Why Josiah Wilberforce?

Josiah turned 3 today – which is a crazy thought! Those of you who know him will know that there is never a dull moment with Josiah! He’s our bundle of super active, totally hilarious, crazy fun joy! Team Lee is all the stronger and full of more hugs and kisses because of Josiah. So today seems like a good opportunity to tell you why we picked his name.

The story of King Josiah is a story of a young boy with a wicked father who is killed and so, at the age of 8, Josiah takes his place as king of Judah. After a long line of evil kings, Josiah walks in the way of the Lord, restoring the temple and reinstituting the laws and statutes of the Israelites. We hope that this story will serve to remind us, our Josiah, and others who know him of three main things.

Firstly, the story of Josiah is one of grace. Obviously of God’s grace towards Judah and Josiah, but also, significantly for us, God’s grace to us as parents. Josiah’s father Amon was an evil king, and yet Josiah became one of Judah’s greatest kings. So whilst we absolutely believe that our boys are given to us by God for a time, and with that comes a great responsibility to love, nurture and guide them the very best that we can, we also know that God’s grace is greater and His plan for their lives more enduring than our failings and weaknesses as parents.

Secondly, age ain’t nothing but a number! A person’s faith or relationship to God should not be judged on the basis of age. Of course it will change and develop over the years, in line with the way people grow up and change and develop, but this doesn’t make it any more ‘real’ or ‘valid’. The faith of a child, albeit perhaps less articulate to the adult ear, is no less true or beautiful to God. And God is no less able to use a child than an adult for His purposes. I think sometimes we underestimate what God can do through our children, and we expect too little of them: we run programmes and events for them; plan what we want to teach them; require them to go through courses and articulate things in a way we as adults understand before allowing them to partake in certain aspects of church life – but I don’t think this is what God sees. Of course the Bible is clear we have a duty to teach and raise up our children, pointing them to Christ all the time; but we also have a responsibility to let their ministry flourish, to let God work through them, to see what they can teach us.

Thirdly, when Josiah brings in his reforms, he does so in full force. He completely purges Judah of all traces of idol worship and other gods, in order to restore the temple of the Lord God. He doesn’t make allowances, he doesn’t turn a blind eye so long as it’s kept quiet, he doesn’t make ‘pastoral accomodations’, he doesn’t chalk things up as ‘different theological persuations’. He wants the truth and God’s way and he pursues it whole heartedly. He’s not worried how it might come across, or what people might say, or whether everyone is happy with the implications. He makes no exceptions or alterations to make it more palatable or inviting. I pray that our boys would have a heart for the way of God’s truth like this.

We gave Josiah the middle name ‘Wilberforce’ after William Wilberforce. Wilberforce fought for what he believed to be right, even though it seemed ridiculous and, at times, hopeless. He was willing to risk his reputation and career for what was right. He took the hard path and was a voice for the voiceless. This pursuit of what is right in the face of opposition is a characteristic we hope our children emulate.

We also gave the name Wilberforce because of how William Wilberforce came to understand what it means to serve God and minister. In the film ‘Amazing Grace’ there is a scene where Mr Clarkson says to William Wilberforce “Mr Wilberforce, we understand that you are having problems choosing to do the work of God, or the work of a political activist.” Hannah Moore then says “We humbly suggest that you can do both”. At the risk of tampering with this wonderful moment, I would want to say that actually, not only can you do both, but you must do both.

1 Peter 4:10-11 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that through everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”  If we are in Christ and living out his call on our lives, everything we do will be the work of God – we are his workmanship, created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). This means that there is no distinction between doing the work of God, and anything else we do. If you are a Christian and a political activist, then you are doing the work of God by being a political activist. If you are a Christian and a mum, then you are doing the work of God by being a mum. If you are a Christian and a vicar, then you are doing the work of God by being a vicar. There is no calling where we are any less doing the work of God, and we are therefore called to serve whole heartedly in the ministry God has put us.

To me, as a mum, I hope that this will serve as a reminder and encouragement that I’m not ‘just’ a mum: I am called by God to be a mum, and this is the work He created me for. Therefore it’s not ok to just ‘get by’, or become complacent: it’s an honour and a privilege to be called to this, and it demands my best.

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‘Redeem the Tree: Putting Christ at the Heart of All You Do This Christmas’

Family Advent Activities

redeem the tree

Click to download PDF of ‘Redeem the Tree’ activities!

 

Christmas is just about my favourite time of the year! I love it! I have such wonderful memories from my childhood – my parents gave us such fantastic Christmases! And I wanted to be able to give this same gift of a magical Christmas and beautiful memories to my children. But I became conscious that I was trying to run two Christmases in parallel: the Christmas celebration of Christ and the Christmas celebration of fun traditions – and often the latter was more appealing to them than the first. I realised that I needed to make a conscious effort to put Christ at the heart of Christmas, but I didn’t want to lose the tree decorating, and the lights, and the baking and all those fun times – and I also believe that God wouldn’t want me to. After all, this is the birth of Jesus we’re celebrating: God incarnate come to reconcile all of creation to himself (Col 1:20). Of course Christmas celebrations should be fun and memorable and exciting! But they should also point to Jesus, not distract from him.

And so I started to think about how I could bring many of the traditions I love about Christmas in line with the heart of Christmas. A lot of the traditions are not, technically, being redeemed as they were never to do with the birth of Christ in the first place: Christmas trees and Santa, for example. But Christ came to reconcile all things to Himself, including these.

Looking on the internet I struggled to find anything that met with what I was trying to do. Some resources actually reinforced this ‘dual Christmas’ by coming up with specifically Christian activities about the Christmas story, but not drawing into it the other traditions that have become a part of our Christmas celebrations. But what several people did note was that the Jesus Storybook Bible contained 24 stories leading up to Christmas, all showing how they ‘breathed [Jesus’] name’. Perfect! And so, a couple of years ago, I began putting together my own advent activities for my children. I’m sharing these ideas so that they might be a spring board for your own thinking – they’re just ideas. Change them as best suits your family, and swap in your own traditions – it might even be a great opportunity to start some new ones!

Some things will go way above the head of my children until they are older, but by starting them now I hope they grow up with Christ firmly at the centre of their Christmas – they won’t have competing narratives taking root in their hearts and minds.

Click to download PDF of ‘Redeem the Tree’ activities!

Hitting the Parenting ‘Wall’

I’ve never run a marathon – a sprint down my street in hot pursuit of one of my children is pretty much my limit! But I’m told there’s a ‘wall’ people often hit. A moment where you simply have nothing left to give, but there’s still a way left to run. All your energy, your stamina, your motivation has been used up – it feels as though your legs simply cannot go another step. The other morning, I hit a parenting ‘wall’.

We had one of ‘those’ mornings – in a big way! The kind where I’m fairly sure that, before going to sleep the night before, my boys had a meeting to plan the most effective and efficient strategy to send mummy crazy. And the next morning they executed it to perfection. By 10.30am the volume in our house was horrendous as I shouted harshly while they continued to scream and shout and whine and bicker and flat out refuse to do anything I asked. By 10.32 I had burst into tears pleading with one of them to “please, just do something I ask” and had locked myself in the bathroom to hide from the whole situation.

I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt frustrated, and angry, and guilty, and a failure. I found myself questioning not only how committed I was to homeschooling, but how committed I was to even being a stay at home mum. I couldn’t see how I could manage another minute. I had hit ‘the wall’. I felt like I had absolutely nothing left to give – and certainly nothing to give with any patience or kindness or grace. I don’t agree with spanking, and absolutely not in anger, but I could feel my temper rising, and with it the temptation to threaten smacking. I had hit the wall at such velocity that we were now in a blooded broken heap on the floor.

In her book ‘Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full’, Gloria Furman talks really kindly and helpfully about how it is our sinful nature that leads us to this place, and the Good News of how it’s Jesus that will lead us out. I can’t recommend that book enough – it’s short, easy to read but theologically robust and trustworthy.

But the point I want to make is this: while I was locked in the bathroom pleading with the Holy Spirit to give me just an ounce of love or patience or kindness for my children (and just possibly slightly more obedient hearts for my children!) I felt like I was the only mum to reach this place. If parenting were a marathon, I felt I was the only one to hit the wall and be in a crumpled mess on the floor, shouting harshly at my crying children while everyone else skipped on merrily by holding hands and singing ‘Jesus loves me’. I felt very alone and very useless and very much like a failure.

As Gloria points out in her book – it’s not ok to be in this place. Being harsh and unkind to my children is not an unavoidable and inevitable part of parenting. It’s sin. BUT the wonderful thing about this, is that Jesus has dealt with my sin on the cross. Nonetheless, the Bible is clear

‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.’ (1 John 1:8-10).

It’s no secret that, as mums, we are experts in hiding our parenting sin – to act like everything is just fine and paint on a smile for the rest of the world while we speak to our children through gritted teeth. But this denies our sin, it stops us getting the support we need from others, and it leads to being locked in the toilet, crying, and feeling like the worst parent ever! And, moreover, when we hide our sin and feel alone and cut ourselves off from fellowship with other mums in this way, we make it all the easier for Satan to plant and feed lies that we are a failure and useless and our children would be better off with someone else, which only makes that wall seem bigger and harder and even more impossible to overcome.

So my point is this – you’re not alone. You’re not the only one to have screamed at your child over putting their socks on, you’re not the only one to have cried in a locked toilet like an angsty teenager, and you’re not the only one to desperately need Jesus! And admitting these things doesn’t make you a failure as a mum – it makes you a mum who has confessed her sins, received forgiveness and is able to have the Holy Spirit work to transform her heart so that we can parent with ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ Galatians 5:22-23.

Delighting in Their Sin

The Ashley Madison hack has caused something of an internet furore: it seems everyone has something to say on the matter. There also seems to be a particular propensity to talk about one particular individual who has been ‘outed’ through the scandal – Josh Duggar. For those who are not as into American reality TV as I am(!) Josh Duggar is one of the 19 children of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, all of whom hold to values such as women wearing skirts, not using contraception and saving the first kiss until marriage.

Consequently the revelation that Josh Duggar, who worked for the Family Research Council, was a fully paid-up member of an adultery site is shocking – especially given that it comes just a few months after another revelation that he molested 5 young girls as a 14 year old. To learn that Josh had committed these particular sins has been pretty devastating for me: I loved their show and really admired a lot of the ways they conducted themselves and raised their children.

But, actually, I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Of course Josh Duggar is a sinner. To think anything else denies the gospel. Even if a person’s sin is the complete antithesis of what they proclaim to think and believe, it really shouldn’t come as an overwhelming surprise. It’s not as though there’s a cohort of society who have no need of the cross and for whom understanding the death of Jesus is simply an academic exercise rather than a desperately needed reality – whether or not they have a successful TV show.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not for a minute saying that Josh’s sins aren’t abhorrent and offensive and sickening. They are. They very much are. In fact, they are so devastating that an innocent man was crucified for them. Because of what he has done, young girls have been hurt and have had to experience the trauma of sexual abuse; his wife has been hurt and has been left (while he enters rehab) to raise their four children, including a newborn; his marriage has been hurt and trust has been shattered; and his children will be hurt in coming to terms with this when they’re older.

Which leads me to ask – why do people seem so happy about it? In the same breath people seem to be able to express both horror at what he has done, and delight that he has done it and seemingly fallen from grace. It basically goes ‘What you’ve done is disgusting, and I’m so glad because now I get to call you disgusting’. I even saw one link to the story on Facebook which described it as ‘gold’. ‘Gold’ it most certainly is not. To molest young girls is not gold. To commit adultery is not gold. To be culpable in the death of Jesus is not gold. It is very, very dark.

So why are people finding so much joy in the sins of Josh Duggar? This delight seems mainly to come from those who find the Duggars and their views and way of life disagreeable – even offensive. There seems to be an almost euphoric wave of people pointing out what a hypocrite Josh Duggar has been – all the while missing their own hypocrisy in being so overjoyed that Josh Duggar committed such sins and hurt so many people in, what they are very quick to point out, are such grotesque actions.

Of course, no one would admit to being delighted that young girls have been molested and a husband has been unfaithful to his wife – but to revel in the revelations of Josh’s sins is, ultimately, to revel in his sin. Because had he not committed these sins, these stories would have never broken and light would not have been shed upon them. If we truly grieve these sins, we would grieve all their effects too – even if the effect is someone we don’t agree with or find offensive having their sin revealed.

And the ultimate effect is that Jesus died for Josh Duggar’s sins. And whilst we delight in the freedom that the cross brings us, and in the righteousness that it can bestow on us, we should be devastated at the cost. When we consider the crown of thorns, the beatings, the nails, the blood, the forsakenness – surely this brings us to a place of thankfulness for what Jesus endured to save us from the wrath of God. But when we consider it ‘gold’ that Josh Duggar has committed adultery and we can’t wait to point the finger at the hypocrisy, or when we simply find it a good story to have a gossip about, we stand loud among the mockers at Calvary, laughing at what Christ endured because of sin.