Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mothers Class

Love and Manners (part 1)
Tuesday, February 20, 2012

Many times when we are searching God's Word and asking Him to reveal His truths, we can absentmindedly put the cart before the horse. This is done when we feel that we have a truth that we want scripture to support. So instead of gleaning truth from scripture we have pulled out various Scriptures to fit our truth. Even if our truth is parallel to God's and not in opposition, we still must realize that our methods are lazy, undisciplined and can eventually lead us to false teachings. It also makes us more susceptible to false teachings from other places. It is a common error which many, MANY Christians commit.

I have found that I am someone who often reads Scripture incorrectly. We should confess our selfish desires, our sinful will, and ask for God's forgiveness when we search His Word this way. I don't say this to be harsh, but to put it plainly. Jesus rebuked Peter and called him Satan when he tried to do this (Mark 8:32,33). Peter told Jesus that there was no way he would allow Jesus to give up His life. (Matt 16:22).. Peter had taken God's Words out of context and used them for His own purposes; to glorify himself. This is a big no-no. It is sin and we should see it as sin. But as with all sin, there is forgiveness. Peter didn't get banned from the voters assembly, he didn't get kicked out of the club... and neither do we. We are covered by God's grace and we receive His forgiveness as we repent, continue to grow and continue to learn. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have Mercy.

...On to tonight's lesson. While this passage we are reading tonight is common, familiar, and often quoted, let us put on our mommy hats as we search for God's wisdom. We'll read these scriptures and keep in mind our relationship to our children as well as our children's relationships with others. Because we are striving to develop a habit of reading the Proverbs daily as a way of storing up into our minds God's treasured words, I have chosen particular Proverbs which support these verses in the letter to the church in Corinth and added them to each section.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

Love is patient:
Love's first and greatest characteristic is to be long suffering; "slow to anger". Love doesn't have an expiration date, it has an unlimited time for enduring. Think about Paul, who is writing this letter. He is truly the recipient of God's patient love. How patient God was with him, even while he was a slayer of Christians. When we are long tempered rather than short tempered, we reflect and imitate God's patience. Long suffering is not natural and it isn't produced simply by exercising self control.  You can't make yourself be long suffering. Patience is a gift from God; a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  (Concordia Commentary on 1Corinthians, Dr. Lockwood) Because the Holy Spirit lives in you as a child of God, you have the ability to love, to be patient, to be long suffering. Sometimes all we need is the reminder of this truth. "He is making me patient. I WILL be patient. I AM patient."

You choose how you will behave in any given situation. Truly, love suffers for others; for their benefit. As mothers this manifests itself in how we interact with our children. We absorb their anger, their frustration... we suffer it for them. We take the verbal blow and we don't swing back. Love doesn't react. This goes against every "instinct" in our bodies, doesn't it? How quickly a hot tempered thought or word can come to our minds. It is the disciplined one who knows to wait on the Lord for His Words. If this is a new concept to us, then the wait might be a few minutes...or even a few hours. As the years progress and as we learn to wait on the Lord for His proper response, it eventually comes more quickly. Instead of a sinful gut-reaction to a hurtful word or disobedience, we are ready with loving correction produced by an even vocal tone. We remove the blinding, feverish emotion that is so effortless with the purpose of loving and rearing our children in God's truth.
Prov. 14:17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated
Prov. 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Prov. 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
Prov. 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Love is kind:
God's kindness to us is based on His generosity, not on our merit. God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4) God's kindness is strong and with intention to bear fruit in us. (Gal 5:22, Col 3:12)

We participate in God's kindness when, like Christ, we extend grace, charity, friendliness, and gentleness to our children without their merit. We initiate kindness. We literally bring ourselves down to their level, just as Christ did for us. Bending at our knees so that they can look us in the eye. Sitting them on our laps as we speak to them. We are to enter their world for they aren't yet able to enter ours. Kindness should not be seen simply as sticky sweetness, but should be the practice of useful, beneficial, friendly acts.

I don't particularly enjoy playing Pretty, Pretty Princess, but when my daughter was 5, this was her favorite game. For those who aren't familiar with this game, it involves moving a game piece endlessly around a board with the goal of landing on certain spots and acquiring various pieces of gaudy jewelry including, but not limited to a tiara. If I thought I looked ridiculous at the end of this game, seeing my husband dripping in plastic accessories was priceless, and as far as Emily knew, we just couldn't get enough of this game. This was kindness.

As Emily grew up and began playing with her younger brother and other younger children, we sought to develop kindness in her, reminding her that she was to play whatever game the youngest could play. "The youngest one gets to choose the game," became a motto in our home.
I believe that a home which is filled with kindness often has the most success when correction is needed. When everyday speech is gentle and the atmosphere is one of peace, the stark contrast of a word of correction stands out without the need of harshness or anger. In a home where the environment is unkind and animosity abides, it will seem necessary to raise the volume of correction in order to be heard, often resulting in yelling or screaming.
Prov. 11:17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.
Prov. 15:4 A gentle (healing) tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Prov. 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor

Love does not envy (is not jealous):
While the first two characteristics of Love are positive we now see Paul showing us what love is not. Love is not jealous.

Jealousy robs us of our contentment. Being discontent is a result of having the wrong focus. We take our eyes off of Christ and His great gift of forgiveness and instead we look around us. Possibly at others... what they have that we don't; what they can do that we can't. "That's not fair," often enters our thinking, until we completely ignore our treasure of forgiveness and grace through faith... all which were gifts to us.

Matthew records Jesus telling the story of the workers in the vineyard. (Matt. 20:1-16) Whether the workers had been working all day or for only a few hours, they all received the same pay from the master. An amount, which was fair and had been agreed upon beforehand... but when those who had been working longer saw that those who hadn't worked as long, received the same amount, they became discontented. Suddenly, they felt slighted, not because they were, but because they thought it was unfair that others should receive such grace from the master. But the truth is... it is the master's to give how he chooses.(Matt 20:15) We have been given the grace of our Father, freely. If he chooses to bless another more, less, or differently than he has blessed us, we should rejoice in the blessings of our neighbors, understanding that all are gifts from the Father.

Using this example as our rationale for how we rear our children, we should teach our children to recognize parental grace and not be discontent with their position within the family. How many times have you heard the phrase, "You love my sister more than me?" or "You didn't make him do what you're making me do"... Sibling rivalry often begins with jealousy and discontent. Instilling a grateful and thankful heart into our children is the solution to jealousy. We want to encourage our children to rejoice in the blessings of others. Their siblings are a great place to start. Proverb 22:9 talks about a bountiful eye... when we know there is enough to go around, we feel free to give lavishly of our time, attention and gifts. It is the jealous and envious eye which hoards and lives a stingy life.
Prov. 14:30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
Prov. 22:9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
Prov. 23:17 Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
Prov 27:4 Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Love does not boast: 
Love isn't a braggart or puffed up. As parents, we don't want our children to feel indebted to us. All that we do, we must remember that we do it for the Lord, whether it be laundry, making dinner or cleaning toilets. It's difficult, maybe, to think about bragging about such remedial tasks, but we find a  way. When we make the task about us, our efforts, our sacrifices, we are bragging.

It's been a while since I've seen it, but do you remember a commercial on TV about Rice Krispie treats? The mom is in the kitchen reading a romance novel. As she finishes her book, she spritzes water on her face, puffs flour into her face and dons a tired and worn expression. She brings the plate of Rice Krispie treats to her family in the other room. Then all you hear are exclamations from her husband and children about how she shouldn't have worked so hard... and as the audience we understand that the treats took very little effort to make. I find this commercial comical because it is often how we as mom behave. It isn't, however how we want to remain. We want what God wants for us. God's way teaches us to give without expecting in return and to do it joyfully. We should be hiding the fact that it took effort. We should strive to make it look easy. Let us be content in our vocation and let our children and husband do the bragging on us. :) When we aren't praised for our efforts--and we know there are many times when they go unnoticed--take special comfort in knowing that the Lord has seen you and is pleased.
Prov. 3:7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
Prov. 25:6-7 Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
Prov 26:12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Prov 27:2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.

Love is not proud:
So what is pride? Don't we see that as a positive thing? When we tell our children to "take pride in their appearance"... aren't we just telling them to have good healthy hygiene habits? What's wrong with that? Or what about when, as parents, we're busting our buttons in pride because our children were obedient, or achieved something difficult through hard work and dedication? Is that wrong?

Let's look at what Paul is saying here... and to whom he is speaking. The Christians at the church in Corinth were a people puffed up with arrogance, which was causing division in the body of Christ. They had put themselves ahead of Christ and Christ's purposes. Anytime our accomplishments, or our vision of ourselves puts us ahead of Christ, we are being proud. When our sense of importance and self is so puffed up and distorted, we are ugly. Love is not ugly.
Love puts us in our proper order. We should imitate the humility of Christ, who made himself to live among us. He submitted himself to the Father's authority, even to death on the cross. There is nothing more lovely than the humility of Christ. To be humble... to put ourselves in our proper place, is a lovely thing.

As parents we should be aware of the proper order within our home. Regardless of what is spoken out in the world, we know Scripture is very clear about God's order of creation. We talked a little bit about it last month. When we allow our children to get out of order, we are allowing them to be prideful and ugly. It is Scriptural to "know our place". This phrase is not one that many will get warm fuzzy feelings about, I realize this. But it is one that speaks to our pride and quickly reforms our thinking. As Jesus said to Peter,"Get behind me," (Mark 8:33) so we can say to our children, "Know your place." Your place is behind me, a place of submission and a place of protection. It is the proper order and it is lovely.
Prov. 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
Prov. 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Prov. 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Prov. 18:12 Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

Love is not rude: 
Here is where the Manners section of our lesson comes in. We see here that having good manners is an act of love. Especially in our families we should be exercising good manners, considerations and respect. I often tell my own children that manners are first for family and then for friends. This is a reminder to them that if they aren't practicing love and manners with their siblings, they won't be allowed to spend time with friends. It is easy for us to take our families for granted and not practice good manners on them. It isn't that we want to create a stuffy, uncomfortable atmosphere where we use salad forks and water goblets... although, once in a while it might be a fun thing to do. No, the idea is that love is considerate. It CONSIDERS others' needs and behaves accordingly.

Beyond loving our family we extend love to others when we consider them and their particular situations; When we allow someone with two items to cut ahead of our huge cart load of groceries; when we remain quiet in the movie theater, knowing that others have paid their money to watch the show with us; when we consider how our behavior affects others we are showing love. Narrate these actions to your children, not as a way of self promotion, but as a way of promoting obedience to God's Word. "God says love isn't rude, so we want to have good manners at the restaurant. Chewing with our mouths closed is good manners. Show mom how you have good manners. Good Job! You are a loving girl with your good manners!" Now, my kids are sort of past this type of conversation. So, for older kids it might sound something more like, "There are lot of people at this store, I think it will be difficult for some of the older people to move quickly, I'm going to make sure that I am paying attention to who is close to me so I don't accidentally bump someone." This is a way of suggesting manners without being blatant. We want our older kids to do most of the thinking themselves.

On a side note... my pet peeve: Saying "please" and "thank you" to your children when you are giving an instruction is confusing manners with obedience. Now, I realize this might shock and possibly offend some, but let's think about it for a second. The words 'please' and 'thank you' are permission words, and when we are giving our children directions, we certainly don't want them to think they have the option to decline our request, do we? 'Please' and 'thank you' should be reserved for times that aren't associated with training. "Oh, Johnny, you picked some beautiful flowers for me. Thank you!!" or "Cindy, would you please pass the bread? Thank you." The improper use of these phrases is one I see in the grocery stores A LOT. "Tommy, get back in the cart please." or "Thank you for doing what mommy said." UGH! We don't thank our children for obedience. We praise them. There is a huge difference. "Good Job!", "You are a fast worker!" "You did just what I said to do! That's awesome!" are far better responses than "Thank you." And likewise using a sweet, gracious tone when giving instruction is all the manners you need. Leave off the 'Please'.. please. Okay, got that off my chest. ;)
Prov. 16: 24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Love is not self-seeking:
This goes right along with love is not rude. Self-seeking is another name for selfish or greedy. We want to show love by being unselfish. One of my favorite Psalms is often used to begin a prayer of thanksgiving before meals: Psalm 145:15,16 "The eyes of all look to you , and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." This picture of an open hand is what demonstrates to me God's generosity. There is no clenched fist, just a hand held open inviting us to take what He has. This is our example.

Developing a strong familial unity will help our children to understand self-less-ness. When we teach that we are not individuals living independent lives, but rather, we are just one part of a whole, the choices we make reflect our thinking. We are not autonomous, and to seek our own way at the expense or neglect of others is not love. Eating dinner together, reading books aloud as a family, group games and puzzles are wonderful ways of promoting unity within the family.

Just before we left California for the Midwest years ago, I was out mowing and edging our front lawn for what would be the last time. A neighbor saw me outside and came over to talk. She said, "You know, you don't own the house anymore. You aren't legally responsible to keep up the yard. Let the new owners do that." I thought about what my husband would say ... (As a rule, this is usually the better thing than what I instinctively might say)... I said, "The Pools leave a place in better shape than when we arrived." This really has been our family motto when it comes to moves and such. No we weren't obligated to mow the lawn, water the flowers, or wash the windows, at least not by California law, but we know what God's Word says about loving our neighbor. So we do them, happily. Love isn't content with simply looking after number one.  Love notices the needs of others and is happy to oblige.
Prov. 3:27-28 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it" -- when you have it with you.

Next month we will continue with 1Corinthians 13 4-8 beginning with "Love is not easily angered"
If you would like to message me privately about anything in this months lesson feel free to contact me at either my facebook page (Sallie Pool) or by email:

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