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Giving the Fourth Commandment to Our Children

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Episode Synopsis

Are Sundays a pleasure or a pain for you? How can you help the children in your circle of life look forward to Sunday as the best day of the week?

Audio Transcript

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Download Jani’s Cinnamon Rolls Recipe and help make Sunday morning the best morning of the week!

Jani: Hello, everyone. Welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and Heidi Howerton. We’re glad to be with you today.  

Jani: Thanks for tuning into this episode. We’ve been working through the 10 Commandments together. I hope it has helped you as much as it’s helped Heidi and me. We really have benefited from thinking about his “Loving Law” to us and how we can leave a legacy of that to the children in our lives.

Grumpy on SundayS – Can I get a witness?

Jani: We’re talking about the fourth commandment. This will be our final episode, we think—you never know when the two of us get talking—we think it will be our final episode on the Fourth Commandment, which says, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it Holy.” Heidi, are Sundays ever hard for you?   

Heidi: Oh Jani, Sundays can be so hard. Let me tell you that one of my hardest struggles is that, because we live very far out in the country, it takes us a long time to get to church. It can be a 40 to 45 minute drive, and we like to go to Sunday school, which starts at 9:00a.m. but our main service often doesn’t get out until noon. And so, for a season, what I found on Sundays is that we needed to be out the door by 8:00a.m. We wouldn’t get home until 1:00 or 1:30, and in that span of time there’s a meal that needs to happen—it’s lunch!—and we would go some Sundays and I would not pack any food and the kids would be hungry and Mike would be hungry and then we’d stop to get food. But I thought, “Oh, now we’re spending money, we don’t need to do this.”  

Heidi: So I just realized I needed to start packing everybody lunch for Sunday. So not only do we have to get the children dressed and make breakfast and put the dishes away, but somehow I had to figure out a lunch, and for a while, this is so embarrassing to say, but I struggled with sin. I got really grumpy and complained and would be harsh on Mike. I would say, “I don’t want to do this. Why do I always have to make lunch?” It’s so embarrassing to say out loud, but the Lord helped me as I repented of my sin to him said, “Lord, I don’t want to be grumpy on Sundays. What can I do?” And he helped me, and you know what he helped show me?

Jani: What?

Heidi: That it’s okay to eat frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! So we would buy Uncrustables and I would just unpack them from their plastic containers, put them in the lunchbox, and by noon they would all be ready to eat. But it made Sunday so delightful for us. I could enjoy it. My kids were happy. My husband was happy. So to realize that sometimes it’s okay to not have a home-cooked meal or ask, “What things do I need to do to lessen the burden so this can be a delight for all of us?”  

Jani: Oh, I love that.  

“How can we make Sunday a fun day for our kids?”

Jani: One of the questions we want to ask on today’s podcast is, “How can we make Sunday a fun day for our kids?”

Heidi: I love that. Jani, what about you? Have you ever struggled on Sundays?  

Jani: I have Heidi. Yes. I’m embarrassed to admit it as well. One of the hardest things for me as a pastor’s wife for many years, was getting the kids ready alone, entering church alone and sitting through the service alone. Well, sometimes with my kids but once they were grown and gone, Sundays can feel lonely to a pastor’s wife if your children are gone. They can feel hard and I needed to repent of that as well. I was so grateful I had a husband who had been called to ministry. I was so grateful that there was a church that wanted him to be their pastor. So the Lord helped change my heart, and I thank him for that.  

Jani: Now, let’s remember as we begin our episode today, that when the Lord  says, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” he’s giving us a gift. It’s not this terrible, harsh rule: “Remember this!”

Heidi: It’s not a duty, it’s a delight.  

Jani: Yes, he’s giving us one-seventh of our time for rest and refreshment and worship. That’s a wonderful master to serve. One-seventh of my time? My goodness.

that wonderful aroma

Jani: How can we help our children learn to love the Sabbath and enjoy it? The coming generations need to see the delight of a Sabbath rest this side of heaven and they need to see it from us, their moms and their dads, their grandmothers, their aunts, their Sunday school teachers. They need to see that this Sunday is a “get-to,” not a ”have-to.”

Jani: Let me illustrate it this way. We lived in Scotland, as many of you know, and a lot of my stories come from the four years we lived there because the Lord really entered in and worked on my own heart and soul. Ray was there earning his PhD at the University of Aberdeen, and we lived in a little village outside of Aberdeen called Banchory. Oh, I do need to take a minute and say “Hi” on our podcast to our Banchory friends. I’ve heard from some of them that they listen in. And so “Welcome!” We’re glad you’re listening in today.  

Jani: While we lived there, Ray assisted at our parish church, and he left really early on Sunday mornings between 6:30 and 7:00. It was hard for me to get the kids ready, especially when we had our fourth little one, and help them to be willing to walk to church. We didn’t have a car all four years when we were there, so we ended up walking quite a bit to and from church. So I decided I needed to change something because the kids were grumpy, I was grumpy and we’d get to church late and grumpy.  

Heidi: Everybody’s grumpy!

Jani: Oh, don’t you hate that?

Heidi: Yes!

Tip: Make Sunday morning the best morning of the week

Jani: So I decided to try to make Sunday morning the best morning of the week. I mean, I could get the children up and ready for school five days a week. What’s so different about Sunday? Come on, Jani! What we started doing was making a fun yeast dough on Saturday that the kids could knead and hit with their hands and roll out, and we’d sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and make several cinnamon rolls to  rise overnight. And then I get up early, pop them in the oven and the kids would wake up to that wonderful aroma, which I think still brings us back in our hearts to our tiny kitchen there along Royal Deeside.

Heidi: Do you still have this yeast dough recipe, Jani? Could you share it with us?  

Jani: Oh, I suppose I could. Should we put it on our website?  

Heidi: We can put it on our transcript. If you’re interested in this yeast dough recipe—I know I am—we will put it up there with the transcript for you to find.  

Jani: Okay, hopefully I can find it. If not, I’ll tell you next episode.

Tip: Get things ready on Saturday

Jani: I made sure on Saturday that the kid’s clothes were ready to put on without the needless tension and friction of “I can’t find my shoe, mom,” or, “This button is broken,” or, “My zipper won’t work.” Then, after a special breakfast of our cinnamon rolls, and usually I’d scramble some eggs—something simple but fun and a little bit abnormal for us rather than just the cold cereal or oatmeal I’d fix—we’d set out walking with what we called “sweeties” in my pocket. Sweeties were tiny candies and I would use them to reward cheerful conversation or quick obedience or kindness. 

Tip: Encourage and Engage with them on the way

Jani: On the way, we would talk about what a special hour was before us: the one hour of the whole week where we could worship God together with our friends. I would tell them how mom needed her children to sit very quietly for just this one hour so that I could listen, pray, sing, give and celebrate the sacraments. There were no nurseries the first few years we lived in Scotland.  

Jani: I encouraged them to try to join as they were able, and we would just walk along. I would say something like “Who can walk to the next driveway with a smile on their face?” If they did, they got a little candy. “Who can think of one nice thing to say about their older brother before we get to those red flowers at the end of the street?” If they could, they got a sweetie. “Who can tell Mommy one thing they like about today?”  And we would just try to think positive thoughts as we walked along, rather than my having to say, “Stop hitting your brother. Come on, hurry up, we’ve got to get there or we will be late.” I was trying to motivate them in a positive way.  

Tip: Thank Them

Jani: Then we would sit during the service, and sometimes I rewarded them for sitting quietly, especially during the sermon, which can be long. On the way home, we would get the wiggles out with happy words from me about our worship and fellowship.  I would thank them for loving me and honoring Jesus and respecting all the grown ups around them with their quiet bodies and mouths. It was just a great time for me to affirm them. To this day, we still have a special sit-down breakfast on Sunday mornings, whenever the kids are home or whenever we have company here. We love Sunday mornings! 

What about Sunday afternoon?

Jani: But now what about the rest of the day? How can we make Sundays different, delightfully different, a holy delight for our families?  

Tip: Learn to get my work done in SIX days

Jani: Well, one thing I had to do was learn to get my work done in six days. I needed to follow God’s example in this. Why did this seem, Heidi, like a punishment to me rather than a delight? Oh, why did that make me resentful? “Lord, you want one whole day? I have so much to do. You’ve given me so much to do.” Well, I think it’s because I love to carry my own burdens, and I kind of lift my busy-ness high to validate my own worth. That’s crazy. It’s pride. Somehow my washing machine always seems to call to me on Sunday afternoons. Does yours, Heidi?

Heidi: …mostly my grocery list! On Sunday I think about needing to order groceries.

Jani: Yes, there’s usually something as we’re facing into our week.  

Jani: My friend Ann raised four active, big boys and one beautiful daughter. Plus, she had a continual flow of students who needed housing, visiting missionaries and frequent houseguests. Now she’s helping with her many grandchildren, along with hosting many others. Her laundry room is always full of socks, sweats, shirts and sheets.  

Think about it: “Who WANTS to do laundry on Sundays?”

Jani: She told me that once, after hearing a man preach on the fourth commandment, she asked him, “Do you think it’s alright for me to do laundry on Sunday?” What did he answer her? “Why would you WANT to do laundry on Sunday?” Indeed, that’s the case, you know? Why do we want to keep working seven days a week?  

Jani: You see, we follow God’s pattern by working hard for six days and then resting. He not only rests, but he calls us to rest with him. Oh, what a wonderful God we serve. He structures our calendar for our blessing, and he instructs us to call others within our spheres of influence into that blessing. When we read in Exodus 20 about this commandment in particular, it says, “or your your son, or your daughter,  your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock…” give them all rest, even your cattle, give them rest.

Jani: When our kids were little, we encouraged them to try to get their homework done on Saturday so they could really enjoy the Lord’s Day. I don’t pay bills or clean my house or do my taxes or finish up that big pile of ironing on Sunday, and I rejoice in that now. What a blessing to have a day that is different from all the rest.  

Jani: Now, I will add, we have needs all seven days of the week, and sometimes emergencies do arise. But God wants to provide seven days worth of needs through six days of work. Let’s be women who learn to trust God to make up the difference. God wants us to lift up our heads from our deadlines, shopping lists and laundry piles and take time to look at him. He’s calling us to leave enough of a margin in our lives for him to show us how much he cares and loves us. God wants to protect and nurture us by giving us a day that is different from the other seven days each week, a day where we can savor the sweetness of life with him.  

Yeah, But…Sunday is just a “Family” day

Jani: The word “sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word, meaning “to cease or to rest.” It’s a day to “step back” from the onslaught of everyday obligations in order to refresh ourselves in God’s goodness and grace. Thomas Watson put it this way, “God made this day on purpose to raise the heart to heaven, to converse with him, to do angels work.”  

Jani: You see, this is not just a “family” day. It is the Lord’s Day. It’s a day to walk, to talk, to read, to rest, to play games, to visit neighbors or shut-ins. Real needs must still be met on the Sabbath. As you said, Heidi, your kids still needed to be fed. When God gave us the Sabbath, he meant it as a blessing for man, a gift for us, not simply a formal observance.  

Jani: How will you, dear listener, live out the fourth commandment and give a Sabbath rest to those around you? How will you delight in it, plan for it and differentiate it from every other day of the week?  How will you live out this wonderful gift and give it to your children?

Okay, so how do I teach my children the 4th Commandment?

Jani: Well, let’s talk about how we can teach our children about this fourth commandment. I wonder how your memory work is going. Have you learned the first 3 commandments? I hope so. Don’t ask your children to do something that you’re not willing to enter wholeheartedly into along with them. Try writing your verses out on index cards and keeping them near you for easy reference. You can go over them in the car line or as you’re doing chores together. Review Psalm 119:18,

“Open my eyes that I maybe hold wondrous things out of your law.”

Psalm 119:18

Oh, what a wonderful prayer. And then work on memorizing this fourth commandment. Let me encourage you to keep working on the 10 Commandments with your children.

Heidi: Deuteronomy 32:46-47 says,

“For this is no empty word for you, but your very life…”   

Deuteronomy 32:46-47

Jani: The 10 Commandments are not empty words. They’re our very life from God. He’s telling us how life works. Let’s listen to him. Let’s teach our children how life works.  

Simple Activity for Moms with Younger Children

Jani: Now remember, we’ve encouraged moms with younger children at home to get a big red heart and have a mirror in the middle so we can remember that the law can’t cleanse us, but it’s like a mirror we can look into to see where we need cleansing. And by now, hopefully, you’ve written the first 3 commandments up on the left side of your heart, write the 4th one and talk it over with your children. Discuss how you spend your Sundays now. Talk with them. What do Sunday’s look like for us? Listen to what your child likes—and doesn’t like—about the way your family spends each Sunday.

Jani: Now I’m going to give you a few verses to look up as well and I just want remind our listeners, Heidi, about our transcript.

Heidi: Yes, you can visit our website, herestoresmysoul.org and look up these different verses and the activities to do with your kids.  

Scripture Passages to look up and discuss

Jani: I would encourage you some night for your evening or maybe during breakfast, you do family devotions, to get out your Bibles and read Genesis 2:1-3. It’s where God created the Sabbath. And then turn to Exodus 31:16-17 and discuss the whole idea of Sabbath with your child. Who made it? Why? Does God ever get tired? Did he have to rest? Was he so exhausted he had to take a break?  

Jani: Look up the word covenant in the dictionary with your children. Write out your own definition of what a covenant is so they really understand what a promise looks like when God and you make an agreement, a promise together, a pledge.  You know, the word “covenant” is mentioned more than 300 times in Scripture. It would be great for your children to understand what that is.  

Jani: Another day you could look at Mark 2:23-3:6 and talk about what Jesus did and taught about the Sabbath. It’s very interesting to look at his life and how the Pharisees criticized him for how he spent his Sabbaths.  

Jani: Discuss why God encourages us to honor the Sabbath on Sunday and then talk about how you make certain days special in your family, like birthdays or holidays, or the last day of school or graduations. Help your child to see how Sunday is a special day. Think of one new way that you, as a family, can make Sunday more delightful. Ask your kids for ideas. What would make it a fun day for them? Then draw a small picture of this new idea and tape it near the fourth commandment. Pray about it and put it into practice this next Lord’s Day. Afterwards, talk about how it went or if they have any more ideas.  

Jani: Oh, may the Lord give us a generation of children who love Sundays, who love remembering the Sabbath, who love to worship the Lord and make one day out of each week special because God has given it to them as his unique gift to the ones he loves.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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