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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

A man came into my office today, and told me a story of his cocker spaniel. 

 

As a puppy, he trained it with treats to fetch his paper each morning.  On Sunday the doggy didnt because the weekend paper was too heavy.  Actually he subscribed to the two Denver papers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post.  Each morning the dog faithfully retrieved his papers. 

 

Eventually the man canceled his subscription to one paper, and sent the spaniel out the first winter morning about six AM, in the fresh fallen snow, to get his one paper.  He watched it run out into the snow, and disappear behind a drift to get to the driveway.  But the dog didnt come back.  A little annoyed, he went back into the house to put on appropriate clothes for snow-trekking. 

 

When the man came back, following the markings in the snow from the dogs pounces, he had to follow his dog half a block away to the top of the hill on which his house sat.  The faithful dog had searched in the snow until it found one driveway in which the second paper was visible, and had the news obediently between its teeth. 

 

Think if we did that.  Given a task, our determination and loyalty was so great that we would go through any trouble and keep going until we accomplished our assignment.  Do you see the above and beyond excellence exemplified by the little spaniel? 

 

Philemon 1:21, “Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.”

Approve what is excellent. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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What should parents of strong-willed children do? 

Understand yourself.  Are you strong-willed?  How do you make decisions?  How do you communicate and learn?  

 

Understand your child.  Love him unconditionally.  Be humble.  Rely on God.  Be willing to let Him be the ultimate authority in your child’s life. 

 

Until conversion from dead in sins, a child has two options: either he is subject to influence, in which case a parent has an easier time getting a child to obey, but risks producing a child who follows whichever prevailing influence, be it human, media, or substance.  Or the child is what is called strong-willed, which means he worships something.  No threats of punishment; no bribery of food, toys, privileges, or love will avail.  To such a child there is no question of comprehension (he knows what you mean) or the easy way out.  He doesn’t want the easy way.  He doesn’t want fun, or gentleness.  At least he might, but it is not his primary will. 

 

You can tell this child what to do.  Tell him what you expect.  Tell him consequences.  And follow through.  If you do not follow through on his expectations, he will see that what you tell him about rules are not facts, but manipulations.  This must not be a contest of wills, you against him.  Never punish any child for doing something you simply didn’t want him to do.  If you didn’t tell him it was a rule, he wasn’t disobeying you.  If you were displeased, simply tell him so, make a new rule if necessary, and move on. 

 

Facts are influential here.  The fifth commandment is repeated in the Bible several times, rephrased.  In one place it says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  The last part is a statement of fact.  “This is right.”  Tell your child what is right and what is wrong.  He may still do what is wrong, but decisions are made on facts, and eventually the facts might bring him to change his mind.  Know that “because I said so,” won’t go a long way with him, though. 

 

If a strong-willed child asks you why, he is seeking more facts.  His decision-making faculties need more information.  Some parents see this as a challenge to authority.  From one light it is.  From the child’s perspective, authority is largely irrelevant.  He isn’t demanding you give him an answer or else he won’t obey you.  He is learning to make decisions of his own.  He will make his decisions on his own, and he will acquire his facts from you if he trusts you and you’re available, or from someone else, if you’re not.  Take his “why?” as a sign of trust and respect.  He considers you qualified to answer. 

 

You’ve no idea how many times I took tests and saw trick questions because there was insufficient information.  I wanted to interrogate the questioner, to get all the facts.  Unfortunately most of the authors of questions didn’t see things my way.  They were actually testing my ability to assume what they were asking.  True or false questions were the exception.  Those were my kind of challenges.  One word could be different or omitted, and the statement would change.  There was the place for trick questions to be detected. 

 

Tell him stories.  Don’t tell him allegories or fables.  Strong-willed children will see through these.  But tell him stories about noble characters.  Tell him Bible stories.  If your child remembers facts, this is a sign that he is going to be influenced in the same way. 

 

Don’t confuse an affinity for facts with a dismissal of concept.  If concepts are reality, they are facts as well, and your child will comprehend them.  My mother and sister learned math by memorizing formulae.  “It’s magic,” my mom’s geometry teacher taught her.  Math was a series of tools, a means to an end, but not a truth to her.  To me math is a reality.  I follow concepts.  When I was learning to reciprocal fractions in order to divide them, I could not understand because my mom/teacher gave me rules, but not facts.  The rule was to invert the second fraction, then multiply.  But the concept was as simple as the top number is divided by the bottom number.  Notice the difference in those statements.  One has the infinitive, “to invert,” implying a command or an action.  The second is a statement of fact indicated by “is.”  There is a third type of person, the creative, who sees outside the box.  I encountered my deficiency in geometry.  My mom memorized theorems.  I learned concepts, could anticipate theorems.  But doing proofs was incredibly hard, especially if it involved adding a fact (constructing one or more lines). 

 

For theology the same applies.  Don’t just teach simple facts.  You can teach concepts that are realities.  Just be ready for a lot of questions (don’t get worried about them; your child is not losing his faith, but owning it, allowing it to expound into his decision making). 

 To God be all glory, Lisa of Longbourn

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Strength and tenderness are complementary virtues, just like might and grace. 

Sunday evening I was listening to Ravi Zacharias’ message, Brittle Clay in Tender Hands.  This week was just the introduction to this series on Jeremiah, a study of Jeremiah’s call in chapter 1, though the title is taken from chapter 18.  Look at the progression.  God set Jeremiah apart to be His prophet before Jeremiah was even born.  In response to this glorious and sovereign truth God spoke to this man, the pre-prophet informed God, “I cannot speak…”  So Jeremiah had to learn two things.  The first is that when God calls you, He is strong enough to command your obedience.  The second is that when God calls, He is tender enough to equip.  He knows our weaknesses.  I still remember a friend in high school quoting, “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” 

 

If you study the prophets, when they ran, God pursued them.  Writing about Jacob, Michael Card observed, “Love will fight us to be found.”  Usually we think of the unsaved when we hear the poem or phrase, “Hound of Heaven.”  But in Brittle Clay in Tender Hands, Ravi Zacharias points out that Jeremiah 18 could just as easily illustrate those who have already trusted in God.  Whether you’ve considered Jesus’ pursuit in this light before or not, I expect you will be able to remember times in your life, however short, when you would have preferred God not go through with His plans for you, when you resisted like the clay on the Potter’s wheel.  And I’m guessing that like Jonah, not even running to the other side of the world rid you of His call. 

 

Corresponding to strength is might.  Near the end of Jeremiah 1, God warns the prophet that if he is more afraid of the people and their reaction to the message he is delivering, God will simply make Jeremiah more afraid of Him – in front of the audience.  A proper understanding of grace cannot come without a view of God’s might.  How holy is He?  How glorious?  How powerful?  Where does that leave us?  Aside from leaving us unwilling to reject Him (even for fear of any one else, puny in comparison), it reminds us of how unable we are to obey Him ourselves.    

 

I want to suggest that what happens both in the conviction of the soul’s need for a savior and in the pursuit of His children, is a grace chase.  To abide in His will is better for us.  Grace prevents God from giving us up to our own wisdom, and from releasing His just wrath upon us.  Instead, He tenderly paces after us.  Sometimes the tenderness is so filled with strength that we know we are experiencing discipline.  For example, some mornings I turn off my alarm and want so much to get more sleep that I do drift off into a shallow sleep, and as much as part of me wanted to get more rest, I’m grateful when God wakes me back up just in time so that I won’t be late.  Likewise I am so glad that He doesn’t let me wander from Him forever. 

 

Once we His servants are apprehended in the chase, we are also given grace to complete “that for which [we are] apprehended of Christ Jesus.”  Jeremiah professed his inability to speak, and once God had a hold of him, having cast aside the excuses, God graced Jeremiah with the ability to speak in God’s strength God’s own words.  The question was never one of Jeremiah’s ability. 

 

The more I seek God for understanding, the more I think I’m catching on.  I’ve been asking what “disciplined by grace” means, and I think this is another answer. 

 

Paul wrote one of God’s messages to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn  

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