Women of Reverence welcomes Candice Ascough as a guest blogger.
Candice is a wife to Glendon Ascough and together they lead Hope City Church, Edenvale.
I’m 38years old and of those years I’ve been born again for 22, a wife for 11 and a mother for 7. We have three children aged 7, 5 and 18months. I have the honour and privilege of being employed by the church we lead, Hope City Church which is 4years old this year. Before I dive into this topic, I want you to understand I am not naturally a ‘kid-person’ and kids ministry is not something I have ever put my hand up for but I am incredibly grateful for those God has called to minister in that way. Having said that I am passionate about my children and others learning to hear the voice of their Heavenly Father, recognizing when the Holy Spirit is speaking to them and learning how to respond to Him. I’m a practical person though, and reading hours and hours of literature about the topic and gaining tons of head knowledge only is not what I’m after. I want practical tools. I want application. So I decided to ask some of my mom friends who I know have been raising their children to hear His voice and I will include some of their insights in this article. I have sat with the Father and asked Him what are some of the foundations needed going into this and, as is often the case, I was challenged to review some of my own thinking on the matter. We need to establish a theology, understanding and lifestyle in our children that hearing God’s voice is normal, vital and should be an ongoing occurrence in the life of every believer (regardless of age). The best way to do this this is the example I set with my life and the outworking of the beliefs I have in my heart about it. Do I believe that God can and wants to speak to me? Do I believe Holy Spirit can minister through my children the same way He does through me or do I secretly believe there is a junior version of the Holy Spirit who is only there to convict them when they haven’t obeyed the rules in our home. I think we need to start this journey with some heart searching of our own. How often do we take the time to hear His voice? Is it a vital part of our lives? Is it my normal? And is it an ongoing occurrence? I pray more and more so it would be. I love that Jesus is taking us on a journey of our own but He doesn’t wait for us to get there before He encourages us to bring others along for the ride. One thing I have learnt is the beauty and freedom of being vulnerable with my kids, honest about where I am at. I don’t have to offer them a perfect picture of me getting it right all the time. How they see me fail and what I do with that is such a valuable lesson to them along with the good example I am hopefully setting the majority of the time. I am desperate for more of Holy Spirit at work in my life, and I’m desperate to be more desperate. It’s the best kind of weakness we could have and I think our kids need to see it. How do they see it you ask? We have to share it. When they come in an interrupt your time with God, again, share with them what you were praying about, let them sit with you as you ask the Holy Spirit to fill you up afresh. I guess it’s about giving up a bit of your ‘private walk with God’ and allowing your kids to see what’s going on in that part of your world. One of my dear friends, a mother of 5 in the UK says she prefers a child-led approach like Eli did with Samuel. When Eli realized God was talking to young Samuel he guided him to go and respond to hear more from Him, (1Sam 3). I think this is so important for us as parents to be flexible and available to guide our kids through these moments; bear in mind it probably won’t happen at the most convenient time. For Eli it was in the middle of the night. For us it might be just as ‘happy’ hour is going down in our homes with one child in the bath and most of the bath water on the floor, the pot boiling over on the stove and another child having a melt down because he forgot something at school. I also believe we need to be intentional about it. This might come down to scheduling specific time and activities with your kids (more of that practical stuff later) but also some things to set in place from when they are young. One of my friends here in South Africa says they decided when the kids were really young that they would only read bedtime stories that were from the Bible or Christian in nature, so that as they go to sleep that is one of the last things in their minds along with praying together before they sleep. When they have their prayer time after the story, everyone in the family gets a turn to pray; what a great habit to get into in training them how they can interact and speak with their Heavenly Father and an opportunity to model prayer to our kids. She also spoke about how she asks her kids about their memory verses and which ones they would apply in different circumstances. This is such a vital part of our walk with God, we need to be able to correctly apply scripture to our circumstance, the younger we start, the better. One thing I’ve been doing for the last while which another friend said she did with her four girls is reminding my kiddies that they do have Holy Spirit in them. He never leaves them. When they’re having an ‘all fall down moment’ it’s a key opportunity to teach them to draw from Him what they need in that moment. It could be patience, self control, wisdom, forgiveness etc. I think this is a vital thing to teach them and when they see us drawing from Him when we have our own ‘moments’ it really seals the deal. I encourage you to try and verbalize the conversation you are having in your mind with Holy Spirit to your children. It could be something like, “mommy is struggling right now with patience and is feeling very frustrated. I’m just talking to Holy Spirit and asking Him to help me, I know He has given me self control and patience so I’m asking Him to help me use both those things right now before I respond to you”. So those are some lifestyle things for us to try an implement but I’ve also had some real fun teaching my kids some really practical ways in which to hear His voice for themselves and for other people. I’ve taught on hearing His voice once or twice before to adults. I find it very similar the way I present those lessons to my kids, the trick comes when I have to stop myself trying to interpret or ‘perfect’ their interpretation of what He is saying. So the other day I got out a bunch of magazines for my older two kids and we got a few pieces of paper (I think there were 14). I counted all the names on our church WhatsApp list and asked the kids to pick 14 random numbers (7 each) from the total. Then I counted down the list and wrote on the papers, the name of the person who correspond with that number on the list of the WhatsApp group members. I put the papers name face down on the table. Then I got them to take a paper in front of them and a magazine and asked them to ask Holy Spirit to show them the right picture for that person whoever they may be. They then found a pic, tore it out and I helped them stick it down. Then I asked them why they chose that picture and what message God was giving to that person. I also told them God might remind them of some of their memory verses. So I wrote down what they felt the message from God was. I has to really use my self-control to not try and interpret it for them or correct them and I wrote it out for them word for word. I then took pictures of all the cards and sent them to the right people with a brief explanation of what it was and I asked them for feedback so we could grow in hearing God’s voice better. I’ve included some of the examples here for you to see.
We waited and within a day we had feedback from everyone. A few of them were comments like ‘that was so sweet’ etc. I had explained to the kids that any message we get from God have to be encouraging and kind and sound like their Heavenly Father would sound. Some of the feed back was really encouraging explaining that specific phrases that I had written spoke directly to them about a specific event that had happened etc. how amazing is that! It was so good to be able to show my kids that God does speak to them and they do hear His voice. Another thing I did with them was to sit and draw with them. We prayed before we drew and asked God to speak to us. They drew and then I asked them to explain their drawings to me. My son drew a picture of a baby in a cot and a girl standing next to her wearing angel wings. He told me that is was the baby of the teacher he had in school two years ago and that she was sick. I had planned to send it to her and actually forgot. About a week later I heard that her baby girl was in hospital with breathing difficulties due to bronchitis. It was so amazing to send her my boy’s picture and encourage her that God has sent people to watch over her ( maybe even angels). There must be countless practical ways we can encourage our kids to wait on Him to hear His voice but there is one overriding principle that we personally need to apply to our own lives and in turn teach them. It’s ultimately by knowing Him personally that we learn to recognize His voice. There is no short cut to intimacy with the Lord. The same for our children. There is no short cut to getting the Word of God inside of us, and His written Word is the skeleton on which all depth of revelation and communication with Him hangs on. We recognize most easily the voices of the people we know, the people who’s voices we hear most often. Lets train our children to listen for His voice and lets do all we can to ensure it’s a voice they recognize. I thought it would be great if some of us could share in the comments some of the practical things we’ve done to help our kiddies practice hearing His voice.