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IS CONTENTMENT POSSIBLE AT CHRISTMAS?

6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

 6 Secrets for Teaching Your Kids Contentment This Christmas

If you think it’s tough to catch a glimpse of Santa at Christmas, try finding contentment.

Your kids want to add “just one more thing” to their wish lists. Nonstop commercials are trying to sell you more stuff. Your neighbours are in a full-on Christmas lights competition. It’s merry madness!

This re-posted article has some great insights. It was originally published on the ministry website of David Ramsay HERE.

We all want to focus more on gratitude and contentment during the holidays, but it’s hard putting that into practice. As a parent, it’s your job to set that tone for your kids. Begin by setting some realistic expectations for Christmas, and then teach them what contentment looks like. We know what you are thinking. That’s easier said than done. And you’re right. But let’s look at some practical ways to make it happen.

Set Expectations

Giving is a huge part of Christmas. As parents, we love to see the joy on our kids’ faces as they tear open their gifts. However, you have to consider where you are in your Baby Steps before you begin buying. If you are super-focused on getting out of debt, you may choose to scale back this year.

As tough as that decision might be for you, talk about it openly with your spouse and kids. Start by sitting down with your spouse, setting a budget, and agreeing to stick to it. Once you have your budget on paper, call a family meeting with your kids and begin setting the expectations for Christmas. There’s no need to tell your kids how much you plan to spend. Just let them know that things may look a little different this year while you are working toward your goals.

Here are some other ways to guide your kids to more realistic expectations:

1. Put it on paper. Have your kids create their wish lists. They can simply write their list on a sheet of paper or they could make a collage using pictures from toy catalogues, paper and glue.

2. Tell them what is doable. Look over the lists with your spouse. If there is something on the list that is too expensive, let your child know that it isn’t in the budget this year. The longer they anticipate a PlayStation or playground set, the more disappointed they’ll be if they don’t get it.

3. Make the big choice. If that big item is in your budget this year, explain to your child that choosing something more pricey may mean fewer presents under the tree. This is a good opportunity for them to consider their choices. If they’d rather have more presents under the tree, they might revise their list.

Teach Contentment

If you are scaling back this year on Christmas spending, then you have a great chance to teach your kids about contentment. “Stuff” is fun, but it won’t make you happy. When a child learns to give to others and not be attached to their stuff, they are filled with a spirit of gratitude. And gratitude leads to contentment. So how do you get there? Here are some ways to teach this to your child:

4. Volunteer. Spend a day with your kids at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or other type of charity. Your kids will see the faces of people who have little. And hopefully they’ll be less likely to complain about the gifts that don’t show up under the tree on Christmas morning.

5. Pass it down. This works best with younger children. Odds are that clothes get passed down. So why not do that with toys? Have the older sibling select a couple of their old toys that they know the younger one likes, wrap them up, and place them under the tree. The younger child will love the presents. Even better, the older child will get to see their little brother or sister’s reaction. This will help them understand the power of giving.

6. Get one. Give one. Encourage contentment while reducing clutter. Tell your child that for every toy they receive, they’ll give one away. They’ll learn to not hold onto their stuff too tightly. But, more importantly, they’ll learn to share.

The most important key to setting expectations and teaching contentment is communication. Talk to your spouse and kids often throughout the holiday season. You might even choose to tell the grandparents, extended family and friends what Christmas is going to look like for your family this year. When everyone knows what to expect, you’ll all have a merrier holiday season.

This is a re-posted article that was originally published on the ministry website of David Ramsay HERE.

🙂

HALLOWEEN: 3 VIEWS & 1 OPINION

Pumpkins in a Row
OCTOBER 31ST APPROACHES (AGAIN)

Our city wants to become the “Haunt Capital of the World”. Each year local businesses award large prizes to the ‘best dressed home’ (or school) in keeping with haunted Halloween traditions. It’s impossible to not notice the darkened transformation of our town especially in the days leading up to end of the month. As ghoulishness and gore are amplified, sometimes literally, most shrug off the deathly horror scenes and say “Oh, well” yet a number respond with “Oh, hell”.

LET ME ILLUSTRATE
Most of the following article first appeared on Intoxicated Life by Luke Gilkerson. I edited  this piece for brevity and clarity.

Across the street, a mother dresses her kids for Trick-or-Treat. Her daughter is dressed like a pirate. Her son looks like Dracula, complete with blood stains on the sides of his mouth. Their house is highlighted with typical Halloween decor: grave stones, skeletons emerging from the earth, jack-o-lantern on the porch, and bed-sheet ghosts hanging from the trees. This family also regularly attends church and calls Jesus Lord.

Down the road a mother hides her kids inside a lightless home for the evening. She even forbids the use of any decorations, including pumpkins, in order to not associate with Halloween. Her children neither take-in nor hand-out candy. Every year she reminds her children about the demonic elements of Halloween and warns them that there is nothing ‘happy’ about ‘Happy Halloween’. She religiously rebukes any fellow Christian who would even attend a local “harvest party” or anything that remotely resembles a festival held on October 31. Her family also faithfully goes to church and calls Jesus Lord.

I believe neither of these views is the best way for Christian families to navigate the day called Halloween. I will expand that thought later but first…

3 VIEWS
When dealing with anything in human cultures, Christians have a number of choices. Here is a helpful way to discern cultural issues: receive, reject, or redeem.

• Receive — There are things in culture that are part of God’s common grace to all people. These are things Christians can freely receive. Paul and Silas could walk the same Roman roads and sail in Roman ships alongside any pagan without any tarnish on their consciences. Today, I can appreciate the electric lights in my home just like my neighbour and not feel guilty that the power company isn’t owned by Christian people. I can buy my produce from the grocery store without the concern that the farmers are heathens.

• Reject — There are some things in culture that are inherently sinful and cannot be transformed to be used for the Lord’s purposes. Paul might have eaten pagan meat sold in the marketplace, but he would not attend a pagan temple and drink the cup of demons. This is not a perfect example but nonetheless, today, a building that once was a gambling casino can be bought and turned into a Christian bookstore, but a casino can never become a “Christian casino.” The very nature of this kind of enterprise furthers sinful activity, and this must be rejected by Christians completely.

• Redeem — There are other elements of culture that are often used for sinful purposes but Christians can mine these elements for truths that can be celebrated, reclaimed, and redeemed for God’s purposes. During his speech in Athens, one of the most polytheistic cities in the world, Paul could quote from pagan poets and prophets and even make use of a pagan altar. Paul was redeeming—taking back—from paganism truths latent in their religious celebrations and cultural customs and using them for God’s glory.

This three-fold outline can help Christians navigate cultural events like Halloween.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF ALL HALLOWS EVE
The name “Halloween” comes from “Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve.”

As far as the Christian back-story of Halloween is concerned, the day has its origins in the earliest centuries of the church. As early as the mid-second century, the church celebrated and remembered its martyrs, at times dedicating special days to remember their deaths. As the number of special commemorations multiplied; the idea of having a common day for all martyrs gradually evolved.

The earliest known celebration of “the Feast of All Martyrs” was in Antioch in mid-fourth century, falling on the first Sunday after the feast of Pentecost (which is, by the way, the same day the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates All Saints’ Day). Similar festivals were celebrated in other locations on different days. Over time, this celebration started to embrace not just martyrs but all saints. It was a time when the church celebrated Jesus’ victory over death by remembering the faithful saints who had gone before them.

On May 13th, 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon, the old pagan temple, to the Virgin Mary and “all Christian martyrs.” He removed all its Roman idols and hauled 28 cartloads the bones of various martyrs and saints from the catacombs to a huge basin beneath the altar of the building. As ghastly as that seems, he dedicated that day as “All Saints’ Day.”

Over a century later, Pope Gregory III (731-741) moved All Saints’ (Hallows) Day to November 1 to honour the saints of St. Peter’s church. In 835, Pope Gregory IV officially fixed the date for worldwide observance. Some believe this move was made to coincide with Samhain, a Gaelic harvest festival celebrated at the same time, though others doubt the Pope was even aware of this celebration. This pagan festival was held during this season as it was believed that the veil between our world and the spirit world was very thin, allowing the demonic spirits to easily move back and forth. Rituals and feasts were held and the souls of departed relatives were invited to come. Regardless of the Pope’s intentions, in time Samhain and All Hallows Eve eventually co-mingled, leading away from the original intent into the variety of Halloween traditions we have today.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO ‘REDEEM’ HALLOWEEN?
For some Christians, the notion of “redeeming” Halloween will sound ridiculous. How can something so rife with demonic symbolism be redeemed? Perhaps this is just one of those things that fits into the “reject” category. Is there anything positive to redeem? Bare with me and please keep reading.

Undoubtedly, Halloween’s pagan roots, Druid led pagan sacrifices, rituals to commune with the dead, Celtic deities, and the questionable origins of trick-or-treat and jack-o-lanterns are all ungodly and dark. I’m quite aware of all these facts and I’m not asking you to embrace any of these pagan practices.

IN MY OPINION
1. Almost all modern Halloween traditions are rooted in ungodliness. However, the mere fact that our modern Halloween practices are distant echoes of pagan traditions does not, therefore, mean Halloween as a cultural holiday is unredeemable. Remember, to “redeem” something in our culture means to admit it has been used for evil but to reclaim the truth within it, utilizing it for God’s purposes. Not all Halloween activities are redeemable, but in my opinion some possibly are.
2. Modern Halloween traditions are a far cry from their ancient or medieval origins. There are a few elements of Halloween that, in my opinion, have already been ripped away from paganism and redeemed as something wholesome. Let’s face it, the connection between Druids dressing as ghouls and our children dressing up as a character from Veggie Tales is tenuous, at best.
3. It’s important to note that this issue is a matter of conscience. If you read Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10, it seems clear to me that Halloween is a “disputable matter,” and it will probably continue to be so.
4. Do not become prideful about our approach on the subject. While we should feel free to discern ourselves and discuss these opinions, we should remember that looking down in a prideful way towards other Christians for differing views is just as sinful in my opinion as a child dressing up as a demonic vampire.

Many Christians reject Halloween outright for very good reasons; others attempt to redeem it, but do so in questionable ways; others have altered the holiday in ways that demonstrate the mindset of a missionary to our modern era.

Do you believe Halloween can be redeemed? Does your family do anything special on October 31st that honours the Lord and reaches out to others?

DEAR FEARFUL AND TEARFUL PARENT

With the shockingly tearful news from Ottawa yesterday, fear is making headlines again in Canada and whether or not the incidents today are related to the ISIS terrorists, it still was a terrifying day for our nation. My eldest son who is presently in Law School near the Ottawa core was in lock-down for a good part of his day. When I heard the breaking news a phone call and a number of texts brought assurance to this dad that he was both safe and sound. Take it from me it is easy for fear to rear it’s ugly head.

Fearful Tearful Parenting

I hope this following letter from Erik Raymond will be an encouragement to you in raising fearless children in an age of fearfulness.

Dear Fearful and Tearful Parent,
As Christian parents we are called to help our children to think about, interact with, and evaluate current issues from a biblical perspective. Cultivating a Christian worldview is one of the main components of child training.

Besides the news of late, in the last few months ISIS has been increasingly in the news, we have had a few discussions as a family about what has been happening. Our daughter like your child is aware and our children who range in age and maturity need us to appropriately address the concern. So there needs to be thoughtful care given to the details of our discussion. However, it is quite near impossible to tame down the atrocities of ISIS to a general discussion.

Our children have become quite concerned—and with good reason. The barbaric beheadings speak of ancient tribal savagery rather than modern military battles. Most of the conflicts they have heard of have involved airplanes, ships, and soldiers. Now these guys come along with a fearlessness that is only matched by their thirst for blood. Of course our kids are concerned—we are concerned.

In talking with our children who may or may not admit concern, they may even fear about them taking over the world, which my daughter did express. I gave her the following advice.

1. ISIS is a group of very evil and bad people. They don’t love God or want to honour him. This is why they are doing these things (Col. 1:21;Titus 3:3). Remember that this is what comes out of an unbelieving heart. All of us have sinful hearts and need to turn to and trust Jesus (Eph. 2:1-3). Not all of us do the same wicked things as ISIS but we all need a Saviour, we are all suffering from the same problem: sin.

2. The world has a lot of bad guys in it who love to do sinful things for the same reason (John 3:19-20). Even in Canada there are horrible, unspeakable things happening every day (murder, abortion, abuse, etc.). This is because we live in a fallen, broken world (Rom. 1:18-25, cf. #1).

3. This type of thing has been going on throughout history, and even throughout your young life. There have been lots of bad guys and terrorists doing evil things since even before you were a baby.

4. Our security does not ultimately come from Canada or even our ability to protect ourselves, but from God (Ps. 20:7Ps. 121:2).

5. God has given you a Daddy to protect you and I will do it with all of my strength and resolve.

6. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders and all of those given charge over us that we may lead quiet peaceable lives (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

7. Pray that God would save some members of this terrorist group. Remember the Apostle Paul, he was basically a terrorist, like ISIS, who killed Christians. God saved him and used him very powerfully for the gospel.

8. Pray for the Christians being persecuted. Pray that they would be comforted by the Holy Spirit and that they would be faithful, even if it means unto death.

9. Remember that Jesus is coming back again. He will punish all evil and set up his kingdom and reign forever. He will make all things new and there will be no more tears, suffering or death. There will be no more bad guys there (Rev. 21:1-5).

10. Jesus told us to pray that God’s name would be honored, his kingdom would come, his will would be done (Mt. 6:9-13). Let’s pray for this with confidence and anticipation because we know this day is coming. Maybe even soon!
I hope this is helpful to you and encourages you and your family as you raise fearless world changers in a fearful and ever changing world.

___________________________________

 This edited article was originally posted by Erik Raymond. He is the author of a previous blog post called ‘What do you tell your children about ISIS?’ It can be found at Ordinary Pastor.

VAMPIRES DON’T SPARKLE

Twilight is for teenage girls what porn is to teenage boys: sick, twisted, evil, dangerous, deceptive, and popular.

This past weekend, millions flocked to movie theaters for the final installment of the teen vampire saga. Tragically, many were driven by their parents, including some cougar moms encouraging and joining their daughters’ obsession with handsome young males.

Our family car won’t be driving to the theater for Twilight—or over a cliff for that matter.

I want to give a special thanks to Mark Driscoll for this tough love approach article to raising kids in a Christ-less culture. Pastor Mark ranted on this garbage-tastic phenomenon before, and finds the whole genre profoundly troubling.

The popularity of supernatural soap operas has inspired some real-life demonic trends. Overreaction? Tell that to the kids biting, cutting, drinking blood—sometimes while having sex—and sinking deeper into the occult:

  • NBC News: “Teenagers obsessed with the Twilight vampire saga, or those simply fascinated with fangs, reportedly have been biting each other—hard—and then licking or sucking the blood. ‘These are kids who think they are real vampires,’ said Dr. Orly Avitzur. [. . .] ‘Having that thick, warm copper-tasting blood in my mouth is the best thing I can think of!’ wrote a teenager identified as ‘GothicGirl10’ this year. ‘Sometimes my boyfriend lets me feed off him. I let him feed off me as well.’”
  • ABC News: “Paola Hernandez, 15, said a boyfriend tried to pressure her to allow herself to be bitten. ‘He said, “I love you and that’s the way I want to show you,”’ she said. ‘I didn’t give in because it was kind of idiotic.’ She said some of her classmates, mimicking on-screen vampires, even cut their skin so they can taste one another’s blood. ‘That means you’re stuck with them, they have your blood inside of them and you have their blood and so you’re closer to each other,’ she said.”
  • Sanguinarius is a popular website for “Real Vampires” that includes a special section for teens with “advice on the problems and issues teen vamps face: school, parents, coping with awakening, how to enter the vampiric community without looking like a fool, and more.” Other resources on the site include techniques for “safe bloodletting and feeding, dealing with bloodthirst, flavoring your donor’s blood, and cooking with blood.”
  • Another support page for Real Vampires appeals to outsiders with “a few words for anyone who has ever been bullied, picked on, teased or harassed because you’re different. What you have suffered is wrong. It is wrong for anyone to hit you or harass you, or to make you hate yourself for being different, whether or not you consider yourself a vampire.”
  • The Week: “Lyle Monroe Bensley, 19, was arrested in his boxer shorts after he allegedly broke into the Galveston, Texas, home of a randomly chosen single woman, growled and hissed at her, dragged her down the hall, and tried to bite her on her neck. . . . When the police arrested Bensley a short time later, he told them he was a 500-year-old vampire. ‘He was begging us to restrain him because he didn’t want to kill us,’ says Galveston officer Daniel Erickson. ‘He said he needed to feed.’”
  • The UK’s Channel 4 produced a documentary about the growing vampire subculture. The chance to play vampire provides an opportunity to “be nasty and evil and let my darker side out for the evening,” says one subject. The film profiles a group of teenagers in Texas who consider themselves to be real vampires (and werewolves). One explains, “When I drink someone’s blood, I feel like I own them in a sense. Like they’re mine.”

Please pray for these kids. If you know them, speak with them lovingly, honestly, biblically, and quickly. Satan is real, clever, and a deceiver who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). He’s not going to come at us with a pitchfork and horns. More likely, he’ll attempt to lure people towards darkness with methods like “harmless” entertainment, possibly in the form of bad acting and melodrama.

As a father to a teenage girl, I find it devastating to simply read the most popular web pages that come up when searching for “teen vampire.” There, girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan. These storylines offer eternality without God and salvation; in the place of Jesus’ shed blood, girls and boys shed their own blood to be awakened to their own salvation of a new spiritual way of life filled with sex and occult behavior.

I do not shelter my children from these sorts of things. Pop culture is too pervasive to hide from (on a recent trip to a Barnes & Noble with my daughter we noticed an entire section of books dedicated to “Teenage Vampire Romance”). My wife and I talk to my daughter about these things so that she can be discerning, informed, and safe.

However, we do not treat things like movies, books, and TV shows as harmless entertainment, but rather a potential threat to her well-being to be aware of so she can walk in wisdom by God’s grace. I rejoice that our oldest daughter (and all of our five children) loves Jesus, see right through this demonic deception, and speak freely with us about these sorts of things. I want that for all children and families.

As a pastor and a father, I am particularly concerned for Christian parents who are naively allowing this filth into their children’s lives, buying these books and driving kids to see these movies. To such parents, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11, emphasis added).

I want to give a special thanks to Mark Driscoll for this tough love approach article to raising kids in a Christ-less culture. 

5 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR KIDS HATE CHURCH

I want to give a special thanks to Thomas Weaver from theresurgence.com for this gut check on how to make your kids hate church.  Having kids is likely the biggest responsibility one can take on in this life and sometimes we do it so flippantly.

FIVE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR KIDS HATE CHURCH

1. Make sure your faith is only something you live out in public
Go to church… at least most of the time. Make sure you agree with what you hear the preacher say, and affirm on the way home what was said especially when it has to do with your kids obeying, but let it stop there. Don’t read your Bible at home. The pastor will say everything you need to hear on Sundays. Don’t engage your children in questions they have concerning Jesus and God. Live like you want to live during the week so that your kids can see that duplicity is ok.

2. Pray only in front of people
 The only times you need to pray are when your family is over, holiday meals, when someone is sick, and when you want something. Besides that, don’t bother. Your kids will see you pray when other people are watching, no need to do it with them in private.

3. Focus on your morals
Make sure you insist your kids be honest with you. Let them know it is the right thing for them to do, but then feel free to lie in your own life and disregard the need to tell them and others the truth. Get very angry with your children when they say words that are “naughty” and “bad,” but post, read, watch, and say whatever you want on TV, Facebook, and Twitter. Make sure you focus on being a good person. Be ambiguous about what this means.

4. Give financially as long as it doesn’t impede your needs
Make a big deal out of giving at church. Stress to your children the value of tithing, while not giving sacrificially yourself. Allow them to see you spend a ton of money on what you want, while negating your command from Scripture to give sacrificially.

5. Make church community a priority… as long as there is nothing else you want to do
Hey, you are a church-going family, right? I mean, that’s what you tell your friends and family anyways. Make sure you attend on Sundays. As long as you didn’t stay up too late Saturday night. Or your family isn’t having a big barbeque. Or the big game isn’t on. Or this week you just don’t feel like it. Or… I mean, you’re a church-going family, so what’s the big deal?

COMMAND & CONTROL VS. CONVERSATIONAL

COMMAND & CONTROL VS. CONVERSATIONAL.

The command-and-control approach to parenting has in recent years become less and less effective. With the emerging generation living in a world of globalization, new technologies, and changes in how culture creates value plus the ever increasing electronic social interaction with others have sharply reduced the efficacy of a purely directive, top-down model of parental relationship.

What will take the place of that model? Part of the answer lies in how parents manage communication with their children—that is, how they handle the flow of information to, from, and among their family members. Traditional communication must give way to a process that is more dynamic and more relevant. Most important, that process must be conversational.

I arrived at my conclusion while reviewing a recent research project that focused on the state of organizational communication in the 21st century. Over more than two years professional communicators as well as top leaders at a variety of organizations—large and small were interviewed. The type of organization varied, blue chip and start-up, for-profit and non-profit, provincial and international. To date this research firm have spoken with nearly 150 people at more than 100 organizations. Both implicitly and explicitly, participants in the research mentioned their efforts to “have a conversation” with their people or their ambition to “advance the conversation” within their organization. Building upon the insights and examples gleaned from this research, I see a model of parental leadership that we could call “domestic conversation.”

A smart parent today, needs to engage with their teens in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation more than it does a series of commands from on high. Furthermore, parents should initiate daily practices and create new cultural norms that instill a conversational sensibility within the family relationships. Chief among the benefits of this approach is that it allows a busy and fragmented family to function together instead of dealing with separate lives living under the same roof. By talking with your teen, rather than simply issuing orders, a parent can retain or recapture some of the qualities— of the early years of child rearing when the young person was just starting out and ‘discovering’ their family and place in it.

In developing a conversational model for parenting teenagers, we identify two key doubled elements that reflect the essential attributes of interpersonal conversation: 1) intentionality & intimacy  2) interactivity & inclusion. A parent who through conversation-based practices need not (so to speak) dot all four of these i’s. However, as the research indicates, these elements tend to reinforce one another. In the end, they coalesce to form a single integrated dynamic family conversation. For the sake of length this article will only deal with number 1) intentionality & intimacy.

Intentionality means “Getting Close”
Personal conversation flourishes to the degree that family members stay close to each other, figuratively as well as literally. Conversation, similarly, requires parents to minimize the distances—cultural, attitudinal, and sometimes spatial—that typically separate them from their teenagers. Where conversational intentionality prevails, those with decision-making authority seek and earn the trust (and hence the careful attention) of those who live under their care. They do so by cultivating the art of listening. To most whether a father or a mother this is the most challenging. Learn to listen and not just speak with your teen directly and authentically. Physical proximity between parent and child isn’t always feasible. Nor is it essential. What is essential is mental or emotional proximity. Conversationally adept parents step down from their authoritative perches and then step up to the challenge of communicating personally and transparently with their teen.

Intimacy begins by “Gaining trust”
Where there is no trust, there can be no intimacy. For all practical purposes, the reverse is true as well. No one will dive into a heartfelt exchange of views with someone who seems to have a hidden agenda or a hostile manner, and any discussion that does unfold between two people will be rewarding and substantive only to the extent that each person can take the other at face value.

This intimacy distinguishes conversation from long-standing forms of top down communication to up & down. It shifts the focus from a top-down distribution of information to a bottom-up exchange of ideas. It’s less controlling (which feels risky at times) in tone and more casual. And it’s less about issuing and commanding orders than about asking and answering questions.

Conversational intimacy can become manifest in various ways—among them gaining trust, listening well, and getting personal. Parenting has never been easy but these ideas should help and remember it’s never too late to start the conversation.

 

HELPING YOUR TEEN FORM PERSONAL FAITH IN GOD

By Mark Gregston (The following article was taken from Heartlight Ministries)  

Statistics show that 85% of young people today are leaving the church upon graduation from high school.  When I was a teen, I wasn’t brave enough to say: “I don’t wanna to go to church today.”  For today’s teen, leaving the church is normal – but that’s not necessarily a good or bad thing.  Teens today are exposed to more opportunities and options in the kind of church they want to go to.  And when they begin to put into practice their developing desire for independence, you might need to be prepared.

Building Independence

Every parent wants their child to grow up and become a successful adult; I know these parents.  They’re great parents.  But as our kids grow up, they begin to exercise more independence.  How we respond to them, especially, for example in going to church or not, will affect their decisions.  As we raise our kids, there are different signs and little signals that show us that our goal of helping our children become independent, is working – this is one of them.  Even if you don’t like the idea of your child not going to church with you, in one way it’s a good sign (sort of).  What this shows us is that they are starting to think on their own instead of just following us.

I understand that we’re dealing with an issue that’s very important to you as a parent or perhaps someone reading this who may be a future parent.  The real issue is faith in God, not going to church.  I so often hear parents say “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” and then in the next breath say to their kids “as long as you live under my roof, you will live by my rules.”  Does this sound familiar?  To tell you the truth, it unnerves me a bit.  You need to sit back and evaluate your values, beliefs and goals for your child.  If what you are telling them is contradictory, then you are going to be making your uphill battle even harder.

The Bigger Picture

Ultimately, you are helping your child form a belief system – not just a habit of going to church.  So, if your teen can choose the church that they want to go to, then you can help them achieve your own goals for your children.

Your goals may be for his or her spiritual training; if he or she can reach those goals on their own, it may be better to have them go to a different church that meets his or her interests, while keeping connected to the church.

Let’s keep young people involved in something.  I may lose the opportunity to sit in church with them, but I may gain something far greater in having them part of something that will help them throughout their life.  The bigger issue is their spiritual health.

Responding When Your Child Chooses Something Else

I would encourage you to pre-meditate your response when your teen tells you that he doesn’t want to go to church.  Are you going to allow your child to make choices in his life?  Even if you know they won’t make the choice that you want?  Just because you like the idea of your family doing things together, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for your teen to desire something different.  This is a season of independence you need to embrace in order to hold onto the bigger picture – faith in God.

As a parent, you want to help your child make good choices.  If they make choices that you don’t agree with, you may need to reign in the choice they are allowed to make.  Allow them the opportunity to make a choice, but provide for their training as well.  This way, instead of choosing not to go to church at the age of 13 or 14, you give your child the option to go to one of two or three churches.  They keep the ability to make a choice and have control over their lives, and you still help guide them toward faith.

At some point, your teen may reject any choice you give them.  But teens send out signals in advance of coming to this point, so you need to pick up on these clues.  If they’re falling asleep, writing notes during church services, or are more interested in eating after church than being part of church, you may need to address their actions.  If you see these things coming up, pull your teen aside and talk to him about it.  The issue could be something other than the church itself.  By talking to your child, you can help determine the motivation behind the behavior.

Make sure that your plan gives some opportunity and flexibility that reaches your goals for them.  As they get older, if your child chooses not to go to any church at all, keep your relationship with them.  Don’t shame them in the process or make sarcastic remarks.  These things will show your child that you are disappointed in them and not just disappointed in their choices; instead, let God work it out and bring them back in His time.

The prodigal child of godly, praying parents has an advantage that others do not, they know the way back home. So if you find yourself in this position let me encourage you to keep your heart and your door open, not just for their sake but for yours. Remember the Father in the story Jesus told about the prodigal son. Once he saw his son returning he ran to meet him and I personally think he met him more than half way. He positioned himself to see out of his open door for his son’s promised return.

“Don’t confuse your due date with God’s appointed time. Don’t put an expiration date on God’s promises; they don’t expire”

LIVE THE LIFE NOW

One Way to Live The Life Now is to Make Leisure Part of Your Day

How do you get good at getting the rest God said was good for you? How do you get good at leisure? We can, of course, nod in agreement about how important it is to rest and get recharged, but our greatest need is not inclination; it’s demonstration.

Here are two suggestions that will help.

1. Deliberately stop being absorbed with the endless details of life. Our Saviour said it straight when He declared that we cannot, at the same time, serve both God and man. But we try so hard! If Jesus’s words from Matthew 6 say anything, they are saying, “Don’t sweat the things only God can handle.” Each morning, deliberately decide not to allow worry to steal your time and block your leisure.

2. Consciously start taking time for leisure. After God put the world together, He rested. We are commanded to imitate Him. For the rest to occur in our lives, Christ Jesus must be in proper focus. He must be in His rightful place before we can ever expect to get our world to fall into place.
A bone-weary father dragged into his home dog-tired late one evening. It had been one of those unbelievable days of pressure, deadlines, and demands. He looked forward to a time of relaxation and quietness. Exhausted, he picked up the evening paper and headed for his favorite easy chair by the fireplace. About the time he got his shoes untied, plop! Into his lap dropped his five-year-old son with a big grin.
“Hi, Dad . . . let’s play!”
He loved his boy dearly, but his need for a little time all alone to repair and think was, for the moment, a greater need than time with Junior. But how could he maneuver it?
There had been a recent moon probe, and the newspaper carried a huge picture of earth. With a flash of much-needed insight, the dad asked his boy to bring a pair of scissors and some transparent tape. Quickly, he cut the picture of earth into various shapes and sizes, then handed the homemade jigsaw puzzle over to his son in a pile.
“You tape it all back together, Danny, then come on back and we’ll play, okay?”
Off scampered the child to his room as Dad breathed a sigh of relief. But in less than ten minutes the boy bounded back with everything taped in perfect place. Stunned, the father asked, “How’d you do it so fast, son?”
“Aw, it was easy, Daddy. You see, there’s this picture of a man on the back of the sheet . . . and when you put the man together, the world comes together.”
So it is in life. When we put the Man in His rightful place, it’s amazing what happens to our world. And, more important, what happens to us. I can assure you that in the final analysis of your life—when you stop some day and look back on the way you spent your time—your use of leisure will be far more important than those hours you spent with your nose to the grindstone. Don’t wait until it’s too late to enjoy life.
Live it up now. Throw yourself into it with abandonment. Get up out of the rut of work long enough to see that there’s more to life than a job and a paycheck.

Live the Life now…you’ll never be the same!

COMMUNICATION WITH COMPASSION CREATES CONNECTION


Communication with Compassion Creates Connection

Communication without compassion rarely brings relational connection. When we keep the fundamental differences between men and women in mind, we will become more empathetic and understanding towards each other. Remember women need to feel connected to their spouse, and men need to feel respected.

Communication is not always the answer to creating a healthy relationship. Of course, in all relationships and especially marriage, communication is integral to developing an ongoing mutual connection. But when two people communicate in ways that are not beneficial, it can be destructive.

Building a good marriage comes down to having positive communication that is based on compassion and empathy, as well as having lots of forgiveness, intimacy, sex, and excellent problem solving skills. A lack of any of these things can cause a disconnection between two people in a loving relationship. Problem solving skills are essential because all marriages go through periods of suffering and challenges. When a couple is committed to working through problems with an eye toward discovering the solution, they stand a much better chance of enduring through hardships. Being problem solvers will help a couple work through financial difficulty, health issues, disappointments and setbacks. Forgiveness is essential to moving past the human shortcomings each person brings into a relationship, and intimacy and sex are what keeps a couple in tune with one another.

For the balance of this column, let’s look at the communication aspect of loving relationships between a man and a woman.
The Bible says in Ephesians 5:33 “However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband, that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”

This verse provides a glimpse of the fundamental difference between men and women. It also holds the key to communicating effectively. To have a healthy marriage, a man’s communication and action must confirm and demonstrate his love for his wife, and the woman’s communication and action must confirm and demonstrate respect.

It is true that women have a greater need for connection, whereas men have a greater need to feel respected. That’s why when a man doesn’t express his loving affection; there is a problem in the marriage. One recent survey showed that two-thirds of all divorces were initiated by women, and the number one reason for the breakdown was a lack of connection. Obviously, there are a lot of men who have trouble keeping a connection alive with their spouse. It comes down to the daily things in a marriage: Paying attention to things that are important to her, expressing affection, showing her you care by helping around the house or running her a warm bath at the end of a hard day. All those things send a message that she is loved.

Likewise, women need to ensure they aren’t sending disrespectful messages to their spouse. Complaining and blaming him for all the things that are wrong will make a man feel like a failure. Men are by nature problem fixers. His self-worth diminishes when his wife continually focuses on things that are wrong that he can’t fix or blames him for everything. Essentially, the best thing a woman can do to keep her marriage healthy is to show her husband respect by avoiding laying blame and heaps of shame on him, and offer praise and acknowledgment for the wonderful things he does.

One final point about communication: it doesn’t work without compassion and empathy. Conventional wisdom says a couple must talk their way through any marital problem. But words that aren’t carefully spoken can be destructive. Compassion is having sympathy and concern for the sufferings of another, and empathy is simply understanding and sharing the feelings of your loved one. When you keep the fundamental difference between men and women in mind, you will become more empathetic and understanding.

When you strive to always be compassionate, your relationships will rise to a whole new level.

THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED BY BLUEHARDWARE AT ARTICLESBASE.COM
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LIFT UP YOUR EYES AND LOOK AROUND

Your Sons and Daughters Will Come From Afar


There are times in our lives when we seem to plumb the depths, when our experience is anything but happy or sparkling or exhilarating. In those times, it seems that God’s promises to us will never be fulfilled, that righteousness will not win the day. When those times come, it can be all too easy to start believing that we’re totally alone, that our efforts for the Lord have been forgotten, that we’ve never done anything lasting for him. Just when we feel that things can’t get any worse … they don’t! Suddenly, God comes to us with a promise like this one, a promise about fruitfulness. He reminds us that no matter how low we feel, he will make sure that our fruit remains.

Isaiah 60:4-5 ‘Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.’ (NIV)

He says ‘lift up your eyes and look around! Now’s the time, lift your vision again, let me show you something…’ Over the horizon, we see our spiritual sons and daughters coming from afar. These are the people we’ve influenced and helped, those into whom we’ve poured our lives along life’s road. They haven’t forgotten us; the investment we made in them has not been wasted. No, they’re coming to us, with stories of God’s blessing and power in their lives. They’re returning home to share with us how much we mean to them. As they come, they’re bringing their wealth with them. They want to share with us the good fruit they’ve seen in their lives. They want to let us in on the blessing and the benefits. Our hearts can’t help but ‘swell with joy’. Always remember: nothing you’ve ever done for the Lord, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, will ever go unrewarded or unnoticed. You will see your sons coming from afar, and you will be radiant!