Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook & Your Kids -- Trust Me, Read This

A few days ago a friend told me via e-mail to check the facebook photos of one of our children for one that I may not approve of. Indeed, while not severe, it was something I didn't like the look of, and I removed it. I appreciated the heads up from the fellow parent.

I cut the photo immediately because I have my children's facebook account passwords. If having their passwords doesn't sit will with you, please stick with me. More on that later.The other day I saw a post from one of our teen daughter's 'friends' on facebook that caused suspicion toward that friend. I checked out their profile and indeed was disturbed by much of what I found. (They are now blocked).

This morning I took a little more time on one of our girls' accounts. And I peaked at the friend list of a few of your kids, too (if you are of the FB Concord family) because my kids, your kids and all their friends are linked by culture and the faith we profess.

I was very disturbed by what I found.

Parents, here's the deal: Our kids 'don't want to hurt anyone's feelings' and they accept almost anyone as a 'friend.' (Either that, or some of them want some inappropriate friends. Since their human, it could be a mix of both. Mine not excluded).

What I saw today on a few of our girls' 'friends' pages and on a lot of other pages related to your kids was a bunch of nasty stuff. Foul language. Sexual language. Vast sexual innuendo, and some not-so-innuendo.

I would ask my daughters, 'Who is so-and-so' when I would find something I didn't like. Frequently the answer was, 'Oh, that's one of (John Q. Smith)'s best friends and they friend-requested me.' 'John Q. Smith' would be the name of a teenager at church who is well respected, but had a handful (sometimes more) of friends who should not be. That's how the slippery slope of bad stuff was getting in.

Here's my point: Parents should be reading this stuff! Monitor the activity. It will tell you a lot about your teen and their 'friends.' Now, indeed, many-to-most of those 'friends' on facebook may not people they know very well (which should cause a discussion about who and why to 'friend' someone), but do you want to expose them -- or allow them to expose themselves -- to the sinful, wasteland ramblings of people? And before you get the 'I'm trying to reach out to them' answer from your kids, let me simply say: really? REALLY? Do you believe that?

I mean, it's not impossible.
Or likely.

Here's an accurate summary of what I found looking at the profile of many kids I didn't recognize who were friends with mine or your children: a teen would, in his or her profile, mark their religion as 'Christian,' then I could find NOTHING or very close to nothing, on their info or wall that supported that designation. In fact it frequently supported the opposite.

When your child says to you, 'Oh, they are really not like that,' what do you say back? I say, 'You are what you say, and here's what they said,' and I quote their wall.

Hey, mine aren't perfect, and yours aren't perfect. And I'm not perfect. That would Jesus, whom we love and strive to be like. Many of our kids and your kids are striving for perfection,  looking to Jesus, battling the cultural influences -- and they need help. They need to know they can 'ignore' a friend request and even block someone. They may need you to do it for them.

At the very least, you and I need to be reading this stuff. Oh, and about having the password. Here's our privacy guidelines at home: you have privacy when using the bathroom and changing clothes. Beyond that, if we have reason to be suspicious, we inspect. That doesn't mean we are reading diaries daily and poking around all the time. We are thankful to have kids who aren't creating suspicion by the hour. Most of yours aren't, either. But it would still be blatantly stupid to give them carte blanche.

If a parent senses that they should inspect (any aspect of the child's behavior), they should.

More of us need to.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teaching Love in a Loveless Culture

I preached a fine sermon early this morning on my foggy deck, but only two squirrels, a rabbit and whatever critters had their heads poked out of the creek, were there. And they wouldn't sit still. (The baby ducks were asleep, I'm sure, but maybe their mommy heard). Okay, I wasn't actually out there talking, but I was studying.

So here's the short version, a review of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. We must consistently teach and re-teach our children what is true love. The world is teaching them the wrong thing. Read the chapter carefully. Here are some things it shows me, and I encourage walking your children through these things, with discussion and examples.

In verses 1-3 we see
  • Love is more than Words
  • Love is more than Power
  • Love is more than Caring
  • Love is more than Emotions
Then we move on to see a string of attributes of love, all of which need illustration/examples for our children. We need to catch them loving, and point out that is in Biblical love. We also have to point out the contrast, gently but clearly.

Interestingly, this chapter deals with childishness in v. 11. Clearly, we are in the process of moving our children from childish, shallow, emotion-driven love to Godly-thinking, Spirit-motivated, self-sacrificing love. A verse parallel to 11, and right across the page in my Bible, is 14:20, "Don't be childish in your thinking, but be infants in evil and adult in your thinking."

The overarching definition of love as established in this chapter could be, "Selfless choosing of what is best for others, with confidence that God will work in and through them."

I pull from this text three keys to loving Biblically:

One -- Holding Your Tongue
Two -- Believing the Best About Others
Three -- Be Patient With Others
Model Biblical love to your children. Coach it. Speak of it. Contrast it with the world, because your children are seeing a selfish love, an emotion-driven-warm-and-fuzzy love that isn't love as soon as they stop being satisfied. God has given us the Words, and the Spirit, to teach true love to our children!

  • Gaming can be addicting. Heads up!
  • Paul Tripp: "Addiction: the result of seeking horizontally what is only found vertically - earth's pleasures are brief and will not satisfy the heart."
  • Any of us parents deal with anxiety? LOL. Stupid question. Think about, process, this: "Anxiety makes us doubt God's lovingkindness, & thus our love to Him grows cold; we feel mistrust, & thus grieve the Spirit of God." -- Spurgeon
  • "You and I did not invent communication and words, God did, therefore He owns our words & they should glorify Him not us." -- David Prince. This is a great truth for us to appropriate, but also to teach to our children. I don't know of I had thought of it quite that way. Sometimes just seeing something from a little different angle opens it up to us.
  • 10 Principles for Healthy Discipline, from a man who teaches well on parenting.
  • I sense that quite a number of families I have the privilege of ministering with are at or near a 'next stage' in life. Here is good, brief blog about 'moving on.'

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Suitcase Full of Joy & Hope

This morning I was standing in front of our church with a group of orphan children from all over the world who travel our country singing to honor God. They'll return to their 'homes' -- such as they are -- in a few weeks.

As I stood there with several church members who had hosted the children in their homes, I was face-to-face with a contrast that should make us re-think life.

I knew that I was going home tonight with the family project being to carry some stuff from our garage area to storage space under the house. That's what American middle- and upper-class families do: re-arrange their stuff.

Yet as I stood there I saw a nice black suit case for each child, the contents of which likely were all the worldly goods they possess. Everything. Yet they beamed happiness. They were purposeful. They were used by God. They knew joy and peace. And they did not have to have the $300 armoire at the garage sale, or store spare breakfast nook tables in the attic, or have to decide which of 15 pairs of designer jeans to wear. The pair of shoes they owned matched everything just fine.

I'm supposed to be a Bible teacher and good communicator, but I'm not exactly sure what to do with this information, this sensory shock, this reality check. I'm not trying to write a guilt trip to anyone, or I have to take the first dose of guilt. I'm not saying we should sell our stuff . . . well, maybe we should.

I just know that we value the wrong things. Period. It is tragically observable. And I know we are teaching our kids to value the wrong things. And I know that Jesus didn't teach us to do this. And I know if we obey Him, we'll stop, re-evalueate,  and adjust course (in any number of ways God calls us to).

That's my challenge to myself and to you. One great read that will challenge you the same way and perhaps help put feet to conviction is David Platt's Radical. Your middle-school-and-up kids can read it to. I encourage it.

Now, I've got to go put my spare suitcases under the house.

Links, Notes, Quotes

* VERY informative info on your children and cell phones. All parents have to look!:

* "Your decisions are only as good as the info you base them on. It's stupid to decide before knowing THE FACTS"-- Rick Warren per Proverbs 18:13

* Beethoven was deaf. Van Gogh was colorblind. Nothing is impossible. -- via Travis Garland on Twitter

* Ron Edmondson consistently produces good stuff for parents. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Destination of Desperation

"During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His revererance." -- Hebrews 5:7

As a parent, do you teach and model crying out to God?

(start sarcasm) Undignified, isn't it. Crass. Raw. Crude. Just . . . image destroying. We can't been seen like that! What will our kids think? (end sarcasm)

THAT WE DEPEND ON GOD. That we desperately need Him. That we are real enough to say it and show it.

I'm not suggesting we have a nightly wailing session. But let's consider Jesus' model.

Jesus consistently:

-- Offered prayers and appeals. His habit was to communicate with His Father. That should be ours, too! 'Prayers and appeals' suggests more than merely 'give me' prayers, but real communication.

-- Prayed passionately. When we fall in love, we show passion. When we want something badly (even something shallow and very earthly), we show passion. Do we show passion when approaching God Himself, who is both God and our personal Father? We should, out of reverance, love, and for a good example.

-- Did the above out of an acknowledgement that the One He was crying out to was able to deliver Him! When we are struggling, do we model turning to God for the answers? Our kids will go where you go for answers. Do you go to pop psychology? Comfort food? Drugs or alcohol? Denial? or God your Father?

-- Was heard. Because He showed reverance! How amazing, if anybody ever had a right not to show reverance to God (and no one has that right) it would be the One Who also was God Himself. But He was humble. He was still dependent. We don't even teach our own children reverance for us, much less God, or reverance for authority.

Let's model passion and appeal to God. Let's gather as a family and lift our needs to Him together. Let's not be afraid to let our children see us needy, hurt, even desperate, because they have to know what to then as anything.

Notes, Links, Quotes

* A Discipleship Journal article on seeing God in th Dark, good for tough times; yours, or sharing with another. You might have to create a password to access, but it's free.

* A Great Encouragement for Moms, from our friends at DiscipleLikeJesus, who did our parenting conference:

* "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." -- Albert Einstein. OK, Einstein wasn't writing about Jesus, but I offer you this quote to stimulate thinking. When you get a crazy idea about how or when to minister, are you SURE it's crazy? Jesus did some pretty wild stuff.

* "Grace is not the permission to sin but the power to not have to sin!" -- Rick Warren

* Here's a tough one to make your children (or yourself!) understand, but keep trying:
"Waiting to FEEL right before DOING what's right is immaturity. Doing it no matter how you feel is Godliness." -- Rick Warren

* George Orwell: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

* "Somebody once said that the biggest difference between you and God is that God doesn’t think he’s you." -- via Josh Hunt

* "You can get all A's and still flunk life." - Walker Percy