Thursday, December 3, 2015

When you can't go to Church

"...I really want my kids to grow up in Church, to grow up close to the Lord, but my husband doesn't want to go to Church and I can't take all the kids by myself!..."
"...We moved away from our wonderful huge Church and now we go to a small one. The kids are bored and I can see them losing interest...."
"...I feel like my kids are growing away from the Lord. Maybe we need to change Churches? I don't know what to do! We have become more worldly as a family and we want to move away from that...."
"...It's been a long time since we've been to Church. We finally started going again but my kids are balking. They aren't interested in Church anymore and don't like going...."
"...My husband wants to go to Church again. It's a far drive though and I'm not thrilled with our options. My husband says we just need to make a commitment to go, even if it means trying new Churches for a while or choosing to go to the same one long enough to start making connections. That's hard...."

I'm so glad for those of you who get to go to a wonderful church, especially if you've been unable to for a long time! I think that most things which require commitment are hard at times. When I was a teen, we drove 2 hours each way to a Mennonite church where the service was 2 hours long. I tell you, we were half starved by the time we got home from Church at or after 2pm, having not eaten since breakfast! My mom often had to psych herself up to go. It was alot of work to have dinner in the crock pot, a dozen goats milked and a farmload of critters fed, breakfast made and eaten, and a family of 5 ready for church with one bathroom, and out the door by 8am! Church is worth it. It's very important for the emotional health and spiritual uplifting of a Christian to get together with other Christians. Irion sharpens iron and don't forsake the assembly of believers says the Bible.

The thing is, passing on a legacy of love for God to your kids is so much more than church! You can take them to church 3 times a week from the day they're born until they leave home and they can still grow up to hate God or disbelieve His existence. Things that stick though: How (and how much) you talk out loud to and about your faith in God in front of your kids, do they see you reading your Bible, hear you talking over the day to day with your Savior? What life choices do you make and how does that mesh with what you read in God's word. Everything from how you react to the panhandler on the corner to how you disagree with and make up with your spouse to how you choose which holiday traditions to keep in your family and which not to, all these things will stick with your kids far deeper than making sure they go to church on Sunday. I just want to encourage you that in times you're unable to attend Church for whatever reason, regardless of whether you feel spiritually "fed" at your Church or enjoy the size or layout or nuances of this new church, your kids can still learn to have a wonderful relationship with God just by watching you be open about Your relationship with God. Worldliness is easy to slip into indeed! It's harder for the kids to slip though if you let your spirituality show to your kids on purpose. Live out loud, live on purpose. This was something that was hard for my own mom. Her dad was harsh, loud, strict, and vehemently opinionated. She stuck to him like a burr on a cat's belly. As an adult she had to work out her own faith and it was often difficult. She had an incurable illness that left her bedridden all winter. My parents didn't have a good relationship. Mom had made alot of mistakes. What made the biggest difference in my faith was seeing my parents relationships with God. They let me, as their child, peek into that part of their lives and that is what drew me to God. Non family would not have gotten to see my dad standing in the garden, dirty gloves and shovel in one hand, Bible balanced on the fence next to his coffee and free hand turning pages. Nor would they have heard mumbling in the other room only to sneak in and find Mom having a conversation with God over dirty dishes. Driving along in the car and a song with questionable lyrics comes on, Mom would change stations quickly while whispering, "Sorry, Lord!" Life troubled us with more bills than paycheck, there was no food for supper and my siblings and I were wearing sleeves 3 inches too short: overheard my parents pray about it together and the next day 2 friends showed up with groceries unasked and a complete stranger dropped of bags of hand me downs. So no matter the season of life, church or no church, or church that doesn't fit what you're used to, you can still infuse faith into your kids by letting them see you as you work to grow your own relationship with God.

Our culture has tricked us into thinking that Love is something we FALL into, as though it were a pit which trapped us. Just as common is the belief that your world can turn upside down and you can FALL right back out of that love pit trap against your own will. The truth is that Love is a choice. Love is an action word: it's something you act out deliberately in a million ways each day, from your words to your service to others to the thoughts you allow to marinate in your head. Love isn't a kiss or butterflies or beauty or magnetism. Love is changing a diaper, serving a meal, washing dirty underwear. Love is Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Self-control... Love isn't something that happens to you, it's something you DO. Likewise, worldliness is something we are deceived into thinking is like an icy hill. We think we're walking a ridgeline of piety and if we don't follow the exactly prescribed set of steps, we're slid halfway down to the valley and don't realize how we got there. Like we "fell" into worldliness the same way we might "fall" into "love." Really the opposite of worldliness isn't a lack of sliding. Life is sliding. In reality we're only ever halfway up that hill to begin with and the opposite of sliding into worldliness is to keep taking deliberate steps upward! Each step is a choice, it's something we do. It's when you pray over meals with true thankfulness. It's when you choose praise music over that song about someone breaking their girl/boyfriend's heart. It's when instead of repeating gossip to another human, you take it to your prayer closet and ask God to heal and bless those involved. It's when you take a deep breath and say a silent prayer for guidance before reacting to the crayon on the wall when your first reaction would have been to yell. It's when your kids fight with each other and you choose to be transparent with them about how heartbreaking it truly is to be at odds with those who you should be most supportive of! It's when you make a choice that dies to self and uplifts another, even, maybe especially, one who far from deserves it.

And never forget to pray fervently for the salvation of your children! They will "catch" alot from your words and actions, but in the end they have to make their own choices, and as their parent it is your great honor to intercede for them in prayer, to fervently request that the Lord would soften their hearts to Him.

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