#3 – What I’d Do Differently in Raising Kids – Instant Obedience

instant obedienceInstant obedience instead of delayed obedience. That’s one other thing I’d do differently if I were raising my children again. It’s a response to the question my kids asked me the other week.

For starters, I don’t think we parents need to walk around, ready to drop the gauntlet on any child who does not obey instantly.  Children should not be frightened of a parent and afraid of what they will do next. The goal in  teaching instant obedience is for the parent to not feel like they need a gauntlet to get their child to obey.

Teaching a child instant obedience is not an easy task!  As moms, we tend to want to be sure our child is old enough to understand, or not “too little,” so we expect less of them than we should.

I believe  “Anything less than instant obedience is disobedience.”

Let me tell you: believing that statement is a lot easier than implementing that concept!

It’s true, isn’t it? If a child chooses not to obey when he is told to do something, then he’s not really obeying, even if he says, “I’m coming!” or “I was about to!”.

We can make all the excuses we want, but if we told a child, “That brand new ______ you want is yours tonight if you will stop what you are doing right now and go do ________,” he’d probably be out the door before you finished your sentence. When a child is capable of obeying instantly to get a reward, then he’s capable of obeying instantly at any time.

I’m not a pro at this, you can be certain. Yet the more I read about this and the more I observe children who are not made to obey at once without complaining, the more convinced I am that we could have done it better.

instant obedience

When the chips are down, the child who learns to obey instantly is a happier and more secure child. I’ve seen this in real life and I know this is true. Sadly, I wasn’t always the best at making sure my kids obeyed instantly.

How many times in one sitting did I tell a child to come in from playing?

How often when it was time to be done with play did I tell a child to pick up the toys now?

How many times did I wake a child in the morning before school, only to go back and wake him again and again and again? (I rather like the snooze on my alarm myself.)

How often did I allow a child to dawdle around before finally making him complete a task?

Even now, when we have foster kids in our home, I struggle with staying on task and teaching instant obedience. It’s hard work and it takes time.

instant obedienceThe problem is that to develop this type of obedience in a child takes a parent’s time – and time – and more time. It also takes concentration and focus. Just when a parent thinks he’s won the battle, the child begins another war.  Teaching this type of obedience is a lot of work, but it pays great dividends. When you teach instant obedience, there is no need to count to three.

I can guarantee that if you ask a parent who you think has really well-behaved kids what their secret is, you’ll find that they teach “instant obedience” and expect it from their children.

Many years ago, I was in a setting where a three-year-old child was told to feed the chickens.  The family lives on a  farm, and this child’s chore was to feed the chickens,  every single day.  You think that’s too young? It wasn’t for this child. I’m certain on bitter winter mornings or if the child was ill, his father did the job for  him. In this situation, however, the child wanted to stay and listen to adult conversation. Yet, a look from  his father sent him to the barn to feed those chickens. This child knew there would be consequences if  he did not obey. It was obvious he had been taught instant obedience. In a few minutes, he was back, the job completed. He still got to listen to the adult conversation, and he was happier because his job had been done. The adult conversation was not interrupted by a parent telling a child over and over to do something; there was no arguing, just instant obedience.

This child was the youngest of a passel of children, and I know this instant obedience did not develop overnight. I have a feeling that the example of the older children helped pave the way for the youngest one to obey. Teaching those older children took time and effort, every single day.

In the same home on a different day, I watched the children in the family sit quietly an entire Sunday afternoon while visitors came to express condolences over the loss of a grandparent. The times I noticed a child wiggling, all the father had to do was put his hand over on the child’s thigh, and the wiggling stopped. You know what I was thinking?! They’re too little to be expected to sit still that quietly and for that long!  Had those children’s lives depended on sitting still and being quiet, they would have survived. Could the same be true of our own children? These children had been taught well, and they had learned well.

You know what? I don’t think it hurt those children to sit quietly that one Sunday afternoon while the viewing for their grandmother was held in their home. This is how things were done in their home and church community. All of these children grew up to be responsible adults who receive no government assistance as they have worked hard to provide for and train their own children. None of them suffer from emotional psychological problems; none of them have spent time in prison. They are mature, healthy adults and parents now. It started with learning responsibility and instant obedience early on in their home.

I thought about that family often as we raised our brood. I knew that if we wanted to have children who behaved like that, we needed to do the work involved in teaching and training that kind of obedience.  It means being consistent in dealing out consequences when a child is defiant, disrespectful, or disobedient. If I had to do it over, I’d be more diligent in teaching instant obedience consistently day in and day out.

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instant obedience


The Heart of Christmas

heart of ChristmasThe true heart of Christmas

The true heart of Christmas is not about gift-giving, family times, or even through worship events. The true heart of Christmas is much deeper and broader than all of these.

When we look at the people and the story of the first Christmas, we see something that transcends the goodwill and giving of Christmas. Without this one characteristic of the people God chose for this Christmas story, there would be no Christmas.

The heart of Christmas is obedience.

Submitting to a higher power, whether it is submission to the will of that Power or to the guidance and control of that Power, goes against our human, personal grain. Obedience goes beyond our feelings.

Truly, feelings have nothing to do with obedience. There is a difficulty, and there is a delight in obedience.

Look at Mary – and Joseph. Look at the shepherds and those wise men who came two years later. Were it not for their unbridled obedience, the story of Christmas would never have occurred.

The story characters chose obedience over circumstances, conflict, and consequences. That is what the heart of Christmas truly portrays.

Obedience in spite of Circumstances

Mary chose to cooperate with God’s plan for her in spite of circumstances. Would it have been her choice to become pregnant before her wedding to Joseph? Would she have chosen the ridicule of others on her own?.

Mary was a virgin. She was sexually pure, yet she chose to do this virgin birth because it was God’s plan for her. God honors those who have confidence in His plan.

Mary was highly favored because of her heart. She had the heart of Christmas.

Obedience in spite of Conflict

Conflict makes obedience painful. When others ridicule us or disagree with what is happening, it makes obedience hard.

Joseph was a just man, but he had to endure the ridicule of others for being betrothed to a girl who was with child. He had done nothing wrong, but he suffered because of God’s plan for him and especially for Mary.

Joseph chose to obey in spite of the conflict in his world. Obedience is not a formula; it is an attitude. Joseph chose to have that attitude.  Joseph chose to accept the role of a father to Mary’s child, thus making him a stepfather. He committed himself to caring for not only Mary, but for the Child. That care included a middle-of-the-night journey to Egypt to protect his stepson (and his Savior.) Obedience for Joseph wasn’t just a one-time event. It became his life as stepfather to Jesus. It wasn’t comfortable. Conflict never is. Joseph’s response shows us the heart of Christmas, for he chose obedience over comfort and reputation. He chose obedience in spite of conflict.

Obedience in spite of Consequences

Too often, we allow the beliefs and responses of others to govern our obedience. We don’t want to face ridicule or lose friends. We don’t want to miss out on things. We want to understand or completely agree before we decide if we will obey. Sometimes we allow the influence of others to keep us from being obedient.

The shepherds – those smelly, working men – left their flocks to go to Bethlehem to find the baby as the angel commanded them. They weren’t a popular bunch of people, but they went. They found the Baby, and they worshipped. They returned, telling everyone what they had seen. Who would believe them? Who else would go to see the Baby? They didn’t care. They obeyed in spite of what others had to say about them. Their obedience shows us that they had the heart of Christmas.

Yet, the truth is that if we obey only when we want to and believe only what is understandable, we do not trust God; we trust ourselves. Those magi who traveled for months to find the Baby had only a star to follow. They didn’t know where they would end up when they finally arrived. They didn’t know how long the journey would take. The magi didn’t know what dangers they would face. They didn’t know what they’d find at the end of their journey. They probably did not envision needing to return home another way because of King Herod. They went. They presented gifts. They worshipped. They obeyed. Truly, they had the heart of Christmas.

heart of Christmas

The heart of Christmas changes everything

How different this story would have been if the people God chose refused to cooperate with His plan for them. How different it would have been if these people had not been obedient. How different the story of Christmas would have been had there been no true heart of Christmas.

As the events unfolded with Mary and with Joseph, could it possibly have felt to them that what was being asked of them was impossible or that it was unfair? Will we ever know?

This we do know: if there is anything impossible with our God, then He is not God.

There is nothing that is too hard for Him. The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.  That includes obedience.

Obedience – where the heart of Christmas truly lies.

heart of Christmas


heart of Christmas








A Man’s Best Friend


Timber watching his master.

This dog! His name is Timber, and he belongs to our son Tim.

“I’ve never seen a dog that listens so well,” my friend said to me. We were sitting at the picnic table and Timber waited patiently at the end of the table, the plate of shrimp tails and shells at his feet, untouched.

Timber cocked his head, waiting. Yet he never moved his position or his poise. He just stood, waiting.

On the words, “Okay!” from his master, he scarfed up the food on the plate.

I’ve accused my son of being mean to make his dog wait so long to eat. He challenges me that it does not hurt his dog to know that he has to listen – and waiting a few minutes will not hurt him at all.

He’s right, you know. Timber is the best-behaved dog I have ever known, thanks to his Master.

Tim has taught his dog well. From the time Timber was brought to his new home as a 6-week old puppy, the two have been inseparable. Timber’s mother is a pure-bred German Shepherd. His father – a lab – came from who-knows-where.  Over Thanksgiving in 2010, we went to get two puppies for our place when Tim decided to ride along. We came back with three puppies – two for us and one for him.


Timber and his sister siblings when they were puppies.

Whenever Tim has to be gone for several days and we “dog-sit”, Timber is not happy. He knows we love him and he knows there will be plenty of dog food and table scraps (his favorite), but he misses his Master. Sometimes he won’t eat until Tim gets back. Other days he eats only table scraps and no dog food. I suppose it’s his way of coping with his unhappiness.

Dave has little tolerance for animals in the house. Yet somehow when Timber arrives, the dog manages to be allowed to sit on the rug just inside the kitchen door. If I’m not around, he also manages to come further into the house. I like Timber, but I do not like dog hair on carpet or on sofas.



The mascot of the boat. Timber always rides along.

Whether Tim is on his boat on Mayo Lake or driving one of his trucks, Timber is with him.


Sometimes Tim’s business puts him on the road with a truck and trailer – and Timber is as much a part of the business as anyone else. Everywhere they go, Timber rides on the back of the trailer, moving from side to side to bark at other vehicles and their passengers. Sometimes, if it’s really cold or raining hard, he rides in the cab – but he is always wherever Tim goes.


Timber even comes to church, but he stays outside. He stays either in the vehicle or under the vehicle – wherever Tim puts him and tells him to “Stay!”. On our annual Heroes of Faith night, he participated in the skit Tim performed for his character. Tim was Lazarus with sores on his legs, and Timber came bounding in to lick the “wounds” on Tim’s legs. You would have thought they had rehearsed the skit because it went so well.

Timber functions as a guard dog when his master ventures into precarious situations because of his business. He functions as a playmate for the many children who come in and out of our home. He serves as a watchdog wherever he goes. At the warehouse that houses Tim’s business, he is the mascot.

Most importantly, he serves as his master’s loyal and best friend.


How to Prove That I Love Jesus

When all is said and done, there’s a record of  how we’ve lived. For those who lived thousands of years ago, God kept a record as well. For some of them – and, I believe, especially for those of us who claim to be His children – God kept a record. He recorded what mattered. You’ll find those folks in what we call the Faith Chapter: Hebrews 11.


If you grew up in church and heard the Bible stories from little up, you’ll know the characters. You’ll know what they did (or didn’t do.) What strikes me most is that these folks did what God told them to do – by faith.

The record of their obedience is proof to us that they were people of genuine faith. They proved their love to Him by acting out their faith.

Jesus said that if we really, truly love Him, we will love and keep His commandments. God gave specific instructions to those heroes of faith. Not only are their names listed, but what they did is listed as well.

By faith . . .

  • Abel brought the offering required by God. [Later he was murdered because of it.]
  • Noah built an ark and spoke to warn others. [In spite of ridicule.]
  • Abraham left his familiar, comfortable home and became a stranger in a foreign land; he packed his bags when he didn’t know where he was going. [How’s that for not having a GPS?]
  • Sarai conceived and bore a son in her old age. [This one makes me tired just thinking about it.]
  • Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice because he reasoned that God could raise him from the dead.[Could I really do this?]
  • Joseph gave instructions for the burial of his bones and prophecied about the exodus from Egypt years before it happened. [After being sold into slavery.]
  • The parents of Moses (Amram and Jocabed) hid their son Moses for three months because they saw he wasn’t an ordinary child and because they were not afraid of the king’s edict. [They knew they could lose their lives in defying the king’s edict.]
  • Moses chose to be mistreated and counted his disgrace for the sake of his people to be of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. [He claimed his people.]
  • Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea. [And boy, were they stiff-necked!]
  • The walls of Jericho fell down under the leadership of Joshua. [Six days of marching without anything happening.]
  • Rahab was saved from death because she received the spies and kept them safe from harm. [A forgiven prostitute.]
  • Gedeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel and the prophets, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword and were made strong out of weakness. The list (and their accomplishments) goes on and on and on.

Adam and Eve with their slain son Abel

The way I see it, it wasn’t an easy road. In fact, it was more difficult than pleasant, harder rather than easier.

They obeyed, and they persevered.

That’s why they are listed in the Hall of Faith. It was their obedience. Surely, they loved God. Yet the only way to show their love was to obey.


It still works the same way, today.  

To love means we obey.

What are the things He is asking you – or me – to do?  Sometimes He asks us to go somewhere. Sometimes He asks us to be someone. Sometimes He asks us to forgive, or to share, or to give. Sometimes He wants to change our relationships. Sometimes He asks us to change the places we go or the places we aren’t willing to go. Sometimes He asks us to make changes in the things we wear or the things we do, or the things we say.  Sometimes He wants us to spend more time with Him. Sometimes He asks us to step outside our comfort zone.

This I  know: if we ask Him, He will tell us what He wants us to do.

The most accurate measurement of our love for Jesus is our obedience to Him. 

Jesus said to those who claimed to love Him, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He also responded to the crowds following Him, “Why do you call me LORD,but do not the things that I say?”

He is still responding in the same way to those of us who declare our love for Him.

What cities is He asking you to march around? What sacrifice is He asking you to put on the altar? What offering is He asking you to bring?

We can’t say we love Him if we’re not willing to do those things.