Monday, December 28, 2009

The Thessalonians Prescription

The Thessalonians Prescription

by Virginia Knowles

One day I found an excellent Bible passage that I think really talks about how we must work on daily to reach our children’s hearts with spiritual truth. I use 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 to evaluate my effectiveness as a mom, and to give me the perfect prescription for getting our lives back in balance. This is not a “one shot deal” – we all need to be renewed in these things continually, whether we are adults or children. I find a deep need to cry out to God to restore this kind of reverent order and fervor in my family. We are in spiritual warfare for the hearts of our children, and since we so easily forget that in the fog of daily life, we also get distracted from what is really, truly, vitally important in mothering. As a mother of 10 who has traveled this road for nearly two decades (and still has a long way to go), I plead with you to pay careful attention to what the Lord is saying here and apply it to your own family:

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”

Based on this passage, I developed a checklist to evaluate my own progress in nurturing my children in the Lord:

A Checklist for Home School Moms

1. Do I take the time to cultivate a reverent, fervent, joyful heart and home life?

2. Do I work hard to provide spiritual leadership through good example and teaching?

3. Do I require my children to show proper respect toward both parents?

4. Do I keep my children busy doing good things?

5. In my pursuit to teach my children independent living and learning, do I patiently exhort those who refuse to work, encourage those who lack confidence, and help those truly need direct assistance?

6. Do I seek to be a peacemaker by encouraging kindness and prohibiting revenge?

7. Do I give thanks in all circumstances, knowing God will bring good from them?

8. Do I eliminate influences and activities which are not the best for my family?

9. Do I teach my children to discern good from evil and to seek God’s will for their own lives?

10. When I see God’s Spirit beginning to work in my child, do I avoid quenching this progress with my own impatience and perfectionism?

11. Do I pray earnestly and continually for my children?

Daily discipleship -- for ourselves and for our children --needs to be the focus of any true education in our family. When Mom’s heart is nurtured through abiding in Christ, she can handle the challenges of the day better. Having a tender heart toward the Lord cultivates a more tender heart toward our children. But being tender doesn’t mean being a wimpy Mom, and letting them walk all over you with disrespect. Even if you don’t feel adequate to be respected by your children, even if your life is not always the best example for your children to emulate, and even if they blatantly challenge you, don’t abdicate your authority as parent! Again, this is tied to your own spiritual life. When you are strong in the Lord, you will have the strength to be tough when necessary. If they don’t learn basic reverence for God and respect for parents, you will experience great difficulty with each passing year. However, when children’s hearts are cooperative and teachable, you will have peace in the home, and they will learn academic skills much easier. Sometimes it seems like a sacrifice to lay aside my own individual interests to invest the necessary time, energy, and love into my children, but the blessings are abundant and the rewards are eternal. It forces me to lean hard on God and cry out to him for the divine wisdom and strength that only he can provide! As we all lay aside the old attitudes and methods that have hindered us, may God renew our minds so we can aim for the heart.

(This is an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom, which is available for free download in the sidebar of my main blog,

Stop, Drop and Roll! (How to Deal with a Conflict!)

Dear friends,

I'm about to start teaching the Young Peacemaker curriculum in my home school co-op English class.   Meanwhile, here is something I came up with several years ago to teach my own kids.  It's just as good for moms! (This is an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom, which is available for free download in the sidebar of my main blog,


Here is another idea for moms who are trying to be peacemakers: Stop, Drop and Roll. Given the sheer size of my family, there is a high probability that someone will be involved in an unpleasant confrontational conversation (argument) in a given day. A mom needs a way to deal with all this and not get overloaded. Here's a quick explanation of something that helps me keep my sanity when conflicts arise. I developed this concept from the standard "what to do when you clothes catch on fire" Stop-Drop-and-Roll instructions. Think of a conflict as a fire that is about to burn you up. If you thrash around wildly or run away, the oxygen is going to feed the flames. You've got to stop, drop and roll.

STOP: When you find your temper flaring, your jaw clenched, your muscles tense, STOP! Don't yell, nag, threaten, accuse, slam doors or otherwise lose it. You've seen the red warning flag, so STOP! "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:19, NIV)

DROP: You've got resentment, bitterness, frustration roiling around inside. It's a burden, and a heavy one at that. You're going to have to lay it down eventually -- why not RIGHT NOW? Drop your burden at the feet of Jesus. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7, NIV) You don't have to carry it one minute longer. Forgive!

ROLL: Get on with it. If there is a solution to your conflict, work it out calmly, paying special attention to preventing a recurrence of the same problem in the future. After that, go about your business and don't let the whole thing stop you in your tracks or cause you to stew. You've got a life to live! "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV)

When I remember to Stop, Drop and Roll, it helps me solve problems much more effectively and efficiently. I also don't carry around frustration quite as long, which makes me more productive the rest of the day.

Setting Sensible Standards

Dear friends,

This is an excerpt from my book The Real Life Home School Mom, which is available for free download in the sidebar of my main blog, We're reevaluating standards in our family, so that made me think of posting this for others who might be doing the same.


One cause of conflict between parents and children is rules. Home school parents are famous for setting standards for their families. After all, we want nothing but the best for our precious ones! As I think about how we make decisions on various issues, a few important principles come to mind. Our family’s standards and rules should be fair and reasonable, not arbitrary or picky. We shouldn’t make a rule just because other families do it. We don’t want to be self-righteous, pretending that we have perfect knowledge and obedience. Eventually, people would see the many flaws beyond our masks -- the same faults our children see in us every day. So in all things, we want to be wise and humble, depending on God for both guidance and strength to do what is right. There are four principles I think we can use when setting sensible standards for our families. As our children understand them, they are more likely to want to cooperate.

The Test of Truth: For a Christian, the absolute standard is the Bible. The Scriptures are quite clear on crucial issues, and give plenty of general principles to guide us through the gray areas. We shouldn’t have to agonize about whether it’s OK to get drunk, cheat on tests or taxes or spouses, etc. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

The Law of Love: The whole law of God is summed up in the command to “love one another.” (See Matthew 22:334-40.) Will our choice help other people or hurt them? We teach our children to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” We don’t want our children to call each other nasty names because it violates the law of love. Similarly, we don’t take what belongs to others or punch people in the nose. We want our teens to come in at a reasonable curfew hour at night so that Dad can go to bed and get some sleep. It all boils down to loving others! Read 1 Corinthians 13!

Sensible Stewardship: We must faithfully use and care for the many resources which God has given us, and neither squander nor destroy them. These include our time, money, possessions, health, energy, intellect, talents, moral purity, relationships, the environment, and much more. (See Matthew 25:14-30.) If I restrict TV viewing, I am preserving our time, intellect, and moral purity. If I don’t let anyone take food and art supplies into the living room, I am trying to extend the life of our furniture and carpet. If I warn them against the dangers of smoking, I am guarding their health. If I insist that we take our recyclable garbage out to the garage instead of tossing them in the kitchen trash, we are conserving the earth’s resources.

Winsome Witness: How will this affect my ability to be a positive influence on others? I’m not advocating the “what will the neighbors think?” kind of fear that provokes many picky rules. But, we should honestly evaluate whether our choices will cause others to stumble on their journey of faith. That may mean we do some things in private or keep our opinions to ourselves. (Look up Romans 14.) This will also mean that we need to keep our front yard looking neat and tidy. The children have to put their bikes and roller blades away when they are done. And it means that we keep complete school records for our annual evaluations. We want to be a good testimony for our chosen lifestyle!

Let natural and logical consequences pack their own punch when you can. If a child leaves her toys out in the rain and they get ruined, this natural consequence is its own “punishment.” Logical consequences are initiated by the parent but still closely related to the “crime.” If a child “forgets” to do his math, he might miss out on a family activity until it is done. If he carelessly damages school materials, he might have to pay for replacing them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Bittersweet Advent

by Virginia Knowles in 2002

[Virginia's note: This was written in December 2002 -- and still as applicable as ever! As many of you know, my mother-in-law passed away the following September, full of Jesus.]

It’s Christmastime, and life is supposed to be jolly! But it’s not, at least not always. For many of us, this Advent season brings a strong sense of the bittersweet aspects of real life.

Several weeks ago, as I was speaking to a home school group, I commented my family is “swimming in stress soup” right now, with unemployment, an exhausting pregnancy, and all the other niggling challenges of life in a large home schooling family. Little did I know what was to come! My wonderful mother-in-law, who has been quite ill this past month, was diagnosed with a second case of cancer, this time inoperable. My dear husband Thad has been taking care of her and tending to her business matters almost full-time since she has been sick, which actually makes me thankful for this period of “unemployment.” As we await more test results, and then see her through chemotherapy and radiation, the future remains uncertain.

I know that we aren’t the only ones in the midst of trials. I hear from so many of you who are facing illness or death, either for yourself or in your families. Some of you sorely miss loved ones who have passed away, or are just far away in other cities. Some of you have spouses who are being deployed to the Middle East or other far-flung locations for our national defense. (And God bless you for it!) Some of you have simmering and even boiling conflicts with family or friends, which alienate you during this season of supposed “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Some of you are on what could charitably be called a “tight budget,” and like us, are doing your Christmas shopping at the dollar store and the clearance bins. And some of you are just plain tired from running all over town searching for just the right gifts, or chauffeuring children to endless holiday events that require hours of preparation and fancy clothes that will only be worn once.

Yes, the Advent season can be bittersweet, even in the middle of jolly parties, holiday baking, tree trimming and gift wrapping.

May I offer a few observations and encouragement?

The manger was not filled with tinsel, and I don’t think there were any candy canes or mistletoe hung overhead either! That first Christmas, joyous as it was, spangled with the Star of Bethlehem, heralded by an angelic chorus -- was still bittersweet. Imagine being God the Son, leaving the glory of Heaven, and being plopped into a scratchy, smelly barn to be raised by lowly humans, and later, mocked and crucified by those you came to save. That’s a real life Christmas. Life on earth was no vacation for our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to serve, not be served. Likewise, we should be about our Father’s business, not just expecting everything to be automatically perfect just because it is December. As we face the challenges, we should have a multi-faceted approach.

First, we trust that God has allowed each circumstance to enter our lives for our enrichment in the faith. If we have confidence in the sovereign grace of God, who controls all things, we can not only survive the trials, but learn and grow through them. At least they will cause us to learn harder on our gracious Lord, who wants us to depend on Him and not ourselves anyway.

Second, we look for practical ways to minimize the extra stress by dealing with the realities of life. For example, we can reduce our expectations of what Christmas needs to be. Much of our overload is caused because we are trying to create unrealistic images or experiences for our children. This causes us to overspend and overschedule, just cramming it all in. Slow down! Spend less! Learn to savor the relationships you have with family and friends -- you never know when this will be the last Christmas you will see or talk to a loved one! If those relationships are ailing, we must seek to repair and restore them, rather than shoving the problems under the carpet. Preferably this could be done right now, so you aren’t trying to hastily patch things up over the sweet potato casserole at the Christmas dinner table.

Third, we should find little ways to follow Jesus’ example of serving. If you are not personally going through trials right now, I can assure you that someone you know is suffering, perhaps in silence. Please be sensitive to this, so that you won’t blithely blunder through the holidays! Find a way to extend the healing grace of God. For some, this will be as simple as writing a sweet note to a discouraged friend or a check to a charitable organization. Other families might be involved in some sort of service project -- caroling at the nursing home, serving food at the homeless shelter, or delivering gifts to a needy family. It takes our minds off our own troubles when we help those who may be even less fortunate than we are. It can remove the root of selfishness that clamors for our own needs to be met, and instead plant the seeds of compassion.

Above all, let us seek to glorify the One whom we celebrate in this Advent season, bittersweet as it may be.

"Love's Eternal Wonder" poem by Amy Carmichael

"Love’s Eternal Wonder"

by Amy Carmichael

Lord, beloved, I would ponder
Breadth and length and depth and height
Of Thy love’s eternal wonder,
All embracing, infinite.

Never, never have I brought Thee
Gold and frankincense and myrrh,
In the hands that groping, sought Thee,
Precious treasures never were.

What was that to Thee? The measure
Of Thy love was Calvary.
Stooping low, Love found a treasure
In the least of things that be.

O the Passion of Thy loving,
O the Flame of Thy desire!
Melt my heart with Thy great loving,
Set me all aglow, afire.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winter by Spurgeon

“Thou hast made summer and winter.” ~ Psalm 74:17

“My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.

“Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth His ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!

“How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labors which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plow by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.”

~ Charles H. Spurgeon from his devotional book Morning and Evening