Time Management

Meditating in the “Night Watches”

A few weeks ago, I talked about the importance of feeding our souls even when we feel like we’re too tired to eat, and today I want to share some practical ideas for how busy/sleepy mommies can find time when no time is to be found.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-11)

The Bible, On Reading the Bible

One of my favorite motifs in the psalms is this idea of meditating on God “in the night watches.”  David was on the run for so much of his life as a military man, and he mentions repeatedly how much he enjoys finding time to spend with God in the night.  Psalm 63:6, Psalm 4:4, Psalm 16:7, and the non-Davidic Psalm 119:55 and Psalm 119:148 all talk about meditating on God’s word at night, on their beds or during their watches.  Mommies of infants have many “night watches,” and I have found it a very useful, quiet, contemplative time to dive into Scripture.  My mind might not be as fresh as it is in the morning, but the general stillness compared to the day is a great value.  The Proverbs 31 woman thought nighttime was a redeemable time as well; in verse 18 we see that “her lamp does not go out at night.”  (And we also see that she rises early—this is a woman who burns the candle at both ends!)  So, despite the strong cultural push to read Scripture first thing in the morning—I have read some authors who say resolutely that the only way to be a well-fed mother is to get up at 5am and have that time marked out before the children get up—Scripture is not so rigid.  Reading “in the night watches” is valid, too.

There is another Scriptural precedent that is worth looking at, though: in Daniel 6:10, we see that Daniel had a plan.  He had a custom, a habit, of marking out regular time.  It wasn’t haphazard and he didn’t try to work it into his day at the last minute.  Again, one can be far too rigorous about this, but, for me personally, I have learned that I am a person who definitely needs to make a plan.  If I am just expecting to spend time in Scripture and prayer “sometime,” then it isn’t going to happen.  Don’t underestimate the value of thinking ahead and doing things in a regular order.

Lastly, while Scripture talks about clear times when people sat down and actually read the word, there is another word that comes up frequently: meditate.  Joshua 1:8 commands the Israelites to “meditate” on the Book of the Law “day and night.”  Psalm 1:2 says that the righteous man “meditates day and night” on God’s law.  Isaiah 26:3 says “you keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.”  We cannot just read our chapter a day, mark it off our list, and go on with our own pursuits and thoughts for the other twenty-three hours of the day.  Rather, God’s word should permeate us and be continually before our eyes and hearts (Proverbs 4:21).  Keep thinking and praying, even when the book is closed.

When to Read

Wake up early – If you are busy dawn to dusk and can’t imagine finding time in the middle of your day, then, by all means, follow the suggestion to simply move your alarm earlier.  It is worth the fifteen minutes of lost sleep if you get up and spend that time with God.  This is a solution that works for everyone.

With your coffee – Most of us have morning routines of some variety or another.  Mine involves coffee!  Many of us reach for our phones or computers to check our email or Facebook.  Whatever you do in the morning, put off the Facebooking, and get some time in the Word first.

At lunchtime or naptime – If you have a child who still naps, this is an easy time to set apart.  I have taken my tablet in with me as I sit with a child who struggles to nap, I have read in a nearby room while my children eat lunch, and I very often sit and read while my younger kids nap.  I just prioritize it above the other things I might want to do at naptime, like laundry or homeschool.

In the car – Perhaps you have a car drop-off line to take your kids to school, or maybe you drive somewhere regularly and can listen to Scripture as you drive.  Most of us spend a lot of time on the road.  Use it.

While you’re waiting for dinner to cook – If you’re a fan of the Instant Pot, then once you push that magical “start” button, you’ve got at least twenty minutes before you have to be ready to plate it.  Use that 20 minutes.  If you’re making scrambled eggs for dinner, bring your Bible and prop it up on the counter and read it while you stir.  Even better, listen to an audio Bible and keep your hands and eyes free for the food.

After dinner – At our house, everything kind of calms down after dinner.  Daddy is home, the children are tired and settling down in advance of bed, and the baby is asleep early.  Great time to sneak off somewhere and read.

After bedtime – Just like anyone can set their alarm to get up fifteen minutes earlier, anyone can stay up fifteen minutes later.  Again, it’s useful to grab a tablet and sit down with Scripture while urging a toddler to sleep, or waiting and working with a preschooler to stay in their beds… or failing that, before you lie down for your own night’s rest, take those minutes to spend with God first.  I am most often an after-bedtimer, because our kids go to bed early and I find I am less distracted than at any other time in the day, and I’m a “night owl,” meaning my brain is wired to be most attentive at night, even on my most tired day.  I read earlier in the day if a good opportunity came up, but my “dedicated” time is before I go to bed.

The bottom line of every single scheduling idea is it is worth it.  It’s worth it to get up early, stay up late, get behind on the laundry, miss a bit of socializing, whatever.  The time is there, we just have to make the decision to take it.

Planning to Read

One thing I have realized recently (as I read through the Bible, ironically! :)) is that people in the Bible read chunks of the Bible.  In 2 Kings 22, Hilkiah the priest finds and they read the entire Book of the Law to King Josiah.  Ezra does the same in Nehemiah 8.  In Daniel 9:2, we learn that Daniel has been methodically studying Jeremiah.  The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 has been reading through Isaiah.  None of these people were just reading a verse here and there; they were reading whole vast sections, and God blessed their efforts.  There is a lot more to Scripture than just little soundbytes that make it on Instagram quotes or get printed onto bookmarks.  Context can hugely change the meaning and depth of those verses, even widely quoted ones like John 3:16.  Don’t just read the Bible in little tiny pieces.

But at the same time, reading a whole book like Isaiah can take a really, really long time.  Time that many of us really don’t have in our day, at least not without arranging babysitting in advance.  Here, too, I don’t want to be legalistic and say the right amount is XYZ.  I have learned that the “right amount” hinges on many different factors.  To me, if I am reading such short segments that it is hard to get the gist of the passage, I’m not reading enough.  If I am trying to read such long segments that I fail to do it at all, then I’m trying to read too much.  There are different seasons and different situations.

Similarly, there is a time to read the Bible through cover-to-cover, and there is a time to stop and realize, hey, I need to read Job right now.  Or I need to read the Psalms.  I need to read the Gospels.  Romans.  The New Testament.  Be purposeful.  Don’t be one of those people who never reads Haggai–Haggai has some convicting illustrations about how sin taints every thing we do.  All the books are God’s word and all of them are useful and helpful to us.  But, again, Scripture doesn’t tell us to read it according to the table of contents!  Pray and seek the Spirit’s leading about even which book to read.  There are some great reading plans out there (one featured in that post, a bunch more linked at the bottom).

Other Moments to Seize

Beyond the simple time we spend reading God’s word, there are many other ways in our days that we can purposefully turn our focus on Him.

Put Scripture in our houses.  I mean this literally: write it on notecards and stick it above your sink.  Put it over your washer.  Get mugs and decor with Scripture.  Keep it before your eyes.

Listen to Scripture-saturated music.  Worship music, in general, is very helpful for keeping us centered, but I love Scripture-based music even more!  Seeds Family Worship, Songs for Saplings, Jamie Soles, Scripture Lullabies, Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart, Rain for Roots, Shane & Shane… all good names to look up to start with, and I’m sure there are many more.

Read Scripture with your children.  Whether it’s family worship, “Bible” class in homeschooling, or mother-and-child Bible studies, it’s amazing how much of an impact “simple” presentations of Scripture can have on me when I’m presenting it to my children and trying to answer their questions.

Listen to it in the car.  All those minutes of driving can be turned to worship!  Audio Bibles, Scripture music, worship music, sermons—redeem the time!

The word of the Lord is bread.  It is more to be desired than fine gold.  It is life-transforming, sustaining, encouraging, sanctifying, useful, practical, supernatural, and completely effective.  Just like we make healthy meals for our children, it is essential that we be attentive and make sure we are getting fed spiritually as well.

Homeschooling, Large Family, Time Management

Large Family Homeschooling Six Lessons from Homeschooling Five (Part II)

Two weeks ago, I covered the first three things I’ve found helpful in large family homeschooling, and today I’m covering the last four. 🙂

Identify who needs the most help, and schedule it.

Along with independence and check-ins, sometimes students just need direct teaching.  Especially first-graders and below.  Or in later grades, they may need help with particular subjects, or help to get started for the day with particular subjects.  I make a list of “with Mommy” needs, and then I make a block schedule so that those “with Mommy” times don’t overlap.  I don’t plan to teach the first grader how to read as I simultaneously make sure the fourth grader is understanding her grammar lesson!  It’s important to plan ahead on this, so that we don’t end up, indeed, in the middle of phonics, and an older student is unable to move forward because they need my assistance.

I think of our schedule blocks in one of three distinct ways: either totally independent, semi-independent, or with Mommy.  I match up the “totally independent” times with a single “with Mommy” time, but it’s usually okay to have many of them working semi-independently at the same time, so I schedule those together.  For example, math.  Even first graders can “independently” work through math problems, and even twelfth graders are sometimes going to need some pointers.  So we all do math at the same time, and I bounce around from one to the next as they need me.  I’m there.

The key thing is to use your time carefully, and plan ahead.

Do things together.

Every day, we have a “circle time” (or some families call it “morning time”), which seems to work best for us perched in the middle of the morning—so it’s kind of a break—and we do some subjects together, or partly together.  We work on a hymn.  We do exercise.  We read the Bible.  And then the lower grammar stage kids and I do history together, while the upper grammar kid reads her version (a more advanced version, but the same historical topic) nearby.  They also do science in large groups, and sometimes literature can branch across multiple grades.  Basically, if something can be combined, and then worked at slightly different levels / with slightly different expectations, then that’s a big time-saver.  If all of my school-age kids were doing completely difference science, history, phys ed, and so on… it would be chaotic.  It’s a lot easier to have a unified subject and then do different testing options, different essay assignments, etc. per grade level.

Notably, this has limits.  It doesn’t work for all subjects—grammar, math, spelling, etc.—just the more subjective ones, and even those, it will probably reach a limit of usefulness around high school.  But for the younger grades, it’s a good way to save energy, keep our focus, and build sibling relationships while we’re at it.  Also—this is how homeschooling groupwork is possible!  Working in groups is a great feature of traditional schooling, and in homeschooling, it’s further enhanced by being able to reach across grade levels.  It also provides opportunities for those top tiers on Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning, as older students can begin to think about how to explain and formulate things to younger students, or even invent fun projects to help the younger ones understand better—a process which fosters their own understanding in a very natural way.

Farm things out.

Homeschoolers are often quick to encourage one another that if you can’t teach a subject (like high school math or science), find someone who can.  And a huge proportion of homeschoolers do that.  But it has a special benefit to large families—it frees up our time!  For the past couple of years, my kids have been doing a science class through videoconferencing.  I’m perfectly capable of teaching elementary science, but… it was hard to find the time to teach the lesson, much less do the experiments and lapbooks, etc.  Now they have a videoconference session every week with a real teacher who actually walks them through the experiments and expounds on the lesson.  They have a quiz at the end of the week that requires them to have read and understood not only the chapter, but also the “classroom” lesson on the subject.  They know how to do the experiments from her demonstration well enough that they can do it without my help!  It’s awesome.

There are also in-person classes—piano lessons being the only one our kids currently do outside the house—but there are also much less interactive but equally useful ways to “farm things out”: DVD lessons, websites, apps, etc.  I was writing spelling words on our board for about twenty minutes a day before I realized… man, I bet someone videotaped this.  And, sure enough, the company had a DVD!  Twenty minutes saved—and that was just one student.  Now three of them are doing the same kind of spelling, so I’m saving an hour a day by using the DVD.  Flashcards are another good example of something that took so much teacher time and is done just as well, or better, by using a website.  Preschool is something that is not necessarily accomplished in a busy large family house, but… there are whole DVDs of preschool programs!  Our fifth child dutifully did about two hours of “preschool” via a sort of one-way videoconferencing type of thing every single day through 150 lessons.  We also “farm out” typing, and sometimes phonics reinforcement (Reading Eggs and Headsprout).

I do find kids don’t learn as well remotely as they do in-person, so I try to keep it fairly limited to either things that are super interactive (videoconferencing) or strictly drillwork (typing, math facts, spelling), and I try to follow-up regularly and make sure what I think is happening is actually happening, and useful.

Pick curricula carefully.

There have been many times when I have looked at a curriculum and thought, wow, that looks great, but will absolutely not work for us!  Some of the things I started out with–A Beka K5, Teacher-Led, for an example—are just far too teacher-intensive and time-consuming to be tenable now that I have older students.  I find something that has worksheets for review rather than oral drills for review works better, simply because it allows me to move on to another student.  Much homeschool curriculum is written with the expectation that you’re going to have hours to work one-on-one with your student.  And in large families, of course, we simply don’t.

So sometimes classroom material works better, especially classroom material that was designed for a one-room schoolhouse.  In addition to, you know, actually old curriculum like McGuffey and Webster, there are many Amish and Mennonite schools that actually still operate that way and produce curriculum that is designed for brief teacher explanations followed by independent student work for reinforcement and expansion.  These pretty much universally work well for us, although they are not always necessarily what we want—the math, for example, starts to turn into consumer math rather than college-bound math once you get into high school.  Still, many of the subjects are very useful.

In short, the main thing to watch out for is that some curricula that is written expressly for homeschoolers incorporates a lot of teacher time because it anticipates one-on-one interaction continually.  So it is something I have learned to watch out for right at the beginning—a curriculum may be fantastic and get excellent reviews, and yet be simply beyond our grasp.

Now, though, a caveat: some teacher-intense curriculum is worth it.  I tried doing The Logic of English a couple of years ago, decided it was waaaaaay too teacher intense, and set it aside.  But I came back to it, eventually, because my more independent-working curriculum was just simply not working with my son, and I was spending more time trying to get him to be independent than I would have if I had just stuck with the teacher-intense curriculum!  It’s also possible to modify curricula so that they are more independent.  So, I really don’t mean that this is a “rule” so much as something to be aware of—whenever I sit down to evaluate a new curriculum (or even to consider how an old one is working for us), I take careful note of how much time it will demand from me and how it will fit into our schedule and schooling method.


Value: wisdom.

Old Wisdom, Time Management

When You Get Out of Bed

One of the things I much enjoy doing is taking some bit of the Puritans and trying to make them more accessible to modern audiences—a habit that began with my trying to translate a systematic theology into a five-year-old’s vernacular.  There is so much wisdom from long ago, but sometimes it’s so hard to get to.  Even tiredness can make reading the Puritans impossible.

Anyway.  This little piece sprung out at me.  It’s very loosely based on “Meditations for the Morning” by Lewis Bayly. 1611.  Things to think about when we get out of bed in the morning—little reminders to our souls.  I love how Bayly makes little, mundane things echo with eternal significance.


Six things to ponder when you get out of bed in the morning…


1: The gift of awakening.

Just as God kindly awakened you from sleep this morning, one day, He will awaken you from the sleep of death.  Just as the rising sun makes the morning sky a glorious delight of color and the joy of a new day filled with possibilities, one day Christ and all His angels will come in a morning far brighter and greater when He comes in judgment.  As the animals this morning can see the ordinary light of day, you, with the eyes of faith, keep your eyes on the glorious light of that great coming Day!  Just as God awakened you this morning, so the last day is coming when we will awaken into eternal redemption.

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27-28)

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)

 2: God’s provision for you in your sleep.

The enemy is as a roaring lion, walking about to devour you (1 Peter 5:8, Job 1:7); who knows how near he came in the night when you slept, and yet God hedged you and watched over you and guarded you with His angels.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

3: The alarm clock.

pexels-photo-280254 When your alarm clock wakes you up, remember Peter, and how he repented when he heard the “alarm clock” of his day—the cock crowing (Luke 22:61-62)—and consider the final call of the last trumpet, which will wake us all up at the last day.  Consider your state if God called you this very morning, and change your habits so that you would be ready!

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:44)

4: God is watching. Angels are watching.

Remember that God sees your lying down and your rising up and knows all your ways (Psalm 132:2-3).  Remember that the angels, who guarded and watched you all night, are also watching how you awaken and begin your day.  As you go through your day, remember that they are watching you, and the Lord God is watching you.  Remember that you are in the fearsome presence of God and in the sight of His holy angels.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:24)

5: Getting dressed.

holiday-trip-packaging-8434 As you put your clothes on for the day, remember that clothing was a gift God gave Adam and Eve to cover their shame—the shame of their sin.  God made the first clothing from the skins of dead animals—another sober effect of human sin.  Therefore, don’t be proud of your clothes.  It should be humbling that they are necessary.  Even the prettiest clothes are still just a covering-up of that shame of sin and fallenness to which we are born. Remember that He still provides our clothing, just as He does for the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28).

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matthew 6:31)

But just as your clothes cover the shame of sin and keep you warm, remember and be certain that our souls are covered with the righteousness of Christ (Matthew 22:11, Romans 13:14, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Philippians 3:9, Revelation 19:8; Ephesians 4:24).  Take care that despite being richly dressed in human terms, that you are not naked and filthy in the sight of God (Revelation 16:15).  But, with His righteousness as a robe, our shame may be covered! Our souls may be shielded from the firey cold that will bring eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13).  Consider how blessed our nation would be if every fine set of clothing covered a soul similarly sanctified—and how heavy the judgment for those with such outward blessing and adornment who are yet so inwardly naked and filthy.

6: The coming day.

Think of your plans for the day.  Consider that God’s mercy is renewed to you this morning, every morning, bringing you new life (Lamentations 3:23)!  This morning, He made the sun rise again to give you light.  Don’t let today’s sunlight burn in vain!  Give Him thanks.  Plan to glorify Him in obedience and devote the day to following His commands.  Take a moment even as you roll out of bed, or before, to honor him as the day springs forth, confessing your sins, asking pardon for all your shortcomings, thanking Him for all He has done for you, and asking His protection over the day for the church, yourself, and everything belonging to you.

Homeschooling, Large Family, Time Management

Large Family Homeschooling Six Lessons from Homeschooling Five (Part I)

This year feels different than ever before.  I have finally realized: I am not limitless! 😉

I am a second-generation homeschooler—and an only child.  My mom was an amazing teacher and it seemed like we did everything.

Life as a larger family has meant my kids have many advantages in the form of their built-in siblings that I didn’t have as a kid.  They learn many things.  They can do group work, and big projects.  Sometimes they learn something better by explaining it to a younger sibling.  Sometimes they can learn by each others’ insights.  Many, many advantages.

And yet: I am a teacher of many, our own little one-room-schoolhouse environment, while my own student experience was with a 1:1 teacher-student ratio.  I cannot teach the way my mother taught.

Here are the first two of six guiding points that I continually come back to as I homeschool our kiddos (currently 6th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, and preschool).

Foster independence.

Homeschooling preschool through first grade takes a lot of teacher time.  There’s no way around it!  Kids can’t read directions until they can… you know, read.  But as a mommy when I have seven kids nine-and-under wandering around, I can’t take two hours for each kid one-on-one to do their school.  Not if I still want to sleep, or to feed anybody dinner!  So, from the very beginning, this is a major priority: work towards independent learning.  Initially, this is impossible.  With some kids, it remains impossible for longer than others!  But it is something I consciously have in the back of my mind at all times, and I try to encourage them to try to do it yourself before asking me for help.  If they ask me for help—“did you read the lesson?” “did you read the directions?” “did you try to do it?”  Important questions!  I also give them rewards and incentives.  And also, “I will gladly help you, but I want you to try  it by yourself first.  I want to see you try.”  Magic words.

There is, however, an important balance here: I have to be available for questions, and make it crystal clear to them that I am available for questions.  Otherwise, you end up with empty workbooks and, “but, Mommy, I didn’t understand and you were busy!”  Ask me how I know! 😉

Independent learning is a great skill to have, so I have no regrets trying to impart it to our children… but there’s a balance.  It does take attention to see how children are reacting to independence.  How responsible are they with their work?  With remembering to ask questions when they need to?  Do they need pushed toward more independence, or do they need reminded to stay in close?  Most importantly, how does the child deal relationally with independence?  We have some children who really benefit from quality time—whose learning ability absolutely skyrockets when they are sitting next to us one-on-one.  It’s important to notice that and be intentional about that quality time to make sure it still happens.

It’s also good to consider the best way to implement a specific curriculum for independence.  Sometimes all the instructions are right there in the lesson for the pupil to read, and they really only need help if they don’t understand something (more on this in part 2!)… other times they might need some real, dedicated instruction before setting out on their own part of the learning quest.

Plan check-ins.

When you’ve got kids learning independently, there is one area that is bound to turn into trouble: they can get off-track, and you can miss it.  Sometimes kids won’t tell you they don’t understand, and plow ahead anyway.  Sometimes they think they understand, so they go on.  Sometimes they’re doing fantastic, but would still benefit from you noticing it and encouraging them!

So it is necessary to check in.  Every subject, every kid.  Regularly.  What it looks like may be wildly different from one kid to the next: with our oldest (who excels at independence and enjoys it), I mostly only check her output, that is to say, I read the papers she writes, and for many of her subjects, I make sure she does the quizzes/tests and I check them, myself.  I mostly don’t check her daily work.  She is motivated and capable and, importantly, she usually does actually come to me and ask questions if she isn’t sure she’s understanding something correctly.  So it’s rare that she gets off-track.  With her younger siblings, depending on the subject and the kid, I may check the quizzes (most of our subjects have a quiz every week or so), or I may actually check every single day’s work so I can provide more immediate feedback.  Worst-case scenario, they get to sit next to me at the school table and I keep a sneaky eye on them through the entire subject (or even the entire school day).

It varies.  But regular check-ins are essential.  Think about how often each child needs a check-in, and on what subjects, and actually write it on your calendar, unless you’re relying on a periodic check like quizzes.  Not only do regular check-ins prevent your school year from getting seriously off-track, but they teach accountability: your child knows they are going to be called to account for what they have done.  This also teaches them responsibility and honesty—sometimes the hard way!  If I find out someone has been shirking their work, and not for a good reason, they make it up… specifically, they make it up at a time that they would have otherwise been free… on the weekend, in the evenings, etc.  I try to be kind about it (no missing exciting outings or guests) but also insistent enough that it is a drag that they don’t want to repeat again.  Or I’ll remove other privileges (like computer time) until they get their work caught back up to where it should have been.

Importantly, regular check-ins also help make sure I am aware of how they are doing.  What is their learning style? How are they coping with this new curriculum?  What is not working?  How can we fix problems and make everything run more smoothly?  It’s a chance to sit back, give them my full attention, and see what I might need to be doing differently.

Coming in Part II…

In two weeks, Lord willing, I’ll be coming back to this subject to add four more things that I’ve found crucial to large-family homeschooling… including thoughts on choosing curriculum, knowing our kids, spending quality family time together… and other things.

Mothering, Old Wisdom, Studying God, Time Management

Too exhausted to read the Bible (or pray)…

Julie / February 22, 2018

Written October 2017.

Most kind and loving people have admirably low expectations for mothers of young children.  People constantly reassure me that my failures are okay, whether it’s that I forgot to bring something, do something, answer an email quickly, or even if it’s something more important: “Nobody can be perfectly patient all the time.”  “I didn’t read the Bible for years when we had littles.”  “They won’t remember the bad times.”  “The important thing is that you’re trying.”  “God knows what we need even when we’re too tired to pray.”

Even great pastors like D.A. Carson and Martyn Lloyd-Jones are hasty to reassure us of the legitimacy of our struggle, the impossibility of being a mother of young children and a devotee of Scripture at the same time.

There is much kindness in such reassurance.  I have no doubt that it is well-meant.

But while pithy reassurances are comforting, they aren’t necessarily biblical or helpful. My heart is bleak; I am not strong enough to stop burying myself in the Word of God.  And letting go of my desperate hunger for it is not what Scripture teaches us to do.

God didn’t tell David to stop writing psalms while he was on the run for his life.  Job, in the midst of his incomparable affliction, tells us (23:12) that “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”  The prophets were persecuted, starved, locked up, and dumped into muddy wells, yet God continued to call them to very active servanthood.  In Scripture, we see so many situations that were so much worse, so much more time-consuming, so much more emotionally demanding than motherhood, and yet there was no message to those people saying “okay, maybe you’d better cut back on the morning prayer time.”


In fact, one of the most stunning examples of hardship in Scripture I can think of—Jesus in the desert—is also one of the clearest.  When Satan attempts to get Jesus distracted by His physical needs, Jesus answers him very clearly, pointing out that hunger isn’t satisfied by “bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  Though His hunger was physical (v. 3) and acute, His most necessary food is spiritual!

This is us, too.  When we are exhausted from a lack of sleep, we need “rest for our souls” (Matthew 11:29).  When we “eat the bread of anxious toil,” we need the blessing of the sleep God alone provides (Psalm 127:2) to ease that anxiety.  When we are struggling with impatience from relentless toddlers, what we need is not a momentary break, but the fruit of the Spirit which is patience (Galatians 5:22).  When we are sad and downcast, we need the joy of the word of God to lift us up (Psalm 119:2).

Our physical and emotional challenges require spiritual solutions.

J.C. Ryle, in his little pamphlet about the importance of Bible-reading, specifically addresses those who struggle to find the resources to read the Bible, and his words are convicting and ring true:

You are the man that is likely to “get little comfort from the Bible in time of need.” Trials come at various times. Affliction is a searching wind, which strips the leaves off the trees, and exposes the birds’ nests. Now I fear that your stores of Bible consolations may one day run very low. I fear lest you should find yourself at last on very short allowance, and come into the harbor weak, worn and thin.

You are the man that is likely “never to be established in the truth.” I will not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, and the like. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. Like the Benjamites, he can “sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16). He can quote Scripture easily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to be able to fight a good fight with him. Your armor does not fit well. Your sword sits loosely in your hand.

You are the man that is likely to “make mistakes in life.” I will not wonder if I am told that you have erred about your own marriage—erred about your children’s education of spiritual things—erred about the conduct of your household—erred about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, and reefs, and sand bars. You are not sufficiently familiar either with the search lights or your charts.

You are the man that is likely to “be carried away by some deceptive false teacher for a time.” It will not surprise me if those clever, eloquent men, who can “make the lie appear to be the truth,” is leading you into many foolish notions. You are out of balance. No wonder if you are tossed to and from, like a cork on the waves.

All these are uncomfortable things. I want every reader of this paper to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you this day. Do not merely read your Bible “a little,” but read it a great deal. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Do not be a mere babe in spiritual knowledge. Seek to become “well instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” and to be continually adding new things to old. A religion of feeling is an uncertain thing. It is like the tide, sometimes high, and sometimes low. It is like the moon, sometimes bright, and sometimes dim. A religion of deep Bible knowledge, is a firm and lasting possession. It enables a man not merely to say, “I feel hope in Christ,” but “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).

I have seen this in my own life over and over again.  I have seven children, and, oh, they are small.  They are relentless.  If you are a mommy of small or needy children, you know what I mean.  I understand why wise men like Lloyd-Jones and Carson think we mommies don’t have the time to read Scripture.

But what happens when I stop?

The well dries up.  See, when I do find time to be in the Word every day, there’s this fresh ever-bubbling source of spiritual nourishment that is continually applicable and new.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; God still uses it.  He promises in Isaiah 55:10-11 that His word is like rain:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Even when I’m doing a lousy job of reading—when the words begin to blur together because I’m so tired, when my brain is so fried that I would have zero insights to offer to a group study, when I’m distracted by screaming toddlers—still God’s word does not return to Him empty.

Truly, it is amazing.  As I write this, I am exhausted.  Baby seven was born three days ago after a difficult and long build-up to final labor—which was itself a very rough time—and our days since then have been consumed with more medical appointments and stresses, and I am at the point where I can barely remember what day it is.  I’m a wreck.  But I have been able to read the Bible passage that is programmed to arrive in my email inbox every day, and spend a little bit of time praying (albeit fairly incoherently!), and in return, there have been many—three or four—incidents every single week of the past month when something I have read right now has been immediately applicable to my life.  Either it has served to encourage me, or been relevant to a spiritual conversation I’ve been having with someone else, or it has provided a great example of a principle I’m trying to illustrate to my children… in short, even my very bad Bible comprehension right now is bearing a lot of fruit, and it has been a powerful testimony and encouragement to me of the inherent usefulness of reading Scripture.

Even in the midst of my exhaustion and physical struggles, the time and energy that I invest in the Word are amply repaid, over and over again.  And not just in little soundbytes of encouragement here and there.  So often God enables my feeble mind to snag on some item in the text that I hadn’t noticed before, and make tiny little gains in spiritual knowledge and understanding.  Scripture feeds me in the now, when I desperately need it, and it builds up spiritual food-stores that God will continue to use and grow for His glory in the future, too.  Though I feel like I have the I.Q. of a turnip and struggle to comprehend some of the Bible’s longer sentences, time in God’s word and time in prayer bear fruit.

But if I don’t find that time?  If I decide I’m too tired, or that it can’t possibly be worth the effort to even try?  Nothing happens.  There are no fresh spiritual insights floating into my brain, no recent flash of biblical wisdom to share with those around me, no encouragement waiting to shore up my soul.  There’s no growth.  The things of godliness are not lurking in my mind ready to help me deny sin and pursue righteousness; they’re buried deep in somewhere that I’ve been “too tired” to think about recently.  I may still retain the head knowledge that being impatient with my children is wrong, but it’s been a while since I’ve been reminded of the consequences of that kind of sinfulness.  God’s justice and fearsomeness are not freshly impressed on my mind.  The well—the very well which gives us life and leads us to holiness—is running dry.  The Christian cannot live like this.  The Christian Mommy cannot live like this.

The times when we don’t have the energy or motivation to spend time in God’s Word is the time we most need to do so anyway.  The person who is too parched with thirst to drag themselves to the stream is the person who most needs a drink; the person fainting with hunger who can’t contemplate the effort of cooking a meal is the person who most needs nourishment.

So, when you are too exhausted to read the Bible, read it anyway.  It will give you life.  Find a way, find a time, because God’s word is more essential than food, and times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.  He is the answer to our exhaustion and inability, and He is faithful!

Discipline, Mothering

The Sanctification of (Little) Sinners

Julie / February 15, 2018

Sanctification—the way God works to resolve sin in the life of the believer—is evident in Scripture.  Similarly, so is the utter pervasiveness of sin in the life of a nonbeliever.

But, for some reason, when we talk about childrearing—about discipline, about “good parenting,” and “good kids”—our theology often gets a little wobbly.

Per my parents’ stories, I was a well-disciplined, obedient child, and I fully expected that our children would immediately be equally so.  I remember confidently telling a friend when I was a teenager, “well, my children are not going to smear poop on their crib!”  And she—she with little siblings while I had none—laughed at me.  She knew what was to come!

Reality was not what I had expected.

Then there was this little ball of fire that called itself daughter the first.

She didn’t smear any poop, but she stomped her feet, threw herself on the floor in mad fits, repeatedly did things I had sternly told her not to do, wouldn’t sleep by herself at night, and screamed at me when I tried to get through to her, “I WANT TO BE BAD!!!”

It was awful.  We were doing everything we knew how to do in order to get her to be good, and yet… she was rotten!  And I could just feel the judgment in the eyes of everyone with angelic children, or I certainly did a good job of imagining it.  Surely, we weren’t being consistent enough.  We weren’t being severe enough.  She was ruling the roost, etc.  I felt both the heavy weight of others’ eyes, and of my own feelings of failure at parenting.

We kept trying.  We kept pushing the Gospel at her.  We kept praying.  We kept parenting.

One day, God worked.  One day, she suddenly caught interest in pleasing Jesus, and following Him, and the child has never looked back.  She still needed parents, but the change in her little heart was stark and immediate.  Discipline changed from something she hated to something she reluctantly admitted was well-deserved and even helpful to her.  Heart-to-heart conversations changed from laughably useless to very productive, often utterly effective.  And even now—the little girl is a young lady of nine—she still struggles with misbehavior, but, oh, she struggles.  She participates.  She wants to improve herself; she no longer merely gives in with reluctance to our demands.  She initiates her own self-improvement, even.

But the worst was yet to come.

Before he was even one, the differences were obvious: he was a climber, always on the move, and always eating things he shouldn’t.  I had previously scoffed at various childproofing implements; suddenly, we were not only using them, but we were using them, he was circumventing them, and ending up in the ER for his trouble!  I remember thinking clearly at that age that he was incredibly dexterous at getting to things and incredibly stupid at what he chose to get to.  He ate rocks, stink bugs, vitamins, and a whole bottle of Tylenol, all in the space of about six months.  (To this day, zero of our other children have done any of those things.  Or even managed to get into any of those things in the first place, since we are vaguely sensible people who don’t leave them in reach of toddlers.  This is the kid who figured out how to undo every childproofing method in existence.)

We prayed.  We despaired.  We prayed more.  He did more than get into things; he was an endless fountain of foolishness, bad decisions, energy, and rebellion.

I’ve often remarked that I am so glad he wasn’t our first child, because at least we had seen our children grow and had the Gospel take root—we had hope.  And not merely the theological abstract of hope, but real experience.  I remember thinking that this boy had so much enthusiasm and personality and such a strong, clear speaking voice that God could use him like another Spurgeon—another little boy whose rebellion against God was complete in his early years.

In the meantime, though, we had a dark year.  It’s all kind of a blur.  We kept parenting hard and praying hard and nothing seemed to matter.  Finally, one day, I was sitting on the couch with him rehearsing the Gospel, and at last, he didn’t tell me he didn’t care and run away.  Finally, finally, he showed a glimmer of fear of God, and he wanted to pray and beg God to help him learn to be good.

I was so skeptical!  I remember feeling the war within me between exhilaration—could this be it?—and disbelief—of course not.  I very hesitantly told Seth of the exchange, and we waited to see how it would bear out.

He wasn’t an overnight miracle of behavior as his biggest sister had been.  Not at all.  He is still a very, very energetic boy with great tendencies to not think his actions through before he dashes off with them.  Like his big siblings, he still has real sin issues in himself, and he still requires a ton of parenting, and many days, it feels like we are accomplishing nothing at all.

But he is sorry.  He’ll do something really foolish, and when we talk to him about it later, he quirks his mouth up halfway and says ruefully, “I wasn’t thinking with my head.  I know, I gotta think with my head.”  After a particularly bad day, he’ll ask me, “Mommy, why isn’t God helping me be more gooder faster?”  Other days—like today—he’ll realize that it has been an awfully long time since he was in trouble, and point out the fact proudly.  He is slowly becoming vaguely reliable and more trustworthy.  He’s very kind, personable, and good at sharing.

Sometimes I think he tries harder than any of his siblings—because he has to.  His fight for holiness is one of the hardest.

The fight for holiness: the need of redemption.

”Your children have souls, and they must be born of God as well as of you, or they perish. And know also, that unless you be very circumspect in your behavior to and before them, they may perish through you: the thoughts of which should provoke you, both to instruct, and also to correct them.”

John Bunyan

This is what I have learned from watching them—all of them: first, children are born sinners.  David says in Psalm 51:5, “I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.”  Ephesians 2:3 is picturesque: “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts.”  That is where children live: in the flesh, doing whatever their flesh is inclined naturally to do.  And they all have their own unique inclinations: utter lack of emotional control, pride, dishonesty, foolishness, fussiness, stubbornness… their individual bent may vary, but the sinfulness stays the same.

As parents, that’s what we are dealing with, and, who can change a sinner’s heart? The Holy Spirit alone.  “The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7).  There is no sanctification without repentance, and no repentance without the Spirit’s working.  “No one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father,” Jesus taught in John 6:65.  As parents, all we can force our children to is outward conformity.  For inward change, the Spirit has to work, and our duty is to pray and preach the Gospel to them, because faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

All of our children have borne testimony to the Scriptural truth that foolish people hate discipline (Proverbs 13:1, Proverbs 12:1, Job 5:17). “Grief” from criticism leads to repentance in the godly, but death in the ungodly (2 Corinthians 7:8-11), and we have seen in their lives that change that happens when they turn to Christ and desire to follow Him—they become partners with us in pursuit of their holiness, rather than active saboteurs!  That moment when they come to repentance and God replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh completely revolutionizes the parenting process.


“For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,” Paul writes in Romans 6:6.  This is the ultimate hope for parents as they train up their Christian children, and for those children themselves as they seek sanctification and maturity: they are no longer slaves of sin.  The dominion of sin has been broken!

The fight for holiness: the blessing of sanctification.

Do not others expect from children more perfect conduct than they themselves exhibit? If a gracious child should lose his temper, or act wrongly in some trifling thing through forgetfulness, straightway he is condemned as a little hypocrite by those who are long way from being perfect themselves. Jesus says, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.” Take heed that ye say not an unkind word against your younger brethren in Christ, your little sisters in the Lord. Jesus sets such great store by His dear lambs, that He carries them in His bosom; and I charge you who follow your Lord in all things to show a like tenderness to the little ones of the Divine family.

Charles Spurgeon

The most shocking revelation of parenting, to me, has been to realize my own wickedness.  It is so easy for me to be distraught over their behavior, their failure to achieve perfection, even though I am just as bad myself, and I have had many more years to learn better!  It is often helpful for me to take a step back from the immediacy of their sin and realize that just like their momma, God is sanctifying them.  And just like their momma, sometimes it takes a long, long, long time and tiny baby steps of improvement for those old sins to die.  (And even then, there are always more that need rooted out!)

Proverbs 13:24 tells us “the one who loves [his son] disciplines him diligently,” and Hebrews 12 helpfully compares parental discipline to God’s discipline: “He does it so we can share His holiness… it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  As God disciplines us, so we discipline our children—we teach them, give them guidance, helpful nudges, consequences, and so on.  We try to facilitate their holiness.  We teach them the Scripture, we train them diligently, and we try to be good models.  But ultimately, sanctification is God’s work, and it is their own calling as believers to purify themselves from what is dishonorable (2 TImothy 2:21), to run from sin and “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

It is a joy to watch children struggle to better themselves, and a greater joy still to see God reward that struggle.  When they realize that the sin that so easily entangled them has, with time, become less likely to catch them up—they are delighted and so are we!  I like few things better than hearing our famously-struggling son say with a sense of wonder before he goes to sleep, “Mommy, God is really helping me be good at ________ now!”  It fills my heart to hear his earnest praise of God, as well as to realize that, yes, indeed, the child is improving.  And that the child wants to improve.  And that he knows God is the one who enables him to do so.

As parents, in obedience to God, we can live the truth of Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is tangled up in the heart of a youth; the rod of discipline will drive it away from him.”  We see firsthand how immensely, hopelessly foolish and depraved little children can be.  And we can see how discipline brings outward conformity, but to the Spirit-filled child, it brings much more than that—it brings life, peace, righteousness.  Proverbs 29:15 says that “the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15, ESV).  Those are two separate words—rod and reproof—and as parents, we have both duties: to discipline and rule, and also to verbally teach and correct.  And, by God’s grace, our duties bring wisdom to our children as the Spirit applies His truths to their little hearts.  The promise of God that He has given us a Spirit of love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7) is for believing children, as well, and, He is conforming them to the image of the Son as surely as He is conforming us (Romans 8:29).  We merely teach them that as they “live by the Spirit… keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  God is the one who “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Sanctification comes from Him.

“God knows the reality of our children’s hearts, sanctification, and diligence, while others know only the image. We want our children to be thought of as clean-cut and on the straight and narrow–which is rather a different thing from holiness, righteousness, godliness, and bearing much of the Fruit of the Spirit.”
Denise Sproul


In Your Anger Do Not Sin

Julie / February 8, 2018

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
Psalm 37:8

As a perpetually sleep-deprived, perennially hormonal mother of seven, I have come to realize the great importance of a solid theology of anger.  When I first started on this journey about a decade ago, I didn’t have a very good grasp of biblical anger at all: I knew the Bible said not to let the sun go down on it (Ephesians 4:26), and to be “slow” to it (James 1:19), but I couldn’t reconcile “be angry [and do not sin]” with “refrain from anger” (Psalm 37:8).  It was too easy in the heat of the moment to find false refuge in “anger is okay so long as you don’t do any sins while you’re angry,” which was my very limited (and errant) understanding of Ephesians 4:26.

Admitting Anger

The first little glimmers of better understanding for me came from the writing of Richard Baxter, whose definition of anger was immediately helpful:

624px-Richard_Baxter_by_Robert_WhiteAnger is the rising up of the heart in passionate displacency against an apprehended evil, which would cross or hinder us of some desired good.

Anger is that powerful feeling that arises in us when we think some wrong has been done that prevents or makes it harder for us to do something we wish to do.

I have found this a very useful way to think of anger because it acknowledges that my feelings are in response to someone else’s wrongdoing—or at least what I perceive as someone’s wrongdoing.  I know I used to think “sinful” anger was unjustified anger… but in the heat of the moment, nobody is going around thinking, “ah, yes, I am angry, but for no reason!”  I always think I’m right to be angry!  So when I start to feel those emotions welling up in me, and I go through my little checklist in my head to evaluate them—am I feeling a strong emotion?  Yes.  Is it because someone else did something wrong?  Yes.  Hmm, this is probably anger, then: what do I do next?

And so, Baxter’s definition gets me in a very good frame of mind to seek out and find the righteous reaction at that point, because it acknowledges that the other person is wrong, or may be wrong, and yet puts the focus back on my behavior—because the Bible has a lot to say about what we do with anger, and the Bible never says “unless the other person is wrong, then go into ballistic attack mode and fire at will!”

So I’m angry, and I’m admitting it to myself… what do I do now?

The Right Kind of Anger

I read an article by John Piper on anger a few weeks ago (it’s very good, go read it), and he said this one little sentence that resonated with me profoundly:

I was much more optimistic about a righteous place for anger when I was thirty than I am now.

Yes!!!  Speaking for myself, my anger is hardly ever righteous.  It’s almost always self-centered, emotional frustration that something isn’t going the way I think it should, and often fury that I am the one who is going to have to “deal with” the consequences.  I get mad when people screw up my life, one way or another.  If they run me off the road, fail to communicate something I need to know, run late, misbehave, insult me, insult my children… if I sat here and made a list of all the reasons I’ve gotten angry in the past year, I guarantee 99.9% of them are going to be things that made my life less pleasant.  Sinful anger.  This is what I am about.  Nevertheless, the other half of Baxter’s definition above is about righteous anger, and I want to mention it, because even while I am failing, it is good to be reminded of for what I ought to be aiming:

[Anger] is given us by God for good, to stir us up to a vigorous resistance of those things, which, within us or without us do oppose his glory or our salvation, or our own or our neighbour’s real good.

So, anger, when it isn’t perverted by sin, is our “vigorous resistance” to things which oppose God’s glory, our salvation, or ours or our neighbor’s “real” (I think a more thoughtful word in 2017 might be “eternal”) good.

It is not, in short, about “me me me.”  It isn’t about my being inconvenienced or offended or persecuted.  It’s about God’s glory and His plan for our good.  This is the kind of anger we see from the Psalmist towards his enemies (Psalm 7:6).  This is the kind of anger that can find solace in God’s judgment and sovereignty, that can be patient:

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (Psalm 37:7-9)

The Wrong Kind of Anger

Then we get to the wrong kind of anger, about which Baxter has far more to say—things that I have found immensely convicting.  He lists off nine kinds of sinful anger:

  1. Anger “against God or any good.”
    Genesis 18:25 reminds us, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”  We have no lawful reason to be angry with God.  He is never wrong and never in discord with His own will, His glory, our salvation, our neighbor’s good, or… any reason why we may be angry at Him. Let us not be like Jonah, that God should ask, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)
  2. Anger that “disturbeth reason, and hindereth our judging of things aright.” And,
  3. Anger “greater in measure than the cause alloweth.”
    “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back,” Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, and Scripture is overflowing with commands to self-control (Proverbs 25:28, 1 Corinthians 9:26, many others).  Proverbs 16:32 says that “he who rules his spirit [is better than] he who takes a city.”  One of the most likely venues of sinful anger for me is that it upsets my self-control.  It clouds my thinking.  It even can make my physically unwell.  The Bible’s warnings to us about ruling our spirit—our emotions—are not to be taken lightly!  When my reaction to a wrong is so emotionally strong, I am not likely to carefully evaluate either the wrongdoing or my own reaction to it.
  4. Anger that “casteth us into any unseemly carriage, or causeth or disposeth to any sinful words or actions.”
    Similarly, anger that carries us into sin is in stark contradition to Ephesians 4:26.  Righteous anger does not tempt us to react by returning evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9).  I love the example of Christ in 1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”  This is the key: rather than retaliating, the righteous reaction is to trust God and His judgment.  Romans 12:19 reminds us, “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.”  Ephesians 4:27 reminds us, in the very context of anger, to “give no opportunity to the devil.”
  5. Anger that “is mistaken, and without just cause.”
    This is a huge part of why anger that clouds our judgment is wrong—because our judgment might indeed be wrong! There are few worse feelings in the world than regret for having come to a hasty judgment and then being found to have been unfair.  This is a huge part of being “slow” to anger.  Proverbs 18:13 tells us, “if one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
  6. Anger that makes us unfit “for our duty to God or man.”
    Our duty is love, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a tall order: anger that makes us impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irritable, or resentful is wrong.  Anger that makes us happy over wrongdoing is wrong.  Anger that makes us unloving is wrong.
  7. Anger that “tendeth to the abatement of love and brotherly kindness, and the hindering of any good which we should do for others.”
    My husband likes to remind me that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20) and Proverbs 15:18 says that being slow to anger “quiets contention.”  It’s very rare that a person getting angry at another person is going to do any good, no matter how hard the angry person tries to “not sin” in their anger.
  8. Anger which “stayeth too long, and ceaseth not when its lawful work is done.”
    Proverbs 19:11 says “it is [one’s] glory to overlook an offense,” and that’s a good duration of anger—a fleeting offense that we can immediately overlook!
  9. Anger that “is selfish and carnal… [for] your pride, or profit, or sports, or any other fleshly will.”
    Anger is listed off in Galatians 5:19-21 as a “work of the flesh,” not the “fruit of the Spirit,” and I think that’s exactly what Baxter has in mind here.  Much of our anger doesn’t even pretend to be godly; it’s just selfishness, pure and simple.

Why to Forsake Anger

I want to close with one more Baxter quote that as a mother, I find terrifying:

And it is much the worse in that it suffereth not a man to sin alone, but stirreth up others to do the like.  Wrath kindleth wrath, as fire kindleth fire.  It is two to one but when you are angry you will make others angry, or discontented, or troubled by your words or deeds.  And you have not the power of moderating them in it, when you have done.  You know not what sin it may draw them to. It is the devil’s bellows to kindle men’s corruptions; and sets hearts, and families, and kingdoms in a flame.

When we get angry, our anger often spreads.  As mothers, it spreads to our children.  We snip at them (as anger “casteth us into an unseemly carriage”) and they get frustrated and start snipping at each other.  James 3 warns us, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”  How we deal with our anger is no idle question, no casual issue.  When we speak, it spreads.  Anger can be a wildfire that ravages our entire home.  We have to beat our bodies into submission and learn how to deal with it properly… another subject where Baxter offers some excellent advice!