Each One Teach One: My First Family Bible Study

mom and son artMy 8-year-old son’s father committed suicide in 2012. It’s hard to explain to a child why he isn’t going to see his daddy anymore. It’s even more challenging to talk about what happens after a person dies considering I’m a Christian and his father (and his family) is Jehovah’s Witness. Though his questions may be difficult to answer, I can’t allow him to be misguided.

He’s on punishment this week for previous misconduct. Usually I’d give him busy work and reading assignments since he can’t enjoy playing his Nintendo DS or watching television. Instead, I printed a Bible-in-a-year reading plan that he and I are going to begin. I’ve read the Bible before but not with complete understanding. The first time around, finishing was more of a concern than applying God’s word. This time I aim not only to gain understanding but to help build my son’s faith as we seek the answers to so many of his burning questions.

600-00934291I have a paperback New King James Version as well has a hardback New Living Translation Bible. Since we would be reading together, I opted to bring the English Standard Version of the Bible up on my computer so that we could view a larger print/font. I also opened an additional webpage for the dictionary to clarify words he didn’t yet know the meaning of.

At the start of our session I explained to him why we were going to read together. Whether its biology, geometry, or U.S. history; many of the things he will be taught in school will be instructed through the use of a text-book. An acronym I learned as a child growing up in church stated B.I.B.L.E. stand for basic instructions before leaving earth. This is the most important book he will ever read. Also, in the same manner you may discover something new after watching a movie you’ve already seen; you can never stop learning from the gems of the Bible. Lastly, it’s important to not only know the answer but to know why you know the answer. I want his faith in God to be biblically based, not just a form of tradition or blind faith-based on what Momma said.

On the first night we covered Genesis 1-3. When he began reading, I could tell he was excited. He read as if he were proclaiming the good news in front of a congregation. There was so much cheer and pride in his voice. We stopped in between the verses as they described the days of creation to review. After finishing chapter 1, I gave him a worksheet where he could match each day to what God did on that day. He worked through it the same way he has a tendency to rush through his homework for the sake of finishing and moving on to “play time”. I asked, “Why are you rushing? What do you plan on doing after this? You’re not going to watch television or play any of your games, so you might as well take your time and do this right.” He started to cry. I was angry but didn’t want to chastise him in a way that would cause him to relate Bible study to a chore or a punishment. It was neither. It was a privilege and likened to a treasure hunt.

After summarizing the gift and importance of reading the Bible with intention, things went smoothly. Chapter 2 describes the creation of man and chapter 3 narrates the fall of man. He has heard the story before from children’s church but not with the depth in which we read I presume. What did God tell Adam? What did Eve tell the serpent? How were they different? How did the serpent tempt Eve? Why didn’t Adam say anything to stop her? What was the first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned? He offered his own opinions to my probing questions.adam & eve

We were having fun until it was time for him to complete the rest of his worksheets. There was a word search, a crossword puzzle, a maze, and key words to unscramble. It was after his bedtime of 9 o’clock when he groaned he couldn’t find everything on the word search. He had found them all except 2. I glanced at the sheet to make sure they were there and told him to keep trying. I walked away but heard him start to cry…again. The Bible lesson turned into a life lesson. There’s a saying that you don’t cry over spilled milk, or in other words, things that don’t matter. As upsetting as his response to the worksheet was, it reminded me that people (adults included) have a similar reaction to challenges. We give up too easily. We aren’t willing to work on something that takes more time than expected. We want answers (and much more) handed to us. Matthew 7:7 says to seek in order to find. Not cry and find. Not complain and find. Not procrastinate and find. Seek! He eventually found the last 2 words but not until I confirmed that they were there. I ignited his hope. If he truly believed the words weren’t there he would have given up; maybe even pretended as if he had found them just so he could finish.

I truly enjoyed our time together with God through His word. My foundation of faith began as a child and now my son’s will too.

The Value Equation

xboxI am a single mother of an 8 year old boy. Not too long ago he told me he wanted an Xbox for Christmas. I know a lot of kids his age, including some of his friends and cousins, have gaming consoles. I’m still not prepared to spend what I feel is a considerable amount of money on a child’s gift. My son has many positive attributes. He’s well mannered, funny, inquisitive, optimistic, and full of energy. Despite his many strengths, he’s also irresponsible. I have to remind him to wash his face, use lotion, clean his room, bring his jacket home from school, stop rushing through homework, clean the table after he’s eaten, etc. I suppose these are things all children have to be reminded of and shouldn’t be used to say he is undeserving of an Xbox. I’m just not sure. I guess my fear is that since he doesn’t take care of the little things, he won’t take care of something on a larger scale either. I’ve already heard a friend complain her son has lost some of his games. Thus far my answer isn’t necessarily no, just not right now.

tabletI don’t subscribe to Netflix nor do I watch DVDs for this purchase to benefit me. Another friend with children my son’s age offered an alternative which I may pursue. A tablet can be loaded with more educational games than what we’d likely purchase for an Xbox. It’s also less expensive and something I may be able to employ during the times he is on punishment from its use.

He already has a Nintendo DS. He loves that thing more so than any of his other toys. Children and adults share something in common. We treasure what’s important to us. It is that which we we are willing to invest in. My son may forget to bring his jacket home from school, but he wouldn’t dare leave his Nintendo DS behind. It holds more value to him.

anointJohn 12 records the story of Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointing Jesus’ feet with a pound of expensive, fragrant oil. Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples, complained that the oil could have been sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor instead. A denarius was the equivalent of a working man’s daily wage, therefore, 300 denarii would represent about one year’s salary. Interestingly, once Judas found an opportune time to betray Jesus, he did so for 30 pieces of silver (representing the price of a slave according to Exodus 21:32). John MacArthur writes in his book Twelve Ordinary Men, “The contrast is staggering: Our Lord is anointed with overwhelming love by Mary and betrayed with overwhelming hate by Judas at the same time.”

A comparison between the actions of Mary and Judas cause me to question, what is it worth? My son wants an Xbox, so maybe I’ll ask him what he’s willing to do to work for it. Likewise, when I find myself unhappy in a situation, I need to ask myself what I’m willing to do to change things. Mary and Judas knew the truth about who Jesus was yet they had very different responses. This also reminds me to not be disappointed with how others treat me. People are capable of anything. The same mouth that blesses the Lord also curses people who were made in His image (James 3:9). It would be wise for me to take heed to the way I’m treated because it likely reflects how much that individual values me.count

Children Know Everything Said No Parent Ever

My son attends the summer camp offered by our city’s Recreation Department. Although he has fun there, he isn’t being nurtured academically. I purchased a workbook titled Summer Fit Second to Third Grade: Math, Reading, Writing, Language Arts + Fitness, Nutrition and Values. He has the knowledge to complete the tasks therein but often needs coaching. By the time we finish the book, my hope is that we’ve built on what he’s already learned and acquire some new information to keep him ahead of the game once school starts. He should also become more independent in completing his work. My intention was to pair this workbook with addition and subtraction flashcards. The first time we went through the addition problems, he whizzed right through them. The subtraction problems, however, had longer pauses and times where he still counted on his fingers. His response made it clear what we needed to concentrate on.

Tonight we began a new page in the workbook. Once we finished, I pulled out the subtraction flashcards. He got an attitude, rolled his eyes, and said, “But we’ve already done those.”

katt williamsWait…hold up. What? Come again? Chile please. Boy bye. Lord, give me strength.
After a deep breath, I explained that he must practice. Through repetition he would know the subtraction problems just as well (and quickly) as the addition problems. In furthering my point of his error, the conversation went something like this:
Me: What have you been doing the last couple of hours?
Him: Watching TV.
Me: And what have you learned from watching TV?
Him: Nothing.
Me: Exactly! So don’t you dare get an attitude with me for trying to help you learn something. You will not rush through this as if you have something better to do.

After he picked his face up off of the floor, we resumed our session and he went to bed. Being a parent often causes me to reflect on how my Heavenly Father must feel about me. How many times have I been frustrated when there was no response? Yet, I am later reminded that the teacher doesn’t talk during the test. How many times have I been frustrated to feel as though I’m going through the same mess? Yet, I am later reminded that practice makes progress, and you cannot be an expert with which you are not familiar. How many times have I felt deserving of a break from hardship, trials, opposition, and unrest? Yet, I am later reminded that I only inflated the issue making something out of nothing. How many times have I resented God when He was only trying to make me better? Yet, I am later reminded that this is what I asked for; to be better. I love these scriptures below. They definitely help me to keep myself in check.

2 Thessalonians 3:13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

I have to remember that my God knows all, sees all, and hears all. I can’t question his methods if I trust His omniscience. Salvation via Romans 10:9 isn’t a once and done thing. It is the start of our walk with Christ. In the beginning, we need lots of coaching and hand holding. As we mature, the training wheels come off. We may wobble a bit and even fall, but after much practice we’re riding with a spirit of exploration and mobility. In the end when it’s all said and done, we want to hear, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” Hang in there and trust the process.

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
Just trust Me

Life Lessons from Little League

I have a seven year old who has been playing soccer for the last two years. He’s no David Beckham, but I felt it was important for him to get involved in team sports. He enjoys it and goes to bed at a decent hour with no complaints on game days. It’s a win-win situation. Youth sports aren’t just a great physical activity, but they also teach social skills people can implore later on in life.soccer

1.         You play how you practice. Have you ever seen a player make a mistake and retort with, “He/she always does that!”? That’s because understanding and execution are two different things. Most people, especially children, learn through repetition. It’s not good enough to tell a soccer player to use the side of the foot instead of the toe. In order to kick properly, this skill needs to be perfected during practice before one can expect the player to do well on the field. Life is no different. Think of a student in school. The purpose of homework and quizzes isn’t to bog down or bore the pupil. Those things are intended to reinforce the lesson in preparation for the test.  

 2.         Play your position. A professional soccer team has 11 players on the field at a time, but at age 7 there are only 4 players. (The field is also much smaller.) Their assigned positions are left offense, left defense, right offense, and right defense. Simple, or so it should be; but things don’t run as smoothly when someone isn’t located in their assigned position. (God forbid all 4 are out of order.) Frequently, I saw my son as an offensive player located behind his defensive players. I yelled, “Play up! He can’t pass to you from there.” Too many times we’re like kids: all running after one ball and ignoring the space we’re supposed to occupy. Everyone can’t be a great athlete or a great singer or a great actor. Does the world really need 7 billion Samuel L. Jackson’s? Resist the rat race and stay in your lane.

 3.         Focus.  At age 5, there was a game where my son did a Michael Jackson impersonation in the middle of a game. “Pay attention,” I yelled. How the melody of Billy Jean overtook him at that moment is beyond me, but we have to be mindful of the task at hand. At some point (I hope) we work towards a goal, yet we seem to be surrounded by chaos and distractions. We can’t let the things going on around us divert our attention on what’s really important.

 4.         Remember who’s on your team. Sometimes the boys chase after the soccer ball all at once. Everyone on both teams is standing so close together looking down at the ball. They can lose sight of the fact that they are actually taking the ball from a teammate. What happens if one person finally manages to get the ball? Well now, everyone is out of position, so he definitely can’t pass it to someone else. Does the player have the skill to kick it to the goal while the four players from the opposing team chase him? Not likely. You can’t expect to win once you’ve isolated yourself from both your enemies and your friends.

 5.         Display good sportsmanship. A season or two ago I remember a game where my son’s team demolished their opponent. The score was somewhere around 15-2. Each time we scored a young boy would yell out the current score with his arms raised in excitement. By the time we reached our fifth goal my son thought he might cheer with him as well, but I intervened and told him to stop. There’s no harm in taking pleasure in winning, but at whose expense? What may be cheering to you may actually be taunting to someone else. An exaggerated praise of self is never attractive.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I used to date a guy who went to the same gym as me. One day as I was leaving, he and some friends were just arriving. Someone from his job was also walking out of the gym and stopped to say hello. They made small talk briefly, and I was introduced to everyone. My son, Aaron, was probably three at the time. One of the ladies turned her attention to greet what she thought was a cute little boy until he blurted out, “Fuck you.” Needless to say I was mortified and beyond embarrassed.

kids say the darndest things

Though currently in remission, I used to have a potty mouth. Pray for my deliverance. One of my best friends and I still laugh to this day about the time my Cocker Spaniel ran out the door as she was leaving and my son yelled, “Bentley (the dog), get your ass back in this house.” I could hardly reprimand my little rascal because it was my fault. He hadn’t learned those words at daycare or from Dora and Diego. He was doing what kids do; following the example of those they look up to. The good news is when I stopped swearing so did he.

Our words hold a lot of power, and sometimes we don’t realize it until we hear what we ourselves have spoken through someone else’s voice.

There are a few series like VH1’s Behind the Music or TVOne’s Unsung which tell the story of a certain celebrity/entertainer. Specials like these will start from the beginning of that person’s childhood days. We see video footage and pictures of them acting in school plays, performing in recitals, singing with their church choir, auditioning at talent contests, and so on. My son is six, so it’s too early to tell, but I wonder what he’ll be when he grows up. He’s structured like his mother and a goof ball like his father. A comedian wouldn’t be farfetched.

Other than Aarons’ obscenities, he does a good job of making me laugh. There’s a McDonald’s right by our previous home that had closed for remodeling. When it reopened they put an inflatable Ronald McDonald on the top of the finished restaurant. One day on our way home we neared the curve right before you can see the McDonald’s and he told me to “get my eyes ready.” I guess he wanted me to know that a trip to the drive-thru was in order.

A while ago Aaron had been misbehaving in school. After reading one of the notes his teacher had sent home I threw away his Nintendo DS admonishing him it would not be retrieved until he started acting like he had some sense. The following Valentine’s Day he made me a card in school that read, “I love you but not like when you throw away my DS.” There’s no video footage for times like these (although I could exploit his antics on YouTube), but that day and numerous episodes like it prompted me to start a journal of the darndest things he says. He doesn’t have to reach Richard Pryor status for his words to have importance. I’m sure it will make a nice gift once he’s an adult; otherwise, I’ll keep it for my own amusement and memories.