Category: Parenting

All too often the best parenting comes in hindsight. These posts explore the victories, the defeats, and just the plain messiness of parenting.

3 Back-To-School Prayers for Our Kids

It’s started! Adorable pics of back-to-schoolers are flooding FB.

This is my cue to focus my prayers toward young people and our schools in general.  I believe prayer is vital.  You probably do too, but do you ever find yourself stopping after asking for your kids’ safe return and that they make good choices because you’re not sure what else to pray?  What if there’s more for them than being protected from bullies and staying out of trouble?

Some of us may have our kids in Christ-centered class rooms. Many of us do not.  No matter where our kids attend, our prayers have the ability to shape them as we ask for God to be at work in everything that will encounter throughout their day.

School Choir_0700

Here are three themes that are at the heart of my prayers and at the heart of conversations that I am having with my students. For parents and teachers, alike:

#1 Pray that school is an opportunity for kids to find and and grow their gift.

Just a few days ago, a box-store cashier was complaining to me about having to be at work.  “So this isn’t your dream job?” I queried.

“Heck no!”

“So what would you like to be doing instead?”

“I don’t really know … pursue my dream, I guess.  Hang out with my kids more. Find a way to make more money.”

“But do you want to become some thing in particular? Go back to school?  Pursue a passion? Make a difference in the world?”

“Not really,” he answered. “My dream is to have lots of money and play with my kids.”

As I walked away, it occurred to me, that Americans have become what I call  “Disnified”; we look to live the dream … to find ourselves … to be true to ourselves … and if possible, to become famous … AND rich.  The problem is that … well … the problem is that IT’S A PROBLEM!

The most fulfilled people I know are those who give have a sense of purpose.  Their lives are not necessarily filled with ease, but they find contentment in helping others, in giving back to other people; even people who don’t seem very deserving.

Happy Student_8591

Life has presented its rockiest challenges when I’ve felt directionless; when I’ve worried about having enough money, attention, and comfort.  Truly, my darkest moments have a theme – “it’s all about me”.

I want so much more for our kids.  I pray that as they sit in their classrooms and interact with others that they will learn that they have been “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  I pray that their teachers will have the wisdom to point out their gifts of compassion, leadership, organization, discernment, hospitality, creativity, etc.

Whether or not we agree with all of the ideologies presented in many classrooms, school can still be a pathway to passions that will lead our kids to contribute to this world as scientists, engineers, care givers, inventors, builders, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs and more.

Father, You have given us gifts for Your purposes.   I pray that our children will learn more about how You have uniquely gifted each one.  May my daughter not be consumed with a beautiful appearance but a gentle heart. May my son not not worry about strength of muscle but rather seek to have strength of courage.  May my child grow in the knowledge of what You have instilled in his life that will enable him to care for others. May my daughter be refined in her leadership gifts through the conflicts she faces.  May Your will be done in and through my child today as he grows into whom You have made him to be.

#2 Pray for Wonder and Amazement
Father, whether You are directly or indirectly acknowledged in my child’s classroom today, I pray that my daughter (son) will walk away amazed. You have given us an incredible world to live in – intricate in detail and fascinating to explore. A world full of wonders.  May every math equation, scientific discovery, geographical location and story of human behavior point back to You.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made!
I pray that my child see the wonders of You in every page he turns.  May she be curious … a life learner … a seeker of truth … a leader.

I pray that he will be taught to investigate … to seek solid information … to love what is sound and moral.

I pray that my child will have discernment.  That she will recognize right from wrong. Please create doors of open communication as I seek to point her back to You even in situations where You are ignored or slandered. 

Help me have the discernment to teach my children how to overcome the spiritual battles that await.  Help me to teach them how to praise You and to trust You as a result of the experiences they will have at school each day.

Girl at parade _2337

#3 Pray for Compassion
Father, we live in such a hard-hearted, skeptical world. Bitterness and anger wait at every turn.  I find myself defensive and self-absorbed.  Will You break these tendencies in me and in our children? Will you teach them Your love for the people of this world?

As our children read about history and cultures and peoples from all over the world, may fears evaporate.  May the education that they receive today inspire them to care about others. May they long to leave the people they interact with hopeful and encouraged . May they be known as a problem solvers … not trouble makers.

As our sons and daughters encounter meanness, selfishness, and lostness, may they react in an opposite manner.  May they see beyond hurtful words and actions of others to the pain inside.  Will You teach my child to recognize lostness and to then be patient and kind?  I pray that my child will have eyes for the lonely in the lunchroom today; for the one who is always chosen last by her peers.

May he sit next to the new student. May she offer help to the student who doesn’t understand what the teacher is saying.

If my child feels alone today, may he be reminded that You are with him.  Please use the moment of struggle as a pathway to compassion for others, rather than the start of a wall of isolation.

Father, You love my child … even more than I do.  I trust You to be at work.  May Your purposes prevail in every moment of her day.

What would happen if we committed to prayer in a fresh way and then recorded the process and the results?  The impossible place of school just may turn into one of the most amazing experiences our children can have … all because of the power of God at work through our prayers.  Let’s pray.

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Most Irritating Quote Ever

“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”
-St. Francis of Assisi

The more I hear this quote twisted to give Christians an opportunity to hide, the more I’d rather listen to fingernails scrape down a chalkboard.

Now that I’ve in turn irritated several (only now with me rather than the quote), let me emphasize that the quote itself has a point.  Our actions SHOULD reveal Jesus … ALWAYS, but why is our culture so afraid to speak the truth?

It’s not just our faith that we hesitate to articulate … “I don’t talk religion or politics.”  “Oh, I would never impose what I think on others … I keep my beliefs to myself.” “We don’t bring up anything controversial here.”  How many times do we hear …  or say this?

Nice people can be as quiet as they want … there are others who have no intention of holding back.  And who do you think is winning in our culture? Stop just a minute and look around you.  Or read a few headlines on a news site.  Or think about the shows that were on TV last night.

My “ah!ha!” moment came during a doctor’s appointment yesterday as I listened to a man and women, barely acquaintances with one another, talk.  Filled with innuendo in a nonchalant, common place tone right in front of everyone there, the entire, uncomfortable conversation was about sex as a recreational sport. And why not? Our movies, our advertisements, our music, our wardrobe styles, our books, and even – yes – politics … are saturated with sexual messages that promote sexual “freedoms” above most else.

Sex. Violence. Idolatry. Greed. Rebellion.  This is our world. This is considered normal, but it shouldn’t be. It’s messy.  It’s weird.

Christians should be loving and nice.  Definitely!  Consider, however, a  conversation of another sorts, which I heard in a coffee shop a few months ago. This one between a woman and someone unseen on her phone.

The woman was defending her character.  She and her invisible friend appeared to be discussing someone who had challenged her life from a biblical perspective.

“I am committed to doing good,” the woman insisted to her phone.  “It gets me, that people seem to think that if you’re not thumping the Bible or a professing Christian, that you sneak around snatching candy for toddlers and stealing parking spots from old ladies.  I bet I am far more involved in charity and caring for others than him. Honestly!I am definitely more of Christian than he is, and I’m not even one.”

The woman nailed what bugs me.  Americans equate Christianity with being nice, with doing good things.  Good people who gather blankets for the homeless and raise money for orphanages must equal Jesus.  Maybe, but not exactly.  Christians are NOT (by far) the only ones who do nice things for other people.

I think back to what made me surrender my life to Christ  A fellow student at the University of Washington told me how her life was different after she repented of her sin.  She seemed a little afraid to use the “r” word and the  “s” word in the same sentence, but did any way.

Then, months later, a group of young people who looked pretty normal did something crazy.  They stood up in the middle of campus every day at lunch for a week and read from the Bible.  One of them stated what my friend had insisted — that one thing, and one thing alone, made Christianity stand out from all other faiths and ideas — Jesus. He defeated sin and offered forgiveness.

Something had troubled me all of my life to that point, but now I could face it … I was a sinner.  I needed forgiveness.  This gospel message, spoken out loud AND lived in the actions of others, drove me to see for myself what the Bible said.  Result?  I surrendered to seeking God’s will in my life rather than my own.

Statistics vary from survey to survey, but the number of Bible-trusting, God-fearing followers of Christ have dwindled largely in America, especially among younger people.  Lot’s of factors contribute to this, but I can’t ignore the push to make Christians “seen” (if that) and definitely, not heard. Not wanting to deal with the push back and these days – vitriol – I’ve happily embraced the safe refuge offered by the St. Francis quote.  Now, I step back and ask, “How’s it been working for me? For the church? For lost souls?”

By the way – curious – I did some research on the quote.  Check out this blog, by one of St. Francis’ biographers.  It’s fairly improbable that the saint ever uttered these words, besides the fact that his life was a “two-edged” sword.  In other words, he was said to be a kind,  compassionate man, BUT ALSO, he was bold and brassy – known for his frequent preaching.  This doesn’t sound like someone who stood behind a silent veil of actions only.

When it comes to how Christ-followers should live out our faith, I felt utterly revealed last week  when reading the Bible.:“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word!”

This is Paul, exhorting Timothy.  My pastor has been teaching from the book of II Timothy of late, framed on the idea that this Timothy is a seasoned,  but disillusioned, battle weary Timothy.  Compare that to the Timothy in the first book who is just setting into ministry, brimming with enthusiasm and high expectations.

After a few encounters with deceitful, hardened people and their personal agendas that sway from the first blushes of the gospel, Timothy is weary.  Could he be about ready to give up?  If nothing else, Paul’s exhortation hint that Timothy has been tempted to cave in … to not be so outspoken, to soften his convictions.

I have caved.  The American church has caved.  You can argue with me all you want that the Church is thriving in America, but I say, look at the fruit. Yes, it’s visible … sometimes …  but the power of God at work in surrendered lives is sharply decreased.  The American “gospel” is a weak, withered, and confusing representation of the power of a Holy, Sovereign God.  And young people are walking out the door as a result. (On a positive note, check out this interesting article on what WILL keep today’s younger generation in church.)

I realize it is very unpopular to be so outspoken and to dance anywhere near language that sounds judgmental, so, I won’t judge you, but I will ask, who are you trying to please?  If it is not Christ, are the things you and I will choose to do today really worth much?

The best way to please God, is to first talk to Him. American Christians need to head back to the prayer closet for long, long hours – starting this very moment.  But don’t forget to come out.  It’s then (after heartfelt prayer and intercession) that our actions will portray power.  It’s then that we will find the boldness to also speak.  Other than to add, let’s stop wasting time by hiding the truth that lives within, I end with the full passage of the  Apostle Paul’s words to a tired, battle-worn Timothy:

 

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.   [From II Timothy 4]

How Do You Help Your Kids Deal With Disappointment?

It was tough walking out of the gym last night.  Six points. Six stupid points dashed all hopes of a trip to the state tournament.  This stinks for our seniors and for a team who four years ago had to forfeit every game because they did not have enough eligible varsity players.  With two eighth graders, eight players total, and a brand new coach, they endured painful blowout after blowout.  Two of this year’s seniors were part of that “restart” group and how wonderful if they could have seen their hard work all of these years pay off with a trip to Spokane.

So tomorrow we head back to school.  It will be a day of downcast faces and awkward silences as we all try to not think about the schools that will be making the trip to Spokane instead of us.  We’ll pep talk ourselves about how we’re not mad that others made it, just sad that we didn’t.

Basketball, of course, weighs pretty light on the scale of life’s big disappointments. There are “real” problems coming … failed relationships, loss of jobs, health challenges, death of loved ones  … on stretches the list. So then, how do we help our kids  deal with disappointment, knowing that the light stuff paves the way for when boulders drop?

Four thoughts occur to me.

1. Blame others.  Actually, this isn’t something I recommend doing (smile). Rather, blaming is about the worst idea when it comes to dealing with disappointment.  Sure is easy though.  With a camera full of proof of uncalled violations like goal tending and fouls, I was frustrated.   However, letting the refs take the fall overlooks that while our team was down one of our key players, our guys made an amazing 20 point come back and even held the lead at one point in the last two minutes.

And here’s the bigger issue – there aren’t enough bad refs to take the fall for all the missed opportunities and slammed doors in life.

Have you ever sat in a room full of adults  commiserating how much better their life would have been if “so and so” hadn’t screwed it up for them? It’s like being trapped in a room full of stinky garbage and you feel desperate to get out and breath.

That is the smell of bitterness; the stench of the blame game.  So not worth it. No matter what others do to us or what avalanche blocks our path, life isn’t going to get any better if we sit out the hard stuff, pointing fingers at the past, stinking up the room in the process.

2. Shut down the head games. Loss, bad things, and disappointments are not a critique on you as a person.  You aren’t a bad person because you lost a game.  You aren’t evil because you had an accident or failed a test.  Not being accepted into a college program, job, or team you really wanted to be a part of is not a statement on your worth as an individual.

Our head tells us the opposite.  Culture allows the discourse … “Loser!”  “Moron.”  “Idiot.” That’s why I hold tight to the treasure of truth I find in the Bible.  God looks at me from an eternal perspective.   He sees the end result, not the momentary blip on the screen. (And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Phil. 1:6)

There’s something else about this “disappointment equals failure” thing that bugs me. I picked up on it when reviewing a writing lesson on fallacies in logic.  As we went over the “either-or” fallacy, several students were stumped to come up with an example beyond, “Either you’re for me or you’re against me.”

It occurrs to me that this mentality is all over the place.  Do you recognize it?  We point out our favorite athlete and insist any one who doesn’t measure up is a poor athlete.  We do the same with actors, thinkers, writers, musicians, preachers, artists, models … everyone, really.  Only one is good enough … one standard gets held up and that’s it.  Everyone else falls short; everyone else fails.

The only place this comparison works is with Jesus.  Sinless, He is perfection.  Everyone else falls short yet, amazingly is offered redemption

If we’re listening to culture, it’s no wonder we struggle when we face disappointments.  We aim at one idolized goal or we face failure.  What a stringent, unrewarding way to live life.

Again, how important to help our kids understand God’s perspective.

3. Learn.  While blaming others and ourselves is unproductive because it erases the perspective of a big picture, it doesn’t mean there’s not a lesson to learn in the face of a disappointment.

Sometimes we’re not ready for the advancement that we so MUST. ABSOLUTELY. HAVE.  Maturity may be lacking. The opportunity we think we wanted may not have been so great after all.  Sometimes disappointment comes because we felt entitled to the proverbial “it,” and have a bad attitude that needs to get turned around.

And sometimes disappointment just happens.   Period.  Thus the nature of a broken world.

4. Let it start with me.  I think I need this “pep talk” the most.  All too often I can hear myself blaming and complaining.  I have to remember that I’ll teach what I am, not what I “think” I am.  With that in mind, my goal is to let disappointments become a bridge, not a dead end.  (Besides, I always feel foolish when I throw a fit only to see how God works the problem out after all.)

The BEST way to let our kids deal with a disappointment is to let them live it out.  Of course it’s gut wrenching for a parent (and teacher) to watch, but sheltering them masks the most important truth of all – they will survive.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. I Corinthians 4: 17-18