Monday, September 24, 2007

Scout trip #1

Eli joined the Cub Scouts and has enjoyed it immensely. We had our first Scout campout recently and we crammed a lot into a short amount of time: fishing, swimming, hiking, whittling, astronomy, and all the fun that goes with camping out (S'mores, stories, songs, tents, etc).

We camped at Cochiti Lake which worked out well. The star field at night was amazing and we watched shooting stars and satellites fly over. Eli passed the cub scout swim test in the lake which was more difficult than I expected. We hiked our favorite spot--tent rocks--without losing any cub scouts over the ridge or in the slot canyon. It was a great and wearying time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Family Preparations for the Lord's Day

This will be my last post on family worship for a while, and in it I'd like to give some thoughts on how to prepare as a family for the Lord's Day.

Let's start with the goal. As a family we should look forward to going to the Lord's house. Each of us should arrive at the worship service primed and longing to express our adoration of Him. Two problems to fight against: going to worship "spiritually empty" or unready to worship, and secondly just going through the motions during worship (which is not worship at all). Here are some ways to combat both those problems.

Starting as soon as possible in the week get the songs and Scriptures for the coming Lord's Day. Sing the songs as a family. Then read the words of the songs and meditate on them. Find the gems in them before Sunday worship! Know these songs so well so that when you sing them together on Sunday you are ready to exult God with them. As far as possible memorize the whole song so you can sing from your heart more freely.

Read the Scripture as a family before the service pointing out the key words of the passage and assigning themes for each child to listen for and report on after worship. If possible memorize the Scripture passage that will be preached on.

Plan ahead of time logistically. Set out clothes and Bibles the night before. Have the Sunday meals ready on Saturday so that there is less household work to do on the Sabbath (we order out on Saturday evening and get enough for Sunday, too). Get up early enough so that you have time to prepare yourself for worship physically and spiritually. Listen to God-glorifying music that stokes your affections as you drive to worship, etc.

I hope these ideas will help you call the Sabbath a delight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Warning: Talking to us is likely to result in a baby

We meet lots of folks that want to talk about adoption. For all sorts of reasons very few will actually adopt some day, but that's fine, we still enjoy telling our adoption stories.

Last month we met some neighbors on-base who were eager to talk adoption with us. They were serious about adopting and had finished their homestudy months ago. However, they've had no calls about any situations which discouraged them because they're due to move out of the state next year. This would cause them to re-do part or all of their homestudy once they arrived in their new state--kind of like starting over.

They were intrigued by how fast we've been able to adopt and wanted to know how it can be done. We talked about transracial adoptions and the gospel with them and shared our adoption network contacts. They went home to think about all this. Yesterday they called to say that they decided to use our contacts and were swiftly presented with 5 situations. The first birthmother that looked at their portfolio chose them and now they're expecting to add a baby to their family in April!

If you're interested in learning how the gospel encourages transracial adoptions, this excellent, brief, and new interview is a great place to start. Of course, you can always just talk to us...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Trouble reports

The courts of justice and grace were busy today in our household with all kinds of domestic cases. Since the older two kiddos can write pretty well now, in an effort to discourage poor behavior we started making them write out what they did wrong and what they will do differently for each time they cause serious trouble. When I get home from work I review these for neatness and can talk about the problems with the children. Here's the first Trouble Report I received. It's a keeper.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Serve the Lord with gladness

One other element of family worship to keep in mind is the importance of joy. Is Bible reading drudgery? Is catechism and Scripture memory no more encouraging than making out a grocery list?

Surprisingly, some parents have the capacity to keep doing family worship for years without the least bit of joy. They're usually doing it to impress others in the church. I'm know because I think I'm one of them. I remember the sudden and painful realization that my leading of family worship was absent of joy when I visited another family whose father radiated joy when he spoke to his children about Jesus and the gospel. He made grace sound amazing, Christ sound great, and the Bible a dear gift. I found out later the verse he has in mind as he leads his family in worship is "Serve the Lord with gladness", from Psalm 100 I believe.

Not only will children detect a parent's hypocrisy in leading family worship without sincerity, but it is also dangerous to their salvation. They are likely to dismiss the faith as something that doesn't satisfy, as just one more thing their parents are doing to get them to behave. So, as we lead our families, let us remember to serve the Lord with gladness!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Our third reader

We had one of those special homeschooling moments today. Kristin was working with Isaiah on his phonics. He was doing well blending his letter sounds and for the first time he read a word that he didn't already know by sight! He's such an eager learner and is very motivated to become a reader. What a joy it is to teach your children such a skill as reading!

Lest you think that homeschooling is full of epiphanies like this, let me tell you this. While Isaiah was learning to read, Faith was in the backyard learning that dumping a bottle of bubble juice into the air conditioner is a great way to make a ton of bubbles.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Beyond skinned knees and loose teeth

A third element of Bailey family worship that I wanted to write on is our time of prayer.

Little kids' prayer requests naturally gravitate towards personal, physical needs: skinned knees and loose teeth, etc. There's nothing wrong with that I suppose, but as parents we want to see our children grow up into mature Christians. So it's good if we can enlarge the horizons for prayer beyond themselves, especially beyond their external wants.

For our times of family worship we have daily and weekly prayer items. Daily items include what we read in the Bible that day, a family from church, one member of the Bailey family, one extended family member, one missionary we support, and special requests/needs from others. Once per week we pray for one country of the world using Operation World (a great missions resource).

I have gone back and forth on having the children pray for some of these items. I think it's best to do it, but it can be a little hard to work out.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Good medicine

When times get tough, there's nothing quite like a baby's smile to lift your spirits

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Eternity in our children's hearts

This is the second in a series on Bailey family worship through the years.

Last time I touched some on memory work and young children; I'd like to continue on that theme.

We have always mixed catechism and Scripture as both are important for memorization. Catechism gives the big picture summary of revelation (ex: What is God?, What happens when we die?, etc) where Scripture memory provides the actual revelation to them.

Over time we have developed a system of short-term and long-term memory work which we go through each night in family worship and some on Saturdays. The short-term work consists of weekly Bible verses that we all learn (parents set the example!). On Saturday mornings the children recite that week's verse to me individually.

The long-term memory work consists of hymns, creeds/catechism, and Scripture. Over time each child memorizes a couple dozen hymns/psalms (one stanza usually) and we rotate through a couple of these each evening in family worship. Then, depending on which day of the week it is, we also recite together truths that we want our children to always know throughout their life:
Sunday: Psalm 23
Monday: Psalm 121
Tuesday: The Apostles' Creed
Wednesday: 1 Cor 13:4-7
Thursday: 10 commandments
Friday: The Lord's Prayer
Saturday: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1

I struggle to find time to keep fresh on the Shorter Catechism work, but most Saturdays I have the children recite all they know to me and we also review a few questions every evening during family worship. One controversial decision I've made is to pay them for their memory work (an idea supported by American puritan Cotton Mather). I pay $1 for each new answer recited from the shorter catechism (word perfect) and $0.25 for each review question answered correctly.

Our belief in all this is that we're laying a foundation in their lives--not with hay that will rot away over time, but with that which will last into eternity.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Books, bathtubs, catechisms, and chairs

This is the start of a new series of posts on how we developed a family worship practice with our children; I plan to start from the very early years and work my way through chronologically. I had planned to do this in Sunday School during our study of the classic book Thoughts on Family Worship, but I don't think we'll get back to that book for a while so I'll give my own thoughts here instead. Also, I don't plan to spend time on the why of family worship; for that, see the book I just mentioned (or Ps 78, Eph 6:1-3, etc).

My earliest memories discipling our children involve books, bathtubs, catechisms, and chairs. I'll take them in that order. Among our favorite books for very young children are The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes, and the Read-Aloud Bible Stories by Lindvall. The second book is good at not showing images of Christ (the first does, I believe). Kristin may remind me of others and if so I'll add them in the comments section. Also, Kristin has been effective in teaching our children when they're little to sit still and fold their hands when being read to. This has paid dividends in corporate worship.

I'll take the next two together. Bathtubs are a great place for teaching and reviewing memory work with a child (a captive audience). We started with the First Catechism and some basic memory verses. Actually I abbreviate some of the answers in that catechism so that even a 2 year old can show progress. Faith can give the answers to the first three questions. And I try to explain some concepts along the way, too, at their level. "Glorify God" means showing others how good God is, etc.

The last topic for this post is chairs. I remember when the children were very little having them sit in chairs during family worship. At first family worship only lasted for a few minutes and it was really us training them more than a time of the whole family worshipping together. We would line up the dining room chairs in a row and have them sit still while we did catechism, singing, or prayer. As long as we had a consistent time each day to do this, and we got off the sofa, we would see improvement little by little in our children's ability to sit still and participate.

Other points I want to mention in future posts on this series: joy in family worship, singing and music, long-term and short-term memory work, prayer lists, Bible reading, liturgy, Sabbath, missions, guests, and hypocrisy. I look forward to your observations, too.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Caught in the middle

Isaiah is a great little kid. As the middle child, he's the only one who can say he has both an older and a younger sister and brother. He's proving to be a good help during the homeschooling day, keeping Faith occupied so Kristin can teach the others. Here he is giving her basket rides down the hallway.

Isaiah is also a bit of a tender heart. He melts Kristin's heart with out of the blue, yet sincere, statements about how beautiful she is and how much he loves her. The kid's got heart. In this photo I caught him praying after recovering from last week's sickness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Out of the mouth of babes (proceeds something besides praise)

What can you learn about human nature from a child's first words?

To help answer that, here are the most common expressions from Faith's lexicon:
"What u doin'?"
"Stop that!"
"No, I'm not!"

Monday, September 03, 2007

What we did with it

I'm borrowing a post title from More Water (I think perhaps from last Labor Day) just to say that the highlights of our long weekend were the several times we got together with our local church family. We're a small church, but we're pretty good at community.

I also like these comments from Doug Wilson,

Learning to live in genuine community is one of the central goals that we have set for ourselves. And, to be honest, we did not set the goal—it is set before us in Scripture as one of the basic elements of the Christian faith. We are one in Jesus Christ, and this is not to be limited to Sunday morning when everyone is wearing their best clothes, when pretty much everyone took a shower, and everyone is on their best behavior. This is the place where we are woven into community, but the thing is not supposed to come unraveled as we are pulling out of the parking lot.

But community on Monday morning . . . that’s another thing. And Thursday afternoon can be even more difficult. Because living in community is what takes the rough edges off, but before it takes the rough edges off, living in community reveals those rough edges. Some of you are regularly late to things. Some of you don’t return things that you have borrowed in a timely way. Some of you think that community means other people baby-sitting for you. Some of you think that community means having a right to be a grouch. Some of you think that community means flirting with all the sisters, or with all the brothers as the case may be. Community brings all this out, but community, over time, is also supposed to deal with it.

We are tangled up in one another’s lives, and this is as it ought to be. But we are not tangled up so that we would surrender to various forms of thoughtlessness. Confronting this kind of thing as appropriate, covering it in love as appropriate, is the training ground that God has given to us. We are a rag tag collection of forgiven sinners, and a number of us have some messy things lying about in our lives. The task before us is to pick up, and to help one another do so in all patience.

So patience does not mean leaving it alone. Addressing it firmly does not mean impatience. And learning how to do this is one of God’s great gifts to us.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ignoring the thinkers

From Ken Myers' recent letter to Mars Hill subscribers: a sobering statement on Christians and their leaders.

I sense a growing level of uncritical identification with contemporary culture; Christians whose experience and assumptions have been shaped only by "culture affirming" institutions.

While there is a number of wonderfully insightful books by Christian authors who see the underlying dynamic of many cultural conventions (books about technology or commodification or narcissism or our addiction to entertainment or the state of modern marriage), the insights of such prophetic thinkers seem to be ignored by celebrated Christian leaders and hence by most Christians. It is easier to keep a big church program running if you don't introduce too much cognitive dissonance between what you say on Sunday and what advertisers and entertainers and professors and miscellaneous experts say the rest of the week.

One way to stop ignoring Christian thinkers is to listen to Mars Hill Audio. They now have a free podcast called Audition. I recommend it; the latest edition is an interesting analysis of the John Roberts' led Supreme Court.