Weaponizing your children

Weaponizing your children

Some people use their children as weapons.

They use them as a way to hurt others, or as a way defend themselves. You’ve probably met a parent like that. Maybe you’ve been tempted that way yourself?

Here’s the thing. There’s a sense in which the Bible says that our children are to be used a bit like weapons.

Intrigued? Then read on.

Take a look at these verses:

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.

We’ve been struck at the imagery of children being “like arrows”. It’s an interesting choice of simile.

An arrow isn’t designed to stay in the quiver. It’s good to have a quiver full, but only so that they can be sent out.

Arrows are meant to fly away from the quiver as the bow sends them out.

It’s interesting that the verses don’t say “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like trophies on your shelf” or “Like money inside your wallet”.

Why would this be this case?

Because children are not meant to remain dependent and cloistered up in our possession. They are not designed to be cooped up forever – they are designed to fly from the nest. The ideal is that they become independent, responsible and purposeful (an arrow is sent out of the quiver for a purpose, and noticeably sent out by another – “the warrior”).

Or to reflect on another metaphor…we all know that the nurturing of the mother-bird and safety of her nest are essential for the chicks to grow and develop. But we also know that it would be unnatural for the mother bird to try and sit on her growing chicks and prevent their efforts to fly from the nest. It would be unnatural – it would be unhealthy for the chick and for the mother-bird. It could result in the chick’s death. No, the healthy and natural way of things is for the chick to find their wings and with the mother’s encouragement to have the courage to step out of the nest and fly into the sky of opportunity.

So, if the end goal is independent, responsible and purposeful adults who will fly our nests – how do we begin to see our children in that way now?

If the goal is that we send our children out with a purpose, like a warrior sends out his arrows, then how do we prepare ourselves and them starting now?

Perhaps a change of mindset is needed for you – perhaps you’re tempted to treat your children as your trophies. Perhaps they are there to show off your achievement as a parent.

Perhaps you’re tempted to treat your children like a coin in your wallet – you see that they are precious and that makes you want to cling onto them.

Well the beginning of this Scripture can help us with that:

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.”

Ultimately our children are from God. He created them and he gave us the immense privilege of caring for them, but they don’t belong to us, they’re not our property to treat as we see fit.

Our children are from him. Our purpose in raising them is to get them ready to live independently for the Lord. When they have left our care we want them to be living with purpose for God – loving his church, reaching the lost, serving the poor. That’s what we are designed for – that’s what they are designed for.

In the end, while children can bring us great personal joy and pleasure, they are not given to us simply for that purpose – they are to be given back to God for his service. Arrows in his quiver to be sent out for his kingdom.

Perhaps this sounds hard and counter-intuitive. Well we can take great comfort that God is more of a loving parent than we ever could be. We can know that the God who calls us to send our children out, is the God who sent his Son out. He’s the God who did not spare his Son, but gave him up for us. He is the God who so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

And as we send our children out to independence and adulthood we know that the indwelling Spirit of God goes with our children protecting and providing for them all the way.

So don’t be afraid to weaponize your children… just make sure you do it in the right way.

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The Secret to Great Parenting

The Secret to Great Parenting

What’s the secret to great parenting?

It may surprise you.

We recently went to some parenting seminars by Julian and Debbie Hardyman.

We sat in our seats waiting in anticipation for what they were going to say… What approach would they take? What new kernels of wisdom could we glean from these seasoned parents?

Their intro took us by surprise!

They said something which was pretty liberating, surprising and well…obvious!

They said that there’s no silver bullet for parenting, no secret formula which needs to be found for success, they said that they weren’t going to say anything new.

This is what they said.

Are you ready for it?

They said…

Parenting is really pretty simple but very hard to actually do!

Simple but hard.

The Bible says provide for your kids, love them, discipline them and tell them about Jesus.

It’s not rocket science.

It’s not a secret at all.

But it’s hard.

It’s hard to do consistently. It’s hard to die a thousand deaths to yourself in order to serve your children. It’s hard to sacrifice your own comfort for the sake of your little ones. It takes energy. It takes effort. It takes time.

We found this a really liberating truth to hear.

In a media-saturated culture, envy and comparison in our parenting styles can be so pervasive. It’s easy (in the midst of all the parenting fads that come and go) to be fearful. It’s easy to panic that we must discover the perfect approach to parenting and that if we don’t, we’ll mess up our children. How wonderful that this isn’t the case!

We already know what to do – the Bible tells us.

Provide for our kids, love them, discipline them and point them to Jesus.

That will look different in each family and that’s also wonderfully liberating.

What works in your family, with your personalities and lifestyle will look very different to how we do it our family. But you can be sure of this, in every family, parenting sinful kids will require following simple principles which are actually very hard to do.

We as human parents follow in the footsteps of our heavenly Father God. You would imagine that it would be a simple thing for the all powerful creator of the universe to parent the children that he made. He knows how to provide, to love and to discipline – perfectly. For God, parenting is simple.

But you know what? Parenting is hard for him too. You see his children (a.k.a us)  are pretty troublesome and stubborn.

As a good parent, God provides for us. He loves us, and he gives us boundaries to live our lives by and consequences when we stray outside of those boundaries. But we resist his kind parenting of us at every point. This is called sin.

Like a good Father, God decided not to abandon his children but to do everything within his power to change their hearts and to eradicate sin. It was an easy decision – he loves us, he was committed to winning us back.

But it was hard. It was costly. It required sacrifice, effort and commitment. In fact it was harder than we can imagine.

God decided to send his only begotten son Jesus to take the consequence of sin upon himself. Jesus died in the place of sinful human beings, as their substitute. He did this so that sinful human beings could be forgiven and brought back into relationship with their Heavenly Father. Now God’s children are reunited with their Father, through faith in Jesus.

So there we have it. The secret to great parenting? There isn’t one. Do the things that the Bible calls us to in whatever way works best in your situation.

Knowing what we need to do is simple. Actually doing it can be very hard.

But we model ourselves on the best parent – our Father in heaven. As creator of all, knowing how to parent us was simple. But actually doing it was very hard. The cost was bigger than we could ever imagine. So let’s parent our children empowered by his Spirit, reliant on him in the difficult times.

Parenting: simple but hard.

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Gospel in the Everyday | Tears

Gospel in the Everyday | Tears

If you’re a parent you’ll be acquainted with tears.

Tears of joy when the two lines appear on the test. Tears when the hormones surge and you feel overwhelmed at all the changes that are happening to your body. Tears of gratitude when you see the vertebrae of your baby’s spine on the scan. Tears when they wiggle and kick inside you just as you were afraid of the worst. Tears when the contractions get stronger. Tears when the pushing gets tougher. Tears when the baby gulps down their first breath and screams at the top of their lungs. Tears when they lie peacefully in their cot next to you and you think, “They’re actually here, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful in my life.”

Tears. Tears. Tears.

Tears when the social worker asks intrusive questions and makes you doubt your suitability for adoption. Tears of fear before your interview with the panel. Tears after an argument because the pressure and uncertainty is straining your marriage. Tears when weeks roll into months and you still haven’t had the phone call of the perfect match. Tears when you meet your child for the first time. Tears when you take them home and show them their bedroom, and introduce them to the dog, and tell them where their toys are. Tears of relief when you get the court ruling that you are the legal parent.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

Tears of frustration when they defy you for the millionth time because “no” they do not want to eat their cereal and would much rather scream at the top of their lungs. Tears of fear when they have disappeared and you can’t find them and you know there’s a busy road outside… and tears of relief when you find them hiding in the food cupboard! Tears of sadness when they are left out and rejected by their peers. Tears of joy when they sing in the school play. Tears of pride when they finally learn to ride their bike without stabilisers.

Tears of disappointment when they lie to you. Tears of worry when they retreat into themselves and keep you locked out of their heart and room. Tears of anger when they treat you appallingly. Tears of fear when they don’t come home when you are expecting them and they don’t answer their phone. Tears of pride when they pass their driving test. Tears of joy when they are wearing their gown and hat and you’re not entirely sure how it’s happened but your baby is a (somewhat!) responsible adult who can live independently and who has just graduated with a degree. Tears of sorrow and joy as they say their wedding vows.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

The life of the parent is a life marked by tears.

The life of a child is a life marked by tears.

Tears express lots of things for a child.

Hungry tummy, scared to be alone, teething pain, scraped knees, hurtful words, losing a game, disappointment, sickness bug, being disciplined, failing, being left out, nightmares, chicken pox, braking an arm, having to share, injections, facing exams… so many reasons to cry. Life is hard. Kids learn that pretty quickly.

Tears. Tears. Tears.

The other day that familiar sound rang through our house. Running feet, head impacting wood and an almighty scream! Our pre-schooler picked himself up and started running again, this time to me. He buried his face in my neck. Between sobs he exclaimed  “kiss me better!” So I did what any parent would. I kissed his head. I held him until his body stopped shaking. I told him I was here with him. And I waited for the sobbing to subside. Then when he had quietened down I looked at his face. Red. Blotchy. Wet. I wiped away his tears and kissed his cheeks. The salty taste lingered on my lips and in my mind I was transported to a future moment.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Revelation 21

You see our parental instinct to kiss away the pain and wipe away the salty tears is just a tiny reflection of the Father-heart of God. God collects our tears in a bottle and keeps track of our sorrows (Psalm 56:8). And one day he will wipe away every tear from the eyes of his children – forever. He can wipe them away forever because he is recreating this world into a world where all the sad things will end. Where, as Samwise Gamgee wonderfully puts it, all sad things will come untrue.

There are some lovely things in life that bring tears of happiness. But many tears of pain are shed too. It’s a sad reality of life.

For now.

But one day that will no longer be the case.

So next time you wipe away your child’s tears (or even one of your own), let it be a gentle yet wonderful reminder to you of the gospel. Let it remind you that God sees your tears. Let it remind you that God sympathises with you as the one who knows our suffering and has been there with us. And let it remind you that God will one day wipe away the final tear of sadness from your eyes, and then tears will be no more.

Come Lord Jesus.

This is part of our “Gospel In The Everyday” series where we explore how everyday, ordinary moments point us to the comfort, hope and joy of the good news of Jesus. Click here to read the introduction to this series. 

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What is the gospel?

What is the gospel?

We’ve been really humbled by the reception that our blog has received since we launched it a little over a year ago, as we reflected on a little in the post on our first birthday.

One thing that has suprised us about the audience for the blog is how many people who are new to Christianity, or at least are very young Christians, have interacted with the blog. If you are one of them – thank you, we love having you around!

We’re convinced that the gospel is good news for every single person in whatever situation they face. We consider it a privilege to try to demonstrate something of how the gospel can shape and transform one area of life – parenting. We pray that you, the reader, whatever your background, will grow in your knowledge of the gospel and thus your love for Jesus as you engage with our blog.

To help our readers who have had less exposure to the good news of Jesus to better grasp the core of what that news is, we’ve added a new page to our website.

So this week, rather than putting out a new post of content, we thought we would point you to our new page. Let’s all take this opportunity to have a few moments together to bask in and be warmed by the sweet sunshine of the gospel.

Click here to head to our new page, ‘The Gospel’.

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Global Insights | Parenting in Doncaster

Here is the next installment in our Global Insights series. In this series we hear from other parents, learning about how the context in which they live impacts their Christian parenting. So far we’ve learnt about parenting in the Middle East and South Sudan. In this post, we hear from Christian blogger Rachel Ridler who tells us about her experience of parenting in the North of England.

Where do you live and what’s it like?

I live in a town called Mexborough which is just on the edge of Doncaster in South Yorkshire.  It is an ex-mining area so its not really the most aspirational of places, but I love the honesty of people around here when you get to know them.  People really are quite caring in Yorkshire.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities that you face in Christian parenting because of your context?

The biggest challenge I face is that being a “proper Christian” really is being the odd one out round here.  When I tell people that my husband works for a church, they are shocked.  I even got asked to come in to nursery to teach the kids about Easter, as they had never had a practicing Christian parent before!  I have to make sure I am proactive in teaching my sons about God in our home so that they can take that out into the world.  I was very proud to hear that my eldest had been telling the nursery the nativity story, even that their nativity story book wasn’t good enough and he was going to bring a proper one in from home!

There are many opportunities though, as most people don’t know what it truly means to love God.  I find it easy to make relationships with other mums round here, and they all know that I am “religious”.  Again, I am the odd one out but in a good way and I have plenty of opportunities to love people.

What do you do to encourage your children to love Jesus?

We try to have some God-time everyday, whether that be listening to praise music, praying before bed or reading bible stories.  We love using the Godventure materials and tried doing 40acts together last lent using the sticker chart.  I think most importantly though is that we model how to love Jesus in our own lives, through generosity to others, through being part of a church family and through worship in our own home.  Our sons see that and it is amazing to see them start to pick up on that.  My eldest is already very generous with his friends because that is what we are like and I hope that spirit grows and grows.  We are currently tackling the subject of prayer so any tips on how to do that appreciated!!

Rachel blogs at Rachel Ridler: Mum on a Mission, where she writes about her faith and parenting. It’s encouraging for us to read blog posts from other British Christian parents. Follow her on facebook here. 

We’d also love to hear from you! Where do you live and how does your cultural context impact your Christian parenting? If you’d like to participate in this series then please fill in the form below.

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How to support a friend through a miscarriage

How to support a friend through a miscarriage

Miscarriages are such difficult things.

We’ve mentioned before on this blog that in 2015 we suffered the heartbreak of two miscarriages. For us, they represent two precious babies that we never got to meet. Two personalities we never got to know. Two of our children’s lives that were cut too short.

There are so many painful things about miscarriages – to say we had such a sad time doesn’t come close.

And yet through those awful experiences there were numerous signs of the Lord’s kindness as he ministered to us.

One of the chief ways that we saw that was through kind members of our church family seeking to speak words of truth, comfort and gospel-hope to us through our grief. Did they always say the right thing? Definitely not. But their willingness to get alongside us, to share our grief and to seek to point us to our kind and compassionate Saviour in the midst of the darkness was wonderful.

We wanted to write this post to help you to do the same thing. Here are 3 things to avoid and 3 things to consider when speaking to someone who has suffered a miscarriage.

Don’t ask “how far along were you?”

We totally understand why people might ask this question. It has become almost the default question on hearing the news of a miscarraige. It’s true that the further on the pregnancy, the harder it is to physically deal with the effects of miscarriage. The further on the pregnancy, the more opportunity the parents have had to bond with the baby. All that is true.

But here’s the problem. When you say “how far along were you?” the suffering parent might just hear “the miscarriage matters less if it was an early miscarriage.” That’s not what the suffering parent should be made to feel in that moment. You don’t necessarily mean this, and it may well be useful for you to know how far along the pregnancy was, but maybe try to find out from someone else.

Instead, recognise that they’ve lost their baby, whether they were at 6 weeks or 6 months gestation, they’ve lost their baby. Support them through it.

Do demonstrate you care

Instead of the typical “how far along were you” question, perhaps say “I’m so sorry to hear that. Would you like to talk about it?”

This gives them the option to tell you the details should they want to.

We found that sometimes we wanted to talk about the miscarriage and other times we didn’t, and we appreciated it when people respected that. We did want community, but we didn’t always want to talk. One night we went over to a Christian friend’s house and they asked “how are you?” Cathy answered “crap”. So we ate chocolate and watched a film together. These are the same friends who cried and prayed with us when we suspected that Cathy was starting to miscarry, who gospelled us on other occasions, and who asked the question “how can we love you through this?”

When grieving it can be really tempting to withdraw from Christian community, especially if you feel like you will be hit with a sermon and judgment for being sad, so don’t be the bearer of that sermon and judgment! Compassion, gentleness and just being there with them is priceless and in fact, Biblical (check out God’s rebuke of Job’s friends for being heartless to see this).

Don’t suggest blame

A number of well meaning relatives and friends made comments to Cathy after the miscarriages about how physically active she had to be during pregnancy, because she was looking after a toddler. In the second pregnancy a couple of people said “make sure you take it easy this time”.

This time? This time? What, you mean as opposed to last time, where my overexertion made me lose my baby?

That’s what we felt at the time. Now we know the people who said this, and we know that they didn’t mean to hurt with those words. But they did hurt.

There are a number of problems with comments like these.

Firstly, current scientific understanding suggests that there’s no reason to cut down physical activity with pregnancy, as there is no causal link between physical activity and a greater risk of miscarriage.  It’s simply not factually correct.

But even if it were, it’s probably not the best thing to say. In the wake of a miscarriage, the last thing a parent in pain needs is to feel guilt for the miscarriage. They do not need to feel like they are somehow to blame for the loss of this precious little life.

Do point them to the only source of lasting comfort

The gospel is good news for everyone in any situation. That’s true for the grieving parent too.

The grieving parent needs to be reminded of the gospel. They need to know…

…that our heavenly father is full of compassion and grace for the broken-hearted

…that God never intended for death to exist but that it came about because of the brokenness of our world.

…that God hears our prayers and our sighs and he collects our tears.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Psalm 56:8 (NTL) 

…that Jesus wept at the grave of a loved-one.

…that our God became incarnate, and died to kill death once and for all – triumphing over it by his resurrection.

…that one day death will be no more and there will be no more tears, no more heavy-hearts, no more wavering faith and no more unanswered questions.

They need the comfort of the gospel – because they will find no lasting comfort anywhere else.

They need it and one day they will thank you for it.

But be careful in how you communicate it. Certainly don’t try and say it all at once!

When you have your friend’s broken-heart in your hands, treat it with great care. Speak gospel truths carefully, speak them compassionately, speak them prayerfully – lest, instead of gospel truths, your friend hears “you have forgotten important theology, you should be responding better than this” adding guilt to sorrow. They don’t need a theology lesson but in that moment they need to hear about the never-ceasing sympathy and hope of Christ.

If that sounds daunting it needn’t be. We found that we valued people trying to gospel us even if it was a bit clunky or came across a bit insensitive. Attempting to point hurting people to Christ will be greatly appreciated – we found that was a much better option than the alternative, which was people avoiding us because they found it all a bit awkward!

If face-to-face conversation sounds difficult to you then perhaps writing a comforting letter, lending a topical book or sending a Bible passage in a text message would be a realistic option for you? Reaching out to hurting people will bless them and help them feel supported.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

Don’t assume it’s over and done with

Miscarriage is the death of a loved one.

Yes it’s a loved one who’s been known for a relatively short time. But they are still loved, they are human beings and they are someone’s child.

You see, for that parent, they have dreamed of what that child will be like. They will have started decorating the nursery in their mind. Picking their first outfit. Packing the hospital bag. They will have begun to wonder or maybe even found out whether the child will be their little baby boy or little baby girl. They will have imagined the baby’s personality, hair, fingernails and the sound of their little giggle.

And so, when that life is tragically ended, there is grief.

Deep grief.

Grief like that of any person who experiences the sting of death.

There’s grief and sorrow and tears and loneliness and questions and heart-break and disappointment and shock and uncertainty and numbness and… and… and… well how do you even begin to articulate all that emotion to those around you?

It’s the death of a hope, of a life never to be lived, of a dream never to be realised and vitally, of a person. And this is where we need to be clear in a society muddled in confusion about the value of human life and in which babies in the womb are expendable – miscarriage is the loss of a human baby. A person made in the image of God, full of potential. A tiny person who should never have died – because that was not God’s original design for this world.

That’s tragic.

Don’t be surprised that there’s grief.

And the thing about grief is that it sticks around for a while. The initial tears may dry up, but sorrow is carried around in the heart for a long time after. When the baby’s due date comes round it’s a day of lament; the decision to try for another baby is an exercise of faith in God, of summoning courage and facing fear head on; subsequent pregnancies are tainted with anxiety; and for some there’s a long journey of uncertainty ahead, a journey that may never result in a biological child.

The grieving parents may have stopped crying, they may have stopped talking about the miscarriage, they may even be pregnant again – but don’t assume it’s all over. Because the processing continues, their conversation with their sovereign heavenly Father is ongoing, and quite simply, the painful memory never totally disappears.

Which leads us to the last (and much briefer) pointer…

Do continue to care for them for the long haul

It’s a simple point, but if you don’t assume that the trauma and pain is over because x months have passed or they’re pregnant again, then you will continue to ask “how are you doing?”

This is profoundly helpful, otherwise grieving and hurting people may feel like there is a certain date when they are meant to be “sorted” by. This may lead to isolation and guilt, but the gospel says that we can never exhaust Jesus’ compassion. His mercy and grace are endless, and the gospel says that we surely need it and can access it all the time. What’s more, he’ll never tire of the grieving parent bringing their sorrow to him. So we should model ourselves on him as we seek to support others.

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth… Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days…”

Isaiah 65

So there we have it – 3 do’s and 3 don’ts. This was a painful post for us to write, but we hope you found it helpful. Our prayer is that the Lord uses this post to help you as you interact with people around you who are suffering the grief of miscarriage.

Please do share this post if you think others would find it useful.

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Love your children more by loving them less

Love your children more by loving them less

Can you love your children too much? We hear people saying things like “my children are my world” and “my kids are my everything” a lot – what should we make of this? The big idea of this blog post is this: you can love your children too much. Yes, that’s right. If you’re intrigued, then read on.

Before we get too controversial, let us reel it in a bit. It is our privilege and joy to love our children. God gives us our children into our care to love and care for them. When we love our children we image our God – he is the ultimate parent who perfectly loves humanity, his children. We are to model our love for our children on our perfect God.

So that’s pretty high stakes for the love we should have for our children.

If that sets the bar of how much we should love our children, how could we possibly love our children too much?

In order to see this, we need to ask a question:

What is the ultimate good that I want for my child?

We need to come to a settled conviction of what is the most important thing for our children’s lives  – the thing that we consider our highest priority for them.

Let us suggest something. Our children are created by a God who loves them and wants to know them. The greatest gift that God has given to our children is himself – knowing him is the most fulfilling, joy-giving, satisfying reality that our children could experience. The best thing we can do for our children is introduce them to the gospel, and help them (with the Spirit’s work) to fall in love with Jesus.

People often speak of wanting, above all else, for their children to be happy. We think that’s not a great enough ambition. We want our children to be joyful. We want them to have a deep-seated, unshakeable and secure joy – the kind of joy that can only be found in Jesus. The kind of joy that can only be found when Jesus is at the centre of our children’s lives. The kind of joy that only comes when our children find their security, identity and sense of purpose first and foremost in Jesus.

But here’s the thing. If we communicate to our children that we love them more than anything else, we end up robbing them of the best thing we can give them. We want our children to see that there is someone who we love even more than them, and who they should too. We want to communicate through how we speak and live that Jesus is wonderful, and that he’s at the centre of everything. We want to speak about him passionately, warmly, winsomely and regularly! We want them to see, through our words and example, that Jesus is our deepest source of joy.

When we do this, when we love Jesus more than our children, we love our children better.

You see when Jesus isn’t our highest love, something else is, and that’s a problem. It’s a problem because we look to our highest love to provide for us in various ways. We look to it for our ultimate sense of worth, acceptance and joy. But many of these things that we make ultimate can’t live up to what we ask of them. They can’t provide the joy what we want them to. They’re finite and fallen and will disappoint us. Jesus is the only one who won’t.

If something other than Jesus is our highest love, we end up putting too much pressure on it to provide what it can’t. If that’s our children, that’s not loving to our children. But if Jesus is our highest love and we look to him for our joy, security, identity etc, then we don’t put the pressure on our children to provide those things. We love our children more by loving them less. Or, to be more accurate, we love our children more (and better) by loving Jesus even more than we love them.

So there we have it. Are you convinced? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful or thought-provoking, please help it to reach more people by sharing it on social media.

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Global Insights | Parenting in South Sudan

Global Insights | Parenting in South Sudan

We thought it would be inspiring to hear about how Christians parent their children in different parts of the world. There are many similarities in gospel-centred parenting world over, but there are also many differences depending on our cultural context. Read the introduction to this series here.

We’re excited to hear the story of a missionary couple living in South Sudan in this post. For safety purposes, they asked to remain anonymous.

Where do you live and what’s it like?

South Sudan. Amongst a rural people-group of agriculturalists in a remote and hilly region.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities that you face in Christian parenting because of your context?

We are missionaries here and so our days and life are shaped around telling our friends and neighbours about Jesus. The community is currently very open to us sharing the gospel so it is easy to talk of Jesus freely and openly both at home and around the villages. We are part of a team with other Christian families so all our daughter’s peers also know Jesus. Because our environment is so isolated we have a lot of control over what she sees and hears. There is no TV/internet or secular input aside from the local African traditional beliefs.
Some of the challenges include being away from a wider support network, such as Grandparents, to get advice/support. We are in a team of mixed nationalities, some of whom parent in quite different ways, so though we are all Christians this can be very challenging at times. Our daughter is often overwhelmed by attention from the local people who are fascinated by a little white girl with blond hair, which makes it a constant tension between loving and not offending our neighbours but also loving and protecting our daughter. It can also be hard to balance our ministry responsibilities alongside spending quality time with her, especially to stimulate and educate her when she must often play alone.

What do you do to encourage your daughter to love Jesus?

We pray for her, that she may know and love Jesus herself. However much we would like to, we can’t make it happen. We hope we demonstrate our own love of Jesus in our own lives, our marriage and our wider relationships. We do our own ‘kids church’ every week, sometimes twice weekly, where we sing songs together, read a Bible story and pray to God. Singing is something our daughter loves so it is easy to share Christian music with her e.g. Colin Buchanan*/Emu music. We try to include God in everything we do daily, so when out for walks we talk about the things Daddy God has made, or we explain when we are out telling Bible stories in the villages that it is so our friends can know King Jesus too. With limited resources we have found having ‘Beginning with God*‘ from the Good Book Company a helpful resource.

It’s so interesting to learn about parenting in different contexts. It helps us to analyse our own contexts where we our bringing up our children. We hope you’ve found this post inspiring and helpful.

Where we live in the UK we don’t have to worry about a lack of good Christian resources, or fear that our children will face isolation because of their faith/race. But we do face challenges like secular messages being communicated to our children through the internet, TV and even the school communities around them. Evangelistically there are challenges too, with many people being suspicious or apathetic to Christianity.

Reflect on your own context for a moment. What challenges and opportunities face you as you seek to live for Jesus and share your faith with your children?

We’d love to hear your reflections! Please fill in the form below to take part in the series yourself.

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Gospel-Centred Parenting’s First Birthday

Gospel-Centred Parenting’s First Birthday

It’s our blog’s first birthday!

We can hardly believe it’s been a whole year since we first started our blog.

It’s been quite a journey. Let’s take a moment to revisit it…

We started blogging at Gospel-Centred Parenting for a couple of reasons.

To remind us of the gospel

We started the blog to help us as parents apply the gospel to our parenting. At the time we had a toddler and Cathy was pregnant with our second child. We were starting our blog as we were starting out on our parenting journey.

The blog was birthed out of hard places. We mentioned that we were expecting our second baby, but his healthy pregnancy came after two miscarriages. We started this blog when we were still grieving the loss of those pregnancies, and we wanted to remember that the gospel really is good news for us as parents, as well as for our children.

But we were writing for another reason too…

To point others to the gospel

We also wanted to encourage other parents with the gospel. That’s why we picked and paid for the the domain “Gospel-Centred Parenting” and worked pretty hard to work our way up the Google ranking when people searched these words. We wanted other parents who were weighed down with the struggles and daily grind of parenting to be comforted by the amazing gospel of grace found in Jesus.

We wanted our blog to be characterised by the gospel. We wanted the gospel to be explored, cherished and explained in every post. We wanted to avoid the trap of simply calling our blog “gospel-centred” only to then insert some handy lifestyle tips or self-help motivational prose in it. We wanted people to be able to guess what we were going to write about in each post – the gospel – albeit from different angles and applied to different situations. We hope we’ve been able to explain that amazing story, those incredible truths, and paint a picture of our glorious saviour with originality and flair – a tricky thing to do each week! It’s been a good discipline for us though, lest we ever tire of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we’ve sought to encourage others with the comfort of the gospel, we’ve been majorly encouraged in return.

We’ve been really encouraged by you. We are excited by how God has been growing a community of gospel-centred parents. We’ve been encouraged by how you are gospelling your children in the everyday; how you are believing the gospel is good news to sustain you through the highs, lows and sheer exhaustion; and how you are seeking to make major decisions in light of the gospel.

So thank you!

It’s encouraging that there’s an army of like-minded parents all over the country, and indeed, world, who are doing this crazy parenting thing with Jesus in the centre (well, at least that’s the intention).

Knowing there are others doing the same thing emboldens and strengthens us.

We’ve spent some time today looking over the statistics for our blog over the last year, and were overwhelmed and humbled with the people who’ve connected with our blog.  Here’s a few fun stats:

Number of users: 6,064

Continents with readers: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Australasia, Asia (Not Antartica- yet!)

Number of blog posts: 60

Number of competitions: 2

Number of incidents of writers block: 1

Number of marital arguments over the blog(!): 1

Number of trolling incidents: 1

Number of blessings: too many to recount!

Here’s some things that you’ve said over the last year:

“I just wanted to write to say thanks for your blog, your insights and parenting wisdom… I’m a silent blog reader normally but this has made me think again and so I hope I can encourage you in the way I’ve been encouraged! So thanks for writing and spurring us on to parent for Christ.”

“Thanks for your blog. I really get a lot from it. I usually read it during a night feed as it’s the most peaceful time of the day at the minute!”

“Ah, wow…thanks for this really helpful blog. It’s so good to do a heart check!”

“Both just read this and so grateful for your honesty and insight. Really connect with your thinking and found it very moving.”

Thank you so much for your encouragement. It helps us to keep motivated to write our posts, and to be intentional in our parenting – even though it’s tough!

Here are, according to the stats, our three top blog posts of the last year:

  1. Talking to your kids about sex
  2. Five minutes that ruined my day and five words that redeem it
  3. Five parenting mistakes to avoid| Discontentment 

(We’ve pretty much learnt that the scarier something is to publish the more traction it gets. People like real. And real makes much of Jesus so we’re cool with that.)

So, what does the future hold for Gospel-Centred Parenting?

This next year we aim to keep pointing ourselves and others to Jesus through weekly blog posts. As well as this we’ve got a couple of exciting ideas in the pipeline of other resources to equip us to parent in a gospel-centred way, so watch this space for them. These ideas are in the early stages, but you may hear more about them in time.

Thank you

So thank you again. We’ve loved thinking about parenting our boys with your support and encouragement. It’s been great doing this is community with you and we pray that God will bless you and your families this coming year.

With love,

Scott and Cathy

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The story of fear and the story of the gospel

The story of fear and the story of the gospel

What emotions spring to mind when you think about parenting?

Hopefully there are some lovely ones – joy, anticipation, love, trust, amazement. Some others may sneak in there too – anger, sadness… maybe even occasional disgust.

Here’s an emotion that I think, at one time or another, is pretty universal for parents:


It’s not always a bad thing. Fear of your child being run over causes you to hold on tightly to their hand when you walk by a busy road. Fear of your child choking causes you to chop up their food.

But let’s be honest – fear isn’t simply about these things, is it? We fear all sorts of things, and many of them aren’t nearly so rational. Or if not irrational, at the very least we fear things that we have very little control over. We fear things about our children’s futures that we can’t possibly micromanage enough to control the outcome – they’re simply too complex.

We fear hypothetical illnesses that we have no reason to assume are imminent. We fear that we’re not doing the right things to encourage their growth in language, social skills, sporting prowess, academic ability, or whatever it is. We fear how they’ll make friends, how they’ll behave in different situations without us there, how they’ll cope in this world that’s changing in ways we don’t like.

Here is the heart what we want you to see in this post, here’s what we want to believe more deeply: most of our parenting fears are not real. Most of our fears are stories that we tell ourselves, that we choose to believe. We need to stop listening to these stories, and instead listen to the story of the gospel.

Let me take one example to help you see this.

We fear how our children will cope in a world that’s changing in ways we don’t like. Different fears for the future will play out for different people. We see a political direction that makes us uncomfortable or a shift in the values that our culture celebrates that don’t align with ours. We see ways that it’s becoming more difficult to be a Christian who holds to a Biblical worldview. We see the threat of global warming and the slowness of the world’s response and we wonder where it will end up.

We see these changes in the world around us, we follow the trajectory of their stories, and we don’t like the plotline that we can see coming.

We imagine a story of where the world is going, we believe that story, and the result is fear.

Now listen to a different story. It may look no different, externally. The political story may continue to develop differently to how we’d like. The moral decline of society might continue; intolerance may increase; the world may increase in temperature.

But need that result in fear? Well of course, we should be concerned about these things. Humanity is called to be stewards of this world, and so we want to see that done in the best way possible – whether it’s ecologically, societally, morally or politically.

But fear? I’m not sure the story needs to go there.

Here are two wonderful verses that are true for you, and are true for your children:

Matthew 10:29-31:

 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Romans 8:15

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.””

Here are two things that mean that you don’t need to fear the way this world is going – even if your worst case scenarios play out.

God cares about our children. He really does. But more than that, he is sovereignly in control of even the minutiae of what happens in this world. The story of history is not outside of his control. God assigns us deep worth, and he is in control. So whatever happens to us, whatever happens to our children, fear need not be the emotion that we experience. We can trust God. His sovereign hand is active, and he acts for his children who he deems to be of deep worth.

And for those of our children who are Christians, that truth can be taken a step further. However the future plays out, there is a wonderful, mind-boggling truth that we can cling to. Our children have the Spirit in them. Even if the world is terrifying, they don’t need to be a slave to fear. They have the Spirit of sonship. They are adopted into the family of God. They know God as father. They don’t need to have fear, whatever’s going on, because the God of the universe is their father, and he’s caring for them. They don’t need to fear, and nor do we.

The story of our fear is that our children will be crushed in this hard world. The story of the gospel is that our God is good and in control whatever happens, that he’s a caring Father. This is all made possible because of what Jesus has done.

Do you see how this makes a world of difference? Here’s what we said earlier: most of our parenting fears are not real. Most of our fears are stories that we tell ourselves, that we choose to believe. We need to stop listening to these stories, and instead listen to the story of the gospel.

The story of the gospel means that we can have a radically different perspective on the stories that bring us fear. There are truths and promises that we can cling to that rewrite our stories of fear.

So here’s the challenge. Next time you feel fear taking over your parenting, ask yourself this question: what story am I choosing to believe? Understand that, understand how the gospel tells a different story, and pray that the Spirit of Sonship would speak words of comfort to your heart.

Fear is pretty much a universal emotion in parenting. But it need not be. The story of the gospel means that we can be liberated from fear, into the freedom of the gospel. Praise the Lord!

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