Giving Good Gifts

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

I want to give good gifts to my children. I want to see their faces light up when they unwrap a gift and are delighted with it. I want to hear my five-year old say,”I always wanted that. It’s my favorite.”

Whenever that happens I’m as happy as they are.

But let’s face it, most gifts which are unwrapped at Christmas time are not the kind that last. They are gifts which wear our, rust out, break, tear,or otherwise end up in the garbage. Sometimes my wife and I give our children toys – things that spin, sparkle, and make noise. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s these gifts that bring the biggest grins when the paper is torn and the box exposed. I’m happy to watch my children get excited about such gifts. But I know they are just novelties. I know today’s shiny object will be tossed away tomorrow.

In light of this we try to give our children gifts which will last much longer. We do this not by giving gifts which are manufactured better, but by giving gifts which will impact their lives longer – educational toys and books. We still give them clothes and shiny objects but we make educational gifts a priority.

As I think about gift giving this year I realize even books and educational gifts aren’t the best kind of gifts. Giving the best gifts is more abstract. The best gifts don’t come in packages to be wrapped and unwrapped.

Let me illustrate by listing some gifts which will be a blessing to my children but will never be place under the tree. These are good gifts which cost no money. Many more could be listed but these came to my mind today.

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First – the gift of loving each other well. Our children need this. They need their parents to show affection to each other. By doing this we create a feeling of stability in the home. And we create a model for them to imitate.

Second – the gift of reading. By this I mean both reading to them and helping them become readers. We read a lot in our home. My wife reads to the children at lunch time. I read to them at dinner time. We talk about books and buy books. My wife’s vehicle is at the library so often it knows how to get there on its own. If my children take up the habit of reading good books because of the culture in our home, then we will have given them a good gift.

Third – the gift of prayer. My prayer life is far from what it should be and I don’t model it as it could be modeled. But I do pray with and for my children. This is a great gift to them which they will appreciate later in life. I pray for their salvation, I pray for their health, I pray about the things going on in their lives.

I’m reminded this year that the best gifts don’t come wrapped with a bow. The best gifts come from the heart and get unwrapped in the lives of my children each day.

 

 

 

 

 

Boys, Don’t Be Like That Guy

Music blared through the headphones hanging around his neck as he walked out the office door. He had just been fired. His employment lasted less than thirty minutes. The company I work for hires temporary labor on occasion. This time they needed an extra hand in the warehouse, loading and unloading product from delivery trucks.

Our lead warehouse technician walked through my office area and I heard him say, “Fire that guy. I don’t want him here any longer.” The warehouse manager asked what was going on. Later I heard the complete story.

This worker didn’t display any ambition or desire to work. He was standing on one end of the warehouse swaying to the rhythm playing in his ears while everyone else was on the other end of the warehouse unloading a truck. The lead warehouse technician yelled, “Hey, what are you doing? We’re all down here working.” The fool (in the Proverbs sense of the word) replied, “No one told me what to do.”

The lead warehouse tech said, “Can’t you see us down here sweating? Get off the sidelines and into the game.” The fool walked over and started working half heartedly, his music still playing in his ears.

I related this story to my boys and said, “Boys, don’t be like that guy. Show up ready to work. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone. Ask, ‘What can I do next? Where should I go now?’ Don’t ever just be standing there waiting to be told what to do. Don’t be like that. And don’t show up for work with earphones. You’re there to work not listen to music.”

I don’t know anything else about that temporary worker. Maybe he didn’t have parents to teach him how to work. If so, I feel sorry for him. I really do. It’s a tragedy for a young man to grow up without knowing how to engage at a jobsite. It a tragedy for the young man, for the company he works for, and for society at large.

And so, my advice to young men everywhere – boys, don’t be like that guy.

 

 

A Penny and My Thoughts

I saw it first. Before my son spied the penny tucked between carpet and baseboard I had seen it. A few minutes later I saw his hand slide into his pocket and quickly slide out again.

This was the opportunity I had expected when the copper first caught my eye.

“Calvin, what did you put in your pocket?”

“A penny,” he said.

“Put it back,” I commanded.

“Why?” he asked with a puzzled look.

It had been a while since we worked together. I still have my contractor’s license but don’t install floors for a living anymore. I only do small jobs in the evenings and weekends. There are a few things I miss about installing floors but the thing I miss most is bringing the kids to work with me. Not only do I miss spending time with them; I miss  opportunities to teach and train. I miss teaching them how to work hard, how to work smart, and many other lessons which present themselves throughout a day of work.

The reason he was puzzled about the penny was obvious to me and I saw a lesson. He had worked with me in the past in vacant apartments. In apartments, coins of all sorts are found under refrigerators, washers, and dryers. Like the penny he found today, we often found coins tucked between baseboards and the carpet we were removing. In a vacant apartment I always let my son keep the coins. But today we were in an occupied home. The penny belonged to the home owner.

“Does it belong to you?” I asked.

“No.” he said. But the look on his face said, “It’s just a penny and I always kept them before.”

“Put it back.” I told him.

“Where?” he asked.

I indicated a place and he set it there.

A few minutes later, out of earshot of the homeowner, I explained to him my reasoning.

“Even if it’s just a penny, it belongs to the owner of the house. A vacant apartment is different. No one is coming back to a vacant apartment. The coins have been left behind. But in an occupied home they belong to the homeowner.”

I was reminded of a lesson I learned from a business coach about working in peoples homes. I passed the lesson to my son.

“When working in someone’s home it’s never a good idea to put your hands into your pockets. If the homeowner walks by as your hand slides into your pocket and back out again, they may question what you put into your pocket. They may never say anything to you, but next week when they are missing a piece of jewelry they will remember your hand – and your pocket. Never give someone a reason not to trust you while working in their home.”

I think he understood the lesson. The incident reminded me of the wisdom of Deuteronomy six. There are some lessons learned best when we are spending time with our children. Whether lessons about pennies or the Law of God, some things are learned best by walking alongside a dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s My Bible

My wife held our two year old girl on her lap during church this morning. When my daughter is quiet and not too wiggly we let her stay in the service. She like to be with us and says, “I don’t want to go to my class” when we pull into the church parking lot. Her “class” is the nursery.

The volunteers in the nursery are wonderful and we put her in nursery when it’s necessary. But we also think it’s important for her to learn to sit still and quiet in church – even at two.

Our church includes a Scripture reading as part of the service. Several men rotate and read in front of the congregation. This morning the reader was one of our elders. He asked us to open our Bibles to Philippians chapter two and follow along as he read.

It’s important to teach our children the value of the Word of God. As Christians our lives are centered on God’s Word. By it we are challenged, comforted, strengthened, and changed. Teaching our children the value of God’s Word can be done in various ways. This morning I realized our public reading was a benefit to all but in a special way it benefits the young. Those who can’t even read get a sense of the importance of the text when a room full of people are standing with Bibles in hand and listening to God’s Word.

This morning we stood for the Scripture reading. I reached for my Bible as my two year old said, “Where’s my Bible?” My wife and I were quick to tell her to be quiet in church. She was unfazed and asked again for her Bible. We grabbed her picture book Bible from her diaper bag and handed it to her. She seamed very pleased to have her Bible in hand like everyone else.

The reading had begun and I was still opening my Bible to Philippians. Just as I found it a hand reached up from my right side giving me a pocket New Testament. My four year old daughter wanted me to help find the right place in her Bible. I found Philippians chapter two and handed it back to her.

My four year old doesn’t read but just like the two year old she seemed very pleased to be doing what everyone else was doing.

I was pleased as well. It was a happy moment to have my four year old looking at her pocket New Testament and my two year old looking at her picture Bible as the man up front read about Christ.

 

 

The Bible Sedimented in the Bones

I hope the speech referenced in this article is made available online. Russell Moore makes some great points. My favorite is about teaching the next generation to respond to challenges in the world not by looking to the Bible as a rulebook but having the Bible sedimented into their bones.

This is not a distinction of semantics but a vital truth. The Bible needs to be more to our children than a list of do’s and don’ts. It truly is more than such a list; it’s the Word of God to man, a revelation of Divinity to humanity. For the Bible to be loved and cherished by our children it must be loved by us first. We set the example.

I like the word picture of the Bible sedimented in the bones. It pictues something settled and abiding. Sediment is solid material that is suspended in liquid and left behind by the flow or evaporation of the liquid.

Imagine that the means of delivering the Scriptures to your children is the liquid. Family devotions and the local church are the main carriers of the Word – the liquid in which it is suspended. As we read the Bible to our children, as they memorize it as part of their Sunday School program or at our request, as they hear the Scripture expounded faithfully in church week after week something is left behind and settles. The weekly church meetings will blur into the past, family devotions will be fondly remembered but also blurred. A particular point you attempted to make or an illustration given by the pastor will be difficult to recall days from now, but the sediment will remain.

Parents who are faithful can trust God’s Word to do it’s work in their children. They can trust God to accomplish the purpose for His Word – the revelation of Himself to humanity. Don’t give up parent. Don’t give in to exhaustion and frustration. Keep proclaiming the truth of God’s Word to the next generation. By doing so the Scripture is being molded into the bones of your children’s lives.

 

 

Facing the Wite-Out® Bandit

The future is calling and asking us to send men of courage, men to rise up and boldly address the moral evils of the day.  It’s our job as fathers to prepare the next generation to boldly confront a world gone mad.  We have little time, the task is large, and the enemy is daily on the march.

I Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”  Whatever else this is saying, it’s certainly an affirmation of Biblical manhood.  God created men and women differently; equal yet different.  There is a certain something built into men that gives them a special ability to stand firm as a protector, to rise up when circumstances demand bravery, to defend the defenseless, to act like men.  The future needs such men and dads are given the task of producing them.

In HIs mercy, God has not left dads without the means we need.  Children learn by imitation.  They have a built in ‘more is caught than taught’ mechanism.  Teaching them how to act like men is important, but modeling is urgent.  Boys need to see their dads acting bravely.  Recently I had such an opportunity.

I’ve never been in combat, never faced down a criminal with a weapon, and never rescued a child from a burning building, but I did come face to face with the Wite-Out® Bandit, and this is my story.

On a Saturday afternoon bike ride with my two boys, we had just reached  the bridge near Old Sacramento when I spotted him.  As the pedestrian crossing signal changed I held my boys back.  They were ready to go and wondered at my hesitation.  About fifteen feet from us stood a monument with pictures and plaques which told some of the history of the region.  A young man (probably in his early twenties) was defacing the pictures.

I yelled, “Hey!” to get his attention.  He looked at me and I said, “What are you doing?”

No response, he just stared at me.  What could he say?  I had caught him red handed destroying public property and he wished I would mind my own business and carry on with my bike ride.  But I persisted.

“Don’t do that,” I said firmly.

“What is he doing?” one of my boys asked me.

“He’s painting on those pictures and destroying public property,” I said.

The bandit had replied, “Okay,”  but stood there waiting for me to leave.

I didn’t.  In fact, I was about to walk over to him when he decided to end the confrontation and walk away.  He actually walked directly past me and my boys.

Again, in a firm (but not angry) tone, I said, “Why are you doing that?”

He ignored me and kept walking.  I followed him with my boys in tow.  I figured he would wait until we were out of sight and then come right back to his evil deeds and so I pulled out my phone and let him see me do it. He probably thought I was either taking his picture or calling the police.   Either one was a deterrent to further bad behavior.

After he disappeared into the Saturday afternoon crowd, I had a conversation with my boys.  I explained to them what I had seen the criminal doing.  I told them it’s okay to speak up in such situations.

I told my boys, “When someone is doing wrong, they need to be confronted.  Many other people were walking by.  Maybe they didn’t notice what he was doing, but maybe they did and weren’t sure what to do, or were afraid to say something.  It’s okay to say something.  When you are in the right, the person doing wrong has no moral ground and will usually be a coward.  This guy could have become angry and confronted me, but he knew I was right and he was wrong.  Usually in such situations the one doing wrong acts like a coward when confronted.”

Across the bridge we went on our bikes and enjoyed ourselves along the river.  On our return trip I spotted the bandit headed directly towards us on the bridge.  I was ready to say something to him again and turned to warn my boys.

“Here comes that guy,” I said.

“He’s leaving,” said my oldest son.

Sure enough.  He had spotted me and in the time it took to turn to my boys and back to face him again he had spun on his heel and headed the opposite way across the  bridge.

Back at the monument we examined it.  We discovered the man had been using Wite-Out® to paint over words in the pictures and plaques.  Random words.  It was obvious that he had no agenda other than to deface property.  We scratched the Wite-Out® off with our fingernails and rode on.

Later we recalled the story to the rest of the family and named the man the Wite-Out® Bandit.  It’s a fun story, but I’m no hero.  Facing the Wite-Out® bandit doesn’t really amount to much – or does it?

Boys need examples of courage, and by God’s grace on that Saturday afternoon, an ordinary dad, far from the worlds military or political battle fields, was able to give his boys a small picture of what it means to “act like men”.

-David West

*This was originally published in the SCOPE homeschool newsletter.