Friday, March 21, 2014

Parenting 101

First let me state for the record that I am not an expert when it comes to parenting. I have made my fair share of mistakes and am so thankful for God's (and my kids') grace. I do however have some personal experience and as a former youth pastor years of observing what works and what doesn't.

# 1 - Quit raising kids and start raising adults. I’m not suggesting that we rob them of their childhood and expect 6 year olds to act like 60 year olds. We do, however, keep our eyes on the goal which is to prepare them to be successful members of society. If they can’t make good and Godly decisions on their own by the time they are 17-18 we have failed them. That doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate our wisdom and experience it just means we have trained them well and instilled in them the confidence that they need to succeed. That means we need to let them make mistakes (within reason) and accept responsibility for the outcomes. If you will be their parent when they are children then you get to be their friend when they are adults. If you choose to be their friend when they are children then you have to be their parent when they are adults.

# 2 - Invest in their walk with God. Get them involved in church - not just attending but participating and serving. Studies indicate that 80% of church going kids walk away from God when they move out of the house. But for kids who had a meaningful role in the church 80% of them remained. Get them serving somehow, somewhere and the sooner the better. Teens need to find own relationship with God and not just their parents. Send them to conferences, on mission trips, etc. and PLEASE don’t punish them by grounding them from church.

# 3 - Help them to discover their calling in Christ. God has a plan and a purpose for every person, not just those in professional ministry. We need Christian doctors and teachers and mechanics and business owners just as we need pastors, missionaries, etc. They need to know that success in life is fulfilling what God created them to be and to do.

# 4 - Teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Because it doesn’t. If they have to discover that after 18 years of being told otherwise it’s going to hurt. I’ve seen too many kids blindsided by college professors and first bosses with the harsh reality of life. Get them volunteering in their church and community on a regular basis.

# 5 - Train them to fight their own battles. Obviously they need to know that we are there for them and we need to intervene at age appropriate moments. You won’t always be there for them and if they can’t stand up for what is right on their own they are in trouble. If we step in or let them quit at the first sign of trouble how are they ever going to make a marriage work?

# 6 - Be the person you want them to become. ‘Do as I say not as I do’ just doesn’t work. Model the attitudes and actions you want them to have. Let me say it another way. Deal with your own issues so they don’t have to. Blond hair, blue eyes and high cholesterol aren’t the only things we pass along.

# 7 - Finally, pray, pray and pray some more. I believe that God can and does make all the difference in the world.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6 NASB

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Am I Missing?

I was reading through Mark’s account of the life of Christ when I came across the following passage -

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” - Mark 6:45-52 NIV

The last statement hit me like a ton of bricks.

Please bear with me for just a moment. We ONLY see what we see and that is ALL that we see. The problem is that we inaccurately assume that all that we see is all that there is to see. Have you ever been driving along and go to change lanes only to have a car suddenly appear right beside you? It’s almost like it materialized completely out of thin air. The car has been there all along, we just couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t see it. It’s called a blind spot. We all have them. Many of us just refuse to acknowledge that fact.

If guys who walked and talked and worked and lived and laughed and cried with Jesus could miss it is it at all possible that I/we might be missing something too? So I began to ask myself, “Self, where is your heart hardened? What is it that you are unaware of in your life? What is God showing you that you just aren’t seeing?” I’m convinced that I still have MUCH to learn from the Holy Spirit.

A good first step is to admit that we don’t know it all. Then we have to ask God to show us what we are missing. Lastly we must keep our hearts tender so as to hear. See God often speaks through people, some of whom we have decided don’t have anything of value to say. Or we have simply become so familiar to their voice that we fail to hear God speaking through them.

Ignorance isn’t bliss. What we don’t know can indeed hurt us. Let’s not live life with hearts hardened and blinders on.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What a Jerk!

So the other day I’m driving through the Nantahala Gorge on my way to my parent’s house. For those of you who don’t have the privilege of calling Western North Carolina home let me paint a picture for you. The two lane road winds through the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the Nantahala River. In the summer months both the road and the river are full of tourists and locals alike eager to experience the adventure the white water has to offer. It’s not uncommon to see skillful anglers waiting for a wary rainbow trout to hit their expertly presented fly. One of the best ways to take in the sights and the sounds is in an open air passenger car aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railway. Needless to say it is a beautiful drive, but not the best route if you need to get somewhere in a hurry.

So as I’m navigating the twists and turns I notice a vehicle quickly approaching in my rear view mirror. There are several places to pull off to let others pass and I’m inclined to use them (and so should everyone else). I will state for the record that I was driving the speed limit plus 5. After all this is ‘Merica! Apparently this guy fancies himself a budding NASCAR driver because he was drafting me like Talladega Nights. Before I came to a place to let him pass he crossed the double yellow line and blasted by. What a knucklehead.

Of course since I’m a pastor my immediate response was to pray for him, speak blessings over his family and extend unconditional forgiveness… or not. I felt my blood pressure rising. Where did he need to go in such a hurry?! Who was he to put me and everyone else on the road in danger?! Why did he think that he was above the law?! NC’s finest often patrol this stretch of road. I could picture him pulled over, blue lights flashing, the bead of sweat forming on his brow as he calculated the cost as ‘the man’ handed him his well-deserved ticket. I should probably call *HP and get this menace to society off of the streets. After all it’s my civic duty. I owe it to every other law abiding citizen out there.

Except that I was speeding too. And it’s not my job to enforce the law. And I’m sure the guy in the other car hasn’t given it another thought. I’m the one wound up. I’m the one frustrated. What a jerk. Not him - ME! I let someone else into my head, into my heart and gave him the power to determine my state of being. So I had this thought… what if I didn’t care anymore? I’m not talking about people or important things but stuff that I have absolutely no control over. In reality this guy didn’t do anything to me. I wasn’t delayed, I didn’t wreck, we didn’t exchange communiqué via sign language.

What if I focused ONLY on the things that God has given me responsibility for and COMPLETELY trusted Him with EVERYTHING else? My guess is I’d definitely enjoy life’s scenic drives a lot more. I suppose you would too.

God's Promises.

Earlier this week I was working on a log cabin I have for sale. As I was driving over to crawl back under the house for the 3rd day this is ...