When Its Close To Home

I really don’t know what to say.

Violence

Its easier to cope with violence when it’s not in your own yard. Its still tragic, but a little less so when it happens someplace else to someone else. When it happens in your town, to people you know, well, that’s harder to cope with. 

The Weekend

From Friday to Sunday people around our nation have died. They have died in car accidents, from gang killings, drunk drivers, and from home invasions.

Last night, a man entered a restaurant, got his family seated, then went outside and crashed his car into the restaurant, killing two and wounding others. Last night a Houston woman was shot to death by a man wanting her cell phone. 

I guess the only good thing about weekend violence is that the schools are closed.

Lots of people died last week in America. However, when death happens in our schools, to our children, then we feel vulnerable and helpless. 

SantaFeHSCA

What People Say

Some say school shootings are the result of guns being too easily available. Some say the violence is the result of decades of violent television, movies, and video games. Others suggest that the perpetrators are kids who have been bullied. Others offer that the shooters are abused kids raised in abusive homes. 

That’s what some say.

I Know One Thing

I’m not an expert, but I feel certain about one thing, it isn’t over. There will be more mass murders in our schools. 

It’s A Problem

It’s hard to know what to do or how to do it. Are America’s kids at risk? Are the children of our nation in crisis? Are our families broken? It’s a problem we don’t seem to know how to solve. Are we rudderless and lost?

To Close

My prayers go out to the families, students, and people of Santa Fe, Texas; a community practically next door to me. I don’t know if my prayers are comforting, but I hope so. I hope their burdens of fear and grief are just a little easier today. I am so sorry for their loss. 

I really don’t know what to say.

Passing Faith To Our Kids

A Warm and Loving Presence

That’s what it takes according to a four decade study of 350 families with each family having three or four  generations. The research was aimed at answering the following questions:

  1. How is religious faith transmitted to the each generation?
  2. Why are some families successful at transmitting faith and others are not?
  3. Can the reasons for success and failure be identified and measured?

An Interesting Project

Social scientists invested 40 years surveying the members of each family’s generations. The same survey was give each year asking about faith and levels of religious commitment. And the results? 

This Sunday at the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, TX at 8:30 and 10:45, I’ll be sharing the primary results of the study. You are welcome to come or to watch online from our site: www.southeastonline.org

And if you care to, take a few minutes to watch: VLOG: “I Love Being a Father”

The Dads

How many kinds of dads are there? What kind of dad did you have or still have? What kind of dad are you? Forgive me if the following seems stereotypical:

  1. The engaged, loving, attentive dad
  2. The missing in action dad 
  3. The always too busy dad
  4. The deceased dad
  5. The dad who is divorced from your mom
  6. The abusive dad
  7. The harsh, bullying, uncaring dad

And others. 

Ideally

The best scenario is for every family to have two loving parents who are present, engaged and leading their children well. But that’s not always how it is, is it? 

I have deep respect for single parents who strive to provide everything they can for their children, doing everything that normally requires two parents to do. God bless them.

The Apostle Paul commended Timothy for his faith, which he said came from Timothy’s  mother and grandmother. His dad was mentioned too but not for his faith. Single moms can raise Godly kids. Single dads can raise Godly kids too. But for each, it’s tougher.

What Happens?

What happens to the home, to kids and to families, if the father is present but unengaged? Or if he leaves and has minimal involvement, if any? How much harder is it for everyone? 

Each generation has its challenges for passing faith to the next generation. How are we doing in transmitting our beliefs to our kids and grandkids? What’s our report card?

god lending a hand

How true is it that we can’t force our children to love the Lord? We can’t make them believe. We must train, teach, mentor, encourage, support and pray for them. We must make sure they have every opportunity to know the love of God. But in the end, its up to them to decide. 

In Closing

It’s vital for parents to have strong convictions and a good understanding of how to pass their faith to their children, and to their children, and so on. And having a loving father, or father figure, is still the best case scenario for faith transmission.

A Warm and Loving Presence?

We will see.

Will The Real Mary Please Stand

What do the following films and plays have in common?

  1. Jesus Christ Super Star
  2. The Last Temptation of Christ
  3. The Passion of the Christ
  4. The Da Vinci Code
  5. Risen

Obviously, they are all stories about Jesus. But they have something else in common, or should I say someone else. They have a character from scripture that people know a lot about. Or at least they think they do. Her name was Mary.

The Seven Mary’s

There are seven women named Mary in the New Testament, some are mentioned prominently, like Mary the mother of Jesus. They can be difficult to identify, like the Mary in Romans 16:6. Who was she?

Historically, there isn’t much information on them. And some of the information we do have may not be accurate.

Another Mary

There is another Mary often mentioned in scripture, more often than many of the apostles were. She was Mary of Magdala or Mary Magdalene. Now, quickly, think about everything you know about her. She was…

  1. a sinful woman.
  2. a prostitute.
  3. the woman who washed Jesus’s feet in Luke 7.
  4. the woman caught in adultery in John 8.
  5. the woman who married Jesus.
  6. his lover.
  7. the mother of his child.

Pop Culture

Almost everything we think we know about Mary Magdalene comes from the movies, plays, and art, such as Da Vinci’s painting of the last supper, and many others.

TINTORETTO_-_Magdalena_penitente_(Musei_Capitolini,_Roma,_1598-1602)_-_copia
A painting depicting Mary Magdalene, 1591

Some Facts

Facts are irritating things as they often interfere with the truth, or the truth as we see it. Senator Moynihan of New York is credited with this quote:

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Some Facts From Scripture

  1. Mary Magdalene was never identified as a sinful woman.
  2. The sinful woman who washed his feet was unnamed.
  3. The woman caught in adultery was unnamed.
  4. Mary was never identified as a prostitute.
  5. She was never identified as the wife of Christ.
  6. Or as his lover.
  7. Or as the mother of his child.

Seven little facts about Mary Magdalene, all of which were wrong, or at least unsubstantiated in scripture. Sadly, most of what is believed about her comes out of Hollywood.

Some Biblical Facts

Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her. She was one of several women who traveled with Jesus and his apostles supporting their needs from her funds. She was the first, or one of the first, to see the empty tomb, she was the first to tell the apostles that Jesus had risen. She was the first person the resurrected Jesus appeared to. She stood at Mary’s side, the mother of Jesus, throughout the cross and burial.

Sometimes opinions and myths shape our understanding of truth.

To Close

 Mary Magdalene was a significant person in the Jesus narrative and was someone Jesus called to serve in his ministry. She was well regarded and respected in the early church. She wasn’t the whore often depicted in paintings and films. 

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

Shalom

A Loving Daughter

What happened on Mother’s Day?

All day long, people posted on social media such lovely thoughts to their Moms, or about their Moms. It was beautiful.

Mothers-Day-Card4
A well crafted Mother’s Day card!

In Sunday’s Lesson

I talked about honoring our parents even when it’s not a special occasion. We send cards, flowers, and gifts on Mother’s Day, and on their birthdays, and for Christmas, and we should. But how about sending something unexpected at an unexpected time? That might be even better!  

The Goal of Gifts

The gifts, card, and flowers are expressions of our love and respect. But it’s easy to send flowers, online shopping makes lots of things easy. Maybe we should send things more often to the people we love. Better yet, we should more often tell them how we feel.  

Spiritual Thoughts

Scripture teaches us to:

  1. Love with sincerity.
  2. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
  3. Give preference to one another.
  4. Serve one another in love.
  5. Honor one another above yourselves.

An Example

A young woman named Lakan, a member of my church, posted this note on Facebook. The note, and her name, are used by permission.

“Happy Mother’s Day mom. I miss you. I know if your mental illness didn’t get in the way you would had been the best mom to me. I will never understand what you went through with having bipolar and schizophrenia, but I’m sorry that it stopped you from being a mom. I miss you and I can’t wait to see you again, Happy Mother’s Day!”

I was moved by the dignity of her words, and by her understanding, and acceptance, of a childhood made more difficult than what most of us experienced. She loves her Mother, she is a devoted daughter. 

To Close

It’s easy to imagine our lives being better and more happy. It’s also easy to imagine them being worse and more sad.

Our family may be the greatest, or maybe they’re not, but be encouraged to love those who need your love, to tell them they are loved and appreciated.

Any day is a good day to share with someone what they mean to you.

Shalom

A Perfect Day

It was a perfect day!

Mother’s Day

Sunday was one of those days. Here’s why:

  1. Both worship services at church were really good.
  2. It was a beautiful day.
  3. We had our kids over for grilled steaks and trimmings.
  4. We spent the whole afternoon in the pool.
  5. We had fun, enjoyed each other, and laughed a lot.

It was a perfect day.

family pool play
Not our pool, or our kids, or us. But we had just as much fun!
Not Everyone Will Agree

Not everyone will agree with what I’m writing next. But here goes. I believe that marriage is God’s design. Male and female, he made them both. And then he willed that they would come together and become one. One in body, mind, and soul. And from that union, children would be born.

I believe that the happiest, healthiest, and most complete place in life is in a loving family. And there are all kinds of families.

All Kinds of Families

  1. Mom, Dad, and the kids.
  2. Grandparents, kids, and grandkids.
  3. Single Moms and single Dads.
  4. Couples unable to conceive.
  5. Grandparents raising grandchildren.
  6. Parents caring for their adult ages, special needs child.
  7. Kids raised by relatives.
  8. Families with adopted children.
  9. Families raising foster kids.
  10. Families of one or more of the above.

You get the idea.

And The Oscar Goes To:

Well, there aren’t any official awards for best Mom, Grandmother, or Great-Grandmother. But hopefully, they’re all award winners in our hearts. So a big and hearty thank you to all the Moms, Dads, and to everyone providing loving care for children in any context of family.

To Close

I love being a Father. Thank you, Danielle, for making that possible.

Yesterday was a perfect day.

Shalom

A Tribute to Moms

I never wanted to be a mother.

The Reasons

  1. I’m a man.
  2. I’d never have the patience.
  3. I’m not tough enough.
  4. I’m not strong enough.
  5. The whole delivery thing.

Most men are victorious when arm wrestling a woman. Men can also kill spiders, check the strange noises at night, and carry the packages, bags, and groceries. The really good ones put the toilet seat down.

But most men would make lousy mothers. Not to make excuses, but we lack certain qualities and possess certain weaknesses. 

Dad with three kids
Men lack a certain something when it comes to being nurturing and attentive.

Some Observations

Women’s names are used for things. Things like cars, planes, boats, and guns. Davy Crockett’s rifle was Old Betsy. There’s the Queen Mary, the Enola Gay, and my first car, Sweet Susie. 

Tropical storms and hurricanes were, for decades, designated with a woman’s name. Now they use men’s and women’s names.

The word, “Mother” has some interesting uses. There’s Mother Nature, the Mother Lode, the Mother of all Storms and the Mother of all whatever. Mother is used of nations like Mother Russia, or the Mother Land.

Reasons?

  1. Well, its sexist, but women are beautiful, so men give their most prized possessions a woman’s name, their cars, boats, planes, etc.
  2. Women are incredibly tough, strong, and possess an iron will, just like a category 5 hurricane. (Sorry ladies, but there’s some truth to it.)
  3. Women are nurturing, protective, and provide for their families with fierce determination, just as a country nurtures and cares for her people.
Dad with coffee and kid
Men make excellent fathers, but would be poor mothers at best.

Its Mother’s Day

The cards may be cliché, the flowers overpriced, and the restaurants overcrowded. But still, its Mother’s Day. Here’s a thought, let’s send our Moms some flowers in October. Not because there’s a national day for doing it, but just because.

“An unexpected gift at an unexpected time.”

I Just Want to Add

Mother’s Day isn’t good for everyone. Some didn’t grow up with a mother. Some didn’t have a happy childhood. Some still grieve the loss of their Mom and today’s a hard day. And there are other reasons why Mother’s Day can be tough. 

But for the rest of us, let’s make sure our Moms feel appreciated. And let’s take a moment to be thankful that we had, or have, someone who loved us, or loves us still. 

In Closing

To My Mom,

Mom, I don’t think of you as a car, a boat, a gun or a hurricane. Or even as Mother Russia. But I do think of you as beautiful, caring, and strong. Thanks for being my Mom. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day

Does Time Really Fly?

Time fly’s when you’re having fun.

Is That True?

Does it really go faster? Or is just something we say when things are good and we don’t want it to end. Days seem as hours and hours as minutes.

It’s that way with kids too.

The Kids

Mine are 32 and 27. My son works for our church, he’s the Media Manager and IT specialist and it’s such a blessing to work with him daily. My daughter is a therapist. She specializes in treating young women with eating disorders. I don’t see her as much, but if I saw her every day it wouldn’t be enough.

Family Dinner

We had dinner a few evenings ago. We live in the suburbs, but our daughter and son-in-law live downtown in a three-story town home. They took us to a popular hot spot for dinner.

We waited forty minutes for a table, but it didn’t matter, we just talked. It was so good. And the food was nice too.

In no time at all our dinner was over and it was time to leave. Where does the time go? And weren’t those kids born like yesterday? 

My Son

IMG_0042
He does like cats!
  1. Was gregarious from birth.
  2. Loved all things digital.
  3. Suffered from allergies.
  4. Grew up with a book in his hands.
  5. Learned computers and technology inside out.
  6. Worked in radio, was a DJ, and produced news shows.
  7. He is a smart and capable man.

My Daughter

IMG_0020
Minutes before her wedding
  1. Was adorable from birth.
  2. Loved horses, dance, gymnastics, and violin.
  3. Was quiet and reserved as a child.
  4. Grew up with a book in her hands.
  5. Graduated Summa cum Laude from the Honors College.
  6. Dated a guy for four years, then married him.
  7. She is a smart and capable woman.

To Close

In the time it takes to blink, children are born, grow up, and turn into adults. I loved raising children, loved raising teenagers, and I so enjoy them as adults. They are the joy of my life, and all in the blink of an eye.

You know what? I was wrong. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Kids, Cars, & Kitchens

Sometimes I do what I need to do. Sometimes I do what others need. Sound familiar?

Yesterday’s Schedule

  • 5:00-Work out at the gym
  • 6:00-Get ready for work
  • 6:30-Work on blogs 
  • 7:30-Writing/work on next book
  • 9:00-Arrive at office:
    • 9:15-Office appointment
    • 10:15-Office appointment
    • 11:30-Lunch meeting
    • 1:00-Meet with one of the ministers
    • 2:00-Coffee with a member for counseling
    • 3:00-Study and sermon prep
    • 5:00-Meeting with the Elders
    • 7:00-Meet with men’s leadership group
    • 8:00-Tidy up and head home
    • 8:05-Driving home, make calls to check on people
    • 8:20-Home! See Danielle, have dinner.

Not every day is a fourteen-hour day. Some are longer. Some shorter. Some days have more time for study, reflection and prayer. Some don’t.

Do you get to do what’s most needed? Or are your days busy with the needs of others?

Examples

  1. How busy are moms with young children?
  2. How much time does a single parent get?
  3. What about those who are primary care givers?
  4. Think about people who travel constantly for work.
  5. Some are avalanched with calls, customers, and contracts.

You get the idea.

Someplace Quiet

  1. “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place.” Luke 4:42
  2. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

He needed solitude to commune with his Father, because every day Jesus served the needs of others. But he always found a few minutes for himself.

I know

He didn’t have lunches to pack, or kids to get out the door, or rush hour traffic. There wasn’t  laundry to do or bathrooms to clean. He didn’t have events to attend. He didn’t cook for a family or wash the dishes.

IE142-083
Sometimes we just have to do what’s needed most.

However, Jesus had his own kind of busy, with endless demands on his time, energy, and resources. Who among us would trade our life for his?

To Close

Be encouraged to be the best you can be. Find a minute to restore yourself. Listen to scripture while driving. Listen to uplifting praise music. Offer brief prayers throughout the day.

Connect with God, you’ll be glad you did.

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.

“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.