Fill ‘er Up!

“… you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

            I returned home late Sunday afternoon.  As I walked in the door, I stepped over a red toy truck.  I gazed around the room.  Granted, housekeeping is not my strength.  But this place was a mess!   It looked like Fisher Price had exploded throughout the downstairs.  The upstairs was not better.  Beds were unmade, bath towels were sprawled on the floor and an empty popcorn bowl sat on the table beside the big screen tv.  Yep!  Evidence permeated the four corners of my two-story home that my grandkids had spent the weekend with me.

            I determined fifteen years ago when my first grandchild was born, I would not let my house fall apart when my grandchildren came to visit.  Oh, no! I would teach this future generation the discipline of “get out one toy, return one toy”.  But I quickly learned I could be a “neat Nina” or a “fun Nina”. For me, there was no middle ground.

            I plopped on the sofa.  I was exhausted.  It was a good type of tired, though.  But still, I was drained.  Thinking back over the past two days, I relived Friday afternoon at the beach, Saturday at “Bee City”, supper at Smash Burger and TWO trips to TCBY (once on Friday night, again on Saturday night).  This morning we got up early, dressed, gulped down some breakfast and raced out the door to church.  I wondered, “What did I accomplish this weekend?”

            Psalm 78:4 tells me to “tell the next generation of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord”.   “I know that verse, Lord,” I said in my heart.  “We read SEVERAL Bible stories each night.”  I thought further, “And we blessed our food!  We even prayed ‘thanks’ for the yogurt!”  Sighing, I murmured, “It’s just so hard, Lord.  I WANT to impress Your love on their tender hearts.  But the young ones are active and the older ones are distracted.”  Throwing back my head, I looked at the ceiling hoping I might see “the handwriting on the wall” informing me of better ways to spiritually impact my family.

            Recently, I was reading in the book of Acts about the early days of the Church.  At this point, I’m sure the disciples were more frustrated with God than I have ever been. Afterall, they had walked and talked with Jesus for three years.  Then, He died.  But three days later He arose!  He appeared to them numerous times.  His final instruction to them was to “wait for the gift my Father promised.” (Acts 1:4) “In a few days,” Jesus said, “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5)   The disciples were looking for triumph over their enemies.  They responded to Jesus’ words by asking if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel?  (Acts 1:6) They didn’t get it.  Sometimes, I feel I don’t “get it” either.

            Days later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived falling in a magnificent manner upon the disciples. As Jesus had said, they received power.  Peter, who once had denied the Lord, now stood strong teaching the crowds.  The result was over three thousand people came to know Christ. 

            The disciples had received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told them “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, … you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, … in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  My mind absorbs these words.  True to the Lord, witnesses have been carrying God’s message to all nations.  I shift my weight on the sofa.  I may not be traveling to the far corners of the world but I do have five grandchildren here in my world.  I know the Lord called Christians to “The Great Commission”.  But I believe He called grandparents to the “First Mission” of reaching our loved ones for Him.

            Once again, I turn my eyes upward.  I look beyond the ceiling towards my mental picture of the heavenly home of the Lord.  Speaking out loud, I invite the Holy Spirit to “Fall afresh upon me, Lord, that I may powerfully impact my grandchildren. Like the disciples, fill me up with your Spirit.”  I realized at that moment without the power of the Holy Spirit thriving within me, I am a weak vessel for the Lord.  But filled with His Spirit, I can be His witness within my family. Who knows?  If I do my job well, maybe one of them will witness to the ends of the earth.

Sm grandparents sitting on bridge with grandkids copy

Four Ways to Prepare Your Younger Children for Adulthood

Intentionality, more than proximity, is the key to impacting our grandchildren and helping them grow in their thinking and understanding as they grow from childhood to adulthood. God gave us, parents and grandparents, the primary responsibility for that task. It is foolish to think they will figure it out on their own, or that we can wait till graduation to talk about it. 

From preschool on, we must use the moments we are with them to teach them about life and the Creator of that life. Every connection with them is a teaching opportunity. This isn’t about being fun-snuffers. It’s about intentionally making the most of natural opportunities to teach lessons they will carry throughout life. It’s learning to use the fun times and the not-so-fun times to teach what is true and matters both now and for eternity

Here are four ways to keep life the classroom for learning and cultivating a biblical worldview with preschool and grade school age grandchildren when you are with them:

#1 – Start Meaningful Conversations About Life 

There are three very significant opportunities for engaging your younger grandchildren with meaningful conversations about life. They are…

  • Playtime:As you do fun things with your grandchildren, stay alert to spontaneous opportunities to ask good questions that have the potential of turning play into learning. For example, if working on a puzzle together, you might ask: “Did you know that life is kind of like a puzzle? Can you imagine what puzzle pieces of your life need to all be in place if the picture is to be complete?  Why do you think God designed us like a puzzle?”
  • Mealtime:This is a great time to ask questions about things they did or something that happened during the day. Use questions to encourage them to think about what happened or how it could have been handled differently. For example: “Natalie, why did you handle Jenny’s unkind comments about you today the way you did? Would you do anything differently if it happened again?”
  • Bedtime:There are few more powerful moments for debriefing life experiences or asking them about things they may be wondering about than at bedtime. It’s also a good time to talk about the difference between a child and an adult. You might be surprised to learn what they understand, or questions they will raise. 

#2 – Encourage Growth-Producing Events

With so much emphasis upon sports and digital devices today, you can encourage your grandchildren to do things that shape them into productive citizens and neighbors. Here are a few ideas to prime the pump:

  • Involve them with you in serving others—like the local Rescue Mission, food bank or Habitat for Humanity.
  • Bake cookies together and take them to a shut in or someone in the hospital.
  • Take them to a theater play (choose carefully) or a concert hall to hear music they might not otherwise hear. Talk about what you experienced.
  • Visit museums and art galleries—what is art and what is its purpose?
  • Instead of watching TV, read a book or a Bible story together. Gwen recalls reading Jesus Loves Meover and over to her twin grandchildren when they were toddlers. At age four, without any coaching from her, one of them announced, “Gram, I have Jesus in my heart!” To which his twin declared, “So do I?”.
  • Take them fishing or teach them a craft skill. Talk about God’s role in what you’re doing as you are doing it.

#3 – Work at Being Critically Open-Minded 

Be careful about being drawn into thinking that you should always be ‘open-minded’ about anything culture says is okay. Open-minded is not the same as critically-minded. Today, open-minded often means accepting without evaluation or examination to determine if it’s true (right), or not?

Make sure you know the difference between being critical-minded and being judgmental. Critical thinkers value truth over public opinion, even at the risk of being accused of narrow-mindedness, but they do so with compassion and grace.

When your grandchildren say something you are unsure about, ask them to help you understand. If you know what they are saying is wrong, instead of lecturing, ask questions like these: “Why do you think this is true?” “Who told you it’s true? What if it’s not? Would you want to know?” “How do you think we can find out the truth?”

#4. Be Careful What You Say

Little ears are listening. If you would not want your grandchild to repeat what you say, don’t say it. We are human, and sometimes things come out of our mouths we wish didn’t. Are you adult enough to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong saying what I did. Will you forgive me, and will you pray with me to do better?”

Impact requires intentionality. Children need our intentional commitment to train them in the way they should go, so they will grow to be mature, responsible and godly adults.

What are you doing to be intentional? Share with our readers some things you are doing.

What’s on Your Watchlist? (Part 2)

#2: Your Mind

“Ideas have consequences… bad ideas have victims.” -John Stonestreet

We started the year putting our focus on a personal “watch-yourself-closely” watchlist. As image bearers of our Creator, we must watch our heart, our mind, and our soul lest we fall prey to a shriveled soul—what I call ‘elderitis’. When a grandparent is afflicted with ‘elderitis’, their ability to influence their grandchildren to know and walk in the truth is diminished. We need to take Moses’ instructions seriously to watch ourselves closely.

In my previous post, I addressed matters of the heart. Now, we switch our attention to the mind. John Stonestreet’s comment that ideas have consequences ought to alert us to the fact that not every idea or Facebook post is true or worth giving our attention. It is our responsibility to carefully assess everything we let into our minds, taking every idea seriously because they do have consequences. It’s why Paul wrote, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The thing about the mind is that it is a window to the soul. What we regularly allow our mind to absorb, what we dwell upon, will impact the condition of our soul. Guarding our mind is not the same as not allowing ourselves to be exposed to what is not true. We can’t avoid that. Rather, taking our thoughts captive involves sorting through the boatloads of information we receive through the lens of what is true—God’s Word. We make an intentional decision to guard, proclaim, and dwell on what is true, noble, lovely, admirable, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). 

Guarding the truth presumes we know what is true. What we believe to be true shapes our worldview. Our worldview determines what we think and what we do. It comes down to whether we believe God is the source of all truth, or something else. 

If the Gospel has transformed our hearts, then the Word will transform our mind. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern (way of thinking) of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). 

Renewing Your Mind

How do we train (renew) our mind so that our souls are inclined to God’s good and perfect will? Here are four suggestions:

  1. Get in the Word. If you want a mind renewed, not according to the pattern of the world, but according to God’s pattern for life, you need to know what the Word says. Pay particular attention to Jesus’ teachings and how he addressed false teaching and ideas. Spend time in Proverbs and the Psalms to feed your mind with practical wisdom and truth that endures.
  2. Read good books that stimulate you to apply God’s truth to the world in which you live. There are some great Christian authors but there are also non-Christian authors who will stretch your thinking and illuminate the validity and glory of God’s Word. His truth does not break under the scrutiny of worldly ideas. 
  3. Engage the world around you. Be in the world, but not of it. Know what is going on in the world and let God’s truth expose it for what it is. Hang with people who will stimulate your thinking and test what you believe, and who are willing to examine what they believe in the light of what you know to be true.
  4. Talk to your grandchildren about truth. If you want your mind to stay sharp, open yourself to the questions and examinations of your grandchildren. Let them know you are not afraid of their questions or doubts, but gently lead them to explore and examine their own assumptions in light of the truth.

Truth does not flinch or recoil in the face of falsehood. It never falters in an assault of lies. What are you doing to prepare your mind for such an assault? You can’t guard the truth if you don’t know what it is. A healthy soul is dependent upon a renewing mind–that ongoing process that we dare not neglect lest we fall victim to bad ideas. Guard your mind for the sake of your soul, and the souls of your grandchildren.

Could We Be Whistling Past Our Grandchildren’s Graveyard?

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:8

I remember not long after our first child was born, a new mother in our young adult Sunday School class declared in the middle of a discussion about original sin, “I believe children are born good. Children learn about sin from other adults.”  Have you ever heard a parent say something like this about their children? This mother was adamant about her feelings. She would not accept the idea of original sin. By her way of thinking, children were too innocent to have a sinful nature. We adults are responsible for children’s sinfulness.

Chuck Colson once described this kind of thinking as “whistling past our children’s graveyard”.

William Golding didn’t believe in original sin either, at least until World War II changed his thinking. In 1954 he published his first novel, Lord of The Flies, a powerful and disturbing parable about the sin nature in every man, including children. The story powerfully portrays what happens when kids stranded on an island lack any moral guidance by adults.

Reasonable men and women don’t need Golding’s Lord Of The Flies to convince them of what happens when adult moral guidance is missing in any family and society. Kids raised in a moral vacuum where they are expected to figure things out for themselves, will likely find life meaningless and hopeless. Without intentional conversations and training about moral implications and the consequences of our choices, we relinquish the authority for such “training” to the Enemy, who will gladly assume the responsibility.

Parents and grandparents who take a hands-off approach to training children how to walk in the truth, open the door wide for those we don’t want training them to fill the void. Moral guidance is the responsibility and command God has assigned to godly parents and grandparents. It is the hallmark of a Gospel-shaped family.

Grandparents, even if your grandkids are blessed with excellent moral instruction at home, your responsibility to also teach and model righteousness is not removed (See Deut. 4 and 6). And if moral guidance is missing at home, then your responsibility becomes even more critical and necessary. Don’t fall for the lie that they will figure it out on their own, even though, by God’s grace, some will figure it out. Such foolishness is akin to whistling past your grandchildren’s graveyard.

What are you doing to provide a godly moral compass for your grandchildren? May suggest three things you can do to make sure your grandchildren are hearing from you how to walk in the truth?

  1. Pray for them regularly. Obviously, entering our own personal prayer closet to seek God’s wisdom and grace for the task is a good starting place. However, I also believe there is great value in getting together with other grandparents to pray, study God’s Word, and share ideas for teaching the truth to our grandkids. Grandparent’s Day of Prayer on the second Sunday of each September is a great way to engage with other grandprents.
  2. Get a copy of A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle. This excellent resources will help you understand the culture of our time, how to identify the lies that bombard us every day, and how to engage with your grandchildren in conversations about these things. Click here to order your copy.
  3. If the parents of your grandchildren are receptive and on the same page in their worldview, sit down together and ask them how you can come alongside and help them teach your grandchildren well. There are two chapters in my book, Courageous Grandparenting, that will help you do that.

Remember, there’s just too much at stake eternally if we don’t take this seriously. Wouldn’t you agree?