those busy moments. In doing so, we will be choosing “the good portion” that Jesus wants us to choose.

So let’s check our own heart: Am I continually and quietly murmuring and complaining -even in prayer? Is it my tendency to be distracted in my heart only to find myself comparing my days with those of my neighbor? Can I see my present condition and my hands full, and praise God and see Him and listen to Him as I come and go? Or am I using this busy season in my life only as an excuse to not come to Jesus to worship Him?

“A Christian knows that he should not be diverted by small matters, but should answer every distraction, and resist every temptation.” Jeremiah Burroughs.

Grace upon grace,

Becky

A Prayer for my Sons -Acts 18: 24-28

 

In Acts 18:24-28 we read of Apollo, a man who labored with Paul to serve God and the saints in the primitive church, and who stood faithful to his calling to the end. The Lord has drawn me to read this passage several times lately and after mediating on it, I have made it a prayer for my sons (and my daughters’ future husbands).

Father, I pray for my sons, for these men. Thank you because they have grown before You and grown in You.

Lord, I pray for them, for no matter where they are or how old they are, I will never cease to struggle in prayer for them before you. I know that you are the God who hears, who sees, who answers the prayers of your children.

I pray for my sons -and future sons-in-law- Father, that they will be eloquent and competent in the Scriptures, that they will understand that the only way to win arguments and hearts, and battles is with the Word abiding in them and working in them. Father, draw them to your Word and let it dwell richly in them.

Father, in your grace and kindness you have granted me and my husband the privilege and honor to instruct our sons in the Scriptures since their early years. Now they have become Men, now it is only You and them. Now it is my time to watch them, like robust trees, bear much fruit in their life. It is only You who through your Spirit, the Word, and your church, that can establish them, and make their roots stronger and deeper; only You can make them bear much fruit, only You can make them bold and zealous, and fearless -and humble.

I pray for my sons, Lord. I pray that they will be fervent in spirit, that they will speak and teach accurately all things concerning Jesus and the gospel. I pray that their lives will match the words of Truth that come out of their mouths.

I pray for my sons, Lord. I pray that they may speak boldly in the church, in their homes, in the corners, in the public square; but that as they grow in boldness, I pray that they will grow in humility. For what is a bold man without a humble spirit and a teachable heart other than a tyrant and a prideful man? Oh, Lord, Good Master, give my sons good teachers and friends, and pastors and elders, and the desire to humble before them to learn. Give my sons friends that will be like iron in their lives, friends that will encourage them to grow in piety and that will be good examples to follow, to imitate. Give my sons feet to follow the counsel of the wise and boldness to reject the one from the wicked. Give my sons eyes and ears to listen to all, and discernment to judge according to your Word. Help them consider all the “ifs” of this life through your Word. And at the same time, Lord, I beg you, make of them good examples for others to follow. Make their lives worth imitating.

Draw my sons more to you, and to your Word so that they may grow in grace. Father, as they grow in grace give them a desire to help greatly those who have believed in you. Help my sons to grow in grace so that when the opposition comes, when the arguments of the evil men arise, they will powerfully refute them. I pray that all the days of their lives, they will not cease to see it for themselves and show in the Scriptures to others that Christ is our Savior.

I pray for my sons, Lord, I pray that they will love You and your Word more, so that they might be able to love their own wives more and more.

I pray in the name of Jesus who lives and reign forever and ever,

Amen.

Becky