Thinking Out Loud

December 3, 2016

The Season of Anticipation

nativity-calendar-enhanced-2

 

I’ll swear I never heard the word Advent until I was in my 40s. Growing up Evangelical, that just wasn’t our thing.

Let me qualify that slightly. I visited a wide variety of churches. I’m sure the word was used, but I had selective hearing.

That same hearing challenge would come into play when I worked in a Christian supply store. It took the first dozen occurrences to differentiate between whether the customer wanted an Advent calendar or Advent candles. In the first few years, either way, the answer was no. We didn’t have them.

I learned later the nuances of this particular season. Some would argue the season is best expressed in the carol/hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel…

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny…

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here…

I think you could make an equal case the ideology of this season is expressed by the old Heinz Ketchup commercial that was based on Carly Simon’s song Anticipation.  Or better yet, this later one from 1973.

The context (of Advent, not the commercials) is Israel awaiting for a coming Messiah. Perhaps for those with young children, it’s more of a Will Christmas ever get here? vibe.

advent-candlesA few years in we did Advent calendars with our own children. Not the ones where you open a window and there’s a chocolate inside. Give me a break! There was a verse for each day and a definite focus on the true Christmas story. The story of Simeon (Luke 2) also works well with children, as his life was only made complete by seeing the child, the Salvation of the Lord.

A few years after that I started noticing Advent candles in churches that were Christian & Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal and event Baptist. The word had spread, literally.

…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Another “anticipation” hymn always comes to mind here. I prefer it to the Welsh tune “Hyfrydol” which is also used for other lyrics, and one I consider among the finest musical settings Christianity has produced.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

And that’s where we leave it today. If you’re Evangelical like me, and Advent is a foreign word that “those Anglicans and Catholics use,” I hope you’ll pursue a discovery this season of something that can only enrich your understanding of what you currently call Christmas.


Related Resources:

November 29, 2016

Growing Up in a Porn-Saturated World

22 Ways Your Kids’ World is Much Different Than Yours

kid-at-computerLongtime readers here know that adult content on the internet was once a more common theme here. Despite some publisher interest, when the book project didn’t move to the next steps, I moved on to other activities. What would have been very much needed at the time is now more widely covered by other writers, both in print and online. Plus, it’s a topic I no longer wish to be strongly associated with.

Nonetheless, I’ve continued to watch a certain aspect of the topic if only from a distance; that aspect being to try to gauge what is happening to kids who have simply always had access to graphic images of people clothes-less and/or involved in various types of sexual activity.

The world has changed. I believe this is one of the most important articles I’ve written, and I hope you’ll share this with others.

Here, in no particular order, are things I believe every parent needs to think about. I’ve put keywords in bold face type for those who find this longer than most posts here.

1. They have way too much unsupervised time after school. With both parents working, there is often two to three hours from the time they reach home to the time the parents arrive for dinner. Not at your house? Then perhaps at the home of the friend they head to after classes end. Unless they’re playing after-school sports, or are diligent at working at scholarship-level rates on homework, parents often are unaware where the idle time might take their children. This is an important factor in several of the items which follow.

2. They have experienced an utter and complete loss of sexual innocence and mystery which was not common to previous generations. Heck; I still feel there are dimensions to sex which I don’t fully understand, not because I lack the general knowledge or intellectual capacity, but because I grew up at a time when it was all meant to be mysterious. But they grew up with access to all the videos they needed to demystify every possible human sexual activity and all their variants. Fact is mom and dad, they could probably answer some of your questions.

3. Many of them believe that what isn’t intercourse isn’t sex. Maybe we can (indirectly) credit Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” for that attitude. So even within the church (or maybe especially within the church) we have a very high per capita rate of technical virgins who actually have an incredibly high degree of sexual experience.

4. It gets worse: For many sex is simply only sex; in other words, it’s not such a big deal. They might see your views on politics or environmentalism as a more powerful reflection on who you are as a person than your virgin/non-virgin status. The now-considered-quaint notion that teens should “want their wedding night to be special” is becoming as outdated as the notion of a wedding itself.

5. Which brings us to the point that whether consciously or sub-consciously, many assume they will have multiple partners in their lifetime; even among kids in Christian families. (I should qualify here and note that “the divorce epidemic” predates the internet, though the net has been an agent for what I term accelerated social change, something we’ll deal with again in a future article.)

6. They see themselves as sexual beings. There is a strange phenomenon right now where pre-teen and teen boys remove their shirts for their profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter. (A good place to remind everyone that younger ones are not officially allowed to have FB accounts; but we know that guideline isn’t always followed. The magic number is also 13 on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and others.)

7. They have full access to everything online with a data-plan enabled smart phone that you have on your computer. The notion that the kids need to be sitting in front of a PC or laptop in order to access the Internet’s dark side is somewhat outdated. They aren’t looking for 42-inch picture quality, instead they’re exploring and discovering a new, exciting world of possibilities.

8. They live in a world where sexuality is fluid, but fail to foresee that the present fluidity means there could be future fluidity. Kids on the fringes of traditional, mainstream sexuality see their LGBT-etc declarations to be permanent and greatly resent adults or friends suggesting that their views or attractions may change when they get older. (There may be an element where pride — in the more traditional meaning of the word — prevents them from recanting of previously categorical or dogmatic statements about the tribe with which they have the greatest affinity.)

9. They are empowered by the choices of sexual or gender identity. They get to pick and choose who they are off the rack in the same way they choose the colors and patterns of the cases for their phones. In the wrong body? That’s easy, there are drug therapies and surgeries to fix that. (This takes place even within church communities or even Bible Colleges; many youth workers are aware of people who were or are currently in their group who are undergoing gender reassignment; most also have at least one or two youth who are pushing boundaries.)

10. In all probability they have been photographed naked even if they took the picture themselves and immediately deleted it. For some it may be a body-image obsession and for others it’s simply something silly to do with that surplus of after-school time mentioned earlier. The cell phone camera is the new mirror and the unclothed image isn’t subject to any particular fashion trend or wardrobe budget.

11. Even among Christian kids there is a compartmentalization of the sacred and the profane. For example they may not see a contradiction in an actor or actress being photographed nude while wearing a cross. Many church tweens and teens live a double life, being a different person at home and youth group than they are at school or at their part-time job. In a way, that’s nothing new, but many church tweens and teens are also living a blended life where they opt in some of the Bible’s moral teachings but not others.

12. While they know some online images aren’t safe for school or home, they fail to realize that through constant exposure to the images, their worldview is being totally reprogrammed. Their opinions on everything from premarital sex to incest is subject to whatever online websites have been allowed to influence them.

13. Their sources for advice and counsel are often online forums. Rather than seek out their parents, youth pastor or guidance counselor; they are more likely to converse about vital life issues with people on chat rooms and forums, which means in many case they are getting peer counsel only; they are essentially sheep without a shepherd.   

14. Sadly, they are not particularly impressed with information about societal norms in previous generations. When their parents speak of life in the ’80s or ’90s, you might as well be describing the 1880s or the 1790s; to them it’s all ancient history and is therefore somewhat irrelevant, unless they need to know to understand a novel which is part of the literature exam.

15. Many of the ones who are sexually active are not likely to stop. As is often heard concerning this issue, once escaped it’s almost impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. 

16. Some of those who started early being sexually active are already sexually bored and are therefore looking at alternative sexualities, fetishes, or even asexuality. (Can’t help wondering if recruiters for convents and monasteries might want to note that last one.)

17. Underlying some of the sexual acting out is the fact that many of them of hurting. Their lives are not the Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch type of lives of past generations. Many have had friends die — probably more than you did at their age — through accident, illness, criminal activity or at their own hand.  Others are broken by a home life that involves being passed around like a football due to joint custody arrangements, or suddenly sharing a bedroom (and a life) with a step-sibling as a result of a parent’s remarriage. For others, it’s the pressure of academic life which can start in the junior high or middle school years. Sexual activity provides a distraction or a release from those pressures.

18. Their sexual decisions may be taking place in atmosphere fueled by alcohol or weed. The latter, while now legalized in a small handful of U.S. states, is available everywhere even to kids at a young age if they are determined to gain access. 

19. Because of their access to all types of video files, their desire is to emulate what they see in triple-X-rated videos or what they read about celebrities doing. Whereas in past generations a kid might dream of being on stage or on television or recording an album like their entertainment industry idol, now their wish is to do all the things their idol is reported to have done (and by implication, get away with it on some level and continue to enjoy a career and a generally good reputation.) 

20. For some of them the catalog of possible sexual activity is like a bucket list and they want to experiment and see what they like; what works for them and what doesn’t. Furthermore, if you’re still harboring ancient stereotypes, this is as true for girls as it is for boys. (Increasingly, boys will talk about being raped by a girl; the language wasn’t extensively used that way in the past.) Some of this activity starts at an early age, with much taking place at weekend parties, though there are many possible venues. 

21. Many tweens and teens are at a point where they feel no need to cover-up; there is no sense of modesty. Someone once said that humans are a unique species as we are the only ones capable of blushing. That unique characteristic is slowly disappearing. 

22. Finally — and I know some of you have been reading through the whole list wondering where this one was — they may have been abused. There may have been one incident or many which means there are no sexual frontiers to protect and everything is fair game, especially if they are now in control. Conversely, their abuse may have very much diminished their self-worth propelling them into a pattern of increased sexual activity.

…I know there are some people who will read this and feel things are being overstated, said too generally, or that the whole point of this is to paint a ‘the sky is falling’ type of panic. That’s not the intention. I’m open to have people quote studies proving that things are no worse now than they’ve been in the past. I doubt that’s the case however, and I’ll come back to the topic of accelerated social change here in the future.  

What I do hope is that for parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, concerned friends I’ve raised some topics here that present a clearer picture of what’s being evidenced online in various formats and platforms. 

So what do we do? Many times people who try to put the brakes on a trend that seems spiraling out of control are simply laughed at, even within the church. ‘You can’t stop that; it’s inevitable;’ is the response heard so often, an echo of a previous generation’s, ‘Kids will be kids.’ 

Whatever my response or your response, it has to begin with awareness.

If you’re a parent whose children are not going down this road right now, be very thankful; but also be aware that some kids simply repress sexual thoughts and actions and then everything explodes when they enter college or university. I would say that you need to have some conversations, but not have others. The advice of Song 8:4, “Do not awaken desire before its time;” is useful here, but there is also a place for warning — Book of Proverbs style — your kids what is going to happen down the road of life. That seems like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared on this blog many times:

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

November 1, 2016

Decompression

After weeks of running re-purposed content and ‘borrowed’ articles, it was good to see the blog get its groove back this weekend with five days of great pieces starting last Thursday. I hope you’ll take some time to look at what myself, Clarke and Aaron have posted lately.

If I had to define what I thought my life would look like after my mother’s death, I would probably have defined the period leading up to that day as one of intense stress followed by a great deal of relief (for her and us) when it was over. For more than two decades, my life — and thereby the life of my wife and kids as well — has been partially defined by the drama of dealing with my parents’ health issues. While we didn’t wish their death per se, I know that in my mom’s case she was ready to go, and her funeral was more a celebration of her life than a time of mourning.

However…I am finding myself in the rather strange space of trying to adjust to the new normal. I can only describe this period as a type of decompression.

decompression

This weekend we went on a retreat with some people from a local church. It was their Holy Spirit Weekend as part of Alpha, but it could have been anything; a romp through the genealogies of the Bible, or a 3-day study on Leviticus; we would have jumped at it no matter what it was.

For most people reading this — and especially other bloggers — this type of activity is normal, but for us, it was something that was relatively impossible; especially in the last 3 years.

I am an only child. That is part of the challenge. I have spent the last couple of decades acutely aware of living in the sandwich generation. Our two boys did not get the best parenting I might have delivered apart from the family circumstances.  On more than one occasion, their own aspirations for some activities or events have been directly thwarted by another scene in the continuing drama that marked our lives.

I walked around the grounds of the Bible conference and retreat center between Alpha videos thinking, this is normal for some of the people with whom I’m attending this event. It has not been normal for us.

During the prayer time, the pastor prayed for me to experience joy. I’m not sure if he knew this empirically or supernaturally, but the prayer, “I just want my joy back;” has been on my lips many times in the last few months.

But you don’t just switch some feelings off and switch other emotions on. This may take some time.

 

September 27, 2016

The Music Store and the Career Path: An Analogy

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:08 am

My son recently graduated from university and opted to move back to the city where the school is, in the hope that beginning a life there will be more fruitful than in our small town. The problem is, he graduated with two majors and a minor — writing, theater, and theology — and doesn’t really know which one to focus on.

Meanwhile we were at a music store on Saturday where I was wandering around from room and…well…I quickly wrote him this email, which I present to you relatively unedited.

guitar-inventory-2On Saturday afternoon we went back to Cosmo Music which is one of the largest musical instrument stores in the world.

We walked in the keyboard room first, and I thought, “I’m a keyboard player.” There were so many things I wanted to test out.

But then we wandered through the back and into the brass room. There was a baritone horn that reminded me so much of the one I played in the Junior Band at the church I attended all through my teens. I thought, “I’m a brass player.”

But then we went back toward the lobby and a kid was being fitted for a shoulder support for a violin, the type I should have had but never bought, and I thought, “I’m a string player.”

Next was the guitar room. I went to see what 12-strings they had; if any were like mine. “I’m a guitar player;” I told myself.

In the same area were the electric basses. Lots of five strings. Not cheap. Of course I thought, “I’m a bass player.” I want to try a 5-string sometime with a good amplifier.

But then your brother wanted to see the grand pianos upstairs. I used to work at Baldwin. They had high end instruments like this. Even the smell in the room was familiar. “I’m a piano player;” I figured I belonged in that room also.

On the way out, he asked about keyboard amps and we ended up in one of the little demo rooms. I was amazed at the things that came back to me being in that environment. I think I asked a few intelligent questions. Heck, “I’m a sound guy.”

And then it hit me.

The store was a microcosm of the choices you are now facing. You’re an actor. You’re a writer. You’re a student of philosophy and theology. There are so many choices.

But in the end, my walk around the store was a mile wide but only a few inches deep. I never really tried anything. We were there the better part of an hour and there was so much to see but I needed to just pick something and make that my focus; and if it turned out I sucked at 5-string bass, I could always come back another time and reacquaint myself with re-issued Arp Odyssey synthesizer in the keyboard room. But the arena of choices was so large that I was overwhelmed by it all, and more to the point I hadn’t gone with a specific purpose.

I know it’s hard to choose something at the expense of everything else but I would say this: Pick the most amazing thing that could happen, get on a bus, go to wherever it is people do that and walk in the door… That’s all.


Image: I believe this was taken at a guitar store in either Lansing, or Grand Rapids MI.

September 5, 2016

The Problem of Resource Engagement

Filed under: books, Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:31 am
Christian parents in particular have never had so many resources available to build spiritual formation in their children

Christian parents in particular have never had so many resources available to build spiritual formation in their children

One of the recurring themes in my 9:00 to 5:00 world is a challenge to people, especially men, to be readers. There is a great need in families for children to observe and thereby have memories of their father sitting in a chair reading. I’m not picky on this; I’ll settle for a newspaper or magazine.

Reading separates us from the animals. I know this firsthand, as my cat was never much of a reader, and the one time I owned a dog, while he seemed enthusiastic about books, he would prefer to chew a book’s cover over cracking it open.

Technology has contributed to the erosion of the English language. Spell-check simply substitutes what the computer believes to be our intended words, and since nobody proofreads, nobody notices. Texting doesn’t even try for words. Children are over-stimulated, and a book simply can’t compete with visual media. Our attention spans have dropped to levels so low, it as though everyone has a measure of ADD…

…But this weekend, as I thought about this further, I realize that we’re also in the middle of a crisis involving resource engagement, especially in the church. There was a time we would talk about the buy-in factor. The church would have a special presentation on a weeknight, and the congregation would be encouraged to be there, but attendance was sparse. There would be a special project on the weekend, but few would sign-up. There would be a conference or retreat scheduled, but registration would be low. The special speaker brought a carton of books for sale, but only a handful of people would drop by his table.

We probably have more resources available to us than at any time in history.

And yet, our resource engagement, on a per-capita basis is probably the worst it has ever been. The books and DVDs sit on supplier shelves. Only a few people use the church’s sermon media to catch up if they miss a service. Parents don’t even begin to scratch the surface on the Christian education resources available for their children…

…Enough cursing the darkness. How do we light a candle? How do we increase the buy-in? How do we get Christians to realize the wealth of resources that is available to them which they are basically ignoring and not utilizing? How do we ignite and fuel the passion?

Any suggestions?

 

 

 

 

August 12, 2016

To Christian Parents of LGBTQ Children

Yesterday we linked to a blog post by John Pavlovitz and last summer we featured his writing at Christianity 201, which we’ll probably do again soon. But this time I want to present an article in full because — and I hope John agrees — I want to make sure all Thinking Out Loud readers get to see this. I know there may be readers who may not agree 100% with everything here, but below is the link to the article. You can read it at source, and I’ll turn off comments here so that you may respond there.  Also, if this issue hasn’t come home to roost at your church, be assured that it will happen.

Christian Parents of LGBTQ Children: The Church Has Been Wrong

by John Pavlovitz

Christian Parents out there with LGBTQ children: I see you.

I see your held back tears and the weariness you wear and the weight upon your shoulders.

I hear you when you tell me how difficult this all is. I hear you when you talk about your frustration. I hear you when you share your stories of tears and humiliation.

I hear the grief in your voice when you talk about the faith you used to have or the prayers you used to say or the church where you used to feel welcome or the God your child once believed in.

I hear you when you say you feel like a failure—and I want you to know that you haven’t failed.

Your children haven’t failed either.

The Church has failed you.

It is the Church, not you who have been wrong:

If the Church ever made you feel like you had to choose between loving God and loving your LGBTQ kids, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever made you believe that your children couldn’t be both gay and Christian, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever forced or pulled your child out of a ministry position he or she loved simply because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, the Church was wrong.

If The Church ever caused you to resent your son or your daughter without realizing it, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever shunned your family with silence or forced distance upon you because of your desire to love and accept your children fully, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever caused a fracture in your friendships or your marriage or your family, the Church was wrong.

If the Church openly embarrassed your child by name on social media or from the pulpit or to the congregation, the Church was wrong.

If the Church threatened you with Hell for choosing to defend your children from its cruelty, the Church was wrong.

If the Church ever told you that you and your child could pray away something that was the truest part of who they are, the Church was wrong.

Now The Church for you, may be a pastor or local church staff you know well. It may be a group of people in your faith community you used to call friends. It may be a denomination or organization. It may be a high-profile Evangelist. It may be a callous, hateful stranger on social media.

Whatever the source of the damage done to you in the name of Jesus or on behalf of God, I want you to know that these people didn’t have the consent of God when they did these things—and I’m sorry that they’ve done them.

I’m sorry for every pastor, priest, preacher, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, small group member, sign holder, bullhorn wielder, or pew sitter who ever became a barrier between you and your children, or between your family and Jesus.

Christian Parents of LGBTQ KidsThey were wrong.

You deserve better.

Your children do too.

These words won’t undo the damage or repair your relationship with the Church or give you back all that you’ve lost, but maybe it will make you feel less alone, maybe a little more hopeful, maybe a bit more sane.

Maybe this apology, even if it’s not the one you need or deserve, will bring some peace.

Your children, as you’ve always known or are just beginning to remember—are beautiful.

They are deserving of your pride and your celebration and your bragging on them. They are deserving of joy and lightness and laughter, and I hope they have these things in great abundance for the rest of their lives.

I hope you never let the Church when it is wrong, temper your love for your children, your confidence in your own worth as a parent, or your belief in a good God who completely adores you and them.

If you ever need a pastor who will say the words your family should have heard from a pastor long ago, you know where to find me.

Be greatly encouraged today.

 

July 31, 2016

Growing Up In a Social Media World

Quantifying your Popularity

We spent several hours in the car yesterday, and a Saturday morning program on CBC Radio totally rocked our world with this idea, for which the quote below is approximately how it was worded:

For the first time in history a child or teen can quantify their popularity.

This can’t be healthy. What does a parent say? It’s hard to argue with a number. It’s difficult not to compare numbers. Does this become the child’s measure of self-worth?

 

 

July 29, 2016

Specific Prayers for Your Children

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
Psalm 103:13 NIV

praying boy and dogEven if you’re not a parent, you might be a grandparent, Godparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, teacher, Children’s ministry leader, etc. Or perhaps you can use this as a checklist to see how you measure up yourself! This first appeared at Into The King’s Garden by Angel Koerner Bohon. Click the title below to get the source for this and think of someone who has children in their sphere of influence you can send it to. Also remember, if your kids are in their 30s or 40s, it’s not too late to pray these prayers. (The reference in each section alludes strongly to scripture passages you will recognize, but if you want to study them further, copy and paste into BibleGateway.com)

Virtues to Pray for Your Children

1. Salvation — “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isa. 45:8; 2 Tim. 2:10)

2. Growth in Grace — “I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

3. Love — “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.” (Gal. 5:25; Eph. 5:2)

4. Honesty and Integrity — “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection.” (Ps. 25:21)

5. Self-Control — “Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.” (1 Thess. 5:6)

6. Love for God’s Word — “May my children grow to find Your Word more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps. 19:10)

7. Justice — “God, help my children to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.” (Ps. 11:7; Mic. 6:8)

8. Mercy — “May my children always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

9. Respect (for self, others, and authority) — “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect to everyone, as Your Word commands.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

10. Biblical Self-Esteem — “Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:10)

11. Faithfulness — “Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.” (Prov. 3:3)

12. Courage — “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.” (Deut. 31:6)

13. Purity — “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions.” (Ps. 51:10)

14. Kindness — “Lord, may my children always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thess. 5:15)

15. Generosity — “Grant that my children may be generous and willing to share, and so lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

16. Peace-Loving — “Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Rom. 14:19)

17. Joy — “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thes. 1:6)

18. Perseverance — “Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race marked out for them.” (Heb. 12:1)

19. Humility — “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to show true humility toward all.” (Titus 3:2)

20. Compassion — “Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.” (Col. 3:12)

21. Responsibility — “Grant that my children may learn responsibility, for each one should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5)

22. Contentment — “Father, teach my children the secret of being content in any and every situation, through Him who gives them strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

23. Faith — “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them.” (Luke 17:5-6; Heb. 11:1-40)

24. A Servant’s Heart — “God, please help my children develop servant’s hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.” (Eph. 6:7)

25. Hope — “May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

26. Willingness and Ability to Work — “Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

27. Passion for God — “Lord, please instill in my children a soul that ‘followeth hard after thee,’ one that clings passionately to You.” (Ps. 63:8)

28. Self-Discipline — “Father, I pray that my children may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.” (Prov. 1:3)

29. Prayerfulness — “Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

30. Gratitude — “Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:7)

31. A Heart for Missions — “Lord, please help my children to develop a desire to see Your glory declared among the nations, Your marvelous deeds among the peoples.” (Ps. 96:3)

 

July 9, 2016

Media to Fill Your Home

It’s been awhile, but this is the third time for this article here, this time with revisions…

I’ve previously written here about how we’re big fans of sermon audio when we travel, and as someone who works in a Christian bookstore environment, it’s a given that I’m a huge booster of Christian books and music.

But today I want to approach this from a slightly different perspective. Many times I’ve written about the battle that goes on for our thought life, and how this takes place on a moment by moment basis. Back in June, I posted a great analysis of the types of thoughts, that are going on in our heads at any given point in time.

I don’t spend a lot of time commuting, but I am increasingly aware of the contrast that exists between the mental processes that take place when I omit to turn on the radio — which is mostly presets for Christian stations — and drive in silence, versus the times I have worship songs playing. This is a giant contrast in my thoughts and attitude, not a mild difference.

Listening to Bible Teaching

I frequently listen to sermons from Willow Creek, The Meeting House, Woodland Hills and North Point, in addition to live sermons at church, and the occasional streaming of conferences.

Life was not always so.

I can remember asking my parents why they had to constantly listen to more preacher programs. Their media of choice was WDCX, an FM station in Buffalo, and WHLD, a Buffalo AM outlet. Of course, my choice would have been Top 40 rock station 1050 CHUM in Toronto. I think that was the real issue.

But today, although I hunger to learn and grow and discover more about Christ through what others have learned, I also am acutely aware of what happens in the absence of Christian media in the home.

Bible teaching can come in other forms besides radio and television. There are the aforementioned sermons-on-demand and live-streaming church services on the internet, plus many pastors often do a separate podcast. But there are still audio CDs of sermons kicking around, and of course books.

Reading Christian Books

One of my latest rants is that, in the average 21st Century family, I’m not sure the kids have ever seen dad sitting in a chair reading, and here I’m speaking of reading anything, a newspaper or magazine would suffice. How much more is it important to take time out and immerse yourself in the Bible, devotional material and study resources. If you missed it, I encourage you to read an article we did on Bill Hybels’ “Chair Time” concept.

Listening to Christian Music

For some Christ-followers, the dominant form of uplifting, inspirational and wholesome media is Christian music; which may consist of hymns, mass choirs, southern gospel, adult contemporary, Christian rock in all its various genres, and the current favorite, modern worship.

Again, these can be accessed in various forms. Some choose mp3 files which can be played back in the car and in the home. Many people are still buying music CDs. Christian music song videos abound on video sharing sites like YouTube. There is an abundance of Christian radio available online, and here in North America, most people live within range of a broadcast station that plays music, teaching or a mix of both.

But I have to say that as a worship leader, nothing compares to the songs what you experience in a worship environment with your faith family. Even today, I hear a song and I’ll remember which church I was in when I heard it and who was leading worship that day. Or I’ll be reading a scripture and I’ll recognize the verse as a line from a worship lyric. If you happen to be blessed with a gift that allows you to play in the worship band, a particular song can get stuck in your head for hours, and in a good way.

For a listing of some of my favorite songs with video, visit the sidebar in the right margin at Christianity 201.

Christian Movies

Our family was never a movie-culture family. We’ve been to the cineplex less than a dozen times, ever. But the production of Christian cinema has exploded over the last few years, and if you’re the type who enjoys gathering everyone around the home theater there are now some really decent films from which to choose, plus you’re supporting a genre that has tremendous outreach potential. You can purchase DVDs — great for loaning out after you’re done — or stream movies live.

Listening to God

These varied media I find to be a positive alternative to anything else, and in fact fulfill a direct instruction from scripture:

Phillips – Col. 3: 16-17 Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts.

What will control your thought life this week?

May 29, 2016

Yesterday We Graduated from University

Filed under: Christianity, family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 am

He graduated in terms of actually taking the courses and getting the diploma. We graduated in terms of parenting him through the process. His undergraduate years as a student are now behind him, as are our parent-of-an-undergraduate years.

James Dobson frequently talked about the role of parents to “just get them through it.” I have mixed feelings about that phrase. I like the idea of parents seeing their offspring through the different stages of life, and going from A to B to C to D. But I think there’s more a parent can do. We can encourage them to completion of A and B and C, but we can also enrich the process so it isn’t reduced to a fatalistic ‘let’s get this over with and then we can relax.’ Women reading this are free to comment something like, ‘Only a male would say that parenting is just getting through it,’ because according to the stereotype, men are more goal oriented, and women are more process oriented. I would agree, there has to be more than just reaching graduation day, in the four or five years which lead up to it.

So yes, we worked to get him through it, but hopefully we also contributed to making it a life-changing experience regardless of the outcome; though, for the record, he did pass every course.

Congratulations, Aaron.


This also seemed like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared, I believe, three times here now.

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

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