Last week, those I worship with and I were challenged to set some real, tangible goals to help us go into the world and make disciples this year. Foundationally, that means knowing and loving Jesus, well. Two suggestions to help along those lines that really resonated with me were to 1) Focus on one gospel this year, reading it entirely one time each month, and 2) Copy that gospel on paper this year. I did a scripture-copying challenge in November and I can't tell you how helpful it was to mull over scripture as I put pen to paper, so I latched on to that one. Ben, who preaches for us, said he'll be spending the year in Luke. Since it's been awhile since I've focused on Luke, and since I figure he'll naturally be preaching more from it, I decided I'll do that too. Reading it once a month is simple enough--but how do you tackle copying more than 1100 verses? With a plan, of course. So I came up with one and I'm sharing it below. 52 weeks, with verses for each day of those weeks--it's actually just an average of three verses a day. And I know, I know--it's already January 12! But if you're a stickler about finishing by December 31, you'll just need to add a verse or two over the next couple of weeks to be in line for the end of the year. I can't tell you how humbling and uplifting it was just to do a cursory glance at Luke while I put the list together. I'm excited to dig deeper into it as I copy it this year. I hope this is a blessing to you--please use it and share it as you see a need. And if you have any questions about the method or what you find in Luke--by all means, let me know! I'm excited to hear what you see in the scripture, too.
P.S. Someone asked what I plan to use to write Luke in. I'm going to use one of these journals, which is portable and sturdy, but you can use plain ol' lined paper if you so desire.
I am not a mathematician. Oh, giggling peels of laughter, I am not a mathematician. But today is one of those days when I wish I knew how to make an algorithm. Or an algebra problem. Or… something… that could help me to prove something.
See, I have a theory. Let’s call it, oh, the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. And it is one that pops into my head well, just about every time I get on Facebook. For there, undoubtedly, I will see an article or a blog post that someone has shared. Sometimes (not often) they are written by someone I actually know. Sometimes they are shared from the blog of someone I don’t know. The sources are varied, but the intent is often not: They contain religious or semi-religious content and opinion that will inevitably spark conversation and debate about some gray matter among Christians. Let me be very clear: I am not talking about scripture-based devotional writings or videos—the posts I’m speaking of rarely drive us to open our Bibles, but rather to open our mouths via the keyboard.
And then, if you want to, you can actually spend the better part of an entire day watching the responses of people who you don’t know… who the author of the blog post likely doesn’t know… who, quite possibly, your Facebook friend doesn’t know. Sometimes the numbers will go into the high double digits, or even triple digits. It is clear that all of them put (some) thought and time into crafting these responses, whether right or not. This, despite the fact that it will simply disappear into the ether when on the following day someone posts something about the government or –oh look! A cute cat!
WHAT. A. DESTRUCTIVE. WASTE. OF. TIME.
That’s pretty much the Theory of Collective Christian Distraction. I just wish I could figure out a number that would do something like this:
Add time spent reading such articles to time spent by poster crafting an initial comment.
Subtract time spent in Bible study on the matter (this rarely appears to happen, at least between first reading and sharing).
Divide by amount of confusion experienced by new Christians or struggling ones.
Multiply by number of people who may be lurking on the topic but not posting.
Multiply again by negative perceptions of ‘argumentative Christians’ who are no longer really all that hip to spending time with you inside or outside of worship because of how feisty and outspoken you and your church buddies are.
Can someone help me quantify this? Because really, I’d like to compare it to the amount of time we’re spending in the actual ministering to the spiritual needs and in study of the Bible with people who need to know about Jesus. The real lives we could touch if we’d get off the computer, stop arguing non-binding matters, and focus on all the people who are hurting.
Me, I’m trying. I don't want to get distracted from my real work here as a servant of God. I’m getting better about letting the arguments go. It’s not always easy. But I am instead making a conscious effort to do what is productive in my own personal service to the Lord, instead of engaging online. I’m a mom, and let me tell you, there is no shortage of what is in the Bible that I need to learn myself, and teach my children. That’s where my focus needs to be. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of what’s going on in our culture or what our brothers and sisters are concerned about—I think that’s part of the warning Jesus gives in Matthew 10:16.
I’m saying we must be on guard about the time and effort and good will that all this ‘discussion’ eats up. And I’m saying it’s harder to do my actual work when I’m distracted and distraught about what everyone thinks today about Blog Post X. And far harder when I’m upset about something someone clear across the country said that truly, has no bearing on how I will worship God come Sunday.
So. Instead of using my emotional energy on those things, I might invite a college-aged girl over for lunch. Instead of writing out something thoughtful but soon-to-be-buried by other posts, I could be texting a friend to see how she’s doing today. Instead of reading responses, I could be reading my Bible.
Of course Facebook can be a tool for good. Of course it can. But public division, I’m pretty sure, is not the best way to use the tool. People who need God don’t need more useless fighting. They are already in the fight of their lives. They need an introduction to the peace of Jesus. But sometimes we feel like our opinions must be heard, and let our lack of humility and meekness make us terrible advertisers of God’s gifts. And yes, I have struggled with whether to even put this post on Facebook as it could be perceived as a hot-button topic post. But, I'm asking specifically that you not make comment or argument publicly, but merely that you give it your consideration (and of course feel free to message me personally if you feel the need to discuss further).
If you post the stuff, please think seriously and honestly about why you’re posting it. If you follow or respond, think about whether it is the best use of your time and influence. If you are discouraged by it, get out your Bible and read God’s words, not someone else’s. Ask a trusted older Christian to help you make sense of it all—in person if you can.
“ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15-16
You know those moments, when your child says or does something that, in that beautiful childlike way brings things into focus? Yep, had one of those yesterday. I told the girls we were having some neighbors over for dinner and my oldest said to me, “Oh good, Mommy! I knew that was going to happen but I didn’t know when.”
“How did you know?” I asked, just because I knew I had unintentionally neglected to tell them until that day.
“I heard you tell Mrs. Jennifer about it in the car the other day,” she said. And then, the articulation of her heart:
“I like to listen to grown-ups talk, Mommy. I do it all the time so I can know what’s going on. I don’t know why. I just like to listen to the grown-ups.”
Now, I try to be mindful of what I say in front of the kids. I don’t want them hearing me be negative, anxious, or grumbly. I do want them to hear me say kind things, praise others and work out problems. So certainly, this was a reminder that I need to continue on that track.
But it also brought to mind a phrase I first encountered as a child myself, reading The Little House on the Prairie series. Ma Ingalls would say, "Little pitchers have big ears." My child is listening to us. She wants to listen to us. And she does it with purpose: to learn.
And then I wondered… Am I listening to the grownups? Do I hear what Christians who are older, wiser, more experienced are saying, both to me and to each other? Do I want to learn?—because here seems to be an easy way to.
If I am listening to the grownups, what can I learn? A lot of them will tell me directly what I need to hear—thank God for those who take on the role of public and private teacher! But I have to be willing to show up, and to listen, and then to apply.
Still others will talk to me about their experiences; share their experiences. There is so much to learn there, if I listen. A lot of times the struggle there is in making the time to listen to them. If I am too busy rush-rush-rushing around, I don’t have time to take in what they have to say. That’s a struggle while wife-ing and parenting, but probably a struggle I need to fight. Those who have been-there, done-that have, quite simply, been there and done that and almost always have a few tips and tricks that will save me pain and heartache in the long run.
And then there are times I get the opportunity to listen to "the grown-ups" talk to each other. To hear their regrets, to hear the ways they care for each other, to “listen” to what their interactions with each other have to teach me about their hearts, and to mimic the good things they do. There is learning in the listening.
But most importantly, am I listening to the ultimate grown-up, my Heavenly Father? Do I really want to learn? Because He has said so much to me in his word! I am his beloved child. Just like I want my children to learn what is good and right and true from what I say, so He wants me to learn those things from that He has said.
One of the most infuriating things in my parenting is when one of the kids says “I didn’t hear you,” when the truth is, they weren’t listening to me. I have found that to make sure they are listening, I sometimes need to put my hands on their cheeks, gently turn their face to me and lock eyes with them. I’m pretty sure that in preserving scripture for us, God did the exact same thing for me. It is my job to listen. I need to lock my eyes with him, in devoted study of my Bible.
Today I need to speak less, listen more. Find the grownups. Read what my Father is saying to me. Have big ears and hear it. Apply it.
And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 1 Samuel 3:10
I started this morning with a bit of work in Robin’s study on How to Love Your Children. It’s very good—I recommend it if you have children or hope to be blessed with them. One thing I am inspired by every time I read it is Deuteronomy 6:1-13.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. “
It is a comfort to me that God has wanted his children to teach their children diligently since the beginning. If he told me to do it—I can do it! (Because he WANTS me to do it.)
[dil-i-juhnt adj. 1. constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything: a diligent student.
Look at that definition. God is giving us work to do here! It is every day work. It is all-through-the-day work. It is a constant effort. It has a goal, to accomplish something; you’ll find that in verse 12 above. I am to be attentive: I have to stop texting, take a break from cleaning, and interact with these children and figure out what they need to hear in order to never forget the Lord. I must be persistent in my teaching of God’s word. And He will help me do it (Phil. 4:13).
Here’s what that looks like right now, for me:
1. Daily Bible study with the kids. We do this as part of our homeschool curriculum, but you can do it whenever you are together with your kids. A book like Egermeier’s has easily digestible lessons with questions to ask at the end. It makes it easy and my kids beg me to read more than one. Working together to do their Bible lessons for class at church is part of this, too. Someone once told me that kids find it embarrassing to be unprepared for class, so that's an added motivation, too.
2. Learning hymns and songs. This is what I remember most from being a child—the songs we sang. The words comfort me and since those songs are rooted in scripture, they remind me of what the Lord has done for me. I want to impart that to my children. It’s one of the reasons I’m working to set their memory work to song. These don't have to be kids songs, by the way. We do a lot of vocabulary work in explaining what some of the more 'stately' hymns mean. It helps me, too.
3. Being in nature. Children always find things to look at when you are in the woods or even just paying attention to the sunrise/sunset or the growing things in your front yard. “Who made that? Isn’t it amazing what God has done?” Is a constant refrain in our house. When they start asking the “Why did God make that?” questions, things get really interesting! (P.S. if you exercise them well in the outdoors they will be calmer and sleep better, too. You might find that you enjoy this benefit as well.)
4. Being around other Christians, of all ages. Teenagers love little kids and can be a great example and friend to your children. Parents with kids older than yours will remember theirs fondly when they look at yours, and will help pinpoint areas in which yours can be encouraged and more disciplined. Older Christians will actively seek to teach your children and to show them affection. These are special relationships that my children treasure. I do, too.
5. Taking them to evening or weekend Bible studies and singings. Mine are really starting to see this as a way of life, and they are learn to sit, behave, and even participate. If you take it seriously, they will learn to take it seriously, too. At almost-6 and almost-8, mine love to sit with different people (often the teenagers I mentioned above), they love to be able to find and even index a song in the hymnal, and they like to pick out a song to request. Added bonus: we are all getting to know new people better.
6. Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness. My kids start their prayers now as their father does: “Our Father in Heaven, thank you for this wonderful day.” If we can see every day as Full of Wonder, because of how God has ordered things, then gratitude for everything about it comes more easily. It helps us set the tone in our house for teaching thankfulness for the things we HAVE been blessed with, instead of complaining about the things we don’t have. It is a lesson that, I myself need help putting in practice every day… especially when I get on Pinterest. Amen?
I’d love to hear how you teach diligently, as we look for ways to know God and make Him known. Especially if you have kids in different age ranges than mine, I want to know what this looks like in your home. Share, please!
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11