What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Parenting Teenagers

I’m still reading the book about parenting teens: Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. I’m still looking for the exact words to say and the exact way to behave for various situations that might come up when dealing with the teenagers living with us. Unfortunately, this book is not a step-by-step, How To book. First off I think there are just too many possible situations that can come up when dealing with teens for any one book to be able to prepare me for what to say or do for each situation. So looking for that in this book is not realistic.
What this book talks a lot about is changing our attitudes about raising teens. It says we need to have a different mindset. In the author’s experience, many parents are just trying to survive the teen years. He encourages the reader to look at the teen years as an opportunity to reach our kids for God. That takes a different kind of thinking; not survival mode but still an attitude of perseverance.
One of the chapters in the book addresses getting to know the teenagers in our lives. Part of this means remembering what it was like to be teenagers ourselves. Another part of it is looking at what the Scriptures have to say about being teenagers. Actually, Scripture doesn’t say anything about teenagers; that’s a relatively new concept in society. But the Proverbs have a lot to say about youthfulness. In part the chapter says,
“Proverbs emphasizes the value of wisdom and the importance of correction. The father of Proverbs essentially says to his son, ‘Whatever you get in life, get wisdom! It is more valuable than you will ever know.’ The importance of listening and submitting to correction is similarly emphasized. Proverbs goes so far as to say, ‘He who hates correction is stupid’ (Proverbs 12:1).”
The problem is that kids don’t see us as wise or of having knowledge worthy of their attention. Teens are not going to come begging for our wisdom yet somehow we need to be able to communicate in ways that make wisdom appealing to them. Again, this book doesn’t tell me how to do that (and that is frustrating) but it does remind me to be thinking in those terms.
Another thing about teenagers is that they tend to think in terms of legalism. They want a set of dos and don’ts to follow. But just as coming up with a list of all the possible situations that can come up with teens is impossible, coming up with a specific list of rights and wrongs is impossible. We can’t possibly come up with instructions for each situation that may come up. There are just too many possible scenarios. And, what we really want to teach our teens is to act in ways that are pleasing to God. That goes beyond a list of dos and don’ts. We need to try to avoid falling into the trap of trying to give specific instructions for every possible situation. Our teens will just say we never said anything about doing a certain behavior, so it was okay for them to do it. This is really hard to avoid in some situations.
Again, the book does not tell me how to respond in each possible situation that may come up. It emphasizes having an attitude of helping our teenagers to see things as God sees them. Again, I’m not sure how to do that, but I no longer think this book will answer that question. I think I just need to pray about each situation as it comes up and ask God to help me see it as an opportunity to minister to my teenagers. I’m left feeling frustrated but also left with a little bit of hope that there might be ways of doing things differently than I am doing them now. Maybe there’s a way to get better results.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Parenting Idols

I’m reading a book called Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. I’m not very far in it yet, but one thing stands out to me. I have a lot of idols in my life that interfere with the way I relate to the teens in my life. These idols are not the typical things I think of when I think of having idols in my life. Those things – pride, selfishness, material possessions, etc. – are more easily seen as idols. The idols that get in my way of being an effective Christian parent are more subtle.
The definition the book uses for idols is interesting: “the places where we have tended to exchange worship and service of the Creator for worship and service of created things.” In another place it says, “What really rules our hearts?”
The idols parents of teens may have deal with comfort, respect, appreciation, success, and control. These are things we think we deserve and that our teens should supply for us. Take appreciation for example. We think by the time our children get to be teenagers they should appreciate all the wonderful things we have done and are doing for them. That takes a higher level of thinking than teens are generally capable of. If I am honest about it, my first two children didn’t really start voicing appreciation for the things I have done for them until they were away at college and suddenly came to grips with the things I had done for them that they now have to do for themselves. If I expect appreciation and am disappointed when I don’t get it, I’ve made appreciation an idol in my life.
As for respect, yes, it’s a good thing if children respect their parents. “But it must not be the thing that controls my heart or I will personalize what is not personal, I will lose sight of my role as God’s representative, and I will fight for and demand what only God can produce." If I focus on getting respect from my teens, I may actually encourage the exact opposite response from the teen and they will grow to resent me.
If I want to have a bigger impact on my children, I need to make sure that God is first in my life and that I am trying to incorporate God’s story into every encounter with my teen. I haven’t exactly figured out how to do that in practical ways. Maybe as I continue to read the book, I will get some ideas. But, I know I don’t want to have idols getting in my way of loving and serving the teens in my life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What Will I Be Remembered For?

Everyone will be remembered for something. I want to make sure that what I’m remembered for is not used as an example of what not to be like. That’s what happened in Luke 17:32 – 33 where Jesus said, “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Lot’s wife was an example of what not to be like.
Lot’s wife – we don’t know her name – was one who looked back on a sinful lifestyle and a sinful world and longed for it. I definitely don’t want to do that. Jesus thought her example was a great warning for His followers. She was being dragged away from Sodom (a city characterized by activity that was contrary to the way of life God wanted for His people) and yet she was looking over her shoulder longing for that lifestyle. What she saw, if she had time to see anything, was a city being destroyed by God as judgment for its wrongful ways. What happened to her was she was turned into a pillar of salt sharing in the destruction of the city she was longing for. As my Bible study book put it, “She became a lifeless pillar of salt, the picture of a misspent, self-centered existence.”
The amazing thing is that God was willing to be merciful toward Lot and his wife and his family in spite of their ties to a corrupt and defiling city. God sent His messengers to warn Lot of the coming destruction in Sodom. When Lot still procrastinated on leaving the city, the messengers took him, his wife, and his two daughters by the hands and dragged them away from the city. God was willing to show compassion on Lot and his entire family. He’s willing to do the same for each of us.
But we can’t be looking back and longing for our old way of living. “Remember Lot’s wife!” What happened to her when she looked back? She lost out on the salvation that was awaiting her in the mountains, according to God’s merciful salvation for her. I don’t want to be remembered for looking back and longing for the old sinful ways of life. I want to be remembered for having faith and trust in God.
What do you want to be remembered for?