Monday, December 30, 2013

Planning for the Future

December is a month of planning at my house.  I'm a college teacher planning next term's lessons.  I'm a home-schooler picking textbooks, printing off calendars and preparing projects.  We'll be moving summer of 2014 and I am looking with a critical eye at things that need to be sold, thrown away or boxed up.  More than any of that though, I'm planning with my two daughters in mind. 

This year I read two books, Sacred Parenting and Parenting by the Book.  Though they were on a very different topics (the first on spiritual disciplines for parents and the second on parenting like Grandma) they asked a painful question.  What do you want for your kids not next year or the year after but at 30?

Think about that a minute.

I have dreams for my two girls.  You've got dreams right?  Your kids live down the road in a nice house.  They have a wonderful spouse who makes lots of money, caters to their every whim, and never complains about how much time they spend at your house.  They are loved and admired by everyone they know.  They have beautiful, well-behaved children who are the delight of your life. They are maintaining a skyrocketing career and soon they'll have enough money to take you and their dad on that Caribbean cruise you always dreamed of.  Sigh.  

After another moment's reflection, I discovered what I really wanted.  I'll give up the cruise, the career, the admiration and the house down the road for character.  If my girls are professional ditch-diggers but they're honest and hardworking, I'm okay with that. If they are single but they are both free and righteous I'll be satisfied.  If they are servants in their homes, in their churches, in their workplaces, if they're devoted to prayer and his service, I'll be thrilled.  More than anything I want them to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls and minds.  

With that vision at the forefront, I took a cold hard look at the way our family actually spends our time.  I cringed as I considered how much energy I poured or let them pour into things of little consequence and how little into things that mattered far more in the end.  It was time for a change.  I needed a new plan!

We don't have Sunday School in our little house church.  And although my daughters are homeschooled we had tacked Bible on the end of our day like art or music - skippable!  It wasn't that their Dad and I didn't take them to worship or live out our faith in front of them, it's that we didn't have a consistent plan to develop their walk with God.

I can share our revised plan with you.  We doubled the amount of Bible that the girls were doing for school.  We included both foundational learning (like basic stories, knowing all the books of the Bible, basic Bible history and backgrounds) as well as devotional learning (understanding key concepts and stories and their immediate applications to our lives and our hearts).  

We also added recitation, Bible reading and devotionals after breakfast everyday.  Just like you, we need to get up, eat breakfast and get ready for the day at a ridiculously early hour.  Sometimes I am tempted to skip devotionals in favor of dishes or an extra half-hour of sleep.  Then I imagine my daughter talking to her own daughter at the kitchen table.  Do I want her to say to my grandbaby, "My mama always did the dishes right after breakfast" and then stand up to clean the kitchen? Or do I want her to say, "My mama always taught us about Jesus right after breakfast" and stay with her to recite?

Our homeschooling change added about 20 minutes a day to their schedule.  Peanuts. Our morning devotionals take about 10 minutes most days.   Five minutes to recite the verses we're focused on and 5 minutes to read a passage and talk about it.  So for 30 minutes a day (think one episode of Daniel Tiger), I've refocused the kids on where I really want them to be.  

It's had wonderful and hilarious consequences. Our girls have both grown enormously in their prayer lives.  Recently as we ate lunch we heard that one of the kids in our church was sick.  Our little one was very distressed, she hopped up from the table (a no-no in our house where children ask to be excused).  Her dad called after her, "Where are you going?"  She replied, "To my room to pray."    The devotionals from the Sermon on the Mount are bearing fruit. For another example, recently our older daughter was in a 2 man play.  When the other actor got up to get off stage after dying, my little daughter announced, "Look! She was resurrected!"

I'd like to ask you to think seriously about your upcoming year.  Are there kids in your house?  Take 10 minutes today and map out a plan for their spiritual growth.  I understand about busy-ness, feeling overwhelmed, and being overcommitted. Yet thinking long-term, how many of the things that leave us feeling that way are things that will matter when our kids are 30?  This does.  Your plan doesn't have to look like ours. It might include reading the Bible aloud before bed, or instituting bed-time prayers. Maybe you'll do recitation every morning in the car on the way to school.  There might be a book you need to buy to help you lead family devotionals (Melissa and I'll be reviewing some materials like that in the new year).  The crucial thing is that you think ahead, a long way ahead, and parent for the things that really matter.  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 
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