Tag: parenting

The Letter Every Parent Should Write To Their LGBT Child

As parents, we want to parent well. We love our children deeply and want the very best for them. There are many things that shape the values and philosophy we carry into the raising of our children—spirituality, beliefs, culture, family, traditions, preferences, not to mention the often unshakeable manner in which our parents parented us. However, nothing should ultimately dictate the attitudes and actions we manifest towards our children more than unconditionally, unconditional love. No matter what parenting mantras we adopt along the way, however holy and seemingly righteous, without unconditional love taking center stage, we are powerless and bankrupt of true influence with our children.

The journey of being a parent is a daunting one where the playing field is constantly shifting beneath us, each stage along the way requiring careful adjustments. Parenting often feels like a constant tripping down the stairs where the main goal quickly becomes to simply stay on our feet and manage the fall—none of us our perfect or have the inside scoop. Yet, there is no greater opportunity to win the heart and shape the life of our children than in the giving of unconditional love when our children need it most.

When a child finally steps to the edge and invokes the God-given courage to reveal themselves as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, there will perhaps be no greater moment and opportunity in all of our parenting to reveal to that child that ours has been a hug, all along, from birth until now, that is truly unbreakable and unstoppable—no height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will separate the embrace of love, loyalty, and pride we have gripped around them. There was no fine print in our parenting that is now called into application. There were no loop holes or contingencies that warrant us a way out or a justified shrinking back. The very same joy we had when they came out of the womb is still the very same joy we have when they “come out” of the tomb of living a lie in fear of being fully known for who they truly are—lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Whether in agreement or disagreement, whether in affirmation or in confusion, we still declare in determined resolve, “this is my child with whom I am well pleased.”

This, is unconditional love when it’s needed most.

Yet sadly, while Jesus is calling our Lazarus-children to “come out” and truly be alive and fully live, unwrapping from the burial clothes of fear and condemnation that suffocate them—we can miss the moments, and even, intentionally or not, turn our children back towards the grave, wrapped once again in fear and shame. For ours is a powerful voice.

No, our children are not expecting nor desiring nor needing our perfection, but rather they long for a simple, unyielding, unbreakable, undeniable connection of loyalty and unwavering pride, sealed by an unconditional love for them that nothing can reverse or restrict. We are all born with this ancient sense deep within that this kind of love is not only possible, but ultimately the essence of God and life—and thus, the most important gift we can give, especially when everything within us or around us would tell us not to do so—when we feel those voices of our faith, culture, family, or inner convictions telling us to place conditions, to put up walls, to tighten the grip, or even condemn our very own children.

Regardless of the situation, regardless of our creed, we never make a mistake when we give unconditional love—we always make a mistake when we withhold it. Leaning on our own understandings to the reduction or removal of unconditional love always creates a detriment and depravity God never supports.

See, the truth is, we are constantly sending letters to our children, whether we intend to or not. Every day is charged with cosmic opportunity—messages of life welling up from our souls colliding and reverberating into the atmosphere of our children’s living and being. Never underestimate the power of the living letter we are forever composing to our children. The most beautiful and transformative words we can write within these verses and inject into their veins by script and action—”I love you no matter what,” “I’m forever proud of you” and “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

Nothing can change the course of things like these kinds of words spoken and displayed genuinely from a parent.

Whatever has happened, whatever path has traveled beneath your parenting feet, it’s never too late to write that letter.

It’s never too late.

Perhaps, today is the day.

For today is a new day, full of Grace, truth, and promise.

Now is an opportunity as good as any other to give echo to the Father’s heart through your voice spoken into the life of your LGBT child.

And maybe, here is the place to begin—the kind of letter you can write, the kind of letter you should write, and I pray, the kind of letter you will write.

Son / daughter,

You are beautifully and wonderfully made, as is—whether lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, it matters not. The One who holds all the stars in the sky holds you with deepest affection. You are not, nor ever will be, a problem to be solved, a question that needs an answer, nor a mistake that needs transformation—you are a finished, divine work of art. I am always proud of you and there will never be a day I don’t take great joy in calling you my child, no matter what. You are of the greatest gifts from God in my life. No, I am not a perfect parent, and yes, there have been desperately important moments I so wish I could have back that I missed showing the relentless loyalty and love I have for you. I am sorry, at times I have been flat out wrong—wrong about God, wrong about you, wrong about life, wrong about most everything. I’ve done a whole lot more talking than listening, selfishly absorbed with myself. Yet, this remains true and the deepest desire of my heart, that the same unconditional, affirming love the Father has for me, is the same love you know and experience to have from me as well, as much as I am capable of humanly doing so. For He loves you, delights in you, is proud of you, believes in you, and so do I—He will never leave you nor forsake you, and neither will I. I stand with you, by you, and for you, forever.

With deepest love,

Mom / Dad

Parenting from Grace- A true Story

The Gospel of God’s Grace is practical to all of life. Its impact changes everything, placing a new foundation under our feet from which to live.

God teaches in His word that we are renewed in our minds.  The Gospel changes our thinking and believing, and therefore our actions.

Yet, where the practical nature of the Gospel may seem easy to render into certain aspects of our lives, “parenting” seems to be an area where we wonder how to apply the Gospel of God’s Grace.  How do we handle issues in our children’s lives like sin, discipline, correction, consequences etc.  Can we trust Grace to truly work when for so long we have trusted so many other parenting approaches?

Before we get into these parenting issues through a true life story of parenting from Grace, it’s valuable to make sure we set forth some foundational things about the Gospel of Grace that will apply to our parenting.

1- Grace is not a license to sin.  Properly used, Grace will not teach nor encourage our children to misbehave, rebel, or choose to sin.

2- Grace does not necessarily remove consequences.  Not all consequences are punishment.  Furthermore, “reaping and sowing” is a principal that has application within the life we live under Grace and the New Covenant.

With that in mind…

A True Story

Our son Harrison is 14 years old and truly an awesome you man who loves Jesus and values so many good things in life. He is wise, caring, fun loving, mature, and passionate.  Not to mention, extremely smart and a beast on the soccer field. He is my pride ad joy, and we have been joined at the heart since birth.

As with any child, despite how awesome they are, each has their own quirks and areas of challenge.

For Harrison, his greatest parenting challenge has been to learn to communicate his feelings of disagreement, frustration, or anger without down spiraling into a huge temper tantrum, argument, or meltdown.  Over the years, this has been a repeated theme that at times can get very dramatic, to say the least.

I must admit, as a father, I have not always done a good job at setting the right example as my own temper gets caught in the mix as my frustration level over flows in a boil during these episodes.

Yet, since Harrison was much younger, we have struggled to find a way to turn this behavior around and set a new course.  Unfortunately, with little, lasting success. I don’t blame Harrison so much for his struggle through this issue, but much more myself for a lack of knowledge of the Gospel of God’s Grace and trusting it enough to apply it in my parenting.

However, I am so glad to be able to share with you that now there is much good news as things have taken a one-eighty turn around with Harrison and this temper kind of issue.

So, what has changed? What has made the difference?

Let me explain.

Up until recently, our main parenting strategy with Harrison and his temper issue has been one of rule-keeping, fear, and punishment as we address the behavior in our attempt to correct the behavior.  Each time, there would be a temporary compliance from Harrison, only to result in a reoccurring of the same behavior later.  After a period of negotiation and trying to defuse this situations, even the more harsh punishments that registered as being a very unwelcomed consequence to Harrison did little to curb the behavior in the long-run.  From taking away privileges to adding on huge inconveniences and stresses, nothing worked to result in true lasting change. In fact, not long ago, I established a written covenant of behavior expectations along with agreed-upon consequences should the covenant be violated. There were even agreed-upon expectations that applied to both Harrison and Amy and I as parents.  We all signed it and felt good about it. Yet again, it did not work for very long.

I think for most parents, to some degree or another, the main strategy of behavior modification in our children is ultimately through rules, fear, and punishment, all under the umbrella and foundation of love and loving discipline.  Like you, our heart is to teach our children right from wrong and to instill in them the values and character that will serve to bless and prosper their lives. To be sure, that seems like the standard mode of operation that Christian parents should be doing.

Yet, the way God parents us through the Gospel of Grace has some real wisdom for how best to parent our children. We live under a new covenant of Grace and so should our parenting.

This was the revelation that set my strategy with Harrison in a totally different direction. If God trusts Grace to work in parenting me, I should be able to trust Grace to work in the parenting of my son.

First, I realized if I parented Harrison (particularly his behavior problem) from a spirit of the Law, I should not be surprised when his disobedience increased instead of decreased.  This is the dramatic limit of the Law we find in scripture. It does a great job of pointing out what we can’t do, where the more we try, the more we are actually enticed to break it and fall short. It does nothing to making our behaviors truly better, but actually does everything to make them worse. God used the Law to introduce the power  and need of Grace. The old covenant based on man’s performance and rule-keeping that never worked,  led to a new covenant based on the performance of Jesus to destroy sin and death that worked perfectly.  The Law shows us we need Grace. Grace shows us the Law doesn’t work. God never intended nor designed the Law to be the solution, but rather Grace.

Second, I realized that all my emphasis on rule-keeping, fear, and punishment, though well-intentioned from a heart of love, was actually doing more to imprison Harrison to his rebellion instead of freeing him. In fact, the covenant we established with Harrison (mentioned earlier) was in fact a covenant of the Law, not Grace. No wonder why he couldn’t follow it, nor would it work to change behavior.

Third, I realized that I needed to trust Grace to change disobedience and to be the guiding influence to steer our children away from sin towards living rightly. Contrary to much of what we are taught about how to live the Christian life and help others to do the same, people governed by Grace are the most free and faithful of all. They sin less, not more.

Fourth, I realized I needed to speak from Grace to Harrison’s new-creation identity, not his rebellious behaviors. An obedience problem is always first and identity problem. Harrison needed to know who he is so he could see how his behaviors were foreign to himself, and not a reflection of his true nature and identity.

If all Harrison believed about himself is that he was a temperamental teenager unable to control his emotions and always prone to losing control as evidenced by his failures to live up to the rules, then  guess what Harrison would continue to do? Yup, keep misbehaving over and over, and over again.

So, here’s what I did.

After another long, meltdown episode of shouting, after I threatened to end his soccer season, I stopped myself, stepped up to the cliff side of Grace and took a step of faith. I went to the refrigerator door upon which our covenant of behavior was placed, took it down and in front of Harrison, I ripped it up. I told him that I would not remove him from the soccer team, I believed in who He was in Christ, gave him the details of how he has everything already within him to handle these situations much better, and that I trusted that from then on, he would carry himself differently when moments of potential temper flares presented themself. “You realize Harrison, all of these battles we have from time to time are not who you are, and that loss of temper and control of your emotions is completely foreign to the young man you are, newly created by Christ?” “You are not a young man of dishonor and disrespect for your parents”  “I love you and believe in you, and know that you will be able to navigate these moments better in the future.” “No son, there is no punishment tonight.” I hugged him and walked away.

He was speechless, and then proceeded to his room.  After several minutes, I walked up to check on him. He seemed very sad.

“You did hear what I said, right? You have your soccer season back.”

“Dad, that’s not what I want anymore, our relationship is more important. I was wrong, and have been disrespecting and dishonoring you and mom.” “You are right, that’s not who I am, I see it, and I believe it.”

“Well Harrison, lets close this chapter, I know things will never be like they have been again. You know who you are, and what you have in Him.”

As I walked back downstairs, Amy asked (not being around for the whole covenant-ripping and talk thing with Harrison), “What happened?” “What did you do about all this?”

I replied, “It’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.”

Grace can, where everything else can’t.

Since then, we have had not one single episode. Even, when there was every opportunity to do so.

The Big Take Aways

So what are the potential take aways for you as a parent to apply to your parenting?

1- I spoke to his identity first, not his behavior. Grace teaches us who we truly are because of what Jesus has done to us. As we believe in our righteousness in Christ (and a whole lot more), we will live it. Right believing leads to right living. Behind everything we do wrong is a wrong belief about ourselves and/or God. The same is true with our children.

2- I influenced heart-change through kindness, not harshness and punishment. Punishment never made anyone Holy, nor will it do so for your children. Jesus took our children’s punishment for sin and brokeness. Consequences are not always punishment. When our daughter Cailyn has to spend her time cleaning her room when she left it a mess instead of getting to go outside or play on the ipad, that’s not punishment, it’s consequences. If I yell and scream at her, telling her what a slob she is and take away her dinner from her too, that’s condemnation, shame, and punishment. I can correct my child with our condemning them, and give meaningful, firm consequences without punishing them. Punishment yields temporary obedience out of fear. Consequences yield obedience out of learning that irresponsible and bad actions have consequences that remove pleasure and self-inflict pain.

3- I trusted Grace to manage his behavior, not rule-keeping and fear. The Bible teaches that it is the Grace of God that teaches us to live rightly. If God trusts that to work with me and manage my life, I trust it to work for my children. I know that a spirit of rule-keeping and fear doesn’t work in my life, people’s lives, and my children. However, Grace does. It is the only thing that has changed me and my behaviors, it governs me into freedom and faithfulness where everything else just led me deeper into the prison of my own flesh.

4- I communicated confidence in who he is in Christ to help him have confidence, not condemnation. If Harrison bases his identity and sense of self from his performance as a person, he will be all over the map internally and therefore, externally. Condemnation is the root of so many bad things coming out of people’s lives and living.  Show our children who they are in Christ, and they will be able to determine the foreign nature of sin to their lives on their own without us having to ride them with shouting, fear, and punishment hanging over their heads.

5- There are still consequences given in our parenting, but they are from a foundation of Grace, not Law. They are based on teaching the reality of reaping and sowing in life, not punishment, condemnation, guilt, shame, and fear.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts…

Back to School God’s Way

As one of my friends on facebook posted, “Where has the summer gone?”  Yup, the new school year is upon us. And, if you are like me and most parents, this is a super stressful time for the whole family.  Supplies to buy, schedules to arrange, clothes to try on, orientations to attend, doctors appointments to schedule, and then to top it off, there is a ton of “change” to manage. “Will I make new friends?” “Wow, I am not sure I am ready for them to be growing up, and so fast” “Mom, I need to have _________, if I don’t I will be a nerd, and I just might hate your guts forever”

You know the routine, and could surely fill in your own back-to-school experiences. To be sure, it’s not easy reality to manage, anxiety levels are high, stress is growing, and the reality of change is not an easy pill to swallow.  So, how can we all manage this time of the year in ways that are sync with God?

Here are a few tips on riding the back-to-school wave with Grace.

1) Stay cool.

And by that I mean, don’t let this time of the year erode your sense of peace. In times of stress, it’s easy to get into a tailspin of short tempers, stress, and anxiety, often majoring in the minors, and minoring in the majors. Try to keep you perspective and rest in the reality that God is at work and will surely guide and provide your way through this stressful time. Your attitude towards “back-to-school” will set the temperature in your family for how everyone else handles it.  If you are calm, cool, and collected, chances are that will help minimize the overall stress level for the rest of the family. Remember, you are already perfect in Christ, you don’t have to perform perfectly nor does everything have to come together perfectly. Don’t miss the forest from the trees.  Enjoy this time, even the stress of it, one day, you will be wishing you could have these days back again.

2) Keep communication lines open and active.

“Back-to-school” is an important time to go above the call of duty to make sure everyone is talking, expressing, and communicating feelings and needs. Making sure to initiate conversations among family members will be critical. Repeatedly asking questions like, “So, how are you feeling about all this?” “Hey, is there anything we are forgetting?” “So, how are you handling things?” will be valuable tools before, during, and after the “back-to-school” whirlwind. So many negative situations can be prevented or diffused from becoming a problem if communication lines are open and active.

3) Speak out your faith for the new school year.

In addition to praying together, I think it’s incredibly valuable to speak out statements of faith over the “back-to-school” experience. When you and your family speak and hear declarations of faith, it releases God to work and uplifts everyone who hears them.  Statements like, “I believe this new year is going to be full of blessings and wonderful surprises from God” “Lord, I thank you that you have gifted my children with great minds that will excel in learning this year.”Jesus, I thank you in advance for working all things out for our good and your glory, covering my children with your protection and purposes” will have a supernatural effect on the “back-to-school” atmosphere of your family.   Asking your children, “What are you believing God for this new year in school?” is a great way to get things started.

4) Don’t get over-scheduled

There is a great temptation among American families to be over-scheduled with activities. And this is the time of the year when that destructive ball gets set into motion. Your value and worth as a parent and family is not in how many activities you are doing each week. You can have an after school event or activity scheduled for every day of the week for your children and completely miss out on the true essence and experience of family at the same time.  One of the worst mistakes we can make as parents is to raise performance-driven children who base their identities on the amount and level of their extra-curricular accomplishments.  Soccer, ballet, dance, football etc. are all great things for our children, as long as they are managed well.  Nothing can be more important than to teach our children how to prioritize their lives, placing faith, family, play, rest, and school at the top of the list.  Everyone has a plan for your children’s lives. Coaches, programs, sports, etc. are all craving the unrestrained and unrestricted time and commitment of your children. And trust me, they will take it all if you let them. The question is, “Are you going to teach your children when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to all the things soliciting their time, in ways that keep the main things in life the main thing?”

So, what would you add to this list?

Recovering From A Disappointing Dad

As a father, I know over the course of my parenting I will have many areas where I don’t measure up and will have times where I disappoint my children and God who entrusts them to me.  No father is perfect, and being a faithful father is tougher now than perhaps ever before.  Every dad, to at least some degree is a “disappointing dad.” Only our heavenly Father is perfect and leaves nothing lacking.

Yet, there are those fathers whose disappointment factor rises to a level of leaving severe scars and deep unmet needs in their children’s lives.  They are the abusing, absent, or abdicating dad.  Some fathers abuse their children, emotionally and physically. Other fathers are absent from their children’s lives as they bury themselves in work, hobbies, distractions, or keep an emotional distance from their child’s life, sometimes to the point of abandoning their children all together. Other fathers abdicate their role to the mom, coaches, schools, churches, and culture as a whole as they refuse to lead, set the example, take responsibilities, and become an active, beneficial part of their child’s life. This is what I am referring to when I speak of “Disappointing Dads.” Fathers are to be the lead example setters, coaches, spiritual directors, protectors, correctors, monitors, providers, and time involved persons in their child’s life.

The role of father in our culture needs to be reclaimed and restored in our culture. Our society has portrayed fatherhood as one big joke, and fathers like Bart Simpson and Ozzy Osbourne are leading the way. Unfortunately, many men have gladly kicked backed in their recliners and adopted the mindset they see on television.

Sadly, just ask any school teacher, the carnage from “Disappointing Dads” is everywhere. Kids, mothers, families and society as a whole are paying the price big time. Furthermore, though this reality is probably worse now than ever before, there are previous generations now in their adult years who are trying to recover from “Disappointing Dads.” In fact, gen-“x”ers (now in their late 30’s to late 40’s) were the first to be named “Latch Key Kids” as their pre-boomer parents were off chasing the American Dream and living their own post-version of the 60’s.  The fathering trends haven’t gotten any better since then, but only worse.  I suspect the counseling, psychiatric side of the economy will be doing well for many years to come as these generations age.

Obviously, when it comes to recovering from a “Disappointing Dad” finding a good, Christian counselor is likely going to be a must. There are so many layers and connections that only a trained counselor can help you integrate into your life and faith in a way that is going to bless you and glorify God.  Yet, here are few steps you can take that will surely help you recover.

0.01  Grieve the Loss

Life is full of loss and pain. The hurts these cause in our life become most harmful when we don’t properly grieve.  So much of the dysfunction in our life is a result of a loss that has not been grieved completely.  Grief is God’s way of healing us from pain and loss in our lives.  Grieving is not an easy process, but it is a necessary process for finding healing and purpose within our pain and loss.

“Disappointing Dads” leave our lives with loss and pain. This pain and loss often centers around areas where they fell short as fathers and/or took something from us. That is why there is disappointment. God knows we can’t go back and remove the pain or undo the loss. This is where God’s gift of grief comes in. Grief enables us, through the power of Jesus, to integrate the pain and losses of life into our present and future in ways that ultimately bless us and glorify God.

The basic stages of grief are as follows… 1) Shock 2) Painful Feelings 3) Acceptance 4) Meaning 5) Empowerment

This process requires us to go through all 5 steps in order. And even though we may get through all five steps, it doesn’t mean we  still won’t have moments where we revisit one of the other steps. However, as you go through these steps, God is able to transform you and your circumstances to the place where you discover the tremendous purpose in pain and a ministry from within your misery.

I strongly encourage you to listen to the message series, “Rise Above: Defying the Gravity of Adversity” located on this website. This message series will guide you step by step through discovering the purpose within your pain and how to get to a place in your life where you actually have overcome the pain and loss you have experienced.

God fully understands and cares about your experience with a “Disappointing Dad” and desires to come along side of you as your Heavenly Father and heal those wounds. Walking with Him through the steps of grief will be a significant part of your healing and transformation.

o.o2  Renew and Release

One of the most powerful verses in the Bible that applies to an issues like this is…  Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. 

There are two critical ideas presented in this passage. 1) When we hope or long for something to come into our lives that for whatever reason is very likely not going to occur, it creates pain and suffering. 2) When our God given hopes and longings are fulfilled, it brings growth and life to our being.

One of the most destructive things “Disappointing Dads” leave in our lives are unfulfilled hopes and longings.  God created us needing and deserving of fathers that meet critical needs in our lives. Furthermore, God designed our fathers to shape and mold our futures in ways that honor and foster God’s plan for your life. Unfortunately, when those needs, longings, and positive influences that only fathers can give do not occur, it leaves our lives filled with longings and hopes that are unfulfilled. In a very real sense, your “Disappointing Dad” owes you big time.  Maybe they owe you your innocence back, the childhood you deserve, the attention you should have been given, the father you should have had, etc.  Unfortunately, with many “Disappointing Dads” they either can’t repay what is owed you, or they refuse to do so. Either way, you have a “hope that is deferred” or said another way “a debt that isn’t being paid”  What happens? We live our lives hoping that somehow or someway these needs will be met by the person that should have met them in the first place, our father.  We look for the apology that is likely never to come, the change of heart or behavior that is likely never to change, and the list can go on and on. What’s the result? Our hearts grow sick with bitterness, disappointment, anger, frustration, guilt, and alike. We want to love our father and for our fathers to love us the way it was supposed to be, but that reality very likely just isn’t going to ever happen. That reality makes us sick in more ways than one.

So, what are we do to? Be heart sick the rest of our lives holding onto the past and feeling emotionally incomplete and cheated, many of us having the scars to show for it?  No.

God came up with the most brilliant solution to the pain and loss people create in our lives, especially “Disappointing Dads.” The solution is… forgiveness. Now before you wig out and click off this post thinking there is no way you are going to forgive the dad that screwed up your life, please hear me out.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what your dad did or didn’t do is somehow now “o.k.” Forgiveness does NOT mean that the relationship is automatically reconciled or restored. Forgiveness does NOT mean you have to remove healthy boundaries and feel good about being around that person, what happened in the past, and what the relationship is like now.

Rather, forgiveness means you are canceling the debt. You are emotionally releasing your father of the debt they owe you that they cannot or will not repay.  Through forgiveness you are fulfilling the longing and hope you have for the father and childhood you did not receive by canceling the debt. In so doing, you are moving from bondage to the past into life for the present and future. You or no longing looking to your father to be or become someone to you that they cannot or refuse to be or become. The hole that your father left in your life is now able to be filled by the presence and provisions of God. Unforgiveness keeps this from happening and prolongs the pain and suffering that was caused years ago. Forgiveness stops the negative pattern, and our emotional enslavement  to it.

Forgiveness is very likely going to be the only thing that satisfies the longing and hopes left in our lives from the blood sucking of “Disappointing Dads”  Forgiveness removes the leach of their behaviors from continuing to suck the life out of us long after our childhoods are over.

Forgiveness is not easy and takes the power of God working in our lives, but it is perhaps the most critical step in recovering from “Disappointing Dads”

I strongly suggest reading my post “What’s Up With Forgiveness” for more details on what forgiveness is and isn’t and how to apply it to your life.

0.03  Take up Your Cross

I believe the purpose of your life can be found very close to the pain in your life. Taking up your cross, at least in part, means being willing to use your experiences of pain for the glory of God. Additionally, it carries with it the reality that we will all have crosses to bear as we do our best to live our lives and make the most of them for God’s purposes.

Recovering from a “Disappointing Dad” is a life long  journey.  Sometimes, you will make great strides forward and other times you will have to “fight the good fight of faith” as you battle to create a better future.  God knows you and your needs better than anyone. Jesus’ invitation to “take up you cross and follow me” is a sure indicator that 1) Jesus wants you, baggage and all 2) Following Jesus is the best way to live (though it may not be the easiest)  3) The best chance and only chance you have to take your disappointments and turn them into destiny is by placing them at the feet of Jesus.

You won’t ever be able to truly leave the pain and loss all behind while on this side of heaven, but you can take it up and follow Jesus. As you do, your pain and loss will be transformed into peace and gain. It really is true. That’s the miracle of following the Master!


Parenting to Win

Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

Our children and our parenting were born into a war, not a vacation.  There is a real battle going on for the hearts and lives of our children and our families.  Unfortunately, many parents have either surrendered their children and their homes by outsourcing their parenting to teachers, coaches, friends, and youth groups, or they are battling with their children more than for their children. As Charles Swindoll says, “Schools, youth groups, teachers, coaches, and after school programs can’t resurrect in a child what is being put to death in the home” Furthermore, Satan loves to keep parents preoccupied with fighting with their children so as to distract and prevent them from fighting for their children.

Fathers honoring their leading role in the home with maturity, integrity, wisdom and strength is no longer lifted up in our culture, but rather mocked by figures like Homer Simpson and Ozzy Osbourne, sending mothers into a confused tailspin of trying to pick up the pieces and somehow make the whole parenting thing work. If mothers aren’t fulfilling a healthy role in the home its because we men first screwed up ours.

For many parents, we want to win the parenting war going on within our culture and our homes.  In moments of inspiration and courage, we set the standards, communicate the boundaries, create the time and energy for our children, only to have it all undone by the next pouting match, soccer season, job promotion, moment of needed discipline, guilt trip, or conversation with another parent about all the things they let their kids do.

It’s harder now to parent our children God’s way than ever before, and my sense is that many  parents are dying a silent death as they resign themselves to a passive, tolerant, culturally correct style of parenting that might as well send the message to the rest of the world, “We give up, you raise them.”  It seems these days, we aren’t parenting to win, we are parenting to survive.

Like a seen from  the movie Braveheart, I feel like shouting out a charge to parents to pick up their parenting bow-and-arrow and fight!  Our children’s lives, our homes, our culture, and our future is at stake.  It may not be easy, but we CAN win!

I love the image God gives us of parenting in Psalm 127.

Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

Among the many layers of meaning within this passage, I believe this passage brings us tremendous wisdom on how to win as parents and parent to win!   To that end, here are some powerful principals from this singular passage…

1) We need to see our parenting as nothing less than a WAR for our children and their future.   As parents, we need to see ourselves as warriors at a DEFCON 5  level of alert with our parental radars fine tuned onto the battle field of our children’s lives. There can be no more passive, sideline parenting! Passive parenting is an act of surrender in the war going on for our children and their future.  Parent, do you know what’s underneath your child’s bed, in their closet? Do you know what their activity is on facebook? Do you monitor what music they listen too?  Do you know who their closest friends are? Do you have a relationship with their teachers and coaches?  Satan wants to have influence and leverage in your children’s lives, the question is, do you want it more than him? And, how much are you willing to flat out fight for it!  It will be and is a battle.

2) Draw your children as close as possible as soon as possible-  The #1 thing every parents needs in the war for our children and their future is… influence. The bonds of love and togetherness are the most important influence establishers you can have with your children.   The moment you lose influence as a parent is the moment you begin to lose the battle.

The first move an archer makes is to pull the arrow close to themselves. That action gains them the power, leverage, and control they need to point and shoot the arrow accurately.  The best archers bring the arrow as close to their body as possible.  Powerful influencers in your child’s life that draw them close to you are… love, affection , praise, example, correction, discipline, clear boundaries, interest, fun, togetherness, encouragement, and listening.  If you aren’t intimately and directly involved in your child’s life you will lack in influence, period.  Never let any person or thing win the battle for time, attention, and involvement in your child’s life.  It’s very hard to point our children in the right direction if we first don’t draw close to them and gain influence. If your children are 16 and younger, ask yourself… who or what are the top influencers in their life?  If your name wasn’t first or very high up on the list, you may have a real opportunity and need to strengthen this area of your parenting. No, a lack of influence isn’t always about what a parent has or hasn’t done, that’s for sure.  There are awesome, faithful parents who lack influence because their children have rebelled or made pour choices completely separate from a healthy home and great parents. Yet, for some parents, we lack needed influence because we simply aren’t doing our jobs.

3) Point your children in the direction God has for them.  After pulling the arrow close, aim is the next priority to the archer. Every great archer has a target in sight and in mind.  As parents we need to have a set target or goal for the parenting of our children. We need to have a sense of clear vision and direction. As my pastor friend Walk Kallestad says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”  As parents, we are a kind of launch pad to our children’s lives and part of our critical responsibility is to point their lives in the right direction. Being a few inches off-target on the launch pad can translate into being miles away from where God wants our children to be in the future..

The most important pursuit in this area of parenting is to discern what God’s vision is for your child’s future. The Bible says, “Train a child in the way he should go...”-Proverbs 22:6.  Notice is doesn’t say, train them in the way YOU went or the way YOU think they should go.

God has a unique vision for your child’s life and future, and chances are it won’t be in the same exact path you chose. Our job is to draw so close to God and our children that we can clearly see the destiny God has for our children. Our children have specialized God given passions, gifts, and personalities that need to be discerned, developed and directed.  Not having a close sense of where God is leading our children is like aimlessly pointing an arrow up in the air and hoping it hits some kind of target that turns out to be the one God wanted.

Furthermore, apart from the unique, specific future God has for our children, there are some general targets God has for all children. God wants us all to become followers of Jesus who grow into maturity and build His Kingdom. God wants all people to become men and women of Godly character, wisdom, and obedience. These are some of the essentials God sees as targets for all of our children.

God has a general and specific target and mind for your children. The question is, do you know what that target is, and are you pointing your parenting in that direction?

4) Release your children overtime to move from your influence to God’s influence

There is of little value for an archer to draw an arrow close to themsleves and carefully point it in the right direction if they aren’t going to ultimately release it.

The ultimate goal of our parenting is to release our children over time from being under our care, direction, and influence to establishing their own, personal walk with the Lord as they seek to follow God’s plan for their life.  No, we never stop being parents, but God desires us to release our children so that they are able to enter a free-will, loving, genuine relationship and life with Jesus. It is during this journey of increasing release that a child grows into expanding opportunity and freedom to own for themselves the direction and values you have been parenting them under.

Archers know that releasing an arrow too soon or waiting too long are both problematic.  Timing is everything.  When we release a child too soon we sabotage their ability to develop as they are not prepared to handle the levels of freedom and responsibility they are prematurely given. Yet, when we hold onto our children too long, we rob them of learning to take responsibility for their lives, facing the consequences of their own actions, and growing in character and confidence. In the one instance they fall to the ground unnecessarily, in the other they are never given the chance to fly.

I am amazed at how we as parents barely draw our kids close, spend very little time pointing our parenting, and haphazardly release are children into the world, and then wonder why we see them tumble, turn, and never reach their potential.

There is a war going on for our children’s lives, but it’s a war we can win!  Let’s take up our parenting bows and learn to fight for our children and their future.

Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.

© 2019 Chris Kratzer

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