One Piece of Advice for Parents

If I had to give one piece of advice to parents, especially dads, it would be that you live an honest life in front of your children.  I have witnessed too many parents, dads especially, who try to impress their children with their skills or their strength.  They try to convince their children they are never afraid or have all the answers.  They hide past mistakes and present themselves as having figured out life’s struggles. 

The problem with that is obvious.  First, children are smarter than that and they recognize the lie being portrayed in front of them. Second, they miss the opportunity to learn from the struggles of their parents.  Third, they are prone to repeat this pattern with their children.

Children need and are seeking authentic parenting.  Live honestly in front of your kids!  Give them something to aim for, live a life in front of them worth aspiring to someday, but don’t be afraid to let them see you aren’t perfect and don’t hide from them your past.  

The Parenting Line Between Freedom and Discipline

In my parenting I have never forgotten the story of one of my closest friend’s experience with his son.  He swore his son would never wear an earring.  When his son turned 15 years old he requested to wear one.  My friend refused, holding onto his long-held position.  Over the course of a few weeks though, my friend noticed the once close relationship he had with his son slipping away from him.  They didn’t talk as much.  The son didn’t come to him as much for advice.  Something had changed.  My friend realized that it was his refusal of the earring that had caused the interruption in the relationship with his son.   He went back to his son, apologized, and the relationship got back on track.  (Interestingly, the son didn’t wear the earring for very long.)   

I am in similar days with my son Nate.  No, he hasn’t asked for an earring, but it is his senior year in high school.  He is fiercely independent, far more so than our oldest son.  Most likely he will attend college far away and very soon be leaving home.  I’m trying to learn the balance as his father between providing him the discipline and instruction I’m supposed to give as a father and the freedom and independence he needs, as he becomes a young man. 

The line between extending freedom and controlling the actions of your child is unclear at times.  I know many parents who have crossed that line too far either way, either controlling so much that the child rebels or giving so much freedom that the child runs wild.  Frankly, I’m still learning.  Recently I posted on my need for others to invest in me.  This is one area in which I continue to need wisdom.   

I know the right answer to give to parents.  It’s to never cross the line so much that you lose the devotion of your child’s heart.  Sometimes you may have to break their will, but you never want to lose access to influence over their heart.  I just don’t always know how to use that answer when I have to apply it to everyday life. 

What advice do you have?  Do you struggle in this area of parenting?  

Fear In Our Youth

I spent last Wednesday with an awesome group of young leaders from our community. The program called Youth Leadership Clarksville is a school year long, once a month look at the community for high school juniors and seniors.  These are top in their class students, usually from good, supportive homes, so one would think this group was self-confident and certain of their future.  I almost expected an arrogance of sorts or an idealistic approach to the years before them.  At some point in the day, however, I asked them to tell me their greatest fear.  Almost unanimously, the group of over thirty young people said fear of failure or fear of making a lifetime mistake is their greatest fear and something they struggle with, especially as they think about leaving high school. 

My son Nate, who went through the leadership program last year, had a recent blog post where he described some of his fears.  Read that post HERE.  (Titled: Reflections with the Fray) 

In reflection, I am honestly asking myself some questions, such as:

1.     What have we as parents and a society done to encourage or promote this type of fear in our youth?  Have we, for example, by giving our children everything they desire in life, kept them from realizing their own potential for success in some way?  Have we not allowed them enough opportunities to experience failure so that now fear of failure is the same as fear of the unknown to them?  

2.     Will these fears haunt our youth into adulthood or is this something they will outgrow? 

3.     Should we try to help youth overcome their fear of failure, so they will be willing to take big risks and dream bigger dreams or is this fear a natural part of their discovery? 

4.     Is this a cultural phenomenon and so do adults share the same fears right now? 

5.     Is the current state of the economy contributing to these fears?

I don’t have answers necessarily, just questions. 

What do you think?  

Adoption Video (Be Aware-Graphic Video)

My friend Michael Robison and his wife have a desire to adopt from Africa.  In this post and this video he shares why.  This honestly made me sick to my stomach to watch, so don’t unless you think you can handle it.  I admire the devotion and grace the Robison’s hope to extend. We have many friends who have a heart for adoption and rescuing children to give them a safe-haven is often part of their reasoning.  This is true “pure and undefiled religion”.  (James 1:27)

Building Right Foundation for Children

The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. (Genesis 8:21 Emphasis mine)  

This is another one of those posts that can make a lot of parents mad, but when raising children it is important to remember this verse.  The intent of person’s heart is evil from childhood.  We don’t have to teach our children to be selfish.  We need to model generous living, because selfishness will come naturally.  We don’t have to teach our children to covet what others have.  We need to model contentment for them, because greed will come easily on its own. 

As parents, we should recognize this fundamental truth about our children. As sweet as we think they are, and they can be sweet, they are born with a natural propensity towards sin.   As parents, we are to disciple them so that their bent towards evil is one day redeemed by grace.  Our job is to plant within them the desire for God and His righteousness so that they will have a changed, saved nature, with a desire to overcome evil with good.

Recently I heard a quote on a movie (don’t remember which one).  “Two things we give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” I think that quote captures the essence of parenting.  We must give children deep enough roots so when their wings carry them away they are ready to face the world.  

Here’s a tough but great question for evaluation:  Is your parenting intentional to build the right foundation for your children so they will be prepared for life or are you simply feeding their “natural” tendencies?  In other words, are you more concerned about giving them what they want or leading them with what they need? 

(I told you…tough question. Someone needs to ask it.)  

Be Careful What You Say

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.   Proverbs 12:18 NIV

How mighty are the words we use!

When I was growing up, if someone called you a name, you stuck your tongue out and said, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt me.”  It sounded good coming from an elementary kid, but in reality it wasn’t true.  No, in fact, sometimes the pain of words stays with you longer than the bruises do from sticks and stones.

Often my wife has to remind me not to be so harsh with my words.  It is not that I intend to be mean, I just sometimes fail to think before I speak.  It seems those closest to me end up being the ones hurt the most.  (Can you identify or am I alone here?)

How important it is for us, the “salt of the earth,” to watch our words closely!  We need always to temper our speech with love.  Our greatest desire should be to show the love of Christ through our actions, including the way we respond to the people around us.  It never ceases to amaze me just who is watching and listening.  

If only we can tame the tongue we may have a handle on witnessing to a lost and dying world!

Oh, be careful what you say today!

Reflections on Focus on the Family

I have grown in my faith with the ministry of Dr. James Dobson.  His ministry, Focus on the Family, has been a part of my spiritual journey for many years.  I listen to the program often.  (I once listened every day, but the timing does not fit my schedule as well these days.)  I have supported them financially and encouraged others to check out the ministry.  When my boys were younger, their Plugged-In online movie review regularly helped my family make wiser movie choices. 


Let me be very clear that I still believe the ministry is doing great work for the Kingdom. I continue to support Dr. Dobson and the ministry of Focus on the Family.  Having said all this, I believe the ministry may have lost the pulse of much of today’s culture, including among many Christians and that may be now showing up in the financial support of the ministry.  It is okay to stand against culture; most of Christianity does, but when the ministry has a mission and vision that centered on reaching families through Jesus Christ, I question the effectiveness of where the ministry has gone in recent years. 


I was discouraged, for example, to read Focus Family Action Group’s “Letter From 2012 in Obama’s America”.  I think the action group, which is a separate entity from the ministry, crossed the line with this letter.  Though the letter says it is only reflecting “possible” changes, it does not capture the heart of most Americans. I had recently posted on my blog about the need for us to respect the office of president, whomever America elected.  I read numerous similar blog posts the week of the election.  In a culture that is embracing diversity and respect for differing opinions, this letter does more to alienate non-believers than attract them to our faith.  I am also reminded that “God’s kindness lead towards repentance.” (Romans 2:4)  


Those outside the faith (and inside) have increasingly seen Dr. Dobson as more of a politician than they have a minister.  Although to my knowledge he never claimed to be a minister, he does lead one of the largest Christian ministries in our country.  I do not believe ministers or those who lead them are to abstain from speaking on politics, but I believe Dr. Dobson’s greatest impact at bridging the gap from the ministry to the world is what he can add to the family, not to the halls of Congress.  His insight and expertise in raising a family is still among the best I have ever heard.  Most Americans can agree on what he offers families, but he is easily divisive when it comes to politics.  While he may energize many in the “Christian right” and while I may usually agree with his political stance; I believe he alienates many more people than he inspires. 


Recently I caught the first part of the radio broadcast and overheard Dr. Dobson explaining that they are eliminating over 200 jobs through non-hires and layoffs.  The website says the 2009 budget is $22 million less than in 2008.  I hate to see any ministry suffer and I hope Focus on the Family recovers all the donations it has lost in this economy, but I cannot help but wonder if the struggles at Focus on the Family have more to do with current direction and “focus” than they do with the economy.  It is just my opinion.  I honestly hope I am wrong.    Nevertheless, I encourage Focus on the Family to return to its roots of placing all energies into helping families succeed.  It is only there the ministry will find its broader support again.


What do you think? 


{When I began putting my opinions into a blog (and these are my personal opinions and mine alone) I decided that I would not shy away from a topic just because it might be controversial. Even with that, I have delayed this post several times and actually held off until a new year, in an attempt to not hurt the ministry further.}

I Want MORE in 2009

I am not a selfish person usually, although I guess we all are to a certain extent.  Still, there are some things I want more of in my life in the year 2009.  All of these stem from what I really want to accomplish in life.  I have thought a lot recently, while preparing for the first message of the New Year at Grace, about what matters most in my life.  Here’s my list of “more”.  (Feel free to share what you want more of in the New Year.)


1.      I want to discipline myself more. The year 2009 is going to be a year of structure for me. I’m fairly disciplined now, but I’ve learned that discipline allows me to accomplish my goals. 

2.      I want to love more.  I want that to start with Cheryl and the boys, but I always want to develop more patience for others.  (This may improve my driving temperament.)

3.      I want to sing more. Singing, regardless of the song, usually lifts my spirits and is good for the soul. 

4.      I want to dream more. Dreaming keeps my mind and imagination fresh.

5.      I want to pray more.  Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not seeking prayer requests, although I hope to pray for others more too, I just want more time alone with my Father.

6.      I want to rest more.  I need to get to bed earlier and actually consider taking a day off occasionally.

7.      I want to read more.  Last year, because of other commitments, I didn’t read books other than the Bible as much as I usually do.  I have some catching up to do. 

8.      I want to exercise more.  I may not run a marathon or do all the long distance runs I did in 2008, but I want to concentrate on a more complete fitness program.  The healthier I am the more productive I can be. 

9.      I want to network more.  I developed some incredible connections and relationships in 2008.  I want to be intentional and smarter with these opportunities in 2009. 

10.  I want to more balance in my life.   I am always doing something.  That’s how I thrive.  I want to consider where my attention goes and where my priorities are more in the New Year and put more of my energy in those places. 


What do you want more of in 2009?  Go ahead.  If you have good goals, and your heart is intending to honor God, be selfish!