What Good Is a Catechism?

For years I thought that catechisms were for kids who attended liturgical churches – end of story.  Then somewhere along the way I began to be exposed to the Westminster Catechism and I started doing some more reading and thinking about catechisms.  What are they and what good are they?

This is what I found.  First of all, a catechism is a list of questions and answers that explain the basics of the Christian faith in a systematical way.  There are lengthy ones with plenty of big theological words and there are much simpler ones intended for young children.  A catechism teaches us what we believe about God and why we believe it.

So what good is it?  In a world where values change or even disappear as the political and cultural atmosphere changes and in which sin and standards have become a matter of opinion, it is important for Christians to know truth – the truth that is found in Scripture.  A catechism is simply a tool to help us dig out the truth and to understand how it applies to our lives on earth.  Susan Hunt, the author of Big Truths for Little Kids writes, “Catechizing children is an effective way to teach them a framework of biblical knowledge that helps them develop a Christian worldview.”  Kevin DeYoung, who wrote a book on the Heidelberg Confession – The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism – says, “…all of us – kids and adults – can have our faith strengthened, our knowledge broadened, and our love for Jesus deepened by devoting ourselves to reading rich truth like the kind found in the Heidelberg Catechism.”

So, is reading and studying a catechism a substitute for reading and studying the Word of God?  Of course not!  Actually, a careful reading of a catechism should propel us back into the Word to see if these things are really true.  For instance, the Heidelberg Catechism teaches infant baptism.  I understand the arguments, but I still can’t line infant baptism up with what I read in Scripture.  Remember, just because something is written in a catechism doesn’t make it inspired – we must search the Scriptures to find the truth.  However, on the whole I have found the study of a catechism to be a reminder of the tenets of my faith and a reminder of the great God who is the giver of that faith.

I can highly recommend Susan Hunt’s and Kevin DeYoung’s books as well as the New City Catechism (http://www.newcitycatechism.com/) and Westminster Shorter Catechism in 90 Days, an iPhone app (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/westminster-shorter-catechism/id357433595?mt=8).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Spiritual Parenting – A Book Review

Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today’s Families by Michelle Anthony

Spiritual parenting?  Sounds good, but what, exactly, is spiritual parenting?  First, it is evaluating our goals as parents.  Are we trying to turn out well-behaved, successful kids or is our goal that our children would love and follow God?  The two goals are very different.

Michelle Anthony suggests that Christian parents are to be teaching their children three things.  “…our purpose as parents is to teach our children about the awe-inspiring wonder of who God is, how to have a relationship with Him, and what it looks like to live our lives for Him and through Him.”  The first part of this statement is foundational to the rest.  Michelle emphasizes that we must first know who God is and what He has done and then we can respond to Him in a faith that transforms us.

The majority of the book is taken up with explaining ten environments parents can create in their homes – environments “that will allow our children to not only hear God’s words but also have an opportunity to put them into practice”.  The ten environments are Storytelling, Identity, Faith Community, Service, Out of the Comfort Zone, Responsibility, Course Correction, Love and Respect, Knowing, and Modeling.

Storytelling is one of my favorite of the environments.  In a world where so much is focused on the child and the child believes he is the center of the universe, the Bible tells us a different story.  It tells us that everything is about God!  “God’s Word is basically a love story – a story of the lover pursuing His created ones in order to have a personal relationship with each one of them.  In His story, He is the main character; He is the perfect Lover and the perfect Redeemer.”  When you look at the Bible this way, you begin to see the Big God Story from the beginning to the end.  It begins with the problem of sin and God’s promise to redeem us from that sin, goes on to the fulfillment of the promise in His Son, Jesus, and continues with all of us in the present day as a part of the story which continues on into eternity.  Every story in the Bible fits into this grand, larger story and God is the main character in every one of those stories – not a man like Moses, or David, or Paul, but God!  When we tell our children The Big God Story, they can respond to a God who is bigger than they are, the God who made everything and rules everything and yet loves them and has a place for them in His story.

Another of my favorite of the ten environments is Service.  In this environment, families are invited to look around them – at home, in their communities, in their church, in the world – and ask, “What needs to be done?”  Again we are looking away from ourselves as the center of everything and looking for what God has given us to do right where we are.

One more quote from Michelle about the environments:

“It’s crucial that we don’t create environments for our children to simply look religious on the outside.  We don’t create environments to manipulate their behaviors.  We don’t even create environments so that they’ll have an amazing belief in Christ.  We’re creating environments so that we open our homes and our children’s lives to the Holy Spirit, so He can do His work in them.

I love this book and I really believe that it is one of the very best parenting books I have ever read.  Michelle adds many stories from her childhood and from her experiences with her own children and, although she has impressive educational and career credentials, the heart of a mom like you and me shines through her words.

Larry Fowler, the executive director of Global Training, Awana, says of Spiritual Parenting, “Read this book, and you will change who you are as a family, not merely what you do.  Trust me – when you finish, you will know what being a spiritual parent looks like!”

Learning to Be a Grandma

Every Friday I have a most welcome visitor – my 21-month-old granddaughter.  Before she arrives I hurry to get my morning tasks done because once she walks in the door, the only chore that will be done the rest of the day is the laundry.  Laundry?  Yes, because I have a front-loading washing machine and my little darling likes to help me load sheets and towels and clothes into it.  I love it!  I had no idea that doing laundry together would be a wonderful part of being a grandma.

But now that I think about it, I should have known because of my experiences with my own grandmother.  I had the best grandmother and I have purposely thought back to what made her so wonderful when I consider my own role as a grandmother.  What I had forgotten was that laundry was a part of the magic of Grandma’s house.

First, the washing machine was in the basement – a place I didn’t get to see at any other time than when Grandma was doing laundry.  The stairs were steep and dark and the room smelled earthy and dank.  It was nothing like the finished basement at my house.  There were dark corners with interesting shapes and another set of stairs that led to the back yard.  I loved going down into that mysterious basement.

Then there was hanging the wash on the clothesline out back.  I remember the bag of clothespins that hung from the clothesline so that Grandma could easily grab them.  I was too short, of course, to help but being outside with her, watching her pin up the clothes, watching them flap in the wind was part of the Grandma magic too.

And, last, the ironing.  Ironing was done in Grandma’s bedroom.  I would lay on her bed and watch.  I remember so clearly that when she needed to put more water in the iron she would reach for her pretty little Shirley Temple pitcher to fill it up.   Even now the hiss of steam from an iron and the smell of freshly ironed clothes takes me back to Grandma’s bedroom.

There were so many things I did with Grandma – learning to crochet, playing endless games of Go Fish and War, pinching snapdragons to see their mouths open, making blades of grass screech, learning to love reading – all things I plan to do someday with my little Aria as I learn to be a grandma.  But for tomorrow, Friday, it will be stuffing the washer and letting her pretend to push the buttons.  We have so much to look forward to!

Seasons of Life

Twenty-five years ago when my husband was the pastor of a very small church and I was a stay-at-home mom with three little kids, it was extremely difficult to make ends meet.  I remember talking to God and asking Him why life had to be so hard.  After all, we were in the ministry – we were doing His work which could be really tough.  Why did we have to worry about money so much?

About that time, one of the older ladies in the church said, “Oh, it won’t always be so hard.  Things will change and you will be doing just fine.”  I didn’t say anything – not out loud – but I was angry!  How could she say that?  My husband was in ministry.  It would never be better!  I never forgot that moment in time even though it was so long ago.  I knew she was wrong.

There are so many seasons in a woman’s life and so often we think that the season we are in will never end.  A single woman wonders how long it will be before she is married.  The newly married woman can’t wait until they have saved enough money to buy the first house.  The woman yearning for children wonders if this will be the month that brings the news she so wants to hear.  The mother of a 2-year-old wonders if she (and her child) will live through this stage of life.  On and on it goes.

If we believe that God is sovereign, we can trust God with each of those seasons – the good ones and the difficult ones. Certainly I wish I had trusted Him more as a young wife and mother, but how could I trust Him before He had shown me that He is trustworthy?  How could I learn that He will always provide until He brought me through times when it looked like the paycheck wasn’t going to stretch through the whole week? How could I know that He will always love and forgive me until I failed again?

I can look back at my younger self and can extend some grace to that harried pastor’s wife who was finding it very hard not to worry about the bank account that was pennies from an overdraft notice.  God knew what He was doing.  He was using the seasons of my life to mold me, to teach me who He is, to give me the confidence that He will always provide for our daily needs.

Twenty-five years later I see my daughter on a journey very much like the one her mom and dad traveled and I know that her little family will be just fine.  They will go through many seasons – some harsh and wintry and some balmy and green – and God will be guiding them, and molding them, and stretching them, and teaching them that He holds them in the palm of his hand through it all.  Slowly, through the many seasons of life, they will learn to believe Him when He says that He will never leave them or forsake them.


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