In all too many cases our children are neglected or ignored on God's Sabbath. They cause embarrassment to parents, disturb services, me not happy. Read this practical article and find out how every member of your family from the baby to the father can keep God's Sabbath Holy — and joyfully!
YOU'VE seen martyred Myrtle a million times! Maybe you are Myrtle — maybe your wife is! Martyred Myrtle is a family problem! A battered blue station wagon pulls into the parking lot. Four doors and the tailgate open and kids tumble out of every opening but the driver's side. Dad smiles broadly at the Deacon or his assistant directing traffic and immediately strikes up a conversation — ignoring his family. Mother Myrtle struggles out her side — ten-year-old Charlie has already opened the door and is now halfway to the hall, where he saw one of his friends as they pulled in. Phillip, now just seven, is running after Charlie (who doesn't much care for Phillip's company because he's just a little kid)! Phillip doesn't notice the car bearing down on him (he's so small the driver doesn't notice him either), but Mother notices! Mother yells, "Phillip! Look out for that car!" He sees it just in time, stops in his tracks, the car passes, he dashes on to catch Charlie. Meanwhile Myrtle has dropped her diaper bag — good thing she had the milk in a plastic bottle! Henry, their fourteen-year-old, is nowhere to be seen. Only little Sarah (four now — she was the first child they had after they came into the Truth, so they called her Sarah) was there to be of help. But she is having her hands full keeping hold of Jeremiah, two-and-a-half! So Myrtle warns Sarah to stay right here and keep track of Jeremiah while she puts down the family Bibles, coloring books, and toy bag on the front seat. Then she sets to work picking up the spilled contents of the diaper bag with her one free hand while she holds baby Lois with the other! Thankfully an elderly couple, the Smiths, notice her dilemma and come over to help. Mrs. Smith helps her with the diaper bag and offers to carry her books and things into the hall for her. Mr. Smith shuts all the station wagon doors, including the tailgate, and offers to help Sarah with Jeremiah. But Myrtle says she can manage — she doesn't want her husband to think she's bothering other people.
Destination — Back Row
The arrival storm over, she heads for the hall and the last row of seats near the exit. Hair a little dishevelled, babe in arms, diaper bag clutched in a half-free hand, Sarah clutching her skirt with one hand and Jeremiah with the other, Mrs. Smith riding point, Martyred Mother Myrtle makes her way. She smiles hello to several of her acquaintances — some in similar circumstances — but she can't shake hands or stop to talk. No hands are free. And she must at all cost reserve the family seats — she has her orders! She bud better be finding seats for the family; she had better be corralling all the children, getting the books, toys, games, etc. sorted out; she better be making a final check with the baby, feeding it, changing its diapers; she better be etc., etc., etc.! And the Master of the house? Why he's been "fellowshipping" i.e., he's been chewing the fat and shooting the breeze with others like himself, (breaking the Sabbath). He's been waiting with one weather eye to be sure he plants himself squarely in front of the Head Deacon, the Local Elder — and he most certainly will be there when the Pastor pulls up! He'll greet him cheerily, all teeth and smiles with a good hard, aggressive "spiritual" handshake (probably just as the minister is trying to help his own family out of the car!).
Time for Services
Dad sits down just as the song leader asks everyone to stand. Henry is missing — he's with a group of teenagers halfway down the other section. It's too late now! Dad gives Myrtle a furious look for her oversight, then turns a beaming smile toward the podium and begins with great gusto to sing Depart From Evil! Halfway through the second song, Psalm 127, just as he is singing, "Lo, children are the gift of God, And sons the blessing...." Dad notices with chagrin that little Jeremiah is vigorously using Sarah's coloring crayons to mark up a Hymnal! Dad is on the aisle and Mom is next to him, then Sarah, Jeremiah, Phillip and finally Charlie. He hoarsely whispers to Charlie (Myrtle has the baby, Phillip can't be counted on, Jeremiah always resists and fights with Sarah) to stop Jerry's destructive and embarrassing actions right flow! This disturbs baby Lois who begins to cry and won't accept the tranquilizer or the bottle. Charlie's action starts Jeremiah into an unpleasant duet with his little sister! A full three rows are conscious of the unpleasant activity by now!! Myrtle leaves quickly for the Mothers' Room, red-faced but thankful to be gone from the scene. Mercifully the last hymn selection is a long one, and one the congregation knows well everything will have a chance to settle down before the prayer... His Mercy Never Fails, page 25.
Myrtle returns to her seat with the baby quieted just as the first speaker is introduced. She sits down and begins her usual beginning-of-the-services ritual. She takes a pad and a couple of blankets from the diaper bag and arranges the baby on the floor. That done she passes out the Bibles and note pads, then the coloring books, crayons — being sure not to get them mixed up because each is possessive of his own — a few whispered instructions and in only about five minutes the entire family is settled down. Last, but not least, she passes her husband, his Majesty Harried Harry, his Bible! He just uses a Bible, listens and turns to the Scriptures — he makes Myrtle take the notes! Myrtle asks Harry how to spell the young man's name and what date is it, what was the first scripture — she hopes to catch a clue as to the subject in the remaining minutes of the sermonette. Something about the chain of responsibility, from the Father to the Son to man to woman to the rest of the household (I Cor. 11:3). She looks at Harry and thinks about how he certainly is the boss all right, and he's sitting there smugly thinking the same thing! It seems however that the speaker's context may have been missed!
Announcements and Sermon
One more hymn gives Myrtle a chance to dash out with Sarah. When she returns the minister is halfway through the announcements. Well, she never takes notes on announcements anyway. They are always about some new church started somewhere, or an ordination of someone she never heard of, or the need of someone locally, or a church social — the family could always remember the things that applied to them, no need for notes! By the time the sermon begins, her family is fairly well settled, as are most others. The general rustle of books, papers and bags; the murmur of whispered conversation; the careless scraping of a hundred chairs; the diminutive din of a dozen miscellaneous noises — all these have basically settled down. The congregation is at last at rest, ready to receive the message. Harry had eaten fairly heavily just before he left for services, so about twenty minutes into the sermon he dozes off. The hall was warm, it was quiet except for the minister's voice and he found it more and more difficult to concentrate. He slept! Myrtle rudely woke him. Phillip was teasing the girl in the next row. Harry, in anger, reached over and gave Phillip a good pinch, with the promise in his eyes of more punishment later. Phillip sat back and sulked for about ten minutes, then decided he needed to go to the bathroom. On his way back to his seat he woke up baby Lois. Myrtle swept her up and disappeared into the "Mother's Room" for the remainder of the sermon. When the sermon was over and the closing hymn had been sung, Harry's fellow Spokesman, Roger, led the closing prayer. Harry, who always hoped (and feared) that he would be asked, wondered why he wasn't!
With the services over, Harry made his way to the front, abandoning his family again. He was among the first to congratulate the minister on his fine sermon (which Harry had slept through most of) — then he just sort of stood around hoping some Deacon would ask for help with the song books or something. His children? Henry was giggling over someone else's MAD magazine out in the parking lot with a group of his fellow teens. Charlie was playing tag, in a modest way, running between the chairs, bumping into people from time to time. Phillip was up on the stage investigating an empty light socket in the floor lights — with his fingers! Sarah was looking for mother, quiet and half-lost in the crowd. Lois was being held for a moment by an appreciative matron while Myrtle got a chance for a little conversation (gossip?). Twenty minutes later the family somehow got back together, miraculously, and left for home. They were home by a quarter to five, with an hour and a half of Sabbath time left on their hands. Charlie and Phillip went outside to play — in their Sabbath clothes. Henry slumped down in a chair and disconsolately checked the TV guide to see what was on at the crack of sundown. Then he got up and raided the refrigerator. Teens are always hungry! Harry got a beer and reluctantly started reading last month's PLAIN TRUTH. Myrtle busied herself with Sarah and Lois, changed her clothes, sat down to feed the baby, and after about an hour began to fix supper.
This is not some fairy tale. I've seen it happen! No, every family is not this bad. Yes, there is a degree of the Harried Harry, Martyred Myrtle family Sabbath experience in nearly every family! Now be honest. Recognize and admit where there are parallels in your family. Harry doesn't act like this maliciously, even deliberately — this is just the way Harry IS! He would be shocked if he were told how he looked to others, because he sees himself as a believing, manly head of the house, Spokesman-Club-attending, help-the-brethren whenever — possible, loyal, tithe-paying Church of God member! (Jer. 17:9.) Myrtle can't understand why she has so much trouble with the kids — they get spanked often enough, and Harry certainly is the boss! It's probably just that there are so many, and they came so fast. If she wasn't changing diapers she was pregnant — and it had been that way for more than fifteen years! She can't be everywhere all the time. She picks up after the family, sews for them, cooks washes, irons, cleans etc. And Harry's job makes him so tired he doesn't have much time for the family when he comes home — or lie was up late the night before at Spokesman Club and needs to catch up on sleep tonight. WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Prepare for the Sabbath
Friday is "preparation day" for the Sabbath. Last-minute things around the home need to be done. Sabbath foods planned if not prepared. The family scrubbed and clean, clothes ready for the Sabbath. But there are some things that require the whole week's preparation, or the Sabbath will be a riot instead of a rest. Too often we overlook many things that can be done during the week that will prevent embarrassing problems from arising on the Sabbath. In a sense these preparations are more the job of the woman of the house, but it is certainly the husband's responsibility to help her recognize, plan and execute these preparations — and believe it or not the children can also participate!! It is clearly a problem of responsibility! Each member of the family has an individual responsibility — even the baby! The husband who forces his wife to care for all of the children — especially when there are four, five or more — is inconsiderate. He is not loving his wife as himself, he is not fulfilling his duty to his family. Ministers and those who have deacon duties may have to abandon their families in order to serve the entire group. BUT in these cases you will probably notice the man has made some other provision so that his wife is not overburdened, so she may also benefit from the sermons.
Father: TAKE CHARGE WITH LOVE!
Before next Sabbath, as long before as possible, you men need to sit down with your families, Lake charge in love, and examine your total family conduct. Take also the RESPONSIBILITY of being the head of the family. Write down on paper, and thoroughly review with each member of the family the Sabbath procedure! Explain, lovingly and with awe and respect toward God, how the Sabbath is HOLY AND SPECIAL TIME God has set apart from creation. Teach that we are to prepare for that hallowed time, ahead of time, and as thoroughly as possible so that every moment of the Sabbath when it comes may be used for the purpose for which God created it. Show how each member of the family, even a little person (Prov. 20:11) is directly responsible to God for how he conducts himself on this special day. Show the family how it must function as a well-organized team. Stress total unity, individual responsibility! Where the family is a little larger, explain how mother needs everyone's help. This applies during the week as well as on Sabbath! Each child of walking, talking age should be responsible for his own clothing, closet, dresser, bed or room. There should be a place for everything and everything in its place. This, of course, is impossible to teach to the children unless you parents are practicing examples yourselves!
What about Baby?
This is a common problem. Baby won't sleep at the time of services, he's not used to the time, and the noise and people disturb him. Mother can't keep track of the little one and all the others at the same time. The three-year-old can't hold in for the whole period of the services. All of the crayons, coloring books, games, pencils, papers, Bibles and notebooks make an awful mess and cause a noisy disturbance. If correction is given during services it causes a further distraction. If correction is not given the situation gets worse: squirming, whispering, giggling! Therefore the little ones are: 1) ignored with the hope that the minister may give them a quieting glance; 2) they are fixed with a frantic gaze and administered the gas-jet treatment — "ssssshhhhh!" The solution? Train the baby and the little ones at home! Begin from the beginning. Begin NOW! The time of day at which services are held is no surprise. Train the baby at home to take his nap EVERY SINGLE DAY at the same time as services are conducted. Since many women use a little pallet on the floor — and here extreme caution must be exercised to insure warmth and safety from adult feet — during church services, this is exactly what your practice should be at home every day during the week. Since noise is also a factor, and since we sometimes use different halls for different occasions, it is a good idea to change the place in the home often. Have music on the radio going during the nap, or listen to the news at a good volume. Do your cleaning with the vacuum sweeper, or do the dishes at the same time ill the same room. In this way the child learns to sleep at a certain time. It becomes habit quickly, regardless of the place or noise. Do the training at home! Any spanking necessary to discipline the child to this habit, done at home six days a week, will condition him to such an extent that usually a touch and a whispered "no" will suffice on the seventh day. This may not work the first few Sabbaths of course. While you are establishing the habit, please do get up in services and go to the private place provided and take care of the matter immediately — or the child will begin to realize he can get away with fussing at church, even though he knows well that he can't at home! For all this training it would be a good idea to — as a family — review Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong's booklet on child rearing. This booklet teaches you how to do the training while this present article just deals with what to do.
Daddy and Discipline
Every Dad ought to know, from constant experience at home, that when he takes a hand it is more effective than when Mother has to do all the correcting. A babe in arms should be mostly the mother's responsibility. But when the child grows older it needs to know that things are even more serious and that there is a parental unity when Father intervenes. Too many times by far have I seen women commuting to the Mother's Room to administer ineffectual correction to a rebellious youngster time after time during one service. This can be avoided if the husband will always be alert to his responsibility. If the wife is not effective the first time, then the husband should bestir himself. He should take the child out, with dignity, severity and love speak briefly to the child about its conduct, administer the proper correction and return to his seat. This procedure works at home, at church, in restaurants (wherever there is a private place to take care of the correction). The beauty of the plan is that if it is pursued with consistency from the beginning, the child learns fast. Soon it is not necessary at all, or at the most a touch, a gesture or a word is sufficient. And the child becomes happy! You know that the pattern of this age is exactly opposite to these suggestions. Read Isaiah 3 out loud to your family. Comment on it. Get them all to discuss it. Have each see the reasons why this is so wrong a family setting. Inspire them to be completely different. Be a real Spokesman at home for your family: Have a purpose, be crystal clear, get the facts, be organized move to action, attack, inspire: LOVE YOUR FAMILY! We live in a nation without FATHERS! Bring that Father figure back to yow home, not as a domineering dictator spouting negative no's all the time, in anger — work at it in love, in prayer. YOUR family is YOUR first responsibility!
The Church of God is not a building. The Church of God is the Body of Christ, composed of all you members. It is the people, the called-out-ones, it is YOU! All your family is included in the principle Joshua proclaimed: "... as for me and my home, WE will serve the Lord!" (Joshua 24:15.) What we do in every place at every time represents God, and we are judged by Him as well. We do not have any holy halls, but when we meet during Holy time, or even at any other meeting called in the name of Jesus Christ, and we in prayer request the presence of Christ, that time and place become Holy by His presence! We live in an age of disrespect for everyone and everything. Teach your children what a privilege it is to meet where and when we meet. Teach them to come before their Creator with awe, respect, dignity, carefulness, concern, and love, because love is always thoughtful. Teach each member of your family that God is present at the services. Dress for God. Act for God. Sit, listen and learn for God. Keep the place clean for God. Keep the place quiet for God. Worship God!
This teaching will have to be practiced in daily life if you are to expect proper conduct of your children on the Sabbath. Teach at all times the respect for the property of others — and your own property and person. Teach respect for every adult in the congregation, not just the minister and deacons. Show that respect, yourself. The children will imitate you. Each child should be responsible for carrying and caring for his books, colors or whatever. Respect for the song books must be taught! And practiced! Even Mother needs respect! When the children see your outgoing love and concern for the woman who bore your children, when they see you interested in her welfare, praising her efforts, squeezing her from time to time or coming up behind her and kissing her on the neck (all your correction of her takes place in private, away from the public and the children) — when the children see you anxious to help her into and out of the car, especially when she's burdened with babies and bags; when they see you neat about your person and the house, THE CHILDREN WILL FOLLOW YOUR EXAMPLE. This is not to be construed with being woman-dominated. This is not to indicate that the household should orbit around Mom. But she should be respected as the weaker vessel, yes even "given honor" (I Peter 3:7). When this respect begins to permeate the lives of the children, Martyred Myrtle will have her chance to become Merry Myrtle. With everyone carrying his share of the load, she will have more time to apply herself to fulfilling Proverbs 31. If Mother joins her husband in teaching the children (verse 26), before the end she may be blessed with the fulfillment of verse 78: "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her."
What About Henry?
What about the young man of the family. He should be learning many responsibilities; he's next in line to take over should Dad die or become incapacitated. This doesn't obviate having fun, but fun and freedom are earned. There is a time for everything also, and Sabbath is a good time for the young man of the house to help control the younger children, help get the family into the meeting hall with Sabbath dignity. There are many scriptures that show young men (and women) their responsibilities — show how they can get the most out of life: many examples in Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings; specific instructions in Proverbs. Here's the principle of the thing from Ecclesiastes: "Rejoice, O young man, in your adolescence, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your full-grown youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove (the lusts that end in) sorrow and vexation from your heart and mind, and put away evil from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity — transitory, idle, empty and devoid of truth. Remember (earnestly) also your Creator that (you are not your own, but His property), now in the days of your youth, before the evil days come or the years draw near when you will say (of physical pleasures), I have no enjoyment in them" (Eccl. 11:9 - 12:1 Amplified Bible).
Toys for Tots
When you get right down to it, just how much paraphernalia do you need to keep the kiddies occupied during services? When they are babies, they sleep. As they grow older and don't need a nap any longer, but are not yet school age (a very short period of time) they admittedly need something to absorb their attention or they are going to disturb the services. But don't fall for senseless gimmicks, or just do what everyone else does — think! No matter what you give your child to play with it will educate him one way or the other. If you carelessly pick a coloring book you may be sorry. I have seen some of our youngsters avidly coloring Santa Clauses, Christmas trees, Easter bunnies and hob-goblins — all the things associated with the pagan days — on the Holy Sabbath Day! Now I don't run in fright every time I see pagan sign, but on the other hand my children's coloring books don't teach them all the niceties of paganism either! Choose what you will bring to church well. Don't bring toys that make noise. Teach the child, no matter how old, AT HOME NOT to throw things! Teach him at home not to be selfish but to share, so he won't let out a wail if he misplaces, or someone inadvertently takes, his toy. Minimize the number of things you bring. Teach care of personal belongings from the crib on. I remember seeing ;I little tot just the other day who sat smiling in front of me (quiet enough) and fiendishly tore the head, arms and legs from a doll she had been given! It didn't cost much, it was just plastic. Mother bent over and scooped the remnants into her purse. The child had just established a bad characteristic, and the parents hadn't even noticed. As soon as the child learns to read and write, he can at least follow the scriptures, and later learn to take notes. Taught properly, he can take the right pride in being accurate and neat. Meanwhile, he's learning to pay attention, he's quiet, he's worshipping his Creator on the Sabbath — that's special! We live in an upside-down age. We expect grown-up things of our children far too early in life in some categories — judgment, what to eat, how to dress, how to organize their time, driving cars, being alone with the opposite sex. Yet, we expect them to stay children in the small things in which they should grow up quickly — such as how to pay attention, sit quietly, be neat, help others, not think of play all the time, learn respect for all their elders and even their playmates.
When services are over, it doesn't mean Sabbath is over. On the one hand, there is no need for each child to sit stock-still, not talk with his friends of the same age, or sit and suffer — but on the other hand, each child should not be turned loose like an uncaged animal. We all know it is difficult for little children to sit still for so long, but it's only once a week — and when they get to school, the experience will stand them in good stead. Usually, the family can stay in a general area as a cohesive group, and still manage to fellowship as it should on the Sabbath. If each of the children is being responsible, then Dad will probably be able to mix around without having abandoned his family — he can meet the new people, greet the old, discuss the sermon, etc. Mother has the baby of course, and this ties her down; but others can come to her. Jeremiah should be with her; the older children could take turns helping with the younger — so that neither Mother, nor they, would feel burdened on any one Sabbath. The ones who are "free" on any given Sabbath can seek out their age-group friends, but should always remain within sight and earshot of the family. There is never any call for children to run inside the building. In many areas, it is too dangerous for the children to go outside the building. City traffic, just the traffic in our own parking lot, and more important — a daily growing menace — the danger of violence or a sexual attack on boys or girls. As a whole, the adults should pay more attention to their children on the Sabbath. They should help them have and enjoy conversation. They should be much more aware of the many ever-present dangers any site in today's world presents. In short, they should be more responsible — and in so being, teach by example and word that all-important character trait of responsibility to their children!
With these beginning guidelines your family can really benefit from the Sabbath services. When you get home you can all compare notes from the services. A family game of 20 questions with a Biblical topic is lots of fun. One person thinks of something in the Bible — like the five smooth stones David selected to fight Goliath with. Then he lets the others know whether what he's thinking about is Animal, Vegetable or Mineral (or any mixture of the three). Then the rest start asking questions to which the one person answers only yes or no. The object of the game is to guess what the object or subject is within the 20-question limit. In the above case the person would say, "I'm thinking of something that is Mineral." Probably the first question would be, "Is it in the New Testament?" The answer, of course, would be "No." This would let everybody know it was in the Old Testament. Then by a logical progression of questions each tries to find out the answer. You'd be surprised how you can pinpoint nearly anything someone comes up with if you are careful with your questions. This type of game is fun, stimulating to all involved, gets you more and more acquainted with the Bible; and you'll discover the kids reading the Bible just to get a good Vegetable to stump you with! The more the family begins to know about the Bible, the more fun the game becomes. Of course the one who correctly guesses the object gets to pose the next problem, and if no one guesses in the 20 questions, the same person gets to ask another puzzler! Time passes pleasantly and quickly this way. The family is doing something together. They learn to love and respect each other more. And, most important, they all learn how to keep God's Sabbath holy! And without making it into a tiring burden, an unpleasant time. There are many other things to do on the Sabbath. A family walk in a park or in the countryside — if not overdone and turned into a hike — on the way home from church is a good idea from time to time. Having another family over for a potluck supper and fellowship is another good idea — but one that needs careful planning and responsible control from both fathers, lest it turn into an everyday visit and not a special Sabbath fellowship. The family, or two families, could plan to go over one of the booklets together, like the new one on dating, and have plenty of time for discussion and questions and comments from the young people. Other booklets on doctrinal subjects, or just a PLAIN TRUTH article could be read. Everyone then makes out a test and passes it to the next person to take, then gets it back to grade. These are only a few suggestions. I would appreciate it very much if you would send me suggestions of your own of how to keep, profit from and enjoy God's Sabbath with your family! Those that are worthwhile can be compiled in a future article to be of help to everyone! As you and your family responsibly keep and enjoy the Sabbath, you'll notice you'll be able to help and serve the brethren also. There are always widows or women, whose husbands do not attend, who could use some help. Once your family learns to care for itself, they will be able to be of help to others — and enjoy it! Do your best to remove the slightest trace of Harried Harry and Martyred Myrtle from your family. Change it to Happy Harry and Merry Myrtle! Make these verses from the Psalms apply to your family: "Sons are a gift of the Eternal, and children are a boon from him... happy the man who has a quiver full of them... Happy is everyone who reveres the Eternal, who lives His life! You shall earn your daily bread, you happy man and prosperous! Your wife within your house shall be like a fruitful vine; your children, round your table, like slips of olive evergreen. Here is the blessing for one who reveres the Eternal!" (Psalm 127:3; 128:4.)