Summer Brain Drain

Today is an article by NetNanny about tips to reduce “Summer Brain Drain” now that the kids are out of school for roughly 3 months.

I thought it would be helpful. In addition to their tips and advice, here are some additional thoughts:

  1. Have your kids read the Bible out loud with you. Maybe they can write down some of the verses to practice their writing and spelling skills.
  2. Take them to Bible-based camps where they can be encouraged. This will fight “soul drain” as well as “brain drain”!
  3. Visit members of your congregation and get involved in doing works of service to help those in need.
  4. If you have kids who are artistic, have them draw pictures of the places they visit and the things they do during the summer. Encourage them to think of a Bible verse that connects to it.
  5. Get them involved in the gardening or any building/remodeling projects you are working. They will develop all kinds of practical skills as you develop a closer relationship with them. We just had a shed delivered by the Amish a few days ago, and it was amazing to see these young boys with their father going right to the work knowing exactly what to do. I think those boys were around 8-10 years old.
  6. Take a walk with them and identify all the creatures you see along the way (butterfly, hawk, ant, etc.). You can talk about how special each of these creatures is and how beautifully and wonderfully designed it is.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

Gideon’s Influence Upon His Father

On Monday, we asked the question, “Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?” We looked at an event in the life of Gideon when God called him to confront the idolatry of his father and to destroy his father’s idols (Baal and Asherah).

For today, please read the same excerpt from Judges 6, but this time, read it from the perspective of Gideon’s father. But then go back and re-read it and think about it as if YOU were the father. How would you respond if your son directly confronted your religion/worship and destroyed your idols?

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

We can look at Gideon’s father and stay in the shallow water thinking of him merely as an idolater. But there is something deeper here to consider, Gideon’s father was awakened and led to truth by the faith, courage and conviction of his son.

I know for me that there have been times that whether it was the brilliant, inspired comments of my four-year old or the courage and faith shown by one of my teenagers, that I have been humbled, taught, convicted and encouraged.

Don’t assume as a father that teaching only goes one way. It certainly did not for Gideon’s dad. His father showed amazing humility, did he not? Instead of trying to save face among his neighbors and fellow Israelites, he stood up for his son who “showed him up.”

Today, take a lesson from Gideon’s dad, and put it in your toolbox as a father. Be ready to accept that your children have wisdom, insight, faith and courage that just may expose an area in your life where you need to grow. Praise God and thank Him that He gave us these young evangelists to show us how to draw closer to God.

Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?

Today, please read this section from Judges 6. God called Gideon to deliver the oppressed Israelites from the mighty and powerful Midianites. Gideon was a man of great faith, but he also needed to have reassurance from God on multiple occasions. He also showed great courage, but at the same time he was very afraid. Is that possible – to be afraid and courageous at the same time?

Gideon showed us by his example that he had fear, but his courage and faith carried him past that fear. God called Gideon to destroy his father’s idols…think about that. You are going after a man’s religion, and not just any man, you are directly confronting the idols of your father. This was necessary for Gideon to do if he was going to lead the people of Israel against the Midianites.

Read the following excerpt from Judges 6:

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

Men, please meditate upon this today. We have all kinds of fears, but that does not mean we lack faith or courage. It is what we do in the face of our fears that shows our faith and courage. Take a page today out of the life of Gideon. Face the fears; confront them in faith. Remember God is with you supporting you just like He was with Gideon.

What Will Be Said of You?

Someone sent me a bulletin article they found online, and the title was “What will be said of us when we die?” In that article the author listed several very good things that can be said of the person who walks with God and dies in Christ.

I thought this would be appropriate to consider for today. You could even consider using these thoughts to talk with your kids about what really matters. People in life will say all kinds of things about you, some true some not true, but what matters is what God says about you.

Will this be said of you and me when we pass from this life?

  • “He walked with God (Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9; cf. 2 Kings 20:3 ).
  • “He was the Lord‘s friend” (John 15:14).
  • “He fought a good fight, he finished his course, he kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
  • “He declared the whole counsel of God to others” (Acts 20:27).
  • “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
  • “His death is gain” (Philippians 1:21,23).
  • “His death is precious” (Psalm 116:15).
  • “His death is a blessing, because he died in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13)
  • “He died in a good old age, full of days and riches and honor” (1 Chronicles 29:28).
  • “He has gone to be with the Lord” (Philippians 1:23).
  • “He is in a better place now” (Luke 16:22; John 14:1-3; Hebrews 11:16).
  • “He left us a godly example” (1 Timothy 4:12; cf. Titus 2:7-8).
  • “He was faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).
  • “By his righteous life, he still speaks (Hebrews 11:4).
  • “He is now among the heroes of faith” (Hebrews 11).
  • “He is now gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:33).

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Some principles for making a wise decision

Today we will consider some principles for making wise decisions. We make decisions (tons) of them on a daily basis. Some are pretty insignificant, like which coffee mug to use this morning. Others have generational impact, in other words, this decision will affect your great-grandchildren. The Bible is full of teaching and advice on how to make good decisions, we cannot even scratch the scratch of the surface in today’s post. Hopefully, however, we can consider just a few basic principles to keep our feet on solid ground and our heads out of the clouds when making decisions.

Some principles for making a wise decision

Did I come to God first and ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5)? There are many examples of people in Scripture who did not consult God first, and it really turned out poorly (Joshua 9:14; Isaiah 30:1-2). Those examples are given to us so that we can keep from repeating history! God promised, and He does not ever break a promise, that He would liberally pour out wisdom upon us if we ask!

Have I consulted His word? His word is designed to give us prudence, the discernment to make sound decisions (Proverbs 1:1-4). Are there clear commands from God on this matter? What consistent Biblical principles can I draw from to help shed light on this matter? Can I find examples of people in Scripture who were in a similar situation? Is this conclusion / choice I am making consistent with Biblical wisdom?

What is the advice of the godly, wise people around me who love me (Proverbs 1:5)? There are many times when the godly, wise men and women around you will speak with one voice on a matter. Take those words seriously.

If you feel like you have to hide your decisions/course of action from the wise godly people around you, then ask yourself “Why is that?” We had better have a really good Biblical reason for not taking the advice of several godly people who surround us.

There are other times when you will get a wide array of advice, sometimes very different advice, and it will all come from very wise and godly people. So we have to go back to #1 and pray for wisdom to discern. Sometimes well-meaning Christians will all say “this is what God wants you to do,” but the problem with that is they may all have several different answers. In this specific instance, I’m not talking about matters of doctrine and sin, I’m talking about things like career choices, education choices, purchasing decisions, relationship advice, etc. Folks have lots of advice, that is why we must do a LOT of praying and searching Scripture for discernment.

Is this a decision I should be making right now (Genesis 25:29-34)? When we are really stressed, tired, and highly emotional, it is not a time to make huge life-changing decisions. Take some time to sleep and recover before you make those big choices. For example, you are really stressed and tired, and you are driving home from work. The tire goes flat. So, in your frustration, you decide to have it towed to the dealership and get a loan for a new car. A simple tire repair turned into a 5 year loan. This is just a made up example, but I hope you can see the point.

How will this decision affect others (1 Corinthians 8:12; 10:32-33)? We do not live in a vacuum; our decisions have direct impact on those around us. Esau’s wives were a grief of mind to his parents. Simeon and Levi’s anger and thirst for vengeance brought shame to their father Jacob. The 1st century Christians also faced this when it came to eating of certain meats and keeping of certain holy days. Their decisions had the power to cause another to stumble and sin. What they decided to do could either draw someone closer to God or make it far more challenging for another to obey God. How will this decision affect my influence upon others for Christ? What will this decision do to my loved ones? Who is looking up to me…how will this influence them?

Does this decision glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? Am I making a choice that will bring glory to God or more attention and glory to me? Am I seeking the praise of God or the praise and attention of men?

Hopefully these principles help. It is not all-inclusive, and many of you will have much better ideas. Please share them with me. Thanks!

You have had pity on the plant

Then God said to Jonah…”You have had pity on the plant…”  (Jonah 4:10).

I encourage you today to read Jonah 4 today. Jonah was angry, really angry. He was angry because he knew God was gracious and merciful. God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh and forgave them because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Even though Jonah preached to them, he really didn’t care about the salvation of the souls of Nineveh. He preached in anticipation that this effort would fail. Nineveh would reject God and God would toast them.

Read the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4. God relented because Nineveh repented and Jonah vented. Jonah went outside of the city in verse 4 and waited in eager anticipation of God raining down judgment and destruction upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:5).

Notice the mercy that God had upon Jonah, while at the same time teaching a critical lesson. God prepared a plant to grow up and shade Jonah “to deliver him from his misery” (Jonah 4:6). Jonah was very grateful. Next, God sent a worm to destroy the plant. Then God brings a “vehement east wind” and the sun “beat on Jonah’s head” (Jonah 4:8).

All Jonah wants to do now is die. Now Jonah is really ticked off. This provides one of those “teachable moments.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock? (Jonah 4:9-11).

You have had pity on the plant

This being Wednesday, our focus is on parenting. I want to take this concept and apply it to parenting. As a Father, God was parenting Jonah. There are some valuable lessons to learn here in parenting.

Our children sometimes will care more about the plant, which creates teachable moments. They will get really upset about something, like a sibling borrowed a shirt without asking. Justice must be administered! It is times like that that we can help direct them to areas where they really should focus their passion. We are there to help them gain some “perspective.” Jonah cared more for a stupid plant than he did for 120,000 souls. Andy Harrison wrote an article recently about “Misplaced Compassion,” and today’s article connects well with it.

We must show mercy to our kids at those times, like God showed Jonah. I mentioned in Monday’s article about a sermon that Mike Sullivan preached recently. He made a point that Jesus was not self-righteous about the self-righteous. Jesus ate with the Pharisees, too. He loved them and wanted desperately for them to understand His grace and mercy. As we see the hypocrisy and double-standard in our kids, we must remember God and Jonah. God kept teaching Jonah and showing mercy to Jonah, too.

Do all things without complaining and disputing

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).

We have spent the last two days complaining…well, at least we have spent the last two days considering complaining. Monday’s article considered God’s view of complaining, and Tuesday’s article looked into the marriage relationship and how we need to work on producing a different climate in the home.

Here are a few thoughts today about helping our children to be thankful and to correct complaining behavior.

  1. Model the behavior you want to see. Let’s work on being examples of thankful people.
  2. Put them to work. Be age appropriate, but get them working. They are not living as royalty in a palace with mom and dad as their slaves. One quick way to squash the entitlement mentality is to make kids pull weeds, clean toilets and vacuum the van. Again, be age appropriate, you are not going to make a 3 year old chop wood and clean the toilet, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.
  3. Take away privileges and possessions for a time. I know this is simple, but if you can’t be thankful for what you have, you can live without it for awhile.
  4. Allow them to experience or internalize what real suffering looks like. For example, take them to visit someone who is really suffering. Have them do volunteer/service work for others in some type of need. I know for me, when I went as a young man to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indy, it had a profound effect upon me. When you see a young boy, a cancer patient, with no hair walking around with an IV cart, it really makes you feel really stupid for complaining about some trivial thing. I remember being in the burn unit with my cousin in Riley hospital. There were two young boys, ages 2 and 4, whose mother set their mattress on fire in an attempt to murder them. I have no problems. Going to a Holocaust exhibit is another experience that will sober you up. Again, be age appropriate on this one, but they need to somehow be lifted out of their own world and see the lives of others.

Hope this helps.

Look at Me Daddy

“Look at Me Daddy…Look at Me.” Please indulge me as I tell a couple of “kid” stories.

Maddie, our almost three year old, loves to dance.  Anytime music is turned on she will stop what she’s doing and find the source.  Lately she has added a little more style to her performance.  She puts on a princess skirt and twirls around because she likes the way it flares out and flutters.  A few days ago I was in the living room reading and I put some music on.  Of course Maddie came running in the room, grabbed her little skirt, and started spinning.  I continued reading but as she repeated her pirouettes, she started saying, “Look at me daddy…look at me!”  Her chant continued until I put my book down and acknowledged what she was doing.

A few months ago I had a talk with Natalie, our 13 year old, about boys.  Two of her friends from church seemed to be constantly talking about “boys” and their recent “boyfriends” so I thought it was a good time to check in.  I asked Natalie if she had a boyfriend, to which she responded, “NO!”  I asked her if there were any boys she liked, to which she responded, “NO!”  I said, “Have you noticed how Friend 1 and Friend 2 are always talking about boys?  What do you think about that?”  She said, “I think it is silly.”  I asked, “Why aren’t you interested in boys like them?”  Natalie paused for a minute and thought about it and responded, “Because I’ve got you dad!”

A couple of cute stories and perhaps familiar to anyone that has children but they speak to an important reality.  Our kids crave our attention, our appreciation, and our approval and if we don’t provide it they will seek it from another source.  Humans inherently have a need to feel significant, to belong, and to be connected.  As fathers, we play a vital role in promoting a healthy connection with our kids.  We can help create a feeling of significance or we can erode that feeling over time.  Even when our kids get older and stop saying, “Look at me daddy”, they are still craving our attention.

Here are just a few practical things I’ve learned in my short 13 years of being a dad:

  • Simple Stuff Matters Most: I used to think I had to create big things or dedicate a significant amount of time for certain activities, and on occasion that will happen, but it is the little everyday things that make the difference.  Talks at the dinner table, asking about the book they’re reading, or dropping to the floor and playing Legos for 30 minutes are the type of daily things that build a connection and foster significance.
  • Eye to Eye: Rarely am I sitting and doing nothing when one of my kids wants to tell me something.  It was common for me to nod and say, “yes…yes…yes” but I wasn’t listening.  Kids are perceptive.  They quickly pick up that we’re not paying attention and the message is clear; dad doesn’t care and I’m not important.  A few years ago I trained myself to sit and listen.  When one of my kids has something to tell me I get down to their level and look them in the eye as they talk.  That way I break away from a potential distraction and they know they have been heard.
  • Time Not Toys: Some of the most materialistically spoiled children are neglected when it comes to things that matter.  I travel regularly for work and early on I used to bring toys home for the kids.  I believe my intentions were good but what I’ve realized is that my kids want ME when I get home not “stuff”.  So instead of arriving home with a bag full of junk, I arrive home with ears ready to listen and a genuine curiosity about their lives.  “Stuff” is often a lazy man’s way of avoiding the real responsibility that comes with having children.
  • Apology Accepted: Even when I put forth my best effort I fail.  I’ll get wrapped up in a project or sidetracked with a hobby or I just get tired and impatient and snap at the kids or fail to keep a promise or simply not listen.  One of the worst things we can do in that circumstance is just move on like it didn’t happen and “try and do better”.  We all get down, we all fall short, but acknowledging our failure and asking our kids for forgiveness teaches them more than we can imagine.  We can’t allow our pride to robe our children of a significant lesson.
  • The First Lady: A healthy connection with my children must be built on a strong connection with Kristine.   Loving their mother, and giving preference to her, is the first and most important way I can show them love.  We must not put time and energy into our children at the expense of our spouse.

As dad’s, the most valuable currency we have is our time and we must spend it wisely.  We have a small window of opportunity to train and teach and influence our kids.  Let’s rise up to the responsibilities God has set before us and make the most of the blessings we have been given.

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;” Psalm 127:3-5.

Why We Overreact

Last Wednesday, we considered that sometimes we make an environment where kids do not feel safe telling the truth. If we are too harsh, and are quick to throw down the judgment, then our kids won’t feel safe to open up to us. But I wanted to consider why we overreact as parents.

Why We Overreact

  1. We genuinely want them to make good choices and to tell the truth. But we feel so passionately about it that we try too hard to make it happen. What is forgotten in this? In the real world, learning to make good choices involves making bad ones. We may not want to accept this, but that is part of learning. In your work/career, have you learned by making some really dumb business decisions? In sports, a basketball player learns what a good shot is partly by taking several bad ones. In the same light, our children have to have the grace and wiggle room to make poor choices at times without us freaking out. Of course we deal with the sin or the mistake, but keep in mind this is part of the growth process.
  2. Our goal becomes to keep them from repeating our mistakes. We are trying so hard to keep them from being like we were, that really we end up driving them there anyway. This is not a good goal. Yes, we want to help them avoid the same pitfalls we experienced, but we cannot with our strong wills keep them from sin and mistakes. This goal, ultimately, is about us as parents, and not about what is best for our children.
  3. Sometimes we overreact because we just are simply overtaxed and stretched too thin. Life is pressing on us, and we are pulled in a thousand directions. Go, go, go. We don’t have “time” to patiently deal with this situation, so we bark out a few things and think we fixed it. Daddy needs to chill out, take a breath, put everything aside and really talk to the child.

So, dads, before we go nuclear today, keep this in mind. Keep God’s grace, patience, and mercy in mind. How is God toward us as we grow and develop? Does He rain down death and judgment upon all our mistakes? Thankfully not! May we extend that same grace today.

Feeling safe to tell the truth

Feeling safe to tell the truth. We want our kids to tell the truth, but are we helping to create a safe environment for that to happen?

God expects honesty from us. We understand that relationships are built upon trust. As parents we really want to instill within our children the importance of telling the truth.

Sometimes, however, we can be so determined to get the truth out of them that they clam up, deny, lie, etc. Some kids are so scared of getting in trouble that they will do anything or say anything to avoid it. If our attempts to extract the truth from them sound like an FBI interrogation, then they are more likely to lie or clam up. We had this experience early on in parenting. As parents, we knew the child was lying, and we wanted that child to confess. However, we were too passionate about it, and there was no way the child was going to admit the wrong.

Feeling safe to tell the truth

We realized the error of this approach, and worked to create an environment where the child felt safer to come to us.

Dr. Kevin Leman in his book Have a New Kid by Friday words it this way:

If your child does break that vase and comes to you with the truth, she can know that you’re unhappy, but she should not be punished for telling you the truth. In those situations, you’ll need to think carefully before you open your mouth. How you respond to such a situation directly relates to how comfortable your child is in telling you the truth.

Kids can be as dumb as mud and will do stupid things in life (like hanging a camera out the window of a car and dropping it), but if they own up to them and say they’re sorry, they need to know that life will go on. You won’t beat them over the head for years for their mistake. The relationship between the two of you will still be okay.

Our response to our children will directly impact how willing they are to be open with us in the future.

There’s so much more to say on this subject, so let’s do a part two next week.