Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Simple Message about Being Simple

I was driving with 11-year-old son Morgan recently when he said, 'We need to go sit by a lake.' I said, 'Why?' Morgan said, 'Because it is very calming.'

A few days later our family was visiting a beautiful countryside property with mountains, streams and wildlife. One of our daughters commented, 'Now this is how I want to live!' The other one affirmed the thought.

Recently, we've noticed our children 'clamoring for activity' less and less -- that is, enjoying quietness, embracing simplicity. Chilling.

Not long ago, Morgan literallly asked us to limit his 'screen time' (we do anyway, but it was a rare request).

Here's where I'm going: simple is better. Uncluttered is better. As a family, we've been striving for it and most often missing for a long time, but lately I see the message getting through, lately I see us embracing the upside of down time. And I KNOW it is better!

My simple encouragement to families today is to re-evaluate (perhaps again; we've done it many times) your life, and reduce in order to add.

Take an insightful inventory:
  • Examine each frequent pleasure activity of each child and ask if that is a) good for them; b) the best use of time.
  • Count the number of things you are truly doing as a family unit (and possibly replace some of the first bullet-point with more of the second).
  • Read, during family time, what the word of God says about peace, how to have it, and solitude. Note that Jesus had a lot of each in the midst of pressures. Discuss how to adjust and make a plan.
  • Replace some eating out with eating outside, as in a picnic at the park and/or by the water. It's more fun and cheaper.
  • Practice solitude in front of your kids and with them. Teach them that boredom, at its essence, is a bad choice on their part, not a lack of activity.
  • Be missional, together. There are countless things you can do that serve others, thus honoring God and in the process building family.
We must lead our children to getting the message that more isn't necessarily better, that busy isn't necessarily productive, and that money spent doesn't equal value.

You and I have to take the lead. As we've begun to see, they'll get the message. They'll like it. But the battle (of good vs. best) will go on and we must stay in the lead. The enemy is trying to rob your family of, well, your family! He is trying to rob your mind of focus on our Lord and His purposes. He is trying to create so much mental and scheduling clutter that we cannot see through.

You have control of this. Take it. Keep it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keys to Biblical Confrontation, Part I (Gal. 6:1-5)

Outline/Key Points from April 18 Teaching of 'Equippers of Middle Schoolers' @ FB Concord, Knoxville, TN.

Galatians 6:1-5
1“Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, consider yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone things himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”
WE MUST RESTORE SINNERS

1“Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any trespass” – WHEN SOMEONE SINS

you who are spiritual” ¬ -- in order to take the next action, you have to be ‘spiritual’
Spiritual = pneumatikoi – ‘of the Spirit’ pneuma – breath, wind, etc. power, life!

You who have spiritual life in Christ

RESTORE = set right

Parents, this passage applies to all Christians in a wide variety of contexts, but in a strictly parenting context, we are being told here that we have to be spiritually fit (walking with Christ) so that we can identify and correct the sin we see in our children

This is the heart of Biblical Confrontation: that you be one in mind with Christ so that you see as He sees and correct as He would correct. Intellectually, it’s as simple as that.

It is key to understand that there is no one else to do this job. It’s you. Since you are their ‘life giver’, the one who gives them, ostensibly, the most love, guidance, and encouragement, then you are their chief authority.

If an authority figure less than you – teacher, coach, pastor – tries to give corrective instruction and you do not, it is given far less – if any – value by your child. They hear mixed messages. They likely maintain the status quo, because what was told to them was not important enough for you to say it.

If you, too, are giving restorative instruction, others’ efforts are a meaningful aid, perhaps even the final nudge that moves them.

HOW DO WE RESTORE?

in a spirit of gentleness

Paul David Tripps writes in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: “True love is not offensively intrusive or rude. But the Bible repudiates covering sin with a fa├žade of silence. It teaches that those who love will speak, even if it creates tense, upsetting moments.”

And it does!

And with empathy borne of self-awareness
consider yourself lest you also be tempted

I think there is dual-purpose to this encouragement. 1 – For your own holiness, health of walk with Christ and edification, be sure you are not actively doing the same thing you are correcting your child – or anyone else – for. 2 – Considering our own sin will help us deal with our children with less of an attitude or edge. As parents, we can be self-righteous at times!

"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Bearing one another’s burdens requires genuine self-exposure, surrender, openness. We help our children when we a) hurt with them over their struggles, b) acknowledge that we do or did struggle with the same/similar thing.

This earns credibility/buy in. It gives traction to our efforts. We shouldn’t do it just for that reason – that is disingenuous – but it is a clear benefit.

3 For if anyone things himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Don’t set yourself up as perfect, set yourself up as one who knows the Perfect One, and who seeks to pass on what you know of Him to a child who is only as sinful in his/her nature as you are!

4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”

This is initially a confusing verse, appearing to some to contradict verse two. But it does not. There are multiple greek words for ‘burden,’ and one in v. 2 indicates bearing a load with someone, while the one in verse five is a different word, focused on bearing solo, and a different context, indicating something more like, ‘We are each responsible for what we bear.’

In the area of parental biblical confrontation, that would mean simply that we are each responsible to do what we should do, not someone else. It is about our accountability before God.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Applying a Biblical Principle to Appropriate Consequences for Kids

If I had one message to teach Christian parents, it would be about how we must not exasperate our children (Ephesians 6:4). And while I won't launch into that message (again) in detail, I'll write about something related: the challenge we face as parents over what to withold as consequences to wrong actions.

Let me suggest some guidelines that serve the purpose of consequences without loss of purpose, or that cause exasperation:

(Almost) Never Punish by Taking Away Ministry
I had a discussion about this recently with colleague Andy Rittenhouse when I had withheld our 14- and 15-year old girls from a regular inner city ministry outing they love and where they've personally been very effective. I knew the outing had ample support and leadership, and I was simply trying to get the girls to focus and was giving them time to do so. I soft-selled it not as punishment. Nevertheless, it didn't feel right in my spirit and they were back the next week.

The overarching point is that we want our children to do ministry, and when we take it from them as a consequence, we are sending a mixed signal. We might also be keeping something from being accomplished that our Lord instructed.

(Almost) Never Punish by Taking away Something that is also Robbing Another Child not from your Family

I remember a few months ago when one of the girls' friends had five kids over for her birthday party. Something happened the day before for which I would normally have pulled the next fun event. But that would have robbed the other child of some of the joy of her party. So I adjusted to the next thing.

The same goes for team sports, where pulling the starting center fielder hurts everybody. Or where sitting your child simply sends a bad message about 'team.'

When at all Possible (and it almost always is) make a Consequence be related to What Happened

If they misuse the cell phone, restrict the cell phone, etc. I've heard of parents being so angry that they punished randomly. When there is no relation between consequence and action, the children usually just don't get the point.

What does all of this have to do with 'exasperating the child?' Everything. They are exasperated when you and I keep pounding and pounding the same message the same way -- even if we're right. They are exasperated when our signals are mixed. They are exasperated when the consequence is so unrelated that they can't even remember what they did wrong.

There are some parents who will disagree strongly with the above approach, and if they love Christ, I am not saying they can't be effective. But I have serious reservations. I think some of those are guarding their pride as much as their standards. There are a lot of my-way-or-the-highway parents who are getting neither, and their kids may leave home for college angry and frustrated because instead of a Christ-like, even-handed approach, they saw a jumble of emotion and mixed signals, and they still don't get the point.

Remember, you can be right all day long and lose. It really does matter how you make your point.

RICH, DIVERSE, NOTES 'N LINKS

Go Gaga Over This
I don't agree with all of her rationale, but the message has some value in our culture.
http://m.people.com/detail.jsp?key=2266938&rc=newsnow&frg=t

Discuss This Among Your Family
"You simply cannot be a disciple without being a missionary - a sent one." -- Neil Cole

One Wise Man's 10 Lesson's Learned in Life
Food for thought/discussion: http://www.ronedmondson.com/2008/10/lessons-ive-learned-in-life-if-i-knew-then-what-i-know-now.html

Use This to Discuss the 'Costs' of Following Jesus -- It's Not Just Missionaries That Pay
http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=32715&ref=BPNews-RSSFeed0415

Bulletin Board Material . . . In Honor of the Great Jackie Robinson
"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." -- Jackie Robinson

You Must Be Teaching the Word to Your Children . . . . apparently no one else can
7 of 10 believers claim "God helps those who help themselves" is from the bible

What Happens in a some homes: right actions, wrong reasons
"A home full of well-mannered children whose obedience is not understood through lens of the Gospel is not holy but hellish" -- David Prince

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grace vs. Responsibility -- Understanding the Balance in Parenting

How much grace do you give your children? How much do you insist on change, when in fact you haven't changed, and they are less mature than you? Where's the line? Believe me, I know the struggle!

I've never seen a better explanation of the grace/consequence line than what follows, from Paul David Tripp's Instruments in the Redeemers Hands. Tripp is not necessarily speaking of parents in this writing, but it is not out of context to apply it so. Stick with me, this is useful stuff!

" . . . it is wrong to approach a struggling brother or sister with a condemning, self-righteous spirit. This puts you in the way of what the Lord is doing in their lives. You must grant them the same grace and love that you received from the Lord. At the same time, you do not want that offer of grace to be misunderstood. God's grace is always grace leading to change. Since God's purpose is that we would become 'partakers of his divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4), change is his agenda. As we offer people a humble, patient, gentle, forbearing, and forgiving love, we must never communicate that it is okay for them to stay as they are. As long as a vestige of indwelling sin remains, change is God's call. It must never be compromised in the relationships He gives us. To do so is to cease to be an ambassador and to stnad int he way of the Lord's work in that person's life.

"So we sturdily refuse to condemn, but we also refuse to condone."

When we lose sight of God's grace and purpose as it relates to our children, control, condemn, stand in the way. When we understand the purpose, see the big picture, recognize or own sin and the transformation He is working in us, we are effective ambassadors of God's grace, love and training.

I used the word ambassadors because Tripp did. That's what we are. We are not owners of our children. We are not mere enforcers. We are certainly not Gods ourselves. We are His representative to them while they are under our roof, primarily, though somewhat beyond.

Many parents do not clearly explain to their child that a particular action was sin. They feel harsh and don't want to hurt their child's feelings. Or they just aren't thoughtful enough about their process of instruction.

Other parents are telling their children very often what they are doing is wrong, but they are not putting it in the context of sin, or showing grace. They are, in essence, doing nothing but exasperating the child.

The balance we strive for is an even-tempered, loving, explanation and challenge to the child. "Susan, what you just said to your brother was very offensive. You sinned against God and him by running him down. Sit down and deal with it with the Lord, and then go talk to your brother. If I hear that again, there will be a consequence." Then, do what you said. Teach the family -- or the particular child -- Scripture that instructs and transforms in the areas you see them struggling.

I know, that sounds nice and tidy and simple, because it has no emotion! I wish I could do it 9-and-of-10 times! That's why we have to understand what Tripp explained above. We must get the big picture. We must see each encounter with our children's sin as a part of his grace-to-change process.

If we know our position and understand what He's doing, He will do it through us.

Links, Quotes, Notes

The Parent Lab blog post takes different forms from time to time. Today's should inform and motivate what to pray for, as the following couple of items are not solution-focused, but give cause to search out our Lord and intercede.
* A mother in our church recently send me a summary of a recent experience. It is very eye-opening as to the sexual realities of their culture. I share with permission:
 I just attended a small group of moms with teenagers and 2 senior girls from (a private school) had a Q-and-A with us. They were very OPEN and it was alarming...These are good... 'smart' girls, Heres what they said:
  • 95% of senior girls-not virgins
  • sex buddies is real--'friends with benifits'
  • oral sex is not considered sex and is common
  • cars is the place (still) parking still happens
  • the term now (vs 'go with' ) is 'talking' as in..."were talking'
  • birth control? still lots of unprotected sex, or lots of girls taking bc pills for 'other things' like complexion, their parents believe only for that.

those in 'church' or Christian groups doesnt mean they are not engaged in all this behavior-they said some of those are the worst.

Other things the mother learned:

facebook-its about the numbers, they will add anyone
inappropriate text-words, they just delete, dont tell their parents
drinking-drugs, still prevalent, some parents have 'drinking parties' at their homes, usually coincide with their own 'drinking party' with adults in other part of home.

Positives:

One of the girls dad was a police officer-she said that 'gave her a good excuse'
They thought parents have huge influence,including their own choice of friends-(drinking parties)
They valued their openness with their parent-felt they could tell them anything (didnt mean they did-but felt they could)

* Check out this very well researched and written Wall Street Journal (best written paper in the world) piece from Monday on economic change and how it is impacting our generation and our kids'. It is must-read-but-makes-you-think stuff.
* A story that might inspire your kids, though obviously an over-the-top example:
http://www.sacbee.com/2010/04/06/2658094/california-13-year-old-to-attempt.html

* The Disciples weren't superstars. Share this with your kids and contextualize to your and their walk with Christ: http://www.pastors.com/blogs/ministrytoolbox/archive/2004/04/30/Why-did-Jesus-choose-such-average-disciples_3F00_.aspx