A Needed Social Commentary

Here is something important.

Restaurant Refills

What’s up with waiters refilling your glass when it’s still half full? They used to wait until it was empty and then refilled it. I don’t know why they do it.

empty glasses
They used to wait till the glass was empty!

But they do.

Sometimes they bring you a new one while you’re still drinking the old one. Then you have a useless beverage sitting there with the ice melting.

It’s madness.

Some Reasons

  1. Waiters can’t keep track, get confused.
  2. Deeply concerned about you having enough to drink.
  3. Angling for a bigger tip.
  4. Their competition started doing it first.
  5. Waiters betting on who will drink the most.

Apathy or Objection

It’s not that I care, or maybe I do, I don’t know. But either way I object to being asked if I want another beverage when I’m still drinking the first one. Why would I want a second glass of tea when there’s still plenty of tea in my first glass?

waiters filling glasses 1
The constant refiling has become an obsession.

Returning The Favor

If they bring me a second glass, but don’t take the first one, then I quickly drink the new one down to half full so I’ll have two half-filled glasses. One day soon, a waiter will bring me two full glasses to replace the two half empty ones. It’ll be epic. I’ll take pictures. 

For Consideration

Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” That means we talk about whatever flows out of our hearts, whatever’s most important to us. When we are passionate about something, we don’t need anyone to fill us up. We live overflowing.

What flows from your heart? Is it Jesus? Is it your family? Or is it something negative and critical, like a bad attitude?

Is it bowling? Could be. Think about it.

To Close

Does this mean that blogging about waiters and beverages is what’s important to me?

I hope not!

Beverage Refills
I’m not obsessed with this refilling business, it just annoys my to distraction.

A Can in the Corner

We had rules growing up.

  1. Don’t talk back to your mother.
  2. Don’t touch anything in a store.
  3. Keep your hands to yourself.
  4. Always say Mam & Sir
  5. Don’t spit. Ever.

Spitting

We were not to spit, especially in public. It wasn’t cool or attractive. It was common and uncouth. It lacked couth.

However, I once spat at my brothers. One of them spat first, I just didn’t know which one, but it happened. Maybe they both did? Maybe there was a second spitter?

I retaliated and the retaliator got caught.

My punishment was standing in a corner and spitting into a can until told otherwise. It went on and on for hours, deep into the night, until no saliva was left. Yet, I was forced to continue, for such was the nature of my grave indiscretion. I spit, spat, and splattered. I was a splattering spatter.

Honestly, it was probably less than 15 minutes and I may have exaggerated just a bit. But it seemed longer. And guess what, I haven’t spat in public since.

The rule remained with me.

Today, kids have more rules, or different ones:

  1. No walking to school without a parent.
  2. Not riding your bike beyond your own block.
  3. Keep the doors locked and the alarm set.
  4. Stay off the internet, especially sites you shouldn’t see.
  5. Don’t use your phone, tablet, or computer for inappropriate uses.

When I grew up, we didn’t have cell phones, tablets, or computers. The internet didn’t exist. Things like inappropriate reading material was hard to find. Inappropriate magazines were unavailable, there was nothing digital. And we escaped the 24/7 news avalanche of all the bad and wicked things in the world.

We didn’t know about the abuse, pedophilia, shootings and hate crimes. If reported, it was done on the evening news, which we didn’t watch, or in the newspapers, which we didn’t read. We didn’t know. If ignorance is bliss, then we were happier children.

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I don’t know if we were any happier, but life was definitely simpler.

To Close

For parents trying to raise Godly kids in a culture that crams pornography, bullying, and evil down their throats, well, you have my prayers, support, and my sympathies.

Not spitting was the biggest challenge of my childhood. I guess things have changed.

God bless you.

Courageous Parenting

All you need is a baby to be a parent. Minimum effort makes a poor parent. Courage is required to be a good one.

Good parenting isn’t easy. Babies cry a lot, require constant attention, and we are never sure what they want or need.

tantrum

Then we teach them to walk and talk, a big mistake? Now they say the wrong things and go to the wrong places.

Teens want to drive their own cars. They crave independence. Some kids  count the days until they move out. And some won’t leave.

From birth, they journey to become adults. They were born to leave. Sometimes, it’s not soon enough. Sometimes, it’s way too soon.

It takes courage to be good parent.

Courageous Moments

  1. Letting them walk knowing they’ll fall.
  2. Their first day of school.
  3. Watching them ride their bikes out of our sight.
  4. Seeing them walk across a stage, diploma in hand.
  5. Letting them to leave.

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Other Courageous Moments

  1. Saying no to someone they want as a friend.
  2. Talking to them about awkward and difficult issues.
  3. Setting an example of faith, values, and truth.
  4. Guiding them when they don’t want it and don’t agree.
  5. Doing what is best for them regardless of how they feel.

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It takes courage to be a good parent.

It’s okay when the waves are just ankle high. It’s harder when they are up to our waste and make us feel unsteady. It’s overwhelming when the rushing waves of pornography, violence, and decaying morals come crashing down on our kids. Feels like a tidal wave.

Hang tough moms. Stand strong dads. You are the shield protecting your children from the onslaught of evil, for evil is coming for them.

To Close

Almost anyone can be a parent. It takes no effort at all to be a poor one.

But good parenting takes courage! Be good parents today. 

“13 Reasons Why”

The Sixties

The first TV show I was kept from watching was “Hullabaloo” in 1965. It featured pop music and had “Go Go” dancers in short skirts. The second show was, “Laugh In” in 1967, and featured dancers in even shorter skirts. Both were deemed unsuitable for watching.

Are parents still restricting their kids from watching certain TV shows?

A Few Weeks Ago

I was surfing on Netflix and found, “13 Reasons Why.” I hoped it might offer some insights to families and to parenting in today’s declining moral climate. I was totally unprepared.

“13 Reason Why”

It’s 13-episodes about a girl named Hannah who’s a new student in the High School. She’s cute, outgoing, and has a sweet personality. But things quickly go south for her, and then get worse, and then turn terrible. In the end, she takes her life with a razor blade. Her parents come home from work and find her in a tub of bloody water. It’s graphically depicted.

Clay
Hannah records the reasons for taking her life so others can hear it.

The story unfolds episodically as the viewers learn what happened to her. We watch Hannah being bullied, see her reputation get trashed, feel each disturbing event, and cringe at the violence done to her in a graphic, gut-wrenching, rape scene.

If your kids are watching, or asking to watch, then you need to know:

  1. It’s “the show to watch” for Jr. High & High School kids.
  2. It’s dark and disturbing, with two scenes of rape.
  3. It portrays suicide as the only alternative to emotional pain.
  4. There are no references to spiritual guidance.
  5. Those who mistreated her tear each other apart in their guilt.
  6. The adults seem out of touch & unable to relate to teen problems.
  7. The show leaves you feeling hopeless, empty, and sad.
  8. Any teen who is struggling, depressed, or hurting should not watch.

A Serious Problem

One credible source states that suicide is the number two cause of death for people age 10-24. Can you imagine, age 10 and up? Go to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to learn more, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

To Close

As a minister, I have served the spiritual needs of kids and families for 40 years. As a father, I have rasied two children who are now adults. Here is my advice and my opinions:

  1. “13 Reasons Why” isn’t for teens under sixteen, maybe not even then.
  2. If you choose to let your teen watch it:
  • Watch every episode with them.
  • Talk with them after each one.
  • Be prepared for two rape scenes.
  • Be prepared for a graphic suicide.
  1. Be smart and cautious. If your child is being bullied, or struggling emotionally, or is exhibiting signs of depression, then I strongly advise that you not let them watch it.

Finally

Your teens know about the show and their friends do too, and they will be talking about it. This is an opportunity to engage with them and discuss what life is like in their school.

Be prepared to hear about difficult and disturbing things that your kids may be exposed to at school, with friends, and on the internet. Be prepared to impart truth to them.

I think we are way beyond Go Go dancers in short skirts.

 

Pt.6, Loving the Different

Parenting is a joy and a delight, almost all the time. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s challenging, difficult, and confusing. Sometimes it’s painful, gut-wrenching, and sad.

Equipping Children

All decent parents know they are responsible for their children:

  1. Physically
  2. Emotionally
  3. Morally
  4. Mentally
  5. Spiritually

It’s our job to feed them, provide for them, and protect them. It falls to us to keep them spiritually and morally healthy too.

Speaking for myself, I found it to be fairly easy. With our first born, there were few challenges, if any. It was smooth sailing all the way every day. Then he turned two.

To complete this series on equipping children, here are a few final suggestions. They may be of little value, but here goes:

  1. Equipping children requires leadership. We lead them to their first steps, their first words, and their first raising of a cup or spoon. We must also lead them to pray. We must share our faith stories and model our faith in front of them. As they age, our leading becomes harder, for we lead them to exercise their faith muscles and that means risking rejection, disappointment, and opposition. 
  1. Equipping children requires courage. It’s interesting how often faith and courage go together, (Joshua 1:3-7). Courage is needed when your child is bent on taking the wrong path when you know the right one. Courage allows them to make mistakes knowing that some lessons are only learned through our mistakes. Courage is needed in leading them to make the right decisions, knowing it will be unpopular, and could result in their being singled out in a derisive manner.
  1. Equipping children requires commitment. Parents are challenged with compromise. The team, club, or school wants your child to conform to something that is opposed to your values. Their friends are doing it, their friends parents, your peers, are supporting it, but you know it isn’t right, and standing up means going against the grain. Your courage and commitment to be spiritually uncompromising will be unpopular, perhaps no more so than with your child. Do you have the leadership and courage to trust in God’s providential care for your family?

stock-footage-young-father-and-son-eating-breakfast-in-a-diner

To Close

Raising children is tough. The stakes are so high. And the competition for their souls is fierce.

Good parenting is an unending, relentless effort to shape a child to become a spiritually mature, emotionally intelligent, morally centered person of faith.

God be with you as you raise your children, filling their minds and hearts with his divine light. For your children must one day take their places in a dark and broken world.

It isn’t all doom and gloom. Remember to smile and find the joy and happiness. Never forget that you are the best thing that will ever happen to your kids.

Shalom

Children Loving the Different, Pt. 5

Everyone loves getting gifts.

Top Five Gifts I’ve Received

  1. My first bike: 1963
  2. My first car: 1973
  3. My first serious Fly Rod: 1983
  4. My first chronograph watch: 1997
  5. My first trip to Israel: 2011

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Other Gifts I’ve Received 

  1. Loving parents
  2. Family
  3. Faith
  4. Life tools
  5. Opportunity

Parenting and Gifts
Jesus said that fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. He was right. What is the greatest gift a parent can give? Love? A happy childhood? Education? A stable home? A great bike? All good gifts.

What about the gift of faith; the gift planted and nurtured in the heart of a child? Is that a good gift?

Family walking to church together

Consider This From Michelle Anthony

“The best gift we can give our children is the confidence to see that we believe everything is filtered (even the bad stuff) through God’s hands. We need to release our control of their circumstances. We need to start looking at these hard things that happen in our kids’ lives as things that God wants to use to refine them—and then we need to walk with them, prayerfully, and model for them how they should respond in grace under trial.”

 Parental Fear, From Michelle Anthony

“If I know that spiritual growth comes out of my painful trials, why do I try to protect my children from similar experiences? That’s the real question. Why would I want to keep my children from the very things that I know, firsthand, will grow their faith in God and their dependence on Christ? Why? Because it pains me to see them hurt. As parents we lose sight of the end goal, and we sacrifice it for today’s pleasures.” 

What One Parent Told Me

 “Our job is to gradually teach them. Baby steps. We put them in small situations to test them when they are young, when the consequences of failure are small. Then gradually, as they grow, they are tested more and more. We don’t keep them in a bubble till they are 18 then throw them to the wolves. We teach them lessons as they go so that when they leave us they can be trusted with the big stuff.”

Loving the Different

We want to raise our kids to love and care for others, but fear what could happen. We don’t want them seeking the acceptance of those who are different, but offering acceptance to the without being drawn in to their misbehaviors. It’s hard.  

Giving What We Don’t Have?

Without a doubt, the greatest gift a parent can give is the gift of faith, the fundamental belief that God loves them and seeks to lead, guide, and help them.

A national survey found that more than 80% of parents believe they are the primary source of spiritual training for their children. Yet, less than 10% of those same parents pray, read the bible, have family devotionals, or serve in a ministry with their children.

Where is the disconnect?

Stay tuned…

Loving the Different, Pt 4

From One Parent To Another

“You only have 10 years left to imprint this boy with the character he needs to survive the future.”

“In two years your daughter will be taking her cues from her boyfriend. Prepare her now to be wise!”

The focus isn’t on how little time is left, but on what to do with the time you have.

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Patience

It’s a tough commodity when it comes to parenting. 

Patience is about slowing down. Not being in such a hurry. Not missing the important stuff. It allows you to see the bigger picture, the larger landscape of where a child is headed. It takes patience to be fully present when your kids are at risk for pain and dissapointment.

The unwise parent believes their child can be insulated from the bullying, cruelty, and meanness. The naive parent believes their child can be protected from sin’s temptations.

A wise parent does what they can to protect their children. But they also recognize that the trials are coming, and effective parenting prepares a child for the coming trials.

From, “Spiritual Parenting” by Michelle Anthony:

“What my children needed were the skills and faith muscles to be able to walk through the trial and be strengthened, not victimized, by it.

This is an essential life lesson for them, and it’s necessary for me, because protecting my children from the evils of this world would be a full-time job.

We live in an evil world. Bad things will happen to our children. People will hurt them intentionally and unintentionally. Life will not be fair.”

Patient Parents-Christian Children

  1. Parents get frustrated because their children don’t manifest the right attitudes or behaviors soon enough. Patience is essential, because parenting is from the nursery and to the cap & gown.
  1. Godly character is a lifelong process, so be patient. Don’t expect your kids to be perfect, or to be above making mistakes. “Foolishness is caught up in the heart of a child.”
  1. It’s so hard to let go of parental peer-pressure. We get tied in knots believing that  other parents judge our parenting. It shouldn’t be about ego or how our kids can make us look good. Be patient, don’t make them responsible for how great you are.

To Close

Patience is a byproduct of faith, and our faith is often weak when it comes to trusting God with our kids. We fear what will happen. Our instincts drive us to keep them safe. So turning them over to God seems counterintuitive.

We must surrender our need to keep them isolated. Giving them to God means instilling our children with a faith that can grow, with a God dependency.

Our children weren’t meant to be propped up on a shelf like porcelain dolls. They aren’t trophies to be show cased for our honor. It all points to him, or it should. 

More is coming. Stay tuned.

The Troubled Parent, Pt 6

“These times they are a-changin.”

It’s a lyric from a 1964 Bob Dylan song. But our time is changing as well, and rapidly. The changes are frightening, and affecting families everywhere, and parents are struggling.

A 7th Grade Student’s Perspective of His School

  1. Kids make out in the hallway that doesn’t have security cameras.
  2. Kids talk openly about others being gay.
  3. There is talk about people being transgender.
  4. I have a friend whose parents smoke weed and lets him smoke too.
  5. Boys talk openly about having sex.

That from a 7th grader.

Differences From “Yesterday” to “Today”

  1. Acceptance of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)
  2. Unrestricted access to the internet (pornography)
  3. Social Media: it creates an exaggerated sense of popularity. It magnifies the fears of not fitting in and encourages kids to publicize their bad choices in hopes of gaining popularity. More peer pressure.

The times are changing. The open acceptance, if not advancement, of LGBT in public schools is on the rise.

Parents must engage. There is a war for their children’s souls. There is a battle for the Christian faith. The enemy is well funded, highly organzied, and is advancing forcefully on every front.

As a parent, what are your goals and spiritual concerns for your children?

One Parent’s Spiritual Goals & Concerns:

  1. How do I give my child a Christian view in a secular world?
  2. How do I teach my child to value truth but still love people?
  3. How do I show Jesus to my child so that he grows to love him?
  4. How do I teach my child to have compassion for the hurting, and to have a heart that looks to the needs of others?

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Is It About Better Skills?

All good parents want to be better parents. There’s a constant quest for better skills, new techniques, and more effective methods. But here is a different perspective.

From the book, “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity”

“We can buy into the myth that we have to make more lists, get more organized, work much harder and never make mistakes in order to be successful parents. But instead, we need to remember that our influence has more to do with our relationships with our children than it does our skills as parents.”

Some Closing Thoughts

  1. There is no substitute for having a close relationship with your kids.
  2. The challenge is to stay connected, from nursery to graduation.
  3. Remember: you are the best thing that ever happened to your children.
  4. All parents get  discouraged and sometimes feel like they are failing.
  5. There is no greater fear than thinking you are losing your child.

To Close

Parents, let’s open our eyes. Let’s surrender the right to be distracted and distant. Sin and immorality are being packaged as healthy, normal, and positive life choices.

There’s a wicked storm blowing in, and its headed right for your children.

So, may God bless you and grant you peace as you raise your children in the love and admonition of the Lord!

This concludes the six part series on parenting.

The Troubled Parent, Pt 1

The Troubled Parent, Pt 2

The Troubled Parent, Pt 3

The Troubled Parent, Pt 4

The Troubled Parent, Pt 5

The Troubled Parent, Pt 5

Parenting Teenagers

I asked my friend Parker, our Youth Minister, to help me write this blog. He is effective with teens and has great insights. He has worked in Youth Ministries and has served as the Administrator of a Children’s Home. He and his wife are raising three beautiful children.

It was a great opportunity to ask some questions.

Me: What’s the biggest challenge that parents of teens are facing?

Parker: Without a doubt, it’s helping them cope with peer pressure. Teens struggle with everything: how they look, with their friends, with social media, who they’re dating, and so forth. There is massive peer pressure related to all of it. Peer pressure is a dominant influence in their lives.

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Me: What are teens struggling with the most?

Parker: Pornography is huge. One study reported that 93% of teen boys and 62% of teen girls have at least seen pornography. Then there’s gender identity, sexual orientation, and coercion to be sexually active. Girls struggle with pressure from boys to engage sexually. A really disturbing thought is that teenage boys are learning about sexuality from watching pornography. They imitate what they see, thinking that what pornography shows them is what they should do with girls, and how girls should be treated. It has caused, and is causing, serious emotional damage. Boys become men and take that into their marriages.

Me: How does pornography become so prevalent?

Parker: It’s the internet. Its crazy to think that a 13-year-old kid, who has 24-7 internet access, isn’t going to discover pornography. Parents can be naïve or even choose to ignore it. Sometimes they don’t want to know. Parents often lack the ability to check their kid’s devices, and the kids learn to delete their browser history to cover their tracks. In our culture, preschool kids are better with technology than their parents, and are way better at it than their grandparents. 

Me: What about spiritual development for teens?

Parker: Parents get spiritually involved when the kids are young. But they tend to be less involved when the kids start school. Then, when they become teenagers, the parents don’t always have the relationship they need to be a spiritual influence. I can tell when a teen has a strong connection at home because they will say, “My dad and I were talking about that.” Or, “My mom and I had a good discussion.” As a Youth Minister, it doesn’t take long to find out if the home, and the church, are positive influences in a kid’s life.

Me: It sounds a little discouraging.

Parker: It can be. We must understand that there are so many different voices saying so many different things, and saying them loudly and repeatedly. If teens aren’t positively influenced at home, and at church, and from good mentors, then they live unprotected. They exist with little more than an umbrella while an avalanche of worldly-mindedness crashes down on their heads. Although the parents voice is strong, it’s only one voice, and the internet has 1,000 voices contradicting their one. And it’s happening day and night. Teens need their parents, their families, the church, their youth group, they need all the help they can get. 

Me: What do you do to keep your kids headed in the right direction?

Parker: There is so much that’s needed, but one thing that I make sure I do every day is to tell each of my kids that I love them.

I appreciate Parker and his candid remarks and practical advice.

To Close

Parents, kids in the elementary years are vulnerable. Don’t assume they are safe, don’t assume that year by year they just go along doing fine.

You can’t wait till they become teenagers to get close. If you do, you may discover they don’t want to be close and they don’t want to listen. 

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Sometimes teens go their own way regardless of how hard you try. It can be heartbreaking to be a parent.

Don’t Forget: You’re the best thing thats ever happened to your kids. Hang in there.

Tomorrow: Pt 6, Wrapping It Up

The Troubled Parent, Pt 4

Parenting Elementary Age Kids

Some Advice

For this blog about parenting elementary kids (EK) I’ve asked my friend Janel to help. She is the Children’s Minister for our church and has on staff for twelve years. They have two sons, ages 12 and 9.

Some Questions

Me: What is the biggest challenge facing parents of elementary kids?

Janel: In the transition from preschool age to elementary age, parents must change their strategy. When kids are preschoolers, parents control the environment, what their child sees and hears. Once they start school, that control is diminished. Their child is then exposed to other voices, to other points of view, and to peer pressure relating to differing values. Their biggest threat is the cumulative effect of increased world-exposure. Their biggest challenge is what to do about it.

Me: What about their spiritual training?

Janel: Most new parents recognize the importance of early spiritual training.  Studies show that parents engage well with their preschool kids because they are at home; time is readily available. But once they get busy with school and activities, the amount of time that the kids are out of the home is significant. At this age, the trend for parents is to get distracted. The parents get busier, the kids get busier, the schedules fill up, and the race is on. There just isn’t as much time or energy for relational growth and deeper spiritual development.

Me: So how do parents manage this increased pace?

Janel: Frequently, we see that the parents start outsourcing, as much as possible. Their kids have sports coaches, martial arts teachers, dance and gymnastics instructors, and so the spiritual training gets outsourced too. Parents look to church programs and events, and the spiritual development becomes the function of another “coach.” It’s being referred to as, “The Tree” mentality. They view themselves as the trunk, and the branches as everything going on in the child’s life. There’s a school branch, friend branch, activity branch, sports and arts branches, and a bible class and church branch. Successful parenting gets defined as supporting all the branches. Keeping all the boxes checked.

Me: How does this approach affect families?

Janel: Too often, the relationship between parent and child during the elementary years weakens, or at least it doesn’t grow deeper. Bible classes and church events are great, and they do a lot to support the parents. But those things can’t be a substitute for a close relationship. Our kids are being bombarded by the world. They need both the influence of the church and the relationship with their parents to combat it.

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Me: What needs to happen?

Janel: Parents need to realize that their parent/child relationships are more important, more significant, than just managing all the branches. Parents need to see their child’s spiritual development as the tree’s roots and trunk instead of just a single branch among many.

Me: What is the most important part of your parenting?

Janel: To have a deep connection, to keep the relationships strong. I want my boys to be able to talk with me about anything, about everything.

To Close

Parents, you can make no better investment than to invest in a lasting connection with your elementary aged child. Don’t get distracted. Don’t back away from them, wade in deeper.

A thought to consider: The relationship you have during their elementary years is foundational for the relationship you will have during their high school years.

Remember: You are the best thing that ever happened to your children.

Tomorrow: parenting teen agers.