Monday, April 15, 2013

I've Been Away, But Will Be Back Soon!

Dear Faithful Forgiving Blog Followers,

I apologize for being "away" from my blog so long!

We are in the process of moving back to the United States, and I am excited to share the news that we are expecting our third child! With morning sickness and travelling, I have not kept up with posts.

I want to reassure you that I will be back to posting soon!

Blessings to all of you, mommas. Keep walking in His grace.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Paideia, Part 3

Have you messed up as a parent? Do you ever get to the end of the day and look back in horrified disbelief at the actions you have taken, or the words that have come out of your mouth? Have you ever found that the harder you try to be gentle and firm, the more off-balance you get?

A few days ago, the husband and I found ourselves sitting listlessly in our living room at noon. With furrowed brows, we discussed the reasons why we were feeling apathetic and listless. We began tossing around ideas, "We just need better goals in our lives," "We need to have a better routine, and stick to it," and, the lovely, guilt-inducing one for missionaries, "What would our supporters think if they could see us now? We are falling way below their expectations." Then, as if on cue, our talk died down. We had "been there, done that" many times before, and we knew that all of our trying would eventually lead to failure. 

You see, the God of the Universe, the Creator of the World, the Righteous Judge who willingly bore our sin-punishment on the cross, wants us to RUN TO HIM with our problems, with our apathy, with our inadequacies as parents. And RUNNING TO HIM is not some mystical solution to problems, nor is RUNNING TO HIM something He wants from us only in the spiritual realm. He longs to work through us in the absolute, most practical, tiniest little details of our lives. 

Jesus says to you, momma, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)" "Apart from Me you can do nothing"! This could not be more clearly stated. In order to be the good mom that you want to be; in order to be that mom who has this fruit in her life: ", joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control(Gal. 5:22-23)," we must ABIDE.

God is not a deaf old man who sits on a throne in heaven, arms crossed, condemning, glaring down at us when we fail. No! He is a God who is very real, who did not stop His work with us at redemption, but longs to be deeply entrenched in our everyday lives. He sealed us with His spirit when we placed our faith in His sufficient death, burial and resurrection. And what does the Spirit of God, God Himself, wish to accomplish in us? In John 14:26, Jesus calls the Spirit of God, "...the Helper, the Holy Spirit," who "...the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." In other places in John, God's Spirit is called the "Spirit of Truth," and the "Comforter." Galatians 4:6 reminds us that God's Spirit in us cries out "Abba, Father," reminding us that we are God's redeemed children. 1 Corinthians 2:10 says of the Spirit, "for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." It is as we abide in Christ, as we walk by the Spirit, that we will find ourselves being the moms we know we should be. 

The beauty of abiding IN CHRIST is that it brings rest and peace to our weary souls. The beauty of walking by the Spirit, letting Him work in and through us, is that we will see fruit in our lives we were never able to produce on our own. When we see our failures and our weaknesses, when we hurt our children by being all-together too human, we must turn to God! Only He can produce goodness in us. He will make us parents who are able to "paideia" our children in the Lord. 

In the words of Jesus to you: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Paideia, Part 2

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Paideia is the Greek term translated as discipline by our English Bibles. I have written previous posts on discipline and the meaning of paideia, so this post will be short and to the point. I am saddened by the way "paideia" has been construed to mean "spanking". This is not a concept found in the Bible, nor was it implied in the original Greek. 

Below are some verses in the New Testament containing the word "paideia". I have made the English word translated from paideia bold, so you can see some of the ways it has been translated in the New American Standard version of the Bible and the Young's Literal Translation of the Bible:

Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.(NASB)

And the fathers! provoke not your children, but nourish them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.(YLT)

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (NASB)

every Writing is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that is in righteousness,(YLT)

As you can see, "paideia" has been translated here as discipline, instruction, and training. 

I think it is significant that Paul urged his Ephesian readers to bring their children up in the padeia of the Lord. I did not realize the significance of this until I did some research on what paideia meant in Roman society at the time Paul wrote this letter. "Paideia", in Greek thought, according to  Dr. Davey Naugle of Dallas Baptist University, "meant the process of educating man into his true form, the real and genuine human nature" (source) . Naugle goes on to explain that early Christians adopted paideia in the pedagogical sense as a way to bring students to "true knowledge—Christian philosophy  or worldview— whose end was fellowship and imitation of Jesus Christ." The paideia of the Lord, then, can mean bringing up a child into the fullness of who he should be in Christ; nurturing his character in such a way that will lead him to truth, freedom, and life in Christ.

This is likely the reason that most concordances define "paideia" like this definition from the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon: 
  1. "the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body
  2. whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. by correcting mistakes and curbing passions.
    1. instruction which aims at increasing virtue
    2. chastisement, (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment)"

    3. This definition begins with "the whole training and education of children". I find it interesting that most commentaries add in parenthesis at this point, something about the need for punishment. This seems to be an addendum by the author of the definition, as though the author is reminding us of methods that must be employed in order to train a child. The definition also includes "whatever in adults cultivates the soul". This brings to mind the way that God is working on us believing adults for our sanctification. He has a plan for us that He is bringing to pass through a myriad of circumstances and, as 2 Timothy makes clear, through His word. The final part of the definition, "chastisement", is added (I presume) because of the use of paideia in Hebrews 12. The King James Bible, among others, translates "paideia" as "chastisement" rather than as instruction, training or discipline in Hebrews 12. If one looks at the context of Hebrews 12, however, it should be easy to see that Hebrews 12 is referring to the way God brings us to sanctification as His dearly loved children using various trials and hardships, and not as God visiting evil upon us when we do wrong in order to punish (chastise) us. 

As you can see, the concept of "paideia" is not flat; it does not have one narrow definition: spank. It is a very positive, educational term. It is a word that implies action and discipleship on the part of the teacher or guide. It is a term that implies a long-term ideal, with a myriad of facets and many methods employed along the way. Scripture declares itself to be a source of "paideia", as well as the source of God's truth and wisdom and correction.

If parents were simply commanded to bring their children up by spanking, our job would not be so hard (though I do not recommend this method). However, when we realize that we are responsible for nurturing our child's character and person in the direction of being a true follower of God in every aspect of his or her life, we see that our job involves actively discipling, teaching, correcting, educating,spending focused time with our children, and engaging our children's mind with the word of God. These are only a few of the multitude of ways in which we should be involved in nurturing our children.

Moms and dads, our calling is a high one! We must rely on God's wisdom found in Scripture, and the guidance of the Spirit as we rise every day to this beautiful task! Let us keep running the race--we are affecting the future as we raise our little ones.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Paideia, Part 1

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It seems so easy. Your babe toddles over to something you do not want her to touch. "No!" you firmly intone. Your babe looks at you questioningly, moving her hand toward the object. "No!" you repeat, this time with a hint of challenge in your voice. "My child is testing me," you think. "She is going to see if it is all right to defy me," you assume, horrified. "I cannot under any circumstances let her win." You move toward your little child. As you swiftly, purposefully approach your child, telling yourself you must show her who is boss, you must teach her to be under authority, to listen to your commands, the babe smiles gleefully at you, reaching out, touching the object. "No!" you say. Taking a deep breath to remain calm (while on the inside thinking, "How dare she defy me like that!"), you grab her hand and thump it hard, repeating "No!". Your babe looks at you, surprised. Once again, she reaches for the object. Again, you smack her hand, harder this time. After all, you are teaching her a lesson. She must learn she cannot win against you; she cannot defy you. You are not one to be tricked, after all! You know defiance when you see it. This time, when you smack babe's hand, tears well up in her eyes. She begins to cry. "Good," you tell yourself. "She needed to learn that lesson." You do not allow your child's cries to soften your heart towards her, because when it comes to training your child, you will be swift and sure, and you won't allow emotion to rule. You are doing this for her own good, after all.

Oh, dear momma. You truly want to do right by your child. You do not want her to grow up to hate God, defy authority, be unable to hold down a job, and otherwise be a menace to society. Yet, do you really know what your babe is thinking? Do you realize that your judgment of your child is based entirely on a concept you have been given regarding babies? This concept assumes that children are born "out to get you", and that you must "win at all costs". At the root of this concept is the notion that children are brimful of evil, and it is your job to weed the evil out in order to create a "good" person. Or, perhaps you believe that this child, infested with evil, must be painfully taught that she is desperately evil and wicked. How else, you question, will she see her need for a Savior? Maybe you hope that, if your babe learns to unquestioningly do what you say, you will lead her to unquestioningly do what God tells her to do. Be very careful with this idea, momma! It is more likely that your daughter will grow up in idolatry. She will be unable to see God past your orders, commands and desires for her. She will fear and revere YOU as though you are her god, for that is the role you have given yourself.

God is the creator of childhood. He designed children to be born as tiny, helpless infants. He mercifully designed children to be slowly introduced to a difficult world, a world that would overwhelm them if they had full understanding of its ins and outs, if they were fully aware of the evil woven throughout the thread of society. He gave children guides, teachers, nurturers, protectors called parents to help children along, to give them a foundation in the knowledge of the almighty, loving Savior of the world, so that when the children become adults, they will thrive, living in relationship with the God who can take them through any hardship.

Since God designed childhood as a natural beginning of life, childhood itself is not evil. Children have limited understanding of the world. When they begin to take their first steps, their job is learner, explorer. When your little babe heard you say "No!", she, the perpetual learner, wondered, "Does "no" mean never touch certain objects? Does "no" always mean the same thing?" Baby will go on to experiment with other objects and situations, trying to discover what "no" actually means. This experimenting is not defiance! 

Consider that fear of punishment is not the best way for your child to learn about authority. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were in a covenant agreement with God regarding the law (if you do this, I-God-will bless you; if you fail to do this, I will curse you), things got pretty bad. Israel turned further and further away from God. Each time, God allowed harsher circumstances to befall the Israelites, and, after turning back to God for a short time, they would fall away again, often worse! God has given us a divine illustration of how the law, complete with rules and consequences, is meaningless apart from a changed-heart-relationship with Him. We do not need to repeat this illustration with our children. 

Dear parent, there is a way to teach, nurture, and guide your child that is gentle, loving and kind. There is a way to parent that will invite your children to join with you in knowing and walking with God. Do not belittle the role of the Holy Spirit by trying to play the role of "convicter" of your child's heart. Pray, pray, pray, and allow HIM to do that work. Too often, when parents attempt to make their children feel the "sting" of sin, parents inadvertently lead their children into lifelong feelings of shame and inner "beatings" when they mess up.

In the case of the exploring babe, instead of seeing the babe as defiant, the momma could have begun by realizing, "My child is using her God-given desire for exploration and discovery to learn about her world. I, as her mom, need to keep her safe, while teaching her all about this world. I can use this situation to teach her many things about her Creator and Savior, too. I can demonstrate grace while teaching that some things are only to be gazed at or gently stroked with one finger. I can instill in her a wonder for the beauty God lovingly bestowed on the world when He filled creation with amazing colors and textures. I can teach her to marvel at the majesty and power of a God who, with only words, created all this for us."

The mom could have walked calmly to where her child was, scooped the child onto her lap, away from the temptation, and begun to gently teach her child how to look at fragile objects, how to admire the colors and textures, and spoken with her child about the Creator God. If the babe's personality was of a more determined bent, the mom could have distracted the child with a fun game of chase, or to an object he or she was able to touch, laughing with her child, loudly exclaiming, "Thank you God, for loving us and for making this beautiful world for us to play in!"

The way we see our children will affect the way we work with them. The idea that children are born with a sin nature is one that is found in Scripture. However, ideas that they are inherently manipulative, defiant, and at enmity in every way with us since birth are not found in Scripture. If we are going to nurture our children towards God, it is important that we see them in a positive light, and not to try to be God to them, but rather strive to lead them towards God.

This post is the beginning of a short series looking at the true meaning of discipline, and how it has been warped by both Christian and secular philosophies and misconceptions about childhood. We do not need to be adversarial with our children--God gave them to us so that we could disciple them! If we do not see ourselves on our child's team we will, I think, come to regret our viewpoint when our children are grown.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Can't Do It Alone

Guilt-trips and harsh words can do as much damage to a child as anything else. I am learning this the hard way.

Stress comes in many shapes and sizes. Ours of late has multiplied. In the past month, we have all been sick multiple times. We have had to travel often. We live in another country, and have been having issues with our paperwork, which creates a stress all its own, a stress felt on the inside and expressed subtly on the outside.

And I have been astonished at the ickiness oozing off my tongue. Mean, accusatory words hurled at my husband. Frustration with my children's childish behavior verbalized. 

I have hurt my little ones. In these times of stress, little man alternates between aggressive outbursts and  guilt-induced good behavior. The little lady clings ever tighter to her mama, unable to express her anxiety. Both children wonder, does mommy love me? Does mommy like who I am? Little children should never wonder this. The littlest ones, the least of these, ought to feel safe and secure, built up, and free to be who they are.

My confession tonight is a challenge. A challenge to all moms who, like me, sometimes vomit ugliness on their families. A challenge to face our wrongdoing, and to make it right.

We mommas have a high calling. Everything we say, every action we make, impacts our family. The old adage, "When mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," is accurate. And the truth of the matter is, momma's words and actions come from her heart. What we as moms display on the outside oozes from who we are on the inside.

If this is the case, then no amount of do-good, try-harder, be-more-patient-tomorrow will help us, for it is our inner, not our outer, life that is off balance. 

We need to return to the One who died to restore us, the One who lives to be with us, to BE for us what we cannot be. The One who calls Himself the I AM. His Spirit in us, the Spirit that intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words, longs to produce His fruit in our lives. "But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]." Galatians 5:22-23

I am a beloved daughter of the Most High. Yet I spend the majority of my day running away from Him. I idiotically believe that after He sacrificed His very life for me, He does not love me unconditionally, and therefore I must DO and BE to please Him. Yet He calls Himself the "I AM". Who am I to add to that? 

Jesus invites me to give Him my burdens: "Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully." 1 Peter 5:7

Moms, if you, like me, struggle with your own imperfections, your own selfishness, your own stress, your own failures and weaknesses, join me in turning to the life-giver, the burden-carrier, Jesus. Let Him be through you what you cannot be on your own. Find rest for your soul. Your family needs you to.

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