What the Church Must Do to Win Back the Millennial Generation

May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors~ 1st Kings 8:58

  Monday morning just as I was preparing to leave Facebook and go do something productive with my life, a question popped-up on my newsfeed that I almost ignored. It was a religious question and I tend to avoid getting involved with religious questions on social media. The questions are typically stupid and the people asking seldom ask out of pure motives. As a result those questions tend to veer into debates that devolve into quarrels that inevitably end with me searching frantically for a legal outlet for my rage.

 However, this was a very good question. I knew the answer and someone I like asked it in a respectful and sincere manner. So, I fired off a hasty response assuming that would be the end of it. Rather, it was the beginning of a one of the more thought-provoking conversations I have had in a long time. One question led to another and then a few of the original questioner’s friends (all millennials) chimed in with related questions and thoughts. A plethora of differing opinions were shared but the entire discussion remained very courteous and civil.

 I emerged from cyberspace ninety minutes later, drained, but armed with what I believe are some answers to a question that has been plaguing the modern Church for the better part of a decade.

 Why are millennials leaving the church?

 For years Church leaders have suspected that too many rules and a focus on doctrinal issues have bored and offended millennials, causing them to seek answers elsewhere. After my discussion with a half dozen or so random millennials this past week I am beginning to suspect our assumptions are at least partially incorrect.

 The millennials I interacted with do not seem to have an issue with the notion of God having rules. In fact I got the sense that most of these millennials believe that IF there happens to be a God (most are still very much undecided) then it would only make sense that He would have at least a few rules for His people to follow.

 They do have questions about which rules ought to be followed (Old Testament? New Testament? Both?). And they want some sensible explanations as to why the rules matter. It’s clear that most millennials are not blind followers; they want to know the why of everything before they buy into anything. It’s also clear that they do have an issue with the lack of consistency they see in the lives of Christians and the lack of uniformity they see across denominations. More than one individual stated that it looked to them as if individual Christians just decide for themselves which rules they want to follow depending on the situation.

 They also seemed to feel that most Christians were very quick to apply rules regarding sexual behavior to others (homosexuals) but not so quick to apply rules regarding divorce and other forms of sexual sin (adultery, pornography) to themselves and other Church members. They seemed to be genuinely baffled and repelled by the hypocrisy of those double standards. As a result, they have a tough time reconciling the actions of Christians with the teachings of the New Testament.

 Those millennials who grew up in Christian homes appeared to be unfamiliar with what most would consider basic Christian teachings and doctrine (sin, Jesus, forgiveness, repentance, the Old Testament, etc.). One mentioned later in a private message that they stopped attending Church because they never really learned anything there. They also expressed frustration because no one would answer questions regarding what they saw as discrepancies between science and the Bible. Rather they were encouraged “to just believe”.

 The Christian community is on the threshold of losing a large portion of an entire generation. It’s possible to get them back, but it will require extraordinary effort from all of us. First, we need to restructure our thinking and let go of the absurd post-modern notion that no one really cares about doctrine or apologetics anymore. We also need to help our youth understand they “why” behind God’s directives. Intellectual laziness and “just believe” twaddle will not fly with a generation accustomed to getting their questions answered in seconds via Google.

 Continued intellectual development is imperative but it will only take us so far. Revival and spiritual renewal is crucial but will only come through a movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in situations where God’s people are seeking to be obedient to God all the time, not pretending to be better than they really are in an effort to impress others while still hanging on to sin. It is time for God’s people to pursue true holiness—not the weird, superficial legalism we see in some circles. When we do those things, millennials will return.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- How to Avoid Parental Heartbreak

It has been a long week, packed with blessings, celebrations and memories. The week began with a drive from Arizona to Oregon, crossing four states (we can be stupid cheap sometimes). We stayed at the home of my amazingly gracious sister-in-law, spent one unbearably short day with my only sister, and got to know my adorable niece and nephew all over again. I was reminded that family is a tremendous gift.

 My husband and I hiked through a rainforest with the kids and were blown away by the magnificence of God’s handiwork. We spent a day in Portland. Sadly, it was much dirtier and far less charming than I remembered. We reminisced over a long dinner with old friends and were reminded that there are no friends like old friends. We ended the week at the lovely wedding of our son’s childhood friend. Witnessing the marriage of a now-adult child we watched grow up was a bittersweet reminder of how quickly time passes.

 As I write, we are headed back to Tucson and I have little to do but think. My mind keeps wandering back to some conversations I have had over the past weeks. All the folks have different stories but they do share a common bond. All have adult children that have broken their hearts.

 Some of the kids got caught up in drugs and were unable to free themselves from the trap. Others became alcoholics. Bad company and or worldly philosophies led more than a few astray. All who strayed have turned their backs on the faith they were raised in.

 There was precious little I could say to comfort these parents over the course of our conversations. Once an adult child has gone their own way there is not a lot that can be done to bring them back. The ultimate outcome of their story is between them and God. Because there are few cures for this particular brand of heartache, prevention is imperative. There are five steps Moms and Dads can take over the course of the parenting years to prevent a world of hurt when their kids reach adulthood.

 Get married and stay that way –

 Divorce wrecks kids. Children of divorce universally believe that if they were smarter, cuter or better behaved their parents would have stayed together. This false view of reality sets them up for all sorts of self-image and relationship issues later in life. Perhaps the biggest problem with divorce is that it diverts attention that should be on kids back to the parents. Parents spend a lot of time licking their wounds and searching for relationships to shore up their own shattered self-confidence in the years following a divorce. This leaves kids with loads of time to develop sketchy friendships and lots of opportunities to experiment with dangerous behaviors. To make matters worse, stepparents are rarely passionate about raising someone else’s kids. Kids sense the tension and it causes them to feel like interlopers in their own homes. If you feel you absolutely must divorce, do your kids a favor and commit to singleness (and celibacy) until they reach adulthood.

 Don’t overlook character issues-

 Inclinations towards substance abuse, self-centeredness, deceit, spiritual apathy, laziness, and the tendency to withdraw have their roots in childhood. Be aware of your child’s predisposition to certain sins and deal with issues early on.

 Be selective about which influences you allow-

 Friends, relatives, educators, television and even music powerfully influence how our kids view the world. It is vital that we know who and what is shaping our kids. Parents are sometimes hesitant to say “no” to people and things that are having a detrimental impact on their kids out of fear of appearing controlling. There are no do-overs in childrearing. Once harm is done, it’s done. Don’t hesitate to limit or even eliminate influences that are inclined to lead your kids down the wrong path.

 Don’t be a fraud-

 Do not pretend to be better than you really are and refuse to be satisfied with living a feeble, partially committed Christian existence. Deal with the sin in your life decisively (Matthew 5:30). You must deal with the sin in your life because your child’s spiritual future is hinging on your ability to model truth for them. You don’t have to be perfect but you do need to be making an authentic and concerted effort toward becoming holy.

 Commit to a Bible-believing Church-

 A good Church has innumerable benefits: it provides a good place to make friends, teaches truth, provides accountability and helps keep kids busy and grounded during the teen years. It is possible for a person to be very involved in Church and not have a relationship with God. That said, kids understand almost intuitively that our involvement with Church is huge indicator of how serious we are about our relationship with God. Your kids will likely never be more committed to God or Church than you are, so get committed to God, find a good Church and stick with it.

 There are no guarantees in child rearing. It is possible to do everything right and still have a kid who breaks your heart. The odds of parental heartbreak are significantly diminished when you strive to nurture a good marriage, seek a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, keep an eye on influences and live transparently.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series: How Strict is Too Strict?

 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord~ Ephesians 6:4 NKJV

 Parenting has evolved into an exercise in excesses. Authoritarian parents take strictness and rigidity to extremes, with little thought to how unnecessary rules and lack of flexibility affect relationships. Conversely, permissive parents are excessively indulgent, seemingly uninterested in creating any sort of boundaries for their kids, allowing kids to run the show and set the standards.

 Protective parents hover compulsively over their children. These well-meaning mothers and fathers are convinced that something will go horribly awry in the life of their child if they are not with them every moment to monitor and direct every aspect of their kid’s existence from birth to adulthood. Then there are the so-called free-range parents who are convinced that even very young children are perfectly capable of maneuvering complex situations with little or no input from adults.

 There is no area where you see extremes expressed more fully than in the area of strictness. Webster’s dictionary defines strictness as: “a firm adherence to the rules.” I define strictness as not simply adhering strictly to rules but as also as having an abundance of rules that you firmly adhere to.

 My logic for tweaking Webster’s definition is fairly straightforward. When we think of strictness we tend to think of conditions that are unreasonably burdensome or oppressive. Strictly adhering to one, two or even three rules is hardly burdensome even by the most liberal of standards.

 Authoritarian parents love rules and take great pleasure in creating new ones. The authoritarian parent has rule for every situation and their solution to every new problem that crops up is to create a new set of rules. Permissive parents tend to view rules with a cynical eye, believing that rules are a form tyranny intended to stifle imagination and keep kids from learning about the world around them.

 How strict is too strict? How many rules are too many? In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question. It really does depend on the age and maturity level of the child in question. Young children need lots of rules and boundaries to keep them safe and help them figure out the universe. Kids should need fewer rules as they mature and begin to understand how the law of cause and effect works in day-to-day decision-making.

 In my experience, two to seven are the training years of childhood. Parents should be fairly strict—never mean or punitive, but there should be quite a few rules governing every day behavior. During this period kids should be carefully supervised and even controlled. Children this age should be told what to do and expected to obey parental directives because they lack the wisdom and life experience to make good decisions. Most choices kids make during these years should be controlled choices. For example:

 Do you want to eat grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly for lunch today? Rather than: what do you want for lunch today?

 Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt to Church today?

Rather than: what do you want to wear to Church today?

 Controlled choices help keep chaos to a minimum, establish parents as the authority in the home, give children a sense of control over their world and helps kids to understand what a good choice looks like.

 Eight to fourteen year-olds still need rules and firm boundaries to keep them in line. That said, parents should begin the process of letting go of control of their kids. This is accomplished by allowing kids make more of their own decisions. Kids this age need to discover the link between choices and consequences.

 Children acquire that knowledge when parents allow them to experience the full weight of the consequences of their choices. If they don’t wish to wear a coat, don’t force them. You may learn that your child has a higher tolerance for cold temperatures than you do (as I did), or your kid will learn that it stinks to be cold and in the process become responsible for their own comfort level.

 The later teen years are all about letting go of control and empowering kids to make adult decisions. Fifteen to eighteen year-olds should have minimal rules focused mostly on safety, respect and moral issues. The penalties for poor choices during these years should be painful, immediate and long lasting. A speeding ticket should result in a loss of driving privileges and perhaps a requirement to pay for their own insurance. Run-ins with authority figures ought to result in a complete loss of freedom for a season. Parenting kids this age is a balancing act between giving them freedom to make enough mistakes to learn but not enough freedom to ruin their lives or hurt other people.

 Overly strict and overly permissive parents share one thing in common: they both forget that kids grow-up to live their own lives. It’s our duty as parents to teach rather than control them. We must enable them to make good choices so that they can become the best possible versions of themselves they can be.

 

 

 

Summer Parenting Series- Should Parents Teach Obedience?

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him~ Psalm 128:1

 One night a few months back, our adopted ten-year-old daughter asked me to explain Korah’s rebellion to her. Delighted by her sudden interest in the Bible, I proceeded to give her the highlights of Korah’s story found in Numbers 16:1-35.

 I explained that Korah and his friends disobeyed God when they attempted to overthrow Moses, God’s choice for the leader of the Israelite people. They also ignored God’s explicit instructions concerning the organization of the priesthood and insisted on doing some really important things their own way rather than the way God expected them to be done. I was careful to explain that obedience is a really big deal to God before I shared the specifics of Korah’s sudden and shocking end.

 Her reaction was not even close to the Sunday school response I was hoping for. Looking appalled and more than a bit scornful she replied…

 “That seems a little harsh of God. I really don’t see what the big deal is, all those guys did was disobey a few rules”.

 No amount of reason on my part seemed to persuade the child that the Creator of the universe has the right to demand absolute obedience of someone.

 Apparently we still have some work to do.

 After a little thought and a lot of prayer I realized that I was much more surprised by her reaction than I should have been. She is a sweet little girl who is also the product of a culture that believes three things to be so absolutely true and immutable, that even God Himself is not exempt from the consequences of violating these “truths”:

 It is a grievous sin to restrict or limit a person’s choices (even if those choices are dangerous)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (even if it’s demonstrably wrong)    

Expecting obedience is a form of abuse

 These beliefs have become so deeply embedded in our cultural thinking that they have profoundly influenced every aspect of our lives—from politics and education, to workplace etiquette, to how we parent our children. Everywhere we look, “obedience” has become a dirty word.

 Some well-meaning parents subtly discourage their children from obeying and demonstrating respect for adults. These parents erroneously believe that some sassiness combined with a little spirited defiance empowers children to stand-up for themselves when confronted with unreasonable authority figures. Many otherwise intelligent adults have bought into the lie that childhood obedience sets kids up to be spineless adults unable to stand up for themselves.

 Training children to obey adult authority is only dangerous when we also fail to teach them right from wrong. Kids must be taught to understand that they are only obligated to obey leaders or adults who are doing the right thing. Children should be encouraged to flee from and tell on anyone (adult or child) who urges them to do anything dishonest or sketchy. Knowing how to think and reason is the best protection from evil or irrational authority figures.

 Teaching kids to obey must be done in a context of love and logic. Kids need to understand that rules and boundaries have been put in place for their protection. If they believe that rules are arbitrary or mean-spirited, they will rebel and bad behavior will be driven underground.

 No child will consistently obey unless taught to do so. Most will become passively noncompliant, while some will openly defy authority. Both are equally dangerous; passive disobedience, left unchecked, creates an environment where folly and deceitfulness take root in a child’s heart.

 Conversely, a child who openly defies adult authority will mature into an adult who tends to be disrespectful of people and property and who may even be at odds with the law. Both passive and active defiance, left unchecked, produce an adult who is difficult to like and not worthy of trust.

 Teaching kids to obey parental authority is not a form of abuse; rather, it’s a form of protection. It protects kids because they learn through doing what is sensible and wise by following the directives of their parents. Obedience keeps kids out of trouble and makes them more likeable to other adults. Kids who are liked by others naturally receive more opportunities in life.

 In order for obedience to make sense to kids, parents must be willing to explain the reasons for their rules. The point is not to squash a child’s ability to think independently, or to make them completely dependent on their parent’s wisdom. The goal should be to help kids while they are young to develop the common sense and good judgment necessary to make good choices and lead others as they grow into adulthood.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Photo Cred goes to: http://www.theatlantic.com

Parenting 101- Foundations

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock~ Matthew 7:25

 

Like many couples, my husband and I have entirely different priorities when it comes to house hunting. I am all about cute. I look for original wood floors, unique details, and lots and lots of windows. My husband worked in construction for years and has a far more practical (read: boring) bent; he is concerned with the condition of the roof, the energy efficiency of all those windows I am in love with, and—of course—the location.

 An older home with original molding, distinctive features and a front porch roomy enough for two rocking chairs will leave me swooning and impatient to commit. Until my practical hubby kills the moment by pointing out that my dream home has no garage, a vintage furnace, and is located between an all-night liquor store and a vacant lot scattered with hypodermic needles and evidence of a homeless camp.

 If we are lucky enough to find a house cute enough for me and sensible enough for my husband, the next step is a trip to the basement for a thorough inspection of the foundation. My man has been known to spend an hour checking over every square inch of the foundation searching for cracks and other evidence of weaknesses. If I had a dollar for every house that has been crossed of our list on the basis of a questionable foundation, I could quite possibly double the down payment on our next house.

 As vexing as I find my husband’s practicality, I do understand where he is coming from. Flooring can be changed; location cannot. A faulty foundation takes buckets of money and a Herculean effort to repair.

 Houses are not the only things built on a foundation. The character of our kids is built on a foundation. The foundation we build when our children are young will go a long way in determining the outcome of their lives.

 There are three components necessary to build a solid foundation in the life of our kids. It all starts with:

 Authority

 The daily skirmishes with your two- to seven-year-old child are not about what they appear to be about. It might feel as if you are simply having a difference of opinion over food choices, personal hygiene, bedtime, organization and obedience. In reality you are in a battle with your child over who exactly is going to be the leader in your home. You win it by kindly but assertively making the decisions about what is going to happen in your home, giving controlled choices and clear explanations for your decisions. Success will establish you and your spouse as the principal authority figures in your child’s life. This will prepare the child to accept and submit to the authority of teachers, coaches, police officers, bosses and God. If you lose, your child will become the default leader in your relationship dynamic and as a result every rule and request you make will be tested, either actively or passively (depending on the personality of your child) and your child will never respect you or any other authority figure, including God.

 Spiritual and ethical training

 Every kid needs to understand that they are not the center of the universe and that other people matter as much as they do. We communicate this reality by teaching them to not just to love God, but also to obey Him, and teaching them biblical standards of right and wrong. Without a healthy fear of God and fixed standards to guide them, kids grow into adults driven not by reason, concern for others, or virtue, but by their own egos, appetites and passions.

 Love

 Love as described in 1st Corinthians 13 is central to Christian parenting. Without love, our efforts to assert our parental authority will be perceived by our kids as cruel and controlling. Teaching kids to obey God’s precepts without modeling His love and grace in our daily interactions will lead to a skewed perception of and eventual rejection of God. Too many parents in our culture love their children extravagantly, all the while forgetting that love, if not combined with biblical training and appropriate respect for authority, produces a lonely, unhappy, self-absorbed adult.

 Successful parents look at the big picture. Good parenting is not about making kids happy every minute of the day. Good parenting is about preparing kids for the future and teaching them right from wrong. It takes a combination of authority, moral instruction and love to get the job done.

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The Real Have-Not’s

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them~ Deuteronomy 4:9

 

All hell broke loose in the Charm City this past week.

 Madness and pandemonium erupted after the funeral of twenty-five year old Freddie Gray. Gray died of unexplained injuries sustained while in police custody. The particulars of this case are unsettling and raise serious questions about police practices and potential brutality.

 From a social and spiritual perspective the reaction to Gray’s death is every bit as troubling as the case itself. It appeared that the entire city collectively lost its mind: buildings were burned to the ground, businesses plundered, onlookers attacked for any and no reason. Twenty police officers were injured, six of them seriously.

 These events have had the chattering class chattering around-the-clock. Reporters and pundits have debated the details of the case nearly to death and have theorized endlessly on why the people of Baltimore would react with such tremendous violence. Poverty has been identified as the principal cause for the behavior of the rioters.

 Journalists and social commentators have repeatedly referred to residents of West Baltimore as “have-nots.” Some of these same commentators have used poverty not only as an excuse for bad behavior but as a justification. I do not dispute the fact that many, if not most, residents of West Baltimore are poor and in many respects disadvantaged. That fact is plain and indisputable. I do take issue with the notion that poverty automatically puts people in the category of “have-nots” and that poverty is a viable justification for violence, anarchy and hate.

 The poor have been a part of human society since the dawn of human society. Jesus himself promised that poor people would continue to be a part of human society as along as human society endures (Matthew 26:11). There is nothing fundamentally wrong with being poor, just as there is nothing immoral about being rich. It is how one reacts to the conditions they were born into that determines how that individual turns out.

 Much of how an individual responds to their circumstances depends not on the size of their bank account, but rather on what their parents sowed into them when they were young. Parenting—not tax bracket—is the real dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.

 There is a ridiculous myth that has taken root in Western thought. The crux of the myth says that in order to produce a civilized, respectable, God-fearing and useful human being; one is required to have two good incomes, money in the bank, a four-bedroom house in a highly rated school district and a college degree. Nothing could be further from the truth. Things may be helpful, but ultimately things are just things. Things do not produce god-fearing, decent human beings; good parents do.

 Good parents work hard, at menial jobs if necessary, to support their children financially. Good parents model honesty and virtue don’t cheat the social welfare system. Good parents get married before bearing children and do what it takes to stay happily married afterward.

 Good parents introduce the concepts of discipline and self-control early in life understanding that discipline and limits help ensure that children will become law-abiding citizens later. Good parents teach the truth that right and wrong are fixed standards rather than squishy opinions that adjust to the times and setting.

 Good parents value education enough to insist that children stay in school, pay attention to their teachers and do the homework. Good parents demand that that kids respect authority and discipline kids who are disrespectful towards teachers, police and other authority figures. Good parents teach their kids that human beings are obligated by God and human law to do right even when life is hard and circumstances are trying.

 Just as poverty is not an excuse for bad parenting, poor upbringing is not an excuse for bad behavior. People are only savage, soulless animals ruled by circumstances if they wish to be. We are moral beings capable of making moral choices regardless of resources or upbringing. The events of this past week support the notion that we need a rebirth in this country. A rebirth of good parenting, personal responsibility, common sense, and fear of God. When one has those things, they have everything no matter their tax bracket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride and the Fall

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice~ Proverbs 13:10

 This month marks the anniversary of an event that has transformed our family drastically in more ways than I can count. This time last year a nine-year-old girl came to our home for a visit and has since became a permanent member of our family.

We have not experienced a dull moment since.

 Integrating a new member into our family has not been easy or stress-free. There has been a great deal of joy but there have also been more than a few tough adjustments on both sides. It is not easy for a kid to adapt to a new family, nor is it easy for a family of (mostly) adults to adjust to the changes and loss of freedom that inevitably comes with a young child.

 All the challenges aside, I can truthfully say that the good has far outweighed the bad. At this point we cannot imagine our family without her. Zoey has brought a whole new depth of joy and laughter to our home. She is a kind, clever, imaginative girl with many gifts and talents.

 Sadly, organization and analytical thinking are not among them.

 In all my years on this Earth I have never seen anything quite like her unique brand of disorder and chaos. In the span of a few hours her bedroom can easily devolve into a weekend cleaning project. She pays zero attention to detail, which causes her to lose as much stuff as she hangs on to and she has been known to brush her teeth before breakfast to save time.

 Her chronic lack of common sense has led the older kids to refer to her as a “Dufflepud” after the sweet but ridiculous creatures in The Chronicles of Narnia books. Dufflepuds boiled their potatoes before planting them so they could harvest cooked potatoes and washed their plates before eating to save time after dinner.

 Thankfully, there have been major improvements in these areas. That said, we still have a ways to go before she becomes the paragon of organization and logical thought that I am praying and believing she will one day become.

 So you can imagine my skepticism when she informed me that I had failed to fill out a permission slip for a field trip properly. To my shame, I didn’t even have the good sense to look at the thing before I launched into a calm but condescending little lecture. I smugly informed her that there was no way I had made an error on something as basic as a permission slip for a 5th grade field trip.

 To her credit, Zoey nodded politely and obediently put the slip into her backpack. As she was heading out the door I decided to give it a second look and discovered that she was indeed correct. I quickly apologized and corrected my error, but not before I made a fool out of myself and hurt the feelings of a sweet little girl.

 Such is the sin of pride.

 It happens to the best of people. It could be argued that the better a person becomes, the more likely they are to become prideful about it. The list of things that causes pride to dominate our interactions is as long as it is varied. Our skills, business connections, education and track record can all become sources of pride. The danger in this type of pride is that we begin seeing our selves as infallible and we resist taking input and advice from others and no one is clever enough to do life all alone.

 Perhaps the most foolish and dangerous type of pride is pride over the things that are outside our control. Pride over physical appearance, material blessings, race and background can lead to every kind of prejudice and social evil none of which has any place in life of a Jesus follower.

 The deceptive nature of pride requires constant prayer and frequent self-assessment. Prayer is indispensable because without God’s help and guidance we may never become self aware enough to want change or empowered enough to make it happen.  

 And change, as difficult as it can be, is essential. Without it, we will never become the people God calls us to be—and we might just drive away the very ones He has called us to reach.

 

 

 

 

 

The One Skill Every Child Must Have to Survive

 Last week marked the beginning of winter semester at the university where my son Alex attends college. He and I caught up after his first day of classes and chatted about his day.

 Just when I thought our little talk was drawing to a close, Alex said something that promptly reinvigorated the conversation. He casually mentioned that he’d had a tough time getting around school that day. Apparently the campus was swarming with parents who were hanging out, introducing themselves to the professors, looking for things, and even attending classes with their children.

 I was suddenly intrigued and bursting with questions…

 Really?

Was it parents’ day? (If so, why wasn’t I invited???)

Was there a problem at the airport, forcing parents to stay in Tucson?

Were the parents actually sitting in on the classes?

Were the kids embarrassed, sitting with their parents in college classes?

Were the professors annoyed?

 My son explained that it was not parent’s day, nor were there any issues at the airport that he was aware of. Some of his younger friends had informed him that not only did parents introduce themselves to the professors and sit in on the classes, but a few raised their hands to ask questions on behalf of their children. Surprisingly, the kids seemed to be perfectly okay with the unofficial “bring your parents to college day” but there was some serious eye-rolling going on among the professors.

 At first I thought the whole thing was a little weird and kind of funny. It simply never occurred to me to attend college classes with my kids. I just presumed that if they were old enough to enroll in college, they were capable of introducing themselves to the professors, finding nourishment, and locating their classrooms without my assistance.

 Later, I was struck by how unfunny the whole thing actually was. This sort of thing is a symptom of a problem that cripples many middle-class kids. Well-meaning parents have become so fearful regarding their kids’ safety, comfort level, and overall happiness that they have gone to extremes to shield their kids from harm or distress. In the process, some have missed the entire point of parenting and failed to teach the one skill everyone needs to survive in this world: Self-management

 Self-managers know when they are hungry, tired, cranky or sick and they understand how to deal with those issues appropriately. Self-mangers are not afraid to participate in life because they know how to recognize and protect themselves from dangerous people and situations. Self-managers take care of their own needs, treat people the way they wish to be treated, problem solve, have common sense and self-discipline, and are capable of healthy communication with other human beings. A child should be adept at the basics of self-management by the time they reach puberty. Sadly, most are not.

 There are three ways parents can teach self-management.

 Encourage children to take controlled risks-

 There is a lot of debate over how many and what type of risks children should be permitted to take. Some believe kids should be insulated from even the most remote danger. These are the people who want to hand out bulletproof blankets to kindergarteners and put helmets on children before recess. Others think kids should be permitted to wander completely unsupervised. Wisdom lies between the two extremes. Children cannot learn to manage risk without taking risks, and they learn by doing. Kids should be coached about safety and then given age-appropriate opportunities to walk to the park alone, pay for things, ride their bikes unsupervised and walk around a store or mall without Mom and Dad by their side.

 Limit the use of technology-

 Good communication skills are essential to self-management. Technology (especially texting) keeps kids from developing the skills necessary to actually talk with other human beings. Kids need face-to-face communication to learn to read non-verbal cues and to understand how their words affect others. If kids are allowed a cell phone before puberty, parents should insist it’s used for phone calls only.

 Do not eliminate negative consequences-

 Consequences are the fruit of choices. We do kids a disservice when we cushion them from negative consequences. If a child is inconsiderate, irresponsible, rude or careless they should be made to deal with the fallout of their choices even if it’s inconvenient or embarrassing for Mom and Dad.

 In the early years, parenting is all about protection and provision. Loving parents do everything within their power to provide for and guarantee that no harm befalls their young child. As kids mature, parenting priorities must shift. If they don’t kids will grow up with all of the passions and aspirations of adults while missing the maturity and wisdom to manage and make the most of those passions and aspirations. The skills gained through the teaching of self-management lay the groundwork for a life of productivity, happiness and holiness. Without the capacity to self-manage, no one—no matter how loved they were in the early years—will ever reach his or her God-given potential.