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First Ask Why: A Book Review

Parenting books are plentiful, it’s true, and trying to fit your family into the mold of what others have done is impossible. So it’s refreshing to read a parenting book that gives you the freedom to be your own family while still suggesting principles that will help point your children to Jesus.

First Ask Why coverIn this her first book, Shelly Wildman encourages parents to engage in intentional discipleship, positioning your kids to follow Jesus as they grow in independence. By asking why we do the things we do, we’re taking a closer look at our efforts as a family.

The message that spoke the most to me was near the end. In a chapter titled “Strengthening our Ties,” Shelly confronts something that families these days don’t want to hear: We’re too busy.  She says, “Driven by today’s American culture, parents often believe that if their kids don’t play sports or aren’t involved in some other activity outside the home, then their lives won’t be successful. But that argument plays on parents’ fears and emotions. We can’t fear being a little countercultural when it comes to protecting time together as a family, because that time together makes us stronger.”

I confess to feeling that fear. College applications and having a resumé filled with accomplishments drive us to over scheduling our families so that we teeter on the very brink of burnout and exhaustion. What are our kids learning from this?

That performance matters. That who they are will forever be tied to the things that they do.

My 9th grade daughter is concerned by the fact that she doesn’t have any activities to add to her resumé. She’s in virtual school (meaning she does all her classes remotely on a computer), so obviously extra curricular activities are not as easy to engage in.

But more important to me than the status of her resumé is the status of her heart. Have we made an intentional effort over the 15 years of her life to point her to Jesus?

Prayer, service, cross-cultural experiences, family memories. All of these and more are areas in which Wildman encourages parents to disciple their kids. When asked what makes her book different from other parenting books, Wildman answers:

“So many parenting books are ‘how-to’ books. They seem to say, ‘Just follow these 10 steps first ask why memeand here’s what you’ll get in the end.’ But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why.

“Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

“Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

“Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

“Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them.”

First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship is available now for preorder on Amazon, CBD.com and Barnes and Noble.

Web_Shelly-2Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian, have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

 

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Most people—and I’m guessing given how things are in the world—think respect has to be earned. You don’t like your boss because he’s a bad leader, so you don’t respect him. Which then leads you to bad mouth him to others.

Maybe you had horrible parents who had no idea what they were doing and didn’t care to learn. You didn’t respect them. They did nothing to earn your respect. So you lashed out at every opportunity.

Perhaps you have a husband who really doesn’t seem to care about your needs. He doesn’t show you love. You don’t respect him at all, and he pretty much knows it.

IMG_5810The truth is, though, that we are called to give people respect whether they deserve it or not. Not matter who they are, no matter what they have or haven’t done, no matter if they agree with us or not.

People are image bearers of God, and we are to be respectful of them.

What does respectful behavior look like?

It looks like listening and finding out people’s stories before drawing a conclusion about them.

It looks like looking people in the eye when you pass them on the street or encounter them anywhere you happen to be.

It looks like remembering someone’s name because it shows you see them.

There has been a lot of hullaballoo about respect in light of the NFL players protest during the National Anthem. Many have said that’s disrespectful. In fact, some have been absolutely vitriolic in their condemnation of such actions.

But those who have taken the time to listen to some of the stories can understand the some-nfl-players-continue-to-kneel-during-anthem-2-22805-1506885762-7_dblbigfrustration that is felt by some of these men.

And really, if you’re not in the military, you can’t speak for those who are. I have a friend whose husband is in the military, and he didn’t feel disrespected by those actions. Others have.

I remember an incident that happened several years ago at the school where I worked. I was encouraging the daughter of a friend to tease her dad about making her late for school because of his struggle getting out the door on time. In my household, that would have been OK. But her mom called me later and told me that in their household, her daughter speaking to her father in that manner would be considered disrespectful. I got that. And I apologized. I can’t expect every family to interact the way my family does.

IMG_6772In the same way, not everyone would find certain actions disrespectful. Some would feel any variance from the strict code regarding the flag would be disrespectful. You don’t wear the flag as clothing. You don’t let it touch the ground, and so on. But they would understand that some people have been disrespected by the authorities in their country, and though they love their country, they want things to change.

You don’t slam another person’s religion.

You don’t criticize how another person raises their kids.

You don’t presume that every homeless person is an addict.

Being respectful means being mindful that every person deserves dignity just because they’re a person.

And people come before institutions.

Wait For It

I tried an exercise recently that involved writing every day on a random subject for 12 minutes. I called it my Daily Dozen. I asked my Facebook friends to give me a one-word prompt that I would use, in the order I received them. I was overwhelmed with 88 responses.

IMG_5878So I spent nearly 3 months writing every day. I loved the process as it really stretched me to talk about words as diverse as “abide” and “zombies,” from “chihuahuas” to “cats.” It was amazing to me how often the word for the day aligned with the calendar. As my 3 months of daily posts came to an end at the beginning of January, it was very appropriate that the word would be “waiting.”

We had been waiting for our first grandchild to be born. And wouldn’t you know it, he was a week late.

We don’t like waiting for things.

Waiting to hear news of whether our kid got into the college of their choice.

Waiting for tests results from a biopsy.

Waiting for a job.

Waiting for God to provide a spouse.

Waiting can cause unease and anxiety. Especially when we’re not sure what the outcome will be. Our minds usually go to the worst-case scenario. It’s easy for us to jump to conclusions and then let worry take over.

But worry gets us nowhere.

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint” (Is. 40:31).

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Ps. 27:14).

It seems that if the Bible encourages us to wait, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing. We’re not used to delayed gratification. We have microwaves and Instapots and Amazon Now. We want things when we want them.

But God doesn’t work that way.

Micah 7:7 says, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my FullSizeRender 2salvation; my God will hear me.”

I haven’t come across any Scripture that encourages us to be impatient. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit includes patience.

Whaaat?

Amazing, isn’t it?

There must be something to that. God would not promote it if He didn’t consider it a good thing.

Romans 8:25 says, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

If we are focused on the Lord, then we have hope rather than fear when we are waiting for something, because we see that the Lord is good. We see that all His ways are good. We see that He does not let us down.

IMG_8908When I was anxious after a late-term ultrasound showed a dilation in our grandson’s bowels, I was not focusing on who the Lord is. I wanted the baby to come quickly so that we could find out what this dilation was. But that wasn’t trusting, that was fearing.

If God is good, and He is, then our waiting will never be in vain.

 

 

Rules and Relationship

It’s been a tough few months.

And when it affects my kids, it makes it tougher still.

Here’s the question: Does relationship trump rules?

checkoff-listI’ve been a parent for more than 21 years now, and I think I have a pretty good relationship with my kids. But I’ll tell you, they know there are rules. If I tell you to do something, you do it. Whining and fussing doesn’t get you anywhere in my house. My kids trust that I’m not going to tell them to do something immoral, illegal or impossible (although keeping their rooms clean does seem impossible at times). They trust that I love them and what I tell them to do is going to be for their benefit somewhere along the way.

Now, I’m human, and sometimes I want them to do something for my convenience. “Can you bring me my phone that I left on my bed? (because I’ve settled in my chair in the other room and you’re right there by my room)” But in the context of our relationship, they know that I’m not always doing that. And they ask me the same kinds of things, and more, because, well, kids.

Do they ever question my directives? Yes. Do I pull the mom card sometimes? (You know the drill: “But why?” “Because I’m the mom, that’s why.”) Yes. But they know that I love them. They know that they’re safe with me. They know that I ultimately want them to become fully functional members of society, and people who follow after God’s own heart.

When my kids have been pushing back against some of the things they’re told to do, child fighting with parentwhat I say to them is this: If you have a hard time obeying me, whom you can see, how much harder will it be for you to obey God when He requires something of you? This is practice for listening to God and doing what He asks because you trust Him and you know that He loves you.

I would think it should not have to be said that blind obedience to every authority is not wise. I’m talking about obedience in the context of relationship. Every parenting expert worth their salt knows that children thrive in an atmosphere of stability and boundaries. Allowed to run free with no rules, children will flounder. Loving guidelines and abounding grace create a healthy atmosphere for kids to thrive.

If my kids tell me over and over again that they love me, that’s going to mean a lot to me, but if they continually question my authority and break the family rules, some tough love is going to have to come into play. I wouldn’t stop loving them, but there would be consequences for their actions.

So how does this apply to our relationship with God?

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). He didn’t say, “Keep my commandments or I will stop loving you.” In fact, in context, He’s just been telling His disciples all about going to prepare a place for them in heaven and sending them the Holy Spirit to help them. But He knew it would be important for them to do what He has told them to do. For their sake. Not under compulsion, but because they love Him and want to do what He says. Did they mess up? Sure. Look at Peter as a classic example. He denied Christ 3 times. But oh, the restoration that took place on the beach before a fire after Jesus was resurrected. (See the 21st chapter of the book of John.)

grace tattooI love my husband. We have been married for almost 27 years. He doesn’t want me to get a tattoo. I want one. Just a little one. Nothing huge. I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with tattoos. But he doesn’t want me to get one. So am I going to go out and get one when he happens to be out of town? No. Why? Because I love him and I am going to respect this desire of his that I not get one. I do what he asks because I love him and I know that he loves me. He’s not asking me not to get one just to keep me under his thumb. I know he would love me even if I did get one, but it would be disappointing to him that I made this choice. And I would feel the break in our relationship.

Do I give rules to my kids and then reject them if they don’t follow them?

Will my husband stop loving me if I get a tattoo?

No. And we’re broken human beings who make mistakes.

We can be assured that God will not abandon us if we break His rules, put into place for our protection. But our disobedience is not without consequences. God’s love for us is not measured by how well we follow His rules, but our obedience can be a thermometer of how much we truly love God.

The gospel opposes earning but is not opposed to effort.

 

Images from agingwithpizzazz.com; whatisoppositionaldefiantdisorder.com; pinterest.com

The Battle For Oneness

I’m just going to put this out there: The longevity of a marriage is not an indication of oneness.

sc0079bb1fMy parents-in-law divorced after 48 years of marriage. My sister-in-law and her husband separated and are heading toward divorce after 30 years of marriage. When people say they’ve been married for more than 20 years, we applaud them. But no matter how many years you are married, you have to work on oneness. It doesn’t come automatically with a ring and some vows.

Oneness means vulnerability and trust and truth and humility. It means caring about someone else’s needs before your own. It means sacrifice and teamwork. And love. Most of all, love.

My husband, David, and I will have been married 27 years on March 2nd. I think we have a really good marriage. But we definitely have room for improvement. There are things that I struggle with that I just can’t seem to overcome and he has areas that he wrestles with as well. Just last night we had to work through a situation of hurt feelings and misunderstanding. After 26 years! Sheesh, you’d think we’d have this down by now.

27 years at any job looks good on a resumé. But we’re definitely not experts yet.

But I don’t think that either one of us would say that we haven’t strengthened our oneness after 27 years.

Many years ago when our kids were still little, we went through marriage counseling to20120722-083057.jpg try and get a handle on some nagging issues. I had fought it for a long time, pridefully thinking that we could fix it ourselves. When I finally let God through, I gave the gift of agreement to my husband. It did a lot of good.

We still read books and go through daily devotionals on marriage. We talk to each other. We bring up issues, though it’s not comfortable and sometimes isn’t well received. We know that if we don’t keep these things in front of us, our oneness will be affected.

We are going in the same direction. We communicate. We try to remember to think the best of each other. We are on the same team. (I wrote a series a few years ago on how tandem biking mirrors marriage. Find the first in that series here.)

It makes a huge difference.

Once you stop thinking of your spouse as your partner and teammate, and start seeing them as the enemy, then you will be on a downward spiral that will lead you away from oneness.

Isolation is the enemy of oneness.

Anger is the enemy of oneness.

Unforgiveness is the enemy of oneness.

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

85670316F046I realize that some marriages have been extremely hard. Perhaps there has been abuse or infidelity or addiction. The marriage covenant was broken a long time ago. I’m not suggesting by any means that anyone stay with an abuser.

Truth is, God is a God of redemption and reconciliation. The Trinity is the perfect model of oneness.

The best time to ensure that oneness grows in marriage is in the beginning.

And then do all you can to keep it going.

I Accept You As You Are

I accept the fact that I’m never going to be an Olympic Athlete.

I don’t like it, but I accept it.

103_0372I accept the fact that my sons will never play Major League Baseball. I always hoped they would continue their baseball careers after Little League, but they just didn’t want to continue. I wish they had, but they just didn’t want to.

I accepted the package the UPS man handed to me. It was addressed to me, and I had ordered it, so I took it and claimed it as mine.

I accepted the change the cashier at the grocery store gave me. It was due me and he was handing it to me, so I accepted it.

We use the term “accepted” in many different arenas these days, and I think there might be a misconception about what it means.

Acceptance does not mean that you agree with everything a person does; but it does mean that you love them for who they are. I can say that I accept my husband the way he is, but if I see something in his life that needs addressing, I am going to bring it up.

I heard a wonderful message years and years ago by one of my favorite pastors, Chuck Swindoll. He titled the message “Love, Sweet Love.” At one point he listed the ABCs of love: I Accept you as you are, I Believe that you are valuable; I Care when you hurt; I Desire what is best for you; I Erase all wrongs.

Now, it has been a really long time since I listened to this message, but even without it right before me, I’m thinking I have those right.

What everyone wants to feel is that they are accepted and that they are valuable. But if IMG_7277someone is participating in a behavior that I don’t think is healthy, I am not going to accept the behavior, but I AM going to accept them. It is they who are valuable, not their behavior.

I think many times we equate the behavior with the person. My kids would get mad at one of their siblings and say, “He’s so mean!” I would say, “No, he is not mean. What he did was not kind, and could even be called mean, but he is not mean. He just did something that was unkind.”

I didn’t want the behavior to define the person.

Labels of any kind can be dangerous for people. The beauty queen, the smart one, the loser, the one we can count on, the one we worry about. These can define a person; but they are not who that person is at their very core.

But it’s much easier to stick a label on someone than to spend time getting to know who they really are. Does the child who struggles in school deserve to be labeled as “slow” or “dumb”? Does the person with amazing athletic talent deserve to be labeled as a jock? Is that performance or behavior going to define them for the rest of their lives?

I accept you as you are, and I believe that you are valuable.

fullsizeoutput_96f7You are too valuable to be accepted solely on the virtue of your behavior or your performance. Those things can change over the years. When I am no longer able to throw a football downfield to a receiver or run a mile in record-breaking time, that label of “athlete” becomes useless to me.

Acceptance means that I see you for who you really are. I believe you have value because you are an image bearer of God.

That’s a label that never changes.

Rest

Rest

A few days ago I wrote a post about relaxation on my Facebook author page and how that isn’t the same thing as rest. On Sunday I was sitting in my family room watching football, which can be relaxing, if your team wasn’t in the process of losing mostly because they gave up 4 turnovers.

Sigh

But I digress. It was a relaxing afternoon, but I must admit, that my mind was still running and therefore I’m not sure I was really experiencing rest.

Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He’s not saying, “I’ll give you a break for a little while so you can catch your breath.” He’s talking about true rest, where our burdens are not our burdens anymore. We have laid them on the deep, strong shoulders of Jesus, and He takes them. Forever.

Sunday is called a day of rest, but in this time, there is still a lot of controversy about that. Some people say you can’t do any work at all. You can’t mow your lawn, you can’t do your laundry, you can’t cook.

Some take it to mean you shouldn’t go shopping or out to eat, because then you’re making someone else work.

I think I can make dinner and be totally at rest because my mind is stayed on Him.

Or I can be sitting and reading a book and be burdened by things that are not mine to carry, and be very much not at rest.

So rest for me means a lifestyle. Sabbath rest means I am trusting in Jesus to always carry my burdens. I am fixing my eyes on Him. I am filling my mind with praise music and talking about Him with those I spend time with.

This is not just on Sundays.

I can’t go to church and not do all those things that people say I should not do on Sundays, and then turn around on Monday morning with a knot in my stomach because of all the cares I am hauling around.

Some versions of the Bible use “rest” when they’re talking about death. Maybe that can look like dying to yourself over those things you want to carry but shouldn’t. Maybe that’s taking an analogy too far, but it makes sense.

Rest. Don’t pick up that thing that’s not yours to carry. Don’t take on that task that’s not yours to do. Don’t worry about that situation over which you have no control.

IMG_3895Psalm 62:1: “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”