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! 

Top Posts of 2008

These posts received the largest numbers of hits and/or were the most found by search from 2008:  (The titles should be clickable links.)


7 Top Needs of a Wife


6 Top Needs of a Husband


7 Things I Should Have Taught My Sons


An Open Letter to My Son (Jeremy)


An Open Letter to My Son (Nate)


Parenting by Grace


Getting Rid of Fear In Life


5 Greatest Fears of Real People


8 Ways to know it’s time to Quit


This post has only been up a few weeks, but is fast becoming the “most found” by keyword search:


Mothers Letting Go of Sons


Some Observations from this list:

1.      Many people are afraid.

2.      Relationships matter most.

3.      We want a way to improve the relationships in our life. 

4.      If you are in a relationship, you have questions. 

A Happy Birthday Tribute to my Wife

dscf00413It may be Happy New Year to you, but to me it is Happy Birthday Cheryl. 
Today is my precious wife Cheryl’s ____th birthday.  (I’m smarter than to fill in that blank.) 
Let me tell you a little about Cheryl. Cheryl’s greatest desire in life is to give and receive love. She loves doing for other people; giving everything, she has for the benefit of others. At the same time, there is no way I or the boys could ever fill her love quotient, so thankfully, she pours her life into God and others and as a result, others love her greatly. 
Cheryl became a Christian as an adult, but because of her intelligence, she quickly grew in her Biblical knowledge. In spite, however, of her usual ability to out-think me, she never second-guesses my decisions and never criticizes me in public.  She never says an unkind word about me to others. (Her friends have often told me that.) I always know she is my greatest supporter. Yet Cheryl is not afraid to challenge me and hold me accountable to being a better person.  She fits the role of a Biblical wife better than any woman I know and she makes the perfect pastor’s wife. I could never do what I do without her encouragement.  Her faith is rock-solid; far greater than mine is at times.  We have taken some huge leaps of faith together as a couple and they would have never happened without her willingness and strength. (Thank you, Cheryl, for always allowing me to pursue my dreams.) 
Cheryl is a child of God first and a wife and mother second, but I could never imagine anyone having a stronger instinct and desire to be a wife and mother than she has. The best times of her life are when we are doing something together.  It doesn’t matter what, as long as she is with me.  (I honestly don’t understand that completely, because I am often sarcastic and impatient but I’m glad she feels that way and I want to work to keep that desire in her heart.) The boys and I depend on Cheryl greatly. She keeps our house and lives running efficiently.  Cheryl has been a great mom to our boys, allowing the three of us to behave like boys, even in the house, even when she gets nervous that we are “playing a little rough”.  That has helped produce a home where our boys (and I) love to be. 
Today, on her ____th birthday, I want to honor Cheryl for being my wife. She is my best friend, my lover, and my helpmate. I would not want to face life without her. God knew what He was doing (as He always does) when He led me to Cheryl.  I am glad I listened to Him!
Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!  I love you!
PS. Keep dreaming baby. The best is yet to come!

Encouraging Mothers to Let Go of Sons

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 NIV)


This is one of those posts that if I am not careful could come back to hurt me.  Have you ever met an angry mother trying to protect her child?  I am talking about that kind of hurt.  Let me just say to read this and “if the shoe fits wear it”. If it does not apply to you then I will see you next post.  Let me say though, that I do not approach this lightly, so please have an open heart and mind as you read. 


I want to address the issue of mothers letting go of their sons.  In my opinion, in the age of the strong mother and absentee father, the dilemma of the weak man has reached epidemic proportions.  Mothers are more protective than ever and sons are having a harder time leaving their mothers and leading in their homes.  Many wives stand in the way of their husbands building men and try to keep their “little boys” under their control and protection.  I often encounter men who cannot make decisions for themselves, have no real direction in life and are afraid of their future.  Many of these issues relate back to a mother who never allowed her son the opportunity to stop being her “little boy”. 


The goal of the mother should be to nurture a boy, provide for his care, love him unconditionally, and then release him to the world.  Men have an innate need to lead. They are born to protect, to fix things, and to provide strength.  This side of a man seldom realizes his potential under the continued control and oversight of a doting mother.  (Okay, I said the worst part.  Cast your stones now before you read the rest of this post.) 


Mothers, I know you love your sons.  You should.  I am glad you do.  I have a strong, loving mother.  I would not be who I am today without her strength, love and guidance. I still need her in my life.  The fact remains, however, that I have responsibilities that God has given me and I must stand up to them on my own. I must be able to make decisions for myself, learn from my mistakes, and at times have my heart broken so that I become the man God has called me to be.  Completing that means, I must be able to stand independent from my mother.  She cannot shelter me, control me or fix my problems for me.  The process of becoming a man begins early in life, but by the time a boy is an early teenager his mother needs to be in the practice of releasing him to God and the world. 


This is surely a tough task for any mom. Striking the delicate balance between love and control of their lives will not be easily managed, but I encourage mothers to work towards releasing their sons.  The men their sons become will be worth the sacrifice. 

Allowing Children to Explore Their Own Faith

I want to encourage you to release your children to explore their own faith.  Okay, that sounds very liberal.  I apologize, but let me explain. I hope your children have a solid faith in the one true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I would make that a part of daily prayer and intentionally lead them towards that reality for their own life.  The truth, however, is that your children are some day going to question their faith.  At some point in life, most people I know have questioned whether what they have always believed is true. My encouragement is to let some of that process occur while your children still live in your home or under your authority. 


With that in mind, here are five quick suggestions to consider to spur a life-long faith and to allow your children to explore their faith:


1.      When children are very young, set the stage for them spiritually with what you think is best for them.  For example, if church is important, and I think it is, then do not let a 2 year old determine whether you go to church.  Take them to church on a regular basis so it becomes a natural part of who they are as individuals.

2.      At the same time, let the children’s needs play a part in deciding what church to attend.  As tough as it may be on grandparents not to have their grandchildren in the same church, it would be better to have your children actually love their church experience than to attend somewhere they do not enjoy going. 

3.      Find opportunities to talk about faith and God in non-threatening, everyday environments.  Talk about God should never be limited to “church time”.  Make God part of your normal life.  (He is you know!) Model living a life for Christ in front of your child.

4.      As a child, having been raised in church and heard all the “stories”, attempts to explore his own faith, do not feel the pressure to answer every question they have.  If children are seeking truth, guide them towards the source of truth (God’s Word) and let them explore it for themselves.  This is the only way to make sure your children actually “own” their faith.  When one of my boys was questioning eternal security, for example, I suggested he read the conflicting passages on the subject and encouraged him to reach his own conclusion.  (He did, btw, and landed in the same place I land.) 

5.      Keep the lines of communication open even when your children are questioning what they believe.  I have known so many parents who “freak” when their children express opinions about their faith that are contrary to their parents.  I have never seen this reaction work to their favor.  It usually causes further separation between the child and the parent.  This is where I believe Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.) comes into play.  Parent towards Christ early in your child’s life, release them to explore, keep praying for them and loving them, and the principle in Proverbs is that they will return to their roots in time. 


Children are going to question their faith someday.  Any faith worth having involves periods of testing over time.  Chances are good that you questioned your faith at some point.  Allow your children to test their faith in God, but pray it happens while they are still in your home or listening to your counsel so you will be there to help them find their way Home again.