Archive for Parenthood

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 3–Love is a Verb

 

This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.  No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.  (John 15:12-13 AMP)

 

Our kids’ generation is not immune from the error of past generations trying to pass love off as a feeling.  Love is an action word.  It is the act of sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others.

 

It seems that the first thing to go when a child loses his or her innocence is the ability to love.  Not the ability to feel, but the impulse to give sacrificially without thinking about it.  I believe that this is because kids in our American culture are so habituated in getting that it doesn’t even occur to them to give.

 

Remember, a child’s “reality” is limited by his or her perception, just as an adult’s is.  But the less life experience you have, the narrower your perception.  Children don’t instinctively know the difference between perception and reality, so it isn’t ever going to occur to them to test their worldview.

 

Where this becomes problematic is if they think that the world revolves around them, they will assume that to be true until they find out otherwise.

 

Another stumbling block for kids once they reach their adolescent years is their growing self-reliance.  Growing up is inevitable, and becoming more independent is generally a good thing as one gets older.  However, because kids don’t know what they don’t know, it is very easy for them to get in over their heads when trying to do something themselves.

 

Because they have not yet mastered their pride, if indeed they are even aware of it, it is also not in the nature of most adolescents to ask for help, even when they are completely overwhelmed.  Sometimes, it seems that they gravitate more toward the drama of being in a mess than in actually finding a solution to their problem.

 

I think this is why it is frequently so difficult for older kids to show love.  1 John 4:19 reminds us that we love because God loved us first, but unless you know that, you can’t act on it.  To live out a life of love effectively, you have to allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit of love.

 

Now when was the last time you met a teenager who wanted to be controlled by anybody?  They are just reaching the stage of life when they can finally do things for themselves, and now we’re telling them NOT to think of themselves, but others?  No wonder they get confused, which of course, cranks up the drama even more, which throws them right back into the cycle of attention seeking about their confusion rather than helping them move forward with solutions.

 

Because God is love, if you are showing love, people see God through you.  The sooner we teach our kids how to look outside themselves, the easier it will be for us to help them shape their worldview into a view that actually has some WORLD in it.

 

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 2–Room to Grow

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, or getting something that you don’t deserve.

 

One way that we can show grace to others is by simply giving them room to grow.  This holds true for anybody, but especially for kids, since growing is their primary function.

 

It can be difficult for us as adults and parents to remember that kids are a work in progress.  They aren’t where we are yet.  They lack the life experience to have accumulated the wisdom that we have, and their pre-frontal cortices have not yet fully developed, which renders them inadequate to know what to do with the wisdom that they have acquired.

 

For this reason, I have often surmised that youth is wasted on the young.  Why do they have all the energy with none of the wisdom?  It seems that by the time we figure out what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives, we’re too tired to do it!

 

Of course, we never really stop growing.  Our bodies do, but our minds shouldn’t.  There is always something new to learn, as long as we don’t shut ourselves off from new learning.

 

As a parent, I can testify that a lot of the learning I have done in recent years involves learning to BE a parent, which in a lot of ways, includes re-learning how to be a kid.

 

We forget, don’t we?  We forget what it’s like to learn one thing and then think we know everything.  We forget the days when we used to put paramount importance on what other people thought of us.  We forget that we didn’t realize that the world actually didn’t revolve around us until somebody told us so, and even then, we had to be told more than once.  For that matter, we forget that we had to be told pretty much everything more than once.

 

Most of all, we forget all too easily how much we depended upon the approval of our parents.

 

So teach your children gently.  Just because they may act as if they know it all, you can’t assume that they know anything you haven’t told them.  Or that you’ve told them only one time.  Or that you’ve told them multiple times if there was anything in the room with a video screen on it.

 

And please practice giving your kids room to grow.  They’re not going to get things right every time.  However, if you don’t encourage them by letting them know that your love isn’t conditional upon their performance, then they’ll just stop trying.  Mistakes are learning opportunities for them and teaching opportunities for you.

 

And when you teach, you also learn.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 1–What We’re Up Against

Lord, save our children.

 

When did it become not OK for kids to be kids?  There is hardly a child now that by the age of 14 hasn’t either cut themselves, questioned their sexuality or rejected God.  Anyone that tries to lead them to Truth is labeled intolerant, hateful, an ignorant bigot, or worse.

 

We are even accused of trying to indoctrinate our own children, but only because our parenting gets in the way of the attempts at indoctrination by our accusers.  And they want to call US hypocrites!

 

How fortunate then, that God already has a plan for these people.  He will have the last word, as he told His prophet Isaiah:

 

  I stop the highbrow intellectuals in their tracks,
and I show the fault of their reasoning.
  But I stand behind the words of My servants,
and I accomplish what they predict.
  (Isaiah 44:25b-26a VOICE)

 

We must endure.  As righteous as our anger may be toward our antagonists, we must remember these things:

 

  1. In our anger, we must not sin.(Ephesians 4:26)
  2. Vengeance is the Lord’s not ours.  (Romans 12:19)
  3. We do have a real enemy, but it is not a human enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15, 1 Peter 5:8)

 

Our job is to spread the Gospel.  We can’t praise the name of Jesus and sully it at the same time.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus and start worrying about what other people are doing, then we lose sight of our mission.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book, Strength to Love:

 

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence, you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence, you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

 

Our job is to bring the light of Jesus to a darkened world that does not know it is in darkness.

 

We shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter opposition to the Truth.  This has been going on since day one.  Jesus was crucified, the apostles were persecuted and martyred, and on and on through the centuries.  There may soon come a day when preaching the word of God becomes illegal in this country, as it is in many communist and Muslim countries.

 

But here’s the thing.  Even if they put us in prison, God’s word can not be bound.  As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy:

 

Remember always, as the centre of everything, Jesus Christ, a man of human ancestry, yet raised by God from the dead according to my Gospel.  For preaching this I am having to endure being chained in prison as if I were some sort of a criminal.  But they cannot chain the Word of God, and I can endure all these things for the sake of those whom God is calling, so that they too may receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, and its complement of glory after the world of time.  (2 Timothy 2: 8-10 PHILLIPS)

 

We are called to persevere under trial and not to give up.  Even if we get tired and weak, God won’t.  So if we trust Him to carry us when we can’t go on, He will be faithful to do it.

 

We must stand firm, not only for our children’s sake, but also for our own.  Will you join me in praying for our youth today to be Truthseekers and not herd followers?

 

DN=: Part 12–Civil Liberties

 

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV)

 I’m free to choose who I see any old time
I’m free to bring who I choose any old time
Love me hold me love me hold me
I’m free any old time to get what I want
“I’m Free” Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

 

One of the main functions of a father is to establish and enforce boundaries for his children.  The intent of setting these boundaries is to protect his children, because he knows more than they do.

 

There is no condemnation in this, only a sense of love and protection.  The child picks up on this, and remains content within the security of the boundary.

 

Now if an earthly father can manage to set healthy boundaries in love, how much more effective and useful are our heavenly Father’s boundaries!  Would it not stand to reason that an omniscient God, who knows every possible outcome of every possible choice we could make, would know what’s good for us and what isn’t?

 

The most obvious example of this is the 10 Commandments.  A lot of people are put off by them because of the “Thou shalt not” tone that most of them have.  So why would a loving Father God put such restrictions on the freedom of His children?

 

One word—consequences.

 

LIBERTY DN= FREEDOM FROM CONSEQUENCES

 

Some consequences of violating God’s boundaries are obvious.  Take for example “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  If you break that commandment, the most obvious and immediate consequence is generally the breakup of a marriage.

 

Long-term and indirect consequences are difficult to predict, however.  We can’t know for certain how young children will be affected by the divorce—how they will cope with the sense of loss, how they will develop socially as they grow, what baggage they might carry into their future relationships and marriages.

 

God sees every potential negative consequence, and wants to protect us from them.  Nevertheless, our nature instinctively reacts to any kind of boundary to see it as a restriction on our freedom.  Christian or not, nobody likes being told what to do, or to have their “freedom of choice” taken away.

 

But when you stop to think about it, this is a ridiculous notion.  NOBODY can take away your freedom of choice, not even God.  He’s the one who gave it to you in the first place.

 

God doesn’t set boundaries to take away our choice.  He places them there to assist us in making the right choice, because he knows which choice will have good consequences and which will have bad consequences.

 

However, somewhere along the line our culture developed a callous disregard for sin, or crossing God’s boundary lines, and its consequences.  Our culture has been brainwashed to believe that God’s boundaries, as set forth in the Bible, are out of date and out of touch with progress.

 

Since the Bible is God’s Word, and therefore our most definitive written source of Truth, this Truth gets dismissed along with the Bible.  Inside this moral vacuum, people get the idea that they can create their own truth—a moving target that is relative to whatever suits their whims at any given moment—and anything contrary to that amorphous worldview then becomes a violation of their civil liberties.

 

Only here’s the problem.  Since Truth is universal, and it’s found in the same place where God’s “restrictive” boundaries are, then it would follow that the consequences of crossing those boundaries are also universal.

 

The consequence of mentally turning sin into civil liberties is that to do so, the concept of civil responsibility is totally abandoned.  You can’t be “free to do what you want any old time” and be your brother’s keeper at the same time.

 

Fortunately, God has a way of evening things out.

 

(To find out how, come back for Part 13–Fair Play)

 

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)

 

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)