Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Intentional Parenting :: Reprise :: Intentional Service

When I wrote about teaching our kids about service a fewyears back, I talked about the benefits of service and how we can model service for our kids. I still think those points are valid. I still think serving others is fulfilling, joyful work. I still think there is so much to gain by serving others.

But as I’ve been thinking about this post since my last parenting post, I’ve been convinced that there is and should be something more to our thoughts about serving others and to what we teach our kids about service.

Recently I read Philippians 2 where Paul encourages Christians to take on a new attitude—one that is completely different from the world around them.

You see, the world around the Christians in the early church was probably not too different from the world around us today. Christians were being persecuted. The secular world opposed the message of Christianity. Everyone was out for Number 1.

And Paul knew that it wouldn’t take much for the Philippian Christians to get discouraged by the world around them. (Sound familiar?)

So he sends them this amazing letter of encouragement. It’s a letter that screams “JOY!” from every page, which is totally ironic when you consider that Paul is writing from a prison cell.

In Philippians 2, Paul gives some practical tips for living together as the church and for living in the world around them.

“Agree wholeheartedly.”

“Love one another.”

“Work together with one mind and purpose.”

“Don’t be selfish.”

“Think of others as better than yourselves.”

Could it get any more practical?!

Well, actually, Paul thinks it can, because he adds one more example, that of Jesus himself, and he tells the Philippians (and us) how to REALLY live.

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

Oh really, Paul? What was that?

He tells us: Be a servant.

A servant? Jesus was the Son of God, why did he have to serve others?

And that’s the point—He didn’t.

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave (the ESV says “servant”) and was born as a human being.” (NLT)

In order to get his message across, a message about the kingdom of God and the Good News that people really needed to hear, Jesus didn’t shout it from the mountaintops (OK, maybe sometimes he did that). He lived it. Every day. Humbly.

Jesus showed the people around him that Christianity is very different from the rest of the world. When the world is trying to get ahead, Christians open the door. When the world looks out for selfish interests, Christians make others look better.

When the world spits at Christians, mocks them, hates them, Christians look to Jesus on the cross, the most humbling act of love a person could ever have done.

And there they see true servanthood.

So what does this have to do with intentionally teaching our kids the importance of service? I guess I’m learning that along with the benefits, we need to show our kids that true service comes at a cost. That is isn’t always fun or easy or cheap to serve others.

And we may never hear, “Thank you.”

Oh sure, we can all come together to clean up a run-down playground and feel great about our efforts. We can pat our kids on the back when they take part in a service day through their school. We can feed the homeless alongside our kids for an evening. All of that is great.

But what about the day-in-and-day-out of serving those who are hard to serve? Even those who live right under the same roof as us? 

Sometimes serving our family is harder than serving the homeless.

But we’re still called to do it.

I bumped into a friend the other day, and she told me a story that prompted this post. She and her husband recently moved his elderly parents across the country so that they could care for them here.

It hasn’t been easy (although I’m sure she would say it has had its moments of joy). It has cost my friend time, effort, and money. It requires daily visits to check in on them. And the whole family is needed to help out.

One of my friend’s kids asked her, “Mom, are you getting paid for this?”

Because, of course!

We laughed about that, but we also talked about how her children are getting to see the hardest lesson about service firsthand.

Yes, some types of service are voluntary. Yes, there are occasional rewards. And, yes, serving others can be fun.

But mostly, serving others costs us something. Mostly, serving others is hard. It may take a huge toll on us. And usually nobody else notices.

But then I go back to Philippians 2, which talks about Jesus’ example, and I see the outcome of his sacrifice: that God has exalted him. Not just that, but that one day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD.” (Phil. 2:10-11)

True service doesn’t do it for the rewards, and obviously we won’t be exalted as Jesus will, but we can trust that God sees our hearts. He knows us completely. And He will bless us for serving Him.

I’ll admit, teaching our kids to have a heart of service isn’t easy. At all. But we can model it ourselves, every day. We can talk to our kids about serving, even their family. We can encourage them to serve as often as possible, even if it hurts.

And we can remind our kids about the greatest example of servanthood ever found—the example of Jesus.

Previous posts in my Intentional Parenting::Reprise series:

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Catching Up and a Book Review

Well hello there! As much as I hate having to do a "catching up" post, it seems like one is warranted today because I realize I've been AWOL lately.

The past two months, frankly, have been crazy. It's a wonder I've been able to write here at all with all of the commotion of end-of-school activities, graduation, a quick trip to PA, a family vacation, and a couple of birthdays thrown in for good measure. I hate to recap like that because everyone has busy lives and everyone can say that things have been crazy and everyone has an excuse as to why they haven't done what needed to be done.

Still, I want to catch up with you!

Graduation weekend was so much fun. Any time family and friends come together to celebrate is fun in my book, and this was no exception. Julia finished with a flourish and we all closed a very special chapter in our lives.

I've spent a lot of time reminiscing over the past few weeks about our years in public school here, and when it comes down to it, I feel so grateful for all of it. Some years have been hard, both academically and emotionally. Some years have been fun, filled with teachers who made learning a blessing and a delight. Some years have just been stretching and growing years that we needed to simply hold on tight to get through to the other side (hello, junior high!).

Through it all we have been blessed with an amazing community that has walked alongside our girls, both neighbors and friends who have known them for their entire lives. And that's something we don't take for granted.

So graduation ended with a flourish and a party and maybe some banging of pots and pans as we ushered Julia into her next phase of life. But until that phase begins in August, there's a lot of sitting around and waiting--something that's not easy for any of the folks in this family. Two of our girls are waiting to leave home and fly into their next adventures, one is waiting to move to a new apartment, and B and I are waiting for the onslaught of emotions once everyone is in a new place and we are left here with an empty nest. (Stay tuned--we're going to be fine!)

As soon as the party favors and decorations were put away, we packed up our car and headed out for a week of family vacation. We decided to try hard to get everyone together this year since we weren't sure when that would happen again. The girls cooperated and took a week off of work, and I booked us a villa in our favorite vacation spot: Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

You guys. I just can't even begin to explain how special that place is to us, and how special our week was. I'm sure I'll write more about it soon, but let's just say that a week on one of the most beautiful beaches on earth was JUST what this family needed. We read, relaxed, and rode bikes all week. We ate wonderful seafood and played cards and watched our favorite movies together. We talked and talked and talked, as we do. All-in-all, I'd say the week was a success.

So now we're home and summer is in full swing. Soon we will be in all-out packing mode, but for now, we're just enjoying the long days and the beautiful weather.


While I was on the beach last week, I read a few books that I wanted to tell you about.

I'm kind of in memoir mode right now, so I read A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg, which I loved so much. Every page made me smile, and Wizenberg's way with words made me gobble up every turn of phrase. Plus, she gives a ton of recipes throughout the book--one at the end of each chapter--several of which I'd love to try.

The second book I read was Julia Child's My Life in France (are you sensing a theme here?). Also a fun and interesting read that I'm sure I'll go back to in years to come. What an interesting life Julia led!

Finally, a book NOT in memoir mode, but also interesting if you're trying to understand people a little better. A few weeks ago I was sent a copy of A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, so I saved it to read on the beach with my teenager beside me. (Ha!) It's a much simpler version of Chapman's classic book, written directly for teens (I'd say it's more geared toward younger teens as it might be a little simplistic for an older teen of, say, 18 or 19). The first half of the book outlines what the five love languages are, and the second half of the book talks about how to apply them, both for the teen and for their family members and friends.

This book is such a great resource for teenagers, a reading market that seems to be underserved in the non-fiction realm. It's practical. It's well-written directly to teenagers. It's helpful, especially during years when conflict might be at its peak in the home. And one of the best things about the book is that it gives godly advice without being in-your-face about it (teenagers hate that). It was great for me to read with my family nearby, giving me time to think about how I could best show love to them in this new season of life.

So now I think we're fairly well caught up. It's a new week and a new chance to go out and "do small things with great love" as Mother Teresa encouraged us to do.

This week I'm going to try to write more, so stay tuned for a continuation of my Intentional Parenting::Reprise series and maybe a recipe on Friday.

What are YOU going to do with great love this week?