In Acts 4, the priests and rulers brought Peter and John before a council and questioned them. They were mad about how they were proclaiming the power of Christ and how many people were believing and following them.
When Peter and John returned from this ‘inquiry,’ they shared with their own people what had been said. They knew their well-being was threatened, but they knew the Truth. Together the people prayed, and the title for this segment of Acts 4 is “The Believer’s Prayer.”
They acknowledge to God that He is amazing and all powerful, yet people and governments tend to stand against Him. Of course this is a fresh wound considering how recently the government had conspired against Jesus. Then they ask the Lord to “enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
I’ve been reading our Mom’s Bible Study book that we are going thru this year – Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson. We read it during class, but I figured it would be good to re-read some of it at home without all the distractions. So the first part is called “Model Thankfulness,” and I couldn’t have picked it up at a better time. The past few weeks have been riddled with worry over the cost of our health insurance and angst over appliances that need to be fixed or replaced. Add to that typical Christmas craziness, and the result is me using the word “stupid” in front of my 3 year old way too much. The magnitude of my negativity was discovered when we were sitting in traffic the other day and my children mirrored it. Mom had graciously agreed to go shopping with us and traffic was a bit much. For some reason we had to sit in a long line of cars in a turning lane for what seemed like forever. I didn’t mind – Mimi and I were having a heated discussion about how much our insurance costs – but my children fed off of the tension in our voices and started shouting out their contempt for the cars in front of us. “WHAT is going on here?!” One of them called out in frustration. “Why are we SIIIITTTTINGGGG here?!” Their insults cut into my soul, knowing that my own dissatisfaction had instructed them.
“No, you guys, it isn’t a big deal. We can be patient. We are not in a hurry.” I tried to talk them out of their bad attitude, but it was too little too late. This isn’t to say that my kids are always crabby, but how they deal with something as simple as traffic is a reflection of my current survival strategy. And I hate that.
Susie Larson talks at length in this book about perspective. We have plenty to be upset about. But we have just as much, probably more, to be happy about. How we approach our day and our battles, is largely a matter of attitude. She shares a time when her family’s financial situation was such that she didn’t have much to offer her kids for breakfast. She was sad and tired of asking people for help. All she had in the cupboard was an “almost-empty box of pancake mix.” Something inside her inspired her to overcome her heavy heart and make this morning a morning of thankfulness – not a morning of grief. So she made this ONE big pancake, gathered her boys around, and put a candle in it. She told them they were celebrating how blessed they were that day – the sun was bright, her husband was at work, and God was providing for their needs. Her young boys didn’t hesitate to follow her lead, thanked God and gobbled up their special pancake.
And here are my girls yelling at holiday traffic.
The thing that Larson comes back to over and over, is that you can’t teach your children to be grateful, unless YOU are grateful. You can’t teach your children to have the heart of a servant, unless they have an example to follow. You can’t teach your children to trust God, unless YOU are trusting God.
She acknowledges that we will not be perfect parents. We will not always trust; we will not always know what to say; we will mess this up good. But we have to recognize the formula here. And if we want our kids to be grateful and trusting, we will have to undergo a transformation in our own lives.
Bring it on.
I want that! I want to be a Mom that can model these things for her kids! But it isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Being thankful out loud seems unnatural. I am trying to implement some of her ideas, but it feels forced and I’m not good at memorizing scripture to pull out of my ear at the perfect time when my kids (and I) need to hear it.
So I feel drawn to The Believer’s Prayer when they ask God to “enable your servant to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29). I need that. I’m trying to be positive and talk to my kids about all we have to be thankful for. This morning I encouraged the girls to tell me one thing that was going to be good about their day. Sophie looked at me like I was nuts. But I persevered and we all came up with something to look forward to. The other night I tried to discuss our blessings at the dinner table. It was short-lived, but did lead to a great talk that Sophie and her dad had about a fun project she is working on at school. Maybe sometime this week I can share with them the verse I’ve been leaning on the last few weeks: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1
Lord, there are so many distractions and we are so busy these days. Somehow remind me constantly to trust you with my day and my worries. Fill me up with the Holy Spirit and inspire me with your words, and encouragement for my children, and for everyone with whom I speak. Change my heart, Lord, to reflect what you have done for me. And let my perspective be pleasing to you. Amen.