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Life’s Many Open Doors

This is a guest article written by a dear friend who allowed us to share these notes after we heard him preach this message at the funeral of a Christian brother in the Lord.

Detail from Christ at the Door, stained glass window at Emmanuel-Howard Park United Church, Toronto

There are four doors we wish to consider today:

  1. The door of life
  2. The door of our heart
  3. The door of death
  4. The door of Heaven

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

We human beings are curious creatures. We always want to know what is on the other side of a closed door, don’t we? I know I do. This morning I wish to liken our travel through life as a journey through various doors.

We’ll begin at the door of life.

When we offer that first newborn cry, Mother proudly takes us in her arms, gently calming her little one. As we grow and learn in those early years, broadening our scope of knowledge, we come to trust our parents. We realize that they know a lot more than we do. We know they love us, and we trust that they want the best for us–even when we don’t get our own way. We continue to grow, furthering our education and preparing to make our contribution to mankind.

Then comes the greatest decision of our entire life: The decision upon which all other decisions depend. The decision upon which our eternal destiny depends.

The second door is the door of our heart.

Many have seen the picture of Jesus standing at the door knocking. If you carefully examine this picture, you will notice that there is no latch on the outside of this door.* He won’t just come in uninvited. You must open your heart from the inside! We see Jesus Christ standing, knocking, waiting. He offers, “Come unto me. If any man will open the door I will come in.” (adapted from Revelation 3:20)

Third is the door of death.

Parting always brings sorrow. Although the death of a loved one is something we will all face one day, Jesus has promised a Comforter. Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7) The Lord has promised—we may have the Comforter for the asking.

If the Lord tarries, we must each go through the door of death as well. Are we ready?

Finally awaits the door of Heaven.

For each who has opened his or her heart’s door to Jesus, the door of Heaven swings freely ajar, and Jesus extends the invitation to whosoever will. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

As we remember our lost loved ones, and as we consider the doors of our life, may God grant that not one of us will fail to open our heart’s door to Jesus. We have real hope if we come to Jesus, confess our sins to Him, make Him our Savior, and walk through life with Him. He will see us through death’s door and be waiting to welcome us at Heaven’s. Praise the Lord!

Copyright © 2023

* View Warner Sallman’s Christ at Heart’s Door, the painting referenced above, here.

More Than Enough

Our homeschooling has been largely Charlotte Mason based (albeit Karen Andreola style), so we have enjoyed a great deal of nature study, picture study, music, narrations, character training, and  especially stacks of living books.  Reading has been so important in our homeschool.

We taught our children to read early (using phonics) and have worked diligently to find a good variety of excellent, wholesome material for them to profit from.   Some favorites we have shared together over the years include the various Five in a Row and Friends for Life picture books, books for young children by Jenny Bishop, Johannah Bluedorn, Jim and Elisabeth George, Gary and Jan Bower, the original Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter stories, the Little House series, the Fairchild Family books, Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, the Whatsoever Things novels, poets such as Longfellow, Frost, and Dickinson, Christian biographies, and a wide range of books on practical Christian living (When a Nation Forgets God, Live Not by Lies, Financial Freedom by Sammons, The Hidden Art of Homemaking . . . ).

But in all our years of home educating, we have always begun the day by opening up the standard for all other books—the Bible.   I think the two most important keys to reading and learning to rightly divide the Word are these:

            # 1:  Be consistent even if you don’t always feel like it.  And,

# 2: Keep it simple.  [Choose a book of the Bible, read a chapter aloud and talk about it together, memorize and review some Scripture as a family, sing together, pray together; then go live it!  Next day, go to the next chapter and do the routine all over again.  In time it becomes a habit—the best kind.  It will form a solid foundation for you and your children to build your futures upon.]

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” II Corinthians 4:6-7

I chose this passage to share because we need to be honest, vulnerable with one another.  It’s not right to other mothers or fathers if we say, “If you just homeschool, everything will always be picture perfect.  Everybody in your home will be sinless.”  No, we are all earthen vessels. We all know some form of brokenness, hurt, trial, or trouble—including our children.

We live in a fallen world, but we must not let our “earthliness” keep us from having thriving families.  Scripture says, “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)  And the II Corinthians passage above reiterates, “the excellency of the power is of God.”  He is the One who will keep us, sustain us, strengthen us, guide us.  So in the end, He deserves the glory.

Spend time with your children.  Read with them, play with them, eat with them, work with them, travel with them, worship with them.  Make the most of the years you have been given to shape their lives.  Childhood is fleeting. Don’t see how much of this experience you can outsource.  See how much of it you can do together in God’s power.

Satan wants to divide your family, but God wants to knit your hearts together and make you and your children a strong force for truth and righteousness.  Don’t let somebody else’s curriculum be your master.  Don’t allow somebody else’s program to cause you to stumble under its weight.  Don’t take your eyes of the most important goal (seeking first the Kingdom of God) and then become overwhelmed or give up in despair because you can’t keep up with what relatives, friends, neighbors, fans, critics, or the world at large expect of you.  God gave you your children, and He will equip you to raise them.

One of my mother’s favorite passages in the Bible says this:  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6   If I heard it once growing up, I heard it a thousand times.  And because of that faithful repetition—and because I could see my parents’ testimonies walked out in their daily lives—it became a part of who I am.  As an adult I now share these same words and many other life-giving Scriptures with my children, and I pray they will pass them along to their own children someday, who will pass them on to their children, and so on, down the generations until the Lord returns. 

Jesus said, “Occupy till I come.”  It is enough, mothers and fathers, that you occupy with the first work and calling He has given you:  marriage and child raising.  As you concentrate on these, you will build strong homes.  As you build strong homes, you will learn together how to encourage the brethren and reach out to the lost around you.  Actually, that is more than enough.  It is obedience, and it will be blessed. 

Copyright © 2022

P.S. For family reading selections developed to encourage and inspire, try the following links on our store site: Whatsoever Things, Other Literature, and Friends for Life.

All About Changes

We were hosting friends recently when the husband in the family remarked how getting older seems to be all about changes – people you love pass away, you and your friends age, your children grow up, and you discover there are things you used to do that you just can’t do anymore. His statement got me thinking—no wonder older folks get discouraged at times. There will always be changes in life, that’s true; but it shouldn’t be that all of them are only negative!

People we love may have gone on before us, but there are others still here we can strive to love better. Our children do grow up, but we can learn to delight in them as adults as well. Then, too, there is the opportunity of growing the family a different way—through marriages and grandbabies. We may have to slow down, but God still has a purpose for our lives; we just need to ask Him to help us find it. There may be things we can’t do anymore, but each day should still bring new experiences—a call, a letter, a new book or article to read or something new to think about, a visit, a plant or animal to tend, a song to hear or to learn, a project to continue, some work only we can do. Health challenges may multiply, but help and comfort from those nearby should abound as well.

Those of us who are younger have a responsibility to family and friends (and any others God brings to our attention) who are now older and who may be feeling forgotten or overwhelmed. What if we took it upon ourselves as a serious duty to make sure the elderly in our circle have more positive than negative experiences? What if we tried to ensure that they continually have something to look forward to? This would mean committing to writing the letters, making the calls, planning the activities, hosting the meals (or delivering them), cheerfully listening to the same stories, pitching in with whatever they have that needs doing, inviting them along on outings or bringing them into our homes, and coming alongside in prayer.

It’s not so much to ask when you think about it. It’s only what we would want someone else to do for us someday. Take time to talk together as a family about the older men and women God has placed in your life. Seek what He would have you to do to that might make their lives richer, fuller, more meaningful, and happier – more like waiting for the call on the cool and pleasant riverbanks of Beulah and less like trudging through the miry Slough of Despond. And don’t be surprised when in seeking to uplift others, you find yourselves encouraged as well.

For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth.
Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.
Psalm 71:5,9

Copyright © 2022

* Note: The picture book Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco could serve as a good introduction to this topic for children.

Tis the Season for Shoebox Packing!

“God’s Box” Photo copyright (c) 2021 V.P.B.
An excellent hands-on outreach project that you can do with your children this time of year is packing a shoebox together for Operation Christmas Child.  Each shoebox you pack and drop off with OCC will be given out with the Gospel, impacting not only the child who receives it but also potentially reaching that child’s family and community with the good news of Jesus Christ as well.

If you’ve never packed a shoebox before, here’s a brief “how-to.” 

  1. Find a standard-size adult shoebox and wrap it if you like – cover must be wrapped separately from the box so items inside can be inspected.  (You can also use pre-printed boxes from Samaritan’s Purse or plastic shoeboxes from the store.) 
  2. Choose a “wow item” to go in the box – something a child would be excited to receive such as a doll for a little girl or a soccer ball and hand pump for a little boy or a stuffed animal for either. 
  3. Fill the rest of the box with smaller items – hygiene items like toothbrush, deodorant, soap and washcloth or school supplies like pencils and a sharpener, crayons, scissors, and a calculator.  You can also put in additional toys – maybe a jump rope, flashlight, little cars, games, etc.  If you enjoy handcrafting items, get creative and make something special!  Clothing items can be great to include, too, such as tee-shirts, socks, flip-flops, or underwear. 
  4. Remember not to put anything in the box that’s not allowed by OCC.  For example:  war items, liquids, toothpaste, medicines, or candy.  You can find a list of prohibited items on the OCC website along with examples of many, many more things that you are allowed to include.
  5. Write a personal letter to the child and consider enclosing a photo of your family.  Attach a label to the outside of the box, indicating the age and gender of the child to receive the gift.  You can print a label from this page.
  6. Take the shoebox along with a donation of $9.00 (covers shipping the box across the world) to a local church during collection week.  If you need help finding a church that’s collecting shoeboxes for OCC, check here.  Last but not least — don’t forget to pray for the child who will receive the box you and your family put together!

That’s it!  It’s very simple but incredibly rewarding, and I love that each box is a reflection of the child or family who packed it.  It’s an opportunity to reach across time and space and touch the life of a child you would likely never have met in person.  After collection week, your box will be delivered to a processing center here in the States to be checked over and then it’s on its way to one of over a hundred different countries in the world for distribution.  Shoeboxes are handed out by volunteers in local churches overseas, and in many countries, children receiving a shoebox also have the opportunity to enroll in The Greatest Journey, a twelve-week Christian discipleship course.

If you’re concerned about the amount it will cost to pack a box or multiple boxes all at once, try spreading the project out through the year.  Purchase a couple items each month rather than trying to buy them all at one time.  Look for sale items and be aware of “extras” that might come through your hands.  When we ordered socks recently for our daughters, we ended up with packages that were a substitution for our original choice, but the substituted packs included bonus pairs!  Things like that can go in a shoebox at no cost at all.   Also recently, a lady at our church put some items on a table at the back for anyone to take that could use them.  After I made sure others had had a chance to look over things, I picked out a brand-new, small piece of pretty wall art that was left behind.  It  will be the start to a shoebox for a teen girl next year!  And one of my girls found a child’s sweatshirt (also new) among the items, which she’ll use to start filling a shoebox of her own.    

Here’s a testimony that I recently submitted to Samaritan’s Purse when they reached out to local project leaders for feedback:

Because we do encourage others to pack shoeboxes, we wanted to make sure it was something someone could do even if they didn’t have much money.  So, we prayed at the beginning of the year* for God to pack a box for us to show us that it could be done for literally nothing.  We even prayed for the $9.00 to ship it.  Then we waited — God answered our prayer in the affirmative!  We now have a big shoebox entirely full of brand-new things that God sent in over the next few months, from little things like stationery and pens right up to and including a heavy, colorful blanket for a wow item! 

We had no idea how God would send us a wow item for free, but we knew that God can do anything!  Only a few weeks after our prayer, my husband received an offer at his workplace for us to pick a free Christmas present on a special website.  We both looked at one another and smiled —  we knew who the present was really for.  We had so much fun looking through the list of items and choosing that blanket for a child we will never meet this side of Heaven.  And when some unexpected dollars came in, we set it aside until we had the nine dollars we had prayed for. 

We call it “God’s box,” and we know that He has a special child in mind to receive it.  We have a small family business that does a newsletter each month, and we’re writing about “God’s box” this month to encourage those who think they can’t afford to pack a shoebox that if it’s in their heart to share the Gospel with a child, God can make a way.  It was also a faith booster for our own children to see how God put that box together.  We love the shoebox program precisely because it allows us to be the hands and feet of Christ in spreading the Gospel to other nations.  Thank you for allowing us to be involved.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never packed a shoebox before, consider packing one this year and blessing a child with the opportunity to learn about the “reason for the season” – JESUS.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights . . .              James 1:17a

Copyright © 2021

* Timeline note:  I should have been more clear here when I wrote this testimony – “the beginning of the year” was actually right after collection week happened last year, so this refers to the starting over of the “shoebox year,” not the calendar year – thus the reference only a short time later to Christmas.

What Makes a Home a Haven?

Our family was talking one morning during devotions about what makes a home a haven, what family members can do to create a sanctuary for themselves set apart from the craziness of the world.  Here are some of the things that we’ve found important over the years:

  1. Stability – parents dedicated to one another, forsaking all others.
  2. Focus on the Word – daily personal reading by each family member and time all together reading, memorizing and rehearsing, discussing, and learning to apply its principles.
  3. An atmosphere of love, acceptance, respect for one another, encouragement – never acceptance of sin, but acceptance of each family member as a work in progress because we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and the refining work of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Strong dikes – absence of television and worldly influences (secular films, books, and magazines, ungodly friends, unfiltered/unsupervised use of internet and social media, etc.), the building of a breakwater to keep the cares of the world from streaming in continually.
  5. Good things to think on – excellent books, articles, messages; music and art which glorify God.
  6. Togetherness – daily meals around the table, attending worship together, home educating (including read-alouds and conversation), being involved in family projects.
  7. Outreach – a united purpose of sharing the Lord’s light in one’s community and beyond
  8. Hospitality – the extension of temporary shelter to others (whether for a meal and fellowship or for longer), inspiring them to recreate the same for their own families and friends.
  9. A schedule – a daily pattern of consistency and steadiness (not rigidity), knowing what is expected when.
  10.  Trust – knowledge that your words are safe, loyalty among family members.
  11. Orderliness and simplicity – a constant battle for the modern American family but something to strive for!
  12. Prayer – at any time and at all times, individually and hand in hand.
  13. JOY – smiles, kind words, hugs, times of laughter—serving the Lord and one another cheerfully.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

Copyright © 2021

Room in My Heart for You

Take Time to Be Holy
by William D. Longstaff

Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always
And feed on His Word.
Make friends with God’s children,
Help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret
With Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus,
Like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.

The distractions of life are many and demanding.  There is always something ready and eager to grab our attention and carry our minds away on endless wings of hurry.  All too often we find ourselves running around like madmen, trying in a vain to get the next thing crossed off our to-do lists. 

But as always, God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are wiser than ours.  He says to us, “Be still.  Be still!” (see Psalm 46:10). What an almost antiquated idea that seems in our society these days!  And yet, the Psalmist confirms it again when he says, Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”  (Psalm 4:4)

So look up to Heaven, and be still!  Yes, it is true that this blessed, “old-fashioned” idea is still more than relevant and achievable today – even in the midst of this crazy, media-driven, get-to-the-next-thing society.  The world isn’t going to slow down to accommodate our efforts; but nonetheless, it is time.  It is time to make time for God.

Besides, when the all noise and bustle fades away and nothing at all is left of this frenzied, sinful world, HE IS and forever shall be!  So find your time; find your spot, and stop.  Simply stop and say, “Lord, this is my time for YOU – only You. There is room in my heart and my busy schedule for You.”

Copyright © 2021

Paying Too Much for Your Coffee?

With a brilliant sunset fading behind him, Tom pulled off the road and into an unfamiliar fast-food restaurant to grab a quick cup of coffee on the way home.  The parking lot was full, and from all appearances it had the look of a new establishment.  Tom headed for the nearest door, thankful he had found a place so near the interstate exit where he could take a quick break and shake himself fully awake before needing to make the rest of the drive.  

He walked directly to the counter to order.  “A small coffee, please.  To go.” 

“No problem.  That’ll be $37.50, please.”

Tom looked incredulously at the young cashier.  Surely he had heard wrong.  He knew he’d been getting drowsy.  “I’m sorry.  Could you repeat that?  I only ordered a small coffee, and I thought sure you said $37.50.”

“Yes, sir.  That’s correct.  $37.50.”

Stunned and thinking he’d walked into a more upscale establishment than he’d realized, he made his apologies, cancelled his order, and stepped to the side to collect himself.  While standing there, the man behind him in line ordered four burgers, four drinks, and four large fries.  Tom hung around a little longer than necessary just out of curiosity, wondering how much all that could possibly cost.  Expecting to hear a total in the hundreds, Tom was surprised to hear the cashier pleasantly say, “That’ll be $24.00, please.”

At that point, Tom could no longer contain himself and asked to speak to a supervisor.  After a brief wait, he was able to express his concerns to the shift manager.  “Thank you so much for coming over.  I’m confused about the pricing, and I think there must have been some kind of error.  This young man said my cup of coffee was going to be $37.50, and yet the man behind me in line got four full meals for only $24.00.”

“Yes, sir.  We base our pricing not on what you order but on the value of the car you drive.  Your order is then charged using a mill rate of 1.”

Tom looked at the man in disbelief and began to lean more heavily on the counter.  “I don’t understand.”

The shift manager looked sympathetically at Tom.  It was a question he heard occasionally, and he patiently began his standard explanation.  “The mill rate is just the number of dollars we charge per $1,000 that your vehicle is worth.  So, our mill rate of 1 would be the same as 0.1% of a car’s value.  Your cashier looked out and estimated your car’s value at $37,500.  So, 0.1% of that is $37.50.  The other gentleman’s car was estimated at $24,000, so he paid $24.00 for his order.  Simple enough?”

Tom’s head began to whirl, myriad thoughts struggling for preeminence.  The first one to rise to the top was Tom’s pride, unfortunately.  He blurted, “Well, that cashier was wrong!  I paid $50,000 for my car, after adding all the upgrades and special detailing.”

“Oh, thank you for telling us!  That’ll be $50.00 for your coffee now.  And I’ll make a note in our records so we don’t make the same mistake in the future.”

Realizing his error and watching the other customer happily eating with his family at a nearby table, Tom turned and scanned the rest of the room.  After clearing his throat rather too loudly, he posed the question, “Is there anyone who finds this pricing fair?”  A roomful of hands shot quickly into the air.

The manager looked pityingly at poor Tom.  He offered, “With your $50.00, you can get as much food as you want.  Your payment lets you freely partake of our offerings.”

Tom wasn’t hungry.  He wasn’t even particularly thirsty anymore, nor was he drowsy any longer.  Just embarrassed.  And humbled.  “No, thanks, I don’t need any food, but I’ve taken a lot of your time and disrupted your business.  I’ll take the coffee.  Here’s the $50.00.”

Defeated, Tom shuffled over to the counter to grab a napkin, a sugar packet, and a coffee stirrer.

“Sir, those will add another $5.50.”

Tom reflexively dropped them back where he got them and turned to face the manager.  “What?”

“Yes, sir.  Only the meals and drinks are included.  Napkins, condiments, and plasticware are extras, so they have an additional charge.”

What kind of oddball world is this?  Tom thought.  Not finding the words to say and having already cost himself an extra $12.50 by bragging about his car, he closed his eyes tight and bit his tongue to keep from saying too much too soon.

And when he did, the pain in his tongue was enough to bring Tom back to his senses.   He opened his eyes to see the morning sun streaming through his bedroom window.  He smiled, sighed contentedly, and thought, I’m glad that was only a bad dream!

But was it only a bad dream?  Unfortunately, no, for such is the reality of the property tax in modern America.  It is assessed to property owners based on the value of their land and any buildings on it.  The rate is assigned in mills, which is a number of dollars charged per thousand dollars of property value.  Much like Tom’s $50.00 coffee charge, the property tax has no relevance whatsoever to the amount of services a landowner desires or receives.* 

Even scarier than Tom’s dream, if a landowner cannot (or does not) pay his taxes for three years, the municipality can confiscate his land without any remuneration and sell it to someone else who will pay the taxes on it.  But who owns the land?  Who owns the buildings on the land?  Who may have even built those buildings with funds scrupulously saved for years?  And who pays to maintain them?  The landowner.

Yet what was Karl Marx’s first plank of the Communist Manifesto?  “Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.”  If the city or town can seize your property for non-payment of property taxes—forcing you to pay for services you may not use and you may even find morally objectionable—then who really controls the land?  The town.  The landowner simply pays for the privilege of keeping it.

As well, the property tax is progressive.  That is, more is charged to those perceived to have more to spare, even if they get no more benefits or services (and often fewer ones) than those who pay less.  The scheme mirrors the “heavy progressive or graduated income tax” that Marx proposed in his second plank.  Both property and income taxes are based on the idea of class warfare, which is itself based on jealousy.  As a people, our natural desires have been cultivated to want things and to want others who have “more” to pay for them.  It is what R. J. Rushdoony referred to as “larceny in the heart.”  What we would hesitate to take from others’ pockets ourselves, we are more than happy to have the government reach in and take for us.  It is why democracy has sometimes been referred to as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner, and it is why our Founders instead established a republic for us—most distinctly not a democracy.  They understood human nature, and they established a government with limited powers and with protections for the rights of the individual.

What is fair in taxation?  It depends on whose definition is used.  The Marxist train of thought is for those with more means to foot the bill, because they can handle it.  Or because they’re thought to have gained their wealth unfairly.  Or because they’ve supposedly persecuted the poor.  Or any of a host of other excuses to pit the people of one economic stratum against another.  What that leaves, however, is a society in which many pay little and few pay much, while each has the same size vote  . . . basically allowing the many to decide how to divide the spoils from the few.

I would propose that we eliminate the property tax entirely, not jeopardizing the land of property owners or the inheritance of their children.  Instead, we should reduce town expenditures to only those services absolutely necessary for all, then divide the bill evenly across the number of households.  That would cover the basic services from which all benefit (such as road maintenance, trash disposal, fire and ambulance services), and all town residents would have an equal incentive to keep those expenses low.  Any additional services are then optional (such as schools, parks, libraries, etc.) and could be supported by those who choose to benefit from them.**

Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
Proverbs 23:10-11

Copyright © 2021

* For example, in our town last year, 72% of the property tax went to support the public school, meaning that those without children in the public schools received precisely zero benefit from nearly three-quarters of their property tax bill.  That’s a terrible deal.  What else would you choose to pay for, knowing that you’d only receive one quarter of the benefits for the cost?

**  There are already extra charges for some things, like getting a birth or marriage certificate from the town office or having a clerk process yearly vehicle registrations even though we already pay for the town office facility and staffing through the property tax.  Reminiscent of Tom’s napkin, sugar packet, and coffee stirrer, isn’t it? 

Lost Hours and Missed Opportunities

Claude Renoir, Peintre by Renoir, 1907 Two Young Girls at the Piano by Renoir, 1892

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”  Ecclesiastes 9:10

I was reviewing some of Renoir’s images yesterday in connection with a project when I happened upon Claude Renoir, Peintre after having just been regarding Two Young Girls at the Piano.  Immediately I was struck by the fact that these children were happily pursuing cultural activities without the use of electronic devices, screens, or pre-programmed content.  I am blessed to live in a home with creative children like these. 

On any given day, their father and I may hear strains of piano, violin, harp, or mandolin wafting from various rooms.  Or we may walk by a table to see busy heads bent over colored pencils, watercolor sets, sketch books, craft supplies, and blank cards.   Or we may be drawn to the kitchen by the odor of delicious cooking experiments such as new breads, casseroles, and candies underway.  Or we may step out to the car only to find that the walkway has been neatly lined with small rocks, the front lawn is decorated with a village comprised of scrap lumber and acorns, and there are new seedlings growing in the small flower bed.  Or, upon returning to the house, we may find a child or young adult settled into the corner of a couch reading a good book or scribbling song lyrics, poems, journal entries, or short stories in an open notebook—dictionary, thesaurus, and concordance close at hand. 

Are our children unusual?  Maybe by today’s standards.  But in Renoir’s day, children were expected to be accomplished.  They learned languages, painted pictures, filled nature journals, played instruments, cared for animals, knit scarves, built scientific models, conducted experiments, harvested crops, wrote letters, and learned a thousand different hands-on skills because they were in training to become adults who were expected to preserve all that was good and worthy in civilization and pass it on to their own children, who would learn to do the same.  

It is not that our children never use a computer or other electronic device, because they do – especially those who are now grown.  But the younger our children were, the less time we allowed them to spend in front of a screen (and when we did make allowance for it, the screen time was largely limited to productive time – learning to type or use an image editing program, for example, as opposed to watching hours of cartoons).  If we can teach the next generation to produce rather than to consume, to think rather than to be amused, to create rather than to mimic their peers, and to give rather than to take, we will have equipped them to thrive in whatever work and outreach God has for them to do.

If your children are still living under your roof, you have a tremendous opportunity (not to mention duty) to encourage them to grow their minds and their abilities for the Lord’s service—now and in the future.  If they are among the many children spending too much time playing computer games, streaming movies, or following social media, do all in your power to redirect their attention now while there’s still time to save them a lifetime of lost hours and missed opportunities.  Introduce them to the wide world God made and the multitude of interests they can pursue in it.  Read books together, plant a garden, visit a museum, find a widow who needs a friend, take a walk together, purchase a gently used instrument and encourage your child to play around with it, set aside a place for mess making with paints, clay, and building blocks, listen to some beautiful music, put out birdseed and keep track of any little visitors, bake a meal and invite friends to share it, or start some new family endeavor together. 

Above all, teach your children to approach each new day with this thought, “This is the day that the Lord hath made—what does He want me to do with it?”

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