Two Magic Words

When our children object to our command or ask us a question, we try to answer them with reason. But if it’s followed by stubborn objections or endless questions, we teach our children to say two magic words that end a long conversation and settle the issue for everybody: “Yes Mama!” or “Yes Papa!”

Most kids grow up hearing the word “No!” more than the word “Yes!”. “No, don’t touch,” “No, don’t play over there,” “No, don’t yell.” Is it any wonder when we hear back from our children the defiant “No!”?

Of course there is a healthy and appropriate use of “No” but we have made it a point to develop in Alexis a habit of saying “Yes, Mama” and “Yes, Papa”. How?

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What Baby Talk Tells Us About Spiritual Growth

What are the steps of spiritual growth? Let’s take a look at the steps of baby growth. This is a list of development milestones in our daughter (applies equally to our son):

1. Feeds herself
2. Clothes herself
3. Speaks
4. Walks

She started feeding herself at one year old.

Clothing was a bit more complicated: she could take off her clothes at about nine months, but putting on her clothes at about two years. She was a little Houdini, getting out of everything including her last essential item, the loaded nappy. It’s not a pretty sight when a baby decides to throw her loaded nappy out the cot! As soon as she could button and zip with her little finger, she was not only clothing herself, but picking out matching colors and giving me fashion advice, “Do you want to wear this one, Papa? Do you want to wear the blue one? Do you want to wear the short sleeves?”

She started signing to us at about ten months Continue reading

The Job Description of a Child – Part 2

There comes a golden moment when you as a parent can step back and bask in the joy of having birthed and raised a helpful human being. When was that moment was for us? When Alexis began, on her own accord, without any prompting on our part, to voluntarily take care of her little brother Austin.

When Austin cried and didn’t stop, I would mutter to myself, as many fathers do, “Why is Austin crying?” I, of course, didn’t expect any rational answer back from this self-imposed quiz. Babies can’t tell us why they are crying. Some mothers have the ability to discern between the cries of hunger from the cries of poo from the cries of wee. I don’t possess that gift. So it came as a genuine surprise when once I muttered out loud, “Why is Austin crying?” and a clear, sharp voice of a three year old girl responded, “Austin’s crying because he’s poo-pooed in his nappy. We have to change him.” Uh…May be I should check his nappy. Thanks, 3 year old mum! And before I could get to the nappy drawer, Alexis’ little feet were scurrying across the carpet in our bedroom, they arrived at the chest of drawers where we keep nappies, and she pulled out all the right equipement: a cloth for him to lay on, wet baby wipes, and a fresh new nappy – the right one, too, not her size, but his size. What a delight to watch her grow up, and by that I mean, what a delight to see she volunteered to help.

The next golden moment in parenting came when we were on our way to church one day. Two babies strapped in their individual baby seats, Mama driving, and Papa going over his notes to preach on a weekend service. Inevitably there would be some noise from the back seats which would demand my attention. “Papa, can I have a drink?” is the usual one from Alexis. High-pitched squeaks of hunger from Austin meant he could no longer tolerate the 40 minute drive to church without milk. Well, one day there was silence…no noise. This gave me great peace for a while until I perturbed myself with the question, “Why is it unusually quiet back there?” Expecting to find a need I’d have to meet, I turned around to view the back seats, only to find baby Alexis feeding baby Austin with a milk bottle. I turned around to ask my wife, “Can she do that?” Now I think, “Is that even legal?” I mean, she was perfectly strapped in and all, but she was only 3 years old. But what I meant at the time was, “Can a 3 year old be so helpful?” She patiently held the baby milk bottle over Austin until he nearly finished the content. “Can a 3 year old be so responsible without being asked?” When your child proves that she can, it is an unforgettable moment. You thank God He made you a parent!

What are the landmarks in human maturity? Continue reading

The Job Description of a Child

We need clearly defined roles in every organization, whether private or public, business or non-profit. A church is no different. Whether a church grows or stagnates depends on everyone knowing “my job and your job”. Note carefully it’s not enough to know “my job” alone. If you don’t know what someone else’s job is, you might expect them to do something they’re not supposed to do or called or equipped to do; worse, you might be neglecting what you are supposed to do because you assumed someone else would do it. We’ve all heard this little story:

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought Anybody could have done it, but
Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

One reason churches don’t grow is that Everybody is waiting for Somebody to do the job, and the person who ends up doing too much is the Pastor. An exhausted pastor is not the sign of a spiritual pastor or a healthy church. So what’s “my job, your job”? The model I adopt for the church is taken from our home. In my house, every member clearly has a role. Everybody, of course, should walk in love. That’s a given for a healthy climate. What is unique to each of our roles? I as a husband and father protect, provide, and lead. This is not anybody else’s job. This is my job.

What is my children’s job? Besides loving Papa, Mama and each other, they have an important role that’s summarized in one word: HELP. Continue reading

A 3 Year Old on How to Approach to God

The next morning after returning from China, I was woken up by Alexis bouncing in her playpen, trying to get my attention with these words, “I love you, Papa. I promise I’ll be quiet and I won’t touch anything. Can I come out of the playpen?” She repeated these 3 statements a few times before I finally awoke with a smile on my face.

Right there in a little child’s mouth was the formula to approaching God: praise, promise, and petition.

First she praised, “I love you, Papa.”
Second she promised, “I’ll be quiet and I won’t touch anything.”
Third she made her petition, “Can I come out of the playpen?”

What was I to do? I was powerless to deny such a request. I got up out of bed, walked across the room and picked her up out of the playpen. Then we snuggled and played in bed.

We should approach God the same way as a child.

First, we ought to praise Him, “I love You, Lord.”
Second, we can make appropriate vows, not to manipulate or bargain with God, but to show our seriousness and sincerity, “I’ll follow You. I’ll obey You to the best of my ability.”
Third, we present our request to Him in the form of a faith prayer.

When I first became Christian, I promised God, “I’ll serve You and tell people about You, but it would be pointless if I got the whole world saved but my own family went to hell. I will preach the Gospel to other people’s family members, You take care of my family members.” I made a vow and then made a request. Within 12 months, all my immediate family members got saved in Australia, America and Africa.

Christians may not know the power of vows. They are not the same as bargaining with God. They spring from a heart that understands what the Father wants. When Alexis said to me, “I promise to be quiet,” she understood what we wanted in the morning: a bit of peace.

Our little girl was successful because she not only knew what we wanted, but she also knew what she wanted. Too many Christians don’t know what God wants of them and aren’t sure what exactly they want themselves. Saying “whatever God wants” will not get you out of the playpen. Going up higher with God requires a better understanding of both God and your needs. The secret of successful prayer is first praise, then promise, then petition.

A 3 Year Old on Love and Worship

When I came back from 3 weeks in Thailand and China, my 3 year old Alexis greeted me with these unforgettable words, “Welcome back, Papa! I want you, Papa. I want you all the time.”

Hey, after hearing that, I was ready to give her anything! And I had bought her a bunch of gifts to time-release to her. If such simple words can delight a father’s so much, I imagine how our words can delight God the Father’s heart, too.

The Bible says, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise.” Worship pleases God, and we can learn its importance from children’s words.

How to Solve the World’s Problems by a 3 Year Old.

We usually don’t allow our 3 year old daughter to watch TV. We believe the bombardment of constantly changing images in the early years of brain formation shortens the attention span of children and also creates in them an expectation to be entertained all the time. Then it becomes a leap of faith for them to sit quietly to read, study, and solve problems when they grow up. Anyway, this was one of those times when she was watching TV inadvertently because I had the news on.

She saw a violent scene on TV, a car on fire because of street rioting. She said, “Fire! Look Papa!” I told her, “That’s not nice fire, bad people did that.” Her reply? Classic.

She said, “They should say sorry otherwise they will cry. I thought, “That’s right, they should say sorry, otherwise people will cry.” She added 2 more tips to save the world, “We should pray and give them Emprizone (which is a brand of aloe gel we use on her skin).”

I thought, “Why that’s right! We should pray and also we should go put some healing gel on people’s wounds.” It was a plan that contained both spiritual and practical solutions. She had summarized a brilliant plan to solve the suffering of humanity at the age of 3:

1) everybody say sorry,
2) do something helpful spiritually – pray,
3) do something helpful naturally – put lotion on hurting people’s wounds!

Jesus would have approved her plan. He gave similar recommendation in the story of the Good Samaritan, who did what the priest and Levite wouldn’t do. He cared for a wounded stranger by pouring on some oil and wine (representing Jesus’ saving blood and the healing anointing of the Holy Spirit), then he took the wounded to an inn and paid for his costs (representing the church and provision for all ministry necessary to make this person healthy again). Jesus said spiritual people should pray and do something practical for other people.

Alexis understood this principle as a child. She is already acting like a wonderful Samaritan.