Why Christians Are Asking All the Wrong Questions Concerning Millennials

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it~ Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

As a general rule, I do not jump onto bandwagons when it comes to choosing subject matter for this blog page. My aim as a Christian blogger is NOT to talk about what everyone else is talking about. My desire is to talk about the issues nobody else is thinking or talking about because I have observed that it is typically the things we choose to ignore or overlook that ultimately become our downfall.    

This week I am breaking the rule.

I chose to break the rule for a couple of reasons. First, because, sadly, I am a rule breaker. Secondly, I came up with the silly rule and I can break it if I want to (I already confessed that I’m a rule breaker). Mostly, I decided to break the rule because this past week I read three different articles published by three different Christian organizations all asking the same question:

 How do church leaders, pastors and parents entice the millennial generation back into the church? 

  The millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 1996) have abandoned the Christian faith in what can only be described as seriously distressing numbers. It is estimated that upwards of sixty percent of the millennials raised in church have left and most express zero interest in ever returning. Their reasons for leaving typically boil down to a few key issues. Millennials as a group tend to believe that the church is anti-gay, sexually repressive and far too rigid in its teachings and leadership structure. Most also think that the majority of churches have not done enough to help the poor and marginalized in society. 

Some of their criticisms have validity. Others are only reasonable if you remove God and the Bible from the equation. For example, only a fool would argue against the notion that the American church has abdicated much of its responsibility to care for the poor and the government has picked-up the slack.  However, calling the church anti-gay, sexually repressive or overly rigid in its teachings is only fair if one is willing to completely divorce God and the Bible from those issues and teachings. It’s basically impossible to be openly for something God clearly opposes (1stCorinthians 6:9, Romans 1:21-28, Galatians 5:19-21, 1stTimothy 1:9-11, Leviticus 20) and still be squarely on God’s side of the issues. 

All the articles I read this week were entirely focused on finding clever ways to lure the millennials back to church. Some suggested tailoring small-group curriculum and preaching just for that particular demographic. Others recommended making services shorter, using secular music during worship services and making church government more democratic and inclusive. A few even went so far as to intimate (or say it outright) that the church ought to soften its stance on issues (like homosexuality) in an effort to make Christianity more palatable to millennials.   

Some of the ideas were not terrible, others were actually pretty good, a few were clearly stupid. That said, all the recommendations were (in my view) jumping the gun. Before we begin the process of attempting to lure the millennial generation back into the fold, we need to do a thorough postmortem and figure out what went wrong in the first place. The first question that must be asked is:

Where exactly did we go wrong?  

Results do not lie and the results clearly indicate that the Church failed the millennial generation.  We cannot lose sixty percent of a generation to secularism, atheism and every other weird belief system and declare it a win for God’s team. We need to figure out exactly how this happened. Clearly, the problem was not a lack of resources. Between Christian books, videos, Christian curriculum, children’s church and youth groups more money was spent on evangelizing the millennial generation than any other generation in the history of Christianity. I suspect there were two key issues that contributed to the loss of the millennial generation. One lies squarely with parents the other with churches. First, there has been a shocking absence of healthy spiritual modeling in many Christian homes. Parents and Grandparents have taken their kids and grandkids to church and the adults have acted very “church-y” in the presence of church people but a whole lot less “church-y” behind closed doors.  People can fool church people into believing they are better than they are but they will never fool the people they live with into believing that lie. The second problem lies with the churches training methods. We did an adequate job of telling young people what to believe but did not effectively explain why those things were true or how living by Christian principles can make a difference in their lives. In a world with nearly endless competing worldviews, churches must give an adequate explanation as to why Christianity is superior to other belief systems (1stPeter 3:15).  Moreover, it is not enough to simply say something (Darwinism, homosexuality, promiscuity, adultery, trans-genderism, atheism) is sinful or foolish, we have to be able to explain what the physical, spiritual, phycological and practical consequences of adopting a particular belief system or behavior will be. 

What are we going to do differently with the next generation?

If the church continues to do the same things we will continue to get the same results. Churches simply must do more teaching and training. It’s definitely time to stop telling sanitized bible stories and start teaching doctrine. If nothing else Christian kids need to be able to clearly articulate what they believe about life and God and why they believe it by the time they graduate from high school.

How do we get millennials to think and behave biblically? 

This is a much more critical issue than simply luring them back to church. In fact, if we jump to find ways to fill our churches with a group who do think or behave biblically (just to get them back) we will be complicit in the destruction of the Church. The answer to the millennial conundrum is not to soften the churches stance on hard issues. The answer is to do the hard work of clarifying biblical truth to a (mostly) biblically illiterate generation. 

The Thing that’s Killing the Church

 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day~ Deuteronomy 8:10-11 NIV

 It is painfully evident that a moral and cultural sea change has taken place in Western civilization over the course of the last five decades. Some of the changes that have taken place have been tremendously positive (civil rights for minorities, advances in communication, a decrease in world-wide hunger, etc.).

 Others have been far less beneficial.

 The divorce rate has nearly doubled. Abortion has gone from being a blessedly infrequent and prohibited event (in most states) to legal and appallingly routine all over the country. Marijuana has become legally permissible in twenty-nine states and its usage has been normalized nearly everywhere. Our baffling obsession with the nonsensical political views of celebrities has grown while the health and wellbeing of the family has tanked. After a quick look at any newscast or social media feed it is difficult to believe that there was ever a time without reality television, school shootings, terrorist attacks or sexting; or that there was a time when we all knew what gender we were simply by looking at the box the doctor checked on our birth certificates.

 Sigh. 

 The real question (and the one that is seldom asked) is how in the heck did we get here? What caused this massive sea change in cultural norms?

 Finding people and things to blame for the societal madness is not difficult. Value-neutral public education, self-serving politicians, violent and sexually explicit entertainment, materialism, and liberal churches are all convenient scapegoats for our rapidly declining standards of morality and good sense. As bad as all of those things are, they are simply unpleasant symptoms of a much bigger and more pernicious malady.

 The real problem is with the deep sense of complacency that has overcome the Western world. Complacency (according to dictionary.com) can defined as:

 A quiet feeling of security, while unaware of some potential danger.

 Complacency overtakes us when we forget that life is full of danger (especially from a spiritual perspective) and begin to let things happen rather than make things happen. The nature of humanity is such that complacency is something that must be fought or it just naturally takes root in our lives.   There are at least four areas where we must shake off the spiritual lethargy that has taken root in Western Christianity or we will lose the culture (and a big portion of the church) in the next two decades.

 The first is:

 Politics-

 I do not now, nor have I ever, believed that Christians are called to transform the world through political means. True and lasting transformation is always a result of heart change, and heart change is something only God can orchestrate (Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 23:36).  That being said, Christians are called to pray for those in political leadership.  (1st Timothy 2:1-3). God would never expect His people to pray for anything out of complete ignorance.  We are called to be informed and politically active on whatever level God allows. We can all vote.  Therefore, at the very least, Christians have an obligation to pray for political change and to work to vote out those opposed to the rule of law, who support evil or are who are openly anti-family.  

 Parenting-

 For all intents and purposes, Christian parents have lost the better part of a generation to secularism, humanism and hedonism. If this trend does not change quickly we will lose another generation to the same values. The trend will change when parents get serious about God, godly discipline, marriage, and generally just being grown-ups again. If you don’t know how to parent from a Christian perspective, read a Christian parenting book (written by someone whose kids are actually grown) or find someone older who raised their kids well and learn from them (Titus 2:4).  Christian people must take the lead in this area or no one will, and nothing will ever change (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Matthew 5:19).    

 Education-

  Value-neutral education is devastating the moral fabric of the Western world. Christian parents need to get actively involved in the education of their children. This means either removing our kids from the public system or doing the hard work of finding out what our kids are being taught and fighting the battles that need to be fought within the system. I have learned from personal experience that fighting these battles is never easy or fun, and it won’t make you popular. That said, it is the only way to make education better for all children.

 Our spiritual lives-

 Weak spirituality manifests itself in cheap grace and the belief that repentance is only something that non-Christians need to do. We become spiritually strong by relentlessly assessing our own spiritual health, repenting when necessary and making God the center of every part of our lives.

 Sadly, because we have a republican President, American Christians are becoming increasingly more complacent. We need to remember that there will not be a republican in office forever and this is not the time to give into complacency. This is the time to pray, repent, share our faith and seek the Lord like we’ve never done before.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Parent Without Cursing the Future

Teach them His decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave~ Exodus 18:20 NIV

 A theme that remains consistent throughout the Bible is the notion of blessings and curses (Leviticus 28, Deuteronomy 30:19, Psalm 128:2, Proverbs 10:6, Malachi 2:2, 1st Corinthians 9:2). The Bible clearly communicates that certain attitudes and activities bring with them blessings and other (usually opposite) attitudes and behaviors bring with them curses.

 I, for one, have never been a big proponent of the view that the Almighty is sitting around heaven scrutinizing the actions of people searching feverishly for opportunities to bring curses down on people, their children, or their children’s children. Rather, I believe that we bring curses on others and ourselves (sometimes unwittingly) with the choices we make in this life.

 There is no area where this is truer than in the arena of parenting.

 The notion that parents bless or curse their children (sometimes without knowing it) is a biblical one (Ezekiel 18:2, Psalm 37:26, Proverbs 31:27-29, Ephesians 6:1-4). However, this concept is not just a Christian notion. It’s an idea even an idiot can grasp. One does not need a crystal ball to see that a child born to a married Mother and Father, determined to provide a stable and loving home, will have a much greater chance of success in life than a child born to a poor, drug-addicted Mother and an indifferent baby-daddy.

 It’s common sense.

 There is more to the notion of blessing children (and future generations) than simple economics or even marital status, and it’s bigger than just our kids or grandkids. No man (or woman) is an island; therefore the values one generation sows into their children impacts society in powerful ways, sometimes for generations to come. It is not excessively melodramatic to say that history can be altered (for good or bad) by the parenting choices of a single generation.

 That said, as a society we aren’t exactly hitting it out of the ballpark in this area. In fact, judging from the sorry state of our culture, we are long overdue for a gut check in how we parent our kids. I believe there are five changes we desperately need to make if we want to parent in a way that blesses rather than curses our children and our culture.

 Beginning with:

 Living lives free of addiction-

 Nothing does more to curse future generations than a drug, alcohol, or porn addiction. Period. The most productive thing one generation can for another is to stay off of drugs.

Letting kids lose-

 Educated middle-class American parents are undoubtedly some of the kindest and best-intentioned parents in the history of the world. Alas, the road to hell really is paved with good intentions. In an effort to shield children from the hurt, frustration and disappointment we all encountered as children we do stuff that looks and feels merciful and kind (like giving everyone a trophy). However, those acts of kindness keep kids from growing into adults who know how to work for what they want and who can handle the setbacks of life with grace and resilience. Kids who are not taught to handle disappointment inevitably grow into adults who act out and hurt others when the going gets tough.

 Being the leader-

 Some child-rearing “experts” have duped parents into believing that children instinctively know what is best for them. This twaddle is going to create a leadership crisis in the future because we learn to lead by following. Young children (under seven) are by their very nature immature, egotistical and for all practical purposes kind of dumb. God gave kids parents to teach them to be healthy, altruistic, thoughtful human beings (Ephesians 6:1). We do that by taking the reins and making most of the decisions when they are very young (under seven) and then coaching them into good decision-making (while still giving them freedom to fail), as they get older.  

 Being in the room-

 In order to parent well, parents need to be fully present; it is all but impossible to be fully present while playing a game on your phone or perusing Facebook. Furthermore, kids learn to be good communicators (a prerequisite for a healthy future) by communicating. No one communicates effectively while preoccupied by a screen.

 Teaching them to work-

 The Bible clearly teaches that work is good (Colossians 3:23, 2nd Thessalonians 3:10). Work is important because it keeps us out of trouble, makes us productive, teaches us to manage our time and gives us the ability to share with those less fortunate. I firmly believe that young people should have at least one job working with the public. Working with people will keep them humble and free from the sin of elitism (James 2:1-9).  

 Fearing God-

 Loving God is good (Deuteronomy 11:1, Mark 12:30), but fearing Him is better (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 10:27, Leviticus 25:7). This is because the fear of the Lord leads to wisdom, (Psalm 111:10) obedience, (Psalm 128:1) the shunning of evil, (Job 28:28) long life (Psalm 14:27) and all of that leads to a society that thrives. We teach kids to fear God by teaching them that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.

 Anyone with eyes can see that our culture has serious problems. Most of our problems are a result of the choices parents have made with their children over the course of the last four decades. It is not too late to course correct, but it will take parents acting like parents again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Really Messed-up Things Every Christian Ought to be Praying About

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers~ 2nd Corinthians 1:10-11a NIV

 Life in the present-day Western world certainly has its fair share of peculiarities. On the one hand, pretty much everyone agrees that those lucky enough to live in the Western world at this time in history have more blessings, conveniences and creature comforts than people at any other period in human history.

 We also have more than our fair share of curious worries. Even really normal people worry about stuff past generations would have thought a bit odd. Things like microbes; random terror attacks, getting old, and despotic dictators in distant countries. The more neurotic in our midst (i.e. me) do not worry about “normal things” instead we worry about more exotic issues like the long-term effects of worry on our health and whether or not cell phone radiation is scrambling our brains and turning us into a horde of mindless zombies (please don’t judge).

 Sigh.                                        

 Most of the stuff we worry about is directly related to situations we have little actual control over. The angst that grows out of lack of control typically leads to one of two opposite and equally unhelpful, unhealthy, and unspiritual responses. Some people worry their heads off about things they know they can do absolutely nothing about. Others go out of their way to avoid news concerning the relentless (and troublesome) drama in our world, in a misguided effort to prevent them from freaking-out about things they can do nothing about.

 God calls us to a more proactive solution. He calls us to pray (Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1st Thessalonians 5:13). We are called to pray for those closest to us and we are called to pray for people we will never know. We are also called to pray for situations entirely outside of our control (1st Timothy 2:1-2). In the interest of promoting peace rather than anxiety I have compiled a list of things I believe every Christian ought to be praying about everyday (James 5:16). All of these issues are vast and far-reaching; so vast and far-reaching that nothing will change on any of these fronts without God’s gracious assistance.

 Pray America does some intense soul searching-

 It’s been another long, painful week in America with yet another horrible and senseless school shooting. Everyone with even the teeniest scrap of humanity in their heart wants to do SOMETHING to prevent another shooting from occurring. However, few people seem to be interested in talking about WHY these incidents continue to happen with such shocking regularity. It’s time for Americans to think a little deeper about why our culture is producing people who care so little for their fellow humans that they want to kill as many of them as possible in the most dramatic way imaginable.

 Pray for children in our culture-

 A shocking number of kids today are being born to parents who care more about themselves and their idiotically sinful habits than they do about their own offspring. This trend is rapidly producing a sizable subculture of disturbed, academically challenged and drug-affected children and young adults who are (in many cases) incapable of functioning in a healthy and life-giving way in the culture. These kids need our assistance and our prayers. And our culture needs to change this trend quickly or we are going to reap a bitter harvest in the coming years.

 Pray for a resurgence of Christian families-

 At the root of the vast majority of the problems in our world lay a lack of virtue, common sense, concern for our fellow humans and an absence of conscience. God intended for people to acquire these things in the context of loving Christian homes. Until we have a return of the Christian family our world will continue to struggle with these issues.

 Pray for leaders around the world-

 Because I am American and about 90% of the people who read this blog also happen to be American I sometimes forget that the entire world needs prayer every bit as much as America does. We need to pray that leaders worldwide will govern from a standpoint of wisdom and common sense rather than worldly twaddle. This is a tall order and something only God can make happen. It is a cause worthy of some serious prayer time.

 Pray for revival-

 We need revival in our world because God is the only one who can successfully and permanently change a human heart. We need heart change in our world because without it none of the other things that need changing ever will, and our world desperately needs change.

 

 

 

 

Raising a Kid Who Has a Conscience

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it~ Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

The disturbing slaughter in Las Vegas last week caused me to think about a subject I rarely tackle in this blog: parenting. It struck me as I was watching the news that anytime there is a mass shooting the first thing we do is search for a motive to make sense of the senseless. If the killer is a minor we want to know if the killer was bullied by his peers or abused by his parents. If the shooter is an adult we want to know if the shooting was racially or religiously motivated. If those scenarios don’t fit, we search madly for something else to explain away the behavior of the killer: like a job loss or a mental illness.

 Stephen Paddock’s motivations are proving difficult to pin down. By all accounts he was financially secure, not obviously political, not obviously religious and apparently not angry about anything in particular. He was also seemingly in his right mind right up until the moment he opened fire on a crowd of strangers.

 Those facts make this mess much harder to sort out, until you look for the one denominator common to all mass shooters: a shocking absence of conscience.

 The Bible teaches that all humans are born into this world with a rudimentary conscience that bears witness to two simple truths. The first truth being that God is (Romans 1:19-20). The second is that some sins including murder, adultery and theft are universally wrong (Romans 2:14). The Bible teaches that a conscience can be seared or stunted by willful sin in adulthood, poor parenting in childhood and exposure to bad teaching or evil people (1st Corinthians 15:33, 1st Timothy 4:2, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 29:17).

 The best time to develop a conscience and prevent the types of tragedies we saw this past week in Las Vegas is early childhood (Proverbs 22:6). Following are five simple strategies to help your child develop a conscience. Starting with:

 Teach your child to put the needs of others first- 1st Corinthians 10:24

 Many parenting programs place teaching children to put-up boundaries as the number one parenting priority. Kids do need to learn healthy boundaries, especially when it comes to inappropriate touching. Kids also need to understand that it’s okay to say “no” to a person who is taking advantage of them. However, sometimes “boundaries” is just another word for selfishness. In order to develop a healthy conscience children need to learn that everyone else is every bit as important and special as they are. This is achieved by teaching them to put other people first, taking turns, sharing when they don’t feel like it and speaking to others (including their parents) respectfully.

 Teach kids to fear God- Proverbs 1:7

 If you’re teaching your kids to love God, you are only doing half the job. Kids also need to understand that God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and that He expects people to show their love for Him through obedience to His commands (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, Luke 11:28). Kids also need to know that there will come a day when God will judge all people for everything they do, both good and bad (Revelation 20:12-13). When kids understand these basic facts it incentivizes them to do right by other people.

Expect Gratitude- 2nd Timothy 3:1-3

 Not in a “you should be grateful I fed you today, you miserable little wretch” sort of way. That is simply never okay. However, there are times when kids need to be reminded to be grateful for the things other people work hard to provide. It’s also good to expose kids to people who are less fortunate than they are. Exposure to the less fortunate will make them compassionate, thankful people. Appreciative, kindhearted people do not open fire on crowds of strangers.

 Teach kids to think about how their words and actions affect others- Matthew 7:12

 Children do not naturally think of others, nor do they automatically comprehend how their actions affect others. Kids who are not taught to think of others tend to grow-up to be the type of people who call-in sick when they’re not sick, cheat on their spouse or commit crimes without thinking about how their behavior will affect others.

 Only praise actual achievement- Proverbs 14:25

 Kids do need to be encouraged. However, telling children they did something awesome when they did something ordinary is a lie that inflates their ego and causes them to think they are better and smarter than they really are. This creates an ideal breeding ground for pride and arrogance to take root in their hearts. Prideful, arrogant people rarely care about others and caring about others is the foundation for building a healthy conscience.

 I know absolutely nothing about Steven Paddocks childhood nor do I know how his conscience became seared to the point where he felt okay about opening fire on a crowd of strangers. I do know that normal people with healthy consciences simply do not do such things. I also know that teaching kids to care about others and to fear their Creator is the one thing we can all do to prevent tragedies like this one in the future.

Where We Went Wrong With the Millennial Generation

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things~ 1st Corinthians 13:11 NKJV

 Over the last dozen or so years a countless number of articles and blog posts have been written on the subject of the Millennial generation and their well-documented indifference towards organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.

 Most writers focus almost entirely on solving the immediate spiritual crisis. Concerned parties want to reach the eighty percent who have wandered from the faith, before the entire generation is irrevocably lost to secularism, humanism, and atheism. I truly care about reaching the millennial generation on a spiritual level. However, I believe its every bit as imperative we understand how we got into this mess in first place.

 History is always critically important.

 Unless we know where we went wrong in a particular area we will be doomed to repeat the same stupid mistake until we die. Sadly, a countless number of blunders were made with the millennial generation. Parents, schools and churches all carry a share of the blame.

It all began with how my generation was raised.

Few in my generation were ever told we were special or smart when we were kids. This was true even when we did things that were genuinely special or smart. We were seldom permitted to voice our opinions or encouraged to share our thoughts. It was NEVER okay to contradict an adult. So when we became parents we did what Americans do when they encounter a wrong.

 We overcompensated.

 We told our kids a hundred times a day that they were smarter, more special and better informed than any children in the history of forever. If they pooped we threw a party, complete with M&M’s and party hats. If they shared an opinion, we celebrated that opinion no matter how irrational or poorly thought-out it happened to be. We insisted every kid get a trophy and made certain no child ever felt less than AWESOME about his or her academic or athletic abilities, regardless of actual ability.

 Educators were quick to focus on feelings rather than facts and hop on to the self-esteem bandwagon. Discipline went out of fashion and subjects like history were taught from an extremely one-sided perspective. Kids were rarely expected to examine both sides of an issue nor were they taught to judge historical figures actions and attitudes in the context of the time period they lived in. Absurd viewpoints were rarely, if ever challenged in academic settings.

 Churches and youth ministries focused on having fun, forming relationships and making kids feel good about themselves. Learning the Bible was dropped in favor of “service projects” and “doing life together”. The whole notion of sin was marginalized. Youth ministries focused on transforming children not yet out of puberty, including some who exhibited no indications of salvation into “leaders” who would “reach their generation for Jesus”. Do not judge, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1) was the one Bible verse every high school student memorized.

 The end result of this collective madness has been devastating to our culture.

 Many millennials never let go of childish ideas about life and reality. It’s appallingly common for grown people to think that feelings are more important than facts and that if you believe something to be true then it must be. Many become anxious and overwrought when a flaw is pointed out in their thinking or when a viewpoint that differs from their own is presented. That is why we now have “safe spaces” on college campuses and in workplaces, to shield people from words or ideas that make them uncomfortable.

 Sigh.  

 The most tragic consequences of our folly have manifested themselves in the realm of the spiritual. Many millennials believe that if a Bible verse FEELS wrong to them then the Bible got it wrong on that subject. Because teenagers were placed in positions of spiritual leadership long before they were actually converted, acquired any wisdom or knew much of anything about the Bible; many are prideful and will not tolerate correction, even when the correction comes directly out of the Bible.

 Sadly, that is the root reason many millennials have left the church to “work out their own spiritual experience”. They simply cannot tolerate the fact that there is a higher authority than them, be it God or the Bible.

 We must change the way we look at life, God, parenting, and the nature of reality. It’s time to put away childish thoughts about such things and think like adults, this is especially true for Christians.

 It is time to acknowledge some basic truths: facts are more important than feelings, believing something does not make it true and only children shield themselves from ideas that challenge their thinking or hurt their feelings. While we’re at it we need to get back to the understanding that God is real and due to His position as Creator and Sustainer of all things He really does have a fundamental right to tell us what to do.

 Before it’s too late.

The Lesson We all Have to Learn at Least Once

 Be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do~ Ephesians 5:15-17 NLT

 The whole thing started with a promising, albeit peculiar occurrence. It was late last June and par for the course in Tucson, it was freakishly hot outside. I was in the garage rooting around in the refrigerator for a cold bottle of water. When (and this is weird) I was overcome with an almost overwhelming sense that our family would soon be moving back to Spokane.

 It appeared at the time that the feeling was little more than wishful hoping coupled with possible heatstroke. I wanted that feeling to be a word from the Lord or a sign, or whatever, as long as it was also a fact. Rationally it didn’t look like it would be.

We were in the initial stages of planning a move to Texas. The job that would have taken us there appeared to be a done deal. To our knowledge there were zero employment options for us in Spokane.

 Two weeks later everything changed.

 The deal driving the move to Texas abruptly fell apart and, as a result so did the job offer. One week after that, a job in Spokane appeared out of nowhere. Three weeks after that. We were going home.

 It would be reasonable to assume that any situation that came together as easily as that one did would be nothing but smooth sailing all the way to the finish line.

 As if.

 The ten months that followed were anything but smooth and easy. They were in fact some of the most challenging of my life. It wasn’t the first time I had to deal with the frustration of a move that seemed to be stuck in second gear but it was unquestionably the most difficult.

 I won’t bore you with the stupid details. It’s enough to say that the house didn’t sell quickly, effortlessly, or for anywhere near the price we listed it at. My husband and I lived in different cities and as a result the situation rapidly became emotionally and financially draining. Complicating matters further were some dynamics that are unique to our family situation. Including an eleven-year-old girl with some serious trust issues who has only been a part of our family for two short years.

 However, in recent weeks things have been looking up. The house sold. We bought another one and for the first time in nearly a year our family was living in the same zip code. Things were far from settled, but it was looking like they would be soon.  

 Until last weekend when I had to sit the eleven-year-old down and tell her that it was looking like the house deal in Tucson was going to fall through (it didn’t). If that happened we would also lose the house in Spokane. On the surface she was the image of calm serenity. However, within hours that image was shattered. She had regressed to some behaviors and attitudes we hoped and prayed were gone forever.

 Under normal circumstances, I would have attempted to finesse the situation a bit. I would draw her out, talk to her about her feelings and then gently attempt to get her back on the right track. At that moment I lacked the emotional bandwidth for sensitivity, so instead I simply informed her she was acting out.

 I explained that acting out is a common reaction even for adults. Plenty of folks choose to do all sorts of stupid stuff when they are angry or sad. I went on to explain that acting out always makes things worse and is never the wise thing to do.

 Then I told her that I would be there for her If she wanted to talk or cry, but acting out was unproductive waste of time and she needed to be done with it. Thankfully, her attitude improved immediately and we went on with our weekend. The next day I was thinking about our little talk and it occurred to me that I had been making a lot of things about me that were probably not about me at all.

 The struggles I selfishly felt were mine were at least partly about God and a little girl and what He was teaching her about life through our trials. It was about a kid who desperately needed to see that there is a different way to do life. It was probably about a kid who needed to see people running to God (no matter how imperfectly) with their disillusionment rather than looking for a thing or a substance to fix their feelings.

 It hit me that we are all prone to forget the truth that smooth and easy might feel good but it’s not always best. Tough times can be an opportunity for God shine through us, if we let Him.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Derek

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth~ Psalm 127:4

 Dear Derek,

 Congratulations, and welcome to the roller coaster. Only a few weeks in and I am sure that you have already discovered that few experiences in this life compare with the sweet pandemonium of early parenthood.

 You have undoubtedly already observed that your capacity for both love and worry has increased exponentially with the arrival of your sweet little human. The expansion for both has only just begun. As your little human grows and matures your capacity for love will grow with them. You will also worry about problems and situations you don’t even know exist at this point.

 In your message you asked if I had any advice for you and your wife as you begin your journey as parents. Thanks for asking. I am always a little dumbstruck when I discover that people actually read what I write. It blesses me beyond words when someone asks for more. I will do my best to give you something you can use.

 Four kids (two grown, one adopted) and well into the third decade of my own journey. I have concluded that successful parenting is predicated on the same principle any other productive enterprise is built upon:

 Begin with the end in mind.

 Decide now what qualities you want to see manifested in your adult children (my husband and I made a list). Once you settle on some objectives, model, teach and discuss those virtues all the time. The goal should be to mold their thinking and character around the values that matter most to God. Start early. If you want an adult child who is honest, moral, considerate, loyal and hardworking (all character traits on our list), the time to plant the seeds of those virtues is long before your son or daughter turns seven.

 It’s essential to take a long view when dealing with kids. Children mature quickly and many behaviors and attitudes that are precocious and even a little endearing on very young children (think extreme competitiveness  sexual precocity’ and disrespect), are disturbing to witness in a teenager; and thoroughly detrimental to the success of a fully-grown man or woman.

 Beginning with the end in mind is critical when it comes to sowing faith into our kids. It is never too early to begin passing on what you believe about life and God to your kids. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 is the key:

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…

 This passage presupposes two realities. The first is that the parents are following hard after God in a tangible and authentic way in their own lives. If you and your wife put obedience to God above your own preferences, are humble enough to admit your own failures, and are willing to receive counsel from others, your children will be more likely to embrace your beliefs. Sadly, there are no guarantees with kids, however faithfulness and humility increase your chances of a good outcome.

 The second assumption this passage makes is that the instruction and training of children will take place in the context of a close and affectionate relationship. You will discover quickly that children need and even long for firm boundaries. However, your child will also need to know with absolute certainty that you are one hundred percent in their corner all the time, especially when you are disciplining them. Bitterness and rebellion in older kids are generally the outcome of lack of healthy connection with parents.  

 I cannot overstress the importance of enjoying the ride. The early years of parenting are overwhelming and every sane parent wonders if it will ever end. The key to enjoying the journey lies in not getting bent of shape of over the little things, my Father-in-law used to remind us “sometimes spilled milk is just spilled milk”. He was right.

I wish I had been more inclined to listen to his wise counsel. 

 Finally, and perhaps most importantly, love each other well. Let your child see affection, consideration and grace reflected in your interactions with one another. A healthy view of marriage is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids.

 God be with you both as begin your journey!

 Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Four Truths Your Kids Must Know About God

Teach me your way, O Lord; I will walk in your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forevermore~ Psalm 86:10-12 ESV

Few would be foolish enough to argue that accuracy doesn’t really matter. After all, no one would hire a surgeon who is not known for it. I pay my tax accountant handsomely for it. And the winner of nearly every contest in this life is ultimately decided by it.      

 I know now that lack of accuracy with something as seemingly silly and inconsequential as inputting “Street” rather than “Road” into a GPS will result in some fairly serious consequences. Like landing you on the side of town where there is a serious language barrier between you and the vast majority of the residents.

 As a culture, we value accuracy and precision when it comes to most issues. Even going so far as to threaten litigation against folks who act carelessly. Sadly, we have become a bit laissez-faire concerning the information we dispense about God. This is particularly true when it comes to children. Parents and Sunday school teachers alike tell Bible stories severely lacking in context and skip over seedy details that cause the grown-ups in the room to feel awkward or uncomfortable. We talk a lot about the love of God but leave out any information that might possibly imply that God is also a God of judgment.

 We have revised God, and in the course of making our revisions, we have succeeded in restructuring Him into an image that is much more user-friendly. Sadly, it bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. It’s a God most of us feel pretty good about and few of us fear but this God is having little influence on how most folks think, behave or make choices.

 It’s the young who are paying the price for the wholesale editing of God’s image. Most are drowning in the cultural morass we have created with our lack of spiritual and moral focus. It’s not too late to turn things around, but we have to stop making God into our own image and become more intentional about teaching our kids the truth about God. Kids need to know that:

 God’s love is different from human love

 Kids should understand that God loves them, but they should also understand that God does not love like people love. Human love tends to be all about making people feel good. We feel loved by another person when they are going out of their way to make us feel good about what we are doing and how we are behaving. God’s love is about making us into genuinely good people. Because God wants us to be good instead of just feeling good He will sometimes allow us to experience situations that are unpleasant (Hebrews 12:6). God doesn’t do this to be cruel. He does it to build our character, bring our perspective into alignment with His and make us more like Jesus. Our kids need to be taught that God has not stopped loving them simply because life has gotten hard or feels unpleasant for a period of time.

 God does not change

 Contrary to popular belief, God’s opinions and judgments do not shift with changing times and fluctuating human attitudes (Hebrews 13:8). If God did not approve of something five thousand years ago, it’s unlikely that His attitude has evolved on the issue. Kids need to understand that current popular opinions on a whole host of moral issues will be irrelevant to God on judgment day.

God has the right to decide what flies and what doesn’t

 Because God made the Universe, He gets to decide exactly what’s right and wrong and what really works in the long run. We need to help our kids understand that when God says something we don’t agree with, we are the ones who fail to grasp the bigger picture, not God.

  God wants His people to be kind

 It is our responsibility as followers of God to speak to people about God. The key is to do it in such a way that causes people to want to get on board with God’s way of doing things (Ephesians 4:15). It is not our job to berate, rebuke or belittle folks into the Kingdom of God. Nor is okay to minimize or gloss over the consequences of blowing off the opportunities God gives in this life to repent and get our lives right with God.

 

More than anything else, our kids need to know that God is unchanging. His love for us is constant but so are His standards. It is our responsibility to share both with our kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Talking to your Kids About Sex

Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love~ Proverbs 7:18

 It’s as old as the human race, and we all know that most people do it. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when most folks had the dignity to be somewhat discreet about the whole thing.

 Those days are long over.

 A teacher at a private school in Minneapolis took a group of middle and high school students, some as young as eleven, on a fieldtrip to a sex shop called the “Smitten Kitten.” My daughter and I had our own little educational moment when we stumbled upon two teenage girls on the verge of “it” in the dark corner of a store recently.

 One is confronted with “it” in slick advertisements depicting attractive fifty-something couples. As the blissful twosomes occupy themselves with adolescent-like public displays of affection, the narrator of the commercial does his level best to discourage men who may be in need of a particular product from “stopping so they can find a bathroom” or “pausing to take a pill.” Rather, they are encouraged to “make the moment right”.

 Do the makers of those little blue pills really intend for couples to “make the moment right” at the ballpark, or the symphony or while watching a movie in a park with children present?

 Seriously?

 The sad fact is that our society is obsessed with sex and if you don’t have a conversation with your kids about it, you can bet someone else will, and it likely won’t be the conversation you would have had with them. After four kids and countless years working with other people’s kids, I have learned that there is no one-size-fits-all method when it comes to the when and how of talking to kids about sex. But after some trial and error I do have some recommendations:

 Set yourself up as an expert on the topic-

Give accurate information from day one. Don’t give into the temptation to call vaginas woo-woos and penises wee-wees. Call parts what they are. Also avoid telling your preschooler some half-baked fable about where babies come from. You should not tell them everything all at once. I am all for vagueness and ambiguity with children under five. That said, what you do tell them should be factual and accurate. This will set you up as an authority that understands the subject, rather than an ill-informed bumbler trying desperately to avoid a tough subject.

 Don’t wait too long, because kids talk-

 We learned this one the hard way. Our then almost eight-year-old son announced one evening that he knew everything there was to know about sex. To our horror we discovered that he did indeed know quite a lot, most of it wildly inaccurate and kind of gross. The kid down the street, whose Dad (unbeknownst to us) watched a LOT of porn, told Alex everything he had learned from “his Dad’s shows”. My husband took our son camping the next day and set the record straight but the damage was done. If your kid attends public school or they play with kids in the neighborhood you probably need to explain the basic mechanics of sexuality sometime between the ages of five and seven.

 Don’t be afraid to link sex and marriage-  

 Separating sex from marriage has done nothing for anyone and is wrecking havoc on every part of our society. Stressing the fact that sex is for marriage is not enough. Our kids and our culture need more examples of happy, healthy, distinctly Christian marriages. Get help if you need it.

 Monitor what schools are teaching about sex-

 Most schools attempt to teach so-called values-free sex education. This works okay when the instructors are discussing the changes that occur at puberty. It gets a bit dicey once they get into the specific’s of the when, where, how and why of sexuality. Most programs mix messages, telling kids that sex is a big responsibility but that they should wait “until they feel they are ready.” They forget that few teens are mature enough to admit that they are not ready for something they really want to do. Most schools require parents to view the curriculum to opt their kids out of sex education. I have attended dozens of these pre-view nights through the years. I have never once seen more than a handful of Moms (never Dads) at these events. At the very least, you should find out what your kids are learning and talk with them about it.

 Drag God into it-

 God cares deeply about every aspect of our lives, including how we conduct ourselves sexually (1st Thessalonians 4:2-8). Sadly, even in many Christian homes God’s perspective on sex is seen as nothing more than an archaic throwback to a simpler time. We’ve adopted this view to our own detriment. Single parenthood, divorce, abortion, some diseases and a whole lot of heartbreak are quite often the direct consequences of ignoring God’s directives concerning sexuality.

 If you really love your kids, prove it by telling them things their sex education teacher won’t. Tell them that sex is a gift from God that has tremendous potential for both good and evil. Tell them that sex is incredible in the context it was intended (marriage). Tell them that outside of the context it was intended it can easily morph into a soul-sucking, life-destroying monster. Warn them of the dangers and prepare them to maturely handle the responsibility.