In a rut in your marriage? Here’s a short but challenging encouragement from @FamilyLifeToday’s “Moments with You” from Nov 27th…

Rut Busters
by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country…There I will give you my love.
Song of Solomon 7:11-12

I don’t know what “routine” means to you, but this was ours when the kids were still at home:

Up before sunrise, have a few words together, maybe enjoy a little breakfast or a cup of coffee, exchange a kiss on the cheek and it’s goodbye for the day.

I take kids to school and then drive on to the office, while Barbara stays home to get busy with her own work. She deals with endless issues involving the children–school, laundry, chores, errands, doctors and conflicts. Meanwhile, I juggle budgets and meetings and problem solving all day long.

Our paths cross again around 6 P.M., after both of us have emptied about 90 percent of our tanks. We take a glance at the news, eat dinner, flip through the mail, pay some bills, clean up the dishes, help with school work. Then an hour of getting the kids to bed. Barbara tries to get in some reading before sleep overtakes her.

That’s the drill.

But there is no imagination in that. I’m not saying that a typical day can routinely accommodate wild swings of adventure, but I’ll tell you this (if you haven’t noticed already): A routine is just a few letters away from being shortened to a rut. A rut you will never escape unless you make a deliberate effort to do so. And I guarantee that your “rut” will never be on the same page as “romance” in your marital dictionary.

When the TV show Desperate Housewives first began its iconic rise into our national awareness, Newsweek did a feature article on the phenomenon. I remember one of the women who was interviewed lamenting, “Don’t you remember the time when he kissed you with a kiss that launched a thousand kisses?”

Is there ever room for that in the middle of your routine?

Discuss
Ready to spice up the routine? How would you do it if you could? (You can, you know.)

Pray
Ask the Creator for a delightful dose of His creativity to give you a break from the routine.

Excerpted from Moments With You by Dennis and Barbara Rainey

I am thankful for our church family, @WestpointChurch. How are you grateful for the church family with whom you are on mission?

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I am so thankful for Westpoint Church, the church family with iwhom Jen and the kids and I are blessed to do life together.

For the Gospel that has captured our hearts together and compelled us on mission together. For the many ways they encourage Jen and the kids. For the faithful friendships and loads of fun we have together. For the many truths we are learning and being affirmed in and even being challenged by as we navigate Kingdom alive in daily rhythms. For the many ways we are being sharpened by the folks with whom we do life from whose lives we learn so much as they walk with Jesus and love us like He has loved them. For the simplicity of the ways we are being the church that is welcoming of all who want to be the church more than just go to church.

I could write so much more, but I want to mention specifically how thankful we are for a pastoral team and a vision team and a volunteer group alongside whom we are so blessed to equip and serve. I know many of them would express the same sentiment.

Our journey has been such a beautiful, challenging, worthwhile one these nine years. And we are excited to see what 2013 holds for Westpoint Church!!!

How are you thankful for the church family with whom you get to do life and with whom you live on mission?

Hope the day is both refreshing and relaxing as you celebrate gratefulness to God with family and friends.

I am thankful for my family. What is one way you are thankful for your family?

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I am thankful for my family.

For my wife who is my best friend, whose beauty is unmatched, whose faith is unwavering, whose passion is our children’s hearts, whose affection is beyond fulfilling, and whose wisdom is so edifying.

For children who anticipate my arrival home, who are perseverant of my parental flaws, whose laughter fills up my heart, whose hugs are therapeutic, and whose imaginations take me on unforgettable adventures.

For a father who mirrored and modeled our heavenly Father’s gracious, generous love. For a brother who invited me along with him to learn and live the ways of Jesus. For in-laws who welcomed me into their family, encouraged me to take Jen’s hand in marriage, and who support our family with uplifting fellowship that we treasure beyond words.

I am thankful for my family.

How are you thankful for yours?

i am thankful that “God came near.” describe below one way you are grateful to God…

Today, I wanted to share very simply that I am as grateful as I know how to be that “God came near.

Describe here in the comments one way you are grateful to God or specifically one way He has shown His presence in Your life. I would dig reading it and sharing in thankfulness with you this week.

Tomorrow – thankful for my family…

Contrast 5 of 5 _ parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ hurry, haphazardness, & hands-off OR patience, priorities, and pursuit.

Parenting takes time. A fast correction at times is enough, but often a focused conversation is necessary. In a moment of frustration, a parent can react with an angry rebuke, but walking down a path toward restoration with a child takes much longer. Parenting doesn’t give much space for hurry.

Parenting is strategic. Inconsistency is guaranteed to produce exasperation both for the parent and the child, but intentional, creative, redundant emphases over time blossom into wise choices and relational joy, both for the parent and the child. Haphazardness is not characteristic of effective parenting.

Parenting requires presence. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Occaisional gifts don’t make up for frequent absence. Respect grows as connection is valued. A hands-off approach is no way to parent.

And thus the final contrast. A prayer of sorts.

Lord, help us to be parents who hurry less, avoid haphazardness, and settle for hands-off declarations and pithy lectures. Please make us to become parents who patiently walk alongside our children, who cultivate into our kids’ lives with priorities surrendered to You, and who pursue wandering children the way You have pursued us.

PATIENCE
Yesterday morning, Jen took the older four to see the play version of the classic “Frog and Toad” stories. They adored it. My favorite tale from that collection is the one in which Toad desires a garden just like Frog’s. He plants and them is impatient. Frog tried to encourage Toad that screaming at the plants to grow isn’t probably gonna be effective. Patience and watering and more patience and even some circumstances beyond the gardener’s control and some more patience are required.

One wise dad once told me that “steady plodding brings the truest wealth,” patient cultivation brings the greatest harvest. It is true in our parenting for sure.

What helps me most to be patient with others is simply my own remembering of how much patience I require others to have with me.

PRIORITIES
When I coached high school basketball, Coach Rick Majerus, whom I am quite sure is disappointed with the closing of Hostess, declared to the coaches at his coaching clinic this very wise leadership principle:

“It is not what you teach but what you emphasize.”

Dick Bennett, who coached the Wisconsin Badgers to the 2000 Final Four, told our coaching staff to settle on four or five things that we creatively, redundantly practiced every practice, and he guaranteed not an undefeated season but rather that we would find ourselves AT LEAST in position to possibly win every game. We applied this with much success.

With the same thinking in mind, Jen and I settled on six actions that we would try to live ourselves (with the Spirit’s help) and cultivate into and encourage from our kids. We are in no way suggesting that we are great parents who have arrived at some gold nuggets of wisdom guaranteeing wonderful kids. Rather, we prayed and paid attention to the teachings of Jesus and sought counsel from some other parents and arrived at these six:

:: be believing
…that God loves us and is good and showed us His love most clearly when He sent His Son to be with us to live and die and live again that we might live with Him. The question to ask may not be, “What do you think of God,” but rather, “What does God think of you?”

:: be confessing
…when we realize or have been confronted with our selfishness or our wrongful attitude and actions toward God and others.

:: be grateful
…for the God who came near and all that He allows to come into our hands and into our lives, trusting Him to hold us both through our own mistakes as well as our collisions with the mistakes of others.

:: listen
…every step to God and every situation to others.

:: learn
…from Jesus as we walk with Him and with others as we learn and live Christ’s ways together.

:: love
…the God who loved us first as well as neighbors and nations the way Jesus loved us.

PURSUIT
In Psalm 139, David sang this prayer:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
(Psalm 139:23, 24 HCSB)

David’s profound gratefulness and contrite heart and surrendered life comes through in these words like no other. It is a sober and beautiful expression of worship toward the God who forgave and restored this great King.

A lot of people’s view of God is not one of a Divine Being who pursues them. For many of them, this is because their own father and mothers never pursued relationship with them in this way.

Dennis and Barbara Rainey applied these two verses to our parenting in a significant way. It is a powerful challenge to all of us as parents to pursue our kids.

When you pursue this kind of heart-to-heart relationship with your children, you’re actually following God’s example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful (someday) if your kids could say of you, “My parents have ‘searched me and known me.’ They know not just ‘when I sit down and when I rise up,’ but they also ‘understand my thought’ and are ‘intimately acquainted’ with who I am and what I’m like”?

I pray all of our kids will say that about all of us as parents, reflecting on the ebb and flow and ups and downs of a beautiful adventure with their moms and dads.

May we parent with patience and priorities and pursuit. Intentionally. Over the long haul. With grace. For the sake of God’s goodness rather than their own.

Contrast 4 of 5 regarding parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ intentionality or interruption???

I like going to the movies. My mom and I used to go see every Bond film together when it would come out in theaters. Special memories. I wish she could go with me to Skyfall. My brother and I can hopefully enjoy it together soon.

I don’t like it when others act like they are the star of this movie called Life. I don’t even like it when I act that way. And our kids certainly don’t like it when I treat them like they are interrupting the scene of the movie called “My Life.”

Not trying to step on any toes here as much as I am being confessional, but may I encourage us all as parents to choose parenting kids with intentionality rather than treating kids like interruptions.

Kids need parents. They are becoming what they were intended to be, and we as their moms and dads play an important role in that becoming. God has given them to us. We are stewards of their lives. We do not need to treat them like they are annoyances. We do not need to make them feel like interruptions.

In a grace based parenting home, parents aren’t gonna bat 1.000 on this. We need grace, too. Kids as beloved as they are can be bothersome at times, can get under our skin. But in a grace based culture, the frustrations can be fruitful if kept in check and responded to with intentionality.

That’s the real issue with our parenting, isn’t it? We tend to give knee-jerk reaction instead of thoughtful proaction. We tend to correct them in the grocery store with perfection at 3 years old in mind rather than 33. We tend to think only of how they might embarrass us at a 9 year old’s birthday party rather than how they might embarrass themselves at a 19 year old’s birthday party.

Are we cultivating into their hearts and lives for the long haul or for the short term? Are we parenting as though steady plodding for harvest or impatiently waiting in line for fast food?

God would surely be considered the model parent. In His dealings with the children of Israel, He always saw obedient response, right? Wrong. They were a stubborn, wandering people. God had to deal with their selfishness. He intentionally parented them. Faithfully, He loved them no matter what. Purposefully, He disciplined them, restoring them with a long term view in mind.

With His help, by His Spirit and God-given wisdom, we too can patiently, faithfully, purposefully parent our kids with focused intentionality.

But what should be the focus of our intentionality?

Rather than pretending that there is a magic formula or a silver bullet for this, may I suggest an exercise for us parents? Read Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, specifically Jesus’ teaching emphases, and try to derive four to six major themes from His teachings. Consider these as the focus of your intentionality as a parent. Bounce them off of a few others moms and dads for suggestions. Then begin over these 18 plus years you, Lord willing, will have with each child, steadily, patiently, intentionally sowing the seeds of those teachings, those Kingdom seeds of the living Word of God, into the hearts and minds and lives of those beloved kids.

But be cautious. I worry that we often get caught up in intentionally, or possibly unintentionally, parenting our kids in such a way that they avoid hardship trying to manipulate or ensure their arrival at a happy, prosperous life.

Be willing to surrender this way of thinking if you do not see it as the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings. Did He teach that in our following Him we would avoid hardship? Did He teach that personal happiness was the goal for each of our lives? I would suggest He did not.

He did, however, teach to love meant to lay down my life. He did teach that hardship was certain but His presence with me is a guarantee. He did teach that difficulty didn’t always equal bad, but might even be a means by which a blessing would come. He did teach that abundant life is given to me NOT as I pursue personal abundance, but rather as I live open handed with all that I have. He did teach that I find the fullness of who I really am when I love God and love my neighbor. He did teach that I was most likely to see Him not when I looked in the mirror at my own polished goodness, but rather when I looked into the eyes of the sick, the thirsty, the poor, the lame, the imprisoned, the ignored.

What will you intentionally cultivate into the lives of your kids? Is it in line with the teachings of our Savior, or is it more similar to the status quo of our society?

Tomorrow, in our last post of the week preparing us for the Grace Based Parenting Family Conversation, I’ll give “the bottom line,” including six things that Jen and I have decided to make priorities for cultivation into the lives of our own kids as we try to intentionally parent in a steady-plodding way.

Grateful to be learning together.

Contrast 3 of 5 regarding parenting from grace vs. parenting for moralism _ parental apology or parental pride???

One dad told me he would never apologize to his kids. My heart sank. Our kids so often do what they have seen their parents do. What would the likelihood be of his kids recognizing that God desires a contrite heart more than a polished exterior?

Are we as parents willing to model confession? Are we willing to show our kids the value of a contrite heart?

King David coveted, committed adultery, lied, manipulated, murdered, and covered it up. We know people like him as shameful, disgraced, untrustworthy, controlling, imprisoned, and treacherous. The Bible declares him to be a man after God’s heart.

Come again?

Let me say up front that grace based parenting is not an excusing approach to parenting. It is not a do-whatever-you-want-and-I’ll-always-overlook-it form of parenting. My wife and I, as we are praying for wisdom and learning the pragmatism of this approach, we still pronounce consequences and rebuke and interject and redirect. The people whom we have either read about or seen practicing grace based parenting do, as well. The difference is that we don’t do this expecting perfection. We do it hoping for confession.

It would be irresponsible for a shepherd to just let a sheep continue wandering toward the cliff or over by a wolf’s den. The good shepherd doesn’t do this. Rather, he wants the wandering sheep to be close to him. So, when the wandering sheep wanders, the shepherd goes to her to guide her closer. If she wanders again, he nudges her back. In the discernment of the shepherd, and it is different for each sheep, there may come a time when her legs need to be broken. If the shepherd does this, he then carried the sheep on his shoulders for the duration of her healing. The sheep learns walking again as she stumbles along near the shepherd, learning to listen to his voice rather than her own or the voice of any other besides the Shepherd. It is no guarantee that the sheep won’t wander again, but it is a demonstration of the guaranteed love of a near Shepherd.

So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. [This happens] because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.”
(John 10:7-15 HCSB)

We have a shepherd who deals with us in this gracious way. We need Him, especially as parents. He will not model for us a way of loving others that will lead to destruction. And He gives us the chance to learn how deep the Father’s love for us, how willing to lay down His life the Shepherd is, by giving us the chance to be a good shepherd to our own kids.

Who is the burden on? The one whose legs are broken when they wander or the one who carried the wanderer? It is the former, for he carried the weight both of an aching heart of love for the sheep as well as the weight of the sheep herself.

And this is the difficulty they call parenting.

Are we practicing parental apology or parental pride? Let me ask it another way. Are we letting our kids see the near grace and forgiveness and love of a Shepherd willing to carry even their mom and dad in the midst of their struggles to parent, or are we pretending that we know it all and they should, too?

Confessing to our kids when we have been wrong in our dealings with them is simply a way to show them our once-broken legs, to share with them the story of the Shepherd whom we need desperately and who desires us close and who carried us, too.

Just like He wants to carry them. Just like He wants our kids to know His voice.

Will we apply the same principles to mom and dad that we do to our kids? Will we parent from the gracious relationship we have with the Shepherd, or will we wander out alone.

Parenting is too hard to go alone.

May we be willing to confess to our kids when we have wronged them. May they see in us more than polished behavior. May they witness the beauty of a contrite heart as we confess our wrong and admit our desperate need. May they be reminded of the Gospel of Jesus in the very ways that they see us navigate our sinfulness.

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB)

So if parenting involves seasons when we pursue our kids and even carry them, how can we do this for the long haul? Let’s look at this tomorrow…