(Parenting is one of the greatest gifts I received from my parents. The following is some great advice from Cliff and Jacqueline Bursch).
Grace-filled, Christ-centered Parenting
by Cliff and Jacqueline Bursch
. . . we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. . . . For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7 &11-12)
The Lord has blessed us to be able to share our experiences in raising our five children with grace-filled and Christ-centered parenting skills as the Lord has revealed many truths in our lives over the last 49 years of marriage and 46 years of parenting. We have taught numerous classes on parenting in churches and in secular settings. We have condensed some of these insights to assist people as they prayerfully seek God’s guidance and study his Word for help in raising their children—for it is at the cross we will find the wisdom and help we seek in every aspect of our lives.
On a personal note, Cliff is a retired teacher, reading specialist, and department chair with 30 years in the classroom and another 10 as a consultant. Jacqueline operated an educational consulting business from our home for 20 years, helping school districts improve writing instruction and assessment. All three of our sons are pastors, our oldest daughter is worship leader at our church as well as a physician and medical director for Woodcreek Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics, and our youngest daughter assists in children’s ministries at our church and is now a stay-at-home mom after teaching for four years. Each of our children married wonderful spouses who follow hard after God. We have nineteen precious grandchildren who love Papa best but think Grammy is great too!
May the Lord truly bless you as you open your hearts and minds to hear his voice and yield to his control, for He Is the blessed controller of all things, and He loves you and your family beyond your farthest imagination. As it says in Jeremiah, He has plans to prosper you and your children and not to harm you . . .
Guidelines for Making Your Home a Sanctuary
Is your home a sanctuary—a place where children grow up safe and strong in the Lord and the power of his might; where they will want to know and to follow hard after God; where they will love their parents and their siblings; where peace, love and joy will reign, and darkness and sorrow will fade away in the light of his kindness and grace; where his sweet tender mercies reign and never fail?
CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE TOO
Do not place your children in a special under class of people. Christ said love your neighbor as yourself and do unto others as you would have them do to you. In John 13:34-35, He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” He did not exclude your children from any scripture passage. In fact, when making parenting decisions, use the words of Christ and other verses that tell us how to treat each other as your guide. The New Testament is replete with such statements. As we made parenting choices with our children, we would place our child’s name in the appropriate space in a verse. For example, if one of us were dealing with Jeff, our oldest son, we might say, “So, in everything, do to Jeff what I would have Jeff do to me, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 7:12) This one scripture by the way is the one and only rule of the Bursch household: Treat other members of the family as you would want them to treat you. There is no situation that this guideline does not cover, and the youngest child understands its meaning.
WE ARE UNDER GRACE
Do not operate under Old Testament Law when we are all now under the grace of the New Testament covenant. Most Christian parents we know operate out of fear that they have to institute a system of crimes and punishments or their children will grow up to become rebellious heathens or even lawbreakers or criminals. We found the exact opposite to be true. The more we treated our children as the Christians they were, praying with them, forgiving them, encouraging them, blessing them, helping them, working with them to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord, the more they wanted to please us and God. Our oldest son, Jeff, once observed, “As I was growing up, sometimes I just wished you would spank me and be done with it, but I knew I was responsible for who I was and what I did, responsible to God. This knowledge was in my heart, and I had to think about it and give an account to God. I couldn’t just push things aside and forget it after my punishment.” The law of love is so much greater than the law of sin and death. And no punishment can change the heart; only God can do that.
FEAR IS NOT YOUR BEST TOOL FOR RAISING CHILDREN
Changing behavior through fear only works when you are bigger and tougher than your child and when you are there to supervise. That is why so many teens rebel and so many sons and daughters go crazy when they leave home for work or college. None of our children went into rebellion or turned from God or us during their teen or college years. Instead they remained strong in their faith and led their friends to the Lord as they were leaders at school in athletics, music, and academics. Many relatives and friends told us we had lost our minds when we changed our parenting methods from harsh punishments to grace and forgiveness, but God was leading us, and we knew He would not lead us astray. My grandma always said the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and God’s workmanship far surpassed anything we ever expected. We have a packet of letters praising our children, asking us what we did to produce such an outstanding family. We give God the glory, but we did have to change, change a lot! We had to grow as obedient children of the Lord, following the Holy Spirit as He taught us how to model God’s love and how to lead our children by example, putting our faith in God and his Word. When we first began to change, we felt impressed to reread the New Testament, paying careful attention to all the verses on love, grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and the like.
YOUR CHILDREN ARE GIFTS FROM GOD
Treat your children as the treasures they are. Aside from your salvation and your spouse, your child is the greatest gift God will ever give you. Does he/she know that? Do you tell your child he is precious? Often? Matthew 6:21 says, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus wanted people to know that if your treasures are material things, they will rust and deteriorate, fade away into nothingness. Your children have an eternal soul, and they look to you for a foundation in life, for acceptance, and meaning. Your kids know what matters most to you. If we were to interview your child today, he could tell us exactly how much time you have spent with him this week, how much you have talked with him, how many hugs you have given him, the times you have sat together and just shared, the amount of positive time compared with negative or lecture time and so on.
Children know. They also know your faults, every single one, and they know if you are asking more from them than you can give yourself, whether you give yourself more grace than you are willing to give to them. They are not easily fooled. Think about it. If you make food an issue for them, just stop it. A clean plate has no eternal value; it won’t make them better human beings; it has nothing to do with responsibility or health. This is a control problem with you: you eat what you want and wouldn’t eat what you don’t want. Don’t major in minors. Every psychiatrist in the world worth his salt knows if you push people, they push back, if not aggressively, then passively—if you want a rebellious teenager, just keep up the pressure on the helpless three-year-old who has no power and no way of escape. We reap what we sow, exponentially. How many parents wish they had a redo button for life. Wish they could go back, have more fun, laugh more, play more, praise more, hug more, sing and dance for joy. This is the year of the Lord’s favor. Do your children know that? Is your home filled with inexpressible joy? Do your children hear your singing in the shower, the living room, the car, at night when you tuck them in?
THANK GOD FOR YOUR CHILDREN
In Philippians 1:3, Paul wrote, I thank my God every time I remember you, yet many parents act as if their children are a curse, a burden they want to release as soon as possible. In front of their offspring, they talk about whose turn it is to watch the kids, so they can escape, how they are counting the days until vacation is over or until they can get away by themselves. Our kids knew that we liked them best—we wanted to be with them. Every Saturday morning we took them out to breakfast. When money was short, we shared meals. We went to all the free places we could find and bought a pass to the zoo and the Science Center. None of our kids ever hid away in their rooms. We put their needs first. Whatever they really needed, we tried our best to provide, even if it meant sacrificing for Mom and Dad—going without for Mom and Dad. They knew that; consequently, they were not demanding or spoiled, and they did the best they could not to ask for more than they should. But we tried to help them fit in. Skiing was out and so was a boat—we took ferry rides several times a year and made jokes about our big boat. We covered the living room floor with sleeping bags and had campouts at home and talked and joked together about our “campsite.” We went to state parks and threw rocks at sticks in the ocean and laughed about our oceanfront property. We always sang in the car. Once when we were camping in our cargo van, all crammed in together, little Dougie spoke up, “This is when I like it best—when we are all together.” Our oldest son, Jeff, commented a few years ago, “I know you say we were poor when we were growing up, Mom. But you and Dad always made sure we had a good time. We were so happy. I never felt poor.”
JESUS GAVE US PERMISSION TO BE GOOD AND SHOWERED US WITH GRACE
Do not use guilt, shame, and pain as disciplinary tools when you have the love of God and the Holy Spirit to mold, shape, and constrain your child and change his heart. Romans 8:1 says, “There is now therefore no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus,” yet, countless parents turn immediately to condemning their children as one of their main weapons of correction. Most children want to be pleasing and with help and direction they are sorrowful and repentant when they do wrong. The first step in that process is to lead them to Christ as their Savior, so they can find mercy, grace, and help in the time of need, a Rock that is higher than we are. The Good News is Jesus gave us permission to be good! Jacqueline used to tell that to our kids all the time, and we loved to see their faces brighten up, frowns turn to smiles, tears change to giggles. Christian adults know we are not trapped in our misdeeds; we do not have to pay the price for our sins. Why do we insist that children must pay a price that has already been paid? Yes, they sometimes need time to think things over—a time-out to decide to make better choices, time to rethink what they just did and what they need to do to make an apology or to set things right. But they do not need to be sent to the prison of their room for weeks on end or to be denied privileges they were looking forward to when you know in your heart that they are genuinely sorrowful and repentant and have asked you and God for mercy and grace. Our homes should not be prisons and we should not be wardens. Grace is a gift for giving lavishly, not something we dole out sparingly. Tell your children: Rejoice, dear ones! How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
WE HAVE INEXPRESSIBLE JOY TO INVEST IN EVERY SITUATION
Bring light, life, and laughter into your parenting. We often take parenting far too seriously. Cliff has the gift of being able to lighten up a situation that has gotten too serious . Our youngest son Dan was our biggest challenge in parenting. He was born wanting to rule and reign. We called him King Daniel. But God showed us early on that the passion we saw in him, used by the Holy Spirit, was going to be a powerful force in the kingdom of God someday. We believed this by faith and it has proven true. He is a gifted songwriter, singer, and musician and now pastors a Four Square Church. He is so alive and on fire for God that we hate to think what we could have done had we been of the mindset that we needed to break the passionate spirit that God placed within him. Sometimes when Daniel was a little out of control, Mama was out of control as well, and being in ill health with lupus and recovering from a major stroke did not make dealing with our strong willed two-year-old any easier. One day Mama sent him down the hall to his room, telling him he could come out as soon as he could be good and stop screaming. He stomped all the way down the hall, slammed the door, and screamed for a couple of minutes, then opened the door and stomped back towards his mother, still crying loudly. His mother said, “Daniel Allen Bursch, I said come out when you are ready to be good.” Through his tears, he looked up at her and pleaded, “I’m being good, Mommy.” In that moment, God let her see his heart. She picked him up and said, “Do you know what you need, Danny?” Timidly, he answered, “A spanking?” (Which would have been a very rare occurrence.) “No,” she replied. “I can see that in your heart you want very much to be good, and Jesus will help you. You need a big hug. Now let’s sit here and rock a while and sing a song,” which they did. “Smile on my little Dan, dear Jesus. Smile on my little Dan, precious Lord. Hold him close, close to your breast. Smile on him, precious Lord. Give him rest.” (She has several songs God birthed in her heart just for our children. And she has sung them many times in similar situations and has seen the love of God transform the spirit of a troubled child.)
GOD CHANGES LIVES THROUGH THE POWER OF THE CROSS
Speaking of passion, we strongly believe in the power of God to change lives. What we found as we began to depend more on God and less on law was that God is great and the Word is so true. In Jeremiah 31:33 and again in Hebrews 8:10, we learn that God’s true plan has always been to change our hearts: This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. The Law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; it was meant to show us that we couldn’t change ourselves through our own human efforts. We need a Savior, and Jesus is his name. God, through the Holy Spirit, desires an inner change—a heart change. He causes us to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus that is described in Philippians. He wants to put his laws in our minds and write them on our hearts. Isn’t that the true desire of every parent? We don’t want our children to obey us out of fear or anxiety that they will be caught doing something wrong and have to pay a price or face a consequence. We want them to desire to do the right thing. We want them to want to please their heavenly Father out of love for him, out of a loving relationship with him. That can only happen as they grow in grace and learn of him. That is where we come in—our real job as Christian parents is to lead our children, mostly by example—to model the behavior we want. Do your children see Christ in you the hope of glory? Do you reflect Jesus? Do you say, “Let the little children come to me.” Do you hold them tenderly in your arms and comfort them?
BEHOLD GOD MAKES ALL THINGS NEW!
We are not a great fans of Dr. Phil, but we do watch him occasionally, and sometimes he hits the proverbial nail on the head when confronting a stubborn but hugely dysfunctional guest who refuses to back off from a negative behavior that is causing great harm to an individual or a family. Dr. Phil will look the person directly in the eyes and ask the obvious, “How’s that working for you?” So often when people discuss the serious problems they are experiencing with their marriages and with their children, they will stubbornly hold onto ideas that are bankrupt and are leading to destruction. We just want to say, “How’s that working for you? Your home is in chaos. You and your husband were raised this way, and you both rebelled against your parents. You went deeply into sin, and then God in his mercy brought you back. Your parents probably experienced the same problems. You are making the same mistakes they did. You are sworn enemies with your children. They are getting terrible grades, probably into drugs and God only knows what, but you aren’t willing to even seek the Lord and read his Word and ask him if maybe, just maybe, there is a better way than the way you have been traveling all these years—a way of mercy and grace that would lead to healing, restoration, and hope for a new day!” Jesus said, all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27), and nowhere does it say that children have to go astray and then come back, yet many Christian parents act as if this is normal behavior. Christ can break that yoke of bondage that we have helped to create. He is the only one who can unscramble eggs—but we have to listen, obey, and let him do a new thing in our midst.
JESUS MADE THE WAY FOR US TO START OVER
One of our main precepts is the idea of starting over—no matter how many times it takes. We are children of God, joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. Since we are adopted into God’s family, He wants us to succeed. We live beneath our privileges as believers when we use earthly models and pop psychology instead of the Word of God to raise our children. No matter what your child does, you want to offer your child the hope that we have as believers: By God’s grace, we can and will do better next time—all is not lost. Psalm 40 is a wonderful starting over scripture. It is such a great image. We are lost in a bottomless pit, God finds us there, lifts us out, sets our feet upon a rock, puts a new song of praise in our hearts, and many will hear it and come to know God. What a great children’s story this is. You are walking along, minding your business when all of a sudden you fall into a mud puddle and mess up. You did not mean to, but you did, and you feel so bad. You just want to go hide, and you are all dirty and yucky, but guess what? God has a plan, and He sends Jesus to pick you up out of the mud. He pulls you into his arms, puts clean clothes on you, and He says, “I know you’re sorry. I forgive you, and if you will take my hand and trust me, next time I will help you see the mud puddle ahead of time. And I will show you how to help your friends see the mud puddles, and you can help me save them too.” We have so much joy to share with our children, so many great mercy, grace, and love stories—starting over stories! Jesus is in the saving business. He is loving, kind, and patient. If you lack those virtues, go to him; sit at his feet; learn of him. The Bible says: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).
TRUST IS A GIVEN UNTIL YOU LOSE IT
Grace-filled, Christ-centered parenting does not work without trust. If you have lost your child’s trust, you will have to earn it back, and that will take time. First you will have to repent without making excuses for your inappropriate or unloving behavior. If you have been an unfair tyrant, too harsh or overbearing, mean-spirited or overly controlling, unkind or cruel, self-absorbed or absent, or anything else that made your child feel unloved or unimportant or shameful or guilt-ridden or without hope or rebellious or depressed or alone: then you must repent before God and ask forgiveness from your child without making any excuses for your behavior. Do not say, “You drove me to this mistake or I was overworked or I was too tired, so I was out of control.” Do not say, “I did the best I could,” or “I treated you like my parents raised me.” Just say, “I have been seeking the Lord, and I now see that I have hurt you very much by the things I have done, and I am sorry. It was not your fault. Please forgive me and give me another chance. I will try to change with God’s help. I may do it wrong again, but I will try to do better and I am praying for the Holy Spirit to change my heart and my actions.” Then every time you treat your child in a way that you would not want to be treated, say, “I am sorry. I would not want to be treated like that. We are going to pray, and I am going to ask the Lord to help us start over and do better. He wants to help us and all things are possible with his help.”
PARENTS AND CHILDREN MUST RESPECT EACH OTHER
Parenting requires mutual respect. If you have been disrespecting and embarrassing your children at home or in public, you need to stop immediately and repent. You will not raise polite children with rude methods. At the same time the apostle Paul admonished children to obey their parents, he told parents: Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. (Colossians 3:21) Parents often deeply wound and scar their children with their words and actions at home and in public. Our son, Doug, says we used the “Swoosh Away Parenting Method.” If he was being naughty and did not respond to our suggestions to behave, he says he was “swooshed away” to a private setting. We had a deal: our kids would try not to embarrass us, and we would do likewise and not embarrass them. Parents are often overly harsh with their children in a public venue because their egos are on the line: they fear what their friends or strangers will think of them as people. Pastors sometimes fall into this trap, and their kids pay the price. Treat your children the way they deserve to be treated, not how you think someone else might think you should treat them. If they need a little talk with Mom or Dad, it should be in private, not in front of an audience, certainly not in front of their friends. Long after the details of the situation are forgotten, the child who has been embarrassed in front of his friends will remember the shame of the experience and his anger towards his parent for being so unkind and unfair. If some parents treated their friends as they treat their children, they would soon be friendless.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR GUIDE
Do not raise your children according to a paint-by-number kit. Every child is different; every circumstance is different. You have the privilege of having the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, within you, giving you wisdom, insight, and knowledge that is perfect for each new day and each happening with your unique family. So many times when we have wondered what to do and what to say, the Lord has given us amazing insights and the perfect words. Our children have had their friends say to them, “I wish I had parents like yours . . ..” On several occasions, young people who needed temporary housing due to conflicts in their homes came to stay with us for a month or two. Every time, their hearts were touched by the peace, love, and acceptance they found there.
SURPRISE YOUR FAMILY WITH GIFTS OF GRACE
Surprises were an important element of our parenting style. We were not big on enforcing strict cleanliness in our kids’ rooms. Cliff had done that when the older three were young, and we did not like the fruit it produced. Yes, we had the spotless house and the kids’ rooms passed the white glove test from Dad on Saturday morning, but there was not much joy in the house over the results. We decided we wanted a clean house and an orderly house, but we wanted it to feel lived in, and we wanted our children to have some ownership of their personal space. So we eased up considerably as they grew older. We had cleaning day, usually on Saturday. And if guests were going to come over on Sunday, we would say, “We need the house to be clean when we invite people over, so between now and Sunday, we would like you to pick a time you would like to clean your room. We will help you if you want or you can do it alone if you would rather.” That gave the child control on the time and the day for cleaning.
Then sometimes, if the room was a little out of control such as when our oldest Christine was in high school playing on a championship basketball team, getting straight A’s in pre-college classes like calculus and computer programming, playing the violin, participating in youth activities at church, and hoping someday to be a physician, we would plan the “surprise.” When Friday rolled around, Mom or Dad would say a little sternly, “Before you go to the game tonight, I want you to dig that room of yours out a little. It looks pretty bad.” “Okay, I’m sorry. You know how busy I am. I promise I’ll do it.” Then that afternoon, she would hurry to her messy room, open the door and find it spotless because Dad and Mom had given her a gift of grace and cleaned the room. A couple of times, younger brothers Jeff or Doug gave her that gift—grace is like that, it’s contagious! Our kids sometimes do the same thing for their children today. Should the Lord tarry, this positive family function will pass from generation to generation rather than the tears, spankings, shame, and blame.
WORK AS A TEAM
Speaking of chores, we almost always worked as a team with our children. Jacqueline’s grandma was known for her many sayings, which she has passed on to our children, and Grandma believed that many hands make light work. Kids work so much better as a team. When the kids were small, Jacqueline would set a timer and say, “Let’s see how fast we can get all the toys picked up. Can we beat our last record? If we can get things picked up and everything clean by 11:30, we will have time to fix lunch and go to the park for a picnic.” We were constantly thinking of ways to make work fun and to function as a team. We often told the kids, “We are a team, and teams help each other and work together, one for all and all for one.” If one of the kids was sick or having a particularly hard day, Jacqueline might say, “Jeffy has a sore throat today, so we need to help him and do his work for him, and the other kids would do that gladly, bringing him toys or snacks and trying to make him feel better. Children understand the team concept very well.
IN A TEAM EACH MEMBER IS COMMITED TO THE OTHERS
This idea of being a team leads into a guideline that all our children comprehended well: they did not mistreat their siblings over a friend. Since our home was a sanctuary where we were safe, no one was allowed to side with a friend who would mistreat a sibling. We would say, “When you can’t remember the names of the friends that you now think are so important in your life, your brothers and your sisters will still be your family and your best friends. They will always be there for you, so you should treat them as the gifts they are from God. We enforced this very strongly, so there was no locking younger siblings out of the room or playing exclusionary games. The remarkable thing was that they all believed us and accepted these guidelines as reasonable. To this day all of our children are best friends—they seek each other out, remain close, rely upon each other, respect each other, spend free time together, and vacation together. It is amazing how prophetic our words were. This may be that they were God’s words rather than ours! This brotherly love flowed over into other areas such as sharing and assisting each other in tough situations and remains in force today—their loyalty and commitment to one another never ceases to impress us as parents.
PRAYER, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND PRAISE ARE YOUR BEST ASSETS
Harshness might come to your mind when we speak of a disciplinary plan. Our kids say Dad and especially Mom just had this look, and usually that was all it took. We tried to appeal to our children’s better nature. For the most part, we tried to reward good behavior rather than concentrating on negative actions: we wanted to catch them doing it right and praise them for it. We told them they were bright, intelligent, wonderful people who wanted to do the right things and that it wasn’t like them to be naughty or rude or mean. We told them it surprised us when they did it wrong, we were sure that they wanted to do better next time, and Jesus would help them. We prayed with them, believed with them, and pointed them toward the Lord, encouraging them that they were more than conquerors through Christ who loves them so. He died on the cross for their sins, paying the price for them, and the price He paid was enough for anything and everything that would ever happen in their lives. Oh, we would get angry sometimes and lose control; then we would have to say we were sorry. We did that more often that we care to admit. Fortunately, we got better with time as we grew in grace and got further away from dysfunctional patterns and fears from our past. As we learned to trust more in the Lord and less upon external control, we were able to relax and to see how great was the power of the Lord at work in our home. We were much better parents to our two youngest children than we were to the three older ones. All our kids know that. We have apologized many times for the things we did wrong, for our shortcomings and overbearing actions. They have graciously forgiven us, and they understand where we came from and the healing miracles that God has performed in us given our background. Our children amazed us with their finely tuned sense of right and wrong. They were very sorrowful when they made mistakes, often coming to us without being found out in a misdeed. A commonly heard phrase: “We all make mistakes; that’s why we all need Jesus.”
PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT ALL FEAR: TRUST IN THE LORD
Fear motivates so many parenting decisions. Greater is He who is in you—in your children—than He who is in the world! Our children were leaders in the public school. We expected them to make good choices but did not overtly corral them. We told them we would not place any formal restrictions on them unless they proved to us we needed to, and we did not foresee that happening. We said we did not fear the world would infect them with evil, but we believed they would infect the world with good—that everywhere they went, the world would see Jesus in them. Their friends would want what they had: their friends would see the joy and peace they had and want it and ask them about it. When Daniel was playing high school basketball, he held the record in the league for making the most 3-point shots in a game. After a practice, the guys were talking about being a Christian or not, and someone said, “Oh, everyone is a Christian.” Another boy spoke up and said, “No, everyone is not a Christian. Guys say they are sometimes, but they aren’t. They drink and party and swear, but Bursch is a real Christian, and he doesn’t do those things.” After the locker room cleared, this boy came over to Dan, and said with eyes tearing up, “I really admire you, Bursch. You are a real Christian, and I think if I ever heard you swear, I’d just give up.”
Each of our kids brought friends to the Lord during junior high and high school who are Christians to this day. That would not have happened if we had kept them home because of fear of the world’s influence. Get your children saved and in love with the Lord and seeking his calling on their lives. Nurture a happy, joy-filled relationship with them. Build a loving, peaceful home environment, where you and your children want to be, where guests want to visit. Focus on important issues that have an eternity value—not on hair or clothing styles or tastes in music or on the cleanliness of a bedroom or on how quickly the dishes get done. Talk about important ideas: Do you know how precious you are to us? Have I told you how excited we were when we found out you were going to be born? Did I ever tell you about when you learned to walk? Do you know how much your eyes look like my grandma’s eyes? Do you know when you laugh your whole face lights up, and I remember why I go to work every day? Do you realize that you are so valuable to us just because you are you, and we are so proud of the gift your are in our lives?
WHO ARE YOU AS A FAMILY?
Decide who you are as a family—what is your family spirit, what do you stand for, what are your primary goals? We always supported one or two orphans with a monthly gift and had their pictures on the refrigerator. We gave donations to the food banks and special gifts to missions and other charitable organizations. We told our kids that time spent together was more important than materials possessions or expensive vacations; therefore, instead of taking on extra jobs in the summer like most school teachers, Cliff spent time with the family, and we went to every free or low-cost place we could find, and Jacqueline, who could have been a bank president had she stayed with her first profession, worked at odd jobs as a freelance writer and then developed her own educational consulting business, so she could basically be a stay-at-home mom and give her best, her first fruits, to the family, teaching her children who they were in Christ, helping them find out who they wanted to be as adults, nurturing them and leading them as God made the rough places smooth and the crooked places straight.
PARENTING IS A HOLY CALLING FROM GOD
Finally, if you are a parent, if you chose to have children, then God calls you to the ministry of parenting—it is a holy calling, your highest and best calling. However, unless you shoulder that calling and treat this ministry as a calling, you will probably struggle more than you should and suffer more than you should and miss much of the joy that God intended for you to receive in parenting. Christ came to serve, and we are to take up our crosses and follow him, for a servant is not greater than his master. The family is out of order if the parents are in a me-first mode of operation. If you have been saying, “It’s my way or the highway,” or if you think, “I do the work, so I get the most expensive steak or the biggest piece of the pie,” then you are on the wrong track, and someone needs to knock you right off that throne. Whoever wants to be first in the kingdom of heaven will be last according to the Bible. If you want to lead your children, you should lead by doing, and your best example would be the example set by Christ who came to do the will of the Father. He said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
The more we gave our children, the more we loved them, served them, and sacrificed for them, the more kind and loving they became toward us and others. Of course, we taught them to put others before themselves, to serve others, to treat others as they wanted to be treated. We told them that life was not always fair and that sometimes they would suffer injustice and be treated poorly, but it is better to suffer when you do right than to suffer for doing wrong. We taught them God is the judge. He judges fairly, and we can trust him. This world is not our home, and He is getting us ready for eternity. The Spirit of God is within us, and He will give us joy unspeakable and full of glory. In the hardest of times He will comfort us and see us through and never leave us or forsake us. Our family has gone through many severe personal trials, more than we might have liked, but God has seen us through every one. If we were to recount them, you would probably be surprised, but we have learned to put our trust in the Lord. Our children know they are members of a family that has put its trust in the Lord; we will never turn back; we will always support and love each other; and our God never fails!
For more from Cliff and Jacqueline Bursch read their writings at http://breakfastwithdad.blogspot.com
Below is a picture of me (Doug Bursch) and my brothers and sisters. I’m the perfect middle child, or something like that….