Letters to my Children: Humble Yourselves

To my boys Abe and Caleb, both of whom are far greater gifts than I could ever deserve. I hope this to be the first of many letters in which I intend to deliver to you the most important matters of truth, which in God’s sovereign providence have also been given to me.

All of the deepest matters of truth are found in the person and work of Christ. Christ, the eternal Son humbled himself to a cross to be killed by his own creatures. God demonstrated awesome humility in this action of grace. The Creator crucified! Remember he said that no one takes his life from him but he lays it down if his own accord? His resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of His Father came after the humiliation of the cross.

So we should take his example to heart. Consider these true biblical statements: I am a sinner yet I am a child of God; I am weak and needy yet I am a mighty warrior; I am a slave yet I am more than a conqueror. You see, God’s revelation demands his creatures glory in humility. To rule is to serve. The greatest in His kingdom make themselves to be the least.

Grace is what you need and grace is given to the humble. Pride will lead to a fall; the prideful are enemies of God. Resist the desire to make much of yourself to others. Make much of Christ and let Him exalt you in His good timing. Speak less than others and listen. Always stay teachable. When you fail and when you return to Christ, comfort others with the same mercy and grace you’ve been shown.

May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts

– Dad

A Child’s Witness

A child’s unrestrained unction will test an adults perception of their own boldness. What do I consider bold? I’m a grown man now, and I sometimes think myself bold for sharing my faith in public. My oldest son Abe, who is now 4, is challenging me on this issue. I try to teach my children about God’s character, not just some of them but all of the characteristics of God revealed in scripture. His Holiness, perfection, law, mercy, patience, grace and love, etc. I teach them that Christ came to save sinners from hell and gives the only true hope for eternal life. I have tracts around the house that I bought from Ray Comfort’s Living Waters ministry that challenge people to consider if they think they are good when compared to God’s law. Abe is fascinated with these tracts and asks me to read them to him often. 

Abe talks loudly.  Sometimes he asks questions about the fear of God, death, sin, the unseen and a whole litany of other subjects because we constantly talk about them. My younger boy is starting to do the same, he is about to turn 3. Sometimes these discussions will erupt in public places, recently one did at the local diner. I have to be honest, there is an impulse of the flesh that wants to silence a loud child who is talking of any uncommon subject in public, especially when the subject is about God. Most grown people honestly just don’t want God in their thinking. A lesson I’m learning is that a child who is taught of God will not hesitate to talk about Him aloud, anywhere. As Christ reminds the believer in the scriptures, let the little children come to me. Holy Spirit subdue this flesh that strives to remain passive along with the rest of culture. 

So I find myself asking the question, is this phenomenon a coincidence? Is this not an exceptionally well timed testing of my faith? Here is the reality, my child’s faith challenges me to always be ready to talk to my neighbor about the hope that is in me; I can see this child will not hesitate to bring Him up in public discourse at anytime and in any place. Will I brush my boys’ comments to the side and choose to talk about the whether or will I use them as an opportunity to witness to Christ, teach them in public and proclaim the forgiveness of sins to this world? Lord have mercy, for if I’m honest I’ve probably elected to do the former 9 times out of 10. Not necessarily due to unbelief but most likely due to my own laziness. 

Abe has been invited by a friend from his nursery school to a birthday party. Of his friends from school, this will be Abe’s very first party he attends and he is super excited. He wants to give his pal those gospel tracts as part of his gift. He is super enthusiastic about giving these tracts to his friend because he considers the message contained in there to be good news. Abe has told me that I might need to read them to his friend because he can’t read yet. So my teaching my boy is producing fruit and now opportunity is presenting itself to me in that I have been given an objective witness to my son’s friend’s parents. I am encouraging him to give the tracts and am now praying for boldness to share the gospel at this birthday party when I go with him. I do sense the flesh wanting to object at so many points here, but it must be slayed at every one of them and I will not even give rise to its arguments. God willing, these parents of Abe’s friend will get the gospel through my son’s witness, through me and through those tracts. 

As I reflect on a child’s faith, which both Abe and Caleb are starting to display more and more, they are not quick to hesitate to have God in their thinking or on their lips like most adults are. They are coming to Christ and I can see that Christ doesn’t turn the little ones away. I know this world will certainly challenge them to be silent as it does me, but I better not do such a thing. Just the other day Caleb pointed to the moon when we got out of the car and shouted, “look daddy, God put that there!” I am thankful to see that my children hear me when I speak and understand what I say in the privacy of our home. The duty given to me now is to continue the discussion whenever and wherever we find ourselves, inviting whoever into it. They aren’t afraid to ask questions in my house or in public and I intend to keep it that way. The easy thing to do would be not to give real answers but to silence their inquiries and avoid the work of finding real responses. To hush their excitement. 

As a Christian father, I now see parenting partially designed to help parents grow in the area of witnessing. Will we have faith like a child? Will we be excited to talk about God wherever the opportunity arises? I pray that me and my wife will be enabled to do so by God’s grace, for in this work is wisdom, joy and blessing. 

The Heat is in the Tools

Up here in the frigid northeast, us Yankees and our near neighbors find ourselves in the brunt of winter. Howling winds, piled snow banks, broken shovels, dried skin, salty white roads, large heating bills and comforting hot drinks come to mind. If the constant drumbeat of the hardships that winter bring don’t stir ones desire for spring then the cold drafts that sneak through every hidden crack in your exterior wall making their way under your comfy living room chair might do the trick. Spring is becoming more and more like a dream in this frozen arena. A dream I know I can hope for is a comforting one.

In my mid 30s now, I think it’s safe to say I’m over my obsession with the playfulness of snow. As a married father of two young children and with a more balanced list of priorities, a constant agenda of riding on top of the white fluffy stuff is a thing of the past. Although, I do see opportunity to teach my boys the trade. My oldest (4 years old) has already made it down my slightly sloped back yard on a snow board without falling 2 years in a row now. I’ve mentioned the mountain in passing to him and he can’t wait to go. I laugh when I think about the expressions on his face when I first tried to explain to him what a chair-lift is. If only I could get a painting of the imagery my description produced in his little fruitful mind! I’d probable see something like my living room reclining chair with rocket boosting arms that can fly people up the mountain. Art deserving of a frame for sure.

While I’m ready for spring and seemingly more and more prone to find myself singing along with the anti-winter choir, I can’t help but think I should be feeding my children’s hunger to play in the snow. What an awful pull and at the same time a rewarding task. In my experience as a carpenter who worked through many winters I know what the slogan means that “the heat is in the tools.” Maybe a modified slogan can apply to those with children trying to stave this windy winter, “the heat is in the parenting.”

Parenting, Sacrifice, and Adulthood

Parenting my children can be draining at times. My two boys, both who are under five years of age, seem to have more energy as a day lingers on than I do at day’s dawn. Some evenings after work I’ll exhaustively get down on the floor with them and push play-dough into plastic molds pretending we are banishing evil armies while freeing damsels in distress. Other times I retreat to my living room chair always keeping a close eye on the clock so I can be sure to have them in bed by 7:30 PM prompt. Getting my boys to bed reserves me some respite and releases me to an early retirement in my own comfortable mattress. Balancing responsibilities while establishing right priorities is the challenge. By God’s grace I pray He equips me to train my boys in the way they should go despite my persistently fleeting ambition to properly parent.

​So much efforts is exerted each day in my workplace; when I come home to my family, the temptation for my soft chair in the living room tends to lures me in. The fabric on the arms of my chair are well worn down from much use, and the springs in the seat ring and pop each time I sit. There is a small, round button on the right hand of the chair that engages the reclining function. It does not take much effort to push in the button. In fact, my boys have learned how easy it is to press on it. Seeing the legs fly forward as a result of their effort has brought many wide smiles to both their faces. This extended chair provided for many climbing adventures on “Mount Daddy” for both my boys. I couldn’t have been more pleased with these types of games. Getting to enjoy the presence of my boys while also relaxing in the comfort of my favorite seat was a pleasure that has not lasted long enough!

​One day my oldest son Abe, pulling me off my chair with his left hand grabbing my pinky and his right hand wrapped around my pointer finger, asked me, “Daddy, why do you go to work every day?” As he pulled me into the playroom, I directed him to look on the floor where there is a white metal grate, and I asked him, “Do you know what that is Abe?” “That’s the heater daddy,” he replied. I had him get closer and put his hand over the vent so he could feel the warm air pushing up against his palm. “Daddy goes to work to keep that air coming through that vent nice and warm in the winter time,” I said. Abe’s eyebrows pushed a little closer together. I could see his face puzzling over what I had just told him. It was almost as if there were two thousand more questions he would have wanted to ask. We went on to talk about all the bills involved with heating and cooling our home. I have observed to my surprise and amusement that such discussions are seemingly precious to my children; I’m continually amazed at what they seem to remember most.

​My favorite time spent with the boys is when I sing to them in their beds at bedtime. My oldest child started the trend, but Caleb catching on very quickly by watching his older brother chimes in almost every night saying, “Daddy, we want a new song. Sing a bran, bran, bran, bran new one!” Their soft, little hands reach out to grab hold of mine, and I begin to sing new songs on the fly. Sometimes I sing about events that took place that day or about things that make them laugh. One song in particular, that the boys get a kick out of, is about elephants that jump from balloon to balloon; my arm acts as the elephant’s trunk that tickles them when a random balloon pops in the middle of the song. Most of the time I try to sing about the greatness of the God of the Bible. It is such a blessing to sing into their lives. Many times these songs will last until they are sound asleep, and we will have covered topics like the crucifixion, resurrection, salvation, forgiveness of sins, and many more Christian themes; I liken it to sowing the seed of the gospel through spiritual songs.

​I could use a daily reminder to treasure the moments I have with my little ones. Sadly, most nights of the work week only allow for two or three hours spent with my boys before bed time, and some days I fear those hours are not spent well. I’m blessed to have a wife who helps as much as she can (who also knows my struggle as she is a full time nurse) and challenges me to make the most of the time. One thing I’ve learned is that in order for me to truly enjoy my children requires a certain level of self sacrifice. Giving up comfort and ease is not high on any persons agenda, but parenting has a sure fire way of purging laziness, propelling maturity, and promoting adulthood.