Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan​

Walking with the Little Ones - Parenting in the Toddling Years

One of the great joys that Kasey and I have in our lives is being the parents of Kylene, Tommy and Kayla Monaghan. God has used them to teach us both so much and they add so much joy, and frustration at times, to our lives. As a mentor told me long ago, parenting is a quite the ride...sort of like a roller coaster, high highs which are sometimes followed by low lows. What we have learned is that if you focus well when your kids are young you can give them a life trajectory that flowers into something pretty cool. The following are a few quick tips that we learned parenting our kiddos through the young years – toddler to school age.

I’ve given it a cool acronym to make it memorable DTPL (G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence, and Love (Grace). Today we will only cover Discipline, but will likely roll these out over time here or on the JWell blog as I tend to get a little long winded at times. Also, I’m speaking for Kasey and me when I use the pronoun “we.”

Discipline

The Scriptures are pretty clear that parents are to bring their kids up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Too many times we might think of discipline as punishment but we need to see it differently. The right use of discipline helps a child to focus their energies into patterns of life that unleash true freedom, create a learning environment in the home, and a family where people both love and respect one another. It really is for everyone’s good that we discipline our kids.

Establishing Right Authority

There are a few important principles of discipline we’ve maintained with each of our children which have helped the culture of our home. First, our kids never get to disobey their parents. The scriptures teach “children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” and they are to “honor their mother and father” (Ephesians 6:1,2, Exodus 20:12). I want to restate this. Our children NEVER get to disobey their parents. Do they? Of course they do. They are kids. They never “get to” without discipline. Now I’m not talking about parents acting like arbitrary rule-setting dictators and just making kids obey their every wish. What I am saying is that when I ask my kids to do X they should do it. If not, then there is direct disciplinary action. As kids get older they learn to reason, discuss and ask questions. We never discourage that. Here I’m talking about the toddling years. They need to learn to respect their parents and do what they say. They also need to accept a clear “no” answer without continuing to badger Mom or Dad.

So in summary:

  • Direct defiance and disobedience – always discipline right away
  • Not accepting “no” for an answer – always discipline right away
  • When they clearly break one of your household rules or do something wrong – always discipline (maybe not always right away – smile). We’ll share more on this below in establishing household flow.

This may sound exhausting and constant and guess what. It is. Yet it yields a harvest in the home where children respect authority. This respect builds toward a future where reason- ing, questions and dialogue with kids can take place.

Establishing Gospel Rhythms

The other important aspect of discipline in the home is not simply practicing punitive discipline, but gospel rhythms in our discipline. Kids should understand what it means to apologize, repent, and be explained the nature of what they did wrong. When they sin they should apologize specifically and be forgiven specifically. This requires patience in us as parents to not simply get angry and punish kids. It requires us to discipline them, in order to teach them, forgive them, and love them like crazy.

Establishing your Household Flow

Finally, you need to be clear about rules in your house. Obviously breaking commandments and sins against God are not good. The law, specifically the Ten Commandments, can be used as a teacher and good summary with kids. Even then, teach them why lying, stealing, killing etc are wrong. Usually our dishonoring of God or people made in his image is at the root. In addition to biblical truth, there are also “household rules” that you will establish for your family. What things are toys, what are not? Learning not to run sprints on top of the furniture? Or if that is cool in your home, that it may not be cool in public or the homes of a friend?

Loving discipline will help young kids know good boundaries and allow them the freedom to flourish. A young kid that grows up without respect for authority will have trouble in school, on the job, and can lead to even worse realities for them. Furthermore, a young kid that learns how to adapt to authority and appropri- ately interact with it will go a long way in this world. Yet most importantly we want our kids to learn to respect God, follow his ways, and understand his love and forgiveness when we sin. Your kids can learn all of this at home through consistent discipline over time in the toddler years.

One last thing. If you get on this when they are young and don’t bend or waver, their lives will be much easier to lovingly lead as they get older. If you think a two year old is terrible, wait until you have an undisciplined, disrespectful twelve-year-old. As John Witherspoon, the 6th President of Princeton, once wrote: “There is not a more disgusting sight than the impotent rage of a parent who has no authority” (Letters on the Education of Children, and on Marriage).

No kids are perfect; we should not expect this in any way. We should not expect our parenting to be of a flawless heavenly character either. Yet we can have courage to discipline, courage to follow through, and courage to love our kids in this way. There is a harvest from this effort that is indeed a good thing. As Hebrews 12:9-11 teaches us:

[9] Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? [10] For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. [11] For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline also must be accompanied by teaching/instruction, your presence in your kids lives, and extra loads of love topped with grace. We will take up those topics in the future together.

Also see the following sermons in the series “The Home Team

A New Mind

mind_brain_gears_white_shadow.jpg

This essay first appeared in the June 2014 Edition of Well Thought, the journal of the Jacob's Well community. 

Do people really change their minds about things in life? Maybe someone will convert from a PC to a Mac or from an Android phone to an iPhone but what about the really important things? The things that shape our view of the world? It is anecdotally true that people can get very set in their ways by a certain age, yet there is always the possibility for shaping new ways of thinking about life and reality.

As a young university student studying physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I underwent this sort of change. I was raised in a family where my father was an Irish Catholic agnostic. Church did not really play a big role in my life, so when I went to UNC on a wrestling scholarship I was not in any way “looking for God.”

As I began to ask some of the bigger questions in life, things really began to change for me. It very much started as a spiritual conversion. I sensed, in a very profound way, that although I was not looking for God, God was in a way coming to find me. I realized that I was beginning to see and to think differently about all of life. Something very strange happened; I actually wanted to read books. Don’t get me wrong, I was vice president of my high school’s National Honor Society and was in the top five percent of my class. I just liked scientific equations much more than literature. 

I will never forget when a Christian philosopher came to our campus to speak about the existence of God. He was a man who had two PhD’s, one in theology and one in philosophy, both at secular universities in Europe. I was intrigued. Yet it was something he said that night in a private Q&A with a smaller group of students that shook me profoundly. He said to develop a new mind you had to begin to think differently by allowing new ideas and new paradigms into your world. Then he said “as a student at a secular university, this might mean you have to read double.” 

As a Division I athlete with in a very vigorous course of study, I did not have extra time, so I cannot say this was an encouraging thing to hear at first. What he meant, however, stuck with me. I needed to learn to think and see the world as a follower of Jesus, because his way is different than the world around us. I not only needed to do my assigned reading for school, but I needed to read the Scriptures and Christian thinkers to have a different mind about things. So I stepped away from pursuing only position, power and possessions and began to renew my mind in light of the teachings of Jesus. I needed to see the world and my academic pursuits as a Christian. 

CS Lewis, the eminent literary scholar and author said it this way: 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. i

During that season of my life I began to love new things, think about new things and make new choices that took my life in a different direction. My love for math and science was expanded by a desire to learn some of the more philosophical things about life. I graduated with a knowledge of science and letters but from a point of view that had been, well, changed. 

Most importantly, I saw something in my own story that I have since witnessed numerous times in others over the last two decades. God changes people when they think they cannot change themselves. This is, after all, the work of renewal that only God does in the hearts of human beings. He brings life and newness to us and we build upon these things with the renewal of our own minds. An early Christian leader wrote succinctly:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.ii

If you think it’s time for a change take a look at Jesus of Nazareth, read his teachings, his life, death and resurrection in the Gospels.iii  Then see where the path might lead. You may just find some newness in your own story as you read of His. 

 

Notes 

i. CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory, “Is Theology Poetry”, 1944, p92.

ii. Selection from Romans 12:2 NIV84.

iii. I recommend beginning with the gospel according to Mark or John. Both good places to begin. 

On seeking comfort

250px-C.s.lewis3.JPG

Seeking our own comfort is built in. We want to avoid pain and find the happy place in the world. But there is an attendant danger in seeking only comfort and not truth and even finding our duty. I ran across this quote this morning from the CS Lewis:

In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth--only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, book 1, chap 5, para 6, p39. Quoted in The Quotable Lewis ed Martindale and Root. 

Jacob's Well - Four Years this Weekend

Jacob's Well turns four on Friday. This video rolled out last week sharing a bit of that story. Very thankful for all our friends and JWell family giving their lives in gospel work in New Jersey.  

Should pastors try hard to be uncool?

Note: Much credit to IX Marks, a ministry I love and respect, for the inspiration for this post.  I agree with most of what they wrote...maybe they will agree also with me? I added #7 of my own accord. 

not_cool.png
  1. Being an uncool pastor is not the power of God for salvation—the gospel is. If we think that the success of our evangelistic efforts depends on the communication style we don't care about, we are missing it. We should just flow without any style so we can be sure the only thing that is attractive to anyone are Bible words. We should write them on vellum and keep them in our room. We want to show that our trust is in the power of God’s Word working by God’s Spirit, so we want to be as awkward and uncool as we can be so to be sure about this.
  2. Being disconnected to the culture is a double-edged sword. Though you can be sure you don't look cool, are not compelling, and be ignorant of what people care about, you might still be human enough to be in real relationships with sinners. Just don't be cool about it. Make them read the vellum if they want you to watch movies.
  3. Our desire to be uncool may reflect more pride than we’d like to admit. Let’s say you want to be pure, unaffected by the culture and only have heaven oriented slang, dress and style. Is your desire to cultivate that image driven by a desire to save the lost or a desire for people to like you? Or maybe to have God like you more than he like cool pastors.
  4. Much pastoral ministry is profoundly cool. Preaching the cross is the power of God to save people is really cool. Moreover, faithfully pleading with others to repent of their sins and be reconciled to God requires a pastor to be earnest and enthusiastic (aka cool) in a way that is utterly at odds with the ironic detachment that being uncool requires. If you define cool as ironic detachment that is not cool.
  5. We must never despise “cool” brothers and sisters in Christ. The more we try to be uncool ourselves, the more we’ll be tempted to look down on Christians who are not like us. Like those who have lots of tattoos.
  6. Being unlike the culture can make it hard for others to see the gospel. The more we understand the world and its definition of “cool,” the less attractive we should find it. In fact, in a society that is increasingly morally and spiritually bankrupt, it may be our identification with people in culture that serves to highlight the gospel. Rather than trying to be uncool, pastors should lead their churches to cultivate a living presence with people in their own culture (to borrow from God's example in the incarnation) that points to a gospel that is genuinely different from what the world believes. It also will have the body of Christ walking among people in every day life. If we are unlike the culture they cannot hear us, see us or understand us...which makes it hard for them to see the gospel.
  7. We should be cool and uncool like Jesus and Paul - Jesus become one of us in this world, in culture, with people in culture, hanging out with cool and uncool, the outcast, the one's with tattoos and no tattoos, loving the lost and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. We should also be cool and uncool like the apostle who for the sake of the gospel became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. And he knew cool poems that the kids listened to also...which is kinda cool. He also preached the Christ crucified for sinners and the cross as the only grounds for justification by faith...which is really cool.
Many people assume that the best way to reach people is to not be like them at all. Like non earthlings that share no humanity, language, clothing, media and flow with them. So, if pastors don't want to reach cool people, they should try to be uncool. But there are several problems with the idea that pastors should not try to be cool: