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Parenthood house group

 

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Our church recently had an interesting and useful house group discussion about parenting. Here are my husband Jon’s memories of the evening…

“Perspectives on parenting

 Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging phases in life – your fairly established lifestyle is turned on its head. At a recent home group on parenting, we talked about some fundamentals of godly parenting. As is often the case, this raised more questions than answers, but I got a lot of interesting ideas out of it specifically around: leading by example and the power of imitation, the best way to discipline children, introducing a spiritual diet in the home, and seeing myself (to a degree) as a fellow-child with my children.

Kate T put us onto this short video by Gary Thomas and prepared this handy crib sheet (including a useful list of resources) to prime our discussions.

Faith is more easily caught than taught

 When children get to a certain age, they start to imitate you – alarmingly accurately. I like to ride my bike, and our eldest son Joey recently got out some tape to strap his water bottle to his bike, just like mine! It perhaps goes without saying that children will imitate the good and bad in their parents, so having young children is one of the hardest times to keep faith strong, but it is also one of the most important. ‘Our faith is more easily caught than taught. It is what our children see that will impact them most.’ (The Parenting Book, Nicky and Sila Lee.) This idea goes beyond raising children – if we want to share the light of God’s gospel, the best way we can do this is to live it, so that those around us (at home, at work…in the supermarket) see our lives and say “yes, there’s something attractive about that”.

Spare the rod…

 We spent much of the time talking about discipline. All agreed that the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ idea taken from Prov 13:24 need not be taken literally. However, we do need to find effective ways to discipline our children – after all, God disciplines us, his children, so that we can grow to be more like him (Heb 12:6). A couple of useful principles seemed to emerge from the discussions: discipline should be positively slanted (more sticker chart than naughty step), it must be delivered with a clarity of mind not clouded by anger, consistency is hugely important – and probably more important than where you choose to set your boundaries, and what will work for one child may not work for another (e.g. some are more bribable than others)! Tim W notes here, “I would only emphasis the need for the parent to be a consistent parent in discipline and also as a role model – we cannot expect our children to do what we ourselves don’t do…..plenty of food for thought”

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Milk of the word

 Every Christian parent is keen to introduce some sort of spiritual diet into their household at the earliest opportunity. However, one of the parents shared an experience that was similar to ours: they introduced a simple Bible story at a set time in the day. This worked well at first, but the child soon got restless and disruptive making the whole thing counterproductive. We have recently changed tack here, and introduced some bible-based stories that we know our boys like that we read together before they go their separate ways for age-appropriate stories; the older one gets an extra story, and the younger one gets a story with the older one, so they are both happy!

Become like little children

 We have as much – if not more – to learn from our children as we have to teach them! There are some important Christian qualities that children have in spades: faith, trust, hope, inquisitiveness, resilience, obedience (well, sometimes), love. And these qualities are why we need to ‘become like little children’ (Matt 18:3). My children have also brought new insight on patience, love, and forgiveness. But how does this change our perspective on parenting? It is quite helpful for me to think of myself as continually learning to parent. This leaves more space to make mistakes and learn from them than a more ‘authoritarian’ view of parenting. Chris P notes here that, “children are resilient and the odd mistake will not detract from a normally consistent and loving approach to their care.”

Summary

 I left the home group feeling reflective. Do I need to make any major changes to my parenting style? Have I got my priorities right? And, perhaps most importantly, would my children vouch for my Christian character? “

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Poor shows and strong writers

Hello loyal reader! What lofty dreams I had of blogging regularly, with a gripping nugget of literary sparkle every week for you to wallow in! True, I have slightly fallen by the wayside, and life and idleness have muscled in. But enough! No more! I have an enormous pipeline gushing with help, hope and happiness to come.

On a serious note, the next series of posts deal mostly with emotionally difficult, hard to read, hard to write subjects. This sounds heavy I know, but they are also really important, useful and hopefully strengthening subjects too. In the sharing of these thoughts, not only the readers but also the writers will be courageously sharing personal burdens. I hope so much that both parties will be lifted by the knowledge that others feel the same, have experienced the same, and perhaps can move forward or harvest some help.

Are you struggling with a problem? Have you been through a journey that is emotionally tiring to talk about? I hope that all will share their thoughts, and show their support for those who share in love.

Please watch this space for coming posts, and if you’re currently writing one, stay strong and keep going!

“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24

Peaceful Saturdays to everyone

x

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Bad times and Church-present

These are some things I’ve thought about recently. They link into a great talk we heard at church about the future of our churches, and the Big Conversation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqdM5GctatI (and subsequent links from there)

Here are some phrases that I hear a lot. “I’m not getting what I need from my church” and “my spiritual needs aren’t being met by my church”. The problem with these phrases, is that they are making ‘church’ a thing. A thing that is separate from us. Church isn’t a thing, church is us.

So that’s my first point.

Church is not a thing, it’s us. We make a church by being in the same room as another like-minded person. Let’s call these people ‘bricks’.img_4855

‘Church’ isn’t a special place that we go to where we magically come away feeling happy every time we’re there. No one hands us a lovely present of spiritual uplift. If we do happen to feel uplifted after meeting with fellow Christians, then GREAT! But it’s not a defining factor of our churches. And each individual is in charge of their own uplifted feeling. We don’t need to have that feeling, for it to be worth us being there, in the same room as the other brick. It isn’t essential to us being a Christian.

Are you happy all the time away from church? Of course not – we need to have the full range of emotions in life. And we need the full range with our other bricks too. What if someone was crying at church? We all cry with them. We don’t come away and say, well what a disappointing Church session because that person made us all so sad.

Church (by the above definition) doesn’t hand out spiritual presents every Sunday.

So, here’s a scenario: some fellow Christians stumble into each other one day in a building. “Oh!” they say. “We’ve made a church, hurrah!”. Fantastic. What next? They all sit down and have a think. “Let’s wait for something to happen!” cries one. “Good plan!” They sit and wait. It becomes awkward. “Anyone feeling spiritually better yet?”

It’s easy to blame our feelings on other people. Let’s say for example that we have started avoiding church because we don’t come away feeling ‘spiritually uplifted’ – we are blaming our ‘church’ for not meeting those needs.

Our ‘spiritual needs'(whatever they are!) are not someone else’s responsibility.

If we never meet up with the other bricks, then clearly our ‘needs’ will never be met. What does Jesus list as the two most important commandments? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. We should attempt to go to church to show mercy to our other bricks, and to meet their spiritual needs as a priority – not our own. Luke 10:27

Bad times at Church are essential.

When I had my first baby, I had post-natal depression, was miserable, and consequently whinged about church all the time. I could find fault with a huge range of things. It was all wrong, it wasn’t ‘meeting my needs’. I persevered in a ‘church’ I didn’t like, with bricks I didn’t like. But looking back, I can see I was impressively self-important. All I could see was my own misery. Since then, I have learned some of the best lessons of my life about love – specifically, loving people that I don’t like. So all that miserable time spent chuntering at the back about how awful my church was, was essential to the development of my character (sorry, my long-suffering husband-ear!)

Think of a time when your church struggled with an issue – people got hurt, people left, people were too angry to come along. But that time has made you grow as a Christian. Maybe it forced you to look at a difficult issue. Maybe it showed you a different side to someones character, maybe you had to shrug your shoulders and say ‘whatever, I don’t agree but whatever’. All good stuff.

There’s no such thing as a perfect church. All churches have problems – purely because of our first definition of ‘Church’ listed above. It’s because it’s made of people – some of whom we don’t like. Hands up anyone who is a member of a church where they like every single person there? (If you’re smugly saying yes then you’ve just ruined my point but you’re in a great church so hey ho swings and roundabouts)

So I guess i’m saying keep being a brick, even if you’re a miserable brick, otherwise all the other bricks fall down.

p.s my better half told me not to use the phrase ‘people that I don’t like’, but instead to say ‘people I find it difficult to like’. Probably sensible – if you feel strongly about it, please mentally alter the above.

 

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Honestly

One of the lessons that I am constantly taught by my kids is honesty. It’s really irritating. They know instantly if someone is lying, and call them out on it gleefully. They are also really terrible at telling lies themselves, which is truly a lovely thing to watch and contemplate; unlike all the adults around them, they haven’t yet spent lots of time practicing, and so they are useless at it.

I went to a Christian convention a few weeks ago which was themed around this very idea: being authentic, not lying or putting masks on, and how that this is an important part of being a Christian woman (and man obvs.!). Here’s a link to the fantastic talks given by Linda Allcock. Although I don’t agree with several areas of her theology, I found the message and her approach really useful, challenging and encouraging, and I hope you do too.

https://christianconventions.org.uk/lwc/authentic/app/year/2016

Enjoy! Happy Friday!

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Becoming a mum

Hi friends, here is a perspective on becoming a mother from a sister at our church in Newbury, Jo Cox, who has her arms full with her gorgeous 6 month old daughter!

“Becoming a Mum has been full of contrasts in my spiritual life. On the one hand, I feel so much love for Emily I can begin to understand God’s unconditional love for us and how great his grace to give Jesus for us. On the other hand, I feel so wrapped up in looking after Emily I often hardly stop to pray or read my Bible or concentrate on a Sunday. On the one hand, I can be stopped short at how blessed we are to have Emily and yet forget to thank God for her. Becoming a Mum has changed my perspective and broadened my appreciation – God loves us as his children, and that is such an amazing thing!”

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Who is my neighbour?

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How is it three months since I last posted?! Crazy. This week has seen both my little cherubs heading off into higher places of learning, and so I had one hallowed (unlike the previous four harrowing) morning of peacefulness when I actually looked around my house rather than rushing through it, and I noticed something chalked up on the top of our blackboard. It occurred to me that this was the perfect quotation to read this week – I have been introduced to a whole new myriad of actual neighbours whilst hovering anxiously in the playground – and my holey brain has retained a sum total of two of their names (never mind all their kids names!). Who is my neighbour indeed.

Happy Friday!

p.s if you’re looking for a spiritual boost, this blackboard quotation writing has been working really well for us as a family. Jon chooses a different quote for each week, and not only does it give me inspiration for the day, it also provides an insight into what Jon has been thinking about spiritually this week. Not always easy to find the time to sit and talk about those things.

What about you mums and dads? How have you been finding these going back to school weeks? Has it made life easier or harder? Has it raised any spiritual questions? Let me know, so we can all share any tips or answer questions.

 

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Healing

Friends, sisters – here is a guest post by a dear friend Kate Turner, who has been brave, honest and open, and has written with strength about her experience with miscarriage, and how it has touched her spiritual life…

Healing

I feel exhausted, wrung out and desperately sad. As a logical, practical individual I can appreciate that the statistics are actually quite high – 1 in 4 – and yet somehow I didn’t expect it to happen to me. I’m talking about something that is rarely discussed in our society, or our church community – the sensitive issue of miscarriage. 

Because despite the pain and the sadness I can’t help but notice that I feel closer to God than I have done in an awfully long time. Surely it can’t be coincidence that since I realised what was happening I feel like my eyes have been opened. You see, as the guilt sets in and I desperately try not to over analyse why this has happened and what I did wrong then I can’t shake the sense that I was going about this the wrong way. I dutifully brought my prayers for a child before God, and joyfully rejoiced when this prayer was answered. And then I swiftly went back to my daily life of work, toddler, husband, chores, shopping and socialising. Child number two on the way, successful career, nice village existence; job done, box ticked, sense of achievement and pride firmly in place. 

What a difference 48 hours makes. I’m not an emotional person – and yet now I can’t seem to stop the tears streaming down my face. I’m not one of life’s “sharers” – and yet now I’m writing down my thoughts and feelings ready to share with my sisters in Christ. I’m not someone who naturally asks for help – and yet in the last few days I’ve had to lean on my husband for support, and good friends for emergency childcare. 

 My hope and prayer is that by being brought low, and turned inside out our heavenly father is working to build me back up – with a renewed focus and a revised set of priorities.

I know of many who are struggling at the moment – as new mums, expectant mums, those who’ve decided not to have children, those who desperately desire to be a mum, and those who are living their life outside of society’s view of the traditional family unit. But do we share our hopes, our fears and our struggles with each other as we try to be women after God’s own heart?

Becoming a mother is genuinely the most divisive thing I’ve experienced. From the early stages you are questioned as to how you’re approaching this; finding out the gender, birth choices, name, will they sit in the meeting or out the back, will you work or will you stay at home, how do you achieve a balance of family time versus “adult” time. It’s quite exhausting; just when did choice and difference equal judgement? It’s human nature to want to pigeon hole peoples experiences so that we can compare and identify them with our experiences.  What I’m realising is that this is where we have to work hardest to emulate our saviour. We need to embrace our differences; are we not all wonderfully made?! We need to share, care and try to empathise with each other (even if we can’t quite understand or it doesn’t make sense to us!) Our journeys are different, and pain can strike us at different times and in different ways – but the key thing is that we all need healing. 

As for me, I’m going to pray; to try to focus on one day at a time and not look to the next big event happening in my life. And I’m out of my comfort zone – sharing my feelings, and confessing my faults (as we are guided in my absolute favourite book of the bible). For having first looked to our heavenly Father, through Jesus, for healing and guidance and then leant on my husband, should I not naturally look to share with the ready-made support group of my fellow sisters in Christ?

How do I feel now, a few hundred words and several cups of tea later?! Calmer, more peaceful, and more purposeful – clearly there is something in this sharing business…

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us. We share in the sufferings of Christ. In the same way, much comfort comes to us through Christ”