The Retraining Parade

Tonight we had a parade through the Maxwell house! Usually the children delight in parades, but for this one, they were uncharacteristically warm and subdued. One child had on her heavy winter coat, sweatshirt, stocking cap, and an extra pair of shoes over her hands—all in addition to her normal clothing. Another child sported her sweatshirt, bike-riding dress—over her play dress—with shoes dangling on her shoulder. The other three of our younger children had donned varying degrees of similar costumes. They were all busily marching around the house. Soon each one returned to Mom eagerly asking her to come see what they had just accomplished. You might ask, what exactly is going on at the Maxwell house?

We were reaping! Unfortunately, Mom has become slack in giving consequences to the children for leaving their things out. Steve has regularly encouraged me to have the children wear or carry whatever of their personal property is not properly put away. His suggestion originally came because I brought him the ongoing problem we have in our home of sloppiness. My efforts toward positive training of the children in orderliness were not being fruitful.

I have done some mental calculations of what it would be like at the Maxwells’ if we didn’t stay on top of picking up. There are ten of us living in this home. If we were each to leave out ten items a day, which wouldn’t be terribly hard, we would have one hundred things lying around at the end of the day. After a week, a whopping seven hundred pieces of Maxwell personal property would be strewn across the house.

I truly believe in the importance of training our children to put their things away properly. I am certain that their spouses will thank Steve and me if we are successful, and they will be disappointed if we aren’t. My children report to us that they really prefer to live in a neat home. This information generally comes after they have visited in a cluttered or messy home. Putting each item where it belongs is a valuable time saver. How many hours have been lost looking for a child’s missing shoe? “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6).

Our home is also a testimony—of Christ, homeschooling, and, in our case, large families. We regularly have non-Christians stop by our home unexpectedly. Tonight it was the British Army officer for whom Steve is doing some work. Last week it was our policeman neighbor from across the street. Sometimes it is the retired bank president for whom Sarah gathers the mail and papers when he and his wife are away. I am convinced that if the house looks more than simply “lived in,” the testimony of each area it represents, such as homeschooling, is tarnished.

Having the children wear what they have left out has been a most effective way of getting them to pick up their clothing. However, if Mom is not consistent with consequences, the children manage to lose the good habit they have acquired! “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17). Tonight we were having a retraining session. The children were wearing clothing items they had left out while they searched the house for other things that belonged to them. They were now eager to put their belongings away. Then they were happy to come ask Mom for an inspection. This was because the removal of each extra piece of clothing was dependent on Mom not finding any more of their things out.

Despite all the benefits I know there are to be gained from teaching my children to put their personal items away when they are done with them, I still struggle with being consistent. When I am consistent, they succeed! When I am inconsistent, they fail!

So, if you pop in at the Maxwell house and observe five children wearing very odd outfits while busily rushing here and there, you will know what is happening. May I encourage you in whatever area you need to be more consistent with your children. It is not too late. It is not too much work, and it is certainly well worth the effort!

Job Woes

Teri and I take great delight in observing families. Most often we see physical characteristics that are common between the children and their parents. It may be hair color or facial features. Usually there is something that causes us to say, “I can tell they came from the same ingredients.” It becomes especially obvious the more children there are to compare.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing what God did when He designed the procreation process? The image of the parents is impressed on the children. Many of our physical and even behavioral characteristics become a part of our offspring. There is one family in our church where the father is six foot seven. You ought to see his two sons. One of them has just now surpassed his father. I remember when my sons became taller than me several years ago. It felt very strange and was no small event for them.

I wonder how much each of us resembles our Father in heaven. I’m not referring to mankind in general, even though we were made in His image. I mean those who have been born again by the blood of the Lord Jesus. That transaction made God truly our Father, and we became His offspring.

Jesus evaluated men’s conduct and associated their conduct with their father in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

Because the Pharisees would not welcome truth, Jesus stung them with sharp words by calling them the children of Satan. Here were the religious leaders of Israel being called sons of Satan, and Satan was called the father of lies.

We read in Deuteronomy 32:4 about God, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Our Father is a God of truth, and Satan is the father of lies. That puts falsehood and truth in a very black and white light. If Jesus made this distinction and likened those who embraced lies to being in the lineage of Satan, it would seem that born-again believers must endeavor to always speak and live truth.

Recently, Teri and I were watching some videotapes by a well-respected Christian teacher. He referred to a statement he spoke to his child. Then he told the audience with a bit of a wink, “I was lying to him.” One other time, he acknowledged in a lighthearted fashion lying to someone. I must admit my respect for this person took a hit just then. Here he was expecting us to believe he was telling us truth, and at the same time admitting there were circumstances where he chose to lie.

I have no doubt this man endeavors to live by and preach truth; however, we must shun anything false. I believe it damages the reputation of Christ when we don’t. “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me” (Proverbs 30:8). If we want to walk in righteousness we must not lie, as “A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame” (Proverbs 13:5).

I believe that one of the most pungent Bible verses is, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Proverbs 26:28). Here we see that from God’s perspective, we hate the one we lie to. If we loved him, we would speak truth to him just like our heavenly Father speaks truth always to us.

One of the greatest struggles I have is my desire to be funny. Sometimes the easiest way to get a chuckle is to say something that isn’t true. I know it is wrong, and yet it can create this battle in me as to whether I will say it. Usually, I just “swallow the words,” but there are times, especially if I’m tired, that they will come out. Then after we have all laughed, my spirit convicts me.

The conviction to speak truth is what initially led us to quit Santa Claus at Christmas. We realized that, according to Scripture, we could not love our children and lie to them. Yes, that also meant that the “tooth fairy” and “Easter bunny” were eradicated—never to darken our door again.

It is so easy to get caught up in all of our warm, fuzzy memories of being a child and in not wanting our children to miss out on anything. However, it is my greatest desire that my children would not miss out on having a God-fearing father who loves the Lord Jesus with all his heart. If God says I must shun falsehood, then I am not going to justify lying to my children for any reason.

I think what happens is that often we dads can be short-sighted and not patriarchal minded. It is so easy to live for all the fun this world has to offer and lose sight of eternal things. This year I will turn fifty and that seems old, but even if I live to be as old as Silas (a delightful young man of ninety-seven years old), what is that in comparison with eternity? Nothing!

I want my children to think of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when they think of Easter. Yes, the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate “Easter,” but we are told to remember. We choose to “remember” in a more focused way on the day that even unbelievers expect Christians to celebrate. In my opinion, it would be far better not to celebrate Easter at all than to have any part of the “Easter bunny.” It is not truth, and to let something else detract from the most glorious event ever—the celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ—is unthinkable. We do celebrate and remember Christ’s resurrection weekly when we worship, but we choose to make Resurrection Sunday a special remembrance.

If we were somehow to find a way to celebrate Easter and spiritualize the “Easter bunny” in some fashion, I believe we would have a situation analogous to Exodus 32. Aaron had just made the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving God’s law. After Aaron finished crafting the calf and building an altar for it, he proclaimed, “. . . To morrow is a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:5). Aaron announced it was to be a feast to Jehovah, the true God of Israel. Only God knows exactly what was going on in Aaron’s mind, but from the outside it appeared to be incredible double-mindedness. Let’s look at what happened in verse 6 when the things of the world were mixed with the worship of the true God: “And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink. . . .”

That does not sound too bad. They had a very spiritual time with their offerings and then a meal. Then we read on that they “rose up to play.” This was not righteous play. We learn later that they were naked. Whatever Aaron intended led to something very unholy.

Please understand, I’m not saying that families who choose to celebrate Easter and include the “Easter bunny” are guilty of the idolatry we read about. I am not making that judgment in any way. What I am saying is: we can see from Scripture that if we mix truth with something false, the result is negative. Nothing holy will be inspired in the minds of those we are called to bring up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Dads, please understand, I’m not condemning you if you do make a choice different from mine, that isn’t my place. However, it is my prayer that I will challenge you to consider things in a new light and encourage you to love the Lord Jesus more and walk according to His Word. May God be merciful and gracious to you, and may you be the head of many godly generations.

“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).