Flowers of Godly character

flower pot Godly character reward chart IMG_0076

After holidays, sickness and general out of routine grumps hit our house recently, we needed something to lift the tone of sibling relationships. We have used several different systems for boosting kind behaviour and general character recognition in the past, but this time I wanted something similar to our praise plates; without a “prize” at the end. Our marble jar and treasure tree charts worked well although there was an end goal or reward that we were working towards – see the marble jar is full for a full explanation of the difference between bribes, rewards and goal incentives.

Our treasure tree reward system.

Our treasure tree reward system with a slightly different ending than planned.

 

After reading “The Weed With An Ill Name” we have had a lot of discussions and prayer based on the concept of pulling the character “weeds” out of our hearts and replacing them with Godly character “flowers.” I decided to base our system around this idea and build on the interest that was already there by calling our chart “Flowers of Godly Character – Pull out those weeds!”

Each yellow centre is given the child’s initial who is “growing” the flower and as Godly character is displayed they are able to add a petal. Five petals complete a flower and another is started. Having each flower initialed means they are able to see the flowers they have grown, but the pot of flowers is something the whole family is working together to grow.

No reward other than being able to see the flowers you have planted being added to the pot is given, but even so, the children have huge smiles and are very happy to be awarded a petal.

For more ideas on building character and family identity see:

Sizzlers and grace

Filling their love tank: the 5 love languages of children

Spoiled walls; bickering and sibling conflict

101 family night ideas Relationships – joyful or difficult, they all need the 5 A’s

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Hand commands and missionary minded children

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It has come to my attention recently that we apparently have been reading too many heroic missionary stories that end in martyrdom or less than idyllic life situations. My three older children emphatically stated that they “never wanted to be missionaries!” and “Why would anyone want to?” Never mind what God’s plans for them were….

I decided to address this less than positive attitude by commencing the 40 day Mission minded family challenge by Ann Dunagan. We watch a 5 minute YouTube clip each morning that includes a quick geography lesson on locating countries around the world, some inspirational quotes by missionaries, a couple of thoughts from Ann herself and a related bible verse. While the quality of the film is less than professional, what she has to say is worthwhile listening to and has been a great springboard for mission related discussions. She offers a daily missionary challenge for you to do as each segment concludes to start you on the path to becoming more missionary minded.

After the first session, I printed out a free geography quiz and made a velcro label the continents and oceans activity and the eldest 3 had those memorized in a couple of days. We spent half an hour or so watching clips about the floating Mercy Hospital Ship and the amazing work they do around the world and got them all fired up about medical missionary work. Interestingly, this was followed by a couple of days of outdoor time when all the children decided to play “Mercy ship” in the back yard and doctored each other, complete with making the patients line up to be treated!

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I printed out the ocean and continent maps (one blank, one control map) and laminated them before adding velcro to the labels. In 5 minutes a day, with minimal effort, the children had the continents and oceans memorised. Kids love velcro!!

Day 6 to 10 has seen us learn Ann’s “Hand Commands” for the ten commandments. Genius!! I thought Ray Comfort’s visual number version on YouTube was brilliant (and it is) but you always have your hands with you and these are even better! While the children already had the 10 commandments down after watching Comfort’s video a couple of times, Dunagan’s Hand Commands had them practicing the moves and all ready to share them with others. Definitely worth a look. There is a written explanation here or watch the 5 clips from day 6  (the first screen and voice-over says day 11 but it is actually day 6 ) to day 10 to see it in action. I recommend the live recording because the movements, especially for number 8, are very clever.

I am not sure what the next 30 days of the challenge will have us doing, but the children’s attitude has already shown a great improvement.

Where do your children find their identity?

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We have recently returned from a Growing Families Australia family camp. It was a fun-filled weekend, with activities for the kids, time for fellowship with other like-minded families and sessions for the parents with Norm Wakefield from Elijah Ministries. Norm is a gifted communicator and presented a series of powerful messages for parents (Fathers in particular) across the weekend.

His message on finding our identity is one that we should all be aware of. To find out where we get our identity from, he asks 5 pointed questions:

  1. Who is your power source?
  2. To whom do you look for happiness?
  3. To whom are you connected/belong to?
  4. Who do you imitate in order to connect?
  5. Who is your God?

Is the answer to these questions your husband? wife? friends? children? yourself? God?

What about if we ask ourselves the same questions, but this time with our children in mind. Who are they looking to for their identity? Is it their peers? workmates? boyfriend or girlfriend? themselves? us as their parents? God?

Norm points out that whoever offers the most hope of happiness and identity will have their heart. Whoever has their heart has the most influence. Parents, if you don’t offer your children the most hope and point them to finding God as the only true source of identity, your children will look elsewhere for it.

Scary thought isn’t it? Who has your children’s hearts?

If you would like to know more about how to keep your children’s hearts, I  recommend reading “Family Driven Faith” by Voddie Baucham and “Keeping Our Children’s Hearts” by Terri Maxwell. Taking a Christian parenting class would also be a wise step in the right direction.

Proactive living

Unfortunately none of us have a fairy Godmother who is going to come along and make everything change in the blink of an eye. We've got us and the Holy Spirit. Let's get moving!

Unfortunately none of us have a fairy Godmother who is going to come along and make everything change with a swish of her magic wand.

In the parenting courses that we run, we discuss a concept called proactive parenting, as compared to reactive parenting. Reactive parents do exactly that – react to situations as they arise and parent in the heat of the moment. Proactive parents have a plan to get where they want to go and actively take steps to get there.

Hosing her off outside, hanging upside down by the toe... tempting!
 When I found my  11 month old sitting next to the art cupboard covered in yellow paint from head to toe I had a choice. Yell, moan about how difficult raising children is, decide that she was the last child we were ever going to have, remove all paint from our house and ban art forever, take her out in the back yard, dangle her by the big toe and hose her off to teach her a lesson (that was tempting!) or I could accept responsibility for the disaster and plan a proactive method to ensure this situation was not repeated. I chose to tweak my flexible routine to ensure that she didn’t have unsupervised time to roam the house in the future.

In life, we all have the choice to live pro-actively or reactively – which way are you choosing?

When was the last time you sat down to honestly reflect on your life and evaluate what is going well and what needs work? Where are your sticky patches? Your areas of stress and difficulty? What are you trying to ignore, get around, push under the mat and otherwise refuse to deal with head on? What can you pat yourself on the back about and sit back to enjoy? What is getting up your nose and ruffling your feathers? What direction are you headed in and is this where you really want to go? Is it where God really wants you to go?

As areas of concern are identified, I write them down; with specifics. Exactly what or who is this problem about. Seeing it on paper helps me to realize that what I feel about a situation is not always accurate or relative to the problem. Sometimes the thing that is unhealthy is a lot smaller and simpler than my feelings would suggest. Sometimes it is a lot bigger and needs to be honestly acknowledged.

Now comes the hard part. Without a strong desire to change, even the best advice will be worthless. Without effort and commitment to improve, chances are you will still be facing the same problems in the future. Do you just want to talk about the problem? Do you just want sympathy? Or are you truly seeking a way to move forward and make the necessary changes? Some circumstances can’t be changed, but the way that you react and respond to them can. We can eliminate some of our problem areas, avert others or at least improve almost all of them.

Some changes take money. Some just take time, some take mental or physical effort. All change will take a decision by you to make it happen and an investment of some kind.

At the end of today’s post, there is a list of headings. You will probably be able to come up with several more of your own to add to it. I would encourage you over the coming week to take some time out to go through the list and give yourself a proactivity check.  Identify the areas you would like to change and write them down. If you are like me, you will have a rather long list, which can be a little demoralizing. Perhaps you might like to focus on the most pressing issues. Have a look through your list and choose 3 things to begin with.

What were your dreams and ambitions? Did you always want to paint? Write a book? Sing? Pray an instrument?

Do you have unrealised ambitions or goals? Always wanted to paint, sing, play an instrument, write a book?? Now’s the time to start.

It may be a good idea to focus on only one large, serious thing, and two smaller problems that will be quick and relatively easy to change. You can now make a plan and move forward.

So how do you move forward? You could do one or several of the following:

  • Pray through each area and ask God for wisdom and direction. (Maybe the underlying issue is that your relationship with God is not where it should be. It is possible to make changes in your own strength, but so much more effective to make them with the help of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps now is the time to get right with God.)
  • Read the bible and see what He already has to say about it.
  • Find a Godly older, more mature or more experienced woman to serve as a mentor. (God’s idea, not mine; see Titus 2)
  • Ask your husband for his ideas. I’m sure he has plenty! They might involve leopard-print, but hear him out anyway! Your husband has wisdom and insight that will help you to see issues in a different light.
  • Find the resources you need. Buy or borrow a book, listen to a talk on CD, surf the net
  • Find a friend or family member who is strong in the area of your weaknesses and ask for their help.
  • Speak to a professional if necessary. Be it counselor, Pastor, financial planner, doctor, nutritionist etc.

Try to be realistic with your goal setting. One of my daughters was very disappointed to be told that she would never realize her ambition of growing up to be a Daddy! She quickly got over it though and decided she would be a snail instead!

When I see the heading “Physical health”, I immediately think of how I would like to bake fresh sour dough bread for our family. I have tried this once and the result was a brick-like loaf that would have made a better doorstop than a sandwich. Clearly, I need more than a recipe printed out from the internet. I am planning to take a 4 hour class with an expert on sour dough and come home equipped with the knowledge I need to achieve my goal. It requires some time, some money and the commitment to go ahead and get it organised.

Perhaps the mess is driving you insane. Find a home organisation book, train your children to do chores and de-clutter!
Perhaps a mess is driving you insane. Find a home organisation book, train your children to do chores and de-clutter!

When I look at the heading “Household” my linen cupboard comes to mind. Every time I opened the doors, towels and sheets exploded out at me from the over-filled bottom two shelves, while the top 2 shelves sat almost bare of their contents. My daughter is responsible for folding and putting away these items as they come through the wash. As she is only 7 ½ she finds it difficult to reach the top shelves, which results in the contents gradually migrating downwards. The solution? Two $8 sea grass storage baskets to store some of the towels in the other bathroom, re-arranging the cupboard so that the least used items were up the top and storing sheet sets in their matching pillowcases as a compact bundle (a tip from a home organisation book that I read.) While migration does still happen, it has been slowed greatly by the new arrangements.

Who needs pants?

The heading “Children and family” brings to mind a current issue we are facing. Our 3-year-old son quite often exits the toilet naked from the waist down, regardless of who is at the front door or how many visitors we have in the house.  Modesty is something we work on as a family and as my husband and I want our children to be a blessing to others rather than a menace this is a problem we need to address and resolve – before he turns 16.

Some circumstances can't be changed, but we can choose how we react to them.Your problem areas may be far more serious than the examples I have given. Perhaps you are a single parent, divorced, facing addiction or abuse of some kind. Maybe you have lost 10 kgs and nothing in your wardrobe fits anymore. Perhaps you have gained 10 kg and nothing fits anymore. Maybe you need to get right with God. Whatever it is, it’s time to take action.

Perhaps it's time you gave your appearance an overhaul, starting with your wardrobe.

What’s wrong with my clothes??

Now you may not be a Mother, or wife, but if you are a Christian, your general priorities should be: God first, husband second, children & family third and on from there.

Do not bury your head in the sand and hope your difficulties will go away. Face the problem head on and climb that mountain. We all have an obligation to use our God given talents to the best of our ability.  Live intentionally and be proactive.

Your diet will have an impact on your outlook, energy levels and overall health. Is change needed here?
Your diet will have an impact on your outlook, energy levels and overall health. Is change needed here?

Here are some headings to get you started on your pro-activity check:

Self-improvement (grooming and appearance, wardrobe, character, self-image, skills, talents, hobbies, interests, creativity, goals, aspirations, dreams, leadership)

Mental health (depression, stress, emotional problems, phobias, compulsions, suicidal feelings)

Physical health (diet & nutrition, exercise, weight control, sickness & pain)

Spiritual health (bible study, prayer life, relationship with God, spiritual gifts, teaching, evangelism, discipleship, proverbs 31 woman, Titus 2)

Social/relational (friendships, re-connect with someone, forgive someone, conversation & communication skills)

Marriage (husband/wife relationship, love languages, sex life, date nights, communication, marriage seminars, counseling)

Children and family (character, behaviour, relationships, discipline and training, routine)

Household (menu planning, hospitality, organization, home improvements, decorating, time management)

Work & study (time management, computer, facebook, emails)

Money (budgeting, giving, debt, saving)

Issue Plan of attack – resources I need or action to take
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Our “Names of Jesus” Jesse Tree

Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

Bible reading scrolls to go with each name of Jesus.

If you are looking for different ideas for a Christmas Jesse tree, family devotions, family alter, bible study or daily circle time, then studying some of the many names of Jesus with your children can be a great learning experience.

You can make it as simple or elaborate as you like. We used this idea for our Christmas Jesse tree this year so I prepared everything ahead of time; including printing out the bible readings and making small scrolls with them (see photo above) and making or buying a symbol for each name of Jesus and wrapping them all individually.

Wrapped Jesse tree symbols

Wrapped Jesse tree symbols

Each morning during our family circle time, one child found the bible reading scroll of the day and wrapped symbol. As we read through the verses, everyone listened carefully and raised their hand as soon as they heard a name of Jesus. (Some readings had more than one in them.) After finishing the scroll they guessed which name we were looking at today and what the symbol could be, briefly discussed what that means to us or what it teaches us about Jesus and then opened the symbol to hang onto the Jesse tree.

The names, symbols and bible readings that we used are photographed below. A few of the readings do not have the name in them directly, but add related information and there are probably many more that could be added.

J tree 1st born

1. Firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15-20 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 ESV) {This is supposed to be a race ribbon for first place. A plastic trophy or medal would work well.}

Alpha and Omega

2. Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:7-8 Revelation 1:12-18 Revelation 21:5-7 Revelation 22:12-14 ESV) {These are swizzle sticks – just an interesting way to display the A and Z as the English equivalent of alpha and omega.}

Mighty Warrior

3. Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 63:1 Deuteronomy 10:17 Job 36:5 ESV) {Popsicle sticks shaped and glued to make a sword.}

Everlasting Father

4. Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6 Hebrews 1:8-12 ESV) {This is our earthly Father}

Prince of Peace
5. Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 Ephesians 2:13-17 ESV) {Peace Christmas decoration.}

Unspeakable Gift
6. Unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:10-15 John 4:7-10 ESV) {Another Christmas decoration.}

Lamb of God

7. Lamb of God (John 1:29-36 Hebrews 7:27 1 Peter 1:14-19 Revelation 5:6-14 ESV) {Plastic lamb.}

Shepherd

8. Good Shepherd  (Psalm 23 Matthew 2:5-6 John 10:1-18 Revelation 7:17 ESV) {This is the corner piece from a metal coat hanger – a small tent peg would work just as well.}

Jesus is born Bethlehem star

9. Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:14-17 2 Peter 1:17-19 ESV) {Our usual tree topper}

Anointed One

10. The Christ/Anointed One/ Messiah (Matthew 16:13-17 Acts 4:25-28 Acts 10:37-38 ESV) {We thought this ornament looked like a jar of anointing oil.}

Holy

11. Holy One (Mark 1:21-26 Acts 3:11-16 ESV) {The music is the hymn Holy Holy Holy. I googled images for “holy holy holy” and several choices came up. I just dropped it into a word document so I could size it to fit the music note ornament.}

Light of the World

12. Light of the World (Revelation 21:22-27 John 8:12 John 12:35-36 ESV) {They give these battery operated candles out every year at carols in the park events.}

The Word
13. The Word and Wonderful Counsellor (John 1:1-5 Revelation 19:11-13 Isaiah 9:6 ESV) {This is a dolls house miniature. I had to buy this online and it was a little expensive but we all love it. It actually has the new testament printed inside and you can read it with a magnifying glass.}

Servant

14. Servant (Matthew 12:17-18 Mark 10:43-45 Acts 3:26 Philippians 2:3-11 ESV) {Small craft wooden dowels with ricrac hot glued onto one and wool on the other- a servant’s tools.}

King of Kings

15. King of Kings Lord of Lords (Isaiah 33:22 Zechariah 9:9 Zechariah 14:16 Revelation 19:11-16 ESV) {This came off a broken Princess headband.}

The Vine
16. Vine (John 15:1-11 ESV) {A regular Christmas ornament.}

Lilly

17A. Lily of the Valley (Song of Solomon 2:1 ESV) {An artificial lily flower.} We did two symbols today because there is only one small reading for the lily.

The Door

17B Door [of the sheepfold] (John 10:7-10 John 14:6-7 Psalm 118:19-21 ESV) {These craft sticks came with the small dowels I used for the scrolls. Regular popsicle sticks would do nicely.}

Friend

18. Friend (Matthew 11:16-19 James 4:4 ESV) {We talk about their siblings being their best friends regularly.}

Saviour

19. Saviour (Luke 2:8-14 John 3:16 Acts 4:12 John 4:39-42 Hebrews 7:27 ESV) {Another regular ornament.}

Ancient of Days

20. Ancient of Days (Psalm 102:25-27 Daniel 7:9-10 ESV) {An old broken watch.}

Branch/Stump/Root of Jesse

21. Branch/Flower of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2 Jeremiah 23:5-6 Romans 15:12-13 ESV) {A twig from the backyard.}

The Rock

22. Rock & Cornerstone (Psalm 62:5-7 Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV) {Another backyard find in a bag so we can hang it.}

Lion of Judah
23. Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:1-5 ESV) {This is actually a plastic tiger and the children keep insisting you can tell the difference!}

Faithful and True (The reading talks about Jesus returning on a white horse)

24. Faithful and True (Revelation 3:14-16 Revelation 19:11-12 ESV) {This verse talks about Jesus riding on a white horse.}

Baby

25. Baby/Son of God/Son of Man (Luke 2:8-18 ESV) {From last year – a cross-stitch of Jesus in the manger.}

Other posts you may like:

Our Jesse Tree (traditional style)

Advent and Christmas traditions

Christian families and Father Christmas

 

Sizzlers and grace.

Our treasure tree after a day or two. (It is now quite well covered, but as we had cut up a LOT of leaves, it is by no means full.)

We are going out to dinner in a restaurant tonight. It is the culmination of our treasure tree character reward system. No, the tree is not full, but after reading “Give Them Grace” by Elyse Fitzpatrick we have decided to implement one of her suggestions. She mentioned marble jars and other reward systems and suggested that occasionally we should simply fill them up and have the reward as an act of grace towards our children.

We have been a very intentional recently about the message of grace and how we present the gospel to the children since reading her book. We have focussed more often on how our good works, right living and good character (being a “good” person) cannot earn our way to heaven or gain God’s forgiveness. We have discussed how we will never measure up to the perfect standard that God expects from us.

Of course, the message does not stop there. When we are finally able to admit our sin and see our need for a saviour, we can turn to Jesus and through His death on the cross, bearing the sin of us all, we can repent, receive forgiveness and be made holy in God’s sight.

We presented the children with the treasure tree chart and asked them what they were requires to do to earn their reward.  (Fill the tree with leaves by displaying acts of Godly character.) We asked if they had earned that reward – did they deserve it? As the tree is far from full, they could only say that they didn’t. By this stage, the older children were beaming as they had already guessed what was coming. We then announced that we would be taking them to Sizzlers as a demonstration of grace to remind them to think about the amazing free gift of salvation that they have available to them through Jesus, despite the fact that they haven’t earned it and don’t deserve it.

Who knows whether they will remember this in time to come, or if it will make any difference to their spiritual walk in the long run, but we will all have a wonderful family night out together and who knows what lasting impact it may have?

Scripture memorisation

Most Christians understand the importance of memorising scripture; of writing God’s word on our hearts so that we may be able to live by it on a day by day basis. Those occasions where a scripture just pops into our heads when we are caught up in a situation, giving us a warning or guidance that is needed in the moment, are unlikely to happen if we have nothing stored up in our memory for just such an occasion. The same applies to helping our children memorise bible verses.

There are so many ways to go about teaching our little ones how to remember bible verses, the benefit to us being that as we do it together with them we are storing up scripture in our own memories as well. We have tried a few different methods along the way, some of which I’ll outline for you below.

Our favourite system so far (and the one we are using at the moment) is scripture set to song. We start a new verse each Monday during circle time and find that by Friday even our youngest participant (4 years) has easily memorised the song and therefore the scripture passage. There are a few resources around for this but we like the Children Arise CD Series. The music is professionally produced, with children’s’ voices and catchy tunes. They also stay true to the scripture, pretty much singing straight through word for word rather than altering and manipulating the bible verses to fit the music as some other resources do.

Another system we like is the Scripture box from Simply Charlotte Mason. Scriptures are stored on index cards in a simple flip box system and read through on a daily basis until all family members are able to recite the verse. The system details how to cycle through and review verses already memorised and is simple to set up and use.

We have a large white board on the wall near our dining room table and we have written verses we are working on up here. We have redeemed those wasted moments when children tend to lose control while waiting for the meal to arrive at the table by reciting the verses we are working on.

Another great place to pin scriptures that you want children to remember is on the bathroom mirror (you can even write it on in permanent marker and remove once it is well-known) or on the back of the toilet door. When there’s nothing else to do it’s amazing how many times your eyes will travel back over whatever is in front of them.

Pin verses around and about the house anywhere that they are likely to be noticed and read. Above the washing machine to glance through when throwing a load on, above the kitchen sink to contemplate while doing the dishes, above the computer keyboard or any other place you or the children will likely have a spare mental moment to read through and commit to memory.

Reciting verses as part of family devotions can also be very rewarding. Perhaps children who have memorised their verses with Mum can have the thrill of reciting to Dad what they have learnt. I have printed up certificates with the bible verses on them for each child to place into their own keepsake box or pin up on their pinboard as a small reward for learning each one.

However you decide to do it, it’s not as hard as you think once you get going. For me, I need to get a whole bunch prepared ahead of time so that there is no day-to-day planning involved, otherwise it just didn’t happen. You may like to choose scriptures on a day by day basis that are related to character or behavioural issues you are currently dealing with. Which ever way works for you, choose one and get started!