Giving Up Without a Fight

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The Cockatoo sat nonchalantly on its perch in the center of the giant metal cage. We spotted its white feathers as we walked towards it. It was a beautiful day to go to the zoo and we were enjoying it. We had just passed the parrots and were moving on to the beautiful white bird that is native to Indonesia.

At first our eyes took in the bird, but then movement at its food dish caught our eye. We laughed as we saw the squirrel chowing down on the cockatoo’s food. And then I took a picture–because I just knew there had to be a blog post in there somewhere.

We watched the squirrel eating for a few moments while the cockatoo sat indifferently and unmoving on its perch, and then we walked on to the next cage. But the sight had started my thoughts turning.

Why didn’t the cockatoo protect its food? It easily could have, using its loud squawk and large wingspan.

Was it frightened?

It didn’t really look like it.

Was it distracted?

Could have been, with all of those people walking by.

Was it satisfied and unthinking about the future?

Probably.

You may already know where I am going with this.

I think we often make the same mistake with our children. I watch parents let the world swoop down and steal their kids away, barely putting up a fight.

Did you know that Satan is after the souls of your children? He would like nothing more than to break the chain of your family’s Christian heritage and to render your child useless for God’s Kingdom.

And many of us fall prey to his schemes.

Are we frightened?

Some of us are very frightened. We are scared we will lose the hearts of our children and so we allow them to do anything they want, not realizing that doing so is almost a certain formula for the very outcome we are trying to avoid. We want to be the friends of our kids, instead of the parents that God designed us to be. We don’t want to step on any toes and so we set few boundaries and rarely discipline.

Are we distracted?

Many of us are very distracted. We are busy with careers and committees. We are busy with our girlfriends and our fantasy football leagues. We are busy at church and at school and at club. We lose sight of the battle for our kids’ hearts because we are distracted.

Are we satisfied and unthinking about the future?

Yes, I believe most of us are. Oh, don’t get me wrong–many of us think about the future, but our thoughts generally center around the choices of college and career. We think proudly of their straight A’s or their future basketball career, while we strive to get them the scholarships they deserve. But how often do we think about their walk with God in relation to the future? What kind of Christian do you want your child to be as a grown-up and what steps are you taking to help that happen?

What can we do to keep the “squirrels” from stealing our most precious possession?

1. Parent with courage. It takes courage to say no when every other parent is saying yes. It takes courage to have meaningful conversations about sex and alcohol and creationism and God. It takes courage to set a good example and do what’s right, even when no one is watching. It takes courage to lovingly and graciously tell the truth. If you must fear, then fear the consequences of your child’s heart turned to stone towards God. So many of us parent selfishly, desperately worried about our child’s opinion of us. We should probably be much more worried about our child’s opinion of God. For that, in the end, is what determines their eternal destiny.

The irony of all of this is that if we can parent with courage, most of us will reap wonderful benefits for ourselves. For if our kids love the Lord, then they will love us, too. If they love the Lord, then we will share a biblical worldview and a common purpose. There is nothing sweeter than this.

2. Make your kids a very important priority. There is nothing wrong with doing things outside the home. I think the problem comes in when we are not discriminatory with our choices. We can’t do everything and yet we try. But something has to give. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to spend time with your kids? It may even be one of their activities that has to go. Most kids would benefit much more from a game night with Mom and Dad than from a weekly dance lesson. We cannot allow the world to tell us what is important.

Many years ago, my husband was actively involved in a softball league. Baby J and I would spend many summer evenings watching the games. After a year or two of this, another baby came along and Eric became aware that he was going to have to make a choice. At the time, he was in the first years of starting a business and this occupied much of his time. He knew that in order for his kids to be a priority, he would have to quit softball. How thankful I am for a husband who made our kids a priority.

It sounds like a no-brainer. Of course, the kids are the priority. But, unfortunately, I see this isn’t true in the lives of many parents, and if I am being honest, especially fathers. Many fathers check out when it comes to spending time with their kids, disciplining their kids, and talking with their kids about the hard stuff. Dads, you are one of the most important factors in determining your child’s future relationship with God. Fight for their souls!

And one more thing here, for the grandparents who are reading this–the value of your support in helping your children raise their children is inestimable. You can have incredible influence in the lives of your grandchildren. Our children should not stop being a priority for us just because they have reached adulthood. You can really make a difference in the lives of your grandchildren.

3. Think of your child’s spiritual future. We would consider it irresponsible not to consider our child’s future education or vocation. And, yet, many of us do not think about our child’s future spiritual condition. We need to consider this in the conversations we have and the things we allow in our home and the places we allow them to go. We need to give this consideration as we choose which church to attend and the friendships we encourage our kids to develop. But, most importantly, we need to be who we want them to be. If we want them to be honest and kind and loving and courageous, then we need to be those things.

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I know that almost all of us love our children with our whole hearts. We’d do anything for them. But sometimes we lose sight of the world as it swoops down and steals the hearts of our children, while we sit, our eyes half-closed, on a perch nearby.

I say that it is time to open our eyes wide and parent with vigilance and abandon for the very short time we have them in our homes. We need to fight for the souls of our children!

Redeem the time and fight! For the heartache that comes with grown kids who aren’t following the Lord is a very real and painful thing.

 

A Letter to Young Moms

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Dear Young Mom–

I know I seem a bit irrelevant and old-fashioned to you. You would probably much rather get your information from colorful parenting magazines or child education specialists. And, honestly, things have changed a lot in this world since my children were small. But, although some things have changed, many others have not. After all, many of the worries, frustrations, joys, and rewards that come with being a mom are timeless.

As I contemplate the struggles you must be having today, I can confidently let you know that I, and many other women like me, truly can understand what you are going through. We remember the sleepless nights, the potty-training frustrations, the cheerios on the floor, and tripping over toys. We remember going over and over math homework or phonics lessons that we just couldn’t get our child to grasp. We remember the loud car rides and the chaos of bedtime. We remember the craziness of getting ready to go to church and the {almost} impossibility of trying to cook a meal or vacuum a floor with a baby on our hips.

Honestly, it seems like a lifetime ago–and yet it seems like yesterday.

A family is a little like a flower arrangement. Stick with me here. I love flowers, so this example came naturally to mind. When you see flowers in an arrangement, they look perfect and beautiful. But, without exception, each of the flowers in that arrangement was grown in dirt. It was most likely sprayed for pests and diseases, and probably pruned. Sometimes I think we expect to have picture perfect families right at the get-go. But the honest truth is that it takes years of hard work to reap the fruit of what you are doing right now as a young mom.

So how do we, to the best of our abilities, end up with a beautiful flower arrangement  instead of a wilted and broken mess?

If I could give you one piece of wisdom, drawn from my own experience, it would be make sure and determine your long-term goals for your children right now–while they are babies. You see, if you develop your goals now, then you can eliminate the things that are not moving you towards that goal and foster and grow the things that are.

For me, personally, my goal for my children was simple and was drawn from the words in Mark 12:30-31:  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

I figured if my kids learned to love God and others, then the rest–marriages, education, careers– would fall into place. Of course, I guess, by its very definition, this can’t really be a goal since I cannot control the outcome. But it was my first and most important priority in raising my kids–to teach them the truths of God from the Bible and to try to set a good example so that they would be, first and foremost, servants of God and secondly, that they would selflessly love others. Oh, I wasn’t very good at any of this some days and I have failed (and continue to fail) miserably sometimes. But this was my priority as a mom.

So, once we have set our goals (or priorities may be a better word) in place, how do we remember them in the midst of the daily chaos?

Here are a few helpful tips that I learned along the way–

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Bathroom accidents, muddy hands and feet, magic marker on the piano keys or the walls, locks of hair mistakenly cut off –all of these, when looking back now, are not as big of a deal as I made them. I know that now.

2.  Keep your focus off of yourself.  Whenever I was down or even angry as a young mom, I would eventually realize that it was often because my focus was on me. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to lose sleep or clean up that mess. Someone wasn’t treating me right. Poor little ole’ me. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Because life isn’t really about me. It’s about glorifying God (Isaiah 43:7). And, if I am going to keep my priorities in order it is critical that I am not my focus!

As a side note, I want to mention here that, as moms, we are constantly barraged with this message: You deserve a break! You are a mom and you need time to yourself! And while I most definitely believe that is true, I also believe that breaks are to be enjoyed like a cool drink of water in the midst of a marathon. Motherhood isn’t about the cool drink, it’s about the marathon. It is important as moms that we keep our focus on the Lord and our families and not so much on ourselves. Sometimes, looking back, I am appalled at how self-centered I was (still at battle with this in my life…)

3. Find a happy balance in keeping your house. It is important to keep a neat and tidy house. Your husband feels loved and appreciated when you do. A household that is organized is a happier and more peaceful household. However, if your child cowers in fear if he spills his milk or you walk behind your children or husband cleaning up after them, you may not have found a balance in this area.

I will always remember one of the most encouraging things an older woman said to me when she visited my house one day amidst the toys and books and baby cups: “This is how a ‘lived-in’ home should look! I always feel sorry for kids who live in perfect houses because they can’t even be kids!” That made a huge impact on me as a young mom. I realized that it was okay for me not to have a picture-perfect house 24/7 (which was good because at that time I was also finding it impossible!)

We need to let our families “live” in our homes, but we also can’t throw our hands up in the air and stop working at keeping them clean and organized. Sometimes this can be a hard balance to find.  I’d like to say this gets better –and it does in some ways–but now, instead of cheerios, I find chip bags, and instead of toys, I trip over size 11 boots, soccer cleats, and flip flops of all shapes and colors!

4. Keep your current priorities carefully. Review your goal(s). If your goal is for your child to be an Olympic gymnast then hours and hours spent at the gym make sense. Otherwise, they do not.  But be very careful when setting any goals or priorities and consider the long-term, eternal ramifications of them. Is it really worth skipping church to go to an 8 year old’s sports event? Does that fit in with your long-term goal? Make sure your daily, current priorities match up with your long-term goals.

5. And, finally, don’t give up. Sometimes you probably feel like you just want to throw your hands up in the air and quit. Of course, as moms, we can’t do that. But if you are finding yourself amidst a really stressful, crazy time, see if Dad or Grandma will watch the kids and take one of those needed cool drinks of water. This is what they are for–high stress, difficult stages that come in waves all through life. Take a bath, go out with girlfriends, read a book, or–even better–spend some one-on-one time with God. You will come back refreshed and ready to tackle life head-on again.

I know that I have said this before, but I’ll say it again, anyway: You will blink and your babies will be all grown up. Life goes SO fast.

Spend the next few years loving the babies that have been entrusted to you. Discipline them, care for them, and nurture them. And then let the Master Arranger make a beautiful thing out of your family. He is faithful!

Lovingly,

A Mom Who Has Been There

 

 

 

Life with Almost Grown Birdies

93189_7381revWe have a nest full of almost grown birdies in our home right now, with two young adult children almost ready to fly, a college student, and a 9th grader. While we enjoy their company and are glad to have them with us for right now, one of the greatest challenges we face is determining correct boundaries for these almost full-grown birdies.

I have seen parents that have completely eliminated rules and expectations after their kids have graduated high school. Usually this has not turned out very well.

I have also seen parents who have tried to micromanage the lives of their young adults. This, too, does not often turn out well.

But how do we find the balance in this area?

I have had a couple of different friends ask me about this recently. I thought I might take a few moments to let you know what we do in our home–not that this is the “perfect” formula– but we do have a good relationship with our young adult children (most days) and I thought I would share how we have managed to do that. (And don’t stop reading here if you have young children! The peace we enjoy now is because of some things we did when they were small, which I will talk about in this post, as well).

First, we have given them the control of their personal choices and decisions that are outside our home. They are now old enough to determine where they want to go, who they want to be with, and how to spend their money. It is important for them to experience the consequences of bad choices and the blessing of good choices. If we constantly monitor and rescue, they will experience neither.

Second, we continue to have good conversations and discussions about the things that matter– morals, standards, discernment, world view, budgets, time management. Our kids often ask us for advice and, while they don’t always follow it, they will generally give consideration to what we are saying. The only reason we can do the first thing is because of the second thing.

Third, we continue to hold standards and rules for our home that they must follow if they are going to live here. Some examples of this are, as a general rule, we do not allowed R-rated movies in our home, we do not allow music that is offensive to God to be played aloud, and we do not allow them to come in at all hours of the night. We ask them to be considerate of our preferences in these areas if they choose to live with us. However, we do make exceptions on occasion and, for example, as long as we know they are coming in at 2am and it isn’t happening every day, it is fine.

Fourth, we do not punish our twenty-somethings. We believe that the relationship has moved beyond that. We do not take their cars, their phones, their TV. I do not check up on their phones or their internet use. We can do this because we trust them. With that said, we do “fine” them on occasion!

Fifth: the couple thing. Both of our twenty-somethings are dating. When they first started dating as teenagers, we would really watch over them. We would not allow them in the basement or bedrooms alone and we kept a close eye on them when they were in our home –or driveway ;). It was our way of helping to protect them from themselves. But as they have grown older, we realize that their purity is a reflection of their relationship with God and that they are now accountable to Him, and we have relaxed in this area a bit. But again, we can do this because we trust them.

Sixth, we do require some simple chores to be done. For some reason, young adults feel that they “grow out” of chores, and yet the chores still remain and, in some cases, are enlarged, as the kids become adults. It is very important (in our opinion) to expect the young adult kids to help with chores around the house. It gives them some sense of what to expect in the future (although they truly do not really have a clue!) and also helps to lighten the loads of Mom and Dad a bit. A question some of you might have is what to do about rent. At this point, we do not charge our kids rent. I am still not really sure if this is in their best interest or not, but I see them saving their money and not spending it too unwisely so we feel that this is the best option to give them the best start in their lives. If we felt that they were wasting their money we would probably have to re-visit that.

What we are doing works for us. It works for us because of some really important things we did when our kids were younger. If you have younger kids, start this now, so that your young adults will be joys instead of headaches–

1. Listen. Listen. Listen. Kids of all ages have big questions. Listen to them and then find the answers. Yes, it takes work but it is worth it. Take the time for conversations of substance.

2. Teach your kids about the Lord. Take them to church. Help them hide His Word in their hearts. Make God the priority of your family instead of sports, education, or anything else. Enjoy all of these things, but don’t sacrifice God because of them.

3. Teach them to respect you as an authority, so that when it is time for God to be their final authority they have already developed a spirit of submission and obedience.

4. Make boundaries that are driven by scripture, not by man made traditions. Explain why the boundaries are there and don’t budge if you have scripture as your basis.

5. Be a person they can relate to. It is so important to be humble and admit mistakes. It is so important to be fun and to laugh with your kids. It is so important to show your fear, your sadness, and your joy with them. Only when they realize that you are a fallible human being, just like them, will they be able to open up their hearts to you.

6. Love unconditionally. Let your kids know that there is absolutely nothing they could do that would stop you from loving them.

7. Pray. Alot. I almost always end my parenting posts with this thought. I cannot express just how important I believe this is. Pray for their spiritual welfare. God wants them to know Him. We need to pray for the hearts of our children every day.

Whew. This post covered a lot. That wasn’t my original intention. Hope I didn’t overwhelm you!

Our kids are still growing up and are still making mistakes — kind of like their parents. And as I write this, I don’t want you to think we have it all together — because we so don’t. God’s grace has covered SO much. But if we give our best efforts and make choices with a desire to please Him, we have found that He meets us half-way (or is it a quarter of the way??) and takes it from there. God is good. When we choose to honor Him with our lives and with the way we raise our families, He will guide and sustain us.

Are there some exceptions to this pattern? I know there are and it must be heart-breaking. I do not point fingers of judgment at any who have lost children to the world. Young adults make their own choices. We, as parents, can only do so much. We need to keep loving and praying. Never stop loving and never stop praying. We can pray with confidence because we know that God wants our children to be saved.

May God bless you as you raise your children to love and serve Him!

 

Wise Counsel for A Son

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I came across this the other day. It was written by hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt, who lived from 1607-1676. I found it on the Hope Blog (you can find the original post here). I believe the counsel given here is incredibly wise and timeless– beneficial for both our sons and our daughters, and perhaps even for ourselves. Hope you enjoy this–

Now that I have reached the 70th year of my life and also have the joyful hope that my dear, holy God will soon rescue me out of this world and lead me into a better life than I have had until now on earth, I thank Him especially for all His kindness and faithfulness which, from my mother’s womb until the present hour, He has shown me in body and soul and in all that He has given me. Besides this, I ask Him from the bottom of my heart that when my hour comes He would grant me a happy departure, take my soul into His fatherly hands, and give my body a peaceful rest in the ground until the dear Last Day, when I, with all of my [family] who have been before me and also may remain after me, will reawake and behold my dear Lord Jesus Christ face to face, in whom I have believed but have not yet seen. To my only son whom I am leaving behind I leave few earthly goods, but with them I leave him an honorable name of which he will not have to be ashamed.

My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God as His possession, that he is to become a servant and preacher of His holy Word. He is to remain now in this and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.

Study holy theology in pure schools and at unfalsified universities and beware of the syncretists [those who mix religions or confessions], for they seek what is temporal and are faithful to neither God nor men. In your common life do not follow evil company but rather the will and command of your God. Especially: (1) Do nothing evil in the hope that it will remain secret, for nothing is spun so small that it is not seen in the light of day. (2) Outside of your office and vocation do not become angry. If you notice that anger has heated you up, remain still and speak not so much as a word until you have first prayed the Ten Commandments and the Christian Creed silently. (3) Be ashamed of the lusts of the flesh, and when you one day come to the years in which you can marry, then marry with God and with the good advice of pious, faithful, and sensible people. (4) Do good to people even if they have nothing with which to repay you, for the Creator of heaven and earth has long since repaid what humans cannot repay: when He created you, when He gave you His beloved Son, and when He accepted you in Holy Baptism as His child and heir. (5) Flee from greed as from hell. Be satisfied with what you have earned with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not all too much. But if the good Lord gives you something more, ask Him to preserve you from the burdensome misuse of temporal goods.

In summary: Pray diligently, study something honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain unmoved in your faith and confessing. If you do this, you too will one day die and depart from this world willingly, joyfully, and blessedly. Amen.

Source: Christian Bunners, Paul Gerhardt: Weg Werk Wirkung (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 301-302. Translated by Benjamin T. G. Mayes, 5/4/2007

Are You Pregnant?

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Sometimes this American culture that we find ourselves in feels just a bit surreal to me. Yes, we are in a culture where celebrities gyrate in obscene ways on our TV screens and the general population, which includes more than a few Christians, feels comfortable watching it. Yes, we are in a culture where our college kids are thrown together into      co-ed dorms to romp and play for four years (of course, I know there are moral kids in  co-ed dorms who do not do this but just the fact that it is allowed seems so wrong to me). Yes, we are in a culture where college professors hold seminars on sexual activities I wouldn’t even dare write about here. And yes, we are in a culture that praises–maybe even worships–sexual freedom and touts abortion as the answer to any unwanted consequences of that freedom. The whole thing makes me just a little sick to my stomach.

How can this be?

But it is. So what now?  How do we respond to this crazy, sexually saturated culture?

Well, for starters, we have to be different. And if we are, we will definitely be noticed, and oftentimes, not even believed.

I was reminded of this, once again, when I went to the doctor with one of my daughters. The doctor came in and asked all of the proverbial questions. Do you smoke? No. Do you drink? No Do you use illicit drugs? No. Are you pregnant? No.

Are you sure? Have you been tested?

My daughter looked at her, speechless, and then looked at me. I piped up. NO, she hasn’t had sex. She can’t be pregnant.

The doctor then stated very matter-of-factly that many young girls lie about this in front of their parents, which I am sure is very true. This type of conversation was not new to me. I have had it before with doctors and I am sure I will have it again.

“No, I am not interested in Gardisil for my daughter because she is not sexually active.”

“Well, I know that is what you would like to believe, but…”

“Actually, I trust her.”

Usually after this conversation–and I’ve had this same conversation with the same doctor three times–the doctor (whom we like very much) kind of sighs and moves on to the next topic. I know that he does not have the same faith in my daughters that I have. But then, he also does not have the same faith in the one and only true God that my daughters and I have, either. Of course he is skeptical.

Now, I know how easy it is for kids to make mistakes in this area of sex and it does happen. And if it would happen to one of my kids, I would continue to love and support them, anyway. But I also know that my kids have committed to remain pure before marriage. But if you say this to any health professional they look at you like you (and your kids) have two heads and then treat you as if you just lied to them. My kids also experience this in the work world. I am sure your young people have had the same experiences if they have stood for what is right in this area. Many are the Christian boys and girls who are ridiculed because they have chosen to wait to have sex until they are married, while their peers share their “fascinating” sexual experiences with one another.

Can I just go on record saying it is possible to wait for sex until you are married? I know because I have done it. I don’t say this in a self-righteous kind of way but in a To God Be the Glory kind of way. And, yes, I stayed pure 25 years ago but there are many who follow through on this commitment in this present, treacherous age–young people who love the Lord and each other more than they love themselves.

I would also like to go on record saying that I have never, ever been sorry for waiting. I have only one body to give and I have always been very thankful that I waited to give that body to the love of my life, my husband.

Why do we treat teenagers and twenty-somethings like they have impulses they cannot control? I just don’t get it. But I digress.

I can’t help but wonder if those boys and girls who stand against the strong tide of sexual impurity aren’t admired and envied for their perseverance? Oh, it will rarely be said, but deep down inside there are many who can only wish they had waited, while they pick up the broken pieces of their hearts and lives.

The point–the whole point– is that, as believers, we are called to be holy, which in its very essence, makes us very different from those around us. And this particular topic–the biblical view of sex– goes against the flow in this current culture big-time. As believers, we should stand for godly marriage, waiting for sex until marriage, modest dress, and sexual purity in the movies we watch, the books we read, and the music we listen to.

And while we work to remain pure ourselves, we need to encourage others on towards purity and continue to love even when there are mistakes. We won’t make any difference in the world at all if we stay in our own little worlds pointing fingers at everyone. This world needs to hear that the life God calls us to as believers is about love and grace and holiness and blessing.

This culture is absolutely sex-crazy. Unless you move to a remote cabin in the woods somewhere, you can’t escape it. It is a strange land we find ourselves in. But we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and show that there is a different–a better–way to live. We need to show that not only is it possible to be sexually pure, but it is a blessing! We don’t have to be like the world. In fact, it is quite imperative that we are not like the world. And when we stand strong in this area of sexual purity, we will shine like a brilliant lighthouse in the midst of a very stormy sea.

 

 

Subtle Changes

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Yesterday was the first day of school. It wasn’t just any first day of school around here. It was the first year that A) only one of my four children is actually going to school and B) The child in school started high school.

The funny thing is that I remember calculating the years of school when my kids were little, counting on my fingers and figuring out the year each child would graduate from high school and realizing that our baby would be in high school for four years by herself. But, at that time, this time seemed miles away, like a distant mountain far off on the horizon. But even the furthest mountain is reached by walking one step at a time.

And those steps have been walked, the days have been lived, and the time is here. I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around this–as most moms do, I guess. As I was thinking about this yesterday, I started wondering–

When did I stop keeping wet wipes in the car?

When did I stop asking for a kids’ menu?

When did I stop arranging life around naps?

When did I stop tucking my kids in bed?

As is often the case, I don’t remember the last times I did any of these things. It was just a gradual shift until one day it wasn’t a part of my life anymore.

Sometimes life changes suddenly and we feel overwhelmed and shipwrecked, but more often life changes subtly and imperceptibly–until one day you realize that you no longer have to buy diapers or get up at night. You don’t have to pack lunches or kiss boo-boos anymore. You no longer have to carpool or spend a fortune at the grocery store or wait up at night for the last child to be in for the night (Actually I am still doing all of the things in the last sentence for now and I find myself quite thankful for them as I write this post! So much is in our perspective, isn’t it??)

My youngest daughter is a little sad that she is so far behind our other three kids, who are now out of high school and pursuing their futures. But me? Well, I’m not sad at all. The funny thing is that we had actually planned to have a smaller gap between those last two, but God thought His timing was better and she ended up coming a year later than we planned. How thankful I am that God saw fit to give her to us and to wisely time it so that this time of life would be just a little easier on me.

Life is changing…always changing. Sometimes we can’t wait for the change and then it changes and we realize just how much we didn’t really want it to change. My husband assures me that I will even miss this stage after it is over. I am sure he is right. As frustrating and full of adjustments as it is, I will probably miss it when it’s gone.

I’d like to say that I have been able to appreciate every moment of motherhood but I haven’t. And, being human, I can’t. But I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy precious moments with my children full of fun and laughter and good conversations. We have had lots of good times.

Perhaps one of the keys to contentment is to enjoy the good times that we are in right now and not to take the hard times too seriously. After all, when it is all over, we mostly remember the good times, don’t we?

I don’t have any serious spiritual lesson for today. Today I am just a mother, aching just a bit over the loss of her life as she has known it and seeing much more change up ahead, trying to figure what it all will mean for my life and how to deal with it.

Of course, it is not helping that my other “baby” is headed to college next week. *sigh* While I do find great joy in watching my kids discover God’s will for their lives, it is bittersweet. How well I remember those exciting days of growing up and finding my own life but I guess I never did realize what it must have meant for my own mother.

Who knew there would be so much emotion attached to this time of life?

 

A Call to Fathers

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When a father provides for a child’s material needs, he is considered a decent father.

When that same father provides sound teaching in the ways of the world, such as how to handle money, hold down a job, and control one’s temper, he is considered a great father.

But when a father provides godly counsel using scripture, along with heartfelt prayers to God for the souls of his children (and, later, grandchildren)–is there even a word to describe that?

It reminds of those credit card commercials that always show the price tags of items and vacations and then, at the very end, show a memorable moment followed by the word “Priceless”.

You cannot put a price on a father who cares about the spiritual welfare of his children.

I was reminded of this when I received a phone call from my father yesterday. He knows that I am bearing a burden that is feeling pretty heavy. He called to let me know he loves me and to encourage me. He then went on to give me some wise counsel from scripture, first making sure that I wanted this counsel (yes, please!)

His words encouraged me to look at the situation from a little different perspective. He helped me to see what is perhaps the root of the problem. But, most importantly, he let me know that he is praying for me and the parties involved and that he and Mom are available for me, should I need them in any way.

Can I express to you the feelings of comfort and blessing that this call provided to even a grown daughter with almost-grown kids of her own? To know that my father cares deeply about me and my family and is pointing us to God and His Word is a great encouragement and a balm to my soul.

I can’t speak from the perspective of being a father because I am not one. I can only speak from the perspective of being a daughter. But I have a few questions for you fathers–

Do you have conversations about the stuff that matters with your kids?

Do you pray regularly for your children and their walks with God, asking Him to guide and protect them?

Do you know the principles of God’s Word, so that you can provide your kids with godly counsel?

You see, it isn’t enough to make sure your kids have enough to eat and a roof over their heads. And it isn’t enough to play ball and board games and even dolls. These things are good things and it is a part of being a good father.

But many, many kids’ hearts get lost even with good fathers because Dad never provided the spiritual component so desperately needed in the family.

And so kids grow up and instead of a godly role model to turn to as they go through difficult times, they have a nice guy whom they love ad respect but would never turn to for their big questions and tough problems.

May I suggest that perhaps the primary reason we are losing our kids’ souls is because of this?

“But I wouldn’t even know where to begin?” you may think.

Start when they are young. I would like to give you an example from the life of my husband to encourage you. From the time the kids were very small he was the one who had bedtime devotions with them. He would come home late and so very tired from his quest of starting a new business, but would make time for the spiritual well-being of his children. It showed our children that mommy wasn’t the only one who cared about their relationship with God. The kids had lots of good and helpful conversations in those bedtime hours with their father. Another great way to make this happen is over the dinner hour (be sure to have one!) We spent many hours with our kids discussing our own problems and the problems of the world, always using God’s Word as our guide. Kids need to hear and participate in conversations like this with their dads.

And if your kids are grown (or almost grown), then might I suggest that you open up the door for good conversations by becoming vulnerable? Your kids want to know–need to know–that you have struggled, too. That you don’t have it all together. They need to hear of how God has been faithful to you through the years. They need to see you growing more like Christ. They need to know you on a personal level. This is scary, I know, but it is the only way to set the stage, so that when they are facing a spiritual battle or personal problem, they know you will be open to talk with them and probably have something worthy to say.

I think this is the only post I have ever written specifically for men. I know I can’t understand all you are going through.You have burdens we women can’t even imagine. Work stresses, the burden of caring for the physical needs of your family, and forever trying to meet your wife’s expectations. I know it is not easy. But amidst all that’s going on, I hope that you will consider my words.

I know that you love your child. But do you want to make the life of your child the best it can be? Then be a dad who knows the Word of God and be available to give them wise, godly counsel that comes from a heart filled with deep and caring love.

For very few things matter more than the souls of your children.

 

Trust is a Powerful Thing

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Have you ever thought about just how powerful trust is? If we trust someone, we will –

1. Want to be like them.

2. Believe what they tell us about others.

3. Believe what they tell us about the world.

For example, think about someone you really trust and admire. If they told you something about someone, would you believe them?  I had the “privilege” of hearing two sides of a personal confrontation a few months ago. Each side had their own personal interpretation on what had happened and were influencing people’s opinions of the other person by the tale they were telling to the people who trust them.

Or let’s think about our kids for a moment. We have such power to influence positively or negatively because of trust. If, as Christian parents, we love them enough to set boundaries, have the hard discussions, and live out our faith, we will build the trust that will make it so much easier for our children to follow the Lord. But if we are self-absorbed hypocrites, well, then there is little trust and our kids will probably walk away from the Lord.

How about pastors and teachers that we trust? If they tell us the entire world was created from a rock, we will give them credence, because we trust them to tell us the truth. Or perhaps they interpret a certain passage of scripture differently then we have ever heard– if we trust them, we will believe them. Or political leaders? If they tell us they will put more money in our pockets by lowering taxes, then we will…well, I guess that’s not such a good example, is it? Not a whole lot of trust when it comes to the government anymore.

My point is this: the more that others trust us, the more responsibility we have to honor that trust. We do this by –

1. Being extremely careful with our words. Words are so powerful, and even more so if people are actually listening to our words.  The more people that listen, the more powerful our words become. I don’t want someone to form an opinion about someone else based on my experience with that person.  Just because I didn’t have a good encounter with a particular person, doesn’t mean that everyone else won’t. And judging people on one encounter is never a good idea, anyway. It’s better to just keep our mouths shut about others.  And if we are just natural “venters”  then we should at least counter our words with something like this: “but I know I probably didn’t handle it right, too” or some other such phrase. (I would add here that I am talking about personal relationships and not about warnings regarding false teachers, which is something we are called to do in scripture Acts 20:29-32).

If people trust us, our words also can be used to sway them towards God or away from God.  We can set a good example by speaking words of truth and faith and love and kindness or we can pull them away from God by our complaining and skeptical words.

2. Being extremely careful with whom we respect and trust as Christian leaders and pastors. If people trust us, then we want to make sure that we are being very careful with where we place our own trust so that we are directing them to godly men and women who know and follow the traditional interpretation of the Word of God (2 Thessalonians 2:15). I look for men and women who are humble and holy (Titus 1:5-9) and for one who has not fallen into heresy or capitulated to worldly compromise (James 1:27) Unfortunately, my list of respected Christian leaders grows smaller almost every day. I try to be very careful with the links (listed to the right) I recommend because of this. I don’t want to be responsible for directing anyone astray. In fact, last year, there was a link listed there of a ministry I did trust but when I became aware of some heresy in that ministry, I immediately removed it.  Sometimes we don’t know about a certain ministry, but when we do find out, we need to carefully withdraw our support of that ministry.

3. Being extremely careful with our actions. Oh, this is a tricky one and I often feel the weight of it. You see, I know my kids (and probably others) are watching me to see what I am watching, reading, listening to, and wearing. If I make a choice to do or wear something that is on the line, then I will, in essence, be giving my approval of that thing. Even if, afterwards, I recognize that it was not a good decision the damage will have been done. Occasionally, I will watch a movie that may be questionable by myself first before allowing my kids to watch it but, more often than not, I just don’t watch it. In fact, the older I have gotten the more I lean towards just not wasting my time on something that includes things that offend my God. Life is just too short for that and the trust issue too great. I still do mess up sometimes, though, on this one.

Our actions, of course, also include things like flaring up in anger or gossiping to our friends or lying to our boss. People, and especially our kids, are watching us all the time. It is critical to do the right thing not only to please the Lord (which is the primary reason) but also because of the observant eyes of the ones who are looking to us as an example.

Trust is a mighty thing. If we have it, we need to be very careful with it. It can be lost in a moment by doing something stupid.  And there is a constant struggle going on inside with the perpetual question: “Do I want my kids (or anyone else who trusts me) to be like me?” If I am honest, my answer is always no. I have such a long way to go in my walk with God. But I keep trying, knowing that people are watching and that I have a responsibility to be the most godly person I can be based on what I have learned about God and His Word so far.

 

 

Weary Warriors

574874_51653329revBeing a Christian soldier in this culture is exhausting. Everywhere you turn, Satan is attacking. The battle is being fought all around us, leaving us with little, if any, time to put down our battle gear and take a rest.

Sometimes the enemy’s deadly sword looks like a big, giant lollipop coming at you. It’s really only through serious study and discernment that we can pick up on the fact that it is a sword made to look like a lollipop.

Think with me for a moment about the book The Shack. It’s just a story, right? But it single-handedly changed how many Christians think about God. I read this quote recently and it really summed up why The Shack is a problem–

“Christian idolatry is betrayed in this telltale phrase: ‘I like to think of God as________________.’ I like to think of God as a loving Father–as a mother–as an artist–as forgiving–as an architect…But the problem is that such thoughts are often coupled with a denial of something else the Scriptures teach about God–for example, that He is Judge…[We] don’t like to think of Him as a judge, but as a loving Savior.”

That is exactly why I believe this book is dangerous. It is a very one-sided and incomplete view of who God is. And yet evangelical Christians, by the thousands, love this book.

And so if you stand up and say, “Hey, wait a minute! Something’s not right here!” we are labeled.

We are judgmental, critical, narrow-minded, ridiculous, unintelligent, among a variety of other names.

And we get tired. Exhausted, even.

We decide the hassle isn’t worth it and we shut up (exactly what our enemy wants, by the way).

But these kinds of subtle deceptions aren’t our only battlefield. No, standing for Truth even goes into the arena of entertainment, dress, and life where somehow in this crazy mixed-up world, we find ourselves being ostracized and looked down upon by Christians because we believe books that glamorize witchcraft and the occult are dangerous,         R-rated movies inappropriate fodder for our minds, bikinis inappropriate clothing for our daughters, and gambling and drinking unacceptable ways to spend our God-given time and money.

Have you stopped recently and thought about how CRAZY that is??

Sometimes it feels quite surreal that this is what modern Christianity has become in the year 2013. This can’t possibly be reality, can it?

But this is not the Christianity I was taught as a girl and this is certainly not Christianity as defined in the Bible.

Here are a few things the Bible says –

I should not even look at evil (Psalm 101:3; 119:37)

Those who practice sorcery will be burned in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8)

God hates sexual immorality, whether it’s in our life or on a screen (Colossians 3:5)

To not let filthiness, coarse jesting, and foolish talk be among us (Ephesians 5:4)

To be separate from the world (James 1:27)

I am to be modest (I Timothy 2:9)

That I am different if I am a believer (I Peter 1:14-16)

I am not sure when Satan made his inroad into the Church. Perhaps it was when marriage became less sacred and divorce more common, leading to a breakdown of the family. Perhaps it was when shallow, me-centered music became part of the worship service. Maybe it was when worship became more about “The Show” than about God and pastoring became more about entertaining than about feeding and caring for the flock. But, most likely, it was when the church was sold the lie that people will only be won for the Gospel if we become like them. And thus the word “relevance” pretty much destroyed any purity and separation that was left within the churches.

I don’t know when exactly it happened. And I guess it doesn’t really matter. What matters now is how we Christians respond to this madness.

Are we going to melt into the crowd and do what everybody else is doing? Or are we going to take a stand?

Are we going to fight for the spiritual health of our families? Or are we going to die on the alter of peer pressure?

Are we going to grow tired and weary and give up the battle? Or are we going to stay and fight in the strength of the Lord?

My husband and I are tired. So tired. It is especially wearying on the home front, where we have spent many years trying to explain from scripture why many of the popular movies, music, video games, and books are not glorifying to God, all while most of their friends are out having a good time doing all that we are encouraging our kids not to do.  We feel so outnumbered and have even questioned our sanity on a number of occasions.

But whenever we take a moment to re-look at something or to question a stand, we end up back at the same place–God’s Word calls us to live holy, pure lives separate from the world. Period.

If we want to serve Him, we can’t ignore this command. We can’t get around it. We can’t push it under a box. We are soldiers in the Lord’s army and this is a big part of our duty.

And, so…here we are. Weary warriors but still fighting. Anyone else with us?

 

 

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Are We Dropping the Ball?

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All around us we see youth from Christian homes who have turned their backs on the one true God. A decent percentage of them have walked away to live lives in utter, immoral chaos. But, more often than not, most are trying to live good lives, attending church on the Christian holidays, and trying to make a decent living and raise a responsible family…all in their own power, not truly knowing the Savior who gave His life for them.

When I read Titus 2, I realize just how far we have strayed from God’s plan for who we are supposed to be. Paul, in this letter to Titus, defines what we are to look like as believers in this passage.

These words seem almost ridiculous in a culture that prides itself on staying young, partying, living for the moment, and having a good time. Here are the adjectives that should be used to describe a godly man: sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience.

And godly older women: reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things.  We read on to discover what these good things are.

Somehow, in the last five years or so, I became one of the older women. It comes to all of us at one time or another. And here is what the Bible says I am supposed to be teaching younger women: to love their husbands and children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, and obedient to their husbands.

And let’s go on to the young men, who do not escape Paul’s descriptions. Here is what he says they are to be like: sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,[a] sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.[b

So, if this is what true believers are to look like, then why do so many of not look like this? Or, in the light of our imperfections, perhaps an even more important question is: why do believers not want to look like this?

Could it be that we older people have dropped the ball?

It starts in our homes, where many of us allow our toddlers to control everything from the TV to the schedules. And then it blossoms into the churches, where we have allowed the youth to determine everything from worship style to church programs. When and why did the older generation relinquish their responsibility?

Was it when we, too, became more enamored with our stuff than with our Lord?

Was it when we got scared of the accusations and name-calling (fuddy-duddy, traditionalist) and ran away?

Was it when we made ourselves our priority and stopped spending time with our adult children?

Or perhaps it was when we started listening to worldly wisdom instead of God's Word?

I have no idea, but somewhere there has been a breakdown of godly living being passed down from one generation to the next.

May the Lord help us not to be one of those weak links! I pray that my kids and grandkids would be stronger and holier and bolder for Jesus Christ than I am!  I want my family to grow stronger in the Lord, not weaker.

Yes, this takes work--the kind that never ends. It takes late nights and long phone conversations and confrontations. Sometimes it is lonely. But we have a responsibility and we need to step up to the plate and take it seriously! Let's stand strong and encourage those who come behind us to stand strong with us!

 

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,[a] sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.[b]

~Titus 2: 1-8

 

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