Young White Men Really Are A Problem- Seven Reasons Why

They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore, the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes- Hosea 4:1-3b NASB

It’s been a long sad, grief-filled week with two mass shootings last Saturday, one in Dayton, Ohio and the other in El Paso, Texas. There were few parallels between the two shooters. The El Paso shooter was a right-wing racist nut-job.  The Ohio shooter was a left-wing socialist nut job.   

 The one clear connection between the two shooters is that they were both white males. Much has been written on the subject of “toxic masculinity”. Most of it is patently ridiculous and blatantly sexist. That being said, it’s simply a fact that young white men are the only demographic who routinely walk into crowds, pull out weapons and proceed to massacre as many humans as possible in the shortest time imaginable. 

The question we must answer as a society is “why”? 

What on earth are we doing as a culture that triggers young white males to become so detached from humanity that they kill their fellow humans with wild-eyed abandon?  The kneejerk reaction on the left is to blame guns and mental illness. The kneejerk reaction on the right is to blame the collapse of the family and mental illness. I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about everything.  I do know that this problem is far more nuanced and systemic than knee-jerk reactions or mental illness. Fixing it will mean taking a hard look at the following six issues:  

Self-control ceased to be a “thing” a long time ago- 

 I get that emotional repression is bad. I understand that it is critical we allow kids to express their feelings. I have no issues with respectful, polite forms of verbal expression.  HOWEVER, I have to wonder if the opposite extreme we have landed on is really any healthier. Is it prudent to encourage kids to vent their aggression without some really firm boundaries, like respect for others? Should we really allow kids to scream, yell, hit and insult their parents and teachers in the name of averting emotional repression?  It seems to me that there were fewer (like no) mass shootings back in the day when kids were expected to control themselves and disciplined for not. 

Selfish adults do selfish things that inflict trauma on innocent kids sometimes the kids don’t recover- 

It is a fact that most mass shooters experience early childhood trauma (google it). The nature of childhood (and trauma) is such that it is pretty much impossible for a child to inflict trauma on him or herself. Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol, who are selfish, violent, neglectful and who put their own sexual gratification ahead of the needs of their children are the primary cause of childhood trauma. Traumatized girls are typically self-destructive, traumatized boys are just plain destructive. They take their rage and anger out on others including sometimes complete strangers.  Unless there is a revolution in the expectations we have of parents in this country we will continue to see young men acting out in violence.  

 We have encouraged young men to sear their consciences with violent, sexualized entertainment- 

A great deal has been said concerning mass shooters and violent video games. I see no need to belabor an already belabored point. However, video games are not our only problem. How about the spread of porn that combines sexuality and violence into a confusing, toxic, soul-twisting vortex of foulness? The Ohio shooter had a “rape list” as well as a “kill list”. He was also a regular consumer of pornography. The El Paso shooter reportedly spent a lot of time on the 8chan message board where sexual violence and misogyny are celebrated. When are we going to wake up to the fact that pornography is stripping us of our humanity? Wisdom recognizes that sometimes the rights of adults to see what they want to see needs to be curtailed in deference to the needs of children and society as a whole.    

We have not taught children to fear God- 

When God is discussed in our culture it is always in terms of love and grace. Love and grace are fundamental aspects of the Christian faith that should be taught. However, we have forgotten that good evangelization and biblical teaching carefully balances the concepts of judgment and grace. Without teaching on sin and judgment the reason for God’s grace lacks context. Without context we end up with a generation who sees God as nothing more than a feeble blessing machine who doesn’t really care what people do as long as they are happy (insert gagging noises here). 

We have not given young men a vision or purpose- 

 Instead we tell young men (and women) that God is dead and life is meaningless. We tell them they are blobs of protoplasm with impulses and urges. We tell them it is natural to act on their urges and impulses because they have no greater purpose than self-actualization. Mass shootings are just one natural consequence of this folly. 

Too many young men don’t have Dads and if they do the Dad is useless-

Nearly half (41%) of all babies are born to unwed Mothers. This is unacceptable on a million different levels and I mostly blame women.  Wise, intelligent women do not have sex with men they barely know. Nor, do they have sex with men who have not proven they have the character to adequately parent the children they produce. 

We have enshrined selfishness as a virtue- 

The Democratic Socialist Convention got lost in the madness of this past week. I tuned in and what I saw was mostly just a carnival of narcissism and silliness. On one level it was actually kind of amusing.  Privileged (mostly) white people spent a lot of time selfishly insisting that no one do or say anything that might possibly make them uncomfortable or hurt their feelings. I seriously doubt they accomplished anything of any significance. My take-away from what I saw is that too many kids in our culture have not been taught the virtue of self-denial. Nor have they been taught that feelings are far less relevant than facts. In the best situations these kids grow-up to enshrine their selfishness in silly political causes. In the worst situations these kids grow-up and think it’s acceptable to slaughter strangers. It’s tough to predict what will happen when you teach a child that selfishness is a virtue. 

Everyone wants a “one and done” solution to the problem of gun violence. It will not happen. There is no single law that will fix the problem we have produced with our willful foolishness. Instead we have to do the hard work of changing how we raise our children.  

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. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Key to Dealing with Disappointment

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit~ Romans 15:13 NIV

 I will not lie. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than we thought it would. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were not amused). A few phone calls revealed that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun to cast sideways glances at us. The dogs are troubled by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our kids. This kid has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for this behavior.

 A long encouraging conversation resulted in no discernable change in behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction, praying for wisdom, and finally punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity: nothing worked. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps a result of homesickness or missing the old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what the kid was hoping for, and neither do they. But it turns out that living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. They were expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, and less humdrum. At one point in the conversation they did admit that at the very least were hoping that a change in location would result in a change of expectations. We discussed the issue at length and I am pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief that the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when it hit me that even many grown-ups have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status or zip code would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it can transform into anger towards God. If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. We act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it. Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age.

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins with a willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God. When we let go of our dreams and desires, we are freed up to embrace the dreams God has for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.