In his book Your Best Life Later, pastor Andy McQuitty explores how writing letters to his kids not only prepared his kids to live their best life, but also how he could live his best life as a father. Explore these messages from Andy to positively impact your parenting approach with your kids.
Living your best life. Isn’t that what we’re all after in one way or another? From a secular worldview, this means a much different thing than from a biblical worldview. However, there are very different ways to approach living our lives.
Opening the pages of McQuitty’s journals shows parents how to raise serious Christ-followers through passing spiritual wisdom, edification, and inspiration. Read Andy’s words as he introduces the motivation for this project. As you read, consider how you can pass godly messages along to your children as part of your parenting legacy.
Parenting World Changers
Living Your Best Life Later
I originally handwrote these five journals in spiral-bound, school notebooks for my children beginning when each of them was born. What on earth possessed busy young, nearly 31-yaer-old pastor to embark on a twenty-five-year (as it turned out) writing project?
Simply this: I wanted to help my little ones learn as early possible the eternal benefits of paying as close attention to God as He pays to us according to Psalm 34:15. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.”
In publishing these now decades-old writings, I am acutely aware that my original audience for the handwritten journals that started in 1986 is not the same as the audience for this book published 35 years later. Today’s audience is bigger and more diverse and consists of two main demographics.
- For serious Christ-followers (especially, but not limited to young adults).
- To parents that are intent on raising serious Christ-followers.
Let’s take a walk back in time and begin a daily journey towards living your best life. You know that blessed are those who listen to God, watching daily at his doors, waiting at his doorway!
I confess to you that my most paralyzing shortcoming in the ministry and the Christian life as a whole is self-sufficiency. I am prone to the mistaken assumption that I can pull off God’s work with my ability. I’ve always been deft at faking my way through problems and organizing my way out of difficulties. But though I have thereby been able to avoid embarrassing catastrophes in ministry, I seriously doubt that I’ve ever seen the kind of lasting fruit that God produces by His Spirit only through usable vessels which are humble and weak.
I’m writing you these words because I suspect that you will be susceptible to the same tendency. Why? Because you’re an exceptionally bright person-articulate and multi-talented (a strictly objective analysis by your dad!) You too will find achievement easy. You too will find you can impress others. The question is, will you impress God? He’s the only one who counts.
I hope these words challenge your spirit and humble you as they do me.
Bye for now,
Whom to Please
Two facts about human nature cause confusion and frustration due to their inherently contradictory nature.
- People want to be liked and accepted by others.
- What a person says and does will never be liked or accepted by all people.
You’ll find yourself in an ongoing catch-22 if you make acceptance and popularity with people a priority. This being the case, the prudent question then becomes [different]. “Since I can’t please everyone, but I can please someone, whom is that someone that I’d be smart to try to please?
You see, you can bear the calumny of some people if you know you’re doing so in an attempt to please another group of people (or person) that is more significant in your life. What you’re doing is making a conscious trade-off, choosing a particular course which may offend some, but which will also please another. The important issue, then, is not whom we will offend, but whom we will choose to please.
Elizabeth, you will find great liberty and satisfaction in choosing to please God over men. This decision will spare you unnecessary heartache (but no difficulties or trouble) and it will put you in a position of receiving God’s greatest blessings.
Gloria Soli Dei,
You’ve been walking now for a whole week and a half, and I’ve never seen a child so pleased with herself! And well you should be because you’ve overcome tremendous odds to get where you are.
When you read these words, you will be struggling to learn a different kind of walking with God. Here also you will find yourself up against formidable opposition. Serving God whole-heartedly in our day is like making your way through a minefield. It’s no Sunday stroll.
As you make your way in the world, one of the most crucial choices you will make is that of a life mate. Based on some painful recent experiences with bad marriages, may I exhort, urge, and emphasize one point to you regarding marriage? It is this: refuse to settle for anything less in the man you marry than…
- Proven character (dependable, honest, diligent, hard-working, humble)
- A growing devotion to Jesus Christ (seeks to be obedient to the word, sensitive to God’s leading, tender conscience for his own sin, eternal values).
Bonnie, please hear your father. Don’t be infatuated with a guy’s good looks, popularity, athletic prowess, neat sense of humor, intellect, promising future, fine family background, or wealth if he has not proven character and a growing devotion to Jesus.
If you do get hooked on the surface bells and baubles and wind up married to a proud, materialistic, self-centered man, you will suffer no matter if you live in a mansion or not.
Sweetheart, this is not to scare you away from marriage, just away from a bad marriage.
From a loving heart,
Strong in the Lord
Life can be a bewildering blur of appointments, duties, longings, disappointments, and joy. And if you don’t have some landmarks by which to orient yourself, you can become lost, confused, and disillusioned. Skillful living is certainly a complex ability which takes many years to master.
But it’s also a fairly simple proposition. God says to prioritize certain values, and life for you will be good. A list of such values is given in Ephesians 6:10-18 in the context of spiritual warfare.
Satan does not want your life to be fruitful, but frustrating and empty. Fight him! But fight smart by keeping these simple values your top priority:
- Truth. Face the truth, tell the truth. Seek the truth. Love the truth. Don’t tell lies or you’ll soon be living a lie.
- Righteousness. Do right, period. Don’t cheat, fudge, compromise, or rationalize.
- Gospel. Let the drama of a loving, dying and rising God capture your imagination so completely that your own story becomes a subset of this grand story.
- Faith. Put yourself in God’s hands, step out for His glory, calculate the risks, but then take them.
- Salvation. Live out your deliverance from evil’s power by redeeming each day for what is worthy.
- Word. God speaks! How foolish to ignore His voice! How wise to listen, learn and obey.
- Pray. Talk much with God, for what is how you know Him.
I love you so much, Jonathan! Put on this armor, and you’ll not only be my champion, but God’s.
You have your learner’s permit and drove me for the first time the other night. You did great! I was reminded of letting you steer golf carts over the years as a little boy on my lap. My how you have grown up!
Driving a car is just one of the many indicators of the great change you’ve accomplished in growing from a child into a man. And what a fabulous young man you’ve become, I’m so proud of you. Soon you’ll be driving without me in the car with you. Then, you’ll be making your way in this world as you trust God and live for His glory.
As you gain complete independence (from parents) in life, you’ll discover a corresponding need to become more dependent on God. No matter how grown-up or accomplished we may become, we still are weak and live in a sometimes harsh and unpredictable world.
Hard things happen. Disappointments pop up. Seasons of difficult and adversity grip us. These are not occasions of despair, however. They are opportunities to trust. Hard times test our character, deepen our trust, and strengthen our perseverance if only we walk through them at Christ’s side.
Stay close to God, Jeff, and you’ll never have to face anything alone!
Love you buddy,
Help for Writing Letters to Your Kids
Earlier, I wrote that I can’t believe I finished writing these five journals to my children. But actually, I can believe it when I think back to this verse which motivated the whole project to explore living your best life.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:7-9).
The only question is, how will we convey said instruction to our sons and daughters? I’d like to suggest two ways that this book might help you accomplish that responsibility.
You can give spiritual instruction to your children by writing your own journals using this book as a model and guide.
Should you go this route, I would encourage you to note several elements in these notes that you might want to incorporate in your own writing to help your child live their best life.
Final Thoughts on Writing Letters to Your Kids
- Consistently highlight key scriptures vital for your children’s life and character.
- Be painfully authentic: admit your own failures and disclose lessons learned.
- Regularly visualize achievement for your kids and watch their confidence grow.
- Build your kids’ self-esteem by accentuating their positive character qualities.
- Share how scripture relates to your own real experiences and thus teach them to apply scripture to life.
- Never delay writing because your writing is imperfect. Better to write imperfectly than to never write at all! Besides, if you stick with it, you’ll get better as time goes on and I guarantee you’ll never regret your early imperfect attempts!
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