Do Your Children Labor?

Earlier this month, government officials in Canada ordered a farm to stop using child labor. But this isn't your typical case of exploitation.

The children in question were the children of the farm owners. That's right -- what may be considered household responsibilities or chores, was now deemed illegal.

(After a large public outcry, the decision was reversed.)

Here's a great commentary on Canada's child labour pandemic. (It's a joke! And you'll love it.)

For more on responsibilities (and allowances), check out this post.

I hope you have a restful Labor Day weekend!

The Beauty Under the Bridge

This summer has brought big transitions for us. Things are familiar, but with new twists.

We moved from Allendale, SC back to Greenville, but in a different part of town than we've ever lived. We are back at Grace Church, but at a different campus. I have a job working with children, but exactly what we will do is yet to be determined.

In the midst of this, our children are experiencing change as well. They are all still homeschooled, but going to a new cooperative. They are making new friends, especially at our new church campus.

Our daughter, Hannah, will be a teenager next month, and she recently took part in her first church mission trip. As you'd expect, she learned a lot that week. Even more, I grew in my appreciation of our awesome church, and all the staff and leaders who have supported us over the years.

I wrote about her experience on this mission trip, and how so many ministries at our church combined to help her understand herself and be in community.

Check out my guest post on the Grace Women's Ministry blog. It's called Beautiful Underneath.

“There is beauty and power in inviting, nurturing, and partnering. But to fully experience that beauty and power, the walls of self have to be torn down.”

Related Link:

My Son's Struggle with Pessimism. And Mine, Too.

Whereas my daughter is naturally optimistic, my older son and I are definite pessimists. While our analytical natures help protect us from jumping in too quickly, our lack of faith in ourselves, others, and (most importantly) God also tends to hurt our relationships.

I wrote about our personal struggle, and how we are trying to trust God with it, on my latest guest post for Family Matters, The Struggle of Pessimism.

I hope you head over to Family Matters blog to check it out.

But if you don't, well, my pessimism will be right on target again!

Focusing Our Family on the Bible

Over the past year, I realized that I have not done great leading my children be Biblically-oriented. We've done a few things to disciple them in this area, such as with teaching (and modeling for) them how and why to read the Bible.

But in many training moments with them (both corrective and formative), I realize that more often than not, I have been teaching them good Biblical principles, instead of pointing them to the Bible itself. (This is one of the big take-aways I got from reading "Don't Make Me Count to Three!")

Additionally, while we have many discussions about living on mission for Jesus, I don't feel like we have an over-arching vision for where we are heading. As we begin this next school year, and as we begin the next step of our adventure, I feel like we need to have a more definitive focus and vision.

Now, I don't think that we will create a long mission or vision statement, though we know many families that have done this. And if you want to give it a try, check out these suggestions from Family Matters and All Pro Dad.

But for our family, we will focus on three Bible verses or passages. These will provide an overall framework for most of our discussions, as it relates to our family, other relationships, church, ministry, school, and more.

Our Family Verses

Here are the three that we chose:
  1. 2 Corinthians 5:17  "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."
  2. Mark 12:30-31  "'And you shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
  3. Proverbs 27:17  "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another."

Or, to break these down into simpler terms:
  1. In Christ we are changed.  We all sin and we are all selfish. But only through trusting in Jesus can we be changed, not through our own efforts.
  2. Love God, love others.  I wrote about these greatest commandments in What's So Great About the Great Commission?   
  3. Allow ourselves to be sharpened by others. We have to help each other, and we have to be humble in how we each receive correction and advice. 

We've already had some great talks, especially as we discussed how we need to reach out in our new community. And for most of our family, this is difficult. We struggle with passivity and being self-protective.

We have talked about how Jesus didn't always do what He wanted to do, but He submitted to the Father's will (see John 6:38). Just because something feels good doesn't mean it is good, and just because something feels bad (like "being sharpened" by others) doesn't mean that it is wrong.

What's the Plan?

We will post the verse references in our living room or dining area, as a reminder. And we will work on memorizing the scripture, too. Other than that, we (as parents) will use these concepts throughout our everyday conversations.

I'm not sure if we'll keep these verses for a year and then come up with new ones for next year, or if we'll keep these for longer. That's the beauty of this idea. We can move forward and see how it goes! 

What about you? Does your family have a vision statement? Or will you focus on a few verses this year? 

Related Links:

**image by David Ball (Original work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Reflecting God's Image in Her Optimism

Where do you fall on the optimism - pessimism spectrum? What about your kids?

Me? I'm definitely on the pessimistic side. Or, as we negative-minded folks like to say, "I'm not a pessimist; I'm a realist." (As if we hold the only keys to truth.)

I can be so negative, that I once made it a goal to make myself think of one positive thing every day for a month. I have to work to be optimistic.

Not my daughter, Hannah. She is purely optimistic in nature. And while this causes some turmoil between us (mostly my fault), I am overjoyed that God created her with such hope and innocence.

In her optimism, Hannah is reflecting God's image in her.

Want to learn more? Check out my latest guest post on the Family Matters blog, called Reflecting God's Image in Optimism.

I'm positive that you'll enjoy reading it.

Then, check out the 2nd part of this series: My Son's Struggle with Pessimism. And Mine, Too.

Fall Reading (Back to School!)

Yes, it's almost time for your kids to go back to school. But we parents must be constant learners.

Every now and then, friends and acquaintances ask me what books and resources I recommend. And sometimes I recommend some without being asked.

Most of the books that I'm recommending here are older ones. But I find that most newer ones either aren't as good, or are variations on the same theme. If I was starting over again with a family, I'd be sure to read these books over and over.


Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp). No doubt, the best parenting book, as it calls the reader to continually focus on the gospel.

Age of Opportunity (Tedd Tripp). Almost a continuation of Shepherding, as it speaks more to parents of teenagers.

Don't Make Me Count to Three! (Ginger Plowman). Same focus on the gospel (though not as deep) as above, but with more practical application.

Hints on Child Training (H. Clay Trumbull). An old book, but with some very valuable and relevant applications.

The Story of Me, et al (Stan and Brenna Jones). Though it has some shortcomings, this series of four books would be a great start to having "sex" talks with your children. We have bought Passport to Purity and will soon start going through that material with our oldest.

What Did You Expect?? (Paul David Tripp). A book on marriage, not parenting. But healthy marriages tend to produce healthy children. And, as with all his books, the reader will gain a better understanding of the how the gospel should be the focus of our lives.


Articles from these sites are always informative and challenging:

I still have many books on my shelf that are in my "to-read" list. Lots of learning to do!

Happy reading!

Related Links:

**image courtesy of lusi via

More Gospel-Centered Parenting Articles

I regularly collect and share gospel-centered parenting articles. Here are some more:

Open Letter to My Daughter-In-Law (Terrie van Baarsel)
I think this was written to me, not the author's daughter-in-law.
"There will come a day when you will respond to your beloved baby with impatience. Believe it or not, you have the capacity to be unkind to him. You will be tempted to envy that other mother who always seems to have it all together (she doesn’t) and on your good days make the prideful assumption that you have it all together. You may rudely interrupt your boy in the middle of a sentence to answer a text or sneak a peek at the book you are trying to read, and you will insist on your own way, not because it is best for him, but more convenient for you."

Setting Up My Kids for Salvation (Tim Challies)
A great reminder that my works won't save my kids.
"They can’t earn their salvation and I can’t earn it for them. I believe the Lord has saved or will save them and they will be saved not by their father but like their father—by trusting in Christ and Christ alone as he opens their eyes to see him and as he opens their hearts to receive him. Their souls are in the good hands of the good God." 

Stories of My Dad (Ray Ortlund)
This the kind of Dad I need to be like. This pursued Jesus with all of himself, and encouraged his son to do the same.

Comfort for Christian Parents of Unconverted Children (Jim Elliff)
10 important and encouraging truths about salvation. I need to constantly remember that God loves and pursues my children much more than I do, and I'm so grateful for that!

Praying for Our Children's Salvation (Joel Beeke)
This is the kind of stuff I enjoy from Beeke (and not this book).
"The children of believers have an external holiness—a place in the visible church—but they do not share in the salvation promised in the covenant unless and until they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit."

Review: How God Used a Thunderstorm

Just because stories are old, doesn't make them wonderful. And just because the stories are mixed with a Bible verse or Biblical principle, doesn't make them helpful.

This is how I would summarize How God Used a Thunderstorm, a devotional book by Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn.

I am not a big fan of devotional books (or Bible storybooks), usually finding them too weak and fluffy. But this one is particularly bad. Maybe I had higher hopes, because of the popularity of Beeke (I love a lot of what he writes about), or the blog that recommended this.

A compilation of supposedly-true stories from over 100 years ago, this book is supposed to encourage spiritual growth for middle grade children. But I won't use it with mine. In fact, I don't plan to finish this book myself (which is a big deal for me).

As I went through about a third of the book, I kept asking, "Where is Jesus?" Each brief story implies that all you need to do is know a Bible verse and pray a prayer, and everything changes. I found very, very few references to the work of Jesus, and to life change through the Holy Spirit.

While I agree that knowing God's word and praying to him are important, let's not treat the Bible as a roadmap for life. Life change happens through trusting in Jesus and what He has already done for us.

I want my kids to read the Bible, to pray, and to do a host of all other spiritual disciplines. But above all, I want them to focus on Jesus and what He did at the cross. I want them to pursue Jesus, not to just pursue good things. And this book will not help them do that.

If you want a better resource, try one of these resources that I recommend.

Favorite Tweets for July

Here is a picture of our kids, in front of our old house (Simpsonville, SC), as we packed up moved to Allendale in June 2011:

Here they are on their last morning in Allendale:

It's been a wonderful 3+ years! We are sad to leave Allendale, but thankful for all the blessings for our family as we lived there.

Moving on, here are some of my favorite tweets from the past month.

From Others:

@mac_cavinAt least I don't have to watch soccer for another 4 years..

@PastorTullianOne more time: The phrase "gospel-driven" is becoming just a new and covert way to keep the focus where we love to keep it: on ourselves.

@PaulTrippThe greatest rescue of grace is not from the evil outside of you, but from the power of the evil inside you.

@FunnyIsFamily:  I don't always tell my kids how to dress, but when I do it's because they want to wear fleece to the pool.

@remissional:  Would our world look different if church was who we were always and not where we went on Sundays?

@plattdavid:  Christ calls us to engage culture with a firm grip on His gospel & a fervent passion for His glory.

@JustTweets:  Tolerance is a parody of love. 

@HomesOfHopeSCIn West Greenville, where we have 110 homes, 61% of residents live below the poverty line. Affordable housing is necessary.   

@MarkMerrill:  Your biggest confrontations in your marriage should not be with your spouse, they should be with yourself.

From Me: 

I paid at the pump but a receipt didn't print. Now I have to go inside.

Why my stomach turns when someone tells me, "I was reading your blog the other day,..."

The best part of ordering fajitas at a restaurant: the look of envy on all the other customers' faces when your food comes to your table.

I never miss reading these blogs: , , & .

"I wish there were more gnats in ." ~ No one ever 

My results (from 2011) have kept me energized & focused. Thanks !  

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." Charles Duell (Commissioner, US Office of Patents) (1899)  

Is this a good thing? Or an avoidance of the real issues? --> "End High School Exit Exams"  

Any 1st grade teachers (& their principals) need to check out  

What's up, Boys State! Know this guy?  

New Skill: Computer Programming

After taking a month off from new skills, I'm ready to get back at it.

Of course, since we just moved and I'm starting a new job, I'm not sure if I'll still be able to give a full 2.5 hours per week to this, besides still practicing my Spanish and my ukulele. We'll see.

Programmed for Success

I am not a tech guy. I have workable knowledge of social media and blogs. I don't crave (or know how to use) most new technologies.

We got our first DVD player in 2002, years after it was mainstream. When others were getting Blackberry phones, I got a Palm Pilot. I bought my first smartphone in 2011, and Joanna got hers in 2013. We still have never owned a flat-screen TV, or DVR. I wouldn't know how to hook up or use either one.

But this month, I want to improve my understanding of technology, though at the fundamental level. I will begin to learn some computer programming, or coding. (I think there is a difference in these two terms, but I have no idea what it is.)

I will begin by using the resources provided at I dabbled with this when it came out (last fall?), but will dedicate more time to it over the next couple of months. I'll start at the ground level, and work my way up. However far I get, that will be great.

Another thought (and this may justify the time I'll put into this): I may do this with my older son Elijah, who has already shown great interest and proficiency in programming. At a STEAM Camp in Allendale, he won a Sphero in a programming competition.

Why Is Programming Important?

Here's a sampling of what others think:

Issac Asimov (New York Times, 1964) (HT: 22 Words)
"The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction…. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology, will become proficient in binary arithmetic, and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages...." 

The website postulates that by 2020, there will be one million more computer science jobs than computer science students.

CGP Grey, with a combination of humor and intellect, makes THE BEST educational videos. So when he says computer programming should be a part of the standard school curriculum, I'm with him.

On this note, CGP Grey may be happy with these new high school graduation requirements in Texas, which allow the student to substitute computer programming for their language requirement.

Massachusetts is also putting programming in the curriculum. Note: the article has been archived, but the original article had this quote:
“Computer science is a natural outlet to exercise critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and it enhances mathematics, engineering and robotics,” Brehm said. “There’s also a shortage of people in the workforce who can code.”
Florida is leaning this way, too.

And running the risk of going on and on, here's some other interesting reading:

I don't know if I'll ever get a "coder's high" but I will at least giggle at jokes like this: 
There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t.  (Max Little, Mathematician, Aston University)

Additionally, my son and I can cement our claim to be White and Nerdy:


Why Am I Doing This Whole "New Skills" Thing?

Let's refresh. Of all the things that I could be doing with my time, why is it so important for me to learn new skills?

Of course there is the practical side: I hope that my new skills in Spanish, ukulele, computer programming, etc, will help me, or even better, help me to help others.

But even if I don't become proficient at any of these skills, the process of learning new skills is beneficial. Just as physical exercise builds and maintains muscle, continual learning keeps brain cells alive, and even changes those brain cells. And studies show that a hobby can make you more productive at work.

For more on this, read my intro post, 20 Hours to Learn Anything: It's a System, Not a Goal.

How about you? Do you plan on learning any new skills?