If You Are Not Praying for Your Children

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

If you as a parent are not praying for your children, then who is?

This occurred to me a few years ago as I thought about my prayer life and my own children. If I am not praying for my own children, then who is? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I can give to my children is faithful prayer.

Our children, whether small children or adults, live in a very difficult world. How important and encouraging for mom and dad to lift them up in prayer every single day of their lives.

 

My two children are now adults. Both are married. They each live a great distance from Charlotte and me. In some ways, we have little influence over what they do each day.

Yet, we lift them up in prayer each day, believing God will work intimately and powerfully in their lives wherever they are. We believe that God loves them, cares for them, and calls them to live under his rule. It is important that we pray for them.

Being a Dad: 5 Ways to Move From Good to Great

Father’s Day!father-and-son.jpg

I am blessed to have two daughters, Christine and Jamie. Christine is married to Phillip and they are the parents of a little boy, not quite one year old. Jamie will be married to Cal in August. We are very proud of each one of them. Our family continues to change as we soon will not have not only two daughter’s, but two son’s-in-law.

I am grateful to be a dad. This morning, the Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on the importance of a dad in a daughter’s life. Sometimes, dads underestimate their importance in a child’s life. I believe that a dad can move from being good to being great by focusing on the kind of man he is becoming.


I want to suggest five ways to move from being a good dad to becoming a great dad.


Be a Lover

A great dad deeply loves his wife and children. His children listen and see his interaction with his wife. They know he is exclusively devoted to her. In turn, his children also experience an incredible love from their dad. His faithful love for his wife and for his children creates a safe, secure environment for his family.


Be a Person of High Character

A great dad models solid character before his children. This dad doesn’t manipulate others for his own gain. He tells the truth, even when it may not be to his advantage financially. When in line for a ticket at the amusement park, this dad tells the truth about the age of his child, even though that ticket may him more money. This dad practices truth telling and honor in some might perceive to be the little things.


Be Loyal

A great dad models loyalty in his relationships. He can be trusted. His affection for his wife is exclusive. This dad is no flirt at work. His family doesn’t wonder about who he is texting or privately meeting on Facebook. No, this dad has honor and is loyal to his family. He will not throw his family under the bus while he pursues his fantasy with other women.


Be Present

A great dad is present with his children. That is more than showing up at their ball games. Children know their dad is present by his eye contact and his active listening. Unfortunately, too many dads will not give their children complete eye contact. The television is always on and dad has one eye on the screen. Or, he constantly checks his phone as the texts come in. A great dad will turn off the television, the gadgets, and the phone in order to be fully present with his children.

A dad also communicates his presence by really listening to his children. Intently listening to our children really does increase the sense of connection that they experience. Looking back, there were times when our girls were at home, that I should have spoken less and listened more.


Be a Jesus Follower

A great dad, who claims to be a Christian, really does intentionally follow Jesus in his life. That is, he lives with the intention of carrying out his teachings at work and at home. He models this lifestyle before his children. This is not about the perfection of his life but the direction of his walk. This dad desires for his children to see what it means to be an authentic Jesus follower.


Question:

What would you add to this list?

   

What the Joy and Pain of Child Rearing Finally Taught Me

If you want some insight into the heart of God, have a child.Family.jpg


There is nothing like receiving the sweet love of a child, no matter the age. Yet, the reverse is also true. There is sometimes no pain like what you can receive at the hand of a child.


For several years, when I came home from work late in the afternoon, my children would come running to the door to greet me. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” I loved that moment! Then one day I came home and no one greeted me at the door. I stepped inside our house and could hear the loud volume of the television. Both girls sat glued to whatever was on television. I said, “I’m home!” They said, “Shhhh Daddy, we’re watching TV.” Being my mature self, I pouted, walked into the kitchen and asked Charlotte, “What’s wrong with them?”

They were growing up.

Our daughters are now grown. They love Charlotte and me. I am confident of this. Let me warn you, if you plan to rear children, get ready for incredible love. Yet, also realize that you have just opened yourself up to be hurt at times. It is very difficult to rear a child to adulthood without experiencing some pain.


  • Maybe your child rolls his eyes as you talk.
  • Maybe she raises her voice and talks back to you.
  • Maybe you are realizing that your adult son is caught up in a particular sin.


Someone might say to your child, “Just make sure your parents don’t find out what you are doing.” That seems to be the age-old answer to human failure. Hide behind the tree while the father walks through the garden (Genesis 3).

Having children can help you get a better grasp on understanding God as your father. Who is God? He is the father who is disappointed when I sin and yet he runs to greet me when I come home. Sometimes I have brought God joy as I reflected his character. Yet, at other times, I have disappointed him. In spite of it all, he runs to greet me. He has not given up on me.

Today, know that God still loves to hear his children say, “Father, I’m home.”


Question:

What has being a parent taught you about God?


Life Happened at Safeway

When I was growing up, much of my life was spent at Safeway.Safeway.jpeg

All three kids went with my mother for the weekly trip to Safeway on Buckner Boulevard in Pleasant Grove (Dallas). We entered the store and got a cart. I can remember the various stages of riding in the cart, standing on the end of the cart, and then wanting to push the cart.

What I remember most about Safeway is that it was the place where much of life seemed to happen. It was a place where life seemed less complicated:

  • Safeway was the place where I found a $20 bill on the floor. I showed my mother and then turned it in to the office. I thought that maybe no one would claim it and I would get to keep it. However, a lady called the store saying that she had lost a $20 bill while she was shopping. Any hope of keeping that $20 was now gone. Turns out she was from our church.
  • Safeway was the place where I learned to ride a horse. There were two-coin operated horses in front of the store. Unfortunately, I rarely had a coin. Yet, every week, I sat on these two horses, pretending to be riding, lost in a world of make-believe.
  • Safeway was the place where I found the wrong mother. We had been in the store for a while. I had left the cart and my mother in order to look at the candy rack. I found something that I wanted to buy. I looked throughout the store for my mother. Finally, I saw the back of her green sweater. She was looking at the meat counter. I came behind her and pulled on the back of that green sweater. She turned around and I looked at her face. I was terrified. This wasn’t my mother and the face did not look friendly. I ran!
  • Safeway was the place where I got scolded while I was eating from a torn package of M&M’s. I was walking down the candy aisle, minding my own business when I saw a torn bag of candy. Some of the M&M’s had spilled onto the floor. Other M&M’s were on the counter. I reasoned that if the package was torn, then it could not be sold. If it could not be sold, then it was OK to eat them. So I stood in the aisle eating the candy. I happened to be wearing my Scout uniform. A lady came by pushing her cart. “Some Boy Scout!” she said. I ran.

Later as I got older, I stopped going to Safeway with my mother. I stayed home and waited for her to return from the store with a new box of ice cream.

One night, April 4, 1968, I was home alone watching television. During those days, there was much racial unrest in the cities. On this particular night, I sat glued to the television as Walter Cronkite announced that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. Moments later, my mother came home from Safeway. Groceries were brought in, as the television continued giving the latest news of this murder. Violence erupted in Washington D.C. for the next five days.

These were difficult and frightening times. As a child, I certainly didn’t understand the implications of what was taking place. I knew that the violence and unrest of the nation, along with the murder of Dr. King, made my earlier life at Safeway seem like something that happened in a simpler world.

Those early memories at Safeway seemed long ago and less complicated next to the frightening events that I was seeing unfold on television each evening. Even today, there are times when I long for the simplicity of Safeway again.


Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas

Yesterday morning I spoke with Christine, our older daughter. She and her husband, Phillip, are about to have their first baby.sacred-parenting.png

She has been reading a number of books on babies, child-rearing, parenting, etc. She referred to several of them in the conversation. Finally at one point, she said, “Do you know the one book that has meant more to me than any other? The book that has meant so much is Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.”

She went on to say that this book spoke so clearly about the purpose of parenting. She said, “Having a child is important and special but life with God is even bigger than this. Life is first about our relationship with God.”

You might these thoughts regarding Sacred Parenting from Gary’s website:

Parenting is a school for spiritual formation—and our children are our teachers. Instead of discussing how parents can change their kids, Gary Thomas turns the tables and demonstrates how God uses our kids to change us. You’ll be encouraged by stories that tell how other parents handled the challenges and difficulties of raising a godly family. Grow closer to Christ and your children as you learn to:

  • Freely enjoy your kids for who they are.
  • Build a closer, grace-based family.
  • Reduce the pressure felt for your kids to turn out perfect.
  • Manage anger and negative responses towards your child’s behavior.
  • Increase your sense of worth and respect as a parent.

You might also enjoy watching some of Gary’s videos as he answers questions and discusses issues related to parenting.

These include the following:

“My children are stretching my patience and everything within me. Did God intend parenting to be this tough?”

“What is the most effective way for parents to influence their children?”


Now Here’s a Real Opportunity for Your Children

Sometimes parents seem to quit being parents even before their children leave the house.Children_Church.jpg

Have you experienced anything like this?

Two families are going out to eat together. They have been looking forward to this evening. One couple has no children. The other couple has two children, a 4 year old and a 6 year old. The children are going with them that evening. That is understood from the beginning. The other couple is fine with this arrangement.

One couple drives to the other couple’s home and they all leave for the restaurant together. On the way, the four year old announces that he wants to go to McDonald’s.

Child — “I want to go to McDonald’s.”

Parent — “Stevie, we are not going to McDonald’s.”

Child — “I want to go to McDonald’s!”

Parent — “Did you hear what I said?” (Hearing check)

Child — “I don’t like that restaurant! I want to go to McDonald’s!”

Parent — (looking at the other couple) “You don’t mind if we go through the McDonald’s drive-in do you? We will get his meal and then we will go on.”

Again and again it happens. Parents shrug their shoulders while their children are allowed to control the family. In far too many families, young children are allowed to dictate what the family is going to do and where the family is going. Often the energy of parents seems to be focused on letting the little guy “be himself” with no restraint or direction. Consequently, the child may be allowed to do whatever he wishes while mom and dad stand by and smile.

The following are some opportunities that might really bless a child:

1. Allow this child the opportunity to learn the value of waiting for gratification. When mom and dad jump every time he wants a coke, candy, or a toy, they deprive this child of the opportunity to learn that sometimes the better experiences come later if one is willing to wait.

2. Allow this child the opportunity to learn how to act when he is with people. Parents do a child no favor when he is allowed to act obnoxious and rude around others. I remember one occasion when a number of people were in a home and a small child began jumping up and down on the sofa. The parents saw this child do this and did nothing. Of course, the child begins to be labeled “out of control.” How sad for the child because this could be prevented if mom/dad would deal with him and not neglect the situation.

3. Allow this child the opportunity to be shaped early in life instead of having to unlearn bad habits later on. One thing is true about raising children: “Pay now or pay later.” You can invest the time and energy in your children when they are young. Or, you can close your eyes to their misbehavior. However, you will probably have to pay later because you chose not to do the hard work in the early years.

4. Allow this child the opportunity to experience things that are challenging and even difficult. We do a child no favor by always looking for the soft, easy way for him. Seeking what is soft and easy for your child is a good way to keep him from ever developing any confidence so that one day, when he is older, he can accept new challenges.


Question:

What has been challenging to you in raising your children? (if you have children) What have you learned that you wish you had known earlier?



Building Important Moments Through Family Vacations

One of my daughters told me the other day that our vacations are some of her happiest memories.smoky-mountains.jpg

Our family vacations are very happy memories for me as well. These were good times that we spent together. These good memories did not happen because we spent a lot of money on our vacations. Nor, did these good memories come about because everything went as planned. Yet, there are some things we did which were very meaningful and helped to build some of these memories.

I recently wrote a short piece entitled, “6 Reflections on Family Vacation” for the Western Hills Church (Temple, Texas) youth website. You can find these reflections here.


Question:

Do you have good memories of family vacations? What made these vacations such good memories for you?

  

Question: What Would You Have Done Differently?

question_mark_778895.gif.jpgI have two questions.  One is for you if you are a mother.  The other is for the rest of us.

First question: As a mother, what is one thing you wish you had done differently with your children?

Yes, Sunday is Mother’s Day.  It is a day for sending cards, giving flowers, and saying nice words about mothers.  I want to think about this on another level though.  If you are a mother, I am wondering what you have learned about being a mother that you would like to do differently if you could do it over?

Perhaps your children are grown and have moved out of your house.  Or, perhaps your children are in college or in high school.  After thinking about the years that you spent rearing your children, what would you have done differently?

Second question: What did your mother do right?

Can you pinpoint something that your mother did well?  Is there something she did that today is especially meaningful to you?

Yes, I know that some people had very unpleasant experiences with their mother, dad, or even both.  That is a tragedy and a loss.  Yet, I think it is important to learn from those who are mothers and can now reflect upon the experience.  It is valuable to learn from one another as we remember our own mothers.

I learned from my mother the importance of service and helping others.  She did this with her children, again and again.  I realized later on that she had often put her own welfare and her own desires behind the needs of her children.  She saw to it that her children had clothes, school supplies, and money for lunch.  All of this seemed to be placed before her getting the things she wanted and no doubt needed. 

What about you?