Mother's Day Links + More!

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Be sure to join us this Sunday for Mother's Day at one of our Sojourn campuses! In light of Mother's Day, I was reflecting a bit this morning about parenting. My friend Doug Wolter recently posted about the difference between Over-Parenting and Missional-Parenting. Here are a few of his thoughts:

Much of our parenting is motivated by fear. Consequently, we’re more concerned with protecting our children from the world than preparing them to make a difference in this world. Gospel-centered, missional parenting is much different. It pictures parents as courageous warriors getting ready to release their children into battle. Read More! 

Also, here are some great Mother's Day craft ideas from SojournKids' J-town Campus Director, Danielle West:


12 Teachable Moments

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

FAQs: Family Worship for a Child Under 2?

UncategorizedJared Kennedy2 Comments

One parent recently wrote our office with the following question: As our child grows older, we want to be very intentional about family devotions and sharing the gospel with her. Right now she is 13 1/2 months old and her attention span isn't quite long enough to read the Big Picture Story Bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible. What are some practical things we can do now to begin to share the gospel with her and incorporate a devotional time? Are there any devotional books for younger kids that you would recommend, or any types of activities we can do?  I pray that the short answer that follows is helpful both for this family and other families who may be struggling with the same kind of question: I'm so thankful for your desire to be intentional with your daughter. Here are some resources that I really like for children under age 2 and then for toddlers. The Lindvall Read-Aloud Story Bible books for toddlers have shorter and easier stories than the Big Picture Bible, and our girls really loved them. I think that your daughter would enjoy them soon--possibly even now. The stories are short and repetitive, so they are easy for young kids to memorize.

For infants (under age 2):

For toddlers (ages 2 & 3):

Josh, we also have prayed a nightly blessing over our girls since they were really young. When they were really young, we did this without much reading. Some nights now, we just pray the blessing and nothing more, because the girls are just too antsy or tired to listen to a story or memorize anything--particularly if we get in late from a training event or community group meeting. Our blessing goes something like this: "Dear Jesus, please help                          to grow up to be a girl who loves Jesus and trusts in Jesus. Please protect her from Satan and his schemes. Help her to have godly friends and a godly husband when she gets big. In Jesus' name, Amen." Children Desiring God has a book of blessings for fathers (A Father's Guide for Blessing His Children by David Michael) that includes the Scripture blessings written out on notecards. You can download a PDF version of the book for $3. The printed booklet is $7.50, but the extra few bucks is probably worth it if you think that you'll use the notecards.

You May Name Your Boy "Sue" but...

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

"A Boy Named Sue" was created by Shel Silverstein and popularized by Johnny Cash. If you've heard classic country music at all, you probably know it. The song hit #1 on the Billboard Country charts in 1969, and it was Cash's only top 10 single on the Billboard Top 100.  The song tells the tale of a young man's quest for revenge on his absent father. The father's only contribution to his entire life was naming him Sue, a girl's name. The name resulted in regular giggles and bullying at young Sue's expense. The moral (if you can call it that) is found near the end where Sue's father reveals that all of the suffering Sue endured was by design:

And he said: "Son, this world is rough And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along. So I give ya that name and I said goodbye I knew you'd have to get tough or die And it's the name that helped to make you strong."

There is an element of truth in that. As much as we may try to pursue comfort for our children, the book of Hebrews teaches that the Father disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6), and this discipline certainly does have a purpose: "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). Like Sue's name, the Father's discipline does toughen us up.

In spite of this similarity, there are other obvious ways that Sue's dirty, mangy dad is nothing like the Heavenly Father. 

For one thing, our Father is present, and he is speaking to us from a heart of love. Sue's dad "disciplined" his son by abandoning him. But the Heavenly Father's discipline comes with a present and comforting word. The author of Hebrews reminds us of this fact when he asks, "Have you forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons?" (Hebrews 12:5). This "word of encouragement" isn't just any word of God to Israel, but it's God's word through the mouth of of the sage father speaking to his son (Proverbs 3:11-12).  The father's loving presence and words make all the difference. Even in the song, Sue walks away with a (somewhat) different point of view after hearing his father speak. The Father's words make sense of our suffering. When we suffer alone, we only become bitter. But when we suffer in the presence of our Father's comforting words, there is purpose.

As a dad, I wonder how often I'm more like Sue's father than the Heavenly Father. I'm not dealing stud in a Gatlinburg honky-tonk, but I do sometimes dole out discipline with gruff distance and silence. Correction can take the form of punishment and 'go to your room!' instead of  gentle "discipline and instruction." I'm present, but I'm not present. I speak, but my words of correction contain no love and comfort.

Those times reveal how cynical I am about the Father's love. I think that I deserve respect from my children, but I fail to honor God for the way he uses parenting trials to discipline me for my good. The author of Hebrews reminds us, "We have all had human fathers who discipled us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!" (Hebrews 12:9).  The discipline we endure as parents is painful, but the Father desires for it to draw us closer to him and make us more like him: "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10b). He wants us to come to him.  We don't have to hunt Him down in a spirit of revenge. We can draw near and experience both his guiding staff and his correcting rod as a comfort (Psalm 23:4).

This is the way that our Father's discipline makes us tough. When the Father has his way with his children, we won't kick like a mule or bite like a crocodile. Instead, our Father's training produces in us character like his own--a harvest of righteousness and peace.

A typical parenting conversation...

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Kevin DeYoung posted today about parenting.  He includes this typical parenting conversation. My take away was... "I am not alone."

Me: What’s the matter son? Child: I want that toy and he won’t give it to me! Me: Why do you want the toy? Child: I don’t know. Me: What’s going on in your heart when you desire that toy? Child: I don’t know. Me: Think about it son. Use your brain. Don’t you know something? Child: I guess I just want the toy. Me: Obviously. But why? Child: I don’t know. Me: Fine. [Mental note: abandon "why" questions and skip straight to leading questions.] Do you think he is having fun playing with the toy right now? Child: No. Me: Really?! He’s not having fun? Then why does he want that toy in the first place? Child: Because he’s mean. Me: Have you ever considered that maybe you are being mean by trying to rip the toy from his quivering little hands? Child: I don’t know. Me: What do you know? Child: I don’t know! Me: Nevermind. [I wonder how my brilliant child can know absolutely nothing at this moment.] Well, I think taking the toy from him will make your brother sad. Do you like to make him sad? Child: I don’t know. Me: [Audible sigh.] Child: He makes me sad all the time! Me: Well, I’m getting sad right now with your attitude! [Pause, think, what would Paul Tripp do?  Thinking . . . .thinking . . . .man, I can't stop thinking of that mustache. This isn't working. Let's just go right to the Jesus part.] You know, Jesus wants us to love each other. Child: I don’t know. Me: I didn’t ask you a question! Child: [Pause.] Can I have some fruit snacks? Me: No, you can’t have fruit snacks. We are talking about the gospel. Jesus loves us and died for us. He wants you to love your brother too. Child: So? Me: So give him the toy back!