How to Raise Positive Kids in a Negative World

Let’s face it, the world can be a pretty ugly and negative place sometimes.  You don’t have to look far to find it.  So is it possible to raise positive kids in such a negative world?

Positive Kids

Amid all that’s wrong with the world, thankfully we get to be a part of what’s right as we instill within the next generation the character and desire to be world-changers.

Raising positive kids in a negative world isn’t easy, but it is possible. Here’s some reminders for how to do it:

MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY’S FOUNDATION IS ROOTED IN FAITH

Nothing gives us a reason to live positive lives more than the fact we know God is in control, He has a grand purpose for our lives, and we can trust Him.

  • Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

LEARN TO POINT OUT THE GOOD EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE BAD

Nothing raises positive kids better than optimistic parents. In your day to day dealing as a family, choose optimism over pessimism in every situation. Pessimism kills positivity.

  • Proverbs 17:22  A merry heart doth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

ALWAYS SPEAK WELL OF OTHERS

Learn not to speak negatively of other people in front of your kids. Better yet, simply learn not to speak negatively of other people.  Your kids will pick up on this very quickly.

  • Colossians 4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt…

NEVER FORGET THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOURSELVES

Remember the poor. Help those in need. Pray for those less fortunate.  When we help our children remember that we really don’t have it as bad as we think, it’s easier to appreciate what we do have.  Guard your children against developing an attitude of entitlement.

  • Galatians 2:10  We should remember the poor…

CULTIVATE A FAMILY CULTURE OF THANKFULNESS

Gratitude is the brother of positivity. You’ll have a hard time finding grateful people who aren’t also positive and optimistic people. Don’t allow a spirit of complaining to rear up its ugly head in your family.  Help your kids learn to appreciate the small and the big things, the good and the bad.

  • I Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God…

While we may not be able to change the entire world around us, God has given us the privilege to change our part of it through our children. May we always be mindful that we are developing world-changers in our homes – godly young people who can take the most positive message there is into a negative world that desperately needs it.

How to Know When Your Kids are Growing Up

A fun look at 18 years of parenthood

Our oldest son has recently had his sights on the future.  Just the other day, we were talking to him about growing up, and without missing a beat, he said, “Just 5 years, dad, and I’ll be out of the house.”

Kids Growing Up

As I heard those words, I couldn’t help but notice how they rolled off his tongue just a bit too easily.

As a parent, I’m sure you can relate to the feeling that you know you’re getting old when your kids keep getting older.  Here are 18 fun and humorous reminders of how you know when your kids are growing up.  I hope they put a smile on your face…

  1. You know your kids are growing up when the words “diaper bag, pacifier, and sippy cup” are no longer used in your daily vocabulary.
  2. You know your kids are growing up the first time they call you mom or dad instead of mommy or daddy.
  3. You know your kids are growing up that first time you drop them off for school and they say, “It’s okay, you don’t have to walk me to the door anymore.”
  4. You know your kids are growing up when a family trip to Walmart without losing anyone no longer feels like a huge accomplishment.
  5. You know your kids are growing up when the same weird and crazy things you do that used to make them laugh, now cause them to cover their faces in shame.
  6. You know your kids are growing up when you mention the word ‘cooties’ and they just roll their eyes instead of being grossed out.
  7. You know your son is growing up when he starts looking at girls the same way he used to look at chocolate chip cookies.
  8. You know your little girl is growing up when she starts asking how old she has to be before she can wear makeup.
  9. You know your kids are growing up when they start liking coffee and actually look forward to taking naps.
  10. You know your kids are growing up when you actually get nervous about holding a baby again.
  11. You know your kids are growing up when they know more about your smartphone than you do.
  12. You know your kids are growing up when they look at you as more of a chauffeur than a parent.
  13. You know your kids are growing up when your son asks if he can borrow the car keys.
  14. You know your kids are growing up when your daughter asks you what you think about a certain cute boy.
  15. You know your kids are growing up when they get a job and start saving for college.
  16. You know your kids are growing up when you take them out to eat and they end up picking up the tab.
  17. You know your kids are growing up when they end up falling in love themselves.
  18. You know your kids are growing up when you watch them drive away in a vehicle with the words “just married” on the back window.
Parenting is one of the world’s greatest responsibilities.  Yet it flies by fast.  All we have is 18 years.  All we get is 18 years.  Make the most of them while they last. The years that follow have a way of coming back to thank you.

Want to Become a Better Parent?… ASK

Learning from others who've Been There, Done That

Every parent wants to become a better parent, and rightly so.  We should all be striving to improve ourselves on an ongoing basis for the sake of our family and our kids.

ask

However, many of us fail to ever tap into one of the greatest resources that can improve our parenting skills and give us the knowledge and ideas needed to parent successfully.

What is it?  Very simply, ASK.

One of the advantages to parenting (or just about anything else in life) is that you can learn from the mistakes of others without having to repeat them yourself, if you want to. There is a wealth of biblical and practical parenting knowledge out there in the hearts and minds of other parents, just waiting for you to tap into it.  Not only that, it follows the biblical pattern for learning life lessons from others who’ve gone before us.  (Proverbs 16:31, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:3-5)

So here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find some older parents or a young family that you can… Ask.  It might be some older parents who’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, having already raised godly children, that you can seek out and ask about their parenting advice.  Or… find a young family your same age whose kids seem to reflect that they’re doing things right, and ask them questions and specifics about what they are and aren’t doing that works.  And don’t be shy about asking.  You’re going to find that almost anyone who loves the Lord and the next generation will be more than delighted to share any wisdom they’ve acquired through experience.
  2. Have a list of specific questions ready to ask.  I’d encourage you to come up with plenty of your own questions, but here are some important ones you might consider including in your list: (These could be asked in past or present tense, depending on who your asking)
    • How did you discipline?
    • What kind of daily or weekly schedule did you keep?
    • How often were you in church, and how did that affect your family and parenting?
    • Did you spend regular time as a family around the Bible?
    • What was something you did that you feel was one of your biggest parenting successes?
    • If you could do it over again, what was one of your biggest parenting mistakes?
    • Did you ever have to treat or discipline your children differently based upon their specific needs or personalities?
    • What kind of things did you do (or rules and guidelines did you have) to protect your kids from wrong influences?
    • What are some practical suggestions for a family like ours?
    • What are some blind spots that you may have observed in our parenting?
  3. Take notes of their answers that you can refer back to.  The last thing you want to do is waste someone else’s time, so make sure you are prepared with your list of questions, and also make sure that you maximize upon the opportunity by taking notes.  Don’t be afraid to pry into their answers by asking for more details and getting more specific responses. Remember, you want to benefit from this experience as much as possible.  Also, if their kids are teenagers or adults now themselves, consider meeting with them and asking them some questions too.
  4. Implement what you learn into your own parenting.  Asking, as good as it is, does no good for you or your family, if you do nothing with it.  Granted, you may not use everything, because every family is unique in their own good way, but even if you don’t initially like all of their ideas and suggestions, remember the end result that drew you to them in the first place.  Apparently, what they are doing (or have done) must have worked or you would not have specifically sought them out to seek for their advice.  Make sure you walk away with at least one or two golden nuggets of parenting wisdom that you can put into practice.

Someone has already successfully walked the same path that you are currently on.  Wouldn’t it be foolish not to try and learn from their wisdom, so that you don’t repeat their mistakes?

Now, you may be thinking, “This is a great idea.  I’m going to do it!”  But remember, good intentions don’t usually cut it.  What gets scheduled, get’s done.  So don’t let today pass without talking to your spouse, picking out a couple or family that you can talk to, and setting up a time within the next week or two to get together and make this happen.  Your family will thank you for it.

So, what older couple, or what family has already come to mind as you’re reading this?… It doesn’t matter whether you are a family in serious need of some good counsel, a family who seems to, for the most part, have it all together, or even a family who is serving in full-time ministry.  We could all benefit from seeking out someone older or wiser that could help us to become better parents.

Will you accept the ASK Challenge?  Here’s a simple way to remember what you need to do:

  1.  A – Ask (Pick a family!)
  2.  S – Specific Questions (Put together a list!)
  3.  K – Knowledge is Power (Put it into practice!)

Are you up for the challenge?… Feel free to let me know (via a comment, email, or the contact page) if you commit to doing this.  Then drop me a line when you’ve actually done it, and I’ll gladly send you a couple of free parenting resources to further help you in your parenting journey.  You can do this!

I’d encourage you to share this idea with other families as well.

For the next generation,

Andrew

Is Your VBS Outreach Actually Reaching Out?

Keeping the focus on reaching those without Jesus

Last week, I discussed 5 reasons Why VBS is still important.  You can read it by clicking here.  But while those things answered the “WHY” of making VBS an outreach oriented event, we really need to answer the question of “HOW”.

VBS Reaching Out?

What is it that qualifies a VBS program as being “Outreach Oriented”?  How can we evaluate our strategy to make sure we’re not just entertaining our kids, but seeking out lost kids who don’t know Jesus?  How can we keep our focus on reaching those without Christ?

I believe that 3 things are necessary…

If our VBS Outreach is going to Reach Out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be:

1. Focused on OTHERS

Unchurched parents are more likely to send their children to VBS than to any other church-related activity.  That means that VBS naturally gives us an opportunity to focus our attention outward and reach out into our community.

It ought to greatly concern us if our “outreach” programs don’t do any reaching out to new people.  Because as much as Jesus loves the church, and even gave Himself for it, He hasn’t primarily called us to reach the church.  He’s commissioned us to reach the world.

VBS provides the church with one of the greatest ways to obey Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, by starting with reaching out to our own Jerusalem.

While putting a primary emphasis on reaching out to the lost is imperative, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our VBS efforts to encourage the spiritual growth of those who are already saved.  That can also be a very worthwhile goal.

However, it’s crucial to remember that you’ll probably have more unsaved kids at VBS than you’ll ever have at one time on a given Sunday.  And with a field as white for harvest at that, we just simply can’t afford to make the spiritual growth of “our” kids our only focus, at the expense of reaching those who need the life-changing message of Jesus the most.

An outreach-focused VBS needs to be focused on OTHERS!  Secondly, our VBS has got to be…

2.  Focused on JESUS

The only hope for the world, whether it’s kids or adults, is Jesus Christ!  One of the greatest mistakes that many churches make with their VBS programming is a failure to make the gospel of Jesus a central and intentional daily focus.

If we’re potentially reaching more un-churched kids and families during this one week than any other all year, why wouldn’t we want to be giving them the one thing that has the power to give them both hope for now, and eternity forever?

I’m not against doing any and all of the fun things that accompany VBS, but while cool crafts, exciting games, and awesome prizes are a lot of fun, they won’t take anyone to Heaven.  Unfortunately, our enemy knows that, and would love for us to shift our primary focus on those things.

Satan could want nothing more than for us to send kids away from a week of VBS with cool stuff in their hands, but nothing life-changing in their hearts.

Regardless of what theme or curriculum you choose to use this summer, make sure it’s more about Jesus and the gospel than it is about anything else.  Kids need to leave having heard the clear gospel, which is the only power of God unto salvation.  And in addition to that, make sure that there’s an opportunity for them to respond to it, with counselors prepared to answer their questions and pray with them.

VBS needs to be a gospel-centered and gospel-driven event, because more than kids need entertained for a week, they need Jesus for an eternity.

Lastly, if our VBS is going to reach out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be…

3.  Focused on FAMILIES

VBS provides a way to reach families unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.  There are many effective ways to do this, but I’ve never found any that work as well as having a grand finale service for the entire family.

The way this might look for your church could be a Family Carnival or a Family Fun Fest on the final night with games, horse rides, inflatables, a dunk tank, face-painting, and free food, etc.  We promote the Family Night all week long with the kids and promise them a prize if they bring mom or dad (or any adult) with them.  We start with an opening rally time that includes a clear gospel presentation, then we allow the kids and their parents to enjoy a time of games and activities that follow.

It may sound simple, but it’s proven to be the most effective thing we’ve ever done to get more new parents through the doors of our church than anything else we’ve tried.

Having an unformatted time like the carnival has also allowed us to have a casual environment to meet the parents and introduce ourselves, while at the same time giving them information about our church, getting to know them personally, and even praying with them about needs that they may have.

This is a great time to build a personal connection with parents as well as increase the success of your future follow up efforts.  (There’s just something special about them knowing you by name when you show up on their door-step, or make an “appearance” in the mail, to thank them and their kids for coming!)

Whatever it is that you choose to do, make it a priority to incorporate some type of outreach to families, because kids are not the only ones who need to be reached, and reaching their parents will actually increase your long-term chances of reaching them.

“Apart from helping them personally come to Jesus, the greatest thing you can ever do for an unchurched child is reach their parents.”

So… it’s time to evaluate your strategy!  Are these three things a focus in the execution of your VBS plan?  Which one do you need to work on incorporating the most to ensure you are primarily reaching those without Jesus?

Let’s move beyond ourselves this summer and make sure the biggest “outreach” opportunity we have is really about what matters most – REACHING OUT!

Thanks for your investment into the hearts and lives of kids this summer, and thanks for sharing this with others!

Andrew

  • I’m currently on the road conducting VBS for local churches.  If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use that have been intentionally developed with these three strategies in mind, you can check them out by clicking here.
  • Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase edition of KidzMatter Magazine.

Why VBS?

Is VBS still worth doing?

I love VBS!  I love the excitement that it generates in our church and community.  I love the passion for it that builds in my own heart leading up to it.  I love the fun and craziness and chaos that comes along with the week of VBS.

WhyVBS?

There’s just something totally energizing to a children’s pastor about pennies in buckets, pies in the face, and points on a scoreboard.  But the one thing that excites me most about VBS more than anything else is the potential it provides for bringing new kids and families to Jesus!

There can be many purposes for a church’s summer outreach, and there can even be many different approaches that can be used other than VBS.  But no matter what you do or what you call it, the most valuable benefit that “VBS” provides is the opportunity to move outside the walls of your church and reach out to your community in a big, personal, and eternal way.

VBS is an awesome and dynamic outreach opportunity, and it needs to be outreach oriented for a good number of reasons. Here’s a few:

  1. For most churches, VBS is the largest children’s ministry event all year long, and the best opportunity to reach more kids at one time with the life-changing message of Jesus.  Even compared to other ministries in the church, Vacation Bible School is often one of the most consistently effective and productive of them all.
  2. Many kids will come to your VBS that may never otherwise come to your church.  Don’t let this discourage you, let it encourage you!  VBS naturally brings out new kids and families who might otherwise never darken the doors of your church, because many kids whose parents would say ‘no’ to church, say ‘yes’ to VBS!
  3. VBS shows parents that you really care about their kids and allows them to get a first impression of your church and ministry.  With new kids comes watching parents. They’re watching to see how friendly we are, how organized we are, and whether they even realize it or not, how much like Jesus we are.  The impression they have of our church will probably be in direct proportion to the way we treat them and their kids.   And the truth is that if parents know that we love their children, we’ve just built a connection and potentially opened their heart’s door to the gospel.
  4. VBS gives you five days of repetitive influence and gospel exposure!  Most churches do VBS for as many as 5 days in a row.  Think about it… The influence that would normally take 5 weeks of regular church programming to accomplish can be done in just 5 days!  And in addition to that, a clear presentation of the gospel can be given 5 days back to back!   That’s a huge window of opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.
  5. Kids get saved and make life changing decisions for Christ at VBS!  Oftentimes, if a VBS is evangelistic in it’s outreach, there will be as many or more salvations in that one week than the rest of the entire year of children’s ministry.  And with 85% of people coming to Christ before the age of 13, no doubt multiplied thousands of those have made their decision to follow Christ during VBS!

VBS has great potential, but it really needs to be an intentional outreach opportunity, reaching the hearts and souls of many we may never otherwise be able to reach.

While these points address why VBS needs to be outreach oriented, next week, I’ll be giving you some practical ways for how to make sure your outreach is actually ‘reaching out’ to those who need it most.

Are you all in for your church’s VBS or summer outreach?  If so, please like, comment, or share!

  • For the next couple of weeks I’m on the road conducting VBS for local churches.  If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use, you can check them out by clicking here.
  • Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase Edition of KidzMatter Magazine.

One Of The Best Pieces Of Advice For Your Kids To Turn Out Right

Take care of this, and the rest will take care of itself

I was speaking recently with a parent whose kids are grown, and I asked him what advice he would give to a young parent like myself with kids still at home.  Do you want to know what he said?  Here it is…   “One of the best pieces of advice I’d give to any parent to make sure their kids turn out right is this…

LOOK IN THE MIRROR…

And learn to take care of that person who’s reflection you see.  Because when you learn to take care of that person, and to become all that God wants you to be, you have automatically become all the parent that your kids need you to be for them as well.”

I’d have to say, that’s some great advice!

It really doesn’t matter what you say to your kids about right and wrong, or even how loudly you ‘preach’ to them about living for God, if they don’t see those things exemplified in your everyday life, they are very unlikely to stick to theirs.

The saying holds true that “Our faith is more often caught than it is taught.”

“More than you kids will become what you say, they will become who you are.”

How well are you doing at taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually?

How well are you doing at exemplifying your expectations for your kids, not just expecting them from your kids?

Could we honestly say to our children what the Apostle Paul was bold enough to say to his spiritual children in Philippians 4:9?

“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

If your children do as you do:

  1. Will God bless their lives with His peace?
  2. Will you want them doing the same things that they have learned, received, heard, and seen in you?

Every day your kids are becoming something.  Something different and something more than they were yesterday.  Everyday your kids are becoming more of you.  Is the ‘you’ that they are becoming the person you want them to be?

40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Here are 40 simple Bible statements/principles to teach your kids.

Bible Statements Graphic

You might find these worthy of putting on your fridge, using as a springboard for devotional ideas, or even committing to memory.  Whatever you choose to do with them, they are great foundational thoughts for your kids to know and believe.

  1. “In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1
  2. “God is not a man, that he should lie.”  Numbers 23:19
  3. “There is no man which sinneth not.”  2 Chronicles 6:36
  4. “We will not forsake the house of our God.”  Nehemiah 10:39
  5. “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” Psalm 11:7
  6. “I will love thee, O Lord.”  Psalm 18:1
  7. “As for God, his way is perfect.”  Psalm 18:30
  8. “Who is God save the Lord?” Psalm 18:31
  9. “But as for me, I will walk in my integrity.”  Psalm 26:11
  10. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8
  11. “Trust in the Lord, and do good.”  Psalm 37:3
  12. “I will be sorry for my sin.”  Psalm 38:18
  13. “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.” Psalm 45:7
  14. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  15. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Psalm 48:1
  16. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” Psalm 97:10
  17. “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”  Psalm 138:2
  18. “Great is the glory of the Lord.”  Psalm 138:5
  19. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee.” Isaiah 41:10
  20. “I am God, and there is none else.”  Isaiah 45:22
  21. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Mark 7:10
  22. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Luke 1:37
  23. “Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27
  24. “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  Luke 6:31
  25. “He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”  Luke 9:48
  26. “He that is not with me is against me.”  Luke 11:23
  27. “Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
  28. “God is true.”  John 3:33
  29. “This is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”  John 4:42
  30. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
  31. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”  John 14:9
  32. “I am the vine, ye are the branches… without me, ye can do nothing.”  John 15:5
  33. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another.”  John 15:12
  34. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37
  35. “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34
  36. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  Acts 16:31
  37. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men.”  Acts 17:26
  38. “God… commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30
  39. “Our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:29
  40. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  Revelation 22:13

As an added convenience, here’s a free user-friendly graphic that you can download and print to share these statements with your family.  40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Bible Statements

 

Oh No, Jesus Was a Step-Child!

Help & Encouragement for Step Parents & the Church

Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Matthew 1:18

baby

Imagine with me for a moment, Jesus, the only Son of God, was:

  • The child of an “unplanned” pregnancy.
  • Conceived to an unmarried teenage girl.
  • And raised by another man other than His biological Father.

Sound familiar?

In our society today, it’s a common occurrence for children to be raised in a step family or with a step parent.  And while it may have never been God’s original plan for the family, God is using churches today that are full of step families to accomplish His work and raise up the next generation for Christ.

“In 2011, the Family Research Council found that only 46% of children in the United States will reach the age of 17 living in intact homes with both biological parents.  This same statistic was reflected in 2014, when the Pew Research Center also found only 46 percent of children were currently living in a home with both biological parents.”  

While those statistics are unfortunate, they are reality.  And this raises a very legitimate question for the church…  If over half of families today are made up of something other traditional biological families, how is that reflected in the people we are reaching in our churches?  Are we reaching, welcoming, and helping these step families that enter our doors?  Because nearly half of families who visit our church will fit into that category.

May we never look down upon them, judge them, or treat them differently than any other family in our church.  Have they made mistakes?  Yes.  Would they go back and do some things differently?  Probably.  Can they reverse time and change the past?  No.  Is there baggage that has to be worked through?  Oftentimes.  Can we love them unconditionally right where they are?  Yes.  Can they be used in ministry to advance the kingdom of God? Absolutely.  Are their children any less important to God?  No.

And may I say this very clearly and understandably – broken homes, step families, and the children of them, ARE NOT second rate to God, and should not be treated as second rate in the church.

What is the church about?  Well, it’s a place where broken people get restored, sinners are given second chances, and all are allowed time and space to heal… from their sin, their past, and their failures, no matter what it involves.

Consider a couple of note-worthy things about step families from Jesus’ family:

  1. Jesus’ step-father was a godly man who loved the Lord and loved Him.  Joseph raised Jesus like He was his own.  He trained Him, taught Him, loved Him, and no doubt helped Him to become the man’s man that He was.  Joseph was the picture of what many parents portray in the church today – godly men and women raising kids not their own, and absolutely killin’ it in the process, raising some amazingly God-loving kids.
  2. A pregnant teenage girl gave birth to the Son of God.  God works in mysterious ways, and oftentimes through seemingly bad circumstances. The same is still true today. Remember this, “A mistake on the part of a parent never makes their child a mistake in the eyes of God.”
  3. A step-parent raised the only perfect kid ever.  Certainly, Joseph had a slight advantage, raising the only perfect Son of God, but he proved that IT IS POSSIBLE to parent successfully as a step-parent.
  4. God used a step-child to change the world.  While the surrounding circumstances were certainly different than in families today, consider this thought… God used the child of a pregnant teenage girl, and who was raised by a step-father… to save the entire human race.  And God is still using kids from all family types to make a difference in His kingdom today.

If you are a member of a Bible-believing church, I hope that these thoughts will remind you to be aware of both the needs and potential of the step families within your church.

And if you are a parent with a broken marriage, a second marriage, or filling another parent’s shoes as a step-parent, I hope that these words encourage you.  I also hope that they challenge you, and remind you that God’s greatest work ever accomplished in the world came through an “untraditional” family – a family that was yielded to Him and committed to the process of godly parenting, regardless of their circumstances.

No doubt, what God has called you to in this season of your life has its own unique set of challenges that some of us may never fully understand, but please know that I am praying for you today.  Praying that God would give you strength, stamina, and the spirit of a Joseph or a Mary for the specific situations that you face.

God loves you, the church loves you, and we desperately need your help to raise the next generation of world-changers!

Thanks Mom

For thinking about me, praying for me, and dreaming about who I would one day become, before you even knew me… thanks, Mom.

Thanks

For carrying me in your womb and all of the inconveniences you endured for nine months to bring me into this world… thanks, Mom.

For going though the pangs of death to offer me life… thanks, Mom.

For feeding me, bathing me, burping me, changing me… thanks, Mom.

For staying up late and getting up early to keep our house a home… thanks, Mom.

For washing dishes, folding laundry, and mopping floors with a smile… thanks, Mom.

For feeding our family’s hungry faces when it seemed you’d just finished the meal before… thanks, Mom.

For attending my plays, concerts, and games, and being my taxi driver to do it all… thanks, Mom.

For always being there to talk to when I needed it most… thanks, Mom.

For staying up late worrying about me and my problems… thanks, Mom.

For being a woman of prayer and taking those problems to the throne room of God on my behalf… thanks, Mom.

For enduring the many times I took you and all you did for me for granted… thanks, Mom.

For ’setting me stright’ when I wanted it the least, but needed it the most… thanks, Mom.

For teaching me that life is about more than just living, but loving… thanks, Mom.

For helping me see and come to know the One who loves me most… thanks, Mom.

For giving me wisdom and counsel for life’s big decisions… thanks, Mom.

For being much more than just a mother, but a friend… thanks, Mom.

For all those times you showed mercy on me when I deserved something else… thanks, Mom.

For all those times you gave me exactly what I deserved… thanks, Mom.

For teaching me things about life that I could have never learned from a book… thanks, Mom.

For showing me love that I could have never experience apart from yours… thanks, Mom.

For never giving up on me, even when others did… thanks, Mom.

For being my biggest cheerleader, my greatest fan, and one of my closest friends… thanks, Mom.

Mom, I wish I could give you all the thanks that you deserve, but I hope that I always show you, and that you always know, how truly grateful I am for you in my life.  No matter what has ever come between us or kept us apart, please accept these two simple words, from my heart to yours, with truest sincerity… THANKS, MOM!  I love you.

(If you’re thankful for your mom, share this and tag her.)

How & Why To Talk To Your Kids About Gender Identity

The Ball Has Just Been Put Into Our Court

Whether we like it or not, as parents we’ve been thrust into a situation by recent events that requires us to have a much-needed conversation with our kids about gender identity.

HOW & WHY

But while America is struggling to know their identity, your family doesn’t have to.

And while the events of the past week or so seem to demand it, some might still question why a parent would want to address this issue with their children.  Here are a few practical reasons:

  • If they don’t hear it first from us, they will hear it sooner or later from someone else (and probably not from our same perspective).
  • We set ourselves up for an awkward and possibly unexpected situation when our kids go into a public restroom, only to come out with many more questions than when they went in.
  • It gives us an opportunity as parents to teach our kids God’s perspective of human/gender identity.

Here are a couple of important points to bring out in talking to your kids…

GOD is absolutely CLEAR on the issue

While the world around us struggles to determine the truth of who and what they are, God has already made it perfectly clear and easily understandable, even for a child:

  • God created us in His image.  (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • God created us male and female.  (Genesis 1:27)
  • God created us with a specific gender for our unique purpose in mind. (Genesis 1:28, 2:15,18)
  • God alone decides a person’s gender, and has made obvious and undeniable ways of identifying that gender from birth. (Psalm 139:14-16)

By teaching your kids these basic biblical truths, they’ll be able on their own to identify truth from error when they hear it.  Teach your kids that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that His Word never changes, but is timeless, regardless of what the world does.

The WORLD is utterly CONFUSED on the issue

Sadly, we live in a very confused society who has allowed itself and it’s culture to be shaped by it’s pet sins rather than any form of truth whatsoever.

Consider this quote from the American College of Pediatricians…

“A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such. These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V)” 

Saying that anyone can be anything or any gender they choose and has rights to go into any bathroom they choose is simply naive and twisted.  Just ask any child, and they’ll be able to tell you “the way things are supposed to be.”  So why does our society believe they must push such confusion upon our children and future generations, not to mention intentionally subjecting the ones we are responsible to protect to a whole new world of unnecessary dangers?

The answer is very simply this – the world we live in is a very sinful, deceived, and confused place.

When the world around us decides to make laws that not only contradict the Bible, but so clearly go against common sense, we have not only confused the culture, we have chosen to confuse the future generations and worldview of our children and grandchildren.

We do well to teach our children that the world is confused, and God is not the author of confusion. (I Corinthians 14:33)

But most importantly, we must not miss teaching our children this last point…

CHRISTIANS must be CONFIDENT yet COMPASSIONATE on the issue

While we as Christians need to stand unapologetically upon the truth of God’s Word, may we always do it in a way that reflects well of Christ in a world so desperately in need of Him.  In the way we talk to our kids about the issue, may we transfer to them a love for a lost world that needs God’s truth to set them free.   And may we help prepare them to be grounded in the truth for the future challenges that they are sure to face in their own lives.

As the world gets further and further away from truth, they will hate more and more those who speak it.  But may that never change our love for the people behind the sin. Remember that the way that we present the truth will affect the way that our children believe it.

Our children need to hear about this issue from a grace-filled, biblical standpoint, and the best ones to talk to them about it is not the church, or the schools, but the parents.

Our kids are watching to see how we respond to this this issue, and the way we do has the potential to greatly impact them and their future mindset, either positively or negatively. We can inadvertently instill within them an animosity towards those who reject the truth, or just as easily instill within them a compassion towards those same people.

It is still possible to teach our children to love the sinner and hate the sin, by helping them understand that the real enemy is Satan, not any person (Eph. 6:12).  But we must intentionally demonstrate the love of Christ in our approach.

God has given us a great privilege to raise up the next generation of grace-driven, Holy Spirit filled, confident, yet compassionate world changers to take God’s truth into the future.  And issues like this one give us as parents a great opportunity to maximize upon that calling.

Let me strongly encourage you to talk to your kids about these important truths, and even use the points and scriptures referenced above to help you do it.

“We can stand for Christ without compromising truth; we can love the lost without losing our testimony; and we can raise up a generation who understands how to do both.”

The truth of John 8:32 applies now more than ever before for ourselves, our children, and the world around us… “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

If you agree, please share.  Whether you agree or not, I’d love for you to share your feedback.

It’s Not a Perfect Life, But It’s a Wonderful Life

As I write this, it’s 6:30 in the morning, and I’m sitting at my kitchen table looking at the beautiful sunrise out the back sliding-door window of our home.

Wonderful Life

As the sun rises in from the east, it brings in just enough natural brightness that I don’t have to turn on any lights, while at the same time, it magnifies all the fingerprints and smudges of dirty little hands that have gone in and out of our sliding glass door.

Just behind those innumerable smudges I can see lush, green grass that’s screaming at me to cut it once again (“Didn’t I just cut you last week?”), as well as a handful of other backyard projects that have been waiting (not so patiently) to get done.

Just last week we had our carpet cleaned in the house including our very light-colored carpeted stairs. However, yesterday at lunch, when I asked my 6 year old son, Shane, to throw away an avocado seed that had fallen on the floor, he ‘accidentally’ missed the trash can (while trying to slam dunk it, no less), and the brightly green-covered seed went rolling down the freshly cleaned stairs, plopping one green spot after another down each stair it hit on its decent to the bottom.

Ah, yes, and this is the same 6 year old boy, who on the same day climbed up a tree so high that we thought we were going to have to call the fire department to come and get him down (at least, alive, anyway).

We won’t even mention any of the other details of the week like running late to soccer practice because our little guy couldn’t find his gear (again), or the bathroom sink deciding to discharge instead of drain (not actually the little guy’s fault), or the fact that is was also my night to do the dishes (I love doing dishes… not).  Like I said, we won’t mention any of those things…

What I’ve come to realize is that we don’t live a perfect life… and we never will.  Because life is not meant to be lived perfectly.

But quite honestly, when I stop to think about it, would I really want to have it any other way?  Is a perfect life really what I want?  Will clean windows, cut grass, spotless floors, and perfectly draining sinks really make my life fuller and more meaningful?…

Do I want to one day look back upon my life and family with perfect, bland memories – nothing too exciting, too adventurous, too challenging, or too unexpected?  Yes, I sometimes resent those unpredictable circumstances in the heat of the moment, but are they really all that bad in the bigger picture of life?

Or do I want to remember my family life as a wonderful journey and adventure with unpredictable twists and turns that God took us on together… to grow us, and to grow each other, both in the little every day imperfections of life, as well as in the bigger challenges we’ve faced?

Our life’s not perfect, but I don’t really think that I want it to be perfect, because quite honestly… wonderful is far better than perfect.

And I’d have to say, I wouldn’t have it any other way… IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!

Please share if you agree.  I’d also love to hear something about your wonderful, yet imperfect life. You can let me know by leaving a comment.

There’s No App To Replace Your Lap

Why Reading To Your Kids Still Matters

With the growth of media apps and YouTube use rising among children, kids are spending less time reading and more time ‘playing’, than ever before.

Portrait of happy family with two children looking at camera and laughing

Yet, in a world full of media gadgets, it’s still a good thing for kids to experience the wonders found in reading a book.  And one of the best places for them to develop an appetite for reading books is by reading them with mom and dad while they are still young.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” – Emilie Buchwald

While the benefits to childhood reading are numerous, here are couple reasons to keep in mind of why you might want to require your kids to put down their gadgets for a while and pick up a good old-fashioned printed book, or better yet, sit down and read one with them.

  1. Reading develops your child’s brain by opening up new worlds of imagination and possibilities.

All of us know this, but how easily it is to forget it.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Richard Steele

Our oldest son who’s 13 recently decided on his own that he was going to refrain from any media/movies between Mondays – Thursdays.  Instead, he’s chosen to devote more time to reading.  The other day he told me, “Dad, when I know I’m not going to be watching any tv, I feel like I get even more into my book and just want to keep reading more.”

Reading a good book naturally has a way of drawing you in and trying to keep you there for a while, all while at the same time stretching your mind and imagination to think outside the box.  Our children’s imagination is something that they desperately need to use, yet it’s increasingly getting lost by the wayside with each generation.

“Reading is important because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything, and everything about anything.” – Tomie DePaola

The benefits of reading far exceed and are superior to the benefits of the other mindless activities that we often subject ourselves and our children to.

  1.  A love for books and reading is a gift that you give to your children.

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” – Mary Ellen Chase

The younger a parent starts reading to a child, the more likely it is that they will become a reader themselves.  And not only that, the more they are read to, the more easily they will acquire the skills needed to learn to read themselves.

According to statistics from Scholastic, “Strong correlations exist between parental actions and the frequency with which children read. For example, among children who are frequent readers, 57% of parents set aside time each day for their child to read, compared to 16% of parents of children who are infrequent readers.”

When you read to or with your kids, you are instilling within them an appetite and thirst for knowledge and mental engagement, which are things not as easily found by sitting in front of the tube or a device.

In addition, when a parent holds both a child and and a book at the same time, it creates a natural bond by communicating a love for reading and a love for the child.  Kids naturally enjoy being read to, especially by their parents.

And while we’re talking about teaching them the importance of reading, let’s not forget to both show them and teach them the importance of reading the most important book of all – the Bible.

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their kids is simply to read to them, because there’s no app to replace your lap.

By taking the time to regularly read with your child:

  • You’re showing them that reading is worthwhile.
  • You’re sowing seeds for a lifelong relationship with books.
  • You’re helping them fall in love with the printed word at an early age.

So, how are you doing?

Remember, there is no app to replace your lap.

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild… to pick up a book, and read to a child.”  Dr. Seuss