Empowering your Teen

As parents the desire to protect our children is often deep-seated and can consume the relationship. We don’t want to be overbearing, but we don’t want to see them go through pain we believe might be avoided due to our experience. Finding balance is tough. We often struggle with the question, “Do I step in or should I let them learn this lesson on their own?”

Something happens as we assume the responsibility of parenthood. We remember the pain of our mistakes but tend to forget the frustration we felt when our own parents would step in and try to stop us from making a poor choice. It’s an interesting cycle. We don’t want them to hurt so we try to assert our parental authority to avoid the pain of a bad decision or the hurt of rejection, but sometimes the hurt is a necessary part of growth.

I would love to say that life can be lived without pain or grief but that contradicts the teaching of Christ. When He promised, “In this life you will have trouble,” He didn’t say, “until you come to me and I will make it all easy,” or, “your parents will make all your choices for you so you never make a bad one.” No, He said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In other words, He had experienced life and come through it. He sets the perfect example of how to parent without being overbearing or smothering. He brings us comfort.

As parents, we need to offer wisdom, but we can’t make their decisions for them. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will mot depart from it.” It’s so important that we live a consistent example in front of our children, regardless of their age. Our example will set a foundation in their life that they will default to when making difficult decisions. The path God has set for them may require a different set of instructions than our own. It may be different than the road we think is best for them.

As parents, we have the power to encourage a child to pursue their passions or derail them from the call God has for them. If we equip our children to succeed, there is no limit to their potential. Whether they end up in the place we hoped or something beyond our wildest expectations, they will always remember the support you gave and appreciate your belief in who God created them to be.

It’s a difficult course of action because we want to help them avoid pain. We may even feel guilty for inaction. Pray! God will tell you when you need to move and when you need to let them grow. Trust the love of Christ to guide them even when you aren’t there to catch them when they fall.

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The Touch of a Father: Connecting with Your Teenage Daughter

f you are the father of a teenage girl, you have been entrusted with a great responsibility. It can be daunting. It’s not unusual to feel inadequate for the task. You may feel you have nothing to offer your little girl turned young woman.

In a dad’s eyes, she will always be a little girl. The idea that she will grow and become a young women is incomprehensible. We hold on to that image of our daughter in a beautiful new dress twirling for daddy’s approval. Our opinion mattered. We hugged and wrestled with her, building a relationship that engendered trust and a feeling of safety.

Then something happens beyond our control. Adolescence brings changes to our little girl that make sustaining the relationship downright awkward. She is becoming a young woman both inside and out. We don’t know exactly how to touch them without making them uncomfortable. Often, we withdraw at this formative time in a young woman’s life and defer to their mother’s wisdom. After all, she has an understanding of what our little girl is going through that, as a father, we can’t match.

We wonder why so many young Christian women find themselves in failing relationships. They know God’s plan for marriage and raising a family but they find themselves in compromising situations. These often lead to teenage pregnancy, increased school attrition rate, and a higher prevalence of depression.

There is a connection between a father’s feeling of inadequacy and a teenage daughter’s need to find love and acceptance. They need the touch of a father. The safety they became accustomed to is vital at this stage. Dads assume they know this is still there for them, but daughters often assume it is no longer available because Dad has withdraw.

In the space of a few months to a year, we go from wrestling and hugging each other with abandon to uncomfortable side hugs and strained communication. She questions what has changed and even looks at her body as unacceptable in her father’s eyes. She looks for acceptance else where and often finds it.

Fathers have to take the lead in this situation. Her opinion of self is based highly on her perception of your approval. Her ability to trust, love, and set strong, healthy relationship patterns is based on her relationship with you. It’s equally awkward to your daughter and she may reject you for a time, but pursue her. Show her she is worth fighting for. Make a point to hug her each day. Write her a note each week. Take her on a date monthly. It will establish a foundation for the love of her heavenly Father to grow and take her to places she wouldn’t dare dream. All from the touch of a loving father.

Selfless Service

Remember full service gas stations? When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, they had begun to disappear. Those that were still operating had lost a great deal of the romantic novelty of the 50’s and 60’s versions where a crew of uniformed attendants would swarm over your automobile performing basic service like checking tire pressure and fluid levels while filling your gas tank. Instead a single person, typically a man in some sort of coveralls with their name stitched on their left chest pocket, would come out of the station, smoking a cigarette, and ask, “Regular or unleaded?” Then they would place the appropriate nozzle in the gas fill, and while wiping their hands on a faded red rag, they would indifferently ask, “How much you want?”

Chances are you won’t find that kind of service anymore unless you’re out in the more rural areas of our country. The desire to serve has been replaced by a mindset that gives just enough to keep us coming back because of a need that can’t be met anywhere else. Most of us would drive halfway across town at the thought we might save a couple of cents on a gallon of gas oblivious to the fact that we nullified our savings by driving there in the first place. It placates some part of us that wants as much as we can get for as little effort as possible.

For the vast majority of people today, that mindset is the way of life. Gone are the days when people would drive across town to help a friend in need simply because their friend needed a hand. Chances are if it doesn’t benefit the individual doing the giving in some way, they probably won’t give at all. When someone offers us something purely out of a desire to serve someone, we look at them and think, What’s the catch? We secretly keep score and dread the idea of accepting something from someone else out of a self-imposed obligation to the person who gave selflessly. How ridiculous is that?

I long for the days when people would go out of their way to do something for someone simply because they wanted to be bless that person. Selflessly sacrificing their time and energy to show love to someone in need is a prescription our society needs administered, stat! Our motivation for serving others is revealed when we hold what we’ve done over the heads of those we’ve helped. If we could simply take hold of the ideals set by this verse found in the book of John, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

A noble thought, right? But it’s about so much more than a willingness to die for your friend. The very notion of “lay down one’s life” speaks to the idea of placing the needs of others before self, or serving with no thought of gain. Another verse comes to mind, “The greatest among you must be a servant.”

In the book Three Feet from Gold, the author sought audience with the most successful people in our nations to ask them what lead to their achievement. He was astonished to find that those at the top had an attitude of service for those they encountered daily. In nearly every exchange, he was greeted with the question, “How may I serve you?” It brings to mind another bit of wisdom, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

But the term servant has such a negative connotation in society. We would prefer to be served. We deserve it. We’ve worked hard for what we have and want to enjoy it. What if, hypothetically, the next time your server came to your table you stood, offered them your chair, and proceeded to give them a glass of water? Ridiculous? How much better would the world be if we all sought out opportunities to serve rather than judging the poor service of those around us? After all, it’s better to give than to receive. And better still to give motivated by love without expectation of return, simply because you care and you can.

Crash the Machine

Sometimes I wish life came with a reset switch. Kind of like the Staples Easy Button, but better. When I’ve made a stupid decision, just flip the switch and we’re back to the moment before the poor choice but with the added knowledge time provides. Like system restore on a computer, it would definitely have it’s advantages.

I’m not sure if it’s just a product of my generation or if most people have wished for a do-over. Video games only seem to encourage the idea. If I’m losing, it’s so easy to start over. Some games even have the ability to rewind in the midst of play to a point prior to the moment you want erased. How convenient is that! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished that I could find that box Mario found that gave him unbeatable strength or even an extra life. It’s never happened, but I hoped for it nonetheless.

In all honesty, sometimes I get so overwhelmed, I just want to unplug the machine. Don’t take me wrong, this isn’t about giving up; it’s about escaping the things that push me to the brink. It would be far easier to unplug the machine before it crashes then deal with the situations life sometimes puts in our path. It’s in that moment I want to hide from life’s trials and reboot the system.

It would be advantageous. I would never be fearful of stepping out of my comfort zone because I could always go back to that moment before I took a risk. Think of the chances you would take! Some good, some not so good. Come to think of it, life without consequence might seem appealing, anarchy often does, but some choices shouldn’t be made.

The disadvantages of a life lived with no thought given to cause and effect far outweighs any foreseen benefits. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take risks, but they need to calculated. We need to be wise and make decisions fully aware of possible consequences.

Are you comfortable with the possible result of the decisions you’ve made today? Are there things you should have done and didn’t because you were afraid to fail? Are there things you wish you could take back?

The sooner we realize that we won’t hit it out of the park every time we step to the plate the better off we will be. It’s better to stand in the batter’s box and face the day swinging than sit on the bench because you’re afraid of the ball. Just because you’re at the plate doesn’t mean you should try to crush it over the fences. Some situations call for a bunt.

You have to be in the moment to know what the situation calls for, and you can’t be in the moment when you’re afraid to try or too overwhelmed to get involved. Chances are if we want to push the reset button our choices put us in that position and yes, not choosing to act is a choice. Rare is the time that we find ourselves in a predicament that’s completely out of our control. If we look back along the timeline of our lives we can probably find the exact moment that led us to the circumstance that’s got us frustrated and ready to blow.

So before you hit the reset, take a moment and look at where you’re at. Once you’ve come to grips with the idea that somewhere along the path your choices, however round about, brought you to this place, accept it. OWN IT! Make the most of it. Figure out what one thing you could change right now to make it better and do it.

Change comes from within, not without, and it takes a great deal of determination to achieve. Don’t make wholesale changes and set unreasonable expectations on your day! That’s what leads us to frustration. Find joy in the moments where you are truly doing what you’ve been called to do, it will help to temper the times when you’re carrying someone else’s ball. And when you’ve done all you can do, as Paul stated so wisely, stand. You have choices to make today! Choose wisely!

Iron Out the Wrinkles

There is something relaxing about ironing. Now I’m sure the professional ironer might disagree, but I find it soothing. You take this wrinkled piece of fabric and with little effort you make it smooth, even crisp if you add starch.

 

I know some of you may think I’ve lost my mind, but I haven’t. It’s a peaceful process. Sometimes I wish life were as easy as ironing the wrinkles from a pair of slacks or a nice shirt. Unfortunately, life’s wrinkles are more complex. At least I wouldn’t advise trying to iron them away… not in the conventional sense. You might burn yourself! Still, wouldn’t it be awesome to simply press the steam button to smooth out those stubborn, wrinkly moments?

 

I used to laugh at people who spent so much time ironing. I do a lot of physical activity and I wear a lot of t-shirts. It never made sense to me to iron out the wrinkles. I thought it was a waste of time! Forget about ironing my jeans, gheesh! My wife would look at what I’d put on and say things like, “That could really use ironing,” but I’d just laugh. It didn’t matter to me! If a shirt was really bad, I’d throw it in the dryer with a damp towel for 10 minutes. Sort of a cheater’s way to loosen the wrinkles, but they were still there, just not as noticeable.

 

It really was quite silly that I would go to such extremes to avoid ironing. I have even thrown clothes that were clean back in the wash because they were too wrinkled to deal with! I realize how absurd this must sound, but it was as though I thought ironing made me a little less tough. Like the wrinkles in my clothes were the mark of hard work and determination when really, I just looked sloppy.

 

It may seem like a strange comparison, ironing a t-shirt and struggles in life, but really, they are quite similar. It was my pride that kept me from ironing the wrinkles in my clothes but it translated to a lack of concern for my appearance to those around me. We often hide our struggles in much the same way. Because of our pride, we put on the appearance that all is well. We wear a false smile and resist asking people for the very thing that’s needed, good ironing.

 

Iron sharpens iron but our pride keeps us dull. We need to iron out the wrinkles! Instead of holding onto our struggles for fear someone will discover our weaknesses (which is another, very destructive form of pride), we need to find someone we can trust to help us through the process. Then, we need to return the favor. Accountability isn’t supposed to be hard and uncomfortable! We all need people around us who can help keep us sharp. We need to be able to accept their help without being offended by what they say to us.

 

Love often requires the difficult situations to be addressed head on, but we often avoid them for comfort’s sake. It would be like a bride or groom dressing in sweats and a wrinkled t-shirt because they couldn’t be bothered to present their best on the wedding day! I’m sure it’s happened, but what does it really say? I love you, but I don’t want to be uncomfortable, so I didn’t try.

 

Real love doesn’t avoid uncomfortable situations because it is understood that the discomfort only lasts for a short time. After the discomfort of being sharpened, we are stronger than before and ready to cut through the trials that come! That’s hard to do when we aren’t sharp because we refuse to let the wrinkles be ironed out in favor of comfort. In fact, it’s impossible.

 

Have you found someone to help you smooth out the wrinkles in your life? If you haven’t, you really need to! Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and trust someone with your struggles. You might discover that they needed someone to help them iron things out too!

Stuck On Repeat

Sometimes I think my children are intentionally trying to drive me crazy. I mean it! Some of the things they do lack reason… there is little logic in their thinking! They remember movie plots, song lyrics and the books they read but they can’t remember to do their chores. And regardless of the school test results, I think they may be hard of hearing.

Unless it’s something they want to hear. It amazes me the minute details they recall from trivial conversations and yet, they can’t remember what you asked them to do an hour ago. Let someone reveal an embarrassing story from mom or dad’s past and it’s sure to be remembered forever the first time they hear it. Tell them to put their shoes away while standing right next to them 3 times in 30 minutes and chances are they won’t remember if they hear you at all.

Sometimes I think it would be easier if there were cameras everywhere recording every moment of our interaction. If something is forgotten, simply go back to that moment and retrieve the information. Sure, it would be awkward at first but not nearly as awkward as repeating everything you ask them to do 52 times and still they forget.

I remember when I was a child. It seems like yesterday (don’t even say it). I know how easy it is to get distracted and I had my share of forgetful moments. I would sit down to watch a few minutes of TV and before I knew it, my parents were pulling into the neighborhood and I hadn’t done anything I was supposed to do before they got home. There I was, setting world records and personal best times in events like synchronized sweeping and dusting or the dirty clothes stuff. I could clean house in 30 minutes flat, quicker if I was under pressure of losing some privilege I enjoyed.

No matter how good I got at the speed clean, I always ended up forgetting something and it apparently was the one thing that really mattered because none of the other things I had done were mentioned. Only what I had forgotten or didn’t hear that I was to do. If they had only told me that switching the clothes around was more important than straightening the living room, sweeping, dusting and dishes, I’d have done that and left the other stuff for another time.

I guess my kids come by it naturally. My wife would probably tell you that I still tend to forget things on occasion, but, in my defense, she does tend to ask when I’m half asleep. Bottom line, you just have to accept that you’re gonna be doing some repeating in this life and that’s okay. Yes, it’s irritating and can make your right eye start twitching ever so slightly, but think back to all the things that had to be repeated before you got the message. It’s part of the human condition and it always will be.

I know that, in my life, I’m thankful for those who have had the patience to repeat themselves to me. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their investment. I’m also thankful for a loving Savior who, though He’s already told me all I need to know, will take me aside and lovingly repeat himself until I get it. He’s had to repeat Himself a lot.

You know, He’s probably laughing when I look at my kids and say things like, “I told you that already! Don’t you ever listen?” or “We’ve been over this a hundred times! Pay attention!” Remember that the next time you’re ready to pull out your hair because your kids are getting on your last nerve. Somewhere in your past, someone repeated themselves over and over again before you got it. Listen to yourself from time to time and ask yourself, “Does this need repeating?” Sometimes it’s what we repeat that’s the problem. I’m thankful all those people who have repeatedly told me they love me and those who have prayed for me time and time again. It’s taken some time, but I’m getting it! Thanks!

Resolve

What an awesome word. It means to, “Decide firmly on a course of action.” From it, we get words like resolute and resolution. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea behind the word resolve as the New Year has come.

With the New Year, people make plans to change their lives, presumably for the better. We see those areas that we don’t like and decide to change them, often without a plan or course of action to achieve what was set. We forget the true meaning of the word and, in essence, what it takes to change.

We must stand firm when it would be far easier to bend or give into the desires of our flesh. When the storms are raging, we must stand for something. In the words of the immortal country song, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything!”

Rather than setting a bunch of unreasonable expectations on the 1st of each year, I suggest you find what you believe in and stand firm. Do not waiver to the right or the left. Resolve to fight for the innocent, for those who have no voice. Decide to take up a standard and shine a light in the darkness. Decide today. Don’t wait for tomorrow or the first of the month. Resolve doesn’t require a date on a calendar, it requires a decided heart to carry through to the very end.

There will be opposition. When it comes, if you aren’t completely persuaded to stand, you will fall. People will attack your intelligence simply because they don’t agree with your position. Be resolute! Stand firm as the battle rages. I think of the scene from the movie Dances With Wolves where Kevin Costner’s character rides across a battle field while bullets fly past him on all sides. He mocked the opposing forces as he rode across their lines, not once, but twice. He had been wounded in battle but was determined to keep his leg, even if it might cost his life. His actions were rash and the consequences could have been dire, but he stood resolved to die with his boots on. His actions turned the tide of the fictitious battle and he kept his leg!

We need to be that bold! When the world comes against you and criticizes you, stand firm. Don’t bend to appease the masses. They are fickle and their opinion changes as often as the situations they find themselves in. The world needs people who aren’t afraid to stand apart. It needs people who can lead with resolve and conviction, with purpose and steadfastness of heart. It’s a scary place we find ourselves in when those who lead lack the ability to stand firm on a course of action.

One of the greatest things about this nation is the ability of the individual to be heard. Whether you agree with their opinion or not, they have a right to express it. Whether you agree with their position or not, you must honor the right the individual has to express their thoughts. My disagreeing with a person’s point of view or what an individual chooses to stand on doesn’t equate to hate. The different views coming together and finding a common interest, that’s what makes the country great.

About a month back, Christians united behind a man’s right to express his opinion. While many were respectful, some lacked the courage of their convictions. It never ceases to amaze me when I see the things that move the Christian ranks to action. We will stand upon the shoulders, or beards, of others, but rarely stand for the faith we claim to hold to. Though it does my heart good to see believers unite behind an idea, it saddens me to see the methods many use to show their faith.

When I look at Christ, He used a powerful weapon to breakdown the distrust of religion that had grown during His day. His love for the hurting, for the lonely and the lost, helped to rebuild a system that was in dire need of shaking. I wonder if we don’t find ourselves in a similar situation today. The Lord did not come for the healthy, He came for the sick and His message was one of love and forgiveness. His love established trust as He established a new system without letting go of the lessons of the old.

His love built a bridge that healed the broken hearted. His love inspired the hurting and the lost to change and see what could be if they would dare to believe. He didn’t hurl insults. He stood firmly upon His convictions. He lead with an uncommon resolve that guided a ragtag group of outcasts to follow in His footsteps and they carried on in His absence to change a world in need of that most effective tool any of us possess… Love.

So, considering all the arguments and disagreements raging in the world around us and within the church itself, I have come to a decision. I resolve to love. Not love as society would define it, but with the love that Christ Himself showed us. Through His example, we can change the world, if we will simply believe in the power love holds. With a pure love from a forgiven heart, not passing judgement on those around me, but seeking to see them through the eyes of Christ. I may disagree with you but that doesn’t mean you lack value. It means I have to look beyond the disagreement to see the potential within the heart and then offer the one thing that can mend the broken… Love.

“Love is patient and kind, not self seeking, not boastful, it doesn’t keep a record of wrong, it rejoices in the truth. Love never fails.” Think what a difference we could make if we loved the people around us like this, not just when they’re clean, but when they are dirty. Love never fails. You can gain the whole world, have everything your heart desires, people can follow you, but if you lack love, it means nothing. I resolve to love!