Is there a recipe for cooking up a happy family life?
Does family life come with directions? We get a manual the size of the Chicago phone book to put together a bicycle, but we’re allowed to get married and even take little people home from the hospital (as long as we give birth to them) without so much as a permit.
Where’s the home manual for, well, the home?
Whew! What a relief to know that God gave us the Family Action Manual for Instruction in Leading Youths to Bible-truths (F.A.M.I.L.Y. Bible). He gave us his Word, and he included everything we need to achieve successful family life from birth to Glory.
You know what would really be crazy? Having the recipe and still trying to cook something up on my own (and I don’t have a great track record even with the cookbook). Or—even crazier—having the family instruction manual and never reading it! I watched my husband put together a bicycle that came with instructions in every language but ours. It did not go very bien or güt, but it finally did go together. It went together the hard way. And there were parts left over. I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us.
Families are eternally more important than main dishes or bicycles. Sadly, it’s so easy to give more attention to learning how to put together the perfect lasagna or the perfect bike, but neglect investing time studying how the perfect Savior can lead us to put our families together in just the right way. Isn’t it exasperating to spend hours learning how to work the DVD player—and more hours figuring out how to get our computers to spit out the right information? Or to spend endless hours getting kids to and from soccer practice, music lessons, orthodontist appointments, and all the other activities that fill their days?
Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking if we spent most of our time on those things of smaller importance, yet little or no time on the instructions regarding the biggest project of all: the spiritual feeding and well-being of our families?
My family loves fried ravioli. A few years back, I decided to cook up a big batch. I put a pan on the back burner and a glass plate on the front burner. Then I put a towel on the plate to get it all ready for the ravioli. Want to know what I did next? I turned on the burner. Logical move. But I accidentally turned on the front burner instead of the back one. I was doing something at the sink when, WHAMMO! The plate exploded! The towel shot up, then landed on the burner, and poofed into a little fireball. I grabbed the tongs and snatched up the baby fireball, but I didn’t make it very far before it fell to the floor. Did I mention I had carpet in my kitchen? Suddenly I was doing an Indian rain-type dance to put out my carpet—it was just this side of “stop, drop, and roll.” As I danced, I was already planning my embarrassment over how this story was going to look on the insurance claim form. Maybe a small throw rug would look nice.
Who Put the Cat in the Fridge? is a hefty helping of family-style grace served up to provide a good stop, drop, and roll-on-the-floor laugh, and then encouragement to dip into the Manual for the instructions we need to keep our families functioning, fruitful, and fireball-free. A hearty laugh is good for us—especially when it’s combined with a beefy helping of God’s Word.
Second Timothy 3:16–17 tells us that Scripture is Godbreathed and has multi-fruitful uses in our lives. We’re told in verse 17 that it’s God’s Word that will help us become “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
God’s Word is something we never want to leave on the back burner. It’s the Manual that equips us in even the most strenuous bicycle-building moments and helps us make every part of family life a good work.
For all those who are rolling their eyes over the humongous challenges of family life, or for those who would just like a good, endorphin-inducing chuckle connected to a spiritual charge, this book will provide just what you need to keep going. We can laugh and learn as the heart message takes the focus straight to the source of real joy, real direction, real spiritual nourishment—the kind we can only find in Christ.
My hope is that as you read this book, you will relate to a few familiar family happenings with a chuckle or two along the way. With lots of Scripture tucked inside, many of the chapters could be read as fun family devotions on busy days. It’s also my hope that every chapter will be an inspiration to dig even more deeply into the Manual. You’ll never have to worry about having parts leftover! I’m also happy to report that there’s nothing you’ll find in God’s Manual that will ever require a throw rug.
Get ready to STOP the busyness for a minute or two, DROP to your knees when the Lord calls you to, and ROLL on the floor laughing when you need to!
Watch me, Mom!” That’s kid language. When translated into parent language, it means, “Get ready to dial 911.”
Isn’t it amazing how hard our children sometimes work to impress us? “Watch me, Mom! I can do a flip off the top bunk!” “Watch, Dad! I can ride my bike off the porch with no hands!” There was a period in our lives when my husband and I had the neighborhood ER keep a form ready for us at all times. I simply filled in relevant information (which kid, which body part) upon arrival. I often worried that I would get home from a hospital run and find a social worker at my front doorstep.
“Can you tell me, Mrs. Rhea, how your daughter managed to injure herself on a stationary bike?” “And, tell me, Mrs. Rhea, exactly who stuck the jelly bean up the nose of your three-year-old?”
I was at a church fellowship recently when, over the tumult, I heard one of the kids yell, “Watch me!” The head of every parent jerked in that direction, and the entire room gasped as if on cue. The only thing that would have made it funnier would have been a synchronized cell phone grope. Maybe we could have harmonized our 911 dial-ups.
We’re instructed to be watchful in Colossians 4:2: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Watchfulness, thankfulness, and prayer— all packaged together. Who would’ve thought those three things would fit together in such a nice set? Yet there they are! And as we devote ourselves to prayer, we find ourselves being more watchful—becoming more aware of what the Lord is doing. Every time we recognize the good things he’s doing, we find more reasons for thanks.
The Message puts Colossians 4:2 this way: “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.” It’s not one of those “eyes wide open to see how many stitches might be required” watches, but rather staying connected to the Father in prayer and being alert to everything he’s doing, ever ready to offer him thanks for whatever that might be.
First Thessalonians 5:17–18 (MSG) says, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
We’re given more “watching” instructions in Ephesians 5:1–4 (MSG). “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” It’s like our Father shouting to us, “Watch me!” We’re instructed to watch and to imitate him and to let that lead us to live a life of love.
By the way, there’s no need to work to impress our heavenly Father by flying off bunk beds or cycling off porches. Staying on track means being focused on the direction he lays out before us and understanding that we can travel that road of purpose without worrying that we need to earn his love. We can simply be thankful for his ever-present, boundless love and his astounding grace! Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. … And be thankful.”
On a little side note, we can also be thankful as parents for every day that’s “ER free.”
Sadly, there really are emergency situations in scores of homes across our country. These are emergencies that have nothing to do with bunk beds or bikes. They stem from parents who are setting poor examples for their children—or no examples at all. The result is children who learn from other children, from TV, from every messed-up source out there. It’s catastrophic for this generation and directionless generations to come.
Parents need to be able to shout a big “watch me!” right back at their children.
When asked how parents can succeed in raising children to love Jesus, author and family advocate Dr. James Dobson suggests a “watch me” kind of parenting:
The best approach is found in the instruction given to the children of Israel by Moses more than four thousand years ago. He wrote, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:7–9).
This commandment provides the key to effective spiritual training at home. It isn’t enough to pray with your children each night, although family devotions are important. We must live the principles of faith throughout the day.
References to the Lord and our beliefs should permeate our conversation and our interactions with our kids. Our love for Jesus should be understood to be the first priority in our lives.
We must miss no opportunities to teach the components of our theology and the passion that is behind it.1
Let’s make finding those opportunities a high-priority goal. Time in the car, trips to the grocery store, vacation, school shopping—even time in the ER waiting room—can become time well spent when we’re using every opportunity to deposit wisdom and a passionate love for Jesus in our kids.
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. Deuteronomy 6:7–9 MSG