Many years ago I was driving home from town at the end of the day. I had three little kids – Josh 3 ½, Jess 2, Nomi a baby. As I left town our car started to cough and splutter a bit – I prayed that God would get us home. Sure enough as I turned into our drive way the car died. This was before the days of mobile phones so the only thing to do was to bundle everyone out and start walking home – our driveway is 1 1/2km long. It was just on dark, and there was a huge storm brewing. I set out, carrying the baby, while Josh bravely brought up the rear, encouraging his sister to keep going.
This storm was HUGE and it sat there just to our left. We were singing songs as we tried to keep our spirits up and about half way Josh pipes up and says, “Do you know why that storm is there?” No, Josh, I didn’t, but I expected him to have some creative scientific reason (of which I was about to be critical of because it would have been unhelpful!) but instead he said, “God has put the storm there to give us light so we can see where we are going. Nothing takes God by surprise.” I was amazed. And it was true – for the moment we got home the storm dispersed as if it wasn’t even there. Josh had learnt to see God, even in a storm.
Seeing God every Day – and Sharing it with our Kids
Whenever I think of devotional living I think of this story. The Bible talks about talking of the good things the Lord has done, morning and night, sitting and standing, walking along the road. In everything that the children see or are interested in God is there somewhere – and as parents, we need to make the most of that opportunity.
I was introduced to the idea of ‘devotional living’ by a little book, Creative Family Times by Allen & Connie Hadidian and Will & Lindy Wilson. In it they say: Devotional living is using our everyday experiences and activities to teach our children spiritual truths. This idea gripped my young parent heart, along with the idea of telling my kids what I was thinking – I started a habit of always talking to my kids – always.
We might talk about the flowers and how creative God was to think of so many colours, shapes and smells
We might talk about how God sends the rain, that helps the crops grow, so we have food.
When someone hurts their knee there is always a quick prayer for God’s healing or for God to help the little one be brave.
During sibling spats we remind our children that God wants us to love one another and we should start with our brothers and sisters.
As I talked to my kids, I wanted to show them (not just tell them) that God was a part of my life – he was a part of my thinking, my choices, my beliefs. He was behind everything that I believed and behind everything that I did. God isn’t a far off distant God that made the earth and then dusted his hands of it – no, he is involved, caring, and powerful.
Teach God’s truths with Object Lessons
The second part of devotional living is using our daily life as object lessons. An object lesson is a moral or spiritual lesson taught by relating to a material object. Much like the parables that Jesus used – he took an everyday event and taught a spiritual lesson. We need to do the same.
We can take chore time, and teach the truth about work, and how God gave work in the garden (before sin)
We can take Christmas time, and teach the truth that Jesus was God’s gift to mankind.
We can take the wiltering potplant and remind our kids that we too need food – not only physical food, but spiritual food too – otherwise our relationship with Jesus wilts just like the plant.
We can take the joy of having a new baby in the family to teach our kids that God created and knew each of them while they were in their mummy’s womb.
We can see a mahogany tree stand firm in a gale and remind our kids that we need deep roots in Jesus, to stand strong in the winds of life too.
The parables of Jesus are just as relevant today:
We can see a farmer planting seed and remind our kids of the parable of the soil, and talk about their hearts receiving the Word of God.
We can see a new house being built and can remind our kids of the man who built his house on the sand and the man who built his house on rocks.
When we find coins either around the house, or on the pavement, we can talk about how much they mean to Jesus, and how he will keep looking for them till they talk to him – just like the widow kept searching till she found her coin.
The situations that the Jews could relate to in their day are the same situations that our kids can relate to today (with a little tweak!) We just have to be thinking this way.
Note for parents of older children: I have found that using life as an object lesson has been a great way to introduce God and his truths to my kids when they were young but once they hit the teen years (and maybe a little before) things switch around a bit. Hopefully by then they know who God is and they know his truths but their world is small. When they hit the teen years their world starts to expand and they start thinking beyond their own experiences. We still need to talk to them – when they watch the news – talk to them about God’s perspective. When they watch movies – talk to them about God’s perspective. When they encounter community issues – talk to them about God’s perspective. The biggest change here though is how we talk to them. When our kids are young we teach and instruct – we are laying the truth as a foundation in their thinking. When they become teens we need to engage in conversation more than teach. We need to get them thinking and asking questions, we need to get them applying what they know is true. So when I say ‘talk to them’ I’m really saying – converse with them. It is a big difference and an important difference.
Preparing our Heart
Talking to our kids all the time is exhausting. I talk to my kids about why things are important – whether it be a skill they are learning, or a moral or spiritual truth I want them to understand. If my words are to have an impact on their hearts (and this is why I am talking – because I want to shape their thinking, their beliefs, their passions – their heart) I have to make sure my words are not just a loud clanging cymbal or gong! You can see where I’m going with this – I must have love – for without love, my words are nothing!
—I need to have my heart right with Jesus first. If my own relationship with Jesus isn’t fresh and growing then I am just sprouting head knowledge not real life-giving truth.
—I need to have love and patience with my kids. Teaching a truth through frustration or gritted teeth is not going to make a positive impact! Can you imagine Jesus telling a parable through gritted teeth, frustrated that his disciples just didn’t get it! One of the things that makes us prone to impatience is running short of time – so the solution to that is take on less in our day so we have time to have heart conversations with our kids.
—I need to pray for God to open my eyes to see the connections between our daily activities and the heart lessons that each of my kids need to hear – otherwise we just sound like a recording, or as if we are reading a Sunday-school curriculum. We need to have rhema (words that God gives our heart) to share with our kids. Ask and God will give you the wisdom you need to speak to your kids.
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If we continually talk to them this way then it won’t be long before they are reminding us of God’s goodness – even in the middle of a storm.
Over to you:
Have you ever had your children turn and remind YOU of God’s goodness?
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