The edges of the trees, they already whisper fall. A splash of color in a sea of green, promising new adventures, sights, sounds and smells. Some mornings we crave blankets for cuddling together on the couch as the nights dip cooler.
Is it time for that first pot of homemade chicken-noodle soup and fresh applesauce, the kids wondered this week. When do we visit the orchard to pick apples and take a hay ride?
Seasonal change is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father, who abounds in grace and love. He delights in our seasonal joy.
Along with the fun comes change for our children's and family's schedules, with school and activities commencing this week. As Christians, how do we decide what is good and holy, and what is worldly, as we fill up our calendars? How should kids and families be spending their time?
And, as we gather markers and crayons, sets of novels and math programs, tissue boxes and lined paper, binders and just the right scissors for little hands...what might be forgotten?
On that last day we'll be held accountable for how we spent our resources: time, money, talents
What is pure and faultless, in regards to our time, money, talents?
It's easy to get caught up in facilitating the perfect future for our children. We wonder: what will help them get along with others, assert themselves appropriately, master new technologies, get in the best schools, be competitive in the workplace?
But do we also ask...what will make my child a better Christian soldier?
Are we rearing a capitalist, or a Christian? What works in the world doesn't always work for God.
Some ideas for pursuing the pure and faultless this fall:
1. Make time for prayer
Fall school preparation is not complete without our humbled hearts asking for God's blessing for our children...
...that they will be lights for Christ and not give in to the pressure to act tough and calloused. In our humanity we have a strong desire to belong. If there are no acceptable groups to belong to at school--many groups will bully others while in mass; teach your children about mob mentality--then children need an even stronger sense of belonging at home. We must have enough family time and bonding to prevent kids from filling that need in all the wrong places. Strong family ties lessen the need to belong to bad-news groups of kids. Remember even a nice child can become mean when in a group. Teach them to stand up for the bullied early on, or to get help from an adult. You might check out the book The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes to introduce the dangers of bullying and teasing.
...that they will have strong work ethics and study habits.
...that they will be a friend to make a friend.
...that they won't keep secrets from Mom and Dad.
...that their friends, teachers, and schools will be safe.
...that they will obey their parents in the Lord, even while away from home.
2. Keep Devotional/Discipling Time Sacred
If each child pursues a sport or activity in the same season, will you still have time for family dinners and family devotional time? Or even to pray together briefly once a day with Daddy involved, since he is the most influential in terms of children holding onto their faith?
Can you alternate the sports or activities so that only one child participates at a time, or so they'll do the same activity and share the same schedule?
Consider that the more your children are away from you, the more time you'll have to spend intentionally discipling them when they are with you. If you choose public or Christian school and then after-school activities, how many hours do the children have with parents each week? Is it enough time to really talk? Think about the time Jesus spent discipling the Twelve. He talked to them extensively...questioning, challenging, teaching. Much of it happened naturally as they dwelt together, but if dwelling together all day isn't possible, how can you make it intentional and unhurried?
3. Is there a better use of your money?
One thing to consider as you peruse the price lists for different activities is this: Can you still be a good steward of the financial resources God gave you, as you spend money on after-school activities? Can you do a full tithe and offer something to the poor as well? Many children are involved in expensive activities and we might feel left out if our children don't do them this season, but what does God say? Are we supposed to fit it with the world, or with Jesus?
4. Is there a better use of your time?
Jesus make it clear what we're to do: Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Does your child still have time to do a personal prayer and Bible reading time, in addition to homework and after-school activities? Short of our unconditional love and the knowledge of God's gift of eternal life, there is one other thing they must leave our home with: solid personal devotional habits. Without this in place, they'll be a worldly, fleshly Christian, at best.
And what about loving others? Does your child still have time to call or write to the grandparents? To visit a nursing home to love on the residents there, maybe reading scripture or poetry, singing or playing an instrument they're learning, or baking something and having a tea time with them? Do they have time to write letters to your sponsored children, or to other children who need encouragement? How can they tangibly love on others this fall? God always puts people in our midst who need love. It's up to us to respond.
As your child chooses activities, think about how the talents or skills can bless others. Can they play a song on the piano to make someone smile, or on the clarinet? Can they learn to draw for the glory of God? The arts can help us express love for God, and reflect that love.
A good question to ask is this: Can participating in this activity just bless me, or others as well? Can I use it to shine Jesus' light to the world in some way? What are the ultimate goals and can I meet these same goals while loving others, serving others?
A good message to highlight as we raise our children: It's not all about you.