Feel The Beat Of The Rhythm Of The…Family

A few times a year our church dedicates babies to the Lord and as a pastor at our church this gives me the opportunity to meet with every family one on one to talk about their spiritual lives.   One question I ask is, “What is the biggest obstacle to the spiritual growth of your marriage and family?” I have found that in almost every young family the answer is the same.   It’s not infidelity. It’s not abuse. It’s not anger issues.

The biggest struggle most young families have is being too busy!

Almost every young mom and dad are really struggling to balance their work life and their home life. They want to be a good spouse and good parent but they feel like they are pulled in every direction.   They are doing so much and yet they feel like they are failing at everything.

I can sure relate to this struggle. Juggling a marriage, busy career, and 4 small children is no easy task. My wife and I both feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.

“How can a family that is struggling to survive raise children that thrive spiritually and emotionally?”

I am not claiming that I have figured this out. I am still in the process of raising young children and identify with the struggle.   I want to offer some insight that I have found to be helpful.

Your life needs a rhythm.

Your family needs a rhythm.

Rhythm in music is beats in a pattern.   Rhythm in your home is life in a pattern.

Perhaps one of the greatest scriptures on parenting is in Deuteronomy

6:5 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I love this scripture because it gives the repetitive nature of family life.   The author says we are to repeat it again and again.

It is in the repetition of parenting that we shape our children. It is in these daily and weekly life rhythms that the character of our children is being formed.

Even our best days as parents are filled with guilt and shame. We feel like we should have been more patient, kind, helpful, caring, understanding, calm…and the list goes on.   The guilt can eat at our souls and if we let it, can undermine our future parenting.

I want to encourage you as in Deuteronomy 6 to build family rhythms into your home. Make the mundane of your daily life a weekly song that your children learn to thrive in.

I fail daily but here are a few rhythms in our home.

Daily Car Ride To School – It would be easier for me to put them on the bus. It would cause me less stress in the mornings but I choose to wait in carline and drop them off.   Why? Well a few reasons. 1) I rode the bus to school and was informed about sex at age 7 by a much older boy (It was misinformation). I want to keep my children from these type experiences.   2) I don’t get much time with them each day. This gives me focused time that they are in close proximity.   3) Every day we quote scripture and pray for one another as they leave the car. We also listen to loud music and dance. Sometimes we cry as well (because someone is pulling hair, touch someone else, forgot their homework, etc…)

Taco Tuesday – Tuesdays can be mundane.   Tacos fix that!   I think this is more for me than the kids

Wednesday Night Is Church Night – Our kids know that every Wednesday they will go to church. They love it and can’t wait to go

Homework And Rooms Clean Before We Play Outside – Every weekday (except Friday) my children know that before they can play outside or do anything fun they have to do their homework and clean their rooms. This is a clear rule and helps them know that play is important but it comes after work.

Dinner As A Family 3-4 Times A Week – I love dinner table time. We always ask our kids questions that force them to answer with more than one word. We also try to ask questions that help them see how good God was to them that day.

Fun Friday – I think Friday is their favorite day. If they get good marks in school for behavior all week then when we pick them up from school they get to go to the Dollar Tree and pick out ANY one thing they want. It costs us a whopping $4 a week but the kids can’t wait for this trip. We also usually eat something unhealthy and watch a family movie on Fridays.

Worship On Sunday – Since I work as a pastor at a church my kids spend a lot of time at the church building.   We are always excited to go to church and the kids love Sunday’s

Bedtime Prayers – Every night we tuck the kids in and pray with them. This might be the most important time of the day. My older girls will refuse to go to bed until I pray with them. No matter how tired I am, this happens every night

Family Walks – I need exercise and the kids need to be outside.   My three older kids are now all riding their bikes so this provides a great opportunity to be in nature and talk with the kids.

Individual Time – If you have more than one child you must build into your family rhythms one on one time.   I let one child every week sit in my office with me for a couple of hours. I would think this is boring as I require them to be quiet. I let them play a game on my ipad and they just love coming to the church office and hanging with dad.   It doesn’t hurt that we always have some leftover goodies from a church event in the office.

I don’t know what beats your family plays but I do know it is the rhythms of family life that will shape your children. I encourage you to make a beautiful song.img_5595

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On Being Blessed

I love it when people bless me!

I love it when the person in front of me in line pays for my coffee. I love it when the waitress comes to our table when it is time to pay the bill and says that someone already took care of our bill. I love it when someone tells me they appreciated something I said or wrote. Whether it is in word, action, or thought, it is so encouraging to be blessed.

Truth is we all enjoy being blessed. We all want something good to happen to us. We want to be encouraged, thought about, praised and respected. We want a smile to come across our faces and a warm and fuzzy feeling to be in our hearts.

Today, I want to tell you a way you can find a great blessing from a place you may never look.   The blessing I am talking about is the blessing of meeting someone with special needs. If you do not have a family member or friend with special needs then you probably feel really uncomfortable when you see someone that is handicapped or has an obvious external difference than you. Maybe you see someone with Down syndrome and you really don’t know how to act or respond so you just look away.   We are all naturally fearful of the unknown.   But, I WANT YOU TO BE BLESSED!.   I want to challenge you to push past your natural discomfort and feelings of anxiety and go and talk to the person with special needs.

Last week at lunch I met a man with Down syndrome as my family was waiting in line for our food. Here is what happened:

“At lunch today, after church, I met a man named Matt. Matt was so friendly. He complemented my family. He had a great big smile and he asked me if my Daughter, Joy, had Down Syndrome. He was so excited to meet Joy. I invited Matt to sit at the table with my family and eat his lunch with us. Matt has a niece that is Joy’s age that he dearly loves. He has written a book, volunteers at the Public Library and worked for 11 years at Kroger. Matt recently lost 70 pounds and is planning on hiking the Appalachian Trial. His joy and passion for life were contagious. I hope to meet with him again.

Matt happened to have Down syndrome as well. He is 41 years old. I was once again reminded what a gift God has given this world by making some people a little different.”

I have been thinking about this encounter all week. My natural response was to just say hello to Matt and be on my merry way.   I took a little extra step and tried to get to know Matt and it changed my day.

I posted about my encounter with Matt on Facebook and it encouraged one of my friends to have a conversation with someone in her town that has Down syndrome.

Here is what she said, “It was great to read about Matt.  I, too, met someone with Down syndrome.  My husband and I were at Pizza Hunt and I saw a friend and his daughter Grace across the dining room. Grace has Down syndrome.  When I finished lunch I went over to speak to them.  I, as many others, hesitated to go over, thinking what would I say or even how would I react to Grace.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  Grace was so open, so sweet, so out going, so well adjusted.  I had seen her picture in the paper sometime back where she was chosen homecoming queen at her school.  I started the conversation and one thing led to another.  I think we could have visited all afternoon.  She was excited about cheerleading this year.  She is going to be on the varsity team.  Grace loves her daddy very much and her daddy certainly returns that love. She said she was a “hugger” and loved hugs from her daddy.  As they were checking out, Grace came over to our table and gave me a hug and told me good-bye.  If only we all could be as happy and loving as Grace is.”

People with special needs are extraordinary people! Most of them have faced and overcome challenges that “typical” people will never face.   They are full of life and have the spirit of over-comers.   They don’t quit and most people I meet with special needs have great attitudes and outlooks on life.

You could be so blessed today if you would take the time to get to know the person with special needs. Don’t look away; instead make eye contact and smile. If you think it’s appropriate go and meet the precious soul that God put in your path. Just walk across the room.

People with special needs want what all of us want. They want genuine friendships. They want to be loved and accepted for who they are. They want to make a difference in the lives of others.

Want to be blessed today?

IMG_4588Take the challenge to get to know someone with special abilities today!

“Is She A Down Syndrome?”

Recently, my wife and I packed up the family for an afternoon of hiking and exploring in Helen, Ga. We could not have asked for a better day. The kids loved the hike, the weather was perfect and memories were made.   After our hike we had dinner in Helen and we walked around the quaint little mountain tourist town.

My children are Ty (8), Karis (5), Katie (5), and Joy (22 months).   Joy has Down Syndrome(DS).   To be real honest this last detail about Joy is mostly irrelevant in our family.

To us she is just Joy.

She is a great blessing to all of us and rarely does her genetic condition affect us. This is so true that most of the time I forget she even has DS.

On our trip I had forgotten…

I walked with my older children, held my wife’s hand, and pushed little Joy in her stroller.   As we ate ice cream and waited to get our balloon animals, a well meaning young lady looks at Joy and smiles and says to Charyl, “Aw, Is she a Down Syndrome?’’

It doesn’t take long to come back to the stinging reality that our little girl is different and when other people see her they notice Down syndrome and not Joy.

As we walked back to the car that afternoon I had some big old crocodile tears well up in my eyes. As a parent nothing hurts more than when you feel like others do not see the value in your children in the same way you do.

While the conversation was innocent and the young lady was kind, I could not help but feel pierced in the heart by her words, “Is she a Down syndrome?” To a person who does not have a child with special needs this question may seem completely innocent and appropriate but somewhere in the last 22 months I have become one of those overly sensitive parents. Please forgive me. This is not like me.   I am not a particularly emotional or sensitive man.   I rarely cry, in fact I see this as a flaw in my character that I do not feel things as deeply as others, but I have become very sensitive about Joy.   I almost cry as I type this…because I can’t help but desire for people to see Joy as I see Joy. I want them to see HER and not her “Syndrome.” I want others to value her as I value her!

So, NO! She is not “A Down Syndrome.”

She is JOY!

She is made and crafted in the image of God.

She is valuable.

She is beautiful.

She loves to follow her sisters.

She loves to give hugs.

She has a smile that lights up the world.

She has siblings that can’t wait to get home from school to play with her.

She claps and cheers for everyone.

She wakes up happy.

She likes to help her daddy cook.

She is very opinioned and will not eat her carrots no matter how you try to sneak them in.

She is resilient.

She brings hope.

She is her mama’s heart!

She is her daddy’s heart!

Every life God creates carries the stamp of divinity. If we will take the time to get to know people we will be shocked by the beauty we can find in each soul.

I did not ask for, nor did a want to have a child with Down syndrome.   It will always hurt my soul that Joy will struggle with simple things that typical children take for granted.

In spite of my desires God knew better than I did.

I am so thankful that God knows what is best for me when I don’t know how to ask. I am so thankful He brought JOY into my home.

God’ s greatest gifts are often disguised as presents we think we don’t want or don’t need.

When you see a family that has a child with special needs, if you desire to interact with them, ask the person’s name.   Every person is more than their disability.   Say an encouraging word. The family probably needs to hear it.   Find something good you see in the person with disabilities and complement their ability.   It may be as simple as saying, “You have a beautiful smile.” It may mean the world to that family. Be kind and considerate.

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7 Simple Steps That Will Help You Develop Your Team

In order to multiply the influence God has given you the most important area you can focus on is developing leaders around you.   Here are 7 simple thoughts on how you can do that effectively.

1) Identify Who You Need To Develop

Time is short. All of us are limited in the amount of time we have to invest in others. Your life stage, job and other circumstances will determine just how much time you have to give.   You must set realistic expectations on yourself when it comes to the amount of time you can pour into others.

You cannot develop everyone.

Most of us try to work with too many people at once. I love people and I have many friends and a long list of people in whom I would love to invest my time and energy. However, if I give all the people I want to invest in a little bit of my time then I am really helping no one. In order to have the greatest impact make a short list of those people that you have the greatest ability to impact.

Spend your most focused time on your most valuable leaders.

I read somewhere that you become like the 5 people closest to you. I am sure there is some great truth in that statement.   To begin developing leaders make a short list.   Take a few minutes and see if you can get a list down to 10 or fewer people whom you need to be investing in.   Here are some questions that will help you make your list.

Who MUST I invest in?   At the top of your list should be your family. There are many who can replace you at work or in the church setting but to your wife and children you are irreplaceable.

Who must I develop at work or in my ministry?

Who is teachable? Do not waste time on people who do not want your investment.

Who is available? There may be some top-level leaders who you may want to have on your team and invest in but they are maxed out and therefore unavalible.

Do they need my help? Don’t try to develop people that should be developing you. Learn from them.

2) Be Someone That Other People Can Follow

It a glorious waste of time for you to try to lead in a direction where you have not yet gone or are not pushing yourself to go. No one wants to follow someone else who is a hypocrite or someone who does not practice what he or she preaches. The best teachers model the behavior that they desire to see in others. First live it then lead it.

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3) Spend Time With The People You Wish To Develop

 Helping in the development of another leader is not something that will happen overnight. You cannot simply take your leaders to a good conference on leadership and expect them to be different people. Conferences are great for getting new ideas and for motivating people but usually do not create long-term change. Helping someone else become all that God has called him or her to be will take your most precious asset, your time. Those that you desire to develop must be people that you spend time with every week. If you are not having success in helping others grow it may be that you are not giving them enough of yourself. How much time are you spending with the people you are trying to help? You can plant a great garden but if you do not give it attention then weeds will choke it out and bugs will eat the fruit.   The same is true when investing in other.   Time and attention are required to maintain health.

4) Listen…And Then Listen Some More

You cannot develop someone until you know him or her. In order to help someone you must find out where they are?

What are the things that are keeping him or her from being a better leader?

What are the areas of their life that need development?

To help people you must hear them, really hear them.  You can never learn anything new when you are talking.  You need to find out what they are most passionate about.

How are they gifted?

Where are they weak?

Where do they want to go?

What do they want to accomplish?

Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. You will never lead someone where they do not want to go. You may drag them but you will not lead them. The idea is not to get someone to go where you want them to go but to help them become who God wants them to become as a leader. Don’t make the focus about your objectives but about their development.

5) Help Them Come Up With Clear Goals

If you do not know where you are going you will have a hard time every getting there.   Help the person you are developing establish what the end result is. In my line of work we talk about helping others establish a “win.”   A win is a clear standard of measure that helps everyone know if they are being successful or not.   You can call them goals, wins, or whatever you want but you must define them. Over the last few years I have found that in most cases it is better to establish wins in the area of what we can control and not what we cannot control.   We measure in the sowing and not the reaping.   Help others define clear measures of victory in what they can control.

6) Give Them One Step

I think as leaders we often overwhelm people with 27 things that they must do to be a success.   Start with one step. Give the person you are developing one clear action step to take and then meet with them and hold them accountable to that step.   Keep going back to step one until it is completed. Tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it. Watch them while they do it.

7) Hold Them Accountable

The older I get the more important I believe accountability is. We all perform better when someone is watching us and someone is following up with our progress. You will never develop leaders past what you are willing to hold them accountable for. I know many great speakers that can tell people what they need to do but never truly develop them because they do not follow up. The fortune is in the follow up.   John Maxwell says that you cannot expect what you don’t inspect.

Have you taken time to follow up with leaders you are developing with accountability?

The lid on your leadership may be your lack of follow up.

“A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”   This is the line that kept reverberating in my brain this morning as I read a number of gag worthy news articles about the murder, dismemberment, and sales of aborted babies.   You can watch the footage here if you can stomach it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjxwVuozMnU

I was trying to think of where the quote came from and it finally dawned on me that it came from a Dr. Suess’ book that I used to read to my children called, “Horton Hears a Who.” This little line from this children’s book written in 1954 embodies what we have all known to be true since we were children.

EVERY LIFE MATTERS!  

This is what the Bible says, “for YOU formed my inward parts. YOU knit me together in my mother’s womb.   I praise YOU for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are YOUR works and my soul knows it very well.”

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Your conscience bears witness. No matter what your belief system, inside every person is a core belief that life has value. This is what we know in our hearts and minds to be true. People…Human beings are the pinnacles of Creation.   We are made with intrinsic value and worth.

What do we do? How do we respond?

We weep!

James 4:9 “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”

We weep for the children who are the victims of these murders.

Our hearts should break. We must not become so numb to the wicked acceptance of killing babies in the womb that we no longer feel it. This dismembered child could have been your child. These are not clumps of cells but people. These are little people full of potential to love, dream, hope and have families of their own. They are future neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They are the future businessmen, farmers, teachers, and mothers, fathers, and leaders that will never be.   They are a picture of potential that has been stolen, destroyed, and extinguished. We weep for the babies.

We weep for the mothers!

We weep for women who are so scared and so fearful that they feel abortion is their only option. Our hearts should break for the young girl who is 15, 16, or 17 who has lost her virtue and has been left alone. We weep that no one is there to support her and help her raise the life that is within her. She has no mother or father with sense enough to tell her to do what is hard and right instead of what is quick and easy.   ‘Quick and easy’ is a lie she will have to live with for the rest of her life. We weep for the woman who has had multiple abortions. We weep for her because she is so lost that she does not value herself or the babies within her body. We weep that she has not been taught that she is valuable, that God loves her and God loves her babies that she is choosing to abort.

We weep for the men.

We weep for the men that view women as objects to meet their sexual needs. We weep that they do not understand that sex is designed to be tied to accountability. We weep that they will not know the joy of being a responsible father to the child that has been aborted. We weep because they do not know that true joy is not found in taking from others but giving of yourself as a protector and provider.

Jesus wept over a city in Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

I wonder if He is looking over America today He might say, “O America, America the nation that kills its children and mocks God’s messengers. How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Those of us who believe in the value of human life must speak up.

Use your voice.

Use your voice in social media. Be loving but truthful in this area.   The truth is that social media is so much more fun when it is birthday cakes, summer vacation selfies, and pictures of what people are eating for dinner. But if you have a voice you need to use it for good.   Talk to people about the value of life.

Use your actual voice. Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that this must stop!   Beg them to pass legislation that will end the brutal practice of abortion.   Plead with them to not allow any more taxpayer money to go to Planned Parenthood and other abortion industries.

Use your pen. Write letters to you political and church leaders and ask them to stand up for these children.

Use your parenting. Raise your children to value life. Tell your little girls that abortion is never an option. Let them know that even if they make bad decisions you will be there to support them and their child if needed. Teach your sons to be responsible men.   Talk to your children about the value of waiting till marriage to have sex.

Use your prayers.   This is the time that every believer of Jesus Christ should be calling out to Him on behalf of these children.

Share your faith. Your neighbor next door or your coworker down the hall may be contemplating abortion. You need to know them. You need to share with them the hope of Jesus Christ.   It is only in finding hope that you can erase hopelessness.

Use your pocketbooks. Give to agencies that seek to help women that have an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. These places are called Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Thousands of children every year are saved because of organizations like these.

Proverbs 31:8 could not speak more clearly, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

In the book “Horton Hears A Who,” these powerful words are given, “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. 
A person’s a person, no matter how small! 
And you very small persons will not have to die 
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!

God, help us to make these little people heard.

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Parenting Gremlins (Teenagers)

How do we keep our children from throwing their lives away and breaking our hearts in the process?

A few weeks ago I dropped my 5 year old twins off at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church. Both daughters cried and would not let go of me when they arrived with their group.   They made quite the scene as I attempted to pull away. I was frustrated with them and scolded them and told them to go to their class.   Looking back I know the day will soon come that I will be dejected because they will no longer want to hang on to me, instead they will want to let go of me. I have been told by a number of parents with grown children, “When they are little they step on your toes and when they get older they step on your heart.”

I have seen many broken-hearted parents with teenagers and young adults that have gone astray. I cannot help but believe that while young people will make their own decisions, there are some very practical things parents can do to keep their children from going down a path the leads to misery.

Recently, I witnessed some pretty disturbing things among teenagers and preteens. Here are a few:

Middle school age children, both boys and girls, addicted to pornography.

Teenagers cutting themselves with razor blades to ease the pain they feel.

Teenagers contemplating or even engaging in a same sex lifestyle in 8th grade.

Middle school and high school age children taking pictures of themselves naked and sending them to their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Teenage Stress…

Teenage Depression…

Teenage Despair…

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These are scary accounts you might expect to hear from hard on their luck, inner city kids, but that is not where these came from.

These stories came from upper middle class church kids at youth camp.

I recently was the evening speaker at my church’s youth camp. There were 323 sixth through twelfth graders along with over 100 adults. The students were awesome and God moved in a big way.   There were students giving their lives to Jesus, surrendering to ministry calls and many tears of brokenness over sin.

The reality of what kids are dealing with today versus 5-10 years ago is amazing!   Sin is still the same.

The internal struggle is still the same but availability, access, and the cultural moral compass have changed.

I would like to offer what may be some helpful thoughts for Christian parents and youth leaders.

Youth today are further down the sin path then they were ten years ago.   Let me explain what I mean.

Ten years ago at youth camp there were usually a few boys struggling with pornography.

Today most of the guys are struggling and many of the girls are struggling with pornography.

Ten years ago you never would have thought to talk about kids struggling with same sex attraction in a church camp setting.

Today most of the youth have accepted homosexuality as a normative behavior.

I can remember in 8th grade it being pretty scandalous if you were kissing your girlfriend, and yet this generation has self-identified homosexuals in 8th grade!

All parents know that there are no guarantees in parenting but there are patterns and there are some wise decisions we can make as parents that will help our children. Here are some ideas that I think Christian parents must consider.

It may be (It probably is) worse than you think – When you hear about kids struggling do not automatically jump to the conclusion, “That’s not my child.” Maybe they’re not…but maybe they are. Most parents of teenagers who are seriously struggling do not know their kids are struggling.

Praise your children for things that are praiseworthy – It is very easy and even natural for us to see what is wrong with our children. We correct them and try to change their behavior to make it what is acceptable. It is so important that we parent according to the gospel. Jesus calls believers His children. When His Spirit convicts us of our sin it is a calling up and not a pressing down.   Satan uses fear and guilt. Satan reminds us of how bad we are and how we could never be accepted.   Many times I am afraid Christian parents employ Satan’s strategy in parenting.   We shame our children. We scold them and tell them how bad they are.   God’s Spirit of conviction in our life is different. He convicts us of sin, not to shame us, but to call us to be who we already are in Christ.   We are a son or daughter who was adopted into God’s family through the blood of Jesus. He tells us we are to act like who we already are…His children.   I am working to remind my kids of who they are and not who they aren’t. Find what they are doing and encourage them.

IT is OK to tell your children that there are things that are NOT ok!   We must not let the insane illogical world of culture dictate what is true in our homes. We live in a day of illogical confusion. We have laws to save endangered birds and also have laws that make sure we have the right to kill our own children in the womb. Our politically correct gibberish is creating a generation of confused young people.   Parent, it is ok to say that a white woman who claims to be a black woman is actually wrong and confused. It is ok to teach our children that a man that thinks he is a woman is not a hero but a very broken person in need of finding his identity in Christ. It is ok–no, needed–that we teach our children that a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex is not ok. It is important to teach your children that it is not ok to look at pornography.  This list could go on for a long time but basically you must teach your children truth based on the Bible and basic common sense. These are lost in our day.

Teens are begging for their parents to help them. They would not say it that way…in fact they would not verbalize it at all. The thing they think they want least (their parent’s love, discipline, and instruction) is the thing they are crying out for most. They are drowning!   Teenagers from the beginning of time have struggled with sex…body’s change and hormones rage.   All adults wandered through the awkward years of adolescence, but today is a day like never before. For centuries gone by, sexuality has always been a curiosity to teens but always something that was subdued until a time of marriage.   A man’s strong desire for sex would drive him to work and to be a responsible man.   A young woman’s virtue was her highest prize.   A combination of unlimited free pornography, unlimited Internet access and most kids having smartphones has changed everything! Porn is the ocean in which our children are drowning. Some just feel like they cannot do anything to get free.

We need to give them a plan.  It is not enough to say pray and read your Bible. They don’t need shame. They need help. They don’t need you to yell at them.   When most parents find out their children have some great sin issue or struggle they blow their top, yell and scream, and threaten to lock their children up for the next 10 years. Most of the time these kinds of reactions only cause more separation between the child and parent.   Parents should be hurt and even angry that their child has drifted into the deep waters of sin, but they must use that deep emotion to help their child develop a plan for getting out!   Some issues need professional help. Sometimes it may be some simple levels of accountability.   Every situation is different and requires wisdom and a long term plan for help. Maybe you are thinking, “I have no idea how to get my child help!”   Start with the local church you attend. Ask a pastor. That is what they are there for. If they cannot help you, they can point you in the right direction.

We do not need to put undue weight on them.   They “need” a cell phone because everyone else has one. We give them one because every other parent has given their child one, but what if they actually don’t “need” one.   What if giving them a phone is not helpful but really the weight that pulls them down in the ocean of porn. Remember a phone is not a phone anymore. The thing they use their phone for the least is actually calling people. It is an eye gate to the world. It is an information center. It is the key to everything social.   Their phone holds the key to everything they will find their identity in. Is that what you want for your 12 year old? It is the object that shapes our child’s worldview.   I don’t even know if they make “just phones” anymore. Be very slow in making the decision of when your child will get a phone. Be very fast in taking their phone away if they are struggling.   I don’t let my 18 month old play with knives because she will hurt herself. Most young children are not ready for smart phones when they receive them. We are giving our children a tool to hurt themselves.

Parents must make sure their children have safe, Godly people to talk to other than themselves.   At church youth camp I was again shown the importance of Godly spiritual adults.   I was reminded that the day will come where my children may not feel like they are able to talk to me about a particular subject because I am their authority figure and I make the rules. They must be able to talk to someone!   I am so thankful for youth pastors, girls’ directors, small group leaders, and Sunday School teachers because they are that safe harbor where kids can go to talk. You must get your kids around Godly adults and leaders other than you that you trust. If they are not going to talk to you, then who will they talk too?

God’s Word is the best counselor. I am starting to get on a regular basis questions that I was never asked 5 years ago. Things like: “I have a child that is a girl, but wants to be a boy. What do I do?” or “How can I help my child who is attracted to the same sex?” or “My child is in Middle school and has been sexting. What do I do?”   Because these issues are different than issues parents have dealt with in the past sometimes we feel inadequate…which we are.   I have found that the best advice for parents is not something new, but something old. We must choose to believe God’s word and use it as counsel.   While the problems may be complex, the answers are simple.   We are sinners in need of Jesus. When we repent of our sin and live in a way that is pleasing to God, eventually our heart changes. Transformations are rarely overnight…they take time, but God’s word is true and He knows us better than we even know ourselves.   We must choose to believe about us what God says about us. The best counselor a parent can know is their Bible!   Most parents feel inadequate to help their children because they do not know what God’s word says or where to find it.   Here is a novel idea for all parents: Read your Bible everyday. Pray for your children everyday!   Don’t miss church and be among other Christian parents!

What I Am Going To Do To End Racism

We are on the heels of yet another heart breaking senseless crime. Another young white guy has murdered a mass of people.   This recent mass murder is a little different than some of the others. This one was clearly motivated by racism. This young man in his deranged mind justified the killing of 9 innocent people at a church prayer meeting.

What horrible irony. The place you go to find hope and forgiveness would be the place that he would bring death and destruction.

What if we could end racism? What if the answers are already there?

I can tell you the answer is not in passing a law, having the right person in public office, or going on a social media rant.

This murder has caused a lot of attention toward the Confederate Flag and whether it should be taken down from certain public areas.   Some use the flag as a symbol of pride and to some the flag is an object they have always associated with racist people.   Maybe the flag should come down, but the flag is really not the issue. The issue is always the same. It is a matter of the mind and heart. This is where we are losing.

I grew up in the Deep South. As a Caucasian male I don’t pretend to know what it is like to an African American person. I don’t know how hard it is. I don’t know how a black man sees me, or what feelings well up within him when he come in contact with a white man.

I do know that I grew up in a culture that verbalized disgust when a white woman and a black man were together. I grew up in a culture where there was always some level of fear when young black men were around because the perception was that they were angry and would commit some crime. In the school I attended black people hung out with black people and white people hung out with white people. While I had many friends that were black I did not hang out with them outside of a school setting. We played sports together, were in the band together, and sat next to each other in class but there was always a clear distinction between black and white. There was a always a clear level of separation that was seen most clearly on Sundays at church.   These are just the facts of how things were and how in many places they still are.

As I have grown in the Lord many of my personal views have changes. I have come to fully realize that every person is incredibly valuable because Christ made us.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

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This tells me that the Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends race, socioeconomic status and gender. In Christ we all have value.   We are one church under His blood. The precious blood of Christ was shed for every man.

Because the world is broken and people are naturally sinful I am sad to say that racism will not end.

Many will take this tragedy and use it to politicize their particular agendas.   Many people will use this opportunity to throw out more hatred. Neither of these responses helps anyone.

Racism will probably never end…but I just might be able to end it in my family.

I cannot change the pain and anger that people feel in their hearts, but I can teach MY children.

Here is how I am going to end racism in my home.

I am going to teach my children what God says about people. I am going to teach them that God loves people so much He gave His life to save them. John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I am going to teach them that we should love people and give our lives in service and love towards others. Matthew 22:39 “…’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I am going to teach them to do to others, as they would have others do to them. Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

I am going to teach my children to value other people and cultures. 1 Corinthians 9:22 “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”

I am going to invite people of other races into my home. 1 Peter 4:9 “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

I am going to teach my children that we do not judge someone by the color of their skin but the content of their character. John 7:24 “”Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

I am going to show them the evil of prejudice and teach them the beauty of love. Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

I am going to (if the Lord allows) open my home to foster children of whatever race the Lord sees fit.   James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

I am going to beg my children to not repay evil with evil but to repay evil with good.  Romans 12:21 “Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I can’t end racism…but I can make a difference in my home. I pray my son will not be the deranged young white kid with hatred in his heart towards people of a different skin color.

I pray my children will not be the problem but the answer.

We end racism one decision at a time, one heart at a time.

The answer is almost never in legislation or anything in the realm of politics. The Bible has already showed us how to end racism. We just have to obey it.

There is hope. Close friends of mine, who are Caucasian, have become foster parents of three young African American children. I am so thankful for this. One of the children is a girl and she has become best friends with my little girls.

One of the three children is a baby who just turned one and had a birthday party that we attended. It warmed my heart to see my 7-year-old son blowing on the belly of this baby just like he blew on his sister’s belly.   He didn’t even think about the difference in skin color. He just loved the baby.   I pray that my children will grow up to love people…all people.

The families of the victims in the Charleston shooting have showed us what Christian character and love look like. In the midst of the deepest pain they chose to publicly forgive their enemy instead of pile on more hate. Let us all learn from their example.

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