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Heart to heart: Parent conversations : What should we do when our children grow silent?

What should we do when our children grow silent?

There are days when we all would long for some silence as parents—during those long colicky twilight hours; the “why” stage of toddlerdom; the early grade school years when we’re treated to an unending litany of made-up knock-knock jokes; and the “you’re so uncool, why can’t I . . .” rants, stomping, and door slamming of pre-teens and teens. Yet, there are also times when we get concerned once that silence materializes. Our authors this month give us some options for how to deal with that kind of silence. So far, none of them are willing to offer ways to achieve silence during those other stages. . .   

Nicole Balza


It seems that we live in fear of quietness. Not only do we as a culture shy away from it, but we don’t particularly like it when our children grow quiet.  

I would encourage you to embrace the quietness. 

One of the benefits to homeschooling for six years was that I easily was able to incorporate quiet time with God into our day. Now that most of them are in brick-and-mortar schools, it is a little more difficult, but my children have learned the benefits to taking quiet time. 

Jesus modeled quiet time on a regular basis. Whenever his disciples couldn’t find him, it was usually because Jesus took time out to be in solitude with his Father. 

What a gift to model to our own children. When we are frustrated, scared, confused, or even full of joy, how often do we find solitude to hang out with Jesus? When my children are angry or overwhelmed, they can learn to take the time to break away from the chaos (or even the perceived chaos) and lean on the true Comforter. 

What about when our children grow quiet to isolate themselves in an unhealthy way? Tad and I work hard to create space. Safe space. Space to feel disappointed, hurt, overwhelmed. Let them share without judgment or the need to fix (this is a constant struggle for me). Listen. Really listen. Without reacting.  

Sometimes our kids just don’t want to talk to us. I truly believe that is okay. Tad and I have prayerfully asked for guidance to find Christian mentors for each of our children. We found people who foster relationships with our children so they can go to them when they don’t feel like they are ready to talk to us. We intentionally ask people who we know will provide the spiritual guidance that will bring our children closer to Jesus.  

One last thing I would like to add is to pray. Pray for your children. Not only in the quiet of your bedroom at night, but also out loud in front of them. Maybe pray outside their closed door. Maybe pray in the car while they are strapped . . . I mean, buckled . . . in. Maybe even put your hands on them and literally pray over them. Let them hear the words you share with your heavenly Father on their behalf. Maybe pray in their room when they aren’t in there. Whatever it looks like in your home, keep praying. 


Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have five children ranging in age from 8 to 16. They are also licensed foster parents.  


One of the greatest skills of parenting is communicating with our children. Truly hearing them, reflecting their words, giving them an understanding that their thoughts and feelings are heard and acknowledged. Don’t we all want people like this in our lives? What a wonderful demonstration of love to be fully present with another person in close communication.  

As children grow and develop and experience a multitude of new things, there is a lot to process and understand. What if we get the sense that our child doesn’t want to talk about it? Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

Parents of young children: Now is the time to set the stage for a lifetime of proper communication. Get them used to talking about their day. Consider making it a bedtime ritual. Share one great part of your day and one not-so-great part—both child and parent. Then spend time in prayer thanking God for the highs and asking for his help regarding the lows. This early communication sets the stage for the teen years.  

Another thing to keep in mind is our children’s temperaments. By nature, don’t some kids seem to think out loud and others internalize? Some kids want/need to be verbal. Others, not so much. We parents have these same natural preferences. 

Here’s a recent example in my family. I picked up Kayla from an after-school practice and said, “Hi.” I got a hi back, and then I settled into a comfortable silence. After a few seconds, Kayla said, “Ask me something about high school.”  

Boy, do I have it made in the communication parenting skill area with her! Not only did my extroverted daughter tell me about her day, but she even interjected questions to herself for me! “Let’s see, what else happened today?”  

Now my seventh-grade son, Josh, is a bit different. I picked him up from school and made the mistake of asking him a close-ended question: “How was your day, buddy?” He replied with, “Good.” Insert silence. 

I have come to understand that Josh prefers to process his thoughts internally and needs to be drawn out with more questions such as, “What was your favorite thing today?” “How come?” “What did everyone play at recess?” Reflecting some of his thoughts and feelings keeps the communication going. But there are times when an introvert simply needs to spend time in thought in order to process effectively. Silence is important.  

Is it a problem when our kids are silent? Maybe for some. If Kayla grew silent, I’d be quite concerned. I would check on her for sure. Josh’s silence can be harder to decipher. Is it his natural tendency or could he be troubled? Whichever the case, my wife, Kelly, and I make it our goal to watch for those opportunities to check in and give both kids the understanding that we are here and willing to talk if or when they need to. It is our way of demonstrating our love for God in their lives.  


Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a pre-teen son. 


Sometimes I think half the battle of parenting is not to take anything too personally. When your teenage boy goes quiet, for instance, it’s usually not about you.  

It can be a hard adjustment, though, because wasn’t it just last week when he was sitting in the kitchen, going on and on while you were browning the ground beef? I once listed everything my 11-year-old son talked about in a 20-minute stream-of-consciousness deluge, at which my only requirement was to nod and grunt. His oration included palindromes, peristalsis (which is why you can drink milk upside down), how his arms were getting stronger (so adorable), and the middle name of Harry Truman. (It’s “S,” by the way. I know this because he told me.) 

But then the chatterbox morphs into the one grunting, and you panic a little: Why doesn’t he talk to me anymore? Is he in trouble? Does he hate me?  

What I learned is this:  

  • A bit of silence is normal. Teens are supposed to grow up and separatefrom their parents. Part of that is talking to you less often.  
  • Asking a million questions does not work. Even though you just want him to know you’re interested in his life, it can come off as prying and controlling.
  • It sometimes works to ask about a friend: “So why isn’t Riley going out for choir this year?” That can lead to an actual conversation—about other friends, Riley’s pool party three weeks ago, and maybe even the girl he’s had his eye on. (Mission accomplished.)
  • Respect his privacy. Don’tshare the news about that girl he has his eye on with your book club.  
  • Don’t make everything a teachable moment. If he tells you he’s going to skip college and take his garage band on the road, just say, “Okay!” Chances are, he’ll figure outhow dumb that is all on his own. But if you shut him down right away, the next time he has a big dream or crazy idea, he won’t bring it to you.  
  • Have adult conversations about adult topics at the dinner table—the latest political question, a home budget issue, something you saw at the store that made you uncomfortable. Let everybody weigh in. Treat all responses, even the immature ones, with equal respect.

Now it’s possible that a teenager’s silence is a warning sign. If he’s hiding in his room all the time or is exceptionally surly, he may be struggling with something bigger than he can handle—a traumatic breakup, guilt over a sin, an Instagram situation that exploded, some kind of violence, even depression or substance abuse. 

In this case, although he’s silent, he’s actually crying out for help, and you need to be the parent. Search his room. Check his social media. Ask another adult he trusts—an uncle or teacher—if something’s going on that you should know about. If the situation warrants, talk to a counselor with him.  

But that’s the exception. Usually a little silence is just part of your teenager’s individuation—growing up and separating himself from you. (This is the goal, remember? We don’t want to be doing their laundry when they’re 23.)  

If you give him respect and love and space, he’ll know he can come talk to you whenever he wants toYou’ll be browning the ground beef some evening, and suddenly he’ll feel the need to tell you—everything. Whether he’s 11 or 17 or 30, just nod and let the boy talk.  


Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.  


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : What should we teach children about the Reformation?

What should we teach children about the Reformation? 

There are times when things are so engrained in our life that we take them for granted and struggle to even explain them. I think being a Lutheran can be like that—especially for us “lifers.” That’s one of the reasons I love reading the “Confessions of faith” articles shared in FIC each month (p. 14). It’s refreshing to hear from those who are new to Lutheranism, to be reminded of the treasures that Martin Luther restored to the church. Reading the perspectives of the two Lutheran dads featured here helped me too.  

Want more resources to help teach Reformation truths to your children? Visit nph.net and consider a new short film titled God’s Plan for Luther and Me; the book Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World; or the graphic novels on Katie and Martin Luther.  

Nicole Balza


When it comes to teaching our children about the Reformation, especially our young children, we have to admit the challenge of it. Perhaps the most obvious challenge is that the official date for recognizing the Reformation is Oct. 31. There is a part of me that wishes that Martin Luther would have had some foresight with his choosing of a date! Didn’t he know that this would become Halloween and that children would be hopelessly distracted? I am thinking that it probably isn’t enough to dress up your children as Martin Luther to help them understand the joy of the Reformation.  

In addition, the Reformation isn’t just competing with Halloween. It’s also competing with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. My daughter, Tayley, came home from public school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day impressed in ways that I rarely see, trying to tell me the story of the civil rights movement. In fact, she is having the hardest time accepting that Martin Luther King Jr. was named after another Martin Luther who was even greater.  

With that said, perhaps the greatest challenge in teaching our children about the Reformation are the truths themselves. Most of the key ideas are framed by Latin slogans or solas. Whoever decided to frame the Reformation in this way didn’t have children in mind. What is more, if someone challenged us Lutherans to put the Reformation itself into a single sentence, we might say, “The Reformation was all about the Bible’s teaching that we are justified by grace through faith by Christ alone.” Try teaching that to your six-year-old!  

The ideas of the Reformation are saving and powerful, but they are also abstract. Somewhere along the line, I remember learning that kids under a certain age simply cannot grasp abstract concepts. For parents wanting to teach their children about the Reformation, these are the challenges. 

I’ll tell you what I am going to do with my kids to meet the challenge. I am going to teach my kids about the Reformation during the entire month of October. Really, whenever it comes up in daily life, we are going to talk about it. I am going to buy a children’s book from Northwestern Publishing House. There’s one called Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World that looks especially good, but I’ll look into other possibilities as well. We will talk about the different “Martins” and why Oct. 31 is special to us for better reasons than candy. 

But what about the truths of the Reformation? How can we share abstract truths with them in meaningful ways? We will let Luther guide us with Scripture. His first thesis, which guided the other 94 theses, stated, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ [Matthew 4:17] he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” This is where everything started. Luther wanted the world to know that the life of a believer has two parts: 1) contrition or sorrow over sin and 2) faith in the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These are actually pretty simple concepts to understand. That’s what I intend to teach my girls.  

I am going to teach them to apologize to each other and to their God. I am going to hold his law in front them and show them their sin. Then, I will show them their Savior who died for them. I will speak to them of Jesus’ love and grace and about how forgiven and washed and loved they really are. I probably won’t even call it repentance. They will learn that word later, but they will learn about Jesus. That’s really my number one goal.  

Even if they never do come to know with great clarity the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr., I want them to know Jesus. That after all is what the Reformation is all about. 


Timothy Bourman is a pastor at Sure Foundation in Queens, New York, and co-host of the podcast Project 1517. He and his wife, Amanda, have three young daughters.  


 Would you like to tell your children a story this Halloween? The 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation gives you that chance.  

You can tell the story of a young man bothered by the practice of paying off sin’s punishment with money. You can tell the story of a young man who was brave. He didn’t keep his mouth shut, even before those older than he, because he cared about their souls. You can tell the story of a young man who cared about God’s truth, wanting to understand what true repentance meant and wanting the leaders of the church to treasure God’s grace. It is an amazing Halloween story, the posting of 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517. 

There is a story to tell. But that story didn’t end on Oct. 31 five hundred years ago. There is a continuing story you can tell every day you are with your children. In fact, you get to live out the story. On each of your days you have the chance to put on display divine Reformation truths that are at the heart of our salvation—grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.  

We all know these Reformation concepts. Yet as parents, it is easy to live something other than grace and faith and Scripture. When a child has sinned, we may forget that any Christian discipline intends to have an ultimate happy ending in the grace of God. In our pride we may overlook the reality of our absolute dependence on God, the centrality of faith for eternal life and for every other moment in life. In the busyness of life, we may speak of Scripture’s importance but let its priority slip. We may speak a story of Reformation when the anniversary hits, but it’s sometimes hard to live out the Reformation during those many moments God gives us with young precious souls. 

Being a parent means knowing sin and Gods forgiveness. That’s a Reformation truth. There are times when we sin against our child by assuming the worst and thinking they had done the very thing we had warned them against, only to find out that we were wrong. Can you look your child in the eye and tell him you are sorry, explain that you have a sinful flesh too, and ask him to forgive you? There is no greater joy than to hear a representative of Christ, at the young age of seven, smile and forgive. 

There’s another side of that knowledge. Your child sins, and she is sitting on the couch in the basement in a timeout. After some screaming and crying there is silence, and then a very different voice rises up the stairs: “I’m sorry.” Can you walk down the stairs and have the first words from your mouth be, “I forgive you, and Jesus forgives you too”? Yes, parents can offer guidelines and loving consequences after assuring their child of forgiveness, but we don’t want the threats to replace forgiveness and only say, “Don’t let that ever happen again.” Those little souls can be tricked by the devil; they can be crushed when God’s love is withheld. You don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that. We know how precious God’s love has been to us. Shower his grace on those you love. 

Being a parent means depending on someone else for your salvation and for every other challenge in life. Can you humbly commiserate with your children? Can you agree with them that we are all weak and we do not have the power to obey as we want? Can you mourn with them over their wicked flesh, but then can you give them hope as you remind them that our peace when we disobey and our power finally to obey comes not from ourselves but from our God? We depend. We trust. By God’s grace, we believe. Faith—that’s a Reformation truth. 

Being a parent means listening with your children to words that come from a God whose word made the world and raised the dead. Bible stories are powerful words. The truths of those stories are power to rebuke, to comfort, to guide. Read God’s stories. Talk about God’s stories. Have Scripture be a daily meal in your home—that’s a Reformation truth. 

There is a Reformation story to tell. Do speak of Luther’s Reformation. But even more, make the Reformation—by God’s grace and power—your daily beating heart.  


Stephen Geiger is a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin. He and his wife, Anna, have six children ranging in age from 1 to 10.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 10
Issue: October 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : What do teachers want parents to know as school begins?

What do teachers want parents to know as school begins?

The beginning of a new school year usually brings a mix of feelings—at least for my family. There’s always that tinge of sadness that summer is over, the excitement of a fresh school year, and the nervousness about what this year holds in store for us as we adjust to new teachers, expectations, and schedules.

So, what are teachers thinking about as the new school year begins? What advice do they have for parents at this critical—and let’s be honest, stressful—time? In our printed column we hear from an elementary school teacher and a high school teacher. Visit forwardinchrist.net to read perspectives from a college professor and a home schooling mom/teacher as well as to watch a webcast featuring a veteran teacher.

Nicole Balza


As an early elementary school teacher, I was both nervous and eager to begin each school year. Every new school year held so much promise. Yet beginning something new took such patience and hard work.

I always knew that by mid-October all of the hard work would start paying off as individual students became a classroom community, learning was evident throughout the day, and teachers and families were settled into their new routines and relationships. However, the first weeks can be tough, and how we all handle them sets the tone for the rest of the year.

Parents, teachers, and students are very tired at the beginning of the school year. Be patient! It is exhausting to implement and learn new routines, recognize new faces, and memorize new names while also focusing on academic learning and homework. Give each other time to get everything running smoothly, and try not to make quick judgments based on information gathered in the first couple weeks of the school year.

Choose a Bible verse, like Colossians 3:12, on which to focus as you interact with your children, other families, teachers, and administrators: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Stressful times can give our sinful natures a foothold, but focusing on God’s Word supports us as we build and grow relationships at the beginning of the school year. Posting an encouraging verse in your car, on the fridge, or on your mirror can be a gentle reminder throughout the day of how you would like to treat others in this time of change.

Just when it seems like things are going smoothly and it’s going to be a good year, a couple things often seem to set off a normally patient, kind, and gentle parent—homework and “mean” kids.

Homework: Often schools have homework philosophies, and teachers need to follow what is required of them. Teachers work hard to give homework that is not too hard, not too easy, beneficial for every student, and that fits every family situation, but . . . this is tremendously hard to accomplish. The only way for a teacher to know if the homework is or is not working for your family is if you discuss it with him or her. If the amount, type, or content of homework is not working for your child or family, please ask to speak to the teacher privately and then share how homework is going. Ask the teacher to help you problem solve so that your child can best benefit from the homework he or she is doing.

“Mean” kids: At the beginning of the school year, students often have some kind of social growing pains. They may not have spent much time with friends in the summer, and they now have to learn or remember how to problem solve, work, and play in a group and navigate the recess scene successfully. All kids struggle with some aspect of social learning as they practice being part of a group that includes others and treats others with respect. It’s important for parents to remember that other kids are not enemies—they are kids who are working on learning how to be kind friends and successful learners just like your child. When talking with your child about these experiences, try to help your child remain calm and focused on how to help the situation be better the next day. It is hard to hear that your child is sad or upset, but learning how to problem solve and build relationships with others is a vital skill that your child needs time to learn.

Teachers want you to know that we see these relationship dynamics and are closely monitoring interactions between children. However, we will not always step in, as it is so important for kids to practice their problem solving skills and then ask adults for help if needed. If you are concerned about a situation or relationship that seems to be bothering your child, please talk with your child’s teacher in a respectful way. Often asking the teacher for his or her perspective on the situation sets you up for a conversation focused on helping your child, which works better than an attack on the teacher.

Whether you are frustrated about homework, worried about your child’s friendships, or unsure about a teacher’s decisions, remember the grace that God gives you every day and pass that grace along to others. Choosing to interact with people in a spirit of love, kindness, and patience will make all the difference as you strive to begin the school year with positivity and grace.


Rachel Bluhm and her husband, Matt, have three young children and are members of St. Paul, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


Is your oldest getting ready to enter high school? It wasn’t so long ago when that’s where my wife, Joyce, and I were. The years go by so fast. It seems like just yesterday that it was kindergarten graduation, the first recital, the first game, and now . . . high school.

Moving from eighth grade to high school can be a little daunting for kids. Last spring they felt like they were at the top and ruling the school, and now it’s a whole different place with new challenges and opportunities.

If you thought the grade school years went fast, wait until your child gets to high school! Four years might sound like a long time, but that will fly by—and then you’re praying about college choices, military service, employment, marriage. There are times you will be so proud of your teen and times when you just wonder what he was thinking. Treasure these days as gifts from God. And continue to be a parent.

With the rush of high school life, it might be hard to keep up your traditions of family dinners and time together. If your house can be a welcoming place for your teen and his friends, that is a real plus. Having those teens at your house can be a comfort to you and a safe place for them. The friends your teen makes are so influential.

Speaking of friends, you’ve seen those video clips: “My mom . . . my dad, they’re my best friends!” Does that describe your family? Remember that your teen needs parents more than best friends during the high school years. It’s ultimately a process of preparing him to leave the home “nest.” Pray for him; be there for him; help him with tough decisions; be his role models. These are all so important during the teen years.

Sometimes, we parents think we have to do it all for our teens. Just so you know—that is not possible. Newsflash—he isn’t going to like or agree with everything you decide. He’s growing up; he’s looking for freedom—he doesn’t see things the way you do. Don’t ignore “outside” help. Teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, family friends, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins can help when, for whatever reason, you just can’t get through to your teen.

As a Christian parent, don’t lose sight of what the real goal is. It’s awesome if he finds success in high school—captain of the team, excellent student, award-winning musician, and so on. But not all kids will. For your dear child, it’s much more important for him to continue to grow up in his faith, to stay close to his Lord, and to be in God’s Word and at his house regularly. Teens can be especially good at pushing back and not always showing much appreciation, but they are watching us and learning from us, even if they won’t admit it.

Pray. Pray. Pray. Stay close to your child. Stay close to your Lord. The Lord loves your dear child even more than you do. Be faithful and lean on his strength. He has a blessed future for your child in his plan . . . and he is the ultimate Father.


Dave Payne and his wife, Joyce, have four adult children and two grandchildren. Dave serves at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wis., and is a member at Eternal Love, Appleton.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : My child lied to me. Now what?

 My child lied to me. Now what?

Dealing with lying makes my stomach twist into knots. I guess that’s because so much of it is a guessing game. Did my child really lie to me? Did she do it on purpose? Why did he do it? Does she feel remorse? Did I do something to prompt the lie? My mind swirls with the unknown.

This month, three parents share their perspectives on lying. I love the motivation and the heart behind their thoughts. Even if my stomach still twists up when I suspect that one of my children has lied to me, I’ll be a better parent if I can keep the right motivation in how I react.

Nicole Balza


At different times during the past five years, in addition to our biological children, we have had five other young people live in our home. Because they had different backgrounds than our biological children, honesty was not a core value for all of them. So lies were a common occurrence. As we cared for these young people, I realized that God entrusts me with the goal to make honesty and integrity a core value in the lives of the people in my home. It is a heart issue.

With our biological children, honesty was modeled for them since the time they were babies. Lying has been addressed along with all the consequences that go along with it. With the other children, lying may have been a way of survival, a way of getting what they thought they needed. Sometimes lying was rewarded when it resulted in earthly positive results. Sometimes they lied and it was so normal to them that they didn’t see anything wrong with it.

So now what? What I’ve learned is that we need to call out the lie (oftentimes without backing them into a corner). We call it out and forgive them. When we offer forgiveness, we are letting them know that lying is wrong and we shower grace at the same time. We do our best to model honesty and admit to them when we fail.

Heart issues are so hard. It is much easier to address the behavior without getting to the heart issue. But our God is the change agent. We are his hands and feet. It is difficult to surrender our children and the children God has put in our care to our heavenly Father. But he changes their hearts through the gospel we share.


Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have five children ranging in age from 8 to 16. They are also licensed foster parents.


One Sunday morning after church, I stopped for gas. Inside the convenience store, I bumped into a student I knew from the college where I teach.

“What are you up to this morning?” I asked, making casual conversation.

“A bunch of us are headed to Chicago for a concert,” he said. We talked about the band they were seeing, musicians who weren’t afraid to call themselves Christians.

As I left the store, I noticed the others in the student’s car. Several of them were enrolled in my theology class that semester. On Friday they had told me they’d be missing Monday’s class. I hadn’t asked why. They hadn’t told me why. So they hadn’t exactly lied to me; they just held back the truth. They didn’t want to admit that their overnight obligation Sunday to Monday was an out-of-state music show. They were afraid of the dreaded “unexcused absence” from a college class.

When my students returned to class, I hassled them a bit, in a friendly way: “What have I done to make you think you need to hide things from me—that you can’t be open and honest with me?” As a college teacher—especially in a theology classroom—my biggest goal is fostering a closeness among us in Christ, so that we can share our hearts with one another fearlessly. An atmosphere of love in Christ invites such fearlessness. As described by “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23): “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

As parents, our primary goal in our homes is fostering a closeness in Christ so that we always can share our hearts with one another fearlessly. A parent’s goal is not just policing behavior. When one of our children lies to us, we do well to ask ourselves, “Why is the child lying?” There could be many reasons, but one is that the child is afraid of what we’ll say or do if we learn the truth. If our actions when we do learn the truth confirm the child’s worst fears, we may not be preventing future lies but ensuring that the child will be less open, less honest in the future.

Please understand, I’m not suggesting we overlook a child’s lies or accept deceptive dishonesty. Discipline often is necessary—maybe even very stern discipline. But we want to be prudent. We measure our responses to our children’s behavior, weighing what’s best in how we respond, how we seek to shape their future thinking and activity.

It’s not just about how we react to what happened today or yesterday. More than anything, it’s about building up faith and hope and love in the hearts of our children. It’s about finding forgiveness in Christ, who is truth, who atoned for all that is false and wrong in us. It’s from faith in Christ, anchored deep in the heart, that truth flows and lies are overcome. So we aim to build up our children and one another in Christ, not just to penalize the lies that have occurred.


David Sellnow teaches at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. He and his wife, Ellen, have four children ages 21 to 28.


“It must’ve gotten dinged in the parking lot.”

That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it. But eventually the truth emerges: Your son took the car to the unchaperoned party, indulged in some underage drinking, and backed into a hydrant.

I think lying, like so many sins, is born of fear. When we lie, we’re afraid of being found out, aren’t we? As imperfect. Sinful. Human.

For kids, being found out has consequences. Maybe discipline—time-outs, loss of privileges. Maybe public embarrassment. Maybe our disappointment, which, like a temporary abandonment, can be terrifying.

But that doesn’t mean we dismiss our children’s lies: “Aw, they’re just afraid of letting us down. Let it slide.” Nope. Deceit demands a firm dose of the law. That’s because malicious lying—as opposed to polite white lies or flights of fancy—is so dangerous. Like its father, Satan, lying is insidious. It poisons everything.

Lying poisons relationships. When our kids lie, they need to know: “You’ve betrayed our trust. Everything you tell us now is suspect. We’ll have to check up on you. We’ll need to see your phone. Everywhere you turn, we’ll be hovering. We’ll have to, because your word is no longer good.”

Lying poisons the liar too. It seeps into the cells and the psyche and becomes a way of life. Lying children become lying adults. Inveterate liars unconsciously assume everyone lies, hindering them from ever fully trusting another. And sometimes whole families become liars, especially when hiding a family secret: a schizophrenic mother, an alcoholic father. Even if the intent is to protect the family’s privacy, children develop a doctrine of duplicity, always concocting some new tale to keep up the beautiful, brittle family facade.

If our kids lie regularly, we may want to ask ourselves some hard questions: What are they afraid of? Have we set such high standards they feel they’re not allowed to fail? Is our discipline overly harsh? Or are we liars too? Like Adam and Eve in the garden, are we so ashamed of our faults and mistakes that we’re always hiding, always blaming others, never ‘fessing up?

Maybe the most important question is this: Do our children know the truth about the God who lives in our home and hearts? Our Savior is kind. He understands human weakness and fear. He knows why we’re tempted to lie, and he invites honest confession, because no sin is too monstrous, no shame too deep, to be forgiven.

That’s good news.

Jesus’ love and compassion drive out fear. His love lifts the shades and lets the sunshine in. His love—and our reflection of it—makes our home a safe place, where we can air our failures, forgive, and be forgiven. Then it’s absolutely okay to be found out—because we’re loved and accepted just as we are.


Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 8
Issue: August 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : How can we move past our parenting mistakes?

How can we move past our parenting mistakes?

Heart to heart seeks to be a place where parents can share their experiences and support one another. This month’s column tackles the topic of parenting guilt that is so pervasive in our society.

What are the things you regret as a parent? We all have those things, don’t we? What pops into your head immediately when this topic comes up? No doubt, some regrets are serious. Others are more lighthearted. They all have one thing in common, though, and our authors this month do a beautiful job reminding us of it. Read on, fellow parents, and bask in your Savior’s forgiveness.

Nicole Balza


We live in a society that reviews and re-evaluates just about everything on a regular basis. It feels natural to have that same critical mindset about our parenting. When we reflect on words we have said or things we have done, it’s easy to feel that we could have said or done something better. We can have lingering feelings of regret and guilt, which might even be intense.

The reality of living as a flawed believer in a sinful world means that you’re not going to be a perfect parent. Sometimes you’re going to be a bad example for your children. You will do what you shouldn’t do, and you will fail to do something you should. You might do the wrong thing for the right reason. And there might even be times when, no matter how hard you try, you’ll be stuck between two bad choices, both of which are going to hurt at least one of your children in some way.

Logically, we realize that we don’t fail our children all the time. The vast majority of our kids are fed regularly, are wearing (reasonably clean) clothes, and have a roof over their heads. The basics are covered. But if we’re honest, we probably don’t have to think too hard to come up with something we’ve done to our child that brings a feeling of guilt. What can we do to assuage our feelings of guilt and regret?

First, know without a doubt that your sins have been forgiven. As children of God, we are blameless in his eyes through Christ. Because of God’s grace towards us, we also can apologize to our children for how we have hurt them. It’s a powerful parenting lesson for our children when we demonstrate repentance and forgiveness in action.

Despite the forgiveness we have, consequences of our sin may remain. Guilty feelings can linger. When we remember what we did, we may feel that we can’t forgive ourselves. But if God can unconditionally forgive us, then we also are free to forgive ourselves. In fact, God wants us to forgive ourselves! He doesn’t want us to live with feelings of shame and regret.

But what can we do about our lingering regret, especially if our sin caused lasting consequences for our child? Romans 8:28 says, “In all things God works together for the good of those who love him.” God promises to use the broken pieces of our lives to create something beautiful that glorifies him. God will not abandon us, even when nothing we’ve done has turned out as we’d hoped or expected.

God loves our children more perfectly than we ever can. We are his children, and our children are his children too. Our heavenly Father is the perfect parent who promises to love us, care for us, and work everything that we do (or fail to do) in our lives for the good of all his children.

Relax in that knowledge, fellow parents. God’s got it all under control.


Emily Gresens Strey and her husband, Johnold, have four children ranging in age from 2 to 13.


It was a long day at work. I was exhausted. When I finally returned home, I stopped by the refrigerator for a glass of milk. I opened the door, grabbed the milk container—empty! There was another full gallon right next to it, but who puts an empty milk container back in the refrigerator?

Aren’t there certain things or certain times when seemingly little things just get you frustrated? That’s what happened to me.

I could have tossed the container in the recycling and moved on—but not that day. Nope. It was time to find the one responsible, and I had an immediate suspect. My wife wouldn’t do it, and my daughter, Kayla, doesn’t drink milk. That left one person—my son, and it wasn’t the first time Josh was caught doing this. It was time to confront.

Here’s how that conversation went.

Me: “Josh, why would you leave an empty milk container in the fridge?”

Josh: “I didn’t!”

Me: “Mom and Kayla wouldn’t do it, so you’re telling me someone else came into our house, drank all our milk, and put the empty container back in the fridge?”

Josh: “It wasn’t me. Why do you think I always do things like that?”

You can imagine how the rest of that conversation went . . . until Kayla (overhearing parts of the conversation) yelled from the basement, “Don’t throw away the empty milk container in the fridge; it’s for school. We are building a raft for science class. I have to wash it out yet.”

At that moment, I felt like finding that raft and sailing far, far away. Oh, yes, another example of Great Moments in Parenting by Dan Nommensen.

You might think I’m being facetious by calling this a great moment in parenting, but it really was. In that short exchange with my son, I could probably count a dozen ways I screwed up and offended Josh and crossed the line for what God expects of a parent. Now remember Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” This truly was a great moment in parenting because I am forgiven by grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Praise God that my sins as a parent are not held against me. My joyful response to God’s grace was to tell Josh I screwed up and that I was sorry. This moment in parenting had the potential of creating a rift in our relationship, but it ended up presenting itself as an opportunity for greatness as I expressed my need for forgiveness and Josh extended that forgiveness to me.

Parents, do we have moments where we make mistakes that impact our children negatively? Maybe you’ve had more than a few? I know I have. The temptation is not to see these times as moments of grace but rather allow these experiences to build resentment and anger for both parent and child.

Does our sinful parental pride lead us to fall into the trap of thinking we are always right? If so, we are missing opportunities to see and show God’s grace and forgiveness.

But fear not, because it’s never too late! God’s unconditional love for us and his forgiveness never end. In the joy of knowing that by God’s grace we are forgiven and part of his family, watch for your great moments of parenting with your children.


Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a pre-teen son.


On a hot July day in 1994, my husband and I walked out of the hospital with our firstborn, bound for home as a newly-minted family of three. At the car, we struggled to wrestle our tiny, slumpy newborn into a gigantic car seat. Finally, too many minutes later and sweaty with effort, we managed to buckle him in.

At the ripe old age of 24, my husband and I were practically still children ourselves. What did we know about parenting? Even 23 years later, thinking about our lack of preparedness makes me feel a little panicky and sweaty.

We train for so many things in life. We endlessly practice. We gain valuable on-the-job experience. We earn degrees. But for parenting, one of the most important jobs in the world? No experience necessary. And like all rookies, we make mistakes—loads and loads of them.

Many times since that July day, I have hung my head in shame and cried guilty tears for all the parenting mistakes I have made, for all the times I have yelled or lost my temper or done the polar opposite of what God wants me do. In contrast, I can’t ever recall thinking, “Wow. My kids are SO LUCKY to have me as a mom. I really knocked it out of the park today.” Oh, paralyzing guilt! How do we get past it?

Here are a few things we parents can remember:

• It was in God’s good plan to give our children to us. Our family was planned by him even before this world came to be (Psalm 139:16).

• Since God created our families, he also loves us with an eternal love. He equips us as parents and promises to strengthen us, bless us, and help us (Isaiah 41:10).

• For those parenting mistakes we have made—and they are many because we are sinful—we need to ask for God’s forgiveness. And through his sweet, sweet grace, he does forgive us (Ephesians 1:7). If he died on the cross to forgive all the sins of everyone of all time, why would our shortcomings as parents be the exception?

• Let’s also cut ourselves a little slack and remember that good kids sometimes do bad things (Romans 3:23)—even though a) they know better, b) that’s not how we raised them, and c) we’ve done our best to teach them what God’s Word says about pretty much everything.

Especially as our kids get older and make their own choices, we need to let go of our guilt. Also, remember the times that we’ve prayed with and for our children, loved them fiercely and unconditionally, taught them about their Savior, and battled to teach them life lessons about being a Christian light in this dark world. Don’t forget those times.

Lord, forgive us for the times we’ve failed as parents. Lord, thank you for the times we haven’t!


Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons and a recently emptied nest.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 7
Issue: July 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : How to help children cope with disappointment

How can we help our children cope with disappointment?

It’s not easy to watch our children face disappointment. We want to swoop in and make it all better. Although I think that swooping can have its place, it’s not always possible—or wise. Our three authors (and their sidekicks) this month offer some alternatives.

Are you new to Heart to heart? Check out our archive of articles, webcasts, and podcasts at forwardinchrist.net. A fan of Heart to heart? Share this resource with the parents you know! E-mail your favorite articles or share them on Facebook.

Nicole Balza


One of the great challenges we face as parents is watching our children suffer or struggle. It is easy to want to make everything comfortable for them. Disappointment is a part of this life on earth. We have expectations. When reality doesn’t match our expectations, we are disappointed.

I think the very first thing that we must do is let our children be disappointed. We live in a culture that believes everything should feel good. Disappointment is a bad feeling. Often as parents, seeing our children uncomfortable makes us uncomfortable. We say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “Look at the bright side.” The problem is that they don’t learn to live with or in the disappointment. We tell them to change their disappointment.

Jesus provided a beautiful example of living with disappointment when he wept for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). He was very disappointed. He felt the disappointment and cried. His Father didn’t come to him and say, “It’s okay, Jesus. I’ll make it better. Don’t feel that way.” His Father, our heavenly Father, let him cry.

So how do I teach my children to deal with disappointment? The first thing I do is model what it is like to deal with disappointment. If I am disappointed because something didn’t go my way or someone hurt me, I tell my children how I am feeling. I don’t want to hide it from them. I want them to see that I get hurt. I want them to see that I pray in the midst of it. I ask them to pray for their momma as I struggle.

As challenging as it is, don’t try to fix their disappointment. Talk through it. We talk about the expectations and the reality of the situation. Were our expectations too high? Did someone not meet our expectations? Is this an opportunity to show forgiveness?

Even if our expectations are unrealistic, the feeling of disappointment is very real. Teach children to put words to their feelings. Let them hear you say you are disappointed. Have them say out loud that they are disappointed.

Finally, let them grieve. Let them be sad or hurt. Invite our God into the hurt and sadness. Let the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do the true healing.


Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have three sons and a daughter.


I asked my writers’ club to weigh in on this article. The club only has three members: my two nine-year-old granddaughters and me. We meet once a month over hot chocolate or coffee. I buy.

“Would you like to write an article with me?” I asked. “The article is about helping third-graders deal with disappointment. I’ll see that you are included in the byline.” The whole club cheered in approval.

We started by drawing pictures of disappointment. What appeared on our worksheets were drawings of Earth fractured into two pieces, a sobbing heart, and a skull and crossbones.

Then we made up some synonyms. The club introduced me to sorpair (sorrow+despair), desanguish (despair and anguish), and dishappy.

We talked about things that cause feelings of disappointment. The list started with frivolous items (e.g., when McDonald’s ice cream machine doesn’t work). But it soon turned to real disappointments (when I ask God to help me to stop worrying, but he doesn’t; when I make a promise and can’t keep it; when I work hard and realize that I did something wrong or did it for nothing; when someone is mean to me).

“So what’s the best way to handle disappointment?” I asked. Their answers were insightful. Take some quiet time, they advised. “Curl up on your bed and eat ice cream or doughnuts. I go to my room and think. Watching videos can be good.”

Then the advice shifted to involving others. “Finding someone to give you hugs and kisses works.” I was glad to hear, “Don’t give up; try again.” Best of all I rejoiced that my granddaughters counseled, “Read the Bible. Pray to God. Sing hymns.”

I had been mulling a motto in the days before the club met. Often when disappointment strikes kids it’s because they encounter one of life’s many unfairnesses. “When you are disappointed,” I asked, “how helpful is this saying, ‘Life is unfair but God is there’?”

One club member answered, “It doesn’t exactly help me, especially when I’m worried.” Bless her for her honesty. But she also penned on her worksheet, “1 Thessalonians 5:18” (“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”). Bless her once more.

The other club member wrote a poem, “When life hands you some sadness And you know you’re falling fast, Remember that on judgment day God will take us home at last.”

How can we help our children or grandchildren deal with disappointment? Invite them to talk about it. They may end up encouraging you through your own disappointments.


James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren, two of whom (Ellie Lambrecht and Cadence Learman) provided input for this article.


Disappointed might be too weak a word. When my daughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age nine, we were devastated.

Although a simple medication put her in remission and we celebrated—God answers prayer!—the disease flared, and we nosedived again. Thus began the cycle: FLARE, med, side effects, med for the side effects, remission, remission, FLARE . . . new med, new side effects, new med for the new side effects . . . all playing against a backdrop of endlessly beeping machines and carpeted waiting rooms.

As I reflect on these difficulties now, it’s easy to imagine that a well-meaning parent might unintentionally say things that twist God’s beautiful promises.

We might declare brusquely, “Well, God makes everything work out for good.” Although true, those words uttered too quickly, too thoughtlessly, can be dismissive, even cruel. They can feel like a mindless pat on a dog’s head.

The same with, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3,4). That’s certainly true, but the wisdom is lost on a child who can’t see past her pain, who keeps hearing the echo of classmates snickering because her face is puffy with prednisone. The wisdom can be lost on a parent too. Many a night I pounded on God’s chest: Please. She’s just a child. Enough with the character-building.

I asked my daughter if I’d said anything helpful to her in those early days and, lacking any confidence whatsoever, threw in: “Please say yes.”

She remembered praying together: “Let this medication work” and “Take away this stomachache before the softball game.”

She remembered me telling her that when others were unkind, it said more about them than about her. Usually some pain inside them caused them to project pain onto others.

She remembered hearing that God loved her and had a plan for her, but since we couldn’t read God’s mind, we couldn’t know for sure what it was. So she could simply focus on whatever he’d placed immediately in front of her. She could divide her life into those things she could act on and those beyond her control that she needed to surrender to him.

That’s what she remembers. What I remember is feeling utterly helpless much of the time. But we can’t protect our children from disappointment. We can’t walk their journeys for them. We can only accompany them in our shared vulnerability, be strong when we have to, rage and cry when we need to, and apply God’s promises like cool cloths on a fevered soul.

My daughter’s 25 now and in a prolonged remission. She sits in waiting rooms mostly by herself. She’s made the journey her own, and she’s also grown into the promises. She knows her strength is in Word, water, wine. She knows God answers prayer, but sometimes—often—the answer is no. She knows that peace is in surrender, not control. And I’m biased, but I think she’s also developed perseverance. And character. And hope.

And if she ever wonders, “Why would God allow this? Where is he in all this?” she knows the answer to that too. He’s right there in the thick of it. Jesus, her Friend and Brother—the one who wept at Lazarus’ funeral, the one whose heart went out to the widow of Nain—he sees her and sits next to her, arm around her shoulders, his sighs matching hers.


Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : How do we keep our children safe online?

How do we balance law and gospel with our children?

I don’t know about you, but the idea of my children surfing the Internet scares me. I’m unsure of how to protect them from the bad while letting them benefit from the good.

This month Heart to heart is blessed to have articles from two moms who understand these fears, have lived through them themselves, and have a variety of helpful solutions so that the Internet can be a positive resource rather than a scary one.

Nicole Balza


It seems like yesterday when the Lord blessed my husband and me with our three sons and we began the journey of parenthood in the digital age.

When our oldest was born in 1995, the Internet was brand new to everyone. Being a bit geeky, my husband and I explored tools and techniques for creating websites, which led us to bridging the miles between us and our family and friends, sharing each of our boys’ first-year baby milestones and photos via a website that we updated monthly.

Over time, as the boys grew, we continued to share monthly family news and photos using a “cutting-edge” blog platform to house our family website. Together with our sons, we’ve used the Internet to listen to family-friendly podcasts and free audio books, find geocaches and BreakoutEDU solutions, take care of our Webkinz pets, e-mail our favorite authors, learn to program, play games, create videos, design 3-D models, and so much more.

Now our boys are reaching adulthood, and we are fast approaching the empty-nest stage. As I reflect on the years of their childhood, I remember joys and challenges we encountered along the way in relation to technology. In this sinful world, it is impossible to keep our children 100 percent safe from the dangers the Internet invites into our homes. Here are some of the steps we took to guard their safety:

Engage with them—Before allowing our boys to visit a website, we tried it out ourselves or sought the opinions of others regarding it. (A great site for reviews of all types of children’s media is commonsensemedia.org.) As our boys used websites, we used them too, guiding our boys along the way and explaining any areas of concern that came up.

Help them create—We used the tools available on the Internet to excite our sons to use the Internet for good and noble purposes. As they learned how to code video games, we encouraged them to expand the program’s capabilities. When their interest was piqued by podcasts, we started a weekly family podcast. Over the years we used our family blog to share the boys’ creative writing, stop-motion Lego movies, and Haiku poetry.

Block inappropriate content—Many software solutions for filtering inappropriate Internet content in the home are available. Something we’ve used for many years is OpenDNS, opendns.com/home-internet-security. The free Family Shield and Home plans include parental controls that protect every device in the home.

My husband and I did all of these things with an end goal in mind—giving our sons discerning hearts. All too quickly they have grown up and ventured out into the world alone. Now they must rely on their own judgement regarding the appropriateness of Internet content. Our prayer is that the lessons learned in their early years will stay with them.


Sallie Draper and her husband, Kevin, have three sons and live in New Ulm, Minnesota.


How many parents would take their two-year-olds to the pool for the first time and allow them to jump into the deep end? None, I hope! Being able to swim in the deep end is a process that requires lessons, practice, and experience, all guided by loving parents who want their children to enjoy swimming safely.

Staying safe on the Internet is not much different. If we want our teens to know how to enjoy using it safely, we must start the process early. This can be done in the light of God’s Word and his commands.

Internet safety is a wide net, but most parents identify several areas in which they wish to keep their children safe online.

• They are concerned with the addictive potential of games.

• They share concern over their children stumbling upon offensive sites, such as pornography. This is often connected with the idea of sexting, which occurs as early as middle school.

• Finally, parents fear the online social sites that encourage kids to talk with others, whether on gaming sites or social media sites that encourage kids to follow and be followed by others. These sites raise the concern of meeting strangers online who may not be who they portray as well as the opportunity for online bullying.

Unfortunately, many of us ignore these things until a problem arises. Being proactive in approaching these subjects really helps. Start early.

As parents, if we treat technology as a gift of God while training children to be aware of the dark side on the Internet, we can pray that they develop their Christian faith to assist them in making good and responsible choices. One way we can do that is by talking freely about the evil that is in the world that is now manifested online and can be found one click away. We can discuss this during devotions and in conversations with our children from the time they are in grade school and beyond.

The old model of keeping the desktop computer in an area of the home where Mom and Dad are walking through and can be aware of computer activity may seem outdated since we now deal with smartphones, tablets, Chromebooks, and laptops. I think it is still reasonable to expect grade school and middle school kids to use their technology in a common area of the home. It is legitimate for a parent to be made aware of musical playlists so that when headphones are used, parents know what is being consumed. As kids grow and schoolwork requires technology, a quiet place may be desirable, but it should still be understood that when homework is done on the computer, that is all that is happening, and parents may come by to see how it is going. Parents need to be vigilant.

At a time determined by parents, all mobile technology can be unplugged and kept in a specified spot. For example, maybe all family devices get plugged in at a common location for the night. Enforce the rules as you talk about why they are good for the family.

Parents can also make rules regarding time limits for game playing and can talk openly about gaming choices and their possible effects on those who play them. Conversations about learning to discern should be ongoing. Social gaming sites, perhaps, should not be allowed until an age that a parent feels the child can make competent choices in this regard. Parents will need to model good online behavior and set the tone for what is acceptable in the home. It should be a family effort.

The creation of the Internet brings many good things to us, but the reality is that it has created another level of parenting. Parents must include applications regarding the misuse of the Internet as they teach their children to discern right from wrong in all facets of life. For example, what is learned in the home as far as how to treat one another in God-pleasing ways can help children be aware of the inappropriateness of bullying online, as an extension of bullying face to face. The idea of sexting as a practice can be addressed as veering outside of what God has commanded us regarding how to keep our bodies chaste. This is an extension of pre-Internet conversations with children that now need to be brought into the scope of what sins are possible through technology. We ask God to keep us from temptation in all we do, including in our use of technology.

Parents have always taught their children about “stranger danger.” This same conversation now must be expanded to teach children about the very real dangers of social media sites with followers. Talking on those sites or on online chat areas should be discouraged. The news often shares stories of online predators and the attempt to catch them, and you can discuss these news items at family gathering times to drive this point home.

We are blessed to have God’s Word as our handbook for parenting, and it is up to us as parents to continue to nurture our children in that Word as we make applications from the technology that is so ubiquitous in our culture today. May he bless our prayerful efforts!


For a comprehensive list of websites to help parents keep their children safe online, visit forwardinchrist.net/online-safety-resources.


Gail Potratz and her husband, Phil, have three adult children and eight grandchildren. Gail has served as a teacher and technology coordinator  for more than 30 years.


Discussing pornography with children

Any child who is using the Internet can encounter pornography. Conquerors through Christ, a Special Ministries team that provides resources to help people avoid or stop using pornography, has compiled resources for parents to deal with this situation. The First Word is an e-book that provides advice for talking to a child about pornography. Other e-books include Warning kids about pornography and Correcting kids who use pornography. For more information, visit conquerorsthroughchrist.net, choose “resources,” and then choose “e-books.”


 

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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 5
Issue: May 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : Balancing Law and Gospel

How do we balance law and gospel with our children?

Balancing law and gospel is a main tenet of Christian parenting. I often wonder, though, what that actually looks like. So that was my challenge for these authors. Show me! Show me what it looks like to balance law and gospel with our children. I’m excited to share this column with you, because I think that Emily and Dan really delivered by sharing some great examples and practical ideas.

I’d love to hear what you think. Did these articles hit the mark for you? Were you able to apply one of their ideas to your parenting repertoire? Heart to heart is here to support you, so let us know how we’re doing. Comment on the articles themselves at forwardinchrist.net or e-mail us at fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


No effort is more worthwhile than raising our children to love and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. And there is no other parenting task that makes us realize how much we need Jesus. Children learn primarily by example, and they’re always watching us. I never feel my sin so keenly as when I hear my ungracious words and sharp tone of voice mimicked from my children’s mouths. That is not what I wanted to teach them, but that is what they learned from me.

Showing children the right way to act is only half the battle. It’s just as important that we show them unwavering Christlike love when they fail, just as God shows us. To help our children understand this concept of law and gospel, we must be honest about our own sinfulness. One of the most meaningful examples of law and gospel we can show to our children is being willing to acknowledge our own faults when we sin against our children and ask them to forgive us.

But that hurts our pride. We don’t want to admit to our children when we’re wrong. We want them to think that we’re strong and unflappable and that we don’t make mistakes. But that’s not true. We’re sinners, just like they are. We need God’s grace and forgiveness every day of our lives, just like they do. When we’re authentic with our children about our sinfulness and weakness and our need for a Savior, we give them a powerful lesson about what it means to live as a Christian.

Our children are sinners too, and we need to expect that they are going to sin—and often against us! When they do, we must be careful not to make matters worse by adding our own sin to the mix with responses that

• take their sin personally (“How could you do this to ME?”),

• overreact (“You’re grounded for life!”),

• heap excessive guilt on them (“Do you realize just how badly you behaved?”), and

• shame them (“You’re so stupid! What’s wrong with you?”).

We simply show them their sin, encourage repentance, guide them to better choices and actions, and assure them of their forgiveness. Younger children may not fully understand what’s happening in this process, and older children may not appreciate what the process involves, but the consistent example we set for them will be powerful.

But above all, we LOVE them—not just when they’re easy to love but especially when it’s difficult. Just as God loves us unconditionally, we reflect that same love to our children, not because they deserve it, but because “he first loved us.” Our children are our youngest brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are walking together along the narrow path to heaven. We want our children to know not only how much we love them but also how much God loves them.

When we’ve taught them that, we’ve taught them what’s most important.


Emily Gresens Strey and her husband, Johnold, have four children ranging in age from 2 to 12.


What a privilege it is for us as parents to use God’s law and gospel with our kids. It’s a blessing that the Holy Spirit has called us to faith and given us the motivation to delight in God’s law and look for ways to demonstrate our love and thanks. Law versus gospel . . . what a balance as we parent our children at any age!

I have to admit that my natural tendency is a more law-based parenting approach. I thought I’d never use the line, “Because I’m your father and I said so,” but I have. Whenever I get to that point in a conversation with one of my kids, I stop and ask myself if what I am requiring is because of my own selfish desire to have things a certain way or if I am really providing a way for my kids to demonstrate their thankfulness for Christ.

Here’s an example. As I child, I grew up eating at the kitchen table with my family for every meal. When my kids wanted to eat in the family room together, I had a litany of responses.

“No. We eat at the kitchen table because that’s where people eat.”

“No, we’ll spill and stain the carpet.”

Then after these and other responses didn’t seem to satisfy anyone, I pulled out, “Because I’m your father and I said so”—as if that response instantly created satisfaction. It was more like forced obedience.

Obeying parents is a great way for children to show their love for God. I have also found that too many moments like this can frustrate kids, and their delight in the law can fade.

Let’s face it. Eating at the kitchen table is really my own desire to do things the way I did in the past. Can we eat together in the family room? Yes, of course—and we now do. Sometimes we even eat outside on the patio. Where we eat is no longer the requirement, but my kids understand that what I appreciate is the time together. Being together is a way they can demonstrate their love for me and for God. The rule itself is gone, but their understanding of the motivation behind the rule is what brings me joy.

My natural law-way-of-thinking can easily show itself in my parenting. Teaching responsibility quickly can become another selfish rule on my part and cloud the opportunity for gospel-motivated behavior.

As a parent of two awesome kids, I rely on the example of how my parents balanced the law and gospel with me when I was a child. You may recall a previous article when I shared a story from my childhood about driving our new garden tractor into a clothes pole. The grace-filled reaction of my father was imprinted on me. I recently had the opportunity to pay that forward.

My 14-year-old daughter asked if she could pull our car into the garage. It was literally only 15 feet. What could go wrong in 15 feet?

After a complete lesson on driving safety and the rules of “right pedal is go; left pedal is stop,” she sat in the driver’s seat and slowly moved the car forward. Just at the point where the pedal on the left should be used, the pedal on the right was selected instead. Thankfully she only hit the gas slightly, and the car managed to stop after crushing our garbage cans against the front wall.

My first inclination was to get angry. I just told her which pedals to use! However, I knew she was scared. I knew she felt bad. What she needed right then was not a healthy dose of the law and a stern reaction from her dad. It was a mistake; it was not intentional; she was sorry. My reaction was the same as my dad’s reaction when I was her age—nothing but encouragement. The law part of my parenting was done already. Now it was time for the gospel.

Are the muddy boot prints tracked along the kitchen floor an accidental act of a child on her way to an emergency bathroom trip? Or are they an intentional expression of disobedience that expresses an attitude that she doesn’t care about the rules in the house? Each has its own opportunity for the parent to emphasize the law in one case or the gospel in another.

Here’s my personal formula for balance:

1. Remember my natural tendency. I know I lean more heavily on the law, and I know I don’t always put the best construction on an act. Because I know this about myself, I hit my STOP button so I don’t get angry right away.

2. Communicate. After I pause, it’s time to find the facts. It’s time to communicate with my child and find out what happened.

3. Law. Is the particular situation in need of a more law-focused approach? Reinforce the rule? Time for a consequence? Do I need to emphasize the law to have a better appreciation of the next step?

4. Gospel. Is the particular situation prime for a grace response? Perhaps the child already knows she is wrong and already knows consequences will be coming, but she just needs to know you still love her and is forgiven because Christ forgave us.

5. Repent. The last step is to ask God for forgiveness when I skip one of the other steps above and blow it! When I miss the chance God gives me to demonstrate law and gospel in my parenting, I remember the undeserved act of love he showed me by sending his Son to satisfy the requirements of the law for me and by giving me the free and perfect gift of grace.

Let’s delight in our opportunity as parents to demonstrate our love for God by using the law and gospel as we handle everyday situations in our home. We are helping our children understand the need for their Savior and bringing them the assurance of their salvation and the knowledge that they are loved by us and their heavenly Father.


Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a pre-teen son.


 

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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations : Shaping responsible behavior

Nagging. It’s as much a part of parenting as juice boxes and crayons. Of course, our nagging always has a purpose. Coats and shoes need to be put on so that we can run our errands. The milk needs to be put back in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t spoil. The dog needs to be fed . . . well, you get it.

That takes us to this month’s topic. I tell myself that I’d nag less if my children were more responsible. So, how can we get there? Reading our two authors’ articles this month gave me some great places to start—and some new perspectives on this topic.

Nicole Balza


Shaping responsible, Christlike behavior in children takes time.

Somehow my father added several hours to his already busy day to drive me around to selected classmates’ homes. The trips were made so I could render apologies to them and their parents. I had shared something inappropriate with several students and been caught. Guilt was forgiven, but I had to learn that what I did hurt others. My dad gave up his valuable time to make sure I followed through on my lesson of responsibility. Later that night I gave the eighth-grade valedictory speech at my grade school. I’m pretty sure I had a red face as I shared “The value of a Christian education.”

This is only one example of how my parents were tasked with trying to raise children who would behave responsibly. There were five of us, but I’m pretty sure I gave them the most practice.

No matter how hectic the pace of their daily lives, they not only addressed irresponsible behavior but gave us opportunities to foster responsibility. There was an assumption that we were competent beyond our own expectations—and most of the time we lived up to it.

Take three city buses to get to school? You can do it! And we did.

Go to college and pay for it yourself? Sure, why not?

Travel abroad on your own dime and come home in one piece? Piece of cake!

Shaping responsible behavior takes the kind of faith that realizes our children are just on loan to us from their true Father. My own children were tasked with daily chores that were part of their preparation for real life. Self-esteem starts with knowing you are a child of God, and conquering skills is an important addition.

Responsible behavior grows when responsibility is given to a child. In my years in the classroom I observed well-meaning parents cripple their children’s growth by assuming responsibilities that could have been given to their children. I was reminded of this myself when I was about to pick up my grandchild’s breakfast dish. My son said kindly, “Never do for a toddler what a toddler can do for herself.”

Follow-through on responsibilities is important. Very early on our children knew that bringing needed books home from school was their responsibility. The first time our daughter forgot a book she knew that even though we lived next door and had a key to the school, we weren’t going to go and get that book for her. It was a hard pill for all of us to swallow but one that would help achieve the desired effect.

At one of the Lutheran schools in which I taught, a very basic lunch was provided for children who forgot theirs. We knew something about the parents when we saw a child pick up that unglamorous lunch without a request to call home. And we saw the growth in responsible behavior as that same child remembered to bring his own lunch in the future.

The motivation for this never-ending job of raising responsible children is simple, powerful, and comes with a promise. Children in our care are a gift from God, and they actually come with instructions: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).


Mary Clemons lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and six grandchildren.


The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14).

My mom will laugh when she sees that I’m writing an article on parenting responsible kids. I don’t think a single school day went by when I could find both of my shoes before Mom was in the car backing out of the driveway. I wasn’t known as a very responsible kid in the traditional sense of the word. She used to joke that if my head wasn’t attached I would probably lose it. And she was probably right.

But I once heard that being responsible really means that one is able to respond. You might think of it as being spelled response-able. I like this definition. This is, after all, what I really want for my kids. I don’t just want them to know where their shoes are and, someday, where their keys and wallets are (though it would be nice if they were more responsible than I was . . . okay . . . am). But what I really want for them is to be able to respond to situations they find themselves in throughout their lives in a God-pleasing way.

I want my kids to be able to respond to God’s law and own up to their sin and their mistakes when the mirror of the law exposes them for the sinners that they are. I want them to be able to respond with genuine contrition and repentance. And I think that ability is fostered the more they come to know and believe and appreciate the gospel. They can own up to their sin knowing that Jesus will forgive it and erase it every time. It also gives them motivation when faced with similar temptations.

I want my kids to be able to respond to the consequences of their actions. I want them to know that God isn’t punishing them for their sin—he already punished Jesus in their place. But I want them to know that God (and sometimes their mom and I) allows or sends such consequences to teach them to make better choices the next time they are faced with similar temptations.

But most of all I want my kids to be able to respond to the gospel as they rejoice in the full and free forgiveness that is theirs through Christ. He offered his life for them and then rose up again in victory for them and for the world. I want them to be able to respond to that gospel victory by letting it fill their hearts and minds with peace as they put their trust in Jesus more and more. No matter what the situation in which they find themselves, I want them to be able to respond by living lives that are pleasing to him in their attitudes and actions, in the way they treat others, and in the way they look to serve those around them.

To me, this is the kind of responsibility I really want for my kids—even if they can’t find their shoes or leave their backpacks at school or leave a coat out in the rain. This kind of responsibility will last—not just for a lifetime but for eternity.

What can I do to foster such responsibility in my kids? I can model it and be responsible myself as I respond to the law and gospel in the way God desires. I’ll make both a part of my life every day and strive to be more responsible to God’s Word. Finally, I’ll pray that God works this responsibility in me and in my kids, because it can’t happen without him. With his help and blessing, our family will be responsible in all that we do.


Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four young sons.


 

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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 104, Number 3
Issue: March 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How do parents go about identifying positive role models?

It’s easy to identify bad role models, but how do parents go about identifying positive role models? And then, how do we convince our kids that these are the people they should be learning from and emulating? Read this month’s Heart to heart articles for three perspectives.

Did you know that Heart to heart offers a monthly webcast/ podcast? These short pieces provide a quick shot in the arm as you go about your parenting journey. The October 2016 topic—helping children build their self-esteem based on Christ’s love—resonated with many parents. Interested? You can find a full list of all the episodes under the “Webcasts” and “Podcasts” tabs at forwardinchrist.net.

Nicole Balza

 


As parents, I think we can all agree with the important teaching of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). The question is, “How do we train?”

This has been what I have most appreciated about the Heart to heart series. Parents are sharing their unique experiences on how they have trained their children in the Lord. When I read Proverbs, the word train initially brings a picture in my mind of sitting down with my son or daughter and studying Scripture or reading a devotion—perhaps more of an academic experience. I’m also quite certain that modeling the application of our knowledge of Scripture is important for my kids and included in the idea of training from Proverbs.

By default, parents are natural role models for their children, but we can also rely on other positive role models to reinforce that training in the Lord. I want my kids to see how God’s Word comes to life in what we do and say. I’d like them to see how others bring to life the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).

But who are these people who can be role models, and where do we find them? There seem to be many role models out there in sports, movies, television, or YouTube, but are these the people who consistently bring us confidence in their demonstrations of love for God?

As I wrote this article, I couldn’t help but wonder who my kids would identify as their role models. So I asked them, “Besides Mom and Dad, who would you say are your favorite role models—the people you really look up to?” I asked them each separately, and both of them had the same top pick. They chose their Aunt Lori because “she is so loving and patient and kind to everyone.”

Yes! I couldn’t have picked a better role model, and personally I was relieved that the top pick was not a famous YouTuber or sports hero! Another pick was one of their grade school teachers, Miss Bauman, who has devoted her life to the teaching ministry for more than 40 years.

I’d like to think my wife and I intentionally arranged our kids’ role models to be family members or called workers. However, it’s interesting that our kids picked the same people that my wife and I would consider our own role models. Maybe the secret to encouraging positive role models for our children is to be sure we have our own first. Thanks be to God that he provides faithful, Christian people in our lives who we can look to as examples. Let our kids see us cherishing them as well.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a preteen son.


When I was a kid, I adored Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy from the movie Grease. I wanted to be her. That perfectly flipped hair. That golden voice. That sweet, upright disposition. Then it all changed in the last scene of the movie. Gone were the sweater sets and pearls and out came the too-tight leather pants and garish makeup. She changed who she was—just to win the favor of some guy. I was crushed! How could I still look up to her?

It’s tough to find good role models, especially for our kids. The “role models” that our society produces—reality TV stars, Hollywood celebs, professional athletes—can have a broken moral compass. Here are a few things to remember as we help our kids find role models they can look up to.

Look for role models outside the norm. Role models can come from all sorts of places: the quiet World War II veteran who lives next door and fought for his country on the beaches of Normandy. The doctor who sets aside her six-figure salary and instead chooses to volunteer in a third-world country. The teacher who has spent over half his life faithfully mentoring kids in and out of the classroom. We can help our kids find these role models.

Look for role models in your child’s interest areas. Does your child love science? Encourage her to study the life of someone who made a groundbreaking discovery despite the odds. Does your child love writing? Help him find an author who endured rejection after rejection yet persisted. Kids need role models who can inspire them and show them what’s possible.

Help your kids understand that even the best role models are flawed, and we can learn from that. David—“a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14)—had an affair with another man’s wife, and when he found out she was carrying his child, he set in motion a series of tragic events that led to the death of her husband and had ramifications on David’s family for years to come. Discuss with your kids why God included flawed heroes in his story: to remind us repeatedly of our desperate need for forgiveness and the power of his grace and also to remind us that God uses us, flawed as we are, for his purposes.

In the end, we need more than worldly role models. We need a Savior. While we can look to Jesus as a role model, we must first see him as our Redeemer. He was perfectly kind, perfectly loving, perfectly forgiving. He prayed constantly, studied the Scriptures, and obeyed his Father in a way we never could. Praise God that when we inevitably fall short of his perfect standards, we can look to the one who lovingly kept those standards perfectly!

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons and a recently emptied nest.

 


Helping our kids develop discernment about the people they emulate is not a one-and-done conversation. The lessons we parents teach our kids about role models is more caught than taught throughout their childhoods.

Like thousands of stone chips in a mosaic, numerous mini conversations about role models create a portrait for our children of the kind of people we Christians pattern our lives after. With every two-minute reflection about Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS, a tile is placed in the mosaic. Comparing the leadership characteristics of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning adds another tile. Gently discussing your daughter’s musical idols lays several more. Of course, parents ensure these tiles are colored with the blood-red tones of God’s grace.

Multiple mini conversations about role models remove much of the pressure parents can feel about influencing their children’s choice of heroes. It means parents don’t have to convince their children each time they tackle this topic. It encourages parents to listen to their children’s opinions. It builds confidence in children that they can make the best role model choices.

These conversations work best with some guidelines. I suggest four that are built around the acronym TACT.

T: Testify about your role models. Identify for your children why you have chosen the role models you have. Talk about how, because of them, your life is different and how your walk with Jesus has improved. This is essential: Let your children see you are striving to be the person your role model already is.

A: Ask about their role models. The same questions you want to answer for your kids about your role models are questions you can ask your kids about their role model choices. Ask: Why do you look up to that person? What are the most valuable things you are learning from that person? How has this person helped you more fully appreciate God’s grace?

C: Confirm their role models’ positives. Point out the most positive traits of your children’s heroes and friends. For example, “I’m glad you hang around with Ethan. He’s always polite.” This gains more ground than stumbling through what you don’t like. When you identify favorable traits, you confirm for your children that they are making good choices, and you help them define whom they want to influence their lives.

T: Talk about their role models’ negatives. Talking about the less desirable traits of the people your kids admire is important but tricky. When we put anyone on the defensive, barriers go up. Approach this topic as a conversation rather than a lecture. Questions usually work best: “Justin Bieber said, ‘A lot of people who are religious, I think they get lost.’ What do you think he meant? How much do you agree? How much do you think that’s true in our family?”

Begin the conversations early. Continue them often. Build the mosaic. Use TACT.

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.

 


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Author: Multiple
Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How can we include our children in worship at church?

Church can be a struggle for parents with children of all ages. I’ll admit, there have been times when my husband or I stayed home with a little one because we knew we’d spend the whole service in the narthex. We know, though, that taking children to church is important. So, the next week we’d head back to church with baby in tow. Eventually, we were able to spend small chunks of the service in the sanctuary. And then one day we realized we made it through the whole service in our pew.

Along the way, it can feel like we’re just trying to survive. What I wonder, though, is if survival might be easier if we found ways to engage our children in the service. How can we include our children—of all ages—in worship at church? Two Heart to heart contributors give us their thoughts. 

Nicole Balza

 


Twenty years ago I wrote a column for this magazine titled “Children belong in church.” My kids were two and four, and though I believed what I wrote, it hadn’t stopped me from taking those two kiddos out of church. Multiple times. At least once, I remember hoicking one up under each arm—like basketballs, but louder and chubbier—walking right out the door and driving home.

I never found the secret to perfect church behavior. Sometimes crayons and Cheerios—let’s call them worship tools—were enough. Sometimes sterner looks and firmer hands were needed.

It’s hard. Too permissive, and our ruckus ruins the service for others. Too rigid, and the kids start dreading church.

Okay, here’s the sad truth. When three-year-old Phil trained himself to lean against my arm and sleep through the sermon, God forgive me but I considered it a blessing. Phil’s pretty sure he slept through sermons until about third grade, and I’m pretty sure I relished it. That’s some less-than-stellar parenting right there.

As kids get older, it’s the church after church—the liturgy you hold in your car on the way to the bakery—that’s almost as important as the service itself.

Confession

Mom: “Today when we confessed our sins, I thought of how crabby I was this morning. I’m sorry. I need to be more patient.”

Kids: “We understand. You were mad ‘cuz we were late again.”

Scripture

Dad: “That’s one of my favorite psalms. How does that verse go again? ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully . . .’ ”

Kids: “Made!”

Sermon

Mom: “What was your favorite part of the sermon?”

Kids: “The story about that little boy who thought Jesus couldn’t love him.” (Spoiler: It’s always the story—for all of us.)

Dad: “Did I hear Pastor say . . .?”

Kids: “No! What he said was . . .”

In the church after church, families review, discuss, apply, even question. Sometimes we get downright Berean.

The temptation, though, is to let the discussion devolve into snarkiness: “I hate that contemporary music. . . . The prayers were so long. . . . That sermon had nothing to do with my life. . . . Did you see Mrs. Jones’ purple hat?” And of course: “That crying baby! I wish people would keep their kids quiet in church.”

I guess that takes us back where we started. Sometimes, Moms and Dads, we do need to take the kids out. But mostly we do our utmost to help them stay. Help them sit, stand, bow, sing, pray, listen.

Help them simply be present as the Spirit works his holy osmosis, passing the promises of Christ into the bloodstream of their souls . . . forming their faith, their character, their habits . . . cultivating in them that deep sense of belonging to something larger than themselves—something eternal.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.

 


I love having kids in church, both as a dad and a pastor. I love it when kids recite the Creed, putting emphasis on different words than I do. It helps me think about what I’m saying. I love it when they smile back at me during the Aaronic blessing. It shows me how they’re receiving it in faith.

There is so much in worship both for kids and for adults through kids in worship. Here are three suggestions to help everybody in the family make the most of worshiping together.

  1. Sit with or near others who are close to your kids. Even though my parents had seven of us, they never handed us off to others. We always sat with my parents. They wanted us to see them worship, but not only them. They made sure I saw Grandpa worship. I remember that one Sunday still today. I looked down the pew and saw my grandpa praying the Lord’s Prayer. I remember the sincerity on his face as he said the words that were obviously so familiar to him. And I remember getting back to praying like I’ve never gotten back to it before.
  2. Strategically teach your kids the liturgy. There is nothing I love better than watching my four-year-old speak the response to the words, “This is the gospel of our Lord.” I love seeing that she knows what it is and better yet knows why it is. We taught her as a 3-year-old, “Elliana, Jesus taught us everything we need to know and he saved us so when we hear from him we get all excited.” Pick some low-hanging liturgical fruit like that for your younger ones. If you have an infant son, help him fold his little hands during the Prayer of the Day. If you have a 5-year-old, help her nail the creeds. If you have a 12-year-old, show him some profound theological connections. For example, ask him to think about why we sing about the Lamb of God right before the Lord’s Supper.
  3. Receive the Word in faith in front of your kids. Most weeks the pastor is going to say, “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Receive that in faith and joy as the best news you’ve heard all week. Even consider leaning over on occasion to whisper into your teen-age daughter’s ear, “I really needed that today.” And she’ll get it. She’ll remember your apology for being too hard on her earlier in the week and see how you received Christ then and there for it. Dust off the sermon too on the ride home. Tell the kids why it mattered to you so much. Then ask them what mattered in it to them. If it’s crickets, help them remember. You might just see your kids’ ears perk up a bit more next Sunday.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, South Carolina. He and his wife, Melanie, have a four-year-old daughter.

 


What is worship?

The WELS Commission on Worship says, “Worship is the heart of all parish life, the time when the greatest number of members gathers to proclaim the gospel and receive God’s life-giving power in Word and sacrament.”

Want to read about more ways to involve your children in worship? Visit forwardinchrist.net for Brian Heinitz’s practical suggestions. Heinitz is a former member of the WELS Commission on Worship and has four children of his own. He wrote a special, online-only article with his philosophy on involving children in worship, and it includes some perspectives you may not have considered as well as tips to try with your children.

Join the conversation! Visit wels.net/forwardinchrist and look for the Heart to heart link.

 


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Author: Multiple
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How can we help our family stay focused on Christ this Christmas?

Our authors this month have some great tips for how to keep your family focused on Christ this Christmas. I’m here to tell you, though, that these are not one-size-fits-all ideas. Going back to the original purpose for Heart to heart, these articles are meant to support you in your Christian parenting journey and to be conversation starters. They are not supposed to make you feel guilty about anything you are or are not doing.

We certainly get enough of that at Christmas, don’t we? The guilt? The self-induced stress? The feeling that we need to check certain boxes off in order for our children to have a “perfect” Christmas? Yeah, I’ve been there, and I’ve discovered that I’d rather be at the manger. At the manger I find the joy. the peace. the purpose of Christmas. Please join me at the manger this year—and leave your guilt at the foot of the cross, where the babe of Christmas fulfilled his purpose of becoming our Savior.

Nicole Balza


Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the annual reminder that God loved us so much that he sent his son as a little baby to be with us here on earth and, eventually, to pay the price for our sins.

My daughter came home from school recently, horrified, having learned that some people refer to Christmas as X-mas. “Mom, they don’t even want to say Christmas. They take Christ out completely!”

Part of me was sad that my eight-year-old is becoming more familiar with the ways of the world, and part of me was so thankful that she was deeply troubled by something to which I’ve, sadly, become desensitized. Her reaction was a powerful reminder to me of the importance of teaching my kids to keep Christ in Christmas.

One of our favorite things to do as a family in preparation for Christmas is to decorate our home. We put up the tree, hang up wreaths, and look through last year’s Christmas cards.

But our favorite thing to set out together is our creche. Andy and I have a special set that was a gift from my parents on our first married Christmas. While I set out the shepherds, angel, wise men, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, our kids set up a toy nativity of their own. When Henry was two, he set quite the Christmas scene with Jesus in the manger and all his “guys” (Batman, Spiderman, even The Joker) coming to pay their respects to the newborn king.

Another favorite tradition is participating in and attending our church’s Advent By Candlelight service at the start of Advent. There is something so special about sitting next to my daughter and worshiping together, preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Each of the past few years, we have received a verse-a-day Advent calendar from that service, and we read it together as a family at breakfast. This, combined with working with my kids to memorize their speaking parts for the Christmas services, is a great start to our days during Advent. (I’m convinced Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth is meant to be heard in children’s voices!)

Our family’s biggest blessings in helping to keep us focused on Christ at Christmas are the church and school to which we belong. Worshiping and learning together about the true meaning of Christmas on a daily basis keeps our hearts and minds focused on what matters through the busyness and many distractions of the Christmas season.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children, Anna and Henry. The family worships at Grace, Milwaukee. Anna and Henry attend school at St. John, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.


“How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Change?! We’ve always had that light bulb!”

Sometimes we Lutherans can get the reputation for being resistant to change. We’ve always parked in the same spot in the church parking lot. We’ve always sat in the same pew. We’ve always brought the same dish to the church potluck.

But our hesitancy to change isn’t always bad. It’s rooted in our understanding of the value of traditions. Traditions help us learn. Our little Lutherans know the liturgy with ever growing understanding because they hear those same words spoken every week in church. We celebrate baptisms and confirmations to show that they’re special. Traditions teach us values and important truths.

And if there’s any part of the year that’s steeped in traditions, it’s the Christmas season. So many Christmas traditions are designed to point us to Jesus. So if we want to keep our kids (and ourselves) focused on Jesus at Christmastime, let’s consider focusing on connecting Jesus to the traditions we already have.

 

What traditions do you have? What do you do to help you and your family celebrate Christmas? How

• Do your kids participate in a children’s Christmas program? Be a part of it! Help them memorize their parts and look up the Bible verses in their context. Show your children how they point to Jesus.

• Do you have a nativity scene? Consider letting the kids play with it (or buy an inexpensive one they can use). Don’t set out all the pieces at once. Let the kids move Mary and Joseph across the room a little each day during Advent. Put the baby in the manger for the first time on Christmas morning. Then add the shepherds and start the Magi on their journey down the hall to join the scene by Epiphany. Talk about the story and anticipate the joy of the Savior’s birth.

• Do you buy and eat candy canes? Teach your children how the red and white stripes remind us of the red blood Jesus shed for us, which makes us pure and white as snow. Show them the Good Shepherd’s staff which, when turned upside down, makes a “J” for Jesus.

• Do you decorate a tree in the living room? Teach your children the symbolism behind the tree and its decorations. The lights remind us that Jesus is the light of the world who rescued us from sin. The angel or star remind us of the good news proclaimed. The garland that seems to wrap around the tree endlessly, and the tree itself—that’s evergreen and points to the sky—reminds us of the beautiful eternity that awaits us in heaven one day soon.

What traditions do you have? What do you do to help you and your family celebrate Christmas? How have you used those traditions to focus on Jesus and on the eternal peace that he gives? Consider engaging in the online discussion at forwardinchrist.net and share your traditions. Maybe one from your family will help my family and others look to Jesus this Christmas.

Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons. Rob serves as pastor at Grace, Kenai, Alaska.


More resources to consider this Christmas

Northwestern Publishing House offers a variety of books, music, nativities, and other resources to help your family focus on Christ at Christmas. Here are a couple newer resources to consider:

• The Christmas Star from Afar: Set up the wooden nativity that comes with this set, and then hide the star each night to create a fun hide-and-seek game throughout Advent. When your children find the star each morning, they move the three wise men to its location. On Christmas morning, the star is found on the top of the stable and your children can move the wise men to worship baby Jesus. This set also includes a hardbound book that includes the Christmas story as well as Scripture verses to read each day leading up to Christmas. Some families hide candy or little treats with the star.

• Tidings of Comfort and Joy: This book of Advent devotions works well for family devotions. The book leads readers through the biblical accounts of God’s Old Testament promises about a coming Savior and their fulfillment in the New Testament through the birth of his Son. Each devotion is a reminder of the good news of Jesus Christ and how he came to earth to live and die for us, which are the tidings of comfort and joy that the angels sang about that first Christmas night.

For more information on these or other Christian books or gifts, visit www.nph.net.


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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 12
Issue: December 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How to help families who struggle with severe food allergies

Getting together with a friend? You’re likely to meet for coffee or a meal. Throwing a birthday party? You’re sure to serve cake. Celebrating a church anniversary? Enter the potluck or catered meal. In our culture, food seems to equal happiness and good times—which isn’t a bad thing. However, it makes life challenging for families who have food allergies.

So far my own family hasn’t struggled with this—but I know others who do. I can’t imagine the fear that grips a mother whose child’s well-being hangs in the balance during these happy events. That’s why I thought it’d be helpful to hear from two of these moms and get their perspectives on what life is like for families that live with severe food allergies.

Do you have a parenting question you’d like Heart to heart’s authors to consider? Please send it our way! We’re developing our 2017 calendar, and we’d love to have your input. E-mail fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


Our life was going according to plan. My husband and I married a year out of college, purchased our first home, and two years later gave birth to our first child.

Then it happened. God took us on our first major detour together. Our infant son had colic, reflux, eczema, and hernias due to muscle strain during bowel movements. Doctors prescribed various medications and suspected his symptoms could be stemming from possible allergies. Since he was breastfed exclusively, I altered my diet to try to ease his symptoms, but it was difficult to track what was helping or hindering the situation. Nothing brought complete relief.

Two years passed, and by this time I had given birth to our daughter who had health issues of her own. She suffered from chronic respiratory infections, ear infections, and intermittent stomach cramping. We took shifts staying up at night making sure she could breathe while she struggled to sleep.

Then it was my turn for complications. I had been losing weight and had large bruises appearing on my body without sustaining any injuries. At a doctor appointment, I heard the words no one ever wants to hear, “We should run some tests for leukemia.” It was with great relief that I received negative results, but I still had no answers.

With two sick children and my own failing health, I went on a quest for a diagnosis. Many doctor appointments later, along with two trips to the Mayo Clinic, we finally learned we had Celiac Disease—an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

Armed with this knowledge, we began the healing process. We changed our diet to strictly gluten and dairy free. Even this did not bring complete relief, so we started a specific diet developed to heal the lining of the intestines. It was very time consuming and involved fermenting our own foods; making our own broth; and eating all organic, homemade, raw (unprocessed) foods. Eventually, relief came, and we could reassess our life.

Our debt from medical bills and the new, expensive, lifelong diet strained us financially, so we decided to downsize our house to better manage our budget.

The hard part was over. We had survived the detour.

Whenever I am asked how we dealt with all these challenges, it is so inspiring not to have to search for answers once again. The answer is simple. When God’s plans altered from ours, he held us close to him as we learned to let go and put all our trust in him. He never put us down as he taught us that hard times can bring blessings, too.

Our Christian friends and family supported us, listening with compassionate ears and never tiring of doing good. We had babysitters for doctor appointments, help with tedious food preparations, and a monetary donation to help pay medical bills. We even inherited supportive new neighbors in the process. Accepting help was difficult at first, but through this trial, God taught us how to rely on the help he sends through fellow Christians.

When our children entered school, we again saw God’s love in action. Parents called before parties asking what they could bring that our children could eat. Some sent special non-food projects or toys. Instead of feeling left out, our children often felt special. Upon receiving a toy as a birthday treat, my daughter lamented, “I feel bad for the other kids in my class. They ate their treat, but I get to keep mine forever!”

So while life’s detours are unexpected and often unsettling, go with God because he’s looking at the whole road map and leading you in the right direction. I have learned my life was, is, always will be going according to plan . . . his plan.

Kristin Kutz and her husband, Joel, live in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, with their two children.


My 14-month-old feverishly scratched at his face. Huge white blisters exploded across his chubby baby cheeks. His lips swelled. He spit the food out of his mouth. He

vomited. After a trip to the E.R., we received the diagnosis—my baby had life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies.

So began a new phase of our life—a constant campaign to keep our son alive. It’s a campaign complicated by many people’s lack of understanding.

Food allergies are on the rise. We all know someone who has them. So what can we do to help? Overall the answer is simple—show God’s love.

Be kind in your interactions with the parents and children dealing with food allergies. Families dealing with food allergies didn’t ask for it, but they have to deal with it on a bite-to-bite basis. Put yourself into their shoes. Go one day thinking about every item you put in your mouth or on your body. That hand soap has almond oil in it. We can’t use it. That popcorn is made in a factory with peanuts and tree nuts. We can’t enjoy it. That dog across the street eats peanut butter as a treat. We can’t pet him. This is the reality of many food allergy families.

Here are a few practical ideas to show your Christian love and concern:

1. Keep kids with allergies from harm. Check and double check ingredient labels. Even if the label stated nothing last time about a particular allergen, it may this time. Make sure things are washed up as much as possible if your church/school/family consumes the food allergen. That means door handles, tables, toys, kids’ faces and hands, etc. And, if families wants to bring their own food, please don’t be offended. Let them do so without guilt. Their first priority is the safety of their children. If they are comfortable with you, the ladies’ guild, or school lunch program making the food, save the food labels for them to double check.

2. Don’t leave kids, their siblings, and families out. Institute ways in your church, school, and home to serve safe foods—or to leave food out of the situation altogether. We have chosen to bring non-food toys/trinkets to school to celebrate our kids’ birthdays. It has gone over so well that one of the teachers asked all of the families this year to only bring non-food items for birthdays—even though there aren’t any food allergy kids in her room.

3. Ask a lot of questions. If a food allergy individual is coming to your home, church, or school, ask, “What is the specific allergy?” Some with egg allergies are fine with cooked eggs, but not raw eggs, so baked good would be safe. Some with peanut allergies are perfectly fine with the walnuts in the brownies you made. Check with the families as to what is safe to eat and what is not.

4. Know the signs of an allergic reaction and what to do. Have the contact information of the parents and local emergency line. Learn how to use an EpiPen and do so before emergency personnel get there. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has some great resources for families, schools, and churches at foodallergy.org. Mylan (the EpiPen manufacturer) even gives free EpiPens to schools in case there are children who experience an unknown allergic reaction. Visit epipen4schools.com.

Be a blessing to these families. Little gestures let these kids and their families know you care about them no matter the setting.

Rachel Learman and her husband, Paul, have four children. They live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What do we do when our children say they can’t?

“Mommy do!” insists my two-year-old.

“I can’t!” whines my five-year-old.

“I don’t know how!” laments my ten-year-old.

No matter the age, all children have their moments of insecurity, self-doubt, and—sometimes—laziness. So, how do we tackle those “I can’t” moments? Often my first response is, “Of course you can!” Sometimes, though, a more nuanced approach might be better. This month three Heart to heart authors offer their approaches for how to deal with the “I can’ts.”

Do you have a parenting question you’d like Heart to heart’s authors to consider? Please send it our way! We’re developing our 2017 calendar, and we’d love to have your input. E-mail fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


It’s hot in South Carolina in the summer. Sunny too. How’s that for stating the obvious? The solution? Go to the pool. That’s where my daughter’s “can’t” came to life in a way stronger than anything I’d seen in her before. She didn’t want to dunk her head, but at the same time she did. She was at war with herself.

Saying no to something one can do sometimes is always about an inner tension for a Christian. We’ve all felt it. One minute you’re making the grand pronouncement, “I can do it all by myself.” And the next, just like my daughter did, you stare at what’s in front of you and say, “Daddy, I can’t.” Sometimes it’s the unknown you don’t want to face. Sometimes it’s the fear of failure that grips you. Other times it’s the easiness of inertia that captures your heart.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcome the “can’ts.” But helping we need to help our children know how God has recreated them in baptism is . I think that’s important. God didn’t baptize us into timid lives or shy choices or despairing attempts at worthwhile living. He certainly did not want us to face life fearing every event. Confidence in our love for our children and especially God’s love for them is a factor in moving forward. He baptized us into lives of confidence, love, and self-discipline. And so for me, saying “can’t” when you can isn’t just a matter of merely pounding on the will or somehow gaining compliance; it’s a matter of understanding the gospel itself.

That’s why I relished my daughter’s “can’t” moment. I saw it not as a moment to develop more grit in her but rather to set loose the grit she already possessed in her recreated self. And I believed that turning her former “no” into a full-bodied “YES” wasn’t really a matter of pushing on her will. I believed it was a matter of putting down her old will that was holding her back and raising up her more powerful, recreated will so she’d turn into the dolphin I knew she could be.

How do you that in real-time, real-life living? You apply law and gospel. Was she scared of her underwater attempt? I gave her the safety net of a father’s gentleness and ever-present love. Was she being lazy or combative? That’s not who God recreated her to be, and I don’t have time for that. Some variation of “Git ‘er done” was occasionally the right medicine for the moment. Was she emotionally tapped out? Then it was time to float with the noodles, take a break, and try again later. My goal throughout? Nurture her recreated self and put down her old one.

How’d that turn out for us this summer? Honestly? I’m happy to report that she has now officially turned into a dolphin. And better yet, she is living her recreated life more powerfully making waves for Jesus. And not just in the pool either.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, S.C. He and his wife, Melanie, have a three-year-old daughter.


“I cahn’t! I-I-I cah-h-hn’t!” That’s the lament of my three-year-old grandson as he fit together jigsaw puzzle pieces. Within two minutes the puzzle was complete, and he was on to another puzzle. But the chant continued. “I cahn’t!” Cute.

Doubting one’s adequacy may be cute at three. It loses charm by grade school. So how do we best love our kids when they insist, “I can’t,” but we parents know they can? I have five guidelines as a conversation starter.

Show grace. Lead with love, not law. Let your self-skeptical kids know they are loved—loved by you and, even better, loved without measure by God. Try, “I’m sorry you don’t think you can do this. I want you to know I love you more than anything else. And Jesus loves you much more than that.”

Don’t only begin with an emphasis on God’s grace. Throughout your conversation circle back to your love, a love that won’t diminish because of your child’s failures, a love that is driven by God’s love for you. Make God’s grace tangible with your actions—a hug, a smile, a back rub.

Yes, laying down the law has a place. But refuse to start there.

Seek to understand. Ask, “Why do you think you can’t do this?” Your child is believing a lie. Expose the falsehood to the warmth of truth and the problem evaporates.

There are many reasons we might doubt our abilities, including others’ negative opinions, fear of failure, prior failures, and peer pressure.

Share your positive evaluation. Gently offer your own view of the gifts and abilities God has given your child. Suggest evidence for your view. “I know you can do this. Remember how you swam across the pool and surprised us all?”

Talk about grace and giftedness. Go beyond offering your evaluation. Talk about grace’s evaluation. Grace insists your child is unimaginably precious to God. The Son of God coming to be our Savior proves that. But in addition, God’s grace means your child is spectacularly gifted as the exact person God wants on this planet today. Consider Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Offer appropriate assistance. You might say, “What if you and I do this together?” “I’ll show you; then you can do the rest.” “I’d be willing to get you started on this project.”

Different kids in different situations at different times in their lives need to be approached differently, of course. What advice would you add?

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.


It can happen around age 12.

Your daughter suddenly quits the team. Refuses to enter the music contest. Starts getting Bs when she’s always been an A student.

It isn’t laziness. It isn’t fear of failure. It’s fear of success.

Near the onset of puberty, your little girl who once outran all the girls and out-mathed all the boys wakes up one day and says, “I can’t,” when you know—and she knows—she absolutely can. Why?

Because sometimes success brings negative social repercussions, especially for adolescent girls. Insecure boys don’t like to be outdone, so they reject her for the girls who make them feel stronger and smarter. Competitive girls resent her achievements, so they kick her down the social ladder. In a hundred ways, her peers punish her for outpacing them, no matter how humbly she does so.

What’s a parent to do?

It might be tempting to sit that girl down and remind her, “To whom much is given, much is required.” God demands she use her talents, not bury them.

Let’s not. Let’s not use the law in this way. Even if such tactics succeed and your daughter starts using her gifts faithfully again, she’ll be doing it out of guilt. She may even begin to resent the God whose love, it seems, comes with strings.

Instead, build her up.

1. Tell your daughter you’re proud of her when she works hard, whether her efforts are successful or not.

2. Be generous and specific with praise.

3. Stop saying, “You can do anything, honey.” She knows it isn’t true, and it only makes her wonder whether your other praise is empty too.

4. Make your home a safe place, where your daughter can say, “It felt so cool to win!” It’s honest, and having permission to say it at home may eliminate that feeling to seek praise in public, which really will hurt her social standing—and rightly so.

5. When you see jealousy or pettiness in any of your kids, put your foot down. The family is a support network, not a rugby scrum.

6. When you see jealousy or pettiness in your daughter’s friends, help her recognize it for what it is and try to understand the pain and insecurity that causes it.

7. Foster humility by helping your daughter recognize that every person is gifted, whether those gifts win plaques at award banquets or not. And some of those gifts—humor, empathy, work ethic—will count far more in adulthood than fine free throw shooting. Your daughter may be gifted, but so is everyone else.

One of Satan’s favorite tools is to shut down Christians’ talents. He’ll tempt our daughters to make themselves smaller than they are, to sabotage themselves, to feel guilty when they faithfully use the gifts God gave.

Let’s not let that Liar win. Let’s help our daughters humbly and faithfully say, “I can do this. For my Savior, I can do this.”

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: What do we tell our children when a loved one dies?

We’re hurting, but that doesn’t mean we can take a vacation from being a parent. Often when a loved one dies, our children need us more than ever. They need us to comfort them, answer their questions, pray with them, reminisce, cry, and laugh. What are some ways we can handle this emotion-filled time? How do we answer the tough questions? This month three Heart to heart authors open their hearts and share their experiences.

Do you have a parenting question you’d like Heart to heart’s authors to consider? Please send it our way! We’re developing our 2017 calendar, and we’d love to have your input on what topics we should cover next year. E-mail fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


In 2013, my dad unexpectedly passed away from complications of pneumonia. I hadn’t ever dealt with that level of extreme grief, and it hit me HARD.

Henry (18 months) had never met my dad but was old enough to notice that I was sad. Anna (5 years) knew my dad, and I dreaded telling her he was gone. To this day I am so thankful for the strong, comforting, supportive man I married. Andy took care of details I never would have thought of in my state of shock. He held my hand and did most of the talking when we told the kids.

We were honest and gave age-appropriate details. We told Anna that Grandpa Denny had died in the night. We wouldn’t see him on earth again. We told her that we were sad because we would miss him and she would probably see me crying. And it was okay if she needed to cry too. Anna’s first response was that it wasn’t fair—Henry hadn’t even gotten to meet him! Then she asked if she could watch TV.

Later she needed to cry and had some questions. We hugged and cried together. We talked about good memories of my dad. I told her that even though we have the joy of knowing heaven is waiting for us, it’s okay for us to miss people who aren’t here on earth anymore.

We still talk about my dad often. Henry, who is now four, has grown up hearing stories about my dad, knowing he died and that I still miss him and feel sad sometimes. His favorite story is about my dad living on his sailboat—after all, pirates live on sailboats!

He asks me what would happen if Andy and I died. Who would take care of him? What if Anna died too? I think the knowledge that loved ones can die raises many scary questions for little ones. I try to address these concerns when they arise. Usually a simple answer is all it takes (we will always make sure you are taken care of; you would be very sad, but you will see her/us again in heaven), and then he moves on.

Sometimes we still cry. And I always tell them that it’s okay to do that.

We held a memorial service for my dad about a month after he passed away. We invited friends and family to share memories of him. A few people came up to speak. At last call to the microphone, Anna unexpectedly walked to the front of the room. I grabbed Andy’s hand, not knowing what she planned to say but admiring her bravery. Her speech left all of us reaching for tissues.

“My name is Anna. Denny was my grandpa, and I love him very much. I will miss him, but I know I’ll see him again in heaven.”

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have a daughter in second grade and a son in preschool.


Talking to your child about the death of a loved one is never easy. Death is simply not natural. It’s the result of sin. No sin—no death—and no need to talk about it.

Certainly the circumstances surrounding the death can impact a child and family, but as parents, my wife and I have found that preparing for death is a natural part of our Christian life. Starting with baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and become heirs of eternal life. Death is defeated! As parents, we then have the opportunity to help our children grow in the Word so the Holy Spirit can nurture their faith in Christ and they can be confident of life in heaven. Talking to children about the death of a loved one can then bring us the opportunity to comfort one another and be reminded of the certainty of eternal life in heaven.

Nine years ago, my mother died after fighting cancer for 18 months. My daughter Kayla was five years old. We lived nearby and had many opportunities to see “Humma,” as Kayla liked to call her.

Eighteen months of cancer treatments and a slow decline of health gave us all time to prepare. We would specifically plan “Kayla and Humma” days where just the two of them could spend time together. Kayla was always excited to see Humma, and the door to Mom’s house would always open before we could even knock. Imagine the big smile and hug of a grandmother as she swoops up her granddaughter in her arms. That time was not only important for Kayla, but it also gave my mom a sense of peace knowing that she had the opportunity to have a loving relationship with all of her 14 grandchildren.

The only thing that troubled Mom was that she would not be present at Kayla’s confirmation some day. So I pulled out the video recorder, and we recorded a message that could be played on Kayla’s confirmation day. This last May, Kayla was confirmed, and she had the opportunity to have one last Kayla and Humma moment.

The day did finally come when the Lord took Humma to heaven. How do you tell your five-year-old that Grandma died? The nurtured faith of a child is simply outstanding. It was hard for me to tell Kayla that her grandmother died but easy for her to remind me that my mom was in heaven. That response can only come from someone who heard the Word that has been shared at school, at church, and at home from family—including from a very special Humma.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a teenage daughter and a pre-teen son.


When my Grandma Pearl died, a cousin wrote a letter to the family that started like this: “Well, the fourth chair is once again filled. The pinochle cards have been shuffled and dealt, and Alvin has the manhattans already mixed.”

He was talking about four Christians—his parents and my grandparents—who’d been friends for decades, bound by blood, marriage, and serious card playing. Pearl had been the last of the four to go to heaven, so he imagined them reuniting at the card table.

Are we all scandalized? I hope not. The letter writer is a pastor, and he was doing exactly what Jesus did—using the finer things of earth to help us see the unseeable and imagine the unimaginable.

We can help our children understand heaven in the same way—especially those plagued by fears and questions. I have one child like that. This child worried that angels would be scary, that the daily routine would be dull, that if she got to heaven first she wouldn’t know where to go.

Realizing it’s impossible to capture the infinite bliss of heaven in finite earthly terms, I tried anyway, saying things like:

• You won’t be alone in heaven. Even if you die today, you’ll blink your eyes once and we’ll all be there together—because in heaven there’s no such thing as time.

• Heaven isn’t boring. You won’t float on a cloud, playing the harp. What’s the most fun you’ve ever had? Were you swimming or laughing so hard milk came out of your nose? Multiply that by a million, and that’s what heaven will be like.

• In heaven you’ll still be you. You won’t walk around in a trance, chanting to other identical floaty beings. You’ll be yourself—but the best version of yourself! No sickness. No sins. You won’t get the flu. You won’t be tempted to hit your brother.

• Best of all, Jesus is in heaven. And Jesus is all love all the time. He’ll call you by name, and you’ll run into his arms, and it’ll feel as if he’s known you forever—which he has.

Death is still horrible. Contrary to Disney’s “Circle of Life,” death isn’t a natural part of the life cycle. It’s an intruder in God’s perfect plan. So when someone dies, it’s good to cry. Jesus himself cried at his friend Lazarus’s funeral, even though he knew he’d be raising him from the dead in about ten minutes.

Death is hard. But heaven? Heaven is amazing.

My cousin finished his letter like this: “At this very moment, Pearl is more alive than any of us. . . . Pearl has already seen the Master’s welcome smile, his outstretched arms, and has heard him say, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Your sojourn on this earth has proved a blessing to many. Welcome to the joy that has been prepared for you from eternity.’ ”

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his teenage son.


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Author: Multiple Authors
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: How does being a Christian affect my parenting?

It’s a label many of us wear with pride: “Christian parent.” What does it mean, though? How does a Christian mom or dad parent differently than a non-Christian one? Our authors this month give us some examples from their lives, which may help us as we continue on our Christian parenting journeys.

Have you checked out Heart to heart’s blog site lately? In addition to each month’s articles, monthly webcasts and podcasts are also available. Visit forwardinchrist.net today.

Nicole Balza


How does Christianity affect my parenting? How does it not? Maybe there’s a bigger question for me, though. Maybe the question is: How does looking like a Christian parent hinder my parenting?

If you have been a lifelong Christian like me, you may have a mental picture of what good, Christian parents look like. I did.

My picture: They are married. They have respectful and well-behaved kids. If they have to discipline, they do it with love and logic. They send their kids to the Lutheran elementary school. Their children are active members of the youth groups—not only for themselves but also for the example they set for the other youth. You could probably put a few more thoughts in there. I could too.

If you look at my list, it paints a pretty picture. My husband and I worked hard at painting it. It’s not a bad painting. However, striving for this painting started to overshadow real Christian parenting.

What did we look like to the other families of our congregation? What kind of example were we to our neighbors? These questions aren’t bad questions, but they became more important than questions like: Are we loving God? Are we loving others? Are we modeling those things to our children?

Stripping away our concerns of how we think others view our parenting gives us freedom to live under God’s grace. We find that focusing on our own relationship with Christ compels us to love others and therefore model that to our children. Sound familiar? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

My husband, Tad, and I have since made choices that may not look like what good, Christian parents would do. For example, we just finished our sixth year of homeschooling even though we have a wonderful Lutheran elementary school. We take very seriously the command to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Our choices are prayerfully deliberated with this as our goal. Because Tad accepted a call to be “The Youth Guy,” he is gone nights, weekends, and chunks of summers. Fridays are his day off, which is when the kids were in school. How can Tad be a part of “bringing them up” if he isn’t home when they are? We realized how much impact we could have if our kids were home with us.

Finally, I learned to be careful of my opinions when others painted a different picture of good, Christian parenting. Just because it doesn’t look like my painting doesn’t mean it’s wrong or even not as good as mine. I know some people questioned our decision to homeschool. I appreciated the people who asked me about our decision process or why we chose what we did. Those people sought understanding.

Seek God first. Bring your children up in the training of the Lord. Let’s encourage parents, as our picture is always changing.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have three sons and a daughter.


It was Friday night. My wife was at an event for church, and my daughter was at a sleepover at a friend’s house. My son and I had a night off together. We decided to go to a movie and looked at the options. There was one superhero-type movie that I thought looked good. My son thought it looked “awesome!” Then I saw the rating: “R.”

My son asked, “Dad, why can’t we go to an R-movie?”

That question reminded me of this Heart to heart topic. Is there a difference in how a Christian versus a non-Christian parent might respond to my son’s question? Couldn’t we both reply by pointing out that the movie has sexual contact, vulgar language, and extreme violence and that’s inappropriate for young children? I think we could—and that was part of my response.

We all have non-Christian friends who do a great job of instilling basic morals and values in their children. After all, everyone has a natural knowledge of God’s law and can use that in their parenting as they train their children not to hurt others (or watch others do so in a movie), steal, lie, etc.

But as a Christian parent, we have something more! We not only have God’s law, but we also have the gospel. We know that there is no way we can keep the law perfectly, but Christ did for us—and gave his life to pay the penalty for our sin. By God’s grace, we are forgiven and heirs of eternal life. Everything we do now is not merely motivated by God’s law. The law has been fulfilled by Christ’s sacrifice. Now what we do comes out of joyful response to the gospel message.

“Dad, why can’t we go to an R-movie?”

We can! But, let’s think about how we can show our love to God? By watching a movie filled with sexual contact, vulgar language, and extreme violence? Or by staying home with a bowl of popcorn and watching Star Wars? We chose Star Wars—and I ate most of the popcorn.

These teachable moments of gospel opportunity are always before us. Let’s admit that we likely err on the side of being more law-based than gospel-based in our parenting. It’s natural, but it’s truly at the root of what sets us apart as Christian parents. Remind yourself of your overwhelming thankfulness that despite your sin and imperfections, the Holy Spirit has led you to know Christ’s love. Now it’s our opportunity to demonstrate that thankfulness in the lives of our children.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter and a son.


It’s been said that we get our view of God from our relationship with our earthly father. If that’s true, then we parents, and especially fathers, want to do the best we can to give an accurate view of God the Father. We want to parent our children the way that God parents us.

Here are some observations I’ve made about the way God parents me and some things I’ve done as I try to father my sons the way God has fathered me.

• God takes his law seriously. He makes that clear by allowing and even sending consequences into my life. Likewise, as a loving father, I will allow and give my boys consequences for their sinful actions when they rebel against God and me. These consequences are given in love, not anger, and are meant to teach my boys that God’s way is always best.

• But, even as I suffer the consequences of my sin, God regularly assures me of his unconditional love based on Jesus’ work in my place. I am forgiven. I am always his dearly loved child. Likewise, I want my boys to know that my love for them is unconditional. I always try to be quick to assure them of my forgiveness and of God’s. In our house we don’t answer, “I’m sorry,” with “It’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s a sin. Instead we say, “I forgive you, and so does God.” We live confession and absolution on a daily basis.

• God makes it clear that he’s not too busy running the universe to make time for me and to listen to my prayers. Likewise, I want to show my boys that I’m not too busy for them. To get to know my boys’ hopes and dreams, worries and fears better, I’ve been occasionally taking each one out for breakfast—just the two of us. They promise to answer my questions honestly. I promise to try not to embarrass them.

Role models have an important place in the lives of those who are seeking to grow. But it’s not just children who need role models; parents need them too! And what better model can we find as we seek to grow as parents than our heavenly Father who parents us perfectly? So we study his Word to know him better, to be assured of his forgiveness for our failures to be like him, and to find the gospel motivation to mimic him more closely. Just as God loves me and parents me, so I want to love my children and parent them. We want to “follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.

 

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Explaining same-sex relationships

How do we explain same-sex relationships to our children?

As Christian parents, we can’t bury our heads in the sand about what is going on in the world around us. We can’t expect that our children don’t notice, either. We need to be ready to discuss difficult topics, and homosexuality is one of them. The great part is, that as Christian parents, we have God’s Word to reflect upon and share with our children. Our two authors this month share their perspectives on how they believe that God’s Word and Jesus’ sacrifice are essential parts of this conversation.

Nicole Balza


Just last week we sat together at a Starbucks, the unlikeliest of friends. He a horse trainer from L.A. Me a pastor of a church plant in Aiken, S.C. We sat there amiably chatting about life in Aiken, etc., etc.

I sat there and prayed, “Lord, show me a way to talk to him about you.” And, suddenly, my friend announced, “I’m gay.” Opportunity provided.

I won’t recount his story to you, but I will tell you that I ached for him as he related it. All these years later, you know what thought really killed him inside? He said, “You’re clean before God. I never can be. This is who I am. I will wake up tomorrow just this way. There will always be this fundamental separation between God and me.”

I know. I know. I’m supposed to talk about what we might say to our children about same-sex relationships. But, honestly, in a way I just did. This man had once been a child. In fact, this man had once been a child in a very pious Christian household. And his only present conception of God was one perfectly antithetical to the gospel. We believe in a God who broke down the wall of separation between us and him with his Son, Jesus Christ. We believe in a Jesus who came the whole way to us—no, he didn’t just come the whole way, he chased us down because we were self-consumed and self-willed in ways so destructive that even now we’re still coming to understand how bad it was. And as I sat with my new friend I got glimpses of him, the boy, who’d never glimpsed a God that good—a boy who’d never understood that Jesus isn’t just theological theory. He’s flesh-and-blood Savior for very real inner darkness.

As I stared into that history, I sat in my present and thought of my daughter. I asked myself, “What truth can I deliver to her now that the Spirit can leverage on her heart? I want her to know that good God. When and how do I do that?”

After all, it is in my fatherly job description to answer those questions. In some ways, I suppose I already have. I enjoy her personal flair, but I call her on it when it morphs suddenly into sass. I love to play ball with her, but when she becomes selfish and possessive? She’s going to know about it. And then I always lavish her with Jesus when she “gets” it. Did I say lavish? And why? Her personal darkness is no theory. Neither is her Savior. And if she knows those divine truths, she will be able to deal effectively with any proposed alternatives that surface in her life.

And I tell her The Stories. It’s my favorite part of parenting her. I LOVE to tell her The Stories. I don’t just do the Christmas story. I do them all. Light. Darkness. Sin. Grace. I do the ones that include violence and even death. (It was really something to see Samson through her eyes last week! And how else do you do Good Friday?) I do them all.

I can guarantee you that by the time she grasps by experience the darkness of this world, she’ll already have known that truth from the Scriptures. That “modern” family at the mall won’t surprise her because her daddy told her that story about Lot. That rumor about her fifth-grade classmate won’t confound her because she’ll already have learned from the Scriptures how to think about it—all right there sitting on her daddy’s lap. All in a context of gentleness, love, and the Spirit of God himself.

And then? Well, I plan to live in that moment. Because I just want to be her dad. Not a template. Not a cookie cutter. I just want to be her dad. When her young mind sees sin firsthand, I don’t want to bust out my pre-planned speech. I want to hear what her tender, young conscience is causing her to think. When she confronts big questions about sexuality, I don’t want to get out some canned approach. I want to minister to whatever issues of sin and grace bubble to her surface so I can properly wrap her up in a hug of truth.

What will that look like? I don’t know. I do know where I’m headed, though. I want her so confident in the gospel that at a Starbucks in 2046 she’ll sit with someone just as her daddy once did and say, “I too have evil desires that wage war on my soul. They’ll be there tomorrow too. But I know the gospel, and I want you to know it too. God gave me Jesus as my substitute, and he’s poured his Spirit into me as my new impulse. And can I just tell you this? Jesus is real for you too.”

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, S.C. He and his wife, Melanie, have a three-year-old daughter.


Even difficult topics can be broached with Scripture as our guide, and the issue of same-sex relationships is no exception. Christian parents are often caught unprepared to give an answer to an inquiring child. But God’s Word has a definitive approach.

If your inclination is to start with Scripture’s unequivocal stance against same-sex coupling, stop and remember Christ’s example. First, we are told repeatedly that God wishes for all to be saved. We are commanded many times to love our neighbor. If your viewpoint toward the weaknesses of others is one of self-righteous condemnation, stop and adjust your attitude. If you have been tolerant of other sinful lifestyles yet find this one intolerable, stop and realize your own bias. If you gossip about people—especially in front of impressionable children—stop and train your tongue to speak well of others.

Christ led with an attitude of love and compassion, and we can aspire to do no less. John 8:3-11 is an example of the way Jesus handled a real-life situation. Jesus was preaching in the temple courts when a group of Pharisees brought a woman in front of the group. There was no doubt as to her sin of adultery as she had been caught in the act. These men of God wanted Jesus to pronounce punishment on her in this very public forum. When pushed for an answer, Jesus reminded these sanctimonious Pharisees of their own sin. He then waited until he and the woman were alone. He didn’t condemn her to death as had been suggested. He told her to go and leave her life of sin. What relief she must have felt when she realized her life had been spared! And how much more receptive she must have been when a simple directive was given by her Savior. No invectives, no finger pointing, just truth.

Discussions with children arising from organic events are usually more effective than contrived lectures. Today’s social climate provides plenty of openings on this issue. Age-appropriate answers to honest questions don’t need to be lengthy. We take our cue from God’s commands and lovingly apply them.

When Jesus met Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and recognized his many sins, Jesus could have had Zacchaeus dragged from his perch in the tree. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus would not have received much empathy from the crowd. Instead Jesus did something that gave the crowd fodder for gossip. Jesus told Zacchaeus he wanted to go to his house. In so doing he honored Zacchaeus with his presence and took him to a private place to talk about his erring ways. No public ridicule, no cheap shots, rather a one-on-one talk in Zacchaeus’ own home. Facing the Savior’s love, he changed.

We remind our children of God’s love and of his desire for all people to be saved. We recognize this sinful inclination as a cross to bear. We acknowledge the forgiveness for all sins—including our own—and praise God for his goodness.

We give life to our words by our loving interactions with all people. Being motivated by the gospel opens doors that could otherwise be closed by the sting of the law. Friendship without compromising our beliefs gives truth to our love for all of God’s people. Our brothers and sisters who struggle with these wrongful desires often have an aching need to worship. We must own our uneasiness with those who are different and pray for guidance and a heart for souls.

Children learn far more from our actions than our words. Walk in love. Stand firm in the Word. Give thanks for a forgiving Savior.

Mary Clemons lives in Tucson, Ariz., with her husband, Sam. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.

 

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Impact of fathers

What kind of impact can a Christian father have on his children?

In a world that spends so much time making fun of dads and telling them that they are unnecessary, I thought this month would be a great time to remind ourselves of the impact that a Christian father can have on his children. I asked some of the children of our contributing authors to tell us about their dads. Their reflections remind me of many special moments with my own dad.

Do you have a story to share about your father or a dad you know? Send it to fic@wels.net.

Nicole Balza


A lesson from my dad

Rachel Learman writes about one of the life lessons she learned from her dad, Jim Aderman.

He listened quietly and patiently while I poured out my frustrations concerning the new place I was living. Out tumbled discontent with my job, the church, the choir, the location, and more. When I finished my long string of aggravations, there was a brief pause. Then, “Well, I am sorry to hear all of that. Life isn’t always easy, nor what you had hoped. But God does have a plan and purpose for your life there. Grow where you are planted, Rachel.”

As we hung up the phone, I have to admit I was far from satisfied with Dad’s answers. I don’t really know what I was hoping for, but “grow where you’re planted” was not it. At least that is what I thought in that moment.

But as I considered what he said, I realized it was what Dad had been teaching me all along—through new family houses, financial hardships, the anxiety of his pastoral calls, different schools, moving hours away for college and law school, breakups, and job loss. It was, in fact, even an intrinsic part of my confirmation verse that he, as my pastor, had chosen: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The context for this Bible passage was the Lord finally allowing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. God gave them the Promised Land but didn’t promise them a perfect life in that land.

Dad has shown me this throughout my life.

God puts us in certain places and situations for a reason. We can either follow God’s command not to be afraid and discouraged, living our lives to reflect his love and being joyful in our circumstances, or wallow in self-pity and push away our loving God who has plans beyond measure for us.

Life has changed significantly since that phone call. I have since married; become a mom of four children; moved two more times to two different states, two different churches, and three different companies, yet I continue to apply Dad’s advice.


All about Daddy and me

Elliana Bourman, age three, answers questions from her mom, Melanie, about her dad, Jonathan Bourman.

Melanie: Does your daddy love you?

Elliana: Yup!

Melanie: How do you know?

Elliana: Because he tells me.

Melanie: What is your daddy’s job?

Elliana: I don’t remember.

Melanie: Daddy is a pastor, remember?

Elliana: Oh, yeah. He’s a pastor.

Melanie: What does Daddy do as a pastor?

Elliana: He stands on top and talks a lot.

Melanie: What does Daddy teach you about Jesus?

Elliana: That he washed my sins all gone.

Melanie: What is your favorite Bible story that Daddy has read to you?

Elliana: I like the big storm [Jesus calms the storm] and baby Jesus away in a manger.


A favorite memory of my dad

Kayla Nommensen, now 14 years old, reminisces about a special time with her dad, Dan Nommensen.

When I was about seven and eight, my dad took me up north a couple times to a cottage that my great uncle used to live in. On our four-hour drive up to the cottage, we had a great time singing camp songs, talking, and telling stories and jokes.

When we got up there, it was usually dark. Being the great dad he is, he let me trudge in while he took everything in out of the cold. He lit the fire, and we watched the temperature slowly rise, degree by degree. Then, after about an hour and a half of sorting, putting things in the fridge, and setting up heaters, he would finally get the bed ready and we would hop in. We sometimes watched a movie on the small screen of the portable movie player. Then we’d go to bed after saying prayers.

In the morning, I got up to a nice, warm, handmade meal. He already had everything set up and ready for us to eat and go. We then put our fishing things on and walked down to the lake just as the sun was rising. We got into the rocky boat with cobwebs and all and floated off. Dad rowed while we searched for the perfect place to cast our lures. When I finally threw a lure out with as much strength as I could, it would go off course or cross Dad’s line. But he always said, “That was a good one,” and helped me do it correctly.

I loved having those times with my dad. I love my dad and am thankful that I have such a loving Christian father to always watch over me.


My dad is special

Josh Nommensen, age 11, shares some thoughts about his dad, Dan Nommensen.

At night when my dad tucks me in we pray five special prayers, including one in German and the English meaning that he learned from his dad. My dad learned two prayers from his mom that we also pray. Then Luther’s Evening Prayer. This is special to me because my dad is passing them on to me from his parents, my grandparents, that I didn’t get to know. He plays basketball with me, and he plays Wii with me. He is very patient with me. My dad is special because he helps me get through tough times, and I love him very much.


 

 

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Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 6
Issue: June 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: How can we build moms up?

How can we build moms up?


In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re focusing on moms this month. That doesn’t mean everyone else should tune out, though. As Laurie Gauger-Hested reminds us, we can all play a role in supporting the moms in our lives. After all, each mom is a gifted, precious soul that Jesus gave his life to save. As such, we should be kind to one another.

Often the moms I know are toughest on themselves. Wendy Heyn shares the familiar struggle of feeling as though she is not measuring up—to her own expectations or to those of her children and her God. Discover how she comes to peace when her focus changes—and how you can find that peace too.

Nicole Balza


It strikes me lately that we moms can be really hard on each other. We veteran moms can be the worst. My kids are almost grown up, and I know how easy it is to forget the infant and toddler years. I need to remind myself how excruciatingly long those days could be, how hard I tried to be the perfect mom, how guilty I felt when I failed, how tired I was, how overwhelmed, how bored.

Truth is, we veteran moms tend to romanticize and sanitize our memories so much that we forget all about our kids’ tantrums at Target and the Cheerios that lived under the sofa cushions for years. Years.

We need to ask God to help us be kinder to ourselves and others, which brings me to that famous saying: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

That woman whose kids are a little naughty? Her dad was far too quick with the paddle when she and her sisters were little, and she’s trying very hard to break the pattern. She may be more permissive than you’d be, but considering where she comes from, she’s doing great. So let’s be kind.

That woman with the detached look on her face while her toddlers are rubbing mud all over her yoga pants? God made her an introvert, and if she doesn’t get a few minutes of alone time soon, she’s going to implode. So let’s be kind.

That woman who’s always late? She’s low in Vitamin D and can hardly walk down the steps in the morning. She feels emotionally and physically tapped out before she even starts the day. So let’s be kind.

That woman who’s gained so much weight? She’s not lazy. She’s not overeating. Cortisol is coursing through her veins because of stress at work, her gut bacteria are all out of whack, and the doc put her on a new med for her fibromyalgia—all of which led to extra pounds. So let’s be kind.

That woman whose house is dirty? God put music in her, and every time she starts dusting, the dusting turns to dancing and melodies fill her head. She puts down the dust cloth, sits at the piano, and scribbles on staff paper. So, yeah, her house isn’t the cleanest, but—know what?—when she sits at that piano, that’s the moment she’s also doing what God gifted her to do. So let’s be kind.

We need to pivot.

What happens if we remind ourselves that just because we all have two X chromosomes doesn’t mean we have the same gifts?

We have different levels of cooking, cleaning, and organization skills—and frankly, some of us don’t care that much about the surfaces at all.

We have different levels of patience and empathy. Different ways of communicating love.

Some of us are naturals with babies, and some of us fumble around until the kids can clearly express their desire for peanut butter in English. Some of us love dealing with the drama of adolescence, and some of us enjoy kids best when they’re adults. Honestly, some of us are uncomfortable at almost every stage of the parenting process.

What if we just stop analyzing and comparing? We’re all human, and that means the calluses on our feet are not always buffed off, our bathrooms are not always swished and swiped, our e-mails are not always read, and our hot dishes are not always hot.

We lose our tempers. We’re a little frayed at the edges. We cry when no one is looking.

And we’re also amazingly gifted by God—every single one of us—some as administrators, some as teachers, some as healers, some as creators, some as communicators.

God made us, and he declares us gifted, precious souls through his Son, Jesus. That same Son forgives our failures and, being human himself, completely understands our weaknesses. He loves us and accepts us as we are.

Maybe we can try harder to do the same for each other. Happy Mothers’ Day.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.


I often feel like I don’t measure up. I’m not as fun as all the moms on Pinterest who make creative projects with their kids. I feel bad that I don’t have time in my schedule to volunteer for every field trip and to say “yes” whenever I am asked to help someone. I can be short-tempered and respond negatively to my children. I fall short every single day. When I feel that I have fallen short, I need to be careful to identify my measuring tool.

I’m not as fun as all the moms on Pinterest who make creative projects with their kids.

Comparison. When I compare, I always come up wanting. If I think of 50 other women and list one talent from each of those women, the list is 50 talents long! My list? How do I compare? Yet this is often the measuring tool that I use. False measuring tools like this leave me feeling defeated. Each mom is a complex creation to whom God gave special talents and abilities. God made me and chose me to be just the right mom for my children.

I feel bad that I don’t have time in my schedule to volunteer for every field trip and to say “yes” whenever I am asked to help someone.

Unrealistic expectations. I often feel guilty that I cannot do everything and be everywhere. My children will even add to my guilt by saying things like, “Everyone else’s moms came.” Yet I am only one person who has 24 hours in each day. Measuring myself against unrealistic expectations—whether my own or those of others—only gives me false guilt and makes me second guess my choices. It is wise to prayerfully consider how my time can best be used and then to set limits. There may be things that I would enjoy doing or even that I am gifted at doing but that my family life does not allow time for. My first responsibility is to care for my family, and I honor God by doing so. Saying “no” sometimes is part of being a good steward of my time.

I can be short-tempered and respond negatively to my children.

My own sinful behavior. Using God’s Word as my guide, it is clear that I do not measure up. My shortcomings aren’t a result of a bad self-esteem. They are real. I don’t meet God’s mark. Thankfully that doesn’t matter anymore. My Jesus does meet the mark. He lived a perfect life, died, and rose. Through faith, his perfection is mine.

When I want to shed my feelings of not measuring up, I know exactly where to look—God’s Word. God changes hearts. He can help us be the moms that he wants us to be. He can help us to be moms who let go of our mistakes and bask in his forgiveness. God is the one in whom we boast.

Although time is often limited, time with God is time well spent. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” When we make time and spend it quietly with God, our focus changes. We stop seeing our own weakness and focus on Christ’s perfection. When God is first, our attitude about our family life will change. Pinterest, our own expectations, and the expectations of others will matter less—and the opinion of God will matter more.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have three young children.


 

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: Money management

Our authors this month are at three very different stages in their parenting journeys. Yet each one offers valuable advice for helping children learn how to manage money in a God-pleasing way. Do you have advice on this important topic? E-mail fic@wels.net to share your thoughts and experiences.

Have you visited Heart to heart’s website lately? The site offers webcasts and podcasts on each month’s topic, as well as expanded versions of the articles printed in this column. Some months, additional articles are also posted that complement what is shared here. Visit wels.net/ forwardinchrist today.

Nicole Balza


HOW DO WE TEACH KIDS TO MANAGE MONEY IN A GOD-PLEASING WAY?


 

A few years ago, our church offered a Christian financial planning program that focused on helping people get in control of their money. The class changed everything money-related in our marriage (for the better!) and made us much more conscious of what habits we wanted to impart to our children.

We ordered a junior financial planning kit for our daughter, Anna. One of the main points in the junior program is that a weekly allowance is out because then kids learn that they get money for nothing. The program favors a chore/commission approach instead.

We created a chore chart for Anna with age-appropriate chores and associated commissions for each one. If she did the chore that day, she’d get paid; if not, then no money. At the end of the week, we’d tally up how much money she had earned and pay up. She sorted her weekly pay into three pouches. She used one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. The giving envelope came with us weekly to church for the offering. Any time we went to the store, she could bring her spending money.

We have admittedly fallen away from following this as closely as we did in the beginning. But the principles we learned from that program have endured. I’ll offer the kids chores to do, or I’ll support a lemonade stand in the summer if they ask for spending money. They both love putting money in the offering tray on Sunday mornings, and gathering contributions for the offering has become part of getting ready for church in our house.

My rule for shopping with the kids is if they want something that isn’t on my list, they better have brought their spending money. And if they forgot, then we can bring it next time. This has worked surprisingly well at squashing a lot of the begging that occurs on our shopping expeditions.

I feel like Andy and I have established a fairly good base of teaching our kids to manage their money, but there is still a lot we want them to learn. I want to teach them about budgeting and living within their means; about saving strategically for future and potential emergencies; about credit cards not being the key to freedom I thought they were in college; and about giving generously, using their gifts from God to benefit others.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have a daughter in second grade and a son in preschool.


 

 

As I sit down to write this article, my oldest son is beginning his final semester of college. Our time of instructing him in our home is nearing an end. I’m pretty sure it was only yesterday that I took his little hand and led him into his kindergarten classroom. On that fall day 16 years ago, and on the many days that followed, it seemed like our years of parenting would stretch on forever. It seemed like there were unlimited days left for teaching opportunities in our home. Now I am facing a bittersweet ending, a closing of a chapter in our parenting lives.

So I have a confession to make. In hindsight, one of those teaching opportunities that my husband, Thad, and I often failed to be intentional about was modeling a God-pleasing attitude toward money and possessions, and better yet—a focus on living out of gratitude for the Lord and all he’s blessed us with. We thank God that, in Christ, he forgives our shortcomings as parents!

Here are some important lessons that Thad and I have learned and are still working to teach in our home regarding our attitude toward money and possessions:

• Everything we have—from the comfortable house we live in to the stray paper clip at the bottom of the junk drawer—is a gift “from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). We are simply the blessed and undeserving recipients of these gifts. When we have that attitude, we start to view our possessions as a “privilege,” instead of a “right.”

• We need to show our kids how to give sacrificially to God in response to all our blessings and verbalize why we give. As parents, we must model how to earmark the first portion of our income to support God’s work. It is a very intentional response to our blessings, and it serves others—and becomes more meaningful than just a few coins hastily shoved into the little Sunday school envelope five minutes before the service begins. (And yes, we did this.)

• We need to model how to do an honest day’s work—for which we earn an honest wage. We can’t raise the next generation to do nothing and yet expect something in return. When we have to work hard for something, it carries a higher value.

• Our value is not dependent on how much money we have in the bank or what brand of car we drive. Quite simply, our value is dependent on who we are in Christ. We are redeemed children of God, and nothing on earth is worth more than that.

Is it too late for Thad and me to teach our kids these lessons in our home? No. Although our boys are legally adults, they are still our children. We are still Mom and Dad, and it is still our number one responsibility to instruct them in God’s truth and in how to view our lives—and all we have—as gifts from a loving heavenly Father.

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons, two in college and one in high school.


 

Laughter. Uncontrolled. “The parenting column wants you to write about teaching kids finances?” My wife’s question was punctuated by gasps for air. “Do they know you haven’t written a check in decades?”

When she regained her composure, I meekly asked, “Wife, would you help me write this article?” Thankfully, she agreed. Sharon’s tips are intended to start the conversation about the financial training of children.

MAKE USE OF TEACHABLE MOMENTS

“Can we go out to eat tonight?”

“No, Sweetie, we don’t have money in our budget for that.”

“Can’t we just go to the bank and get some more money?”

Use these teachable moments to talk about

• your spending priorities (“We can’t afford that right now, but we are saving for it”),

• getting the best deal (“Is the better buy at Amazon or eBay?”),

• judging quality in what you buy (“This coat is less expensive, but will that more expensive coat last longer?”), and

• resisting impulse buying (“Why do you suppose stores put candy and snacks next to the checkout?”).

SHOW HOW YOU MANAGE YOUR FINANCES

“What are you doing, Mommy?” my daughter asked when she was in grade school.

“Paying bills, Honey. That check is for your school. This one pays for that new coat we bought you last month. But there are lots of bills I don’t have to write checks for. We pay many of our bills with money that comes right out of our checking account. That’s how we pay to live in this house and how we pay for our car. But do you see that check over there? That’s the first one I write because I want to make sure there is always money for it. That’s our offering to Jesus.”

EXPLAIN HOW YOU HANDLE YOUR FINANACES

• Show them what happens when you scan your church’s QR code to make a donation.

• Walk them through your family budget sheet.

• Let them sit with you as you electronically transfer money between your savings and checking accounts or set up automatic withdrawals. Of course, keep passwords secure.

• When they are in junior high, help them set up a joint checking and savings account with you. Monitor how they manage that responsibility.

• Talk about the percentage of income you give to your church and other charitable organizations. Emphasize how God’s grace prompts you to be as generous as possible.

• When money is tight, remind them that because Jesus is your Savior, your heavenly Father will continue to care for you. Tell them family accounts of God’s providence.

James and Sharon Aderman raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

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SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 4
Issue: April 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent conversations: Responding to children with special needs

Most of us have been “that person”—the one who doesn’t know what to say or do when she meets a person with special needs. We don’t want to ask the wrong questions or make the wrong assumptions. We want to show we care, but we aren’t sure if offering our help might be interpreted as an insult. When our children are present, it just ups the ante. Now we really have to make sure we get it right so that we can model the best behavior for them.

This month, Heart to heart contributor Wendy Heyn shares her thoughts on best practices when meeting a person with special needs. Wendy’s second child, Liam, was born with a rare genetic neurodevelopmental disorder known as MECP2 duplication syndrome.

Nicole Balza


 

How should we and our children respond to those with special needs?

 


“Why does he have that chair?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

These are questions that children often ask about my son, Liam. Sometimes they ask me directly. Sometimes they ask their parents. Sometimes they yell the questions to any listening ears. Many children stop in their tracks to stare. For our family every grocery store trip, library visit, church event, or walk in the neighborhood brings us into contact with people who have questions.

People notice Liam’s chair. They notice that he cannot talk. They hear him make loud noises. They see that his body moves very differently than most. I understand their curiosity. Liam is different, and people just want to understand.

Children are honest and open in their curiosity. I appreciate that they ask questions. Certainly there are days when I want to avoid stares and questions. I want to blend in with the crowd. Yet I know that it is a great service to Liam when we use every teachable moment. If people can become comfortable with Liam and can learn to interact with him appropriately, all of our lives will be richer.

Children’s questions are often intercepted by chagrined parents. The parents apologize and pull their curious children away from Liam without allowing us to say hello or answer their questions. This leaves everyone feeling awkward.

Ironically, when I am out with only my daughters and we meet individuals with special needs, I have trouble knowing how to behave. It is so difficult! The social cues are confusing, any assumptions that I have made are usually wrong, and I overthink every word that I say. Being Liam’s mom has helped me to think about these situations and how we can all respond better. I have found following these guidelines to be helpful for introducing children to someone new who has special needs:

1. Remember that people with disabilities are people first. The disability is certainly a part of them, but it isn’t who they are. They have feelings, ideas, wishes, and hopes just like you do. I explain this to my children, and we talk about what each of my children likes, thinks, hopes, and wishes. We talk about how every person is similar in these ways even if he cannot communicate this or if she looks or moves differently.

2. Start by smiling and saying hello. Even if your child started the interaction with a loud question, parents of children with disabilities understand that this happens. We are human. Our kids are too. Don’t lose this teachable moment because of your own embarrassment. A smile and a kind hello are so much friendlier than pulling your child away. Most days, we will even take a minute to explain the wheelchair to your child or to introduce Liam.

3. Acknowledge Liam, not just his family. Liam won’t answer you. He may not even look at you, but say hello to him. Look at him. Use your regular voice. You don’t need to talk extra loudly. He is a school-aged kid, so baby talk is unnecessary. I will help you out by interpreting his response. Liam is so valuable and worthwhile, and your hello to him helps both him and me see that you know this.

4. An “I’m not sure” is better than a wrong or made up answer. This is always the truth with kids, and it certainly applies to answering their questions about special needs. While “God made him that way” is certainly true of Liam’s inability to talk and walk, it oversimplifies Liam’s differences. It doesn’t answer the child’s questions. It is not true of why he is in a wheelchair (which is usually what kids want to know). Liam wasn’t born with a wheelchair. For a small child, an age-appropriate response that might be better would be to explain that Liam’s brain doesn’t send the right messages and so his body never learned to walk or talk the way that most children do.

5. If you and your child are talking with Liam, tell your child a few things that are similar about him and Liam. “Do you like books? Liam loves to listen to books.” This helps your child to see Liam as a little boy. Conversations like this are a great way to become Liam’s new friend. They also help your child understand that Liam is similar to him in so many ways.

6. Examine your own responses. When I interact with others who have special needs, I am always worried about doing or saying the wrong thing. My kids pick up on this no matter how kind my words are. The easiest way I’ve found to overcome my own fears has been to get to know real people with special needs. Every single person is different, and my comfort with differences grows as I get used to being with all sorts of people.

7. Reassure your child. Recently a girl told my daughter, “Your brother is just creepy.” What people don’t understand feels scary to them. It may seem obvious, but children need to be reassured that children like Liam are not scary. They are actually very much like every other child. They like to play. They want to have friends. They want to be loved. Explain to your child that children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident. You cannot catch disability from another child. Being friends with them is perfectly safe.

8. Do not reward or congratulate your child for being friends with another child who has special needs. Being a friend to someone with special needs is not a charitable act or an act of kindness. It is a mutually beneficial relationship and should be treated as such. Typical peers often learn and grow through such friendships in huge ways.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Helping your child lovingly interact with others is a natural part of Christian parenting. In his explanation to the Eighth Commandment Luther says that we are to “take [our neighbor’s] words and actions in the kindest possible way.” If each of us strives to approach situations with this attitude, we can truly become comfortable with interactions involving all kinds of people. As you encounter children with special needs, imagine how you would want to be treated. Just as your child and my Liam have many things in common, so do you and I. We are parents doing our best to nurture and love the children that the Lord has entrusted to us—probably more alike than different.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have three children.


Advice from Liam’s big sister, Sophia

Sophia Heyn is a creative 10-year-old who enjoys reading historical fiction and acting out the scenarios that she learns about from Laura Ingalls Wilder, the American Girl series, and other beloved books. Because her father was born and raised in Germany, she has traveled to Europe many times, and this gives her a different perspective on the world. Perhaps having a brother with a genetic disorder that causes severe cognitive and physical disabilities has also contributed to the mature way that she carries herself.

I sat down with Sophia over a cup of hot chocolate to hear her perspective on how other children should treat her brother.

Q: What do you like to do with Liam?

Sophia: I play Thomas [the Tank Engine] with him and help him get a drink. He likes me to set up his Thomas cards so that he can wreck them.

Q: When people meet Liam for the first time, what kind of questions do they ask?

Sophia: Some people ask, “What’s wrong with him?”

Q: How do you answer when people ask that?

Sophia: I tell them that he has a disability and his brain doesn’t work the same way that ours does. I like when they ask questions. Some people just stare, but I think it’s better to ask questions.

Q: How does it make you feel when people stare or treat Liam differently?

Sophia: I don’t like it.

Q: What would you like to say when that happens?

Sophia: It’s okay if you have questions.

Sophia encourages people of all ages to talk with her family about Liam. Her love for her brother shines through as she talks about him, as does her sense of protection. Like most big sisters, Sophia wants children to be kind to her brother. As you help your children learn how to respond to those with special needs, consider sharing Sophia’s thoughts with them.

Nicole Balza

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Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Nicole Balza
Volume 103, Number 3
Issue: March 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: How do we teach our children to be respectful?

Sometimes I feel like I spend most of my days trying to instill respectfulness in my kids. In a society that increasingly seems to mock respect, it can seem to be an uphill battle. Let’s go back to basics. What does God’s Word say about respect? How can we model that for our kids? Read these articles and be reminded that respect hasn’t gone out of style for God and his people.


Sometimes I feel like that old comedian who after every joke tugged at his collar and whined, “I tell ya’, I get no respect.”

My boys don’t always show respect. And that’s a problem—not just with me, but with God who commands, “Honor your father and your mother . . . ” (Exodus 20:12) and “Each of you must respect your mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3).

So, if I’m going to be a faithful and loving parent, I’m going to have to teach my kids to show me respect. But that’s hard, because my sinful anger gets in the way whenever I feel disrespected. So before I consider my relationship with my kids, I need to consider my relationship to God. How well do I respect him?

If I’m honest, I have to admit that I disrespect God every time I sin—even when that sin is prompted by my boys’ disrespect. In essence I say to God what my boys say to me, “What I want is more important than what you want. I choose to make myself the authority instead of you.”

How does God handle it? He doesn’t allow me to talk back to him without consequences. He teaches me that it’s not okay to do things my way instead of his way in love. “The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Hebrews 12:6).

So I won’t allow my boys to talk back to me without consequences. I will discipline them (with a struggle for great patience and careful instruction) when they are disrespectful.

But that’s not all God does. He doesn’t just discipline me with his law. He also earns my respect and—even more—my love by his gospel. He sent his own Son to face the disrespect and torture of sinful men, to be crucified on a cross for me. And now I am completely forgiven for my disrespectful attitude and for every sin that has resulted from it. This moves me to love and respect God and want to live for him.

So too I will try to earn my boys’ respect—and their love—by showing my love for them. I will try to motivate my boys to show respect by showing them how much God loves them in Christ. And with his help, using his law and his gospel, I will learn to better respect God, and my boys will better learn to respect me—all out of love for God.

To read an expanded version of this article, visit forwardinchrist.net/get-no-respect.

Rob Guenther and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 11 and under.


People want respect, and yet it looks different for different people. We think we deserve respect, and yet Jesus, who truly deserves our respect, never demanded respect from anyone. I am realizing that I use the word  respect often without much thought to what it really means.

Some very wise women in my circle of friends describe respect this way:

“I believe that respect is attached to value. If you can understand that someone is valuable, whether you agree with them or not, you hold them in high enough regard to allow them to be who they are.”

“Fearless submission. Honoring others above one’s self. Knowing you do not have to protect and defend your ‘self’ but rather live outrageously free in your relationship with others because God is on his throne. Respect is not trying to control the outcome but rather letting it unfold.”

“Respect is love in plain clothes.”

“Recognizing the value God placed on another person because of his Son’s life and sacrifice (Jesus died for that person) and deferring to them because of their value to God.”

“I think respect grows from the seed of humility that you plant in his light and care for lovingly.”

Pretty profound if you ask me.

So how do we teach these concepts to our children? Follow Jesus’ example. Model giving respect to others. Jesus showed respect to those he encountered—from the woman at the well to doubting Thomas.

Paul tells us, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). What does submitting have to do with respect? Re-read the answers my lovely friends shared about what respect means. It is submitting. It is putting others ahead of ourselves. It is not demanding. It is loving.

Show your children what respect is by respecting them, by respecting your spouse, by respecting your leaders, by respecting the referees at your children’s games. Showing your children how to respect others melds into showing them how to love—even the unlovable, even our enemies, even if we think it’s not deserved, even people with whom we disagree and even those who disagree with us. Respect can and does go a long way.

Jenni Schubring and her husband, Tad, have three sons and a daughter.


“Each of you must respect your mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3). This is a direct command from God. The explanation to the Fourth Commandment says, “We should fear and love God that we do not dishonor or anger our parents and others in authority but honor, serve, and obey them and give them love and respect.” Unfortunately, we are born into the world with a sinful nature, and showing respect does not come naturally. As parents, this means that we have to learn respect and then teach our children how to show respect.

We don’t have to look far to find examples of disrespect. How often are grade-school gyms filled with parents and coaches who show disrespect for authority by disagreeing with every call made by the official? And what about political campaigns? Respect is replaced with mudslinging, lies, and rudeness.

How easy it is to think that we have the right to talk poorly about coworkers, second-guess our bosses, lash out at a nearby driver, be short-tempered with the waitress who isn’t meeting our expectations, put devices before a child or spouse, or speak rudely to that person who just can’t see things from our perspective. Unfortunately, these examples all came to mind because at one time or another, I was guilty of them myself.

The reality is that our children are watching. I was stopped dead in my tracks one night at our family campfire. While making s’mores, the inevitable happened. My five-year-old son dropped his marshmallow into the fire. With great disgust he shouted, “C’mon! You’ve got to be kidding me!” My wife’s jaw dropped. Sadly, this didn’t sound odd to me. I had shouted the exact same words with the exact same emotion at the TV while watching a college game about an hour earlier.

More important than pointing out examples of disrespectful behavior, we can joyfully model for our children how to respect others. A great way to begin teaching the lifelong habit of respect is to teach proper manners. We can also teach our children how to respect our country and those who make it great. We should also expect our children to respect their pastors and teachers. We can help foster this by praying for them, speaking well of them, never questioning them in front of our children, and expecting that our children listen to them the first time.

Learning respect will not happen without a few bumps in the road. When a child shows disrespect, it is our opportunity to show love to them by holding them accountable.

Be sure to spend time with your children in his Word. Remind them of God’s love for all people. One of our family’s favorite songs states, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world!” When we show respect to all of God’s creation, we show honor to him.

Aaron Bauer and his wife, Sarah, have 4 children.


Looking for more Christian parenting insights? Watch the monthly webcasts with Heart to heart authors available at forwardinchrist.net/webcasts.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 2
Issue: February 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: parent conversations: Is all lying wrong?

Is all lying wrong?

Nothing gets past our kids, including our “little white lies.” Is all lying wrong, though? What about when we’re trying to be kind? Hear perspectives from three Christian parents—and from our heavenly Father.


“It’s just a little white lie. No one was hurt.” An internal argument raged. “But it’s still a lie. You didn’t tell the truth.”

It started over a blob of tangled crayon lines.

“Awesome picture of a tree,” I told my grandson. But I lied. It didn’t look anything like a tree. Or anything I could identify.

I cleared a place on the refrigerator to mount his masterpiece. “Taa daa!” I trumpeted, bowing toward his picture with a grand hand gesture.

I could have truthfully said, “This is the best tree drawing you’ve ever done.” Instead I said, “This is the best tree drawing ever.”

Christians easily recognize the harm in lies that misrepresent God and misinterpret his Word. Deception that takes advantage of others is also obvious sin. But other liberties with the truth can seem not quite wrong. Sometimes justifiable. For instance:

• Hypocritical lies that promise to allow us escape from the consequences of our convictions. (Have you pretended that living together outside of marriage is acceptable in order to escape ridicule?)

• Convenient lies that rescue us from situations we find distasteful. (“I’d love to go shopping, Honey, but my foot is killing me. I should just sit here and watch football.”)

• Fairy tale lies that lead children to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other implausible fables.

• Protecting lies that are meant to shelter others from life’s hard truths. (“Your father doesn’t have a drinking problem. He’s just under a lot of stress.”)

• Privacy lies that save us from sharing what we want to keep to ourselves. (“Missing that party doesn’t bother me a bit.”)

• Caring lies, like the one I told my grandson, that are intended to avoid hurting others.

Our Father, the God of Truth, makes it clear in his Word of Truth that his grateful children are to be people of truth. “Do not lie to each other,” he says, “since you have . . . put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9,10).

God’s grace calls on us to be tactful and careful in the way we use truth. But, before all else, the truth of God’s grace compels us to be truthful.

Truth-telling is a life lesson our children and grandchildren need to see lived out in us. And when we fail, they need to hear us admit it, claim our cross-won forgiveness, and pledge to do better.

Little white lies are still lies. God’s children gently tell the truth—even about trees grandchildren draw.

James Aderman and his wife, Sharon, raised three daughters and are now enjoying their eight grandchildren.


When I was expecting our first child, a friend gave me some advice: Be honest with your kids. You can’t expect them to be honest with you if you’re not honest with them.

I’ve endeavored to stick to that principle, both because I want to model good habits for them and because I think they deserve honesty from me.

But what about honesty with other people? Do my kids understand when a “little white lie” might be acceptable? Is a little white lie ever acceptable?

One afternoon I ventured to Target with both young kids in tow. We only needed three things so I didn’t bother with a cart—living on the edge! With full arms, I was trying to wrangle both kids into our car when a man pulled his car up behind mine, blocking me in, and asked me for gas money. I felt cornered and unsafe (whether those were his intentions or not). I told him that sorry, no, I had no cash.

As I was trying frantically to get my kids into their seats and get out of there, Anna asked, “Is that true, Mom? Do you really not have any money?”

It wasn’t true. I had five dollars floating around in my purse. But I wasn’t about to admit that to a strange man while cornered in a parking lot with my kids. I had to tell Anna that it wasn’t true. I had lied to that man. (And then we had a long talk about listening to your gut when a situation feels unsafe and where to go to find help in public.)

The words that come out of our mouths are important. The words that don’t come out of our mouths are equally important. I’m trying to teach my kids that honesty matters, but so do kindness and showing love to others. We don’t need to be 100 percent brutally honest with people. There are ways to be truthful without being hurtful.

I answered honestly when Anna asked if I was really the tooth fairy. I gave an age-appropriate, honest answer to the, “How is that baby comin’ outta there?” question that every mom dreads (in public, no less!). I teach the kids to practice phrases like, “That’s not my favorite,” when asked if they like something that they don’t. And we talk a lot about forgiveness and trying again when we inevitably make mistakes.

Kerry Ognenoff and her husband, Andy, have two young children.


I’m sure you’ve had a moment when you have “caught” your son or daughter twisting the truth of a story to avoid a consequence, especially regarding school and homework. I had one of those opportunities the other night when I needed to remind my kids about the importance of telling the truth about their homework deadlines. As soon as I finished talking with them, the phone rang.

It was a friend of mine whom I hadn’t heard from in probably three years. After a great conversation, he asked if we could get together the next weekend. Can you see where this is going? Yes, in front of my daughter I gave him an answer that was perhaps not completely accurate—one of those, “We are busy this weekend,” responses.

As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard, “Dad, what are we doing this weekend?”

I blew it! My heart moved up into my throat. Should I try to twist the weekend story so I don’t look like a complete failure as a parent? Should I try to walk away and pretend I didn’t hear her? Could I quickly get my wife to help me create a cover story? What to do!

Surely my “little white lie” is not on the level of Abraham passing off his wife as his sister. And what about Peter—denying he even knew Christ, three times! My weekend excuse can’t be that bad, right?

Who am I kidding? It’s a lie. Clear failure on my part to keep God’s law perfectly. It was intentional deception just like Abraham and Peter. It was a failure with my friend and a failure with my daughter. No excuses.

It’s the same thing that we all complain about in our society. Who is telling us the truth? Have you watched any political debates recently? You know what I mean. It makes me wonder if Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” might have been an exasperated response to the politics of his time. Was he exasperated with the lies, betrayals, and inconsistent stories?

We want so desperately for our children to be different. We want them to reflect the love of God by speaking truthfully. We want them to be trusted, successful, and honest. We don’t want them to grow up to live dishonest lives—existing by adding one lie on top of another.

Yes, my weekend story to my friend was a failure, but it gave me the opportunity to demonstrate confession and admit that I made a mistake. It also gave me the opportunity to talk about Christ and the reason we have and need his forgiveness—something I did not emphasize earlier when I was lecturing my kids.

We are forgiven! God’s grace abounded in my family’s failures that evening. It won’t be the last time, either.

Dan Nommensen and his wife, Kelly, have a daughter and a son.


Looking for more Christian parenting insights? Watch the monthly webcasts with Heart to heart authors available at forwardinchrist.net/webcasts.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 103, Number 1
Issue: January 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to Heart: Parent Conversations: Nurturing Contentment

SPOILER ALERT: This month’s authors all agree that if we want our children to be content, we parents need to model contentment for them. Groan. That’s not fun. That’s hard for flawed parents—at least for me. Thankfully, as Ann Jahns notes, we have a heavenly Father who forgives us, thanks to his Son’s sacrifice. So, why read this month’s articles? Because they give great, practical tips and insights, along with some much-needed reminders. At least for this mom.


How can we nurture contentment in our children’s hearts?


Contentment cannot be taught. If it were that simple and easy, we’d all have it all the time. Someone would just teach us the logic of it, and it would stick.

“Don’t you see?” we’d tell our kids. “Contentment makes the same sort of sense as 1+1= 2.” And then they’d nod their heads in agreement, won over by our irrefutable logic.

I’m pretty sure that’s not effective. Why? Because I know me. And I know my daughter. And if the Scriptures are true, I know you and your kids too.

If I’m going to tamp down the whirring, yearning, and chasing of my discontentment this Christmas, if I’m going to help my daughter do the same, there is only one force with both the consistency and the power to deliver. His name? The Holy Spirit. He alone will allow me to walk past the Apple store without a second thought. He alone will allow my three-year-old daughter to walk past racks of Christmas toys without throwing a tantrum. That’s just honest.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few quick thoughts on unleashing the Spirit:

Unleash the Spirit on yourself. In the Word, you’ll find this incredible, mind-blowing God who has met every one of your most basic and most profound needs in totally overwhelming ways. Did I gush enough to make my point? The reality is that if we parents are not convinced we have everything we could possibly want or need in Christ, how could we possibly hope to share that same news with our kids? My daughter can smell a rat a mile away.

Unleash the Spirit on your child(ren). See above. Just think, it’s December! What better picture is there than that mangy manger for teaching the love and promises of God?

Live gratitude. Even shout it! I do, and I heartily recommend it. When I see another stunning Carolina crescent moon, my whole house knows about it—and who put it there! Sometimes at dinner, I’ll very intentionally ask my girls, “What are you thankful for today?” We do that at bedtime too. At the tender age of three, my daughter sometimes has a hard time getting past the zoo, but—hey—I don’t mind asking her, “Are you thankful for Jesus too? Why?”

Ignore, squash, or redirect discontentment. Pray for wisdom on which of those triggers to pull in which circumstance and then pull it. Don’t be afraid to let the Spirit convict through you. Whatever you do, don’t ever indulge it. The human heart is a bottomless pit. One more thing will not satisfy. Only Jesus does.

Finally, build these rhythms into your family life intentionally, practically, and concretely all the time. The human heart doesn’t magically heal from discontent after December 25 rolls by. Before we know it, 2016 will drop in on us, and once again in the new year we will find our hearts in need of Holy Spirit-provided contentment. I am also delighted, however, to tell you that once again in the new year you’ll reliably find the Spirit for yourself and your children in the words and promises of God.

Jonathan Bourman is a pastor at Peace, Aiken, S.C. He and his wife, Melanie, have a three-year-old daughter.


One of the most remarkable things about my husband and his family is their overwhelming sense of contentment in the Lord. Their attitudes have been such a blessing and example to me.

My husband and his siblings were raised in an openly Christian family in communist East Germany. They had very little in the way of material possessions and opportunities. How could people raised in such an environment become such content adults? His parents fostered this contentment.

Although my children are in a country overflowing with opportunities and lavish excesses, the example of my in-laws still applies as I seek to encourage contentment in my children.

My attitude. Contentment is born of thankfulness. Believers know that everything is a gift from our heavenly Father. I can look to God’s Word regularly. I will begin to know the character of God. This amazing God is on my side. My responses to difficult situations or material wants can be filled with God’s peace. I can turn all of my life’s challenges over to him and obediently await his leading.

My words. I can intentionally talk about gifts—spiritual and material—from God. I can take time to thank God aloud. I can lead my family as we thank God for one another and the special qualities that each family member has. I can memorize Bible verses, knowing God’s words will truly change my heart. I must talk often about the greatest gift ever given—that of the Savior.

My time. I can enjoy Advent and Christmas worship with my children. Though it can be a challenge with small kids, I can enjoy extra opportunities for praise and worship.

I can take time to enjoy family devotions each evening. Our family especially loves to sing “Away in the Manger” together each night before bed.

I can focus on the people parts of Christmas—get-togethers, games, baking—rather than the present parts. We spend some time preparing gifts for others, but I try to keep it at a minimum because I want this to be a small part of our celebration.

I can serve. There are so many ways that I enjoy serving, and my kids can sometimes serve as well.

My actions. I avoid having my kids make Christmas lists. I usually recycle toy catalogs before the kids see them. This keeps our “gimmes” down. It has never really been a part of our celebration, so my kids don’t miss it.

We don’t buy, buy, buy. This is not easy and sometimes I fail, but I want them to see that we are good stewards of our money.

So much of parenting is modeling. We can use our words, but in the end it is what our children see that makes the difference.

Wendy Heyn and her husband, Juerg, have three children.


In preparing to write about contentment, I issued myself a challenge. How long could I go without expressing my discontentment in any way? Well, I think I made it about ten minutes. Sadly, it’s not in our sinful nature to be content. Every day on this earth is a battle as we examine our possessions, home, looks, and situations, and find them lacking in some way. There will always be someone out there who is healthier, richer, prettier, more successful than we are. How can we cultivate a heart of contentment in our children—and ourselves—in that environment?

The Bible gives some marvelous examples of godly contentment. Take the apostle Paul, for one. The self-proclaimed “worst of sinners” endured some things in God’s name that would send most of us packing. He lived through shipwrecks, floggings, hunger, a snake bite, and prison. Throughout all those situations, he “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). He even gently reminded Timothy, “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8).

Does my family have food? Yes. And we often waste it. Does my family have clothing? You bet. So much that we often puzzle over our options of what to wear.

So, at this time of year in particular, how do we as Christian parents teach our children to be content “whatever the circumstances”? It might sound simplistic, but I believe it is critical for us to model godly contentment in our homes by what we say and do. There are many ways to do this, but here are a few ideas:

Guard our tongues. I’m ashamed to admit how often I have expressed discontentment in front of my boys. Our kids are listening and picking up on our attitudes—good and bad. How comforting that we can confess our failings to God and be reassured of his forgiveness.

Seek out situations where we can help others and learn to value our blessings. What an impact on a family to volunteer in a mission setting or help our kids donate their gently-used possessions to those who need them more than they do. These teaching moments will have a greater impact than just saying, “We are very blessed.”

Set aside the first portion of our earnings or chore money to give sacrificially to our church out of gratitude for God’s blessings. We can model that as God has abundantly blessed us with so much and especially given us a Savior. We, in thankfulness, should use our blessings to help advance the work of his kingdom.

At the dinner table or in the car, ask, “What are you thankful for today?” Big blessings or small, they are all a gift from our loving Father, bestowed upon his undeserving children. How humbling.

As a parent, I constantly have to remind myself that by being discontent with what God has given me, I am in effect saying, “God, you don’t know what you’re doing.” I pray for the strength to model contentment for my boys. Although God doesn’t always give us what we want, in his perfect wisdom, he gives us exactly what we need.

Ann Jahns and her husband, Thad, have three sons, two in college and one in high school.


 

 

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Heart to heart: Parent Conversations: Talking about Divorce

How do we talk about divorce with our kids?

Divorce isn’t part of God’s plan for marriage, but it’s a sad fact of life in our fallen world. How do we explain divorce to our kids as they encounter friends and classmates whose parents are divorced? How can we equip them to help friends struggling with divorce? How can we reassure them that divorce isn’t something that they need to worry about? How can we model a God-pleasing marriage? Here a Heart to heart parent and a professional Christian counselor weigh in.


 

You’ve been friends for years. You and your passel of kids sit together at church potlucks. Carpool to school. Go camping. Share all the requisite happies and sads, from diapers and discipline to report cards and prom dates.

Then your friends make an unbelievable announcement: They’re getting divorced.

The ground shifts, and you have no words for awhile—until you and your spouse look at each other and say it together: “What are we going to tell the kids?”

The answer depends on the ages of your children, but I think every kid needs to hear these three points in some age-appropriate form:

• “The breaking of the marriage vow is a sin. God intends marriage to be for life.”

• “We’re still friends with all of them. We still love them.”

• “Don’t worry—your mom and I are not going to get divorced.”

That won’t be a one-time conversation. It will come up again and again, and you’ll continue to find the words your kids need to hear.

But some children will want more. They’ll want details. Do you tell them? If they’re young, no. More knowledge will only be a burden. These are adult issues. Kids don’t need to carry them.

But if they’re older and the story already is going public, then maybe it’s better they hear it from you. Keep it simple, and be ready to answer any questions they have as honestly as you can.

You might start like this: “Here’s what I know. This is heartbreaking, but Mary broke her marriage vow. She had an affair. Now John has filed for divorce. Mary has repented of her sin, but the divorce is still going forward. John and Mary are both still our friends, but, honestly, we don’t know what our friendship will look like now.”

It becomes more difficult when the reason for the divorce has not been made public. Maybe there’s an addiction or some abusive behavior that’s been hidden behind closed doors for years. Maybe the person filing for divorce is trying hard not to expose the sin of the spouse who broke the marriage vow. Then you might say something like this: “I’m not sure why they’re getting divorced. But we’re going to be kind to both of them, and we’re not going to gossip or speculate.”

In my experience, older children often feel a need to sort it out in their own heads—to find a black-and-white explanation they can be comfortable with. Maybe there is an obvious explanation: an affair, physical beatings, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol that’s led to emotional desertion.

But other times the matter is too nuanced for children to understand, especially if it involves emotional abuse or some kind of online addiction, which can lead to emotional desertion. Truthfully, these psychological tangles are too nuanced for most adults to fathom. Then you can just say, “I don’t understand what happened.” It’s honest.

Your kids may also wonder what to say to the children of the divorcing couple—their friends. What an excellent opportunity for you to massage your children’s hearts, nurturing their empathy and compassion.

• Ask your kids to dig down and think about what they might like to say to their friends.

• Urge them to take their cues from the friends. If the friends want to talk, listen. If they want to go swimming and forget about it awhile, go with them.

• Tell them what you think their friends might ask about: whether they’re partly to blame (no!), whether they could somehow have prevented the divorce (no!), whether they’ll lose their parents’ time or love (no, no, no!).

• Remind your kids that they and their friends are allowed to feel all the feelings: sadness, anger, confusion, worry, relief, happiness. Feelings aren’t wrong, and kids especially need to express them, not keep them in.

When divorce arises in your circle and your kids are looking at you with wide eyes, you know you’re on. You want to clearly express God’s will and also show compassion. You want to be truthful but not encumber your kids with too much information. You want to express your own sorrow but not scare them.

Mostly you want to hug them and reassure them that although this event is rocking their world, some things will never shift: Their mom and dad will always be there for them, and God their heavenly Father loves them more than they know.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.


When the issue of divorce arises in another family, a child or teenager may wonder if they should be concerned about their own parents getting a divorce. This can present an opportunity for parents to talk with their children and adolescents in age-appropriate ways about steps that Dad and Mom are taking to strengthen their marriage in an effort to avoid divorce.

This can be a great time to talk about—and demonstrate—the importance of:

• Nurturing a marriage with things like date nights, cards, flowers, hugs and kisses on the cheek, plus kind acts. Your children will observe your actions, which can help to calm any anxiety on their part. You will be providing a beneficial template for their own future marriages.

• Communicating well, which starts with actively listening to the other spouse’s message without prejudging it, then using appropriate eye contact, body language, and tone of voice to respond in a respectful manner. These actions will reassure your children of your love and care for their other parent and give them a great example to follow in their lives.

• Resolving conflicts positively using strategies like fair fighting, compromise, negotiation, and maybe even sacrifice. Teach children that conflict is part of life and part of marriage and that it can be managed well to enhance relationships.

• Apologizing and making amends if mistakes were made. How powerful for a young person to see a parent take responsibility and repent for a sinful choice, followed by forgiveness and reconciliation. This is an opportunity for children to see the forgiveness we learn from Jesus in action.

• Celebrating anniversaries, as these are a blessing from God. Give thanks to him for the gift of marriage by marking anniversaries with some fun tradition or meaningful gift.

• Teaching children and teens about God’s design for marriage. Emphasize that Dad is to be the loving head of the household and Mom is to be his respectful supporter. Talk about how Christians should be equally yoked with a Christian spouse. Reinforce that God’s plan is for marriage to be between one man and one woman.

• Worshiping together. We are surrounded by temptations to turn away from God’s design for marriage. Regularly hearing of God’s love in Christ and receiving Holy Communion gives us the strength to live Christian lives.

For teens, parents may also want to broach the topic of sexual fidelity, noting that this too is a gift from God designed to enhance the intimacy between husband and wife. Use this opportunity to reinforce that sex outside of marriage is not part of God’s good plans for us and such sin only leads to heartache.

This may also be a time to reevaluate your marriage. How well are you doing the things listed above? What might you change or improve to strengthen your marriage? What might you want to request of your spouse?

Let’s teach our kids about having strong, God-pleasing marriages through our words and actions grounded in his holy Word. Remember that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child is to love the other parent as God loves them.

Sheryl Cowling is a licensed clinical social worker who is also board certified as a professional Christian counselor and expert in traumatic stress. She provides counseling services at Christian Family Counseling, a ministry of WLCFS—Christian Family Solutions.

 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us