Graduation!

Mom of 4 here proudly proclaiming the college graduation of “the baby!” Those of you who have been there know the feeling. I don’t say this with pride. I say it with relief. Whew! We got through it. Finally the last child will be “off the payroll” as their dad likes to loudly proclaim.

Graduation has become a huge thing in our society. When I was a kid all I heard of was high school graduation. After heading to college I realized there was a college graduation too. These landmark events have become so popular that we now have Kindergarten graduations, elementary graduations, junior high graduations, and who knows what other graduations I am blissfully unaware of. We do these to mark accomplishments and rites of passage into the next phase of life, a worthwhile thing to do.

But what about spiritual graduations? Not something we hear of unless we have a freind or relative studying for the ministry and headed toward a seminary graduation. Perhaps we should consider marking the spiritual milestones of development in a more concrete way?

UnknownYears ago I read a book called Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis. It made an impact on our household. The book embraced the idea of marking and celebrating those spiritual developmental mile markers in the lives of our children. While being focused on dad’s and sons, and describing the age-old customs of knights and pages and squires, the book offers insight that can be applied for parents of girls and for Christian mentoring situations as well.

Our family decided to embrace this idea of honoring important spiritual life events, and we chose to mark the age of 13 as an important developmental stage and the launching pad for our children to begin to develop their own spiritual disciplines and start on the road to spiritual adulthood. My husband and I thought through what we perceived as the building blocks of our Chrsitan lives and honed this down into a family creed so to speak. We completed the noble aspect of it all by designing a family crest, a family ring, and a celebration to launch each child as they turned 13 years old.

Here’s what we came up with. For you it could be something different.

The 4 corners of our Christian foundation we decided were: love, faith, purity, and God’s Word. (Those may not make sense for you – but they were very specific to the path God had led us on through our lives.) We chose symbols to represent these four pillars and used those symbols to make our family crest. We then chose 4 colors that represented these 4 traits, used those stones to design a family ring, and found a jeweler who would make what we wanted. In our research to determine our 4 prime characteristics we wanted to see in our kids and in our own lives, we had uncovered many scriptures. We typed these up in a document. At each child’s 13th birthday we held a celebration – a dinner out or a friend group and dinner at home – and gave each child their ring, their family crest, the document of scriptures, a challenge by Mom & Dad, and a prayer over them that they would grow in Godliness.

Love – We chose love because we realized that God is love, we love because He first loved us, and loving God and loving others are the 2 great commandments of the New Testament. We understood that we were to love others as we loved ourselves.

Faith – Scripture reminded us that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) We desired for our family and each child individually to be God-pleasers. We knew that salvation is by faith and we longed for each child to come to Christ and live their life with Him as their Savior and Lord.

Purity – Matthew 5:8 says blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Old Testament scripture reminds us that obedience to God to live His way is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22) Our parental desire was to have children seeking to live a pure life that flows from a heart so in love with God that it wants nothing else.

God’s Word – This last one is not a personal characteristic I know, but it is THE key to growing in Christ and developing His character. Early on in our Christian walk both my husband and I had been discipled/mentored in a very methodical way. We had been taught to dig into God’s Word and apply it to our lives. We knew this was a must for raising the next generation to be sold out for Christ. Hebrews 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:16 speak to the power of the holy scriptures to work change in our lives.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16

So what is my point today? To challenge you to think. Think about ways you can acknowledge and celebrate spiritual milestones with family, kids, and friends. The Old Testament is full of celebrations that God instituted for Israel to keep for all generations. These celebrations reminded them of their spiritual heritage, the faithfulness of God, and  their purpose on this earth. Let us give our kids the gift of “graduation” celebrations as they develop in their Christian walk and in life.

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Choose to Serve the King

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it . . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life . . .” Deuteronomy 30:15-16,19

When my oldest daughter was knee-deep in her preteen years, my husband and I began praying about instituting a marker of some sort. A type of “welcome to young art-backlit-beach-256807.jpgwomanhood” memorial stone, a keepsake for her future self to hold onto as the winds of life began to blow stronger and more forcefully. We wanted to have some hard conversations with her, speak truth to her, explain God’s standards for young womanhood, and pray over her. We wanted to prepare her heart and mind for the road ahead; to set a strong foundation so when temptations began knocking on her heart’s door she would have already made the decision about how she would respond. And we wanted to let her know, ultimately, whether or not she chose to serve the King with her life, that would have to be her choice. No matter how hard I might try, I can’t force my girl to love her Savior with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. That would have to be her decision wrapped up in the small decisions she made, and makes, every single day.

images1.jpegAs we were praying and researching I happened upon a “retreat in a box” called “Passport to Purity.” It was perfect. It was created to be a weekend getaway with mother and daughter, or father and son. It opened the door to those conversations about sex, sexuality, dating, and making wise choices. It gave the Biblical standard, God’s best, for keeping your heart, mind, and body pure concerning relationships with the opposite sex. It forced my husband and me to determine how we would help our girl live out God’s standards of purity in her life. It made us clearly define terms and boundaries and expectations. It also gave us opportunity to affirm and encourage the beautiful young woman she was becoming. We asked significant people in her life to write letters to her offering encouragement and exhortation specific to who she was. The retreat even laid out a plan for refreshment, instructing us to plan some fun in the midst of a weighty weekend.

nashville-603780_1280So we planned our trip. My girl was totally on board and excited about the prospect of this memory-making moment. I let her plan the location and the activity (Nashville and facials). I collected letters and prayed and prepared and we set off on our trip. But the Lord had a life altering surprise waiting for us. A spiritual marker that continues to impact my girl and me.

My daughter had been asking for years if she could get her ears pierced. I kept refusing her request. Looking back, I’m not even sure why I kept telling her no, except that the Lord had something beautiful in store. When she asked again on the way to our special trip, the Lord began whispering in my ear. “Make this a memorial stone. Make this a significant, tangible marker for her.” And He took me back to Exodus 21:1-6. In this passage, the law is stated for slaves. According to Hebraic law, slaves should serve for six years and the seventh they are to go free. But “if a slave plainly says, ‘I love my Master .  .  . I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.” According to this law, a pierced ear was an indication that you CHOSE to serve your master forever, because you loved your master.

As my daughter and I sat down to discuss some serious spiritual truth, I presented this truth to her. I prayed for her heart to be open and ready to hear. I prayed that she wouldn’t simply seek to get her way by telling me what she thought I wanted to hear. I this-way-718660_1280.pngasked for discernment as I listened to her responses to my questions. As we came to the end of our conversation, I asked her, “Will you choose to walk in the way of your Master? Will you choose to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Will you choose to serve Him with your life? Will you choose to submit to His ways? Will you choose to become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18-19)?”

My girl had recognized her sin and her need for a Savior and asked Jesus to rescue her soul when she was six years old. This wasn’t a question of salvation, but of submission to the full Lordship of Jesus Christ. As I listened to her responses, as we cried together, as we prayed together, I believed she was indeed, with all the maturity a preteen can, offering me a sincere answer to my questions. So, after our facials we set off to the mall. Thankfully, boring the ear with an awl has given way to a little piercing gun. It was such a sweet, significant moment in my life, and I prayed it would truly be a memorial stone for her.

Flash forward eight years, my preteen is now about to turn 19. She’s walked through her middle, high school, and now her freshman year of college, in grace and truth. She’s stuck to her convictions in difficult places and spent lonely days as friends have forsaken her. She’s certainly had some obstacles and speed bumps along the way. She’s struggled. She’s longed for what others had. But she’s followed her Master and continues to ear-207405_1280surrender her life to Him. She actually had her ears triple pierced recently. I asked her why, and she took me back to that memorial stone moment. “Mom, it’s just a needed reminder that I belong to my Master. He is mine and I am His.” And I thank God for His gentle whispers and His grace and mercy, His Word, and the choice my girl made to serve her King. It’s not an easy choice, or an easy road, but He alone is worth it. Because there is none like Him.