Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are children just an "illustration"?

I’ve been doing a Beth Moore Bible study lately, the one on Psalms. This past weeks lesson contained a quote, the implications of which I found to be offensive. I don’t always agree with her conclusions but usually I find that I disagree on minor points. This, however was a bit different.

This past week we were studying Psalm 127 and 128. I was amazed at how actual, physical children were brushed over but more than that, I was taken aback that she would share the following quote as if it even made a very clear or beneficial point! It almost seemed as if the quote was added to make sure no one might leave with the impression that God could have meant for us to think this was REALLY about our physical children.

The quote is by Eugene Peterson and is referring to Psalm 128’s reference to a wife being a fruitful vine and the children being like olive shoots around the table. He says:

“The illustration is, as we would expect, conditioned by Hebrew culture, in which the standard signs of happiness were a wife who had many children and children who gathered and grew around the table: fruitful vine and olive shoots. This illustration is just that, an example that we need not reproduce exactly in order to experience blessing. (We, for instance, don’t try to have as many children as possible – or try to get them to stay home for all their lives!) But the meaning is still with us: Blessing has inherent in it the power to increase.”

Oh, the problems I have with this quote!! The first is his reference to “Hebrew culture”, as if to say it is only their culture that happened to value children. It is important to realize that the HEBREW culture is the one that was formed and influenced by God like not other culture we know. Their value of children came because children are literally gifts given by God and they accepted that as fact. God made that clear and they believed Him and their attitude reflected it. That attitude should be part of ANY culture that knows and believes God. It’s not a cultural thing, it’s one of our Creator’s things.

I also find it interesting that he thinks it’s just an illustration. Perhaps Biblical talk of a husband having but one wife is also just an illustration, and not something we’re meant to reproduce and hold to. And talk of working diligently that we find so often in Proverbs is just an illustration, not something God really expected to see His people put into practice. And, hey, while we’re at it, let’s just call everything an illustration and read the Bible according to our culturally accepted views, rather than seeing our culture through the clear view of God’s Word! (Tongue in cheek here, folks.) Where does this man get the idea that this picture is not truly God’s heart for His people and that this is just figurative? Does he get it from God’s Word? Or does he get it by trying to adjust the Bible to what is culturally acceptable?

The part of this passage that is illustration is the reference to the wife being like a fruitful vine and the children to olive plants. What we’re supposed to picture is the wife like (illustration) a lush, green vine that not only gives fruit but is beautiful and happily growing and producing in the home. This is how a woman is to be in her home. Literally. Not a thin, feeble, fruitless vine, but lush and green. People should see the wife and see that she is bountiful in her element. The children are illustrated by olive plants. Olive plants were very valuable. It was a good thing to have them and to have them growing tall and strong, to one day bear a valuable fruit. With that illustration we are shown that actual, literal children are valuable and mean good things for the future of God’s people.

It’s obvious to me that he really misses a really big point. Children ARE the primary blessing you find in Biblical references to blessing but Mr. Peterson says, basically, you need not have children to experience blessing. Well, yes, God does bless in other ways but in THIS passage children are THE blessing. If you do not accept God’s blessings (children) you WILL miss out on this particular blessing, and likely many more blessings that come as part of the child blessing. Without multiplying with children, you are greatly limiting the ways God can bless you in other areas. Had God not blessed Abraham’s line with children (even in the midst of the unfortunate circumstances of slavery), they would not have been able to take the Promised Land. What blessings might we not be able to take because we’ve refused the first blessing of fruitfulness in the area of children?

Finally, I found absolutely misguided, this part of his quote: “We, for instance, don’t try to have as many children as possible – or try to get them to stay home for all their lives!”

God is the God of conception and apart from His divine intention and plan, no child is conceived. What we, in our culture don’t do is accept God’s gifts! We resist and in many ways make it clear to God that we have no desire to take as many blessings as He would like to give us! If God did not want us to have these gifts from Him, He would not give them as much as we “try”. In the same way, God doesn’t give when He doesn’t have a special purpose and plan for all involved. This quote assumes that God is not intimately involved in each conception, an idea that is refuted by a number of Old Testament scriptures. But, Mr. Peterson might argue that those are just “illustrations” as well. Yes, I suppose if you don’t want to believe something, just tell yourself it’s an illustration and you no longer feel like you have to take it as if God actually meant what was written.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Born to Mother

I recently had a friend tell me she used to wonder how people with large families did it and then she met me. Now, she said, she understands. (Needless to say, at this point I was REALLY wondering what she thought she'd learned!) She said that I am a born mother, that she can tell that mothering is my special calling and she felt that she (with three children) did not have the same thing.

I have a different perspective. I was not a "born mother." I know people who have always wanted to have children and I know people who just love babies. I was neither. I was never drawn to be around children and didn't grow up desiring children in any numbers. People who are like that are, in my mind, "born mothers." They just naturally like the mothering stuff. I'll tell you right now, I had a night last night that wasn't really all that bad relatively speaking. One of my little ones was up a few times in the course of about 2 hours crying about her leg hurting. It was nothing compared to what some people have with newborns and really, I can't say that if I told people they'd have that much sympathy but I was ready to go nuts! My husband saw that I had ZERO patience and sent me to bed! My lack of giftedness at nighttime parenting (my gift has been God allowing me to find ways to NOT be awake for any amount of time at night) is one huge sign to me that I'm not a "born mother".

I do believe my friend is right in one sense. Mothering is my calling. But it's also the calling of any woman to whom God gives a child. The key is that I have "embraced" that calling, to steal a phrase from Nancy Campbell of the Above Rubies ministry.

That's the reason some might perceive a difference. It's all about perspective and actively deciding to alter your attitude to enjoy what God has most obviously planned for your life. Too often we just do what we have to do, enjoy the nice moments and complain about the difficult ones. We often fail to see the bigger picture of what we're doing and wonder why WE have to be stuck with these small and annoying things. We look at others doing what we think are more significant tasks or perhaps more enjoyable things and we wish that our lives could be like that.

When I look at my children, I see potential. Potential that God wants us (my husband and I) to help equip and direct! This is the future of our family, of our society, of His Kingdom. What I do with these children, every little thing could be of greatest significance!! It could be of little significance but I don't know! I don't know what enormous plans God could have for these children but I know that I'm a part of those plans and some of those plans rest heavily on what I do or don't do with my children. As you catch that vision and just imagine the ways God COULD use your children in the future, you start finding more purpose and significance in what you're doing. As you start to see that you have an impact on your children that you couldn't have on anyone else in the world, you start to see the value of this relationship! The longer you think along those lines, the more you get caught up in the bigger picture where, before, you focused on piles of laundry, dishes, messes, arguements and runny noses but now, you can get lost in thought about the view of that big picture while you're doing the little things that go into that big picture.

Isn't it exciting to be a part of something God is doing?! No, I wasn't born thinking how awesome it would be to mother. I didn't even start thinking it was awesome until I was two children into it but now I can say that there's NO job as awesome, significant and blessed than this!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mudpies and Mary Janes

I'm not big on just browsing through people's blogs but from time to time my searches for something takes me to a blog that is a jewel. Mudpies and Mary Janes seems to be just that sort of thing. Check them out at

This blog apparently has give aways ALL the time! And for people who love to win free things, that's definitely a plus. But for me, what really draws me in is the ideas that are sparked from the things they give away. About a week ago I was inspired by their Emmie Cakes Giveaway! I'll have a picture of the resulte of my inspiration before too long!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bingo - Reading Games

Yesterday morning we went to Chick-fil-a for breakfast. Chick-fil-a resturants in our area are giving away one free breakfast item every Wednesday morning of this month and it was a chicken biscuit yesterday. One of my children looked at me like I was nuts and said "Chicken isn't for BREAKFAST!!" Well, it was yesterday.

Apparently they have Bingo every Wednesday morning and we got to join in. It reminded me of a game that I had made a while back for reading and I decided to make a new one.

While phonics is very important for reading words we don't know, MOST of our reading as adults is from having memorized words that we've seen many times. Our beginning readers, however, have to struggle through sounding out each word as they go along. While I would definitely not stop teaching them phonics, it's helpful and makes reading more fun for them (and us) if they have more words memorized so that they can recognize them instantly. Word Bingo is a fun way to help your kids get familiar with words.

Today I made two different games, one for my beginning readers and one for readers a bit further along. I picked 24 words. I chose words they struggled with from a recent story they read or words from a list of most frequently used words. I put the same 24 words on each card (construction paper) in a different order, with the usual free space. Then I wrote out the words on index cards (not shown). To play we stack them up and have the child draw a card and read it out while we both cover the word on our card. We continue until one of us calls out bingo after having covered 5 words in a row. If you have more than one student on the same level, they could do this together. This is a FUN way for them to get a little reading practice!

Solving Front Seat Wars

My friend, Kendall, was unable to leave her comment but here's her idea on solving the "who gets to sit in the front seat" delima for anyone who has kids sitting in the front seat.

“here's a thought on the justness of who sits in the front for which leg of the shopping trip. Have each young person who is old enough to be allowed to be in the front seat have a week in the front. on Sunday a new week begins and a new child has their week in the front. It ended all arguments when Mum implemented that regime as I was growing up.”

We not only have front seat wars but also wars over who's turn it is to sit by the baby. This is a great idea! Thanks!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Okay, yes, I do have my hands full!

In exactly the sense that they mean it! My day isn't long enought to do all the things that ought to be done. Thankfully, I'm not one of those people who stresses terribly over that kind of thing. All the same, things need to be done around here, ya know?!

I have to admit that I really do more than I personally ought to be doing with all the other little hands in my home. The older kids do some simple chores around the house. Make beds, of course, empty trash, unload the dishwasher, vacuum to an extent, clean out pet cages. It's time to pass some of those on and have the older ones doing some more difficult things. Yesterday I had my 2 and 4 year old kiddos unloading/loading the washer and dryer (with a little kitchen step ladder) and they also emptied the dishwasher while I had the 6 yo load the dishes in. The older kids helped fold laundry but they're horrible at it. That's going to need some work. Sweeping the floor is something else that I need to train some kids to do. While I ask them to sweep from time to time I always have to go back and do it over. I guess the key would be for me to make THEM go back and do it until it's done properly. Ugh!! So not my idea of a fun time. But it's not about fun, is it?

Do any of you have other suggestions for what kids ages 9 (almost), 7, 6 and 4 could be doing around the house? And while you're at it, how do you go about training them WELL? Somebody, give me some thoughts!!