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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Men Dads

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. NASU

What does it mean to "act like men?" Does it mean that we should refuse to change diapers, treat our wives like second-class citizens, and stay out late with the guys playing poker and smoking cigars? Uhhhmm, no. That would be acting like children.
To be a man, means to be a protector, a provider, and a servant. It means offering your life for your country. It means that on vacation you drive through the night drinking three gallons of coffee and using toothpicks to hold your eyes open so that your family can sleep in peace. Being a man means putting up with getting a fishhook through the ear because you wanted to teach your kids how to fish. It means getting up in the middle of the night to check on the scary noises. It means cleaning the vomit off of the sheet while your wife cleans up your child in the bathroom. It means doing what needs to be done because that is your role. You are the man, and will risk dangers, sleep, inconveniences, noxious fumes, embarrassment, and pride to be the man, and to let your wife be the princess.

Somehow in our society we started thinking that anything related to family was women's work. Huh? So, going off to battle and getting shot in the head for my family is man's work, but spending time reading to my kids is women's work? And I suppose playing Grand Theft Combat Racing with my buddies until three in the morning is man's work, while my wife is at home putting the kids to bed, putting away laundry, and praying for the family-that would be women's work. Right? Wrong.
Men don't need to be women to be men, but they do need to be men.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

102. Twentee-Twunny Teen Vision

It was the first day of high school. Mr. Pellant passed out our text books and instructed us to turn to the inside cover where each book was numbered with a black marker. He gave the standard speech about not losing your book, or you would be fined. If you did not pay the fine, you would not get a report card, blah, blah, blah, graduate, blah, blah, blah. He then took roll call. When he called your name you were supposed to tell him your book number so he could record it.

Mine was twenty. I rehearsed it in my mind so as not to make a fool of myself on the first day of high school. “Twen-tee”. Or is it “Twun-nee”? I knew I would say “Twun-nee” normally, but this was not kid stuff anymore. This was high school. HIGH SCHOOL. And high school English class at that. This was the BIG times, baby. Certainly by high school we were expected to have perfected the pronunciation of the numbers one through twenty. I absolutely did not want the teacher to correct me. “Twun-nee” sounds so childish, or does it? “Twen-tee / Twun-nee.” “Twen-tee / Twun-nee.” I started feeling panicked, then horrified. Why couldn’t I get a normal number like everyone else? “Twen-tee / Twun-nee.”

“ Steve Nelson,” the teacher interrupted. Mr. Pellant was a no-nonsense type of guy. He was short and stocky, and seemed somewhat athletic. His wife had taught me in middle school. She caught me lying to her once, and on another occasion made me move my desk to the very back of the class against the wall. She was the only teacher that had me pegged as a bad kid. I wondered if she had ever told her husband about me.

“Twen-tee,” I replied softly, hoping to avoid embarrassment. (I’m telling you, it sounded just like the way a French poodle would say it. I know they can’t talk, but imagine if they could. They would say, “Twen-tee,” just like that.)


Oh Great… here we go. All eyes on me. “Twen-tee,” I responded, enunciating as clearly as I could, my nervousness only accentuating the French poodleishness.

“You mean ‘twUNNY’?” He seemed slightly agitated by my overly proper pronunciation.

“Yeah,” I replied sheepishly. That went just about as badly as possible. (Or is it “‘bad’ as possible”? I’m still trying to figure out English.)

That sounds pretty dumb now doesn’t it? NOBODY cares how you pronounce twenty. Looking back at it, I can’t even believe the teacher picked up on the difference. I’m sure he doesn’t remember the incident. No one does. No one, but me. Who in the world remembers the number of their high school English book? Why does it matter?

But it did matter. It mattered deeply. What my classmates thought of me meant the world to me, and their approval – my fate—all hung on that one dreadful number, or so it seemed.

I’m at a loss for words. Where do you go with that one? There is so much there. Do you see the significance of that story? It’s a flashback to a different world—a time when we thought differently—when everyone thought differently. A zit was truly the end of the world—not figuratively, literally. IT WAS LITERALLY THE END OF THE WORLD. Between me and my classmates, the world literally ended thousands, if not millions, of times while I was growing up. I know that cannot be, but trust me, it did. Every embarrassment was the end of the world. Absolutely nothing else mattered. I would have sold my soul to the devil to hear the correct pronunciation of a single word. It was like the Twilight Zone. The slightest embarrassment could send us into emotionally cataclysmic contortions. And while we went through it all, we had to act as if none of it mattered to us. As the commercials said, “Never let them see you sweat.” Even now we are permanently scarred. We still care what those people, those kids, thought of us and still think of us ten, twenty, thirty years later.

Kathleen says I am exaggerating. However, she has the uncanny gift of blacking out all unpleasant memories. Isn’t that convenient? Trust me; high school is very much like this, but only to a high schooler. You know what they say, “Grownups do not understand.” Could it be that they are right? Maybe we have all blocked it out.

Here are a few things to chew on:

1) Be compassionate toward your teen. Teens go through a lot. Treat them like you would want to be treated if you were in emotional upheaval.

2) Don’t give them undue free reign just because they are going through a lot. We need to make good choices even when we are in the middle of tough times. This takes generous amounts of guidance and discipline.

3) Show your kids you love them. Help them see that God does as well. When you know you are loved by someone, you don’t have to be loved by everyone.

4)Equip your kids to handle failure and to have perspective. Only on rare occasions does being embarrassed actually bring the world to an end.

5) Help them develop an identity that goes beyond a zit count, clothing styles, and being cool.

6)Teach them that regardless of what the dictionary says, the second ‘T’ in ‘twenty’ is silent. Only Leonard Nimoy would pronounce the second ‘T’. And he is not cool.

101. The Demise of Mother Goose

Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. NIV

Obviously the verse is not talking about home construction; it is speaking figuratively of the building of the family. I wish it went into some detail about how to build your house, and how it can be torn down. Instead, we need to look at other scriptures for clues as to what this verse could be referring to.

Last year I watched a mother goose building her nest at the park near our home. She collected reeds and cotton tails from the pond and worked diligently for a couple of days at building a nest. Without the benefit of opposable thumbs this was somewhat of a frantic and awkward event. I found it quite humorous. She was desperately trying to build a home for her children that would be warm and safe.

Building a Christian home takes such diligence, not over a period of days, but decades. It does not always seem like a smooth process. Usually it appears more chaotic and haphazard. It is often humorous, but only when looking from the outside. These day-to-day difficulties consume many of our thoughts, “Are my kid’s getting enough calcium?” “Did I remember to turn off the lights?” “Did I put the turkey in the oven and let the cat out, or did I put the cat in the oven and let the turkey out?” Although consuming, these daily worries are not the typical home wreckers.

It would be wise to consider and avoid the true enemies to the security of our homes.

I’ve never seen a goose rip apart her nest. That would seem contrary to nature. Yet I’ve seen some women (and men) who, like the verse, have torn apart their own homes. Here is a collection of verses for thought and reflection on actions that may equate with tearing down your own house.

Disclaimer: I’ve seen an equal amount of destructive behavior from men, and most of these verses apply to them also. However, since the above verse talks about a woman, I’m going to leave it in that gender.

Being too soft to discipline faithfully
Proverbs 29:15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. NIV

Being too harsh (a militant mom)
Job 39:16-17 She [the ostrich] treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. NIV

Being disunited with husband
Luke 11:17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.”

Not prioritizing being with her children
Titus 2:4-5 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. NIV

Abusive of alcohol and addictive substances
Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. NIV

Greed (Consider in relation to shopaholicism, gambling, get-rich-quick schemes and overspending on credit cards)
Proverbs 15:27 The greedy bring ruin to their households, but those who hate bribes will live. TNIV

All of us need to take inventory of our lives at times. Although we love our families, we can easily be blind to how our actions will impact them. We need to be building our homes, not tearing them down! The mother goose may not have the sense to do much more than build a nest, but at least she doesn’t destroy her home to her own demise! May we be parents who have the sense to flee from the true enemies that destroy our homes.

100. Daily Dialogues for the Christian Parent

100. Daily Dialogues for the Christian Parent

Sometimes parents don’t know what to say to their kids. They may know lots of Scripture, but transferring it into everyday communication is difficult for them. In our home we have a number of phrases that get used repeatedly. They have biblical roots and, therefore, great value. Our family language has been shaped by these sayings. We’d like to share them with you to give you ideas, or to use in your own family.

Here are some examples straight from our home:

“Use 4:29 Speech.”
Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

All our kids who are five or older know this verse by heart. When we say, “Use 4:29 speech,” they know it means to use speech that is helpful for building up instead of using speech that tears down. It is terribly hard to tame the tongue (James 3:8) and so this is constantly said in our home.

“Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

If only I had a nickel for every time we used this one! Our kids have an uncanny ability to detect every infraction against the respect and justice they think they deserve. When one child offends another it is a great time to ask, “Would you want to be treated that way?” “No.” “Then, do to others what you would have them do to you!”

“I forgive you as the Lord forgave me.”
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Forgiveness is tantamount to love, and getting our kids to love each other is one of our greatest parenting challenges. When our kids need to say sorry, we often have them repeat this phrase. We want them to be reminded of their own forgiveness when they have a need to forgive others. This will help them develop a spirit of grace toward those who offend them. Saying “I forgive you,” is not enough in our home.

“Mind your own business.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.

I bet a lot of people didn’t know that one was in there! The kids aren’t allowed to say this to each other. We say it to them when one of them is being a buttinski. In fact, the frequent offenders have memorized the first part of this verse. Kathleen says, “Make it your ambition…” and they finish with “to mind your own business.”

“I’m frustrated with you for a moment but my favor lasts a lifetime.”
Psalms 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime.

This is what we say to our children after we are particularly strong with them and they know we are frustrated. We want them to know that we are pleased with them overall, even though we can get annoyed at times.

“God’s man in a godless world.”
John 15:19 [Jesus said,] If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Last year, Blaise started taking a couple of classes at our middle school. We wanted him to remember that God had a special call on his life. When we dropped him off we would say, “Who are you?” He would reply, “God’s man in a godless world.” This helped him remember that he was there on a mission—not to fit in, but to reach out.

“Remember..” “Whose I am and whom I serve.”
Acts 27:23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me.

Blaise found this verse and we adopted it into the family lingo as another form of the previous saying. We would drop him off at school and say “Remember…” He would counter with, “Whose I am and whom I serve.” He’s not just a kid. He is God’s agent and is on a mission as His servant. We want that clearly stamped all over his teenage mind (and the rest of our kids as well).

“Others may; you may not. Others may not; you may.”
John 21:22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

When we don’t let our kids do something that other parents are letting their kids do we say, “Others may; you may not.” We all have different standards, but our kids need to follow our standards. Occasionally we let our kids do something that their friends are not allowed to do. To help them keep their “fairness sensors” in check we remind them that at times, “Others may not; you may.”

In the above verse Peter was asked, “What is that to you?” in regard to what would happen to John. Our kids need that same perspective in regards to how other parents parent their children. Our kids need to follow us, not their friends’ parents.

“Be sensible.”
Titus 2:6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; (NAS)

We got this from a conference on Titus (I think it was from John Hopler). There are several things that are required of older men and women, and younger women in Titus 2. But there is one thing required of younger men. Be sensible. This was shared somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it stuck with us. When our boys are doing something like sticking Spiderman up their noses (true story) it is a good time to say something like, “Son, be sensible!” Kids vascilate between childless behavior and maturity. We need to keep pushing them toward maturity, which includes being sensible (ie. self-controlled).

“Keep your promise even when it hurts.”
Psalms 15:4b who keeps his oath even when it hurts,

It is easy to keep a promise when it is to your benefit. It takes character when it comes at a cost. When a child promises something and only later realizes that keeping his word will be far more difficult than anticipated, this verse is a timely reminder.

99. 10 Things All Parents Should Do with Their Children

1. Climb a mountain
2. Teach them to play chess
3. Read a classic book
4. Go to a circus
5. Take them fishing
6. Watch a Charlie Brown TV special
7. Fly a kite
8. Go through a revolving door
9. Visit a national park
10. Honk while driving through tunnels

It is easy to get sentimental. The sights and sounds of childhood etch indelible memories which are recalled with dreamy fondness. The smell of a grandpa, the sight of shag carpet, the music that filled our living rooms, the taste of sweet corn, and the feel of hot pavement under our bare feet all bring back a flood of memories. It is only natural to want our children to relive those experiences with us. We eagerly buy the same music and books that we enjoyed in our youth. We eat the same meals, buy the same toys, and go to the same places. Are we trying to relive the same childhoods, or are we striving to give our children something different, something better, something fantastic?

I’ve done everything on the top list, but I haven’t done everything in the list below—yet. It is an interesting list to think through. The first list fills me with warm fuzzy feelings—the second … well, not so much. The first is a set of memories I have, the second, a set of memories I want my kids to have. The first is a list of want-tos, the second a list of shoulds. The second list makes me want to reevaluate my motives and my relationship with God. It stretches me. That is not a bad place to be.

10 Things All Christian Parents Should Do with Their Children

1. Put their arm around their kids at church
2. Pass out flyers door-to-door
3. Go on a mission trip
4. Read through the Bible together
5. Go on a prayer walk in a memorable place
6. Serve at a homeless shelter
7. Share their faith
8. Go to an all-night prayer service
9. Memorize a book of the Bible
10. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway

Saturday, October 27, 2007

98: The Gospel Hand

The most important truth you can teach your kids is how to get to heaven! Lori Preshaw, a good friend of ours from Colorado, developed a way for young children to remember the basic gospel (or good news) message. It is called the gospel hand, and each finger represents one important truth about salvation. Don’t overlook doing this. It is easy, quick, cute, and has eternal value!

She made up a catchy little song to teach these truths to the children. Our church teaches it in Sunday school, and our kids sing it all the time.
• To hear it, click here.
• To print off the lyrics, click here.

The kids wiggle each finger as they say or sing each of the following truths. (The kids don’t quote the verses. They are there for your reference.)

God Loves Me
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

I Have Sinned
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (NIV)

Christ Died for Me
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)

If I Believe
Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.” (NIV)

I Will Go to Heaven
1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (NIV)

They point to nail scar on their wrist or hand as they wrap it up with the last truth:

I Am God’s Child
John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (NIV)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Spoiled Bumblebee

And awesome video by David Crawford. Click here for more parenting clips.

97. Parenting without Blind Spots

Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. (NIV)

You’ve probably seen naive parents of criminals on the news before. They say, “I know my little Jonnie would never do anything like this. He’s not that type of kid. He was just hanging around with the wrong crowd.” No matter what the circumstantial or physical evidence says, no matter what the jury says, forget the DNA and the fingerprints, Jonnie is innocent in the eyes of the parents. Very rarely will the parents admit to the guilt of their children. These are the same parents that would back up the student when the teacher or principal called. These are the same parents that felt their child was always misunderstood, singled out, or treated unfairly.

Have you ever seen those parents? I sure you have. We all have. I believe that even these misguided parents could point out the same weakness in another set of parents, but they can’t see it in their own lives. It is just a blind spot that we have. It is hard to see the faults of our own flesh and blood.

It is natural to want to stick up for our children. It’s easy to look at them in a way that is overly optimistic. I suppose that is where the putdown comes from that states “He has a face that only his mother could love.” Moms and dads take a preferential view of their own kids.

We were watching some kids once and Kathleen caught one of the kids cheating on some school work—blatantly. The mom came home and was appalled at this report. Questioning ensued. The mom then told Kathleen that it was all just a misunderstanding. But it wasn’t. She was cheating, and then lied her way out of it. Her mom missed it.

Another child we watched threw a tantrum in the store. It was the same story. Mom was upset. Talked to the kid. Kid lied. Mom defended.

Another child. Kid bit. Parents told. Oops, he was just teething, stressed, and hungry.

Another child. Kid yells at adult. Parents told. Excuses made.

Get the pattern?

Of course everyone has blind spots except me and you…and sometimes I wonder about you. ;-) It’s not just these crazy parents on TV court cases that see their kids in such a distorted light. We all do it at times. We all miss character flaws in our children, and we all miss opportunities to correct and train.

I have an uncanny ability to evaluate kids. This one is sweet, that one is naughty, and the one over there is rebellious to a level that is scary. It’s not because I’m Mr. Parenting Guru. Your mother has this ability, so does your best friend, and so does your child’s teacher. It’s because we all tend to see other people’s kids clearly. We view our own kids through rose-colored glasses, but we see other kids through binoculars. “Even a child is known by his actions.” Ask anyone. They can tell you how your child is perceived.

I’m serious. If you want to know how you are doing as a parent, or how your child is doing, ask. Ask his teachers and Sunday school teachers. Ask your closest friends. Ask anyone who has spent time with your kids. Ask several people. Here are some questions:

Do you have any concerns about my child?
What can my child improve in?
Do you have any input on my parenting?

In fact, you could cut and paste these into an e-mail right now and send them out. Brace yourself for the feedback and prepare not to take it personally. Take the input seriously. Negative input does not make you a failure; it just points out what needs to be worked on.

If you don’t want to be affected by the blind spots that we, as parents, all have, do this exercise. It will help you immensely.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

96: Discipline – the Other Kind

Proverbs 1:1-3 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: … for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life…

My desk is messy, two or three days worth of socks are on the floor, and I have always held to the philosophy of why make your bed if you’re just going to sleep in it the next night anyway? Not a real profound philosophy to live by, but it has some merits. In fact, for a brief while in college I considered going to seminary, but I heard that the institution I was considering made the students make their beds. “That’s not in the Bible,” I rebelled. I quickly came to the conclusion that they (whoever “they” are) were a bunch legalistic prudes. I shook my fist at the system and continued taking business classes, where my bed-making habits were left unchecked.

All that to say that I am not a type-A personality. I’m more of a B-. Of course I’ve matured over time, and I see a little wisdom in structure and discipline. I think it is good to clean your desk, pick up your socks, and make your bed. And I freely admit that not all seminary professors and students are prudes. (Although the above verse makes being a prude not sound so bad after all!) But nevertheless, I still live a little on the six-month-old-French-fries-all-over-the-floor-of-the-car side of things.

Let me be clear here. I am a firm believer in structure. Just because I am not a type-A personality does not give me the right to be undisciplined. Certainly being undisciplined is part of my personality, but that is not an excuse. I am still called to be disciplined.

Someone’s personality might make him have the tendency to be unloving, grouchy, agitated, impatient, unkind, or any other number of things. But he is still called to have a life that demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Personality does not release us from being who God has called us to be.

This may not be the most accurate translation in the world, but it is, at the very least, a great quote to think about:

“An undisciplined, self-willed life is puny.” - Proverbs 15:32a (The Message)

For you to be the parent you need to be, you need to be disciplined. You need to use your time well, and you need structure. The things that matter the most must get done, and they must get done regularly.

For your child to be the young woman she is going to be, she will also need self-discipline. She will need to be able to tell herself “no”, and to force herself to do what is right even when she doesn’t want to. She will need some structure to help her prioritize what is important. That is what we all need, and our kids will respond well to our training if we model it for them.

I wasn’t kidding about my desk, socks, and bed. I have never cared much about those things, and I still don’t. But I do care about involvement in church, spending time in God’s Word, memorization, prayer, and time management. I cannot afford to let my life run its own course. I’ve got to manage it. Otherwise, time will slip by and all I will be left with is a mound of regrets. As a Christian and a parent, I must be disciplined and I must teach that to my kids as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

95. Thoughts from El Paso

I never really enjoy it when I signup for a weekly e-mail and the author tells me all about his personal life. But maybe that’s just me. If you’re like me, you can close this article and wait for the next one (or read “31 Days of Parenting”). If you like that kind of stuff, let me just share a few thoughts and observations from our lives the last couple of months.

In the last 7 weeks or so we’ve moved to Texas, lived in a two-bedroom apartment for a month with seven kids, worked on a foreclosure, met new neighbors, left for a conference, worked with mission teams, gone into Juarez, Mexico, survived high heat, been next to an unfenced swimming pool and generally lived in a state of disarray and chaos. This has been the most unstructured time our kids have ever experienced. I’m really glad that we’ve invested so much time training our children. They’ve responded beautifully. When the Bible says that godly training produces a harvest of peace it is right. It is such a joy to be around trained children.

We’ve also been around some not-so-trained children. That is not the least bit peaceful or enjoyable!

We heard some tragic news about the teenage child of some parents we know. I don’t want to go into the details, but the child’s life is utterly ruined. I am not exaggerating in the least bit. His life is destroyed. In addition, he has hurt many other lives in his sin and rebellion. We are sobered. It is a good reminder to take the training of children seriously. There is so much at stake!

I’m embarrassed to say that our family devotional time has been almost non-existent. All our routines have been shaken. It is encouraging to see the kids continue to read their Bibles and spend personal time with God. I look forward to returning to our routine, but I’m excited to see the kids continue to seek God outside of our prodding. In fact, they have probably been more consistent than us!

One of the reasons we wanted to be a part of starting a new church is for our kids. We wanted them to understand that God has called them to a specific purpose in life—to spread His message. When all of life turns upside down because of a choice that you make, the kids understand the weightiness of that choice. There is no confusion about why we are here. We are here to spread the good news of forgiveness found in Christ, and there is no other reason for being here. This move has come at a great cost for everyone who has moved down (25 adults already, 10 more to come!!!) But such sacrifice is worthwhile to impress a life mission into the hearts of our children and into our own hearts as well.

Friday, August 10, 2007

94: 31 Days of Parenting

I may not have sent out any e-mails lately, but I did get a few articles written! I wanted to make a small booklet that gave a biblical overview of parenting in a format that was cheap and easy to reproduce. Check out “31 Days of Parenting” here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

93. The Smell of Parenting

Proverbs 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. ESV

A novice farmer shows off his clean barn to his neighbor. The ground is spotless, and the manger, or feed trough, looks as clean as new. After shooting the breeze a while the experienced farmer invites his friend to come and see what a barn should look like. The young farmer is a little hurt because he can’t imagine a nicer setup than he has.

They walk over to the neighbor’s farm, all the while discussing the incredible amount of work each of the older farmer’s four oxen can perform. At the barn, hay is strewn everywhere, and the feed trough is covered with dried ox slobber.

“What is that horrible stench?” asks the young man.

“That, my friend, is the smell of money.”

The goal of a farmer is not to have the nicest barn, cleanest trough, or freshest fragrances. His goal is to grow crops and raise animals. To focus on his goal, he lets a few things slide along the way. From sunup to sundown he works hard. He is not lazy or negligent, but he simply has no time to clean troughs and rake out barns. Instead of scooping up every piece of manure, he simply wears rubber boots.

A wise parent will take a similar approach. If every meal must be a culinary delight, every toy in its perfect spot, every shelf dusted, and every floor vacuumed, there will be no time left for parenting. With children comes a certain level of messiness. This is to be managed, but also expected. The goal is to raise the children, not eliminate the messiness. As the farmer embraces the mess of the ox the parent should embrace the clutter of childhood. Far more critical things are happening in our homes than keeping our houses spotless. Much good is being produced in a Christian home.

92. Practical Behavioral Standards 3: Honoring

Ephesians 6:2 “ Honor your father and mother” —which is the first commandment with a promise.”

1 Timothy 3:4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Imagine asking your 12-year-old son to take out the trash. He rolls his eyes and says, “Whatever,” and proceeds to take the trash out. On one hand, your home is peaceful and your child is obedient. On the other hand, there is still something missing, isn’t there? What’s missing is honor. It is not enough that children be calm and obedient. They also need to respect you.

When we honor something we view it with high value or esteem. The natural tendency for kids is to believe their parents are clueless and out of touch, authorities are unfair, and the opinions of adults are worthless. In other words, it is very natural for them to think about you, and act toward you, in ways that are dishonoring. God wants you to train them to respect you and value your opinion.

This becomes somewhat tricky as it relates to issues of the heart, but like most internal struggles, dishonoring attitudes will find ways of bubbling to the surface. Here are some examples of rules related to disrespectful behaviors:

  • No slamming doors, dishes, or other huffy actions
  • No talking back or badgering
  • No bad attitudes, rolling eyes and making faces
  • Children must obey quickly, completely, and cheerfully.

It is not domineering for you as a parent to expect your children to honor and respect you. This is what God has called them to and God wants you to train them accordingly. When your children are peaceful, obedient, and honoring, you’ll find that they will bring glory to God, and joy to you. Aim for nothing less!

Friday, May 25, 2007

91. Practical Behavioral Standards 2: Obedient

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Children are given two direct commands in the Bible: one is to honor their parents, and the other is to obey their parents. Obedience is mentioned in both codes of conduct listed in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 6. It is also one of the standards listed for the children of church leaders given in 1 Timothy 3. Helping our children learn to obey is one of our greatest tasks as parents.

You can set standards on anything that you or others find displeasing (Don’t play with your food, don’t nag, and dress appropriately). There should be standards that keep them from harm. (Don’t play in the street, jump on the bed, or play with matches.). They also need guidelines that promote their health and wellbeing. (Wash your hands, brush your teeth, and go to bed at 8:30.) You’ll also need principles that help them get along with others. (Share, let others go first, don’t take what isn’t yours.) You should also consider setting structured events that help educate or develop discipline. (Have quiet times, do your homework, or read in bed.)
Obviously, this is a significant part of your parenting, and someone could fill several books with ideas of rules that you may want to consider. Yet, when it comes down to it, you need to seek God for wisdom on what rules to set for your home.

Your children should obey whatever standard you set. You do not need to find a verse to defend every rule you give them. In other words, you can just say, “Don’t stick jellybeans in your ears.” You don’t have to find a verse that states this. God has given you, the parent, the wisdom and authority to determine such rules for the benefit of your children. Whatever rules you set, He expects your children to follow. It is your job, parent, to make sure they obey.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

90. Practical Behavioral Standards 1: Peaceful

Titus 1:5-6 An elder must be…a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. NIV

One of the qualifications for a pastor or elder is that their children should not be wild. Since the pastoral qualifications listed in Titus are things that every Christian should aspire to, it seems that God’s desire for all our children is that they would not be wild.

Because we can hold vastly different standards on what it means to be wild, it may be helpful to understand God’s character in this. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” God’s character is one of order. One could also argue that God is a god of creativity, spontaneity, and even that he has a sense of humor. However, He is also a God of order.

So what does it mean that our children should not be wild? What standards would be fitting for the child of a God of order? Here are some ideas that come to my mind.

  • No yelling, screaming, or unnecessarily loud behavior
  • No throwing food or objects which are not meant to be thrown
  • No running in the house or in other inappropriate settings
  • Children’s rooms and play areas should be reasonably well picked-up

While there is certainly opportunity to let kids be kids, this does not have to occur at the expense of peacefulness. Children can have standards and boundaries and still have a lot of fun. However, if you are not experiencing peace in your home, you are probably not keeping them under sufficient control.

If God had children, it would be hard to imagine them running, screaming, and throwing French fries at each other in the midst of a chaotic house. God wants children who are peaceful, not wild.

89. How Many Warnings?

Question: I've read your spankings of a child and a marriage article. We have a three-year-old and more times than not, she's put in her room for under five minutes. But we have spanked her and then comforted her after a few short minutes. What or when is a good time for spanking? I, the mother, spank after the third verbal warning of the consequences. What do you think?

Response: Let me start with an illustration. When you are going up a flight of steps, without even giving it any intentional thought, your brain will figure out how tall and deep each step is based upon the first few that you climb. After that you will only lift your foot high enough to clear the steps. You won't lift it three inches higher just in case. You'll just skimp by. If a builder accidentally makes one step just 1/4 of an inch higher than the others, you will trip on it, and so will everyone else. If you use the staircase enough, your brain will eventually readjust and you'll clear the step (just barely) without even thinking about it.

This is they way we are in a lot of things. When it comes to any form of discipline, we will figure out exactly what the standard is and adjust accordingly. If we only have to obey at 85 MPH, then we'll drive 85. If we can get away with 80 then we'll do that, but if 82 will also keep us from getting a ticket, then 82 will become the standard we hold.

If your child learns that she only needs to obey after the fifth warning, then the first four warnings will become routine verbiage that hold no significant meaning to her. In other words, why should she obey any of them when there are no consequences?

Another related example is the use of a raised voice. If we correct a child in a normal voice and she doesn't obey, the natural tendency is to raise our voice. When she doesn't obey a raised voice, that makes us even madder, and so we raise it even more...then more...then pretty soon we're yelling. If we don't discipline until we reach the yelling stage, then our child will learn that she doesn't need to obey until Dad or Mom starts yelling.

So what's the answer? You should give the same number of warnings as the number of times you want your children to consistently disobey. If you consistently spank after one warning, your child will adjust her obedience accordingly. If you consistently discipline after ten warnings, that will become the standard.

I'm sure a lot of other factors come into play such as the age of the child, the environment (Are you at a funeral, or a children's party?), the seriousness of the offense, and the black-and-white nature of the disobedience, but generally speaking we wouldn't give more than one warning, and sometimes none at all.

or a three-year-old I'd be careful to use simple clear commands. For instance, saying, "Pick up your doll, your blanket, and your pillow," is clearer than saying, "Pick up your room." "Come touch my hand," is clearer than saying, "Come here". "No words," is clearer than, "Calm down."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Motherhood seminar

For an update on motherhood seminar CDs, DVDs and other material, click here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

88: How to Communicate Love and Acceptance

A critically important aspect of parenting is communicating love and acceptance to children. This comes naturally to some, and is seemingly beyond the comprehension of others. Here are a few practical ideas for those who are struggling to communicate love, but just don’t know what to do.
You’ve got to spend time with your kids.
They need to know that they are important to you, and the easiest way to do that is to spend time with them. This time can be spent doing the things they like, on a date, serving together at church, or working on a project at home, but they need to understand that they are an important part of the agenda. If they think they are a nuisance, inconvenience, or are just being babysat, then that is not the kind of time that will matter to them. They need to know that you want to be with them, and that you enjoy being with them.

You need to be proud of your kids, and they need to know it.
We correct, instruct, and coach our kids regularly. Sometimes one kid or another will receive a fairly intense amount of correction over a period of two or three days. I don’t want to crush anyone’s spirit; I’m just trying to help my kids. So when I become aware that a child might feel overwhelmed, I pull him aside and give a little pep talk that might go something like this:

“Hey buddy, I’ve been on your case a lot lately, haven’t I? I don’t want you to
feel like you’re messing up all the time and I don’t want you to feel like you
are a disappointment to me. I love you like crazy. You know that, right? And I
am proud of you. I don’t know of another kid like you. You are a great kid as
you are, but God has created you with great potential, and I want to help you to
grow and be an even stronger person. But I’m proud of you, just the way you are.
I’m trying to do the best that I know in helping you grow. I may be too strong
sometimes, but I’m trying, and I love you no matter what.”
Those aren’t magic words or anything, but they are true. That’s how I feel about my kids, and I want them to know that—especially if I’ve been particularly strong with them.

Three magic words
Say “I love you.” Say it again, and again, and again. Let them never have any doubt about that. If your kids grow up and someday accuse you of failing them in some way as a parent, don’t let it be this way. This one is too easy to take care of. Say the words!

Hug and touch
Nothing communicates acceptance like a hug. Even the prodigal son was welcomed home with a hug and a kiss.

Eye contact
If you’re too busy reading the paper, working on the computer, or watching TV to stop and look in your child’s eyes when he talks to you, then you have communicated your priorities to your child. Stop and look at your kids when they talk to you. You may have a lot to get done, but even in the busiest of times you need to stop and connect for a minute here and there.

Praise your kids for what they do right. Discipline is an important part of character development, but so is affirmation. God disciplines us, but he also encourages us and offers rewards and words of praise. A “well done” here and there or a few words of praise will work wonders in drawing your kids’ hearts to you.

Give them some grace
Allow some time for your efforts to work. You can hold a very high bar with your kids without jumping down their throats for every minor mistake. Don’t expect them to act like 12-year-olds when they are two, or like 30-year-olds when they are fifteen. Don’t nitpick every flaw and mistake. You do need to help them grow and change, but if they are corrected after every job, they won’t feel love and acceptance; they’ll feel that they never measure up.

A simple rule of thumb is to follow the golden rule. “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” If you treat them as you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed, then you should be in good shape. God’s ways always work!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

87: Do Strict Parents Drive their Kids Away?

Question: I have seen many parents who have been so strict and unforgiving with their children’s behavior because they believe it to be consistent, that they lose their children as young adults. These young adults believe they have never been able to do anything right in their parents’ eyes so they became like slaves who run from their masters never to look back again. Severe rebellion has incurred. It has happened to many good “Christian” families who think they are doing right by never sparing the rod and at the same time sparing grace. These are families who love the Lord. Their children are now out in the world because the world accepts them as they are. I know at least five families in a group of families that this has happened. The young adults say the same thing: “I could never measure up.” Surely there must be a balance.

Response: We’ve observed some of the same things as you. As you mentioned, there is a valid concern that children will turn to the world and to those who will accept them as they are. We all have a strong desire to be loved and accepted, and I fear that most of us will go to unthinkable extremes to find that love and acceptance. That’s why I want to be careful to communicate love and acceptance to my kids, and ultimately for them to grasp God’s love and acceptance. If they experience that love at home and in their relationship with God, they will be far less likely to be desperately grasping for that love and acceptance from their peers.

While it may be true that many families that have very high standards lose their kids when they hit the teens, we’ve also noticed another pattern in these families. Typically the father is uninvolved. Because of the combination of high standards and low involvement, a teen’s natural response is to rebel. So our goal as a family is not to lower the standards, but to increase the involvement. To an outside observer, I think we would seem “overly” strict, but also “overly” loving and involved. We’ve found this to be an excellent balance that appears to be working well in our home. Our oldest is only 13, so the wisdom of our approach is far from being proven, but we believe we are following a biblical pattern, so our confidence rests in that.

Next week we’ll look at the issue of how to communicate the love and acceptance that our kids so desperately need.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

86: When Parenting Affects Marriage

When Parenting Affects Marriage

Question: My husband and I are having a bit of a battle with our almost two-year-old son when it comes to discipline. We both believe in spanking, but our problem comes after the spanking. My husband spanks and then immediately picks him up and consoles him. I wait until about five minutes after the discipline before I will be affectionate. I don’t want to withhold from him the love that he needs, but I also don’t want him to think that I regret my decision to discipline. I also don’t want him to think that I am only being affectionate out of guilt from my decision to spank him. He already knows that we do it differently and uses it to manipulate my husband and me. He is the good guy and I am the bad guy. It is definitely starting to affect our marriage.

Response: That’s a great question.

We comfort our kids right after spanking them. The reason we do that is because the spanking is the punishment. After the punishment comes forgiveness, comfort, and a reaffirmation of our love.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8 The PUNISHMENT inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to FORGIVE and COMFORT him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to REAFFIRM YOUR LOVE for him.

Now I can’t build an airtight case for how much time should occur between each step, but that just explains our thinking process. In any case, I don’t think that is the most important issue here.

Whether you wait five minutes or not isn’t really that big of a deal one way or the other. If you both agree to comfort him right away that almost certainly will work out fine. If you both agree to wait five minutes before comforting him that will likely work out fine as well.

What is not going to work out fine is if you don’t come to agreement. Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. This is already affecting your marriage, and that is going to have a far greater impact on your child than the delay time used before comforting your child.

I encourage you and your husband to talk it over some more. You can share your reasoning and he can share his. Then try to work towards an agreement or compromise. If you cannot come to agreement, then I suggest you yield to your husband in this. It’s just not worth having strife over.

God has made the husband the leader of the family. I don’t think it is because he is wiser, because that is certainly not the case in all marriages. He may have made the man the leader just because there needs to be a leader—any leader. There needs to be a leader to help bring unity when two people cannot come to agreement. Unity is often more important than doing things the “best” way. In other words, I think it is better for a couple to follow an option that is less than the best, than it is for the two to be at odds. (Ephesians 5:21,22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1)

A husband also needs to be loving, gentle, and considerate with his wife. So please don’t think I am advocating a shut-up-and-do-what-I-say type of atmosphere. (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7)

So by yielding when you can’t come to agreement, you preserve the unity of the marriage. In the long run that will be the very best for your child.

85: Free Bible Quiz

Free Bible Quiz

Several years ago we started playing Bible quiz each night with our kids. We started out with easy questions like, “Who built the arc?” and gradually added more difficult questions as they mastered the easier ones. We tried to make if fun by managing it so they could always get about 80% of the questions right. After all, it’s only fun to be quizzed if you know most of the answers. In addition, I tried to have some questions that were weird, funny, or gross—kids eat up that kind of stuff. The kids loved the vast array of things they were learning, and the trivia questions would frequently spark other biblical questions that we would take the time to stop, look up, and discuss. Over time, we ran out of the off-the-top-of-your-head type of questions, and had to start adding in questions that were new to us. Before we knew it, some of them knew an incredible amount of Bible facts.

I’m really not interested in our kids knowing a bunch of senseless trivia. However, I am interested in them falling in love with God. Learning “trivia” helped them become more familiar with the characters, places, and events in the Bible. This made the Bible easier to understand, and more interesting to read. I believe this has helped them greatly in their spiritual development.

Like many parenting efforts, this was just a season in our lives, and we no longer do it consistently. It became complicated to continue as we had more children, but we still dabble in it from time to time. However, when we were aggressively working on it, I wrote down the questions, and made them so that they could be put into a Palm Pilot application.

If you would like to make use of what we have come up with, here are some files you can download:
A further explanation of how we use the questions: (Pdf)
A brief set of sample questions: (Pdf)
150 basic Old Testament questions: (Pdf)
All 600 quiz questions: (Pdf)

If you would like the quiz program for your PC or Palm it’s a little trickier. You need two things. First of all, you need the list of quiz questions, and then you need the quizzing program itself. Ideally, life would be simpler if you could have someone (like me) beam these to your Palm Pilot. If you do not know anyone that has the program, then you can get the two necessary files here.

1) The file of quiz questions you need is at Both the Palm and PC/Windows Quizzler programs use this same PDB file (Palm DataBase file) as a source for the questions.

2) From the Quizzler web site ( you can download a free version of the quizzing program for your Palm Pilot, PC, or both.

To download Quizzler, click on one of the links below, or choose from the Quizzler download options (

* Palm OS (
* Pocket PC (
* PC/Windows (
* Mac (

For the palm you need to install Quizzler and “The Bible Challenge”. You’ll need to do a HotSync to get the files onto your Palm. Once you start Quizzler, select “The Bible Challenge” from the Quiz List page and then select “Quiz Options.” From the Quiz Options screen you can choose what chapter you’d like to be quizzed on. You should also set the ‘Sequence’ to ‘Random’ and the ‘Answers’ to ‘Multiple Choice’. Choose “Begin” to start the quiz.

For the PC you need to install Quizzler (from the PC-Windows option above) and copy the “The Bible Challenge” to your hard drive. Click on “File” and “Open Quiz PDB File…” to select “The Bible Challenge” as your quiz. From the Quiz Options screen you can choose what chapter you’d like to be quizzed on as well as some other less important choices. Choose “Begin” to start the quiz. Single click on answers. If you double click your first click will be read, a new question will start, and your second click will count as an attempted answer on the second question.