I’ve been reminded of this lately, particularly when negotiating with my son regarding the number of plums it’s sensible to consume in one day. (You can rely on him to be harbouring a plum stone in his mouth most of the time.) I wanted to write a post tonight (not about plums or stones), but family had other plans. So I hope you enjoy this instead.
I’ve been watching The Good Wife – sorry to disappoint. If you’re blissfully ignorant, it’s a glamorous drama set in a Chicago law firm in which impossibly attractive people betray each other.
There’s a phrase that comes up a lot in the courtroom scenes: “Asked and answered.” It’s an objection which the lawyers use if their opposition is trying to emphasise a point by asking a question that’s already been answered, like this:
Lawyer 1: “Who was with you in the car?”
Witness: “The accused.”
Lawyer 1: “So the accused was with you in the car?”
Lawyer 2: “Objection, Your Honour! Asked and answered.”
I said to Mike the other day that this “Asked and answered” objection is a phrase I’d quite like to use about a dozen times a day with my 5-year-old daughter. Conversations with her tend to…
Hello there. You probably already know about this but it would be rude of me not to mention that you can now buy the live album, See him Face to Face, by the co-mission music bods. (Co-mission is a network of churches in London.) There are 13 songs on there, two of which were written by my gifted husband. For about the first 12 weeks of Martha’s life, Mike was also working at editing these songs. Why such bad timing? Only the Lord knows. But one day I shall see him face to face and can ask him. Of course I won’t care by then. I can hardly remember it now.
What was I saying?
Oh yes. I highly recommend, but of course I’m biased so you should listen for yourself. It’s on Spotify (although… adverts 👎🏼), or you can buy it here.
Sorry for the lack of picture. We don’t have our copy yet…
The Mahaney family are experts at writing short, readable and practical books that pack a punch. I recommend True Beautyto you, which despite fulfilling all the Mahaney criteria took me four months to read (well, just over two years if you count from when I blogged that I was going to read it.) But hey, I had a baby.
I don’t really need to take what I learnt and package into a parenting article because there is actually an appendix in the book in which they apply the lessons to parenting. So please do read the book. However, here are some thoughts from me. I’m afraid they’re a bit jumbled up, for which I partly blame the school holidays.
I don’t know about you but the issue of beauty seems to me like a bit of a minefield. I don’t want my daughter to be vain, but I want her to know that she is beautiful. And is it alright to tell my son he is handsome? And how can I encourage the boys to value true beauty and not just long lashes and Disney manes?
We’re so bombarded with the world’s idea of beauty, however ugly that may be in God’s sight, that it’s tempting to avoid the topic of “beauty” altogether. But if I do that, then my children will only have the world teaching them what is beautiful. And if I try to shield them completely from that, they will either think that all beauty is wicked or they’ll crave worldly beauty like a child craves refined sugar. I don’t want my daughter to spend all of her (potential) pocket money on lip gloss and teen fashion magazines because I never even let her have a mirror in her room. So, how do I navigate all of this without anything blowing up in my face?
What I know in my head if not always in my heart is that true beauty comes from the Lord, because he is the Beautiful One, the source of all beauty and creator of everything beautiful. He defines beauty, and he is right. (You should have been there when I tried to explain this – although not in those words – to my hairdresser… awkward!)
As with all of the good things in this world, beauty has become warped and corrupted so that our own view of beauty is spoilt. But beauty is a good thing, from God, so rather than avoiding beauty we need to celebrate it. We will spend eternity gazing upon the beauty of the Lord, so it must be worth thinking about now!
I really think my children are likely to pick up on and inherit my own attitude on this issue. If I say “Beauty is on the inside” but don’t walk the talk, they won’t buy it. If my husband tells me I look lovely and I say “No I don’t,” and if the only compliments I ever give people are about how they look, and if I spend huge amounts of time and money on my own appearance, then that’s a pretty powerful message to my children.
I think it would really help if I did promote true beauty in the way that I spoke to the children and acted in day-to-day life, rather than just focusing on the false versions of beauty we see every day. I can point out when someone does something beautiful; I can admire true beauty in others. I can talk to my children when we come across examples of worldly beauty which I don’t think the Lord would value, such as saucer-eyed ice princesses having tantrums to music (“the cold never bothered me anyway”). But I can explain those things in a measured way, rather than just banning all things Frozen or Barbie – unless I really want to.
Ezra: “What’s Barbie?”
Miriam: “It’s a doll, like Hannah got for Christmas.”
Ezra: “Ha ha, Sweeney Todd’s a barber.”
You can’t argue with that.
The Lord’s version of beauty is so much more wonderful and liberating than the world’s. In the world, beauty fades with age. But in God’s kingdom, the beautiful person is wise, generous, hospitable, gentle, hardworking, and joyful. We can grow in these things, so in the church we can look to the older men and women and admire their beauty, and aspire to be truly beautiful. And when we seek to be truly beautiful, we are seeking God’s glory, instead of seeking attention for ourselves, which is vanity. How wonderful it would be if I could bring up my children to enjoy the beauty of the Lord, and so reflect his beauty to those around them.
On a practical note, one way that my 6 year old daughter and I recently went on a “true beauty hunt” (I think that’s a quote from the book!) was to make postcards with Bible verses about beauty on them*, and then send them to some of the beautiful women we know. This was a lovely thing to do because we enjoyed making the postcards look pretty(!), talking about the Bible verses and thinking about the women we were sending them to. It encouraged the women who received them, but at the same time taught my daughter how to identify true beauty. I’m praying for more ideas; please let me know if you have any!
*Such as Proverbs 31 v10 or v30; Romans 10v15.
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I first posted this over 2 years ago, and have finally gotten round to reading “True Beauty” which I mentioned at the bottom. Such, such slowness! But anyway, let’s not dwell on that (please!) – here’s a reminder of it before I let you know how I got on with the Mahaneys…
In our small group recently we were talking about idols of our culture – the things people around us live for. We split into groups of three and chose an idol per group to discuss. One group chose beauty, and they then shared their thoughts with the group. They talked about how the idol of beauty promises respect and acceptance, and how it requires your absolute devotion, and of course that it never delivers on its promises. It might be a surprise to you that it was three men who chose to discuss the idol of beauty. Not once did they refer to, or seemingly think about, the ways in which women seek after beauty. They were looking at the issue from a man’s perspective, and thinking about the men they knew who were slaves to the false god of skin-deep, body-building perfection.
The day after I wrote “True” I found this masterpiece, written by my 5 year old son.
It’s the latest in a string of wonderfully misspelled creations by the comedy genius that is Ezra – his “ants go marching two by two” had me in stitches, I tell ya.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Colin Buchanan song God Rock, but it’s about standing firm on the Lord, our rock. The words to the chorus are, “God Rock, get on board the God rock; unbreakable, unshakeable, God Rock.” So while I’ve been hearing Ezra singing along to this and thinking how nice it is that he’s learning all about how God is our rock and all other ground is sinking sand, etc., well he actually hasn’t.
When I wrote before that some children are more spongey than others, I was thinking of Ezra. He has an incredible ability to learn song lyrics. The other day he taught me the order of the minor prophets without blinking. I have Randall Goodgame to thank for that. But clearly even Ezra mishears the words sometimes. And, like everyone else in the world, when he wasn’t sure he just guessed. (Many of us then Google it but he’s thankfully not old enough to Google things yet.) So this is just a reminder to all of us that it’s good to check every now and again that our children actually understand what they’re singing. Especially when so often things are metaphorical. I can feel myself going into another long post about this so will stop myself.
I just need to say, though, that we can’t do this every time. A friend of mine with 3 under 4’s said to me one day that she’d love to teach her children the Bible more, but some days all she has the energy to do is to stick on a CD of Christian music. She clearly felt that this was a failure on her part. I looked at her and thought, ‘what a fantastic woman you are.’ If in your less wonderful moments all you can do is put on a Christian CD, then praise God. I’m not saying that we all need to have a comprehension test after each song. But just to have it on our radars that the children will sing along regardless of whether they have a clue what they’re singing. Even if they get the words right, they might not know what “rejoice” “dwell” or “redeemer” actually mean… (signing off now, despite desperate desire to keep going!).
It would amuse me greatly if you could comment and let me know any funny mistakes your children (or you) have made with Christian song lyrics.
Amazingly, until December last year my husband had all four of his Grandparents still living. But his Nana went to be with Jesus in December, and in April her husband followed her. Gramps was almost 98 when he died, so while it was sad to say goodbye to him, we were able to celebrate his long and very interesting life together at a thanksgiving service in May. Aren’t people’s lives amazing? We found out that Gramps survived a direct hit on his flat during the Second World War, in which all of his neighbours were killed, and on a much lighter (but still amazing) note, he once had a cactus exhibition in the Chelsea Flower Show. He was an extraordinarily talented man. I wanted to share with you three lessons I learnt that day:
We pass on more than our hair colour
One thing I find fascinating is that while I sat there listening to the story of Gramps’ life, I could tell that my husband takes after him. Mike’s incredible focus and single-mindedness, his love for science and his creativity – all of these have trickled down, in part at least, from Gramps.
It’s worth bearing this in mind. I suppose I don’t have any control over some of the things I pass onto my children, but I can control some of it. Will I pass down a fiery temper, or patience? Will my grandchildren display my gratitude or my grumbling? Yikes. Something to pray about.
God’s creation speaks of his glory
Gramps spent almost his entire life resisting the Lordship of Jesus, but he was so impressed by the beauty of God’s creation that he couldn’t deny the existence of the creator God. He was, rightly, unceasingly amazed by the wonder of this beautiful universe.
I’m not really into plants, or animals for that matter. My children are more likely than I am to point out to me blossom on a tree or the bright moon on the afternoon school run. But I need to train myself to see the beauty in the created world. Since it all points us to the glorious Creator, it’s my duty as a parent to help my children enjoy the world and praise the God who made it all.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1
It’s not too late to turn to Jesus
Gramps lived a life burdened with guilt over things he’d done. Being human, he’d done things to feel guilty about. And he found no relief from this burden until right near the end of his life here on earth. Without Jesus, we all have so much to feel guilty about, don’t we? It’s hard enough as a Christian, knowing I’m forgiven, not to dwell on awful or just downright foolish things I’ve said or done. And if we don’t feel guilty about things, we certainly will on the day we meet Jesus as our judge. That’s unless we’ve found forgiveness from the Father through Jesus the saviour. Gramps found that forgiveness through Jesus, and acceptance from God, right at the end of his life. The truth is, we don’t know when our life will end. So don’t put it off – bow the knee to Jesus today. In this life it’s never too late.
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matthew 11:28-29.
‘Don’t trust anyone.’ You often hear that in films, and you can be sure that the main character will later be betrayed by someone that they do make the mistake of trusting. The implication of this is that you can’t actually live without trusting people. You might think you’re not a trusting person, but you still trust some people. If your children are at school, you trust their teachers to teach them and not to harm them. You trust the barista in Starbucks not to poison your coffee. And the higher the stakes, the more trustworthy a person needs to be. If you’re jumping out of a plane, you want your pilot and whoever packed your parachute to be trained and qualified!
I’ve put my ultimate trust in one man – not just for my life, but for the lives of my children. That man is the…