Family Devotional on developing character in children

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Farm (2 of 3)

For dad only:

Cultivate Your Children

You may regret is sending your child off to college to learn how to make money. For one thing, college is a dangerous moral climate, but that is not what I am speaking of in this family devotional on developing character in children. The very idea of living to make money is so shallow it should make you shudder.

Live for more than money

If your son goes off to college thinking he will be happy once he has a career and good income, you are setting him up for disappointment. I talked with a plumber’s son once, he said he was going to college to work in an FBI forensics laboratory. Dad-the-plumber was sending his son to college so the boy would grow up and have a chance to make more money than his simple trade could give him.

I asked him what a person did in a forensics laboratory. He had a general idea, but did not know any details. I asked him why he, an athletic, outdoors kind of guy, would want to work inside a stuffy lab all the time. He said, “They get paid the big bucks.”

Satisfaction does not come with satiation

More than have money, you want your kids to have satisfaction in life. They will only be fulfilled if they find themselves doing the thing God sent them here to do. If that includes having good money, then double yay! Your kids, however, should be learning to be contented no matter what situation they face. That’s why this family devotional on developing character in children.

Fulfillment comes with meeting the needs of others, not your own. Live to make yourself happy alone and you will never be happy. The video-game/TV-addict crowd are living for self and are not happy. Many people have learned this the hard way. Teach your kids the easy way.

Make a difference, meet a need

The most-fulfilled and financially-rewarded people did not set out to get rich. They desired to meet a need. They sought to do something worthwhile to help fellow humans. Bill Gaither built a multi-million dollar empire simply by helping promote southern gospel singers. Gilbert Morris became a bestselling author by meeting a need for good historical fiction. Hansen and Canfield raked in a fortune by just doing what it took to cheer up fellow humans with their Chicken Soup for the Soul series of bestselling books.

Will your children be dreamers of big dreams or slaves to a paycheck? Will they participate in something that matters long after they are gone? Or will they live for the moment every moment, pursuing a job just because of the money it brings and accruing nothing of lasting value?

Break up the fallow ground of youth

Your children should not be cardboard cut-outs. Give them some depth (Proverbs 13:23). They do not need more fun or amusement. They need challenge. They need to be stretched. They want to learn how to learn.

Teach them skills that can translate into life purpose, character qualities, or employment. Most dads are gone so much they feel must make up by playing with their kids all weekend. Why not challenge them? Teach them how to split and stack firewood. Get them a bottle calf and let them raise it and sell it, if they want money. Teach them the ongoing responsibility of keeping a garden. Have them help you paint the house or prune the trees.

Cultivate with character

Whatever you do to develop your children, make sure they learn to be while they learn to do. I can have my kids help me clean out the barn and yell at them whole time. Or I can teach them character development by modeling patience and diligence. I do not want them to think you have to yell and scream to work so I must teach them to work peacefully.

Some disciplines seem to develop poor character. For example, cheerleaders are usually snobs and sports stars are often arrogant. Other disciplines, like orchestra, choir, and agriculture seem to develop more responsible citizens.

As you cultivate your children’s abilities, make sure you plant quality values in their souls to last a lifetime. My kids may never raise livestock or reroof houses, but they should grow up to care for others.


Read this devotional on character to the kids:

Farm Factors

Last time, Grandpa found out that someone had stolen some of his cattle.

“Whew! I am getting hot!” Rusty said, wiping his forehead onto his sleeve.

“That’s why we pitch hay in the morning,” Grandpa said. He and Rusty were in the barn loft and Dad stood below on the wagon, pitching up the small square bales of hay. Rusty and Grandpa were setting them in nice stacks.

“How many bales do you need?” Rusty asked.

“Oh, not more than a couple hundred, usually,” Grandpa said, “just enough for the horses.”

Rusty huffed another bale into place, “What do the cows eat?”

“I feed them the round bales. I keep those outside, wrapped in plastic.”

Rusty took a breath, waiting for another bale to come sailing up to them. “If you don’t catch the thief, you won’t need so many bales this winter will you?”

Grandpa shook his head. “I’ll get more cattle, one way or the other. If they don’t catch the guy, my insurance will have to buy me more. I really would like to have mine back, though.”

Dad had tossed up a couple bales which Rusty and Grandpa grabbed to put in place. “C’mon, men,” Dad joked, “I am working faster than both of you. Don’t make me come up there and catch them for ya’, too.”

Grandpa laughed.

Rusty said, “How do you throw them like that, Dad? I am worn out already.”

“Practice,” Dad said. “Farm life is good discipline. It taught me a lot. I learned how to paint on this barn, too. I grew up throwing hay. Used to do it in my sleep.”

“Eight more to go,” Grandpa said, “Then we can go inside and have a swig of Grandma’s homemade lemonade.”

Rusty found new energy at the thought of something cold to drink. “Are we still going to the fair?” he asked, after stacking another bale.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Grandpa said.

•       •       •

Grandma was working her hoe in a chop-chop motion. Misty stood nearby, tugging at a weed.

“There’s nothing like the farm to make a good girl out of you,” Grandma said.

Misty grabbed another weed. “Yeowch! That thing has teeth!”

“Those are thorns,” Grandma explained. That is why I get them with my hoe. There’s another in the tool shed if you want to save your hands.”

“What a stupid plant!” Misty walked toward the tool shed, still fuming. “Why did God make a dumb plant to poke people like that!”

Grandma kept working without answering. Misty returned with a rusty, old hoe. She began chop-chopping like she had seen Grandma do when suddenly the end of the hoe popped off.

“What? Uggh! I don’t think I am made for gardening, Grandma. I just broke your hoe!”

“It’s all right, Misty,” she said quietly. “It is an old hoe, and it is worn out.” She picked up the hoe head and shoved it back in. Standing it upright she tapped the handle end on the ground, driving the head in tightly. “There,” she said, handing it back to Misty.

Misty sighed. “You are so peaceful out here. I get all excited about nothing.”

“Hard work should make you a better person, my girl,” Grandma said. “It is not good to work on God’s earth if we are not going to remember Him while we do it. It is good to develop constructive skills if you do it in a godly way. But what good is it to do constructive things if your heart is full of destruction?”

“I guess I should not get so excited when things go wrong, huh?” Misty said quietly.

“Do you think Grandpa would be a happy man if he went around screaming at his cows all day? Misty, doing simple tasks should bring us closer to God. He wants us to discipline ourselves, take care of our land and animals, and have families. But we must take on His character while we take on His world. What we do on earth should bring us more love for God and one another. Not fighting.”

“You and Grandpa do love each other a lot,” Misty said. “And you love your farm.”

“And you love your family, Misty. I know you do. It is not just about a farm, but about life. Whatever you do, helping your mom in the kitchen or your dad in the garage, you should develop joy, patience, and kindness—God’s character.”

Misty did not say much more as she worked at a few more weeds.

•       •       •

Later, at the farm, Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa were moving about together through the fair exhibits while Rusty and Misty darted back and forth from one display to the next.

“Look at that huge bull!” Rusty said, pointing at one of the animal pens. “I’m glad he didn’t chase me!”

Rusty noticed Grandpa looking around at all the cattle, too. “Do you think we will find yours here?” Rusty asked.

Grandpa shook his head. “No, son. The people who come here are usually honest folk. Sheriff says our best bet to find my cattle is at the auctions. They will try to sell them off and make a quick profit.”

“I see sheep,” Misty said, eating some cotton candy. “Look at those pretty, fluffy lambs!”

After Mom and Grandma had ooed and ahhed their way through the indoor exhibits, they all sat down together to see a presentation of the fair champions. Each child came out with an animal and a fancy purple ribbon.

As the announcer explained who each winner was and what animal they had raised, he also told how much of a premium these winners were receiving.

A girl led a milk cow onto the arena floor. The cow was as tall as she was. As the announcer introduced her, Misty let out a gasp and looked at Rusty.

“Did he say one thousand two hundred dollars?” she asked her brother.

Rusty nodded, with wide eyes.

“For a cow?” she demanded.

“Wow,” Rusty muttered, “she’s lucky.”

Dad overheard. He leaned toward Rusty and said, “It’s not luck, Rusty. She won that money from all her hard work. She developed the skill of raising a milk cow. Now she is being rewarded for that.”

Grandma said, “And it is not just for a cow, Misty. It is for the girl who raised it. She has learned good self-discipline to feed it and take care of it.”

“I talked to her at the cow’s pen,” Misty said. “She was really nice and taught me some stuff about them.”

“The judges notice that kind of thing, too,” Dad explained. “They do not just judge on if a child can do a good job with their animal. They judge on his or her attitude.”

Grandma patted Misty’s leg, saying, “Like we talked about earlier.”

Misty nodded.

When the show ended, Rusty asked. “Dad, I’ve been thinking about Grandpa’s cattle. How did the robbers get the cows onto a trailer out there in the field?”

“Cattle rustlers have all kinds of tricks,” Dad said. “They may have used some feed, pulled out temporary corral panels, or even used a horse. However they did it, they were pretty quick.”

“They use horses?”

“Sometimes. They can also use four-wheelers. They know what they are doing, for sure.”

“How is that different than you or Grandpa?”

“What?” Dad turned to look at Rusty.

“I mean, they are really good at what they do and you are really good at what you do. You can throw hay. Grandpa can train horses. They load cattle without a chute.”

“As far as skill, I guess we are all equal. Anyone can learn skills, Rusty.” Dad continued “An accountant can be skilled at working with numbers and handling people’s finances. The difference is in your heart. Character uses a skill to make the world a better place. Wickedness uses a skill to take advantage of people.”

Grandpa stood near them now as they continued.

“Does a cattle rustler dress like a cowboy, Grandpa?”

“I bet,” he said with a nod. “Probably grew up around ‘em. Why?”

“There is a guy over there with a cowboy hat and boots. He keeps walking around looking at the cows and bulls. He seems nervous, though, the way he always glances over his shoulder. I think he is the thief.”


Now discuss it!

What did Rusty learn about hard work?

What did Grandma tell Misty was more important than just knowing how to work hard?

How did the fair reward the boys and girls who worked hard to raise healthy animals?

How does life reward people work hard at their skills?

Does it matter if a person has a good heart or not?

What skills do you know?

How can you use them for good things?

How could you use your skills and knowledge for bad things?

Do you enjoy working with your family or does bad character develop as you work?

What skills would you like to learn?

How can you become a hard worker with a good heart?

Apply Proverbs 12:11 to your life.


Read this Bible story on poor character together:

Good for Nothing

Near King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel there was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard; it is close to my palace, and I want to use the land for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will pay you a fair price.”

“I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors,” Naboth replied. “The LORD forbid that I should let you have it!”

Ahab went home, depressed and angry over what Naboth had said to him. He lay down on his bed, facing the wall, and would not eat.

His wife Jezebel went to him and asked, “Why are you so depressed? Why won’t you eat?”

He answered, “Because of what Naboth said to me. I offered to buy his vineyard or, if he preferred, to give him another one for it, but he told me that I couldn’t have it!”

“Well, are you the king or aren’t you?” Jezebel replied. “Get out of bed, cheer up, and eat. I will get you Naboth’s vineyard!”

Then she wrote some letters, signed Ahab’s name to them, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the officials and leading citizens of Jezreel.

The letters said: “Proclaim a day of fasting, call the people together, and give Naboth the place of honor. Get a couple of scoundrels to accuse him to his face of cursing God and the king. Then take him out of the city and stone him to death.”

The officials and leading citizens of Jezreel did what Jezebel had commanded. They proclaimed a day of fasting, called the people together, and gave Naboth the place of honor. The two scoundrels publicly accused him of cursing God and the king, and so he was taken outside the city and stoned to death.

The message was sent to Jezebel: “Naboth has been put to death.”

As soon as Jezebel received the message, she said to Ahab, “Naboth is dead. Now go and take possession of the vineyard which he refused to sell to you.”

At once Ahab went to the vineyard to take possession of it. Then the LORD said to Elijah, the prophet from Tishbe, “Go to King Ahab of Samaria. You will find him in Naboth’s vineyard, about to take possession of it. Tell him that I, the LORD, say to him, ‘After murdering the man, are you taking over his property as well?’ Tell him that this is what I say: ‘In the very place that the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood they will lick up your blood!’ ”

When Ahab saw Elijah, he said, “Have you caught up with me, my enemy?”

“Yes, I have,” Elijah answered. “You have devoted yourself completely to doing what is wrong in the LORD’s sight. So the LORD says to you, ‘I will bring disaster on you. I will do away with you and get rid of every male in your family, young and old alike. Your family will become like the family of King Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the family of King Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have stirred up my anger by leading Israel into sin.’ And concerning Jezebel, the LORD says that dogs will eat her body in the city of Jezreel. Any of your relatives who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and any who die in the open country will be eaten by vultures.”

(I Kings 21:1-24, GNB)


Let’s talk about it!

What was Naboth good at?

What was Ahab good at?

What was Jezebel good at?

What was Elijah good at?

How did Naboth and Elijah use their skills differently than Ahab and Jezebel?

Role play: You are good at doing math in your head. The person at the garage sale is not. When you go to pay, she is not sure how much change to give you and asks you to tell her. How will you use your skill?

You know a lot about computers. When talking to your friends, you notice they are amazed at how much you know. How do you know if you are talking from pride or love?


Memorize it!


Proverbs 12:11

He that tilleth his land

shall be satisfied with bread:

but he that followeth vain persons

is void of understanding.

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