On Teaching Them To Soar

It’s Friday morning, my day off, and I’m sitting outside at Rembrandt’s, one of my favorite spots in Chattanooga.  The temperature has finally dropped below 90, the birds are singing and a breeze is gently blowing.  The coffee is hot and it’s a great time to reflect on things flowing through my mind.

You can see the dad just above my screen.
You can see the dad just above my screen.

As I sit here, there is conversation going on all around me.  Most of it I don’t hear, or at least don’t comprehend, but there is one family sitting at one of the tables closest to me that I can’t help but notice.  It’s a middle-aged couple sitting with a young man having coffee together.

After a couple of minutes, it becomes clear the young man is preparing to begin college and the parents are preparing to say goodbye.  I don’t know where they are from, but it’s clear they don’t live here.  There is a sense of excitement in the conversation, especially as the young man is talking about this new chapter in life, but overshadowing that are clearly mixed emotions lingering softly over the table.  It’s something that I’m beginning to instinctively pick up on.  Perhaps that’s why I can’t pull my attention away from them.

As the mother gets up to go inside, it’s time for Dad to encourage his son to “call your mother at least every Sunday. She needs to know that you’re thinking about her.”  I find it interesting that he only said call your mother because a few minutes later when the boy also went inside for one reason or another, I could have sworn I saw the glimmer of a tear in his eyes.  Unmistakably, there was pain on his face.

It’s hard to deal with…children growing up and moving through stage after stage of life.  It seems as though we don’t have time to adjust to one that they’re already moving into the next, one series of painful joys after another.

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Look snazzy for picture day.

Maybe I’m thinking so much about this because I’m moving through yet another with Jacob.  For the last two days, I’ve ridden to his new school with him…in his own car…driving.  Wow, how could this little boy already be at this stage of life!  Somewhere along the line I blinked and found he is not so little anymore.  As he, himself, pointed out yesterday morning with a smile as he tied his shoes on the steps getting ready to leave for the first time in his own car: “Wow, Dad.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were teaching me how to tie my shoes.”  Now, I’m teaching him how to drive on his own.

I can’t even write this without feeling the lump in my throat.  With every passing day, I’m experiencing the series of heart-aches I know my own parents went through, usually without my ever being in tune with enough to make it easier for them.  Heart-ache that never really goes away.  How could it?  Your kids are always your kids.

So, it’s the mist of mixed emotions gently floating above that table that I identify with.  It’s painful to think of your kids growing up so fast, but it’s so amazingly gratifying to observe…and maybe even play a small part in…the development of their wings.  I’m so grateful to God for giving me two wonderful, talented and loving boys and the privilege to pour my life into and do all I can, through His power, to instruct them and nurture them, to correct them and train them in learning how to fly.

Boys Will Can’t Be Boys

As the father of two active boys, I need to remind myself regularly of the truth that is found in the following video.

Boys are not like girls and it’s past time we stop treating them in the same way with the same expectations. Boys tend to be more active, sillier and LOUDER.  That’s not abnormal and attempts to medicate away or stifle normal boyish behavior is incredibly detrimental to our kids.  Yes, I understand and agree there are circumstances in which medication is appropriate, but I’m certain not nearly as often as it is used.  Age and maturity will usually take care of most of those problems in due time.

Maybe, like me, you’ve fallen into the trap of placing unrealistic expectations on your boys from time-to-time.  I believe we need to re-think how we’re treating our boys and how we can let them be boys while still maintaining reasonable expectations for their general behavior (and we must be honest that we sometimes fail miserably at the latter, as well).

Our goal for our boys is that they grow up to be strong, godly gentlemen.  It is impossible for that to happen if I do not allow them to run a lot, climb trees, explore, wrestle, fall (repeatedly), make noise and make mistakes, all the while teaching them what they did wrong and how to avoid the same results again without crushing their spirit because they made them in the first place!  I have failed at that more than once, which has given me the opportunity to show them what repentance looks like.  By now they should have a thorough understanding of that concept!

Boys aren’t girls.

They mature slower and learn differently.  My neighbor, who is an elementary school teacher, told me just last week that modern-day schools aren’t designed for the learning styles of boys.  They tend to be most conducive to girls.  When I asked why, she stated almost the exact same things that I heard in this video. She said they don’t allow enough time for kids to play and exert pent-up energy, they expect quiet all the time (which is nearly impossible when the former is not provided for) and punish them when they can’t.  I’m starting to understand this as my youngest bundle of talkative energy does much better after he’s unloaded a couple thousand kilowatts.  Most of the time, he doesn’t get that opportunity at school.

Will the situation change?

I don’t know, but let’s start the conversation with each other and with our teaching professionals and see.  I agree with Ms. Sommers that something needs to change in our expectations and practices in teaching children and unless we are prepared to address it, we’ll continue to see mal-adjusted young men failing to reach their God-given potential because we failed to help them do so in a way in which they understand.  We (and their teachers!) need to learn to “speak their language.”  When we do, I think we’ll start seeing little, immature boys becoming young, mature men, ready to meet the challenges of life with confidence and intelligence.  If that happens, we will all benefit…but perhaps, especially, our little girls!

Feel free to share your reaction to the video or your own story and thoughts on raising healthy boys.

Taking Heart

“Take heart.” Since I preached on this Sunday at The Gathering, I’v been thinking about what this means, and what this means to me. One is objective and the second is more subjective…how it changes me. Last night, I posted a quote from the message Sunday on Twitter and Facebook. It was the part where I said, “Take heart! In the middle of your suffering, take heart. In the midst of your pain, take heart. When the storm is blowing all around you and you can’t see beyond the wind-swept sea, take heart! The Great I Am has overcome!”

As soon as I hit “Send,” I went downstairs and met Karen with a troubled look on her face. She said that Andrew had broken out in a rash all over his body and his face was swollen–symptoms listed under the category “rare but dangerous side effects” on the insert that came with the medicine. My comfort level immediately dropped, as well. What were the next few hours about to bring? We called the doctor on call and waited nervously for the phone to ring, watching for any changes or developments in Andrew’s condition. I headed upstairs to get dressed, certain we would be making a trip to the E.R.

When I got upstairs, I walked into the bathroom, glanced in the mirror and it hit me…take heart. I had just written those words multiple times not ten minutes earlier. Was a storm coming? Would something happen that would rock my world? I couldn’t know at that point. What I could determine was whether or not I was going to take heart. Did I really believe what I had written? Did I believe that the Great I Am was there and had this under control? Would He comfort His children? I could not leave that room…I couldn’t walk away from that mirror…until I had determined the answer.

Before long, I walked down the stairs back to where my family was. Concern for my son was still present, but it was only what Andrew might have to deal with in the next few hours. My confidence in the Great I Am was secure. As we talked to the doctor and it was confirmed that he needed to be seen immediately, we headed down to T.C. Thompson Children’s Urgent Care at a relatively elevated rate of speed, but a confidence, nonetheless, that God was going to take care of this. Andrew was going to be fine, regardless of what the next hours looked like.

It turned out that Andrew was fine. Everything checked out fine and the rash and swelling turned out to be related to the Strep rather than the meds…but what would have happened had everything not gone so well? How would we have responded? Honestly, I don’t know. I hope to never know. What I do know is, the grace of God would have met us wherever we ended up. Power and peace would have been provided and, though the storm may have been allowed to blow wild, there would have been peace as He comforted His child.

Taking heart doesn’t mean we don’t suffer, we don’t hurt, we don’t grieve and we don’t cry. It means that in the middle of it, God’s presence is there to provide the peace and strength to ultimately take heart!

A Super Saturday

Great morning leading a discussion in one of our Institute classes. It’s such a privilege for me to participate, much more lead a group like that. I love seeing the growth that’s happening as a result.

Late this afternoon, Jacob and I went for a run together at the campground at Chester Frost Park. Actually just got back. I really enjoyed spending time with him and finishing our 2.5 mile run together. It wasn’t easy, though. It’s the first time I’ve run since shoulder surgery on August 25. Went better than I thought, but not sure you would know that from the pic.

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I think we’re going to relax on this incredible Fall evening by a campfire in the backyard. Love this time of year!

Video: The Calling of Parenthood

Sunday, I dealt with very touchy issues related to parenting at The Gathering. These included the challenges of parenting and the pain that comes from the inability to have children, along with the dangers of engaging in extraordinary means of impregnation, such as IVF.

My goal was to deal with these issues from a biblical, rather than an emotional perspective. Below is the video of that message. The length of the video is because we included child dedication and special prayer for various groups within the sermon time. I hope it’s a blessing and encouragement to you. Feel free to leave feedback or questions.

The Gathering Chattanooga 05-12-13 – Sermon from The Gathering on Vimeo.

Children and Salvation: Is It Ever Too Early?

20130516-084844.jpgMy six-year old was saved Monday.

Well, at least that’s what he told me when he came home from school. As it turns out, a children’s ministry from a local church holds a voluntary Bible club with the kids after school every so often and so, during that time, the salvation bracelet was given to the kids and the Gospel was shared.

I must be quick to say, I am grateful for such a ministry! That a sister church would have such a ministry to our children is both commendable and appreciated. However, my wife and I were more than a bit troubled when Andrew came in declaring, “I’m saved!”

As it turns out, the children were not only explained the Gospel, they were led through a “Sinner’s Prayer” to ask Jesus into their heart. That’s the prayer that is found in, uh…is it John?…Matthew? Hmm…now that I think about it, not sure I’ve ever actually read it***. Anyway , my son is one of those who prayed the prayer.

My concern is in knowing how easy it is to get kids to say the words you want them to say whether or not they understand it or believe it. Because of this fact, my wife and I have been very intentional in talking with our children about the Gospel, praying over them, and leading them down a path that would provide them with ample opportunity to be exposed to Truth and, hopefully, real transformation. Ah, transformation. There’s that word that is often missing in many people’s idea of salvation. Too often, it’s all about having a minimal understanding of the truth…enough to get you to say those words and you’re in. Often, though, you’re not.

An encounter with Christ is about transformation, is it not? For someone who believes that regeneration must proceed confession (Ephesians 2), getting a child to say mere words is troubling, if not terrifying. Now, my son potentially has grounds for actually ignoring a real, inner Gospel call because he’s already “prayed the prayer”. He’s already rubbed the lamp and said the magic words. He’s in.

Is he?

Maybe he is. We will watch and see, talk with him and pray over him. If so, I will celebrate like nobody’s business. If he’s not, things may have gotten more complicated than they need have.

A better alternative?

I think there is one. I believe a better approach would have been for the minister to share the Gospel and then, if there are children who are curious or express interest, stop there and contact the parents. Let them know their child is interested in knowing more about the saving work of Jesus. Then go from there. This is a voluntary club, so the kids are there because the parents want their kids there.  Perhaps the parents want the minister to help them in talking with their child. Perhaps, like us, while appreciating this children’s ministry, they would prefer to wait a little longer on asking for some decision. Instead, they plowed right through and I got a call Tuesday letting me know what happened the day before. A little late.

Frankly, discerning the spiritual condition of a child is difficult. That’s the key, though…discerning. It takes time to watch and listen to the child in order to discern whether there is a legitimate working of the Holy Spirit of God rather than a desire to have a cool bracelet and get dunked in the pool. Some will disagree with me. There was a time in my life I probably would have, too. Belief in a Sovereign God, however, leads me away from pushing my children through the door of salvation. It’s the only thing that gives me peace now as we watch and wait, patient to let the Holy Spirit do His work, realizing that work is not mine.

I came across a helpful article this week about this very thing entitled, How do we discern the spiritual conversion of children. It offers some advice for parents and ministers in helping children rightly understand the things of God. Hope it helps.

***Scripture is clear that we are to repent. Certainly, that involves prayer, but there is nothing that I have found in Scripture where we are to “ask Jesus into our hearts.” Romans 10:13 and Acts 2:21 say we are to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. Though often cited as grounds for that particular brand of the Sinner’s Prayer, I don’t believe that’s ample grounds for establishing that as  a step to salvation. I call on His name in repentance.  Splitting hairs? I don’t think so. The biblical mandate for salvation is simply “repent and believe.” (Mark 1:15, Romans 3:20, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 17:30, 26:20). We find nothing beyond this actually in Scripture.  Is it necessary to add a non-biblical step to what Scripture has commanded? Belief involves trust. Trust and repentance are followed by actions. (Jesus even warned that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter into the Kingdom, but He who DOES the will of the Father. John 10:10). That should be enough. Anything more is fertile ground for providing a false sense of security (“I asked Jesus into my heart. Regardless of what I do, I’m secure.”) When the answer to that question is the basis upon which we determine the security of a person, we’re walking on shaky ground.

Milestones

Everybody knows “how time flies.” It’s the inevitable part of life and, the older you get, the faster it goes. On the eve of my 45th birthday, I’m struck again with that fact. Yes, time does fly and it does, indeed, go faster every single year.

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I was reflecting on this yesterday while Jacob was getting his braces put on. Afterward, as we were at Steak n Shake drinking the first of many milkshakes in his future, I pointed out to him how that was one of those milestones. He thought about it for half a second and gave a cursory shrug of the shoulders. No big deal right now. Oh, how that will change.

To me, Jacob getting braces was a big deal (and not just because of the big price tag). It was a big deal because it was just another little punch to the gut that my boy is growing up. Of course, there are many of you who have not only crossed this milestone but many more that I will, by God’s grace, cross as well with both of my children, but none of them are easy and all are mixed with incredible joy.

Time goes fast, but never so fast that the moments can’t be enjoyed. Though they pass in an instant, God’s grace gives us the ability to thoroughly enjoy them if we focus on them, give them the time and attention that we deserve and are fully present in the moments. Make sure you are investing in the moments that count. If you do, they will be the vivid memories that define a life well-lived, giving you years of enjoyment as you reflect back on all that God has done and will build a legacy for those who follow you to build their own lives upon and enjoy their own milestones.

Shai Linne’s Fal$e Teachers

shailinneMy twelve year-old son, Jacob, has taken to hip-hop music.  Now, if you’re like me, the revelation that your son likes hip-hop can be a bit concerning.  I certainly don’t need to mention the fact that most hip-hop music is angry, often violent young men spewing their anger and violence out lyrically.  Much of it simply leads to angry, violent young listeners.  Then I found out what it was that Jacob was listening to.

It turns out that he has become a big fan of Lacrae.  Now, I had heard a guy engaging in “Lyrical Theology” once before but didn’t know much about it, except that I liked what I heard.  However, not being a huge hip-hop fan myself, that’s about as far as it went.

So, I began listening with Jacob and the more I listened, the more impressed I was.  These guys are solid and good at what they do.  I admit that I only take it in doses (guess I’m just getting old), but I encourage Jacob to listen to as much as he can because I know he’s getting good theology in a format he enjoys.

Recently, I was introduced to a guy named Shai Linne.  Shai recently wrote a song that has stirred quite the hornets nest (in a good way) with a song called “Fal$e Teachers” where he calls ’em out by name (a man after my own heart).

In case you haven’t heard of him, I thought I’d share a recent post from his video blog below where he explains the motivation behind the song and then, below that, is a link to the song, itself.  Let me know what you think.

 

They’re Not YOUR Kids

MelissaHarrisPerryNot sure if you saw this or not, but a recent commercial on MSNBC has one of its hosts claiming that we have to get past the notion that our kids are actually “our” kids.  Instead, they belong to the community.

I don’t disagree with her basic idea of the importance of looking after each other and helping take care of each other, including our children.  Certainly, it’s what we do in the Church and in our communities.  At The Gathering, our children are “our” children to the degree that we love them all and will do whatever we can to help them, but we never claim that they are our kids to the degree that we usurp the authority and responsibility from the actual parents.  We come alongside them to support them and encourage them.  This host takes this idea to an alarming extreme, advocating a very dangerous ideology.

Too many people are already having kids and turning to the government to provide  for them because they cannot do so themselves.  Some to the sad degree that they continue to have children because they can get more money through welfare programs without taking personal responsibility.  Claims such as this one will only embolden and empower parents to forego their responsibility for their children and encourage government to do what it was never intended to do.

This is a very blatant move to solidify the United States as a pure welfare state, but to a shocking degree.  Though there are increasing assaults on the family as it has historically been understood, this is one I didn’t see coming.

Watch the video yourself and, if you have reaction, let me hear it in the comments below.

[HT: Denny Burk]

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