“Lawn Care,” How Is Your Lawn?

I am able to go for a walk six mornings a week, four days with Teri and two days with her father. We walk roughly the same route every day. Strolling week after week along the same path gives me the opportunity to observe the yards we pass by.

It is amazing the variance in people’s lawns. Some are beautiful, lush, green yards; then there are those that look quite nice. Others could use improvement. Finally, there are yards that are complete disasters. They look absolutely terrible!

I’m thinking of one appalling lawn in particular. It is on the corner so you can see both the front and back yards. In the spring I noticed clover lightly scattered around the yard. Over time the clover spread like wild fire and finally took over the whole yard. From a distance the lawn looked pretty good, but as you drew closer it became obvious that it was all clover rather than grass. When the summer heat came, the clover died. That would be good, except the clover had already totally killed the grass. Then the homeowners didn’t have to mow (not that they did much before) because nothing was growing in the bare dirt except a few low weeds.

“I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 24:30-34).

The above verses tell me that I have the opportunity to learn a great deal from observing others. We try to take advantage of this in the Maxwell home. I don’t know about you, but I would much prefer to learn from someone else’s mistakes. “Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). I don’t mind identifying with the simple if it means I can avoid a trip to the woodshed.

Over the months as I observed that lawn, I was struck with how similar it was to some aspects of raising children. First, I never looked at clover as a threat to my lawn. As a matter of fact, in some ways I have always liked clover. I have fond childhood memories of summer play times in fields of clover. Clover hasn’t seemed like a weed to me, and it isn’t ugly like many weeds. Maybe that was the initial attitude of the homeowner whose lawn was destroyed by clover.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a new or old yard, clover still presents a danger when you are trying to grow healthy, beautiful grass. In the same way, whether our children are young or old, there are situations for which we must keep our eyes open. I think most of us will notice recognizable weeds that sprout up in the lives of our children. What about those things that appear innocent, just like that clover? Will we spot areas that have negative impact on our children, perhaps ones that the world (and even the church these days) calls good and beneficial? There are certain harmful behaviors and activities, innocent in appearance that our children may take up. By the time we become concerned, they are much more difficult to address.

Let’s see what Scripture says. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Paul was warning Timothy to flee youthful lusts and replace them with righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Many would quickly recognize youthful lusts as being immoral lusting for the opposite sex, pride, and the desire to be in control. There may be others, but there is one in particular that most would not put in the category of youthful lusts.

In 2 Timothy 3:2-5 Paul describes evil men in the end times. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” As you read that list it should be pretty obvious how harmful most of those listed “weeds” are. However, if you reread the list, you should spot some “clover.” What about those who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”?

Look at the company “lovers of pleasures” is keeping in the list: lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection (sodomites), trucebreakers, false accusers (liars), incontinent (no self-control), fierce, despisers of those that are good (they love evil), traitors, heady, highminded, LOVERS OF PLEASURES more than lovers of God. How many Christian parents do you know who are as concerned and careful that their children don’t become “lovers of pleasure” as there are parents concerned that their children don’t become sodomites? Raising a child who is a “lover of pleasure” (or being one ourselves) is very serious and should not be taken lightly. Then why is it not even questioned or rebuked in Christian circles?

“Lovers of pleasure” so characterizes our society. Billions and billions of dollars are spent each year on seeking greater thrills, chills, excitement, and fun. Why? It is pleasurable! Movies, automobile races, football, baseball, soccer, hockey, a myriad of other sporting activities, alcohol, and drugs—to name only a few—all produce pleasure of sorts. In our area, when there is a Kansas City Chiefs game, even the professing Christians dawn their red apparel. It isn’t because they are trying to relate to the other fans with the hope of winning them to Christ; it is because the excitement of the game is pleasurable.

So what does one do about clover? Some (the world) let the clover take over. I read how a Canadian group actually promotes clover lawns. Many take that approach with pleasure. “Why fight it? Embrace it!”

For our family, we take “clover” very seriously. I’m careful what types of fun our family enjoys. The children ride bikes and have wholesome toys and healthy play (less as they grow older).

There are certain things we just don’t do. For example, we would not even consider going to a movie theater, a professional sporting event of any kind, or amusement parks. For us, there is nothing redeeming about any of those activities, and much that is negative (that is for another Dad’s Corner). In addition, there is the potential if we participate in those areas of creating the intense appetite for more. Please don’t get me wrong; we have fun as a family, and much laughter is heard in the Maxwell home. However, it is the desire of my heart to raise children who are “lovers of God” far more than “lovers of pleasure.”

We would all do well to treat pleasure as the dangerous drug that it is. Yes, God did give us the ability to enjoy pleasing things, but Satan is the one who wants us to take pleasure in nonprofitable things. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). How’s your lawn?

Protectionism or Isolationism?

Do you ever wonder whether it is right to shelter your children from worldly influences such as the TV or playing unsupervised with neighborhood children? Do you struggle with feeling like you are becoming an isolationist? Recently we had a mom ask us some questions along these lines.

“I wonder sometimes if I am doing the right thing by sheltering my children as much as I am. I have a burning desire also to tell others about Jesus! I want to minister—even if in just some small way. I don’t feel like I’m doing that by keeping us at home and sheltered from the rest of the world. I feel that I have really begun to isolate my children from everything and wonder if this is the right thing to do . . . I wonder if there isn’t more we could be doing.” Lisa

This mom asks several excellent questions—ones that are important for us to answer. What a condemnation on us as a group of Christian homeschoolers if we are secluded in our homes with no outreach for our Lord Jesus!

I would not term what we do with our children as isolationism but rather protectionism. God requires us to protect our children from ungodly influences. Scripture is overwhelmingly full of directives to us, as parents teaching our children and as Christians in general, to live holy lives.

Matthew 18:6-7: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

Does this mean we live in isolation? Absolutely not! Instead, we minister as a family. For Steve and I, this means we are around our children constantly, serving the Lord Jesus with them and protecting them at the same time. There are so many ways the Lord has given us to minister, serve, and evangelize as a family through the years. I will share a couple of current ones with you.

Steve and the boys minister monthly at the Kansas City men’s homeless shelter. Steve is with his boys (from age 7 to 25) and able to oversee their conversations, discuss the consequences of sin in these men’s lives, and develop a love in his boys’ hearts for others who are very different from us. Every month, in addition to the personal conversation and evangelism Steve and the boys engage in, one of the oldest will preach. Our sons consider their time at City Union Mission a highlight of their month.

Two Saturdays a month, Steve and the children have a church service at the local county infirmary, a low-income nursing home. They have the opportunity to love the elderly residents, talk to them, sing with them, and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. Joseph, our thirteen-year-old son, preached at the infirmary the last time they were there. He hasn’t had a call from the Lord to be a preacher, but we want all of our children to be able “. . . to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

I would encourage us that the questions we are considering are best answered by being “in the world” (John 17:11) but “not of the world” (John 17:14). We are not isolating our children. We are protecting them and also ministering with them to the lost world.

Let me share another story with you by way of illustration. The UPS man stops by our house every afternoon. Once when there was a substitute for a couple of days, the children asked where the regular driver was.

“You mean Caveman?” the substitute asked. The children’s eyes became really big as they realized that the UPS drivers had nicknamed our driver “Caveman.” That became our children’s name for him as well until we had a discussion one day.

We talked with the children about whether “Caveman” was a respectful name for our UPS driver even if they didn’t actually call him that when they talked to him. They agreed it wasn’t and determined to find out his real name.

Not many days after that they came to me and delightedly announced, “His name is Mr. Smith. His name is Mr. Smith.”

“Whose name is Mr. Smith?” came from my confused mind, which had already forgotten the earlier day’s discussion.

“The UPS man!”

Can you imagine what Mr. Smith thinks when he is greeted by five lively children each afternoon shouting, “Hello, Mr. Smith! Hi, Mr. Smith. How are you, Mr. Smith?” Remember, Mr. Smith’s coworkers call him Caveman.

Recently, eleven-year-old John gave Mr. Smith a gospel tract. A couple of days later John asked Mr. Smith if he had read the tract. “Oh, yeah!” he replied. “It was good. I even showed it to the other guys at the terminal when I got back.”

“Would you read another one?” John asked.

“Sure,” answered Mr. Smith.

This recent example, I believe, will show you that a protectionist lifestyle doesn’t preclude our children from sharing Jesus with others. However, they are doing it in an environment where their own hearts are being as carefully guarded as possible.

Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). So we know that protecting our children will not keep them from being sinful. However, we also know that temptations to sin are greater when a child has been exposed to sin.

I would encourage each of us, with our husbands, to begin praying about what ministry the Lord would have us do as a family. Consider a nursing home, the homeless shelter, a neighborhood Bible study, an outreach to a widow in your neighborhood, or having neighbors in for dinner—that’s just a start! When you have the Lord’s direction, begin to serve. You will have no concern about isolationism, but rather you will experience outreach within the protected environment of family ministry.