Archive for July, 2011

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1Cor13:9-12)

One element of several popular Christian parenting books that I have found distressing is the confusion (or non-deliniation) between the sin nature vs. the ages-n-stages children go through.  For example, around 2, a child goes through a negative (“no”) phase because s/he is learning a new level of separation from the mother. That little tidbit helped me not to make every No as a battle of the wills, to adapt my mothering to this stage of development.  

The Bible doesn’t criticize childhood. Children go through fairly standard stages of development, mentally and physically. Of Jesus as a child it’s written, “And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luk 2:40) Nothing is criticized about being a child. It’s not painted as a time of foolishness or inferiority.

One major mistake several parenting books make is misapplying Proverbs. When Proverbs talking about “foolishness” and the “fool,” it doesn not have in view a small child. It is more talking about a teenaged child. Everywhere in the Bible, children are cared for as children, not treated as fools that need to be beaten.

Here are some examples:

Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels . . . (Gen 31:17)

Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. (Gen 33:12-13)

Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, … and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” (Exo 2:5-6)

Jesus gives us several examples of how He viewed children, and interestingly, there is no condemnation of foolishness or other childlike qualities. Becoming a mature adult is a goal (Gal 4:3), as Paul showed us (I Cor 13), but Jesus points out that there are elements of life and faith that come easily to children that we need to imitate.

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:3-6)

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mat 19:13-14)

Look at what these children did!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

God shows Himself to be, over and over again, gentle toward and protective of children. (“In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom.” (Isa 40:11) And He Himself designed their stages of development! Some of the most valuable tidbits I’ve learned to help me with parenting are basic facts about usual developmental stages and what I can expect.

So, when reading parenting books, I ask myself a few filtering quetsions:

  • Does this book help me understand and respect my children as children?
  • Does this author expect children to behave like adults? (Sure, adulthood is the goal, but there is a lot to go through before that stage.) Does it expect some type of robotic, adult-like obedience?
  • Does this author teach me as a parent to be gentle and patient with my children? Or am I being taught to be authoritative and slow to mercy?
  • Is spanking or other negative styles of discipline the main tools I’m being given, or am I being taught positive skills to nuture relationships while teaching obedience.

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My friend Tulipgirl is hosting her annual truth-about-Ezzo week starting on Monday, and since Im leaving town tomorrow, I wanted to put some thoughts into the conversation that I’ve been pondering lately.

Also, I want to say, that my heart’s desire is to speak lovingly. I think Ezzo teaches several false, misguided, dangerous things, but I never want to be disrespectful of an individual mother. Please don’t take my criticisms of Ezzo as a criticism of anyone personally. We all love our children and want to raise them to love the Lord. (And I have plenty of areas of motherhood I just plain stink at, and I desperately need God’s Spirit to live in me each day, so I offer these thoughts in humility, wanting to speak the truth in love.)

The context of these thoughts grew out of my visiting what I later learned to be an Ezzo-promoting church. The pastor speaking about childrearing that day made one comment (scenario) about breastfeeding, and I got to thinking afterwards, why do parents have to be trained to be suspicious of their baby’s desire to breastfeed? Hence, the approach of my following comments. . . .

Is the baby’s desire to breastfeed something we should be suspicious of?

According to Ezzo, the answer is yes. We see this through Ezzo’s use of controlled access, strict timing, and breast-only-as-food (not emotional comfort).

And while Ezzo does weave some elements of God’s nature into his method (like “order”), let’s put aside his conclusions for a moment and examine anew: What is Scripture’s view of and approach to breastfeeding? Is Ezzo’s way really an expression of God’s heart for babies and children at the breast? Does God encourage mothers to breastfeed the way Ezzo is promoting?

(The format of this post: I will make some comments about verses, then quote the verses.)

Look in these verses at God’s expression of breastfeeding as a blessing, of being happy and satisfied, emotionally comforted and delighted; as the breast and mother’s arms being the natural place a child belongs:

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isa 66:10-13)

In the following verses, are there any expressions of control or suspicion of breastfeeding children? Or rather, are they shown praising God and their breastfeeding is a normal stage of life? Nothing is said about control, motive, or timing. In fact, “nursing” is a description of their very childhood!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

Here, God is displaying His tender care and gentleness to His children. His words evoke warmth and feelings of love and safety. He is showing us how He, God Himself, treats the “nursing” lambs—and that is you and me. We are God’s nurslings.

Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Isa 40:11)

Here again, any suspicion? Control? Rather, again, “nursing” is the child’s one descriptive written in this verse. And again, it describes us as God’s children. We are objects of God’s compassion; He will never forget us. And can a mother forget and not have compassion on her nursing child? The rhetorical answer is no. There’s no way a mom could or should forget her nursing child; there’s no way she should not have compassion on her baby. Although God’s answer assumes it’s possible. . . What is Ezzo wanting to teach us?

Can a woman forget her nursing child, And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. (Isa 49:15)

Paul uses a “nursing mother” to describe his gentleness to these believers. Let’s be sure that those who are teaching us how to mother teach us this gentleness:

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. (1Th 2:7)

In these verses in Job, even orphans are being breastfed! And those who grab them away from the breast are the wicked ones here, removing food from the needy.

“Others snatch the orphan from the breast, And against the poor they take a pledge. “They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing, And they take away the sheaves from the hungry. (Job 24:9-10)

Here is another sad picture. Animals instinctively offer their breasts, but people can become cruel and refuse to feed their hungry babies.

Even jackals offer the breast, they nurse their young; but the daughter of my people has become cruel like ostriches in the wilderness. The tongue of the infant cleaves to the roof of its mouth because of thirst; The little ones ask for bread, but no one breaks it for them. (Lam 4:3-4)

Another beautiful picture the Bible gives us of the breast is Jesus’ own breast, when His beloved disciple, John, was reclining there. It’s even mentioned twice by John! Once before Jesus’ death, once after His resurrection:

There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:23)

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His breast at the supper . . . (John 21:20)

Again, I don’t want to offend, but I do want to expose Ezzo’s teaching that binds parent’s consciences regarding the freedom in the Lord that they have to breastfeed how they want/need and to offer comfort from the breast to their babies (Colossians 2:23 may even apply here, rules with an “appearance of wisdom” . . . but lack any true spiritual value).

Ezzo seems even to teach us to have opposite feelings for and evaluations of our children’s desire to breastfeed than what God says. God is showing breastfeeding as a natural descriptive of childhood, a time of special protection and gentleness and care. We need to ask ourselves if Ezzo is really teaching us God’s heart towards our babies.

(*More to come: next topic is the confusion of the baby’s sin nature with the nature of the baby.)

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Tonight we had my favorite type of bedtime for the girls. Vitaliy and I laid in the bed with Skyla and Vika, and we talked about a few things the girls wanted, we said “I love you” to each other, and then Vitaliy and I lay there talking to each other while the girls fell asleep. Then V and I got up and resumed our evening.

Usually it’s just me putting the girls to sleep that way. The bedtime hug and “Mommy, I love you,” from a satiated-with-love child is worth a million bucks priceless.

I think it is William Sears who points out 5 times in a day that are most valuable to a child: breakfast, coming home after school, dinnertime, something else, and bedtime. I try to pick one or two of those special times a day to deposit love into my babies. We all love it.

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