Barnabas is one of my favorite people in the Bible. We don’t know a whole lot about him, but the descriptions in Acts (4:36, 9:27,11:22-24, etc.) always caught my imagination. What would a person be like who was known as the son of encouragement? How would someone behave who was known for encouraging others and being a good man, full of the Holy Spirit?
We don’t know for sure, but I would think Barnabas was known more for building people up than tearing them down. I doubt he gossiped or talked badly about people behind their backs. Barnabas may not have baked cookies or had access to Hallmark cards, but I am sure he used his words and whatever was available in his time to make others feel loved and hopeful. I can imagine Barnabas helping people discover their gifts and how to use them in service to God. I can see him consoling someone who had sinned and giving them hope that they could indeed repent.
What if every Christian family became a Barnabas family? Could your family become a family who seeks out the best in everyone and shares their observations with them? Sincere compliments meant to encourage could change someone’s life. Could your family send cards or take food to people who may be lonely or discouraged? What if your kids were the first to talk to the kids in school who are normally ignored or bullied? What if you assumed that cranky neighbor had the best of motives and showered her with kindness?
You want a godly book or dvd for your children, so you head to the local Christian book store and purchase something that sounds good. After all, how bad can it be since the Christian bookstore is selling it? When I was young, the Christian book and movie industry was in its infancy. Ironically, many Christians were very cautious about purchasing anything labeled Christian.
Partially, they were concerned about financing possibly shady preachers who were in religion more for material gain than preaching God’s Word. They were also concerned the books and movies would eventually take the place of the Bible for many people. Although I was young, I also remember discussions about the idea of young Christians being possibly taught false doctrine with no one to help them filter the truth from the false teachings.
A few years later, popular culture was in the midst of a serious downward spiral. Things that never would have been said or done on television were now airing in time slots when lots of young children watched. Books and movies were filled with foul language and glorified acts that only a decade ago no one would have discussed, much less spent hard earned money to read or watch.
Teachable moments are some of the best tools in the savvy Christian parent’s tool box. You can create an experience or take advantage of one that happens naturally to teach your children important lessons. A lot of the ideas in Parenting Like Hannah are actually ways for you to intentionally create teachable moments to help your child develop specific godly characteristics.
Sometimes, the teachable moments which occur naturally are not so much fun. You may find yourself in an awkward situation. Your child may be devastated emotionally over something that happened at school. Your children might stumble upon a situation exposing them to seriously ungodly behaviors you had hoped not to address with them until they were much older.
Complaining and whining are two habits that seem to come naturally to most children. They are also two of the things most likely to drive a mother to send everyone to their rooms in an effort to avoid the assault on her ears and nerves. For generations, parents have had children memorize Philippians 2:14 with varying degrees of success. Although whining and complaining can be stopped by various consequences, it is the root of complaining that concerns me the most.
You see, at the heart of every complaint is the idea that it is easier to talk about something than to actually do something. Think about it. It is easier to complain about exercising and eating right than to actually do it – even though it is what is best for our bodies. It is easier to complain about someone than to do the work necessary to improve the relationship.
Training your children to act rather than complain, is teaching them to be the sort of active Christians God calls us to be. Can you think of a time when Jesus or the Apostles sat around just complaining? If you are mentioning a time, look again. Most likely, you will find they are actually teaching and correcting these people – not complaining about them behind their backs. (OK an argument could be made for the Pharisees, but hang with me – I think it still meets the action criteria).
Raising small children is indeed a sticky endeavor. In this case, sticky refers to memorable experiences that “stick” with your child throughout life. What I want to talk about specifically is making God, worship, Church, service and faith sharing a part of the precious memories of your children’s childhood. What can you do to make those memories special, fond ones? How can you help imprint those memories so that if your children are ever tempted to leave God and the Church, those memories call them back?
Here’s where I think a lot of people make a huge mistake. I don’t think it is about showmanship and entertainment. Parents with grown children can tell you the amount of money and “flash” doesn’t necessarily make for the clearest memories. We recently asked our daughter about some early trips we had taken when she was very young. We knew at the time her memories would be sparse, but consoled ourselves with the knowledge it was “creating wrinkles in her brain” (code at the time for increasing a child’s ability to learn later by exposing them to enriching things at a young age).