Archive for Family Life

DN=: Part 9–Brainwashing

Brainwashing (n.)

1: a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas

2: persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship

 (Merriam Webster dictionary)

 

 Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
    bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
    I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
    counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
    we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
    the marvelous things he has done.

 He planted a witness in Jacob,
    set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
    to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
    and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
    so their children can trust in God,
Never forget the works of God
    but keep his commands to the letter.
Heaven forbid they should be like their parents,
    bullheaded and bad,
A fickle and faithless bunch
    who never stayed true to God.

(Psalm 78: 1-8 The Message)

 

 

When you see a child who behaves well in public, what is it you always say?  “The public school system sure has made a great citizen out of that boy?”  Or, “Our governmental programs have certainly taught this young lady how to be a good American?”

 

No, you say, “Their parents must have taught them well.”  If the parents are present, you might thank them directly for being such good parents.  Lord knows if the kids AREN’T behaving, it’s the parents you’re going to blame, right?

 

So if it is this obvious that everything a child is and does is shaped by the examples set by his or her parents, then why does our culture get so bent about Christian parents setting a Christian example for their kids?

 

I don’t want to get to deeply into the issue of homeschooling here, because I have no personal experience with it, either as a student or as a parent.  I’m just talking about the natural education every child receives from daily observation.

 

Education, of course, is a good thing.  If we never learned anything, then we wouldn’t know anything (duh).  And common sense, that is, the collective wisdom of all the I told you so’s from all the parents ever, tells us that the primary source of any child’s education is at home.

 

Face it; we’re all home-schooled, no matter what our diplomas say.

 

Our parents have us from day one, when we are completely empty glasses.  From them we learn to walk, talk, eat, pee and poo where we’re supposed to.  Sometimes they even teach us to read, write and count before we start school.

 

Most importantly our parents, and specifically our fathers, are the primary shapers of our value system, our moral compasses, our sense of right and wrong.

 

So is this education or brainwashing?

 

EDUCATION DN= BRAINWASHING

 

Look back up to the top at the dictionary definition of brainwashing.  It’s not just indoctrination, or even FORCED indoctrination; it is forced indoctrination designed to replace one way of thinking with another. 

 

Parents are teachers, not indoctrinators.  They are filling empty glasses.  A child does not yet have a way of thinking or a value system to replace.

 

Therefore nothing, let me say that once more for emphasis, NOTHING that a parent teaches his or her own children can possibly constitute brainwashing.  This includes the passing on of Christian faith, the bedrock upon which the family has been established generation after generation.

 

So if giving your own children a Christian education is akin to pouring the Water of Life into their empty glasses, then by contrast, cultural brainwashing is coercing an educated person of any age to pour out their water, smash their glass, and take a deep drink from this brand new glass of fruit juice.

 

What do you mean it tastes like Kool-Aid?

 

(For an alternate beverage choice, come back for Part 10: Affirmation)

 

Doubt: Part 11–The Death of Doubt

 

Finally, THIS is the happy ending.

 

God called my bluff, and decided it was time for me to make the move to close the gap between us.  I announced my impending divorce to the church choir and tendered my resignation from the music ministry.

 

That night, as the church emptied, I hit my knees in the back of the church and finally acknowledged my need, my complete and utter dependence on the Daddy who was always there, even when I tried to run away to hide from Him.  He was with me even through the years when I publicly called his children weak-minded fools, when I lashed back at Him in anger for everything I assumed was His fault.

 

He waited, and watched.  When I finally turned around to face Him, he was right there where he had been all along.

 

Doubt died that day, once and for all.

 

There are still days when I doubt myself, but I never doubt my Abba, my Lord and my God.  What I have found is that every time I acknowledge my weakness and my dependence, God asserts His might and power by reminding me what He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV).

 

I have still never seen God, just as I have never seen the wind.  However, just as I have seen the effects of the wind, I have seen the effects of God.  I don’t have to try to wrap my brain around the intricacies of DNA or photosynthesis or the size of the universe to try to logically point to an Intelligent Designer.  I just have to look in the mirror and around at my home and my family.

 

I am married again, and the two of us really are of one mind and spirit.  All of my children respond to God, because they have a spiritual leader in their house that is just as much, if not more, concerned with their spiritual growth as their physical and intellectual growth.  The peace and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reign in our house.  Now to be sure, there are times that are not peaceful, challenging, and even infuriating.  All families have these.

 

However, as a family, we are now in a place where the solid rock and firm foundation we come back to is our personal relationship with the God of the Universe, the salvation made possible by the sacrifice of His Son, and the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.  I see the evidence of this every day.

 

And that is all I need to send doubt packing.

 

Doubt: Part 6–ABBA (Father)

Really?

That’s better.

 

If you intentionally focus on the things in your life that don’t move, the chaos will settle (in your mind at least) and eventually fade into the background along with your doubt.  However, this technique will only be as effective as your knowledge of what it is that doesn’t move.

 

If you are already at a place in your life where you have allowed doubt and skepticism to reign over all of your thinking, then you may have reached the point where you doubt truth itself or maybe even the existence of anything permanent.

 

This brings me back to the concept of spiritual maturity being separate from intellectual maturity.

 

It’s fairly easy to admit that you don’t know something factual and even easier to Google it and find out the answer.  However, growing spiritually is more difficult because it first requires that you admit you are a spiritual infant.  And pride has an issue with that notion.

 

Your level of doubt and skepticism is directly proportionate to your level of pride. The higher your pride level, the less likely you are to admit your vulnerabilities.

 

The reality is that your soul is still crying out like a baby.

 

You need your Daddy, but not the one who came home drunk and beat your mother while you watched, cowering in a corner.  Not the one who yelled and swore at you and told you you’d never amount to anything.  Not the one who was cold and distant and never did anything to make you feel loved or accepted.

 

You need the Daddy you should have had.  You need the one who always has the answers, always knows the right thing to do or say, the one who never fails.  The one you want to be just like when you grow up.  The one who accepts you as you are so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life trying in vain to prove that he was wrong about you.

 

You need that Daddy.

 

You want that Daddy.

 

No matter how much you’ve tried to make a life for yourself apart from that, you will always have a hole in your soul that no amount of worldly success or knowledge can fill.

 

Only your Daddy can do that.  You were designed this way, to recognize that you can’t meet all of your own needs and to admit your dependence.

 

(Dependence on what? Come back for Part 7 to find out!)

 

Doubt: Part 4–Faith

 

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  (Mark 10:15 NIV)

 

Responding to God requires seeing things as they really are, even the part you can’t see (especially the part you can’t see), the way children do.

 

A child doesn’t worry about the same things an adult does.  Children trust that their parents are all knowing, all seeing and all-powerful, and even though that isn’t really true, they believe.  In that belief, they feel safe and comforted.  This is what is meant by “faith like a child.”

 

Now some might call this “blind faith,” since the children are believing something without questioning it and accepting as real something that isn’t.  However, nobody condemns children for believing in their parents.  Indeed, if a child sees a parent fail at too early an age, it is devastating to their emotional health, because they are not yet intellectually developed enough to understand their own limitations.

 

Therefore, it never occurs to them that their parents might be finite, that their knowledge might be incomplete, that they can be taken by surprise, that they might fail, that they might just. . .not. . .know.

 

No, nobody would condemn that child for believing in Mommy and Daddy, because they are children and do not know any better.  As they grow, their understanding of the world around them grows, and they figure out that Mommy and Daddy are people just like them.  And later, when they become the Mommy or Daddy, they really figure out how much their parents really didn’t know.

 

So why are people condemned for responding to God with the faith of a child, when that is exactly how Jesus said it should be done?

 

Well for starters, people who don’t know the Bible don’t know that’s how it is supposed to be done, and you can’t condemn them for simply not knowing.

 

More significant however, is the fact that these people don’t know that your spirit does not necessarily grow at the same rate that your body and mind do.  In other words, that faith like a child does not mean intellect like a child.

 

Children are going to grow older and taller without any effort on their part.  Physical maturity just happens (at least, to whatever extent anything just happens).

 

Mental maturity requires some input, however.  A child kept locked in a closet all their lives will still grow physically, but they won’t learn much.  To learn, you have to be exposed to knowledge.  As you get older and start thinking for yourself more, you become more skeptical of knowledge and you may doubt some things just because they “don’t sound right.”

 

Spiritual maturity, on the other hand, is a major workout.  Absolutely nothing will happen to your spiritual maturity unless you make it happen.  If you don’t, then even as your body grows, and even as your mind expands, you will still remain a spiritual infant.

 

(So how do you start on the path to spiritual maturity?  Come back for Part 5–Real/Not Real.)

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 5: PRactice Grace

 

 

You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Some of us are blessed with great relationships with our extended families, others not so much.    But we keep going back to the cookouts, don’t we?  Because, well, they’re FAMILY!  It’s always a little easier to put aside differences when you’re tossing beanbags with brats on the grill.

But after the cookout, and the cleanup, and the kisses goodbye, the differences remain.  Every family has them.  However, the differences are thrown into sharp relief in a family where some of the members are Christians and some are not.

If you, like me, are among the first in your family to come out as an evangelical Christian, it can be uncomfortable at first.  Not only do you stick out like a sore thumb, but you see everyone else differently. 

No matter what your family situation is or what kind of relationships you have with them, there is one thing you must never forget.  It wasn’t anything you did that made you different from them. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9 RSV)

Now I do not want to assume that everyone reading this knows what is meant by “grace.”  Basically, it means “unmerited favor,” or getting something you didn’t earn.

Say for example you’re speeding down the interstate, and you get pulled over.  You know you deserve a ticket.  Getting what you deserve is justice.

What you HOPE will happen instead is that the officer will let you off with a warning.  Not getting what you deserve is mercy.

But what if instead the officer comes up to your car window and says, “You and I both know you have broken the law.  But nobody’s perfect.  So instead of a ticket, I’m just going to give you this Hershey Bar.  Have a nice day!”

 That’s not normal.  Not for a regular person anyway, but Jesus wasn’t a regular person. 

 He didn’t wait for us to clean ourselves up and be “good enough” for Him before He called us to follow Him.  We’ll never be good enough.  That’s the whole point of grace—we can’t do it ourselves.

Meanwhile, back at the family reunion. . .

 

Take a look around the yard at all these people getting on your nerves–these people you feel you have nothing in common with anymore.

Now look at them again, Christian.  You DO have something in common with them—genetic material.  Before God, in His mercy and grace, saved you, you were just like them.  In more ways than you care to admit, you still are.

So PRactice grace by loving your family for who they are, not who you think they ought to be.  PRactice grace by appreciating them for what they do, not for what they can do for you.  PRactice grace by looking past the rough edges to the heart inside—the heart that has a God-shaped hole in it just like yours once did.

But most of all, PRactice grace by simply hanging around with them.  Look past the differences and find the common ground.

After all, they’re family.  And you’re stuck with them.

(Next, Part 6—PRove It!)

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 4: PRovide

PROVIDE

 

Generally, the first thing that comes to our minds when we think of PRoviding for our families is our jobs.  But there is so much more to PRoviding than bringing home a paycheck. 

Children are more concerned with being loved and being led than they are with whether or not the bills are getting paid.  The family’s finances aren’t their concern, so they don’t think about it. 

What children need to know is that their dad is in control.  They need to know he’s the Man with the Plan and he cares for them deeply. 

Let me be clear on what I mean by “in control.”  This does not mean, “controlling.”  Dads, how do you know when you’ve crossed the line?  If you have to tell your children that you’re in charge, that’s a pretty good indicator that you aren’t.

Dads, if you want your sons to grow into men of character, then your first PRiority as fathers is to show them what that looks like. 

Be a man of integrity.  Say what you mean, mean what you say and do what you say you are going to do.  Do not be wishy-washy with your sons, or they will not have confidence in your promises.  Do not be lax with your discipline, or they will think they can get away with anything.  And most importantly, FOLLOW THROUGH with whatever you say you are going to do. 

One of the most vital things that we must do as fathers is to throw off EVERYTHING in our lives that hinders us from following through on our words.  Children are experts at making it look like they are ignoring us, but they are always watching.  .  Not only are they more likely to do what you do rather than what you say, but they are more likely still to NOT do what you DON’T do. 

But it’s not all about discipline, of course.  Children do need to be led, but they also want to be loved.  This is especially true for the girls.

Face it dad, your little princess is going to grow up someday.  Chances are she’s going to look for somebody just like you to marry.  So ask yourself—are you the kind of guy you want your daughter to bring home? 

If that doesn’t get your attention, how about this?  There are few things in this life a daughter wants more than her daddy’s approval.  If she gets that, she will grow up secure and confident, knowing that she can be loved for who she is.  If she doesn’t, she will do whatever she can to create an artificial feeling of being loved.  (Guys, if you’re not catching my drift, I’ve got two words for you: back seat.)

Finally, as the spiritual leaders of our home, the most important thing we can PRovide for our children is knowledge of our faith.  The reality is that if children aren’t learning about God, the Bible or the Christian life from you, dads, there’s a good chance they’re not learning it at all. 

Fathers, the reputation of your family and the integrity of your children will be determined by what you PRovide and how you PRovide it.

(Next, Part 5—PRactice Grace)

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 3: PRotect

PROTECT

 

Men, short of your relationship with God, your marriage is the most important thing in your life.  If you disagree with that statement, stop right now and make a list of everything you can think of that’s more important. 

OK, now take that list to your wife and say, “Honey, I love you, but I love these things more.”  Then read the list to her. 

(What?  That’s a bad idea?  I agree.  Read on.)

The reason marriage is so important is that a marriage is the closest that a man and a woman ever come on this earth to being like God.  God is one, yet exists in three distinct persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Each personality in this Holy Trinity is unique, distinct, and has His own function, yet they are one, completely unified in purpose.

Likewise, in a Christian marriage, the man and woman remain a man and woman, with their distinct personalities and functions, yet they no longer serve themselves, but each other.  With their shared faith as the bond that holds the marriage together, the trinity of husband, wife and Holy Spirit echoes the unity of the Holy Trinity.

Also, as the Holy Trinity is responsible for the creation of all life, so the trinity of husband, wife and Holy Spirit bring forth new life with the birth of their children. 

This is the closest we will ever come to appropriating the creative power of God.  As such, this is why both life and the marriage through which it is created are sacred.

The primary role for a husband toward his wife is that of Protector.  That notion frequently rubs the womenfolk the wrong way these days, as our culture supports the notion of independent women who “don’t need a man.” 

Nevertheless, every strong independent woman started out as a frightened little girl, looking to her daddy for protection.  When a father makes clear to his daughter that he is there to protect her and take care of her, she grows up secure and confident (more on that in the next post).

The main purpose of the husband is to take over the protective role of the father when the woman no longer has need of it.  This is the meaning behind the father giving the bride away at a wedding.  He is saying, “It’s your turn now.  Take care of my daughter.”

The protective role is now different, however.  Rather, a husband is charged with protecting his wife’s heart.  She has put her trust in him to love her, to be faithful to her, to lead her and to lift her up in her time of need. 

Men, there is no job we have that is more important than this.  We need to make PRotection our PRiority.

(Next–Part 4–PRovide)

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 1: PRiorities

 

Many folks today say that Christianity has a P. R. problem. Like it or not, they have a point.

Whether the P. R. problem comes from people outside the church speaking from ignorance, or denominations within the church at each other’s throats over doctrinal issues and such, pretty much anyone disposed to do so can find something about the church with which to take issue. 

Why bother with that drama?

No, dear readers, instead of blathering on about the P. R. problem, I am here instead to propose some PR solutions, though not perhaps in the way you are thinking. 

I believe that the Church’s image problem is best addressed from the top down.  Just as the head directs the body, so the heads of churches set the tone for their congregations. 

Likewise, as the heads of their families, fathers set the tone for their wives and children.   When the leaders of both churches and Christian families have their houses in order, the world can not help but notice.  It is my position that the most effective way to fix the church’s  P. R. problem is by living out these “PR” solutions.

(I am going to be speaking primarily to the men here, seeing as how I am one.  Ladies, especially single moms, feel free to listen in too though, as I expect you’ll find something useful here as well.)

 

PRIORITIES

Guys, your main thing is keeping your main thing the main thing.  Too many of us men have lives that are out of balance.  We have so many responsibilities that sometimes our priorities get confused.

Here is a simple way that I have found to keep my priorities in their proper order.  When you find yourself overwhelmed, overbooked or overcommitted, this is a good way to sort out your to-do list, whether you actually have a list or just keep one in your head. 

I call this the Hierarchy of Service Priority (mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to call it–please feel free to come up with a better name for it if you like).  It goes like this:

  1.       God
  2.       Spouse
  3.       Kids
  4.       Extended Family
  5.       The World (friends, acquaintances and basically everybody else)
  6.       Yourself

The point of this hierarchy is to keep in mind that if you are spending energy serving someone on this list without having first given priority  everyone else ABOVE that level, that is a good sign that you are out of balance.  For each level of PRiority on the list, I have a PRactical solution to help you remember.

(for more on that, tune in for Part 2–PRaise and PRayer)