Category Archives: Family

6 Ways to Keep Facebook from Harming Your Marriage

As we wrote about recently, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m glad I restarted my account, as it is much easier to manage. I have noticed, though, a massive drop-off in the amount of traffic to our blog since the restart, but that’s okay.

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Facebook is a great tool, but far too many people (mis)use it in ways that are harming their homes. It has been reported recently that fully 33% of all divorces mention Facebook somewhere in the divorce filings.

Certainly, there are ways to enjoy the good uses of Facebook without it leading to divorce, but it can be very easy to be trapped in a digital, social, interactive world and much closer to cheating on your spouse than you ever dreamed you would be. If nothing else, it is easy to find yourself drawn to Facebook friends in a way that is drawing your attention away from your spouse, even if only subconsciously.

How can we enjoy Facebook without it leading to harm to our marriages? Here are 6 tips.

1. Never Hide Your Activity from Your Spouse. If you won’t scroll through your timeline or even your private Facebook messages with your spouse nearby, you are doing something you shouldn’t be. Your husband or wife should be able to look at your Facebook page at any point in time…no questions asked, and you should be willing to share.

2. Share Your Password. Why would you be embarrassed if your spouse logged in as you just for a moment, just to see what you have been up to? (By the way, this is important for parents, too.) Sharing passwords should be true of all accounts and devices, but especially when it is connected with something as “social” as Facebook.

3. Unfriend Anyone Your Spouse Isn’t Comfortable With. If you have an “old flame” as a friend in Facebook, that’s not necessarily wrong. But if your spouse is not comfortable with that person, you should unfriend that person…immediately. Doing so shows that the emotions and desires of your spouse are worth more to you than peering into the life of someone else.

4. Don’t “Like” Tempting Things. How many men “like” the pages of celebrities not because their work is good, but because they like seeing pictures of her? How many women “like” nice looking movie stars, even though they know that their husband will never look like that? By clicking that “like” button, you are adding things that will pull your eyes, heart, and mind away from your spouse on a regular basis.

5. Praise Your Spouse on Facebook. Leah isn’t on Facebook, and if she ever does sign up, you will probably see pigs with wings flying overhead. That said, I try to post things about her from time to time that build her up. This is a public forum where we can build up our marriage and the one to whom we are married. Far too many, though, run down their spouse. Praise him. Praise her. And do so often.

6. Turn Off Facebook. It’s a great tool, but there is also an addictive nature to it. Set parameters for how much time you will spend scrolling through your news feed or checking messages. When that time is done, turn it off and actually spend face-to-face time with your spouse. Or, if you check Facebook on your lunch break, take the time to call or text your spouse or plan something for a date.

No one starts out on Facebook thinking, “I’m going to see if I can ruin my marriage with this website.” Sadly, though, by not using Facebook in a responsible way, it is easy to chip away at the foundation of your marriage. Before you know it, “Facebook” may be used in some papers at the courthouse that you never thought you’d have to sign.

Treat your spouse and your marriage with honor in every space…even cyberspace.

QUESTION: What are some ways you protect your marriage on Facebook? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Photo credit: Maria Elena on Creative Commons

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Manoah & Being an Accommodating Parent

From the time our kids are very small, they are taught the life of Samson. He is depicted as the strongman of the Bible, and his feats of strength are truly remarkable.

Even before he was born, Samson was chosen by God for a special purpose. He was to be a Nazirite from birth, which was unheard of, and he was not just to have a month-long Nazirite vow, but he was to live under the stipulations of the Nazirite.

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We know Samson’s ultimate downfall was his propensity toward ungodly women. As a man, he alone is guilty for his unwise decisions in that area.

But I wonder if his father, Manoah, didn’t play at least a part in Samson’s downward spiral, and in so doing, provide a strong warning to parents today.

Judges 14 begins:

Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of  your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go and take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” (Judges 14:1-3)

We might fault Manoah at this point for not being strong in his rebuke of Samson, but he is speaking truth into the life of his son so far.

We do not know what caused Manoah to cave in, but Samson eventually marries this foreign, pagan woman. Verse 9 tells us that, while they were traveling to Timnah, Samson’s father and mother were with him. Considering the culture of the time, they had to agree to his wedding.

Further, verse 10 tells us that Manoah was present during the wedding feast. “[Samson’s] father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do.” It would be quite some time, but this flaw in Samson would eventually lead him to the duplicitous arms of Delilah, who proved to be his downfall.

Manoah was supposed to be the leader of this household. He had spoken to the angel of the Lord about the birth of this special boy, and knew that God would use Samson. Yet, when Samson wanted something, it seems that he got it.

Maybe it was because Samson was so special. Sometimes, we can struggle to say “no” to a child who shows a real propensity for some area of life. If he can throw a football 60 yards, how can we possibly keep him off the practice field for the Gospel Meeting? If she can be valedictorian with just a little more study time, why does she “have to” go to the youth retreat?

Manoah serves as a powerful warning to parents, though. Did you notice that it went beyond just avoiding saying “no?” It went beyond simply being an accommodating parent.

By the time of the wedding feast, Manoah is right there. By his presence at the feast, he is showing his support of something he knows isn’t right.

When it comes to family, it can get very difficult to avoid doing that.

“I used to think that homosexuality was wrong, but my son is happier in that lifestyle.”

“Matthew 19:9 has a whole different meaning to me now, because my daughter is truly happy with her new husband.”

“We don’t use instruments where I worship, but my son is just using his talents across town to express himself in their worship.”

Maybe it shouldn’t be so remarkable, but I am amazed at how often I have heard Christians say such things, or read their thoughts online or in notes. The pull of the child overtakes the power of the Gospel. What started as a small thing where we “gave in” becomes us approving of sinful actions, just because it is our child.

Let’s learn the lesson of Manoah, and learn to say “no” right from the start.

QUESTION: What are some ways to avoid Manoah’s “accommodating parent” mistake? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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NOTE: The idea for this post came from the book Bad Dads of the Bible, chapter 7.

Photo credit: Zeevveez on Creative commons

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Where the Grass Doesn’t Grow : Why I Don’t Mind One Part of Our Yard Being Trampled

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We are not too particular about our yard. I’ve never seeded my lawn, and I always mow in the same pattern, which I know isn’t perfect for the grass. That said, we do try to keep our yard trimmed and we do care if it is presentable.

Well, most of it, that is.

You see, there is a small area of our yard where I’m not sure we will ever have grass. The space is only about 5 or 6 feet wide, but it contains two areas of nothing but compacted dirt. Looking across our back yard, it stands out like a sore thumb. Brown patches with no growth right in the middle of a green lawn.

But I don’t mind one bit.

Why? Because it’s where the feet of our children stomp, scrape, and trample when they are on the swing set. Countless mental images are burned into my mind where those two brown patches are, and those images are worth more to me than a perfect and lush lawn.

You may not care about your lawn very much (or even less than we do), but maybe for you it’s a favorite TV show, sporting event, flower bed, veggie garden, or something else. The kids can just ruin it for you, but you don’t mind. It’s okay to be interrupted during the game, isn’t it? That prize tomato may not grow back, but is it that important?

I don’t for a minute believe that kids should just have free reign and be able to destroy things with no consequences. But part of parenting is realizing that some things in our lives are not going to be as “perfect” or “in place” as we might like, because they just aren’t as important as our precious children.

Yes, they will get in the way at times, and our nerves are often frazzled. But that’s part of parenting.

One of these days, grass will grow in those brown spots. We will look out across that back yard and see nice, lush, green grass from the back of the house all the way to the planting beds and fence across the way. It will be beautiful.

But it won’t be the same.

God,

Thank you for the little spaces of compacted dirt where we see our children play. Help us to love them in spite of the times they cause something to not be as beautiful or nice as it could be, because they are far more valuable and beautiful.

In Jesus name,

Amen

QUESTION: What is something your children interrupt or “hurt,” but that you wouldn’t trade for anything?

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Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin, and “Conscious Uncoupling”

On the online celebrity newsletter Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin recently announced that their marriage was ending. That might not be too surprising, considering how often we hear of weddings and separations among the celebrity world.conscious uncoupling

The way in which their split was announced, however, has raised some eyebrows. You see, they aren’t calling it a “divorce.” Instead, it is being called a “Conscious Uncoupling.”

On the Goop newsletter, Paltrow and Martin provided a short statement to fans about this “conscious uncoupling,” and provided fans with some words of thanks.

Following that, however, there was a rather lengthy essay by Drs. Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami about the concept of “conscious uncoupling.” To say it is quite different from anything I’ve ever seen is a grand understatement.

These two doctors, well known for their New Age concepts, state that what Paltrow and Martin have done is simply an outgrowth of (are you ready for it?) human evolution.

They state:

During the upper Paleolithic period of human history (roughly 50,000BC to 10,000BC) the average human life expectancy at birth was 33. By 1900, U.S. life expectancy was only 46 for men, and 48 for women. Today, it’s 76 and 81 respectively. During the 52,000 years between our Paleolithic ancestors and the dawn of the 20th Century, life expectancy rose just 15 years. In the last 114 years, it’s increased by 43 years for men, and 48 years for women.

Based upon that, they ask the question, “What does this have to do with divorce rates?”

Get ready for this answer:

For the vast majority of history, humans lived relatively short lives—and accordingly, they weren’t in relationships with the same person for 25 to 50 years. Modern society adheres to the concept that marriage should be lifelong; but when we’re living three lifetimes compared to early humans, perhaps we need to redefine the construct. Social research suggests that because we’re living so long, most people will have two or three significant long-term relationships in their lifetime.

That’s right: you and I simply have evolved to the point where we live too long to expect to stay married “til death do us part!”

Further in their essay, they speak to the idea that couples say they are going to remain together, “but then reality sets in.” It is that “reality”–things like children, unmet needs, etc.–that should cause us to not feel shame when we “uncouple” in a “conscious” manner. These two doctors actually state, “The idea of being married to one person for life is too much pressure for anyone.”

Too much pressure?

So, I guess the pressure of being married for a lifetime got to Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, and it was just too much. Thankfully, they can find New Age/evolutionary “proof” that this separation is just part of human development, and they can simply uncouple.

When you remove God…

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Sources and Further Reading

“Conscious Uncoupling” (Goop.com)

“‘Conscious Uncoupling’ : Gwyneth Paltrow Explores Spiritual Side of Divorce on Goop” (New York Daily News)

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Photo background credit: Mickael Plichard on Creative Commons

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Dealing with Anorexia : Thoughts from One Who Prays

I will not use their names, but in the past few years, I have known two young ladies who have battled anorexia nervosa. This post is dedicated to those two girls, and is written by someone who wasn’t as close as he should have been, but who continues to pray for them as they battle. Please accept this post as trying to raise awareness and helping us all work together to do what we can to help those battling anorexia nervosa.

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We live in an image-obsessed society. The constant barrage of what is “perfect” is ever before our eyes. None of us measures up to the computer-enhanced, airbrushed, “perfect” image, no matter what we might try. And, no matter how much we know that what is portrayed as “perfect” really isn’t, we are barraged by that message on an almost constant basis.

For some, this search to conform to the “perfect” image leads down a very dangerous path. Eating disorders develop for many, including anorexia nervosa. Out of every 10 cases of anorexia nervosa (hereafter, simply called “anorexia”), nine will be female. While there are other similar disorders that people battle in this search for “perfection,” we are going to restrict our thoughts in this post to anorexia, since I have known these two young ladies.

Anorexia is a serious disorder, and though we don’t seem to hear about it as much as we did a few years ago, it is still very real. It is nearly impossible to get accurate statistics, since so many cases go unreported (or untreated), but between 1% and 4.2% of all American women will suffer from this disorder at some point in their lifetime. They will severely restrict what they eat, and then will often exercise in almost extreme ways. Some will then “binge” on things like diet pills, because they know their body needs something for energy. A few will “purge” what they do eat, severely restricting the levels of nutrition their bodies actually get. Early warning signs can include headaches and extreme mood swings, but there are other effects, as well.

What can be done to help? Again, speaking solely as an outsider, but one who has a heart that cares, let me offer 8 suggestions that will at least help us think about how we can help those, both in our families and out, to prevent or battle anorexia.

1. Stop Making Fun of People’s Weight. If our children constantly hear us talking about how heavy someone is, they will not want to have “that” image. Mom and dad, what we say about others (not just about our own kids) has a bearing on how our children look at themselves. Children usually want to please their parents, so why would they want to be overweight (even if it isn’t “over” weight) when mom and dad poke fun at those who are that way?

2. Emphasize the Whole Person. We have to battle against a society that speaks only to body image. It is up to us to build into our children the view that their body is important, but so is their mind, their soul, and their social grace. If we only talk about one without speaking to the importance of them all, we are not teaching the balance necessary to our kids.

3. Watch How (and How Often) You Talk about Your Own Weight. Moms, your daughter does not need to hear you use the word “fat” very often, especially when you are anything but obese! Dads, if your child hears you constantly harp on your physical condition (good or bad) with no reference to other parts of who you are, they could develop a serious obsession.

4. Start Young (or Now) with Good, Balanced Eating/Exercise Habits. Dieting is not wrong, nor is being in good shape. Teach your kids healthy eating, but also show them that it is okay to splurge on some junk food every once in a while. Make them go outside and play to get some exercise, but also let them know it’s okay to just hang out sometimes, too. Don’t obsess over eating healthy, but teach that these are wise choices overall. (Then, don’t feel bad for having a brownie for dessert.)

5. Restrict the Media Intake. The “perfect” look is all around our kids. Walk down a mall corridor or drive by some billboards and you’ll see it. We also know it is all over our TV programs, movies, and online sites. We must restrict how much of that message our children are getting through constant exposure to the “allure” of celebrity. And it doesn’t have to be immodest stuff. Just the constant feeding of “the look” into their minds can fuel a serious self-doubt.

6. Keep Communication Open. Communication should be obvious. Too often, though, parents may suspect something is wrong, but will not probe for fear of what they might find out (or because “my kid would never do that”). While there is no way these conversations will be easy, parents need to allow their children to talk about anything openly and to help in any way they can.

7. Get Help. Anorexia is not a battle that can be won alone. Those who battle do so valiantly, but they need help, both professionally and in general support. It may embarrass someone to admit they struggle, but the more help they get, the more likely they are to battle forward.

8. Pray, Generally and Specifically. Generally, pray for anyone who suffers or who is going the way that leads to these types of disorders. Even if you don’t know anyone with anorexia, pray for those who suffer silently and who are not getting the help they severely need. Obviously, if you know someone who is battling, take their name before God’s throne often. Think of them in your silent prayers and take their needs to the Lord.

Anorexia, along with other eating disorders, is life-altering. It can really hurt not only the one battling through, but those around him or her. But it is a battle over more than just food. It is a battle to teach that the whole person is what is important.

If you are suffering, you are important, and we are praying for you. If you are suffering in silence, please seek help.

COMMENTS: What are your suggestions for helping those who battle anorexia? Leave them in the comments below.

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Photo background credit: Tanakawho on Creative Commons

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The Hardest Part of Proverbs 22:6 : How Not to Live Through Your Child

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Every child is different. If you don’t believe that, you either don’t have kids or you have only one. It is remarkable how two kids, raising in the same house, can be so different.

But that’s the way God made children. Each one has a certain set of gifts and talents, which are often quite divergent. To use an old word, each one has a certain “bent.”

Sometimes, the “bent” of our children, though, is not the same as one–or both–of the parents, and that can lead to a parenting dilemma.

Proverbs 22:6 is probably the most well-known verse for parents in Scripture. Whether we are aware of it or not, that verse speaks to this idea of the “bent” of our children. Here is that verse from several translations:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
(NIV)

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. (NKJV)

Point your kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost. (The Message)

So, where is the idea of the “bent” of our child in Proverbs 22:6?

It is in the hardest part of the verse to follow: “the way he should go.”

What makes that part of Proverbs 22:6 hard? It’s hard because doesn’t say, “The way I want him to go,” or “The way I feel is best for him.”

Maybe even harder, though, is that it doesn’t say, “The way I wanted to go.”

Ouch.

Obviously, we are not talking about religious training. There is only one way (John 14:6) and that is the way of God through Christ Jesus.

Instead, we are talking about the unique “bent” of your child. Far too many parents want to “bend” their children to be what they were successful at, or (maybe worse) what they were not. Proverbs 22:6 is strictly and clearly telling us not to try to live through our children.

For example, I love sports, and I loved them even more when I was younger. I just don’t have the time to follow them as closely as I used to, but I still greatly love them. I played basketball (my favorite), baseball, soccer, and ran track at various points while I was growing up. I wasn’t very good at any of them, but always enjoyed sports.

Neither of my kids has played a single organized sport yet. They may one day, and we have talked about it, but neither of them shows any interest in any sport.

So, why don’t we just sign them up anyway and make them practice for hours each day to feel some sense of accomplishment in something daddy loved? Because that’s not how they are “bent,” at least at this point in their lives.

Too many dads who never made it to the big leagues try to force their 5 or 6 year old boys to practice for hour after hour. The son may love sports, but he is still just a little boy. He may only want to play for a few minutes, and then move on to something else. What’s so bad about that?

Too many moms never won the big beauty pageant, so they doll up their little girls (and don’t get me started on the “preferred look” in these contests!) when they are tiny, and put them in every contest imaginable, even if the girl is bored with it. Why? Because mom wants to win.

These are just two examples, but we can all think of a hundred more. God has especially wired your child to express himself or herself in a unique way, and that way could change over time. Maybe my artistic son will love to shoot hoops one day, or maybe he’ll pick up piano. Maybe my doll-playing little girl will want to pick up a softball glove one day, or maybe she’ll love to volunteer at the hospital.

Are sports wrong for kids? No, but not every kid is “bent” that way. Are piano lessons or academic tutors wrong for children? Nope, but again, your kid may not have that “bent.”

The key is to take whatever their “bent” is and bend it toward God.

How can that child best express their faith in the Lord on the ball field? In their art? While playing with friends? While volunteering or doing service projects?

I need to remind myself as a parent, God told me to notice the “bent” of my children and point them in that direction, while always pointing their feet toward Him.

Let’s stop trying to live through our children, and let’s make sure Proverbs 22:6 applies to our children, so that, when they are old, they are still using their “bent” to praise the Lord and win others for Him.

QUESTION: What are some tips for parents on how to avoid living through our children, while helping them discover their unique “bent?” Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Photo credit: Bob on Creative Commons

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To My Son, On His 7th Birthday

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Turner,

I know exactly where I was seven years ago today. I also know exactly how nervous I was, for a lot of reasons.

Now, seven years later, I’m still nervous, and for some of the same reasons. The main reason, though, is that I continue to pray that you will grow up to be a strong, faithful, Christian man, and I know that the example of that rests on me. Too often, buddy, I let you down in my example.

You are growing up so, so fast. I know that you are meant to grow, but this past year we have seen so much change in you. It is clear to everyone that you are growing physically. That’s impossible to miss, especially when we have to buy clothes!

But you are also growing in more important ways. Intellectually, you are brilliant. It is remarkable how much you remember, and your curiosity–while it can get on our nerves at times–it contagious. We are also seeing you mature in your social life. While you still hate to lose (I do, too) and don’t like it when you don’t get your own way (who does?), we are seeing you get control of yourself. For that, we are so proud. You have really worked hard, and we pray that you will continue to do so.

I am also so proud of your manners. While all your manners aren’t perfect, I am proud of how you remember to say “ma’am” to your mother more often, and you are getting so good at saying “please” and “thank you” at various times. You are better at obeying mommy and daddy without complaining. We still have a ways to go, but your growth in this area is great, and we are so proud.

You are fast becoming our family’s artist. You love to draw, create, build, and make music; and you are really, really good at it. Your gifts may just be there. If they are, I pray you always use that love of creativity to glorify God through your creations. If your gifts are somewhere else, and this is just a phase, I hope you enjoy the journey!

Nearly every night when you and I say our prayers, you know that I pray that I’m so thankful that you are my son and that I’m your daddy. Turner, those aren’t empty prayers. God blesses us all the time, but He went out of His way when He brought you into our lives. He is so good to our family, and you are an irreplaceable part of that family.

Seven years. Some say that seven is the lucky number. In our case, though, I think it is a blessed number, because we are blessed by 7 years with a wonderful son.

And, as I do each day, I’ll keep praying for many more.

I love you.

Daddy

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Slow Down and Cherish the Moments

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In Jeff Goins’s book The In-Between, he tells this short story that really struck me upon reading it recently:

The other day, I went outside to sit on my back porch, leaving my phone in the house. As I rocked my son to sleep, I looked to my left and saw a huge cumulus cloud growing in the sky. Every second as I watched, it grew, marshmallowing into a great, big cotton ball in the sky. My first inclination was to run inside, grab my phone, and snap a photo. To capture the memory and share it with friends. But some internal urge prevented me from doing so. Resisting the compulsion to capture the moment, I instead chose a different route: to appreciate it. Sitting there and allowing the scene to take me, I knew there was something sacred in that moment, something special and important about being there. (1)

As I said, when I read that paragraph, it really struck me. I made me look within myself and consider my family. Probably, the simple fact that Goins was rocking his son when this happened resonated with me, since it spoke to a moment with part of his family.

There are many times when something happens and it is beautiful, exciting, funny, silly, or sad. Maybe one of our kids makes a super silly face. Maybe we see a pretty mountain while on vacation. Maybe a child learns to crawl, or creates a cool drawing.

What is our first reaction? Often, it is to do just what Jeff wrote in his story. We want to grab our smartphone, snap a photo, and start sharing it across social media.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, and some of that can be good. It allows others to see something that connects them with your family, and sometimes provides a smile for their day, too.

But as I read the story, it made me think: is that my first reaction?

Instead, should there not be a desire within me to enjoy the moment–the beauty, the laughs, the tears, the joy–by just being present? By just admiring? By just feeling? By just appreciating?

And, in so doing, should I not find joy in connecting with my family, instead of immediately trying to connect a picture to Facebook friends or Twitter or Instagram followers? Should I not find joy in just…being?

Don’t get me wrong: you’ll still see pictures of the family on social media from time-to-time. There will always be things we want to share, and we hope the pictures or quotes give you reason to smile.

All I’m saying is that I want this to not be the primary reaction to a moment in life that I could be simply slowing down and cherishing. Instead, I want it to be secondary (at most) to the moment, to the people in the family moments, and to the God who makes them possible.

QUESTION: What are some family moments that you just slowed down and cherished, and you are thankful you did? Share some memories in the comments!

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(1) Jeff Goins, The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing(page 25)

Photo credit: Russell James Smith on Creative Commons

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“I’m Drawing a Blank” : Evangelism in a Fatherless Society

In 2005 Elizabeth Marquardt and Norval Glenn wrote a book entitled Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. I have not read the volume, but have seen it referenced in a few places, including a book I am currently reading.

Tired Man Sitting on Bed

One of the portions of that book that is cited and makes me well up with tears is the story of when the two writers asked some of the subjects to talk about the idea of God as a parent, specifically as a Father. They asked a man–an adult now–named Will to talk about God as a parent, and this is what they report:

Will was mystified by the question. He had been angry at his father for years because of the way he treated Will’s mother. When I asked Will if god is like a father or parent he looked puzzled. “Yeah, I think a father is somebody who is  your last string of hope,” he said slowly. “He’ll watch over you, make sure everything is going to be okay.” Then his voice faltered and  he looked down at his hands in his lap. “I’m drawing a blank,” he said. “I’m just drawing a blank.” (1)

If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, I’m not sure what would. Here was a adult who could not articulate what the concept of “father” really meant for this simple reason: he had never really seen it.

Oh, Will had seen someone who wore the title; who had the role. A male was in the home, at least for some of the time he was a boy.

But this man, now with the intellect of an adult, could not put the pictures together of what God as “Father” really was supposed to mean.

We live in a society that is growing more fatherless by the day. When I was younger, I would often hear statistics about how certain minorities faced a real problem of fatherless homes. We need to realize that it isn’t just any particular ethnic group or area of the country any longer. This problem is spread throughout our nation, as children are being raised in homes where dad just isn’t around.

In 2011, a US Census report stated that 36% of all women who gave birth in the previous year were unmarried. So, these children don’t really have a mother-father relationship in the home from the start. Add in divorce and death, and the number of children being raised by single parents in our nation is staggering. 26% of all children under the age of 21–that is, fully 22 million kids–are being raised in single-parent homes. Of that number, over 82% are being raised by a single mom; in other words, the full picture of what a “father” is to be is not present in the home for a startling number of children.

Now, before getting to my conclusion, let me praise you who are single parents. I know a lot of single moms (and some single dads), and you are doing tremendous work! I pray for you often, and you are heroic to your children. You can do it! Keep it up!

That said, I want us to think about our role as Christians. It is hard enough to reach people for the Lord. Throughout history, the difficulty of evangelism has been talked about. While difficulty is never an excuse to give up, it is appropriate to speak of struggles as being real.

Men, how much harder are we making it when we are leaving children with no idea of how to connect the picture of “God” and “Father,” because we have left? The first “father” a child knows is daddy. As has been said countless times, that realization alone should make every dad shudder. A child is learning his/her picture of God from us and how we act.

Will the child get the idea that, when things get rough, God leaves? After all, “father” did.

Will the child get the idea that God just checks in every few weeks or sends a little money to help make ends meet? After all, that’s what “father” does.

Will the child get the idea that God can only be visited every few weekends or on certain holidays? After all, that’s when they see “father.”

I know those questions might sting a bit, but they should. We who have the role of a father in the home need to realize that we are helping–or hurting–our children in connecting the dots of what a father really is. Then, when the learn about God being a Father…what kind of dots have we connected?

Have we made evangelizing our children easier or far more difficult by how we wear the name “father?”

Dads, it’s time we realized that we don’t want our children drawing a blank. Let’s build into them as strong and good of a picture of God as Father as we can. Though we are imperfect, we can still try.

Will you?

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(1) quoted in How the West Really Lost God (Mary Eberstadt, page 161)

Photo credit: Mic445 on Creative Commons

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“Before Your Kids Eyes” : 6 Things Your Kids Need to See You Do Daily

Children learn in every possible way. From the smallest of ages, they are soaking up information from those they love. (Don’t believe me? Take 61 seconds and watch this video from a recent college basketball game.)

before kids eyes

As they grow, they learn to read, and they take in information from the media, from books, and from peers. But kids will continue to take in information from their parents. Kids really get their worldview from how mom and dad act daily.

Knowing that, I challenge every mom and dad to think about what your kids are seeing from you toward each other. I’m not asking you to be hypocritical, but you know that the eyes of your children are gathering information all the time. What are they seeing?

Every day, make sure they see these six things.

1. Speak Well of Each Other. Your kids need to know that mommy and daddy, though they may disagree at times, still hold one another in high esteem. Your kids should never hear you “run down” your spouse, but should hear regular and strong affirmations of their mom and dad. Sincere compliments and words of encouragement don’t just build up your spouse, they provide strength for the children.

2. Be (Appropriately) Romantic. No child wants to see mom and dad “all over” one another, but kids feel secure when they know that their parents are really in love. Your kids need to see you hug. They need to see you stare into one another’s eyes. Yes, they need to see a goodbye smooch! (Don’t take it too far, and you know what “too far” is.) Your children, especially as they grow older, may act like it’s gross, but inside they actually are thankful that their parents really love one another.

3. Say “I Love You.” This may seem repetitive, but it helps a child see that mom and dad are not just about the romance, but the actions (hugs, kisses, etc.) are based upon something deeper. I believe your kids need to hear mom and dad say these words a lot. In a world that doesn’t know what love really is, your kids can be assured that mom and dad understand.

4. Talk Up Christ and His Church. Too many parents spend mealtime talking down everyone and everything, and that includes their brothers and sisters in Christ. Why, then, would we be surprised when our children don’t want to go to church any longer? Instead, find something good every day to say about a fellow Christian or about a program at church.

5. Pray. There may be no more beautiful picture than a family with their heads all bowed as their thoughts are going before the throne of God. This does not just need to be a dad OR mom thing, however. Your kids need to see both of you praying to the heavenly Father. It will instill in them the knowledge that you really believe in God and fully trust Him with your life.

6. Serve One Another. Find something every day that shows how to serve. Maybe dad helps with the dishes tonight, or maybe mom gives the kids their bath. It could be that dad just takes the kids out of the house for a couple of hours or that mom cooks daddy’s favorite supper. Your kids need to see this service. Talk it up, not to your own glory, but so they grasp the significance of serving others.

What you do toward your spouse makes a world of difference to your children. How are your kids seeing you interact with your spouse?

QUESTION: What would you add? What are some other things your kids need to see from mom and dad every day? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Photo background credit: Shelah on Creative Commons

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