What Have We Become?

After finishing “Stranger Things Season 2,” which was fun, family friendly, and just plain great writing, my husband and I were looking for a new series to watch on Netflix. Gotta love December, when the days are short and the evenings are long.

There has to be something good with all these new shows, we figured. So we gave Amazon’s “Mr. Robot” a try. I enjoyed it until the third episode had a scene that was so disgusting I couldn’t turn it off fast enough. And there it was. I couldn’t “unsee” what I had seen. The image was seared in my brain.

Next.

This time we triedUntitled design (8) “MindHunter” on Netflix. Within the first ten minutes, a man stripped naked and blew his own head off with a shotgun. I squirmed in my seat as the image of the blown off head stuck like chewing gum in my mind. Why is it when we see something gross and disturbing we can’t stop thinking about it?

I tried to keep watching and had to fast forward during a sex scene, which twenty years ago, would have been called porn. It doesn’t shock us anymore, we see it everywhere. The last straw was toward the end when the FBI agents and a cop were describing a crime scene. It was more than just dead bodies—it was sexualized. It was vile. It was over the top.

My older daughter watches “Game of Thrones” with her friends. We don’t have HBO, so I checked it out on IMDb. Here is what the parent guide said:

Nudity and brief sex acts are frequent throughout the entire series. Scenes of topless women, bare buttocks are regular occurrences in almost every episode throughout the entire series. Male and female full frontal nudity while not as common as topless women occurs often. Examples include: implied oral sex, numerous sex scenes within brothels, sex involving multiple people, prostitutes’ bare breasts, people fighting over sex, and people bathing naked.

Awesome.

Sounds like a great thing for my teenager to be watching. Like the rating TV-MA means anything at all. We’ll produce a show that contains porn, slap a TV-MA rating on it, and call ourselves socially responsible. It’s bull! And we all know it.

I can almost hear Satan laughing about some of these shows as if to say, They don’t even know this is from me. They have no idea that I am poisoning their minds. Satan is having his way with us and our kids. We’ve been had.

My youngest daughter, who is fifteen, likes to watch movies in the evenings with us while she is doing homework. She is like sunshine and unicorns, happy and innocent. We love that she hangs out with us. But what we have to do to find movies that we can watch with her is exhausting. And anything we do watch I have to be on guard with the remote in hand, ready to fast forward.

It is exhausting sifting through the garbage.

Hearing of Matt Lauer’s firing from NBC last week was shocking. Sexual misconduct? No way, I thought. I remember watching him on the Today show when I shared a house with four roommates shortly after college. He seemed like the boy next door.

When I heard about the accusations against Bill Cosby for sexual misconduct several years ago, I was heartbroken. He was such a great role model in the 80s and 90s. And now, almost every week we hear about a new sexual harassment case against someone in Hollywood, the government, or on the news.

The thought hit me, Why are we surprised? 

Do we not live in an extremely sexually charged and perverted culture? Are there any sexual ideals or morals that we have not flushed down the toilet? It seems that anything goes these days.

We have so thoroughly screwed up sex in our society that sometimes I feel totally helpless as a parent. Is it possible to raise kids who wait to have sex until marriage? And if they actually do wait, is there any chance of them finding spouses someday that have waited? It’s almost an absurd thought.

I am fed up! I am over it! What our country has been reduced to in the name of sexual prowess is pathetic. Can we not control ourselves? Can we get any farther from God’s design?

But what do we do? Move to Alaska? Build a wall and a moat around our homes and get rid of electricity? Is that the only choice we have?

Lots of questions. Few answers.

The bottom line is, I am outraged. We all should be. We are Sodom and Gomorrah all over again. Have we not evolved past that? It would seem not. We have been reduced to behaving like animals.

Shame on us.

 

So Thankful for My Teenagers

Sitting in the car on a cold November day while Jess was at her guitar lesson, I prayed, please, Lord, don’t let this put a wedge between us. Outside, the giant ornamental grass was waving back and forth in the wind as if it were mocking me. I looked out the other window at a mom and little girl who were getting out of their car. I watched as the sweet child followed her mother like a baby duck. And my heart ached a little. Gone are those days.

My oldest daughter and I had an argument just before we left the house. Leading up to this, we had been enjoying a few weeks of harmony in the house (sort of). I was feeling good about my relationship with Emily. Needless to say, we were due for some conflict.

The disagreement had to do with coloring her hair. I wasn’t telling her she couldn’t color her hair. I was telling her she couldn’t do it at her boyfriend’s house.

A couple months ago, she was gone all the time. She spent just about every waking moment at her boyfriend’s house. If you have had teenagers, you know drawing boundaries is not their strong suit. God created us to have boundaries. They keep us safe and they keep us healthy. The teenage years are the prime time to teach kids about boundaries.

My husband kept saying, “don’t worry about it, I was never home when I was in high school.” So, we let it go on too long. And eventually, we had to pull in the reigns. We sat her down and told her the new rules. She had to come home after school. She was not to shower, nap, or change clothes at her boyfriend’s house. And she had to be home after school until evening, be home one full day a week, and be home by five on Sundays. In other words, she needed to be reminded that she lived HERE. And that her home, where she lived, needed to be her home base.

The incident began when she mentioned she was going over to her boyfriend’s house to color her hair as she was walking out the door. After thinking it through, I texted her, telling her that if she was going to color her hair, she needed to do it at home, or with girlfriends. Not at her boyfriend’s house.

A text argument ensued until she realized she wasn’t getting anywhere, so she called me. As I paced around the house, debating with my seventeen year old, I felt as if I was walking a tightrope. The words, and my tone of voice had to be perfectly placed. Preserving the relationship was so important. I continued to say no in a calm and controlled manner, and explained why. After she gave up and our conversation ended, she texted the following:

“You can punish me, but there is literally no reason. If I was doing something wrong, I would feel bad, but I don’t, cuz I’m not doing anything wrong.”

It was such a perfectly teenagery thing to say, that I had to chuckle a little. This wrong thinking of my daughter is why she has parents. If it feels good it must be okay, right? Wrong. This age is the perfect time to teach our kids that feelings cannot be relied on, and that they must know the truth and stay connected to the vine.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

After the matter had been settled and she knew what the consequences would be if she disobeyed, Jess and I left for guitar lesson. I texted her something sweet, hoping to smooth things over, and prayed and prayed. And the next morning, we were okay. And I felt so very blessed. Emily and Jessica are the loves of my life. I never imagined how in love with them I would become seventeen years ago. I am so lucky and priviledged to be their mom. I am so thankful. Even in the tumultuous teenage years, I wouldn’t trade this time for the world.

I am so thankful for the family that God has blessed me with. I am thankful for a God who’s love endures forever and who died for me. I am thankful that God is good. I am thankful for the conversation about faith that we had with our kids the other night. I see God working in their lives. I see Him drawing their hearts to His. And I see wisdom and maturity growing. God is so good!

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

The In Between

With the fireplace crackling, eggos in hand, and Christmas lights hanging on the wall, my girlfriends and I watched season 2 of “Stranger Things” the night it was released. I have been obsessed with it since I first saw it a couple of months ago. I have a problem, I know.

ST 2 Night

For those of you who haven’t watched it, the story takes place in 1983. I was eleven in 1983 —just sayin! (Eleven is one of the main characters) It is filled with amusing characters who are decent to each other. And it is true to the 1980s.

I loved the high-waisted jeans, glasses that were as big as your face, and the telephones with cords. I remember the days of the feathered hair style made popular by Farrah Fawcett, dungeons and dragons, classic eighties music, and mix tapes. And, it is scary. It is not like the blood and guts, sawing body parts, over-the-top horror movies there are today. No, it is the old fashioned kind of scary that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

A boy, Will Byers, vanishes in the first episode of season 1. They spend the rest of the season looking for him. In one of the scenes, Will’s mom, Joyce, is trying to explain her son to the chief. “He’s not like you, Hopper, He’s not like me, He’s not like . . . . .most.” Will’s friends, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin get picked on by the school bully.

Most of the characters are weirdos, nerds, or just plain “different.” These are my people.

Eleven (El) is the main weirdo. This shaved headed wonder knows more than anyoneEleven about what is going on in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. She is the key to it all. She is the weirdo on Maple Street. And she is extremely powerful.

Most shows today depict people behaving badly. It is almost tiresome. However, in episode 6 or 7 of season 1, Lucas apologizes to El with such sincerity. He says, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry,” to which El replies, “Friends don’t lie, I’m sorry too.” And when Mike and Lucas are fighting, the very insightful Dustin explains their relationship and how each one of them needed to apologize.

Then, there’s the Upside Down. It is an echo of this life, it may look like the real world, but it is cold, dark, and dangerous. The Upside Down is familiar, but at the same time, it isn’t. It’s wrong. Sometimes my life feels upside down. Maybe that is why “Stranger Things” is so appealing to me.

NancyI can relate to the Upside Down. However, what I am experiencing I would call the “In Between.” Since finishing my book (that will be out soon), I have been in a weird space. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every bit of writing Pouring In. But now, I am stuck in the In Between.

Writing a book is a high—spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. But all good things must come to an end, and the high becomes a low. I wasn’t prepared for the In Between. Like the Upside Down, everything about the In Between feels wrong. It is cold and lonely and dark. And I can’t seem to get my feet on the ground.

What now? I wonder.

As I wander around the In Between, I remember that God is always looking for me—always pursuing me. Whenever I find myself in a dark, scary place far from home, God finds me there. He sees me and brings me home.

I have to trust God with whatever is next for me. There are no demogorgons or shadow monsters here, just God, with me, in the In Between. He is here in this strange space with me, a weirdo, so I can rest confidently. We all have seasons. God loves us through it all, even in the spaces in between.

 

The “Good” Gap: Believing in the Goodness of God

A couple weeks ago my husband and I decided to watch The Shack by William P. Young. The book was captivating and beautiful, so I couldn’t wait to see it. As my husband made popcorn, I decided check out the bonus material. It began with Young talking about how the book came to be a movie and the impact it has had. I was crying before the movie even started. And, of course, I sobbed through the whole thing.

This beautifully written book and movie profoundly illustrates our misunderstanding of God’s character. In the story, “Papa,” or God, says that many people don’t believe He is good.

I have often looked at the many lukewarm Christians in American churches and wondered, how are they not in love with Jesus Christ? To know Him is to truly adore Him. So, what is missing?

Most Christians believe there is a God who created everything and revealed Himself in scripture. They believe that God hears our prayers and occasionally performs miracles. They don’t have to be convinced of that.

While not fully understanding, they know and have heard that He loves them. The concept of love is elusive, though. It is the most overused word in the English language and therefore, has lost its meaning. However, they still know that God loves us.

We hear preaching about our guilt as human beings and the grace we have been freely given. We know that God sent his son to die for us and by the blood of Jesus we have been saved. Most of us are familiar with the idea of grace and know the gospel story well.

To some in the church, their idea of God might look like this.

God created → God loves → we were Guilty → God saved → end of story

Each one of these statements are true and important elements of God’s story. But something is missing.

Being in love with someone does not come from head knowledge alone, it also comes from the heart. What is the missing piece? What is keeping so many Christians from radically falling in love with Jesus Christ?

We may believe in Him. We may believe that He is all powerful and all knowing and created our world. But, do we believe that He is good? The gap between being a lukewarm Christian and radically following Christ exists when we don’t believe that He is good.

Knowing that God is good is everything. Most of the people I know that are radically following Christ use the phrase, “God is good.” God is ALL good in ALL things at ALL times and gives peace and hope to an otherwise hopeless world.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. Psalm 107:1

For our faith to be radical, to be sold out Christ, we need to get to the “God is good” part.

God created → God loves → we were Guilty → God saved → GOD IS GOOD

Who is God to me?

God is loving, merciful, forgiving, and the great comforter.

I could say that He is loving and merciful, but that leaves out His great compassion.
I could say that He is kind and forgiving, but that leaves out His faithfulness.
I could say that He is strong and powerful, but that leaves out that He is perfect peace.

God is just so many things. One could say He is everything!

In other words . . . . . He is soooo good! Saying that God is good encompasses everything about His character. All the things of God fall underneath the umbrella of His “goodness.”

So, if your faith seems stale. If you can’t muster up the passion for Jesus that others seem to be able to. Focus on His goodness. Meditate on it. Pray that God would reveal His goodness to you. Everything He has for you is good. Everything He has for you is better than anything in this world.

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been over the last month and a half, why the blog has been radio silent, it’s because I’ve had my own dark path to navigate. My own cold and rough ” green mile” to traverse. However, I have been led by the promises of God’s goodness. His love and mercy illuminated my path. Hope told me that what’s on the other side is good, even better than before. And I trust in a God that has never left my side. I trust in a God that is good.

The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:9

The good He has for you may be packaged in trials. His good for you may be on a rough road or walking through the valley of the shadow of death. His good for you might be facing piles of pain that you have carried your entire life. However, the road of His goodness, regardless of how messy or dark, leads to freedom. There is nothing better in this life than freedom. And true freedom only comes through one source, Jesus Christ.

 

The Nature of Truth and Why It Matters to the Faith of Our Kids

No other religion emphasizes the importance of truth like Christianity. God in His infinite wisdom knows the high value of truth and does not hold back from us. Truth holds power and truth is necessary. And as sons and daughter of God, truth is our right.


As I’m wrapping up my manuscript and preparing it for publication, I thought I would post one more excerpt. This is from “Chapter 14: Apologetics and Worldviews” of my upcoming book, Pouring In, Inspiring a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation. (Greg Schrock also contributed to this chapter)


What do our kids need to know to be able to give a reasoned defense for their faith? They need to be able to answer these five questions.

  1. What is truth?
  2. Why do I believe God exists?
  3. Why do I believe Jesus is the Son of God?
  4. Why do I believe the Bible is true?
  5. How does being a Christian affect my life?

 

What is Truth?

Frank Turek and Norman L. Geisler in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, claim that “truth is a casualty of our popular culture. And when truth goes, the authority of the gospel is undermined.”[1]

According to dictionary.com, truth is the true or actual state of a matter, or, a proven or verified principle or statement. If truth is proven and verified, it is absolute, not relative.

Think about it: if truth is relative, why should our kids go to school? If they can just decide their own truth, than what is the point of learning math, science, or history? Without objective, absolute, truth, nothing they learn in school is relevant to anyone except the person teaching it.

Our entire civilization is run by the objective truth of numbers. We count on numbers for finances, temperature, speed, time, grades, taxes, etc. If we didn’t agree on a set of objective truths about numbers, our society could not function.

Truth, by its very nature is exclusive. If something is true, it means that contradictory statements are necessarily false. Nobody doubts this when it comes to the hard sciences; people believe that the statement “gravity exists” is objectively true, and that the statement “gravity does not exist” is objectively false. But, when it comes to religion and worldviews, people have no problem saying “Christianity may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”

However, truth is objective, meaning, it is attached to the object, and it is therefore unchanging. What people are claiming today is that truth is subjective, meaning, it is attached to the subject. They claim for each individual person, or subject, there may be a different truth.

For example, take the sentence “Doug caught the red ball.” In this sentence, Doug is the subject, and the ball is the object. There is an inherent truth about the ball—the ball is red. It makes no difference what Doug, the subject of the sentence, believes the color of the ball to be. Doug might sincerely believe the ball is blue, but that does not change the fact that the ball is red. The subject’s beliefs are irrelevant to objective truths.

Religion is perceived as something that helps one get through life; and if that indeed is its purpose, then of course each person will have their own religious beliefs that are useful to them. It can be likened to a therapy session; in order to help a patient, the counselor tailors the session to the subject they are counseling.

It is this misperception of religion that has led so many people to believe in the relative truth of religious worldviews, rather than in absolute truth. One of the most critical lessons we need to teach our kids is that absolute truth can be applied to religion as much as it is applied to chemistry, economics, and mathematics.

Religion is not a matter of opinion, convenience, or utility. It is an objective reality of the universe. There is one set of facts about God that is objectively true. Any view of God that doesn’t correspond to these truths is necessarily false.

There is one view of attaining salvation that is objectively true; all other views are false. There is one view of the spiritual world that is objectively true. There is one view of our eternal destiny that is objectively true. All views contrary to these truths are as false as the statement two plus two equals five.

To illustrate, consider common statements that we hear in our culture, and replace key terms with words of a different subject matter. Consider the following statement that I mentioned earlier:

How can you believe that Christianity is the only right way? How close-minded and intolerant!

Now let’s replace Christianity with, say, geography.

How can you believe that seventy-one percent of the earth is covered in water? How close-minded and intolerant!

Let’s try mathematics.

How can you believe that eleven, seventeen, and twenty-nine are prime numbers? How close-minded and intolerant!

Let’s try biology.

How can you believe that the heart pumps blood? How close-minded and intolerant!

These statements suddenly sound so absurd! When you accept that religious truths are just as objective as these other sciences, you realize there must be one true worldview. If there is one objectively true worldview, then all contrary worldviews must be false.

Determining which worldview is true is a different matter.

Which worldview is true? Maybe it is Atheism, which believes there is no God. Maybe it is Hinduism, which believes there are three hundred thirty million gods. Maybe it is Mormonism, which believes that we can become gods. Maybe it is Christianity, which believes that there is a Trinitarian God.

Each person must answer this question, through further study, for themselves to determine which religion is actually true. But first, we need to establish that there are objective truths in religion.

I believe the Bible is the absolute, objective, truth. But don’t take my word for it. Study and discover for yourself and encourage your kids to do the same.

God gave us His Word, so we would know the truth and would not be deceived. Without the existence of objective truth, the Christian faith has no power. Truth is foundational to our faith.

“Two-thirds of Americans now deny there’s any such thing as truth.”[2]—Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith

Our kids must leave our homes with the keen ability to identify and defend truth. Establishing that truth is not relative or subjective, but rather, objective and absolute, is essential to our kids’ faith.

[1] Frank Turek, Norman L. Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 8.

[2] Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 146.

Feeding Our Kids A Law-Based Faith

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Pouring In; Instilling a Personal, Powerful, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in The Next Generation.


Sam Williamson, who writes for The Noble Heart, said, “It’s virtually one hundred percent predictable that we are converted by one message and then preach another. We are converted by the unbelievable hope of God’s love for the undeserving, but we lecture on behavior.”

I am so glad there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God! There would be no hope for me if it weren’t for grace. I would be hopelessly heading to Hell. And so would you. And, so would our kids. We can’t save ourselves from our humanity. We all need a Savior.

The story of Jesus’ life is about a love so great that we can hardly fathom and a pardon so outrageous that none of us deserve.

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14

Robin Roberts from the morning show, Good Morning America, recently quoted her mother as saying, “God does not love us because of who we are, God loves us because of who He is.” Wow! Right on Robin’s Mom!

There isn’t anything greater in this world than God’s love and grace we have been freely given in Jesus Christ. The gospel is about God’s love and grace. Grace is everything. Let’s celebrate that in our homes and in our churches.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12

It is the foolishness and simplicity of the gospel that makes it irresistible. A man died in my place, and therefore, I live. It’s lunacy! It’s the crazy, radical love that God has for us.

As Christian parents, we seem to focus on what our kids should or shouldn’t do when it comes to the faith. I have fallen into this trap myself. Why? Do we focus on the law in our own relationship with God? I certainly don’t.

It’s natural for parents to lay down the law. That is what we do. We keep our kids from breaking the law, eating themselves to death, and flunking out of school. They have to follow rules, eat in moderation, and study, study, study!

We do this out of love. And we do it because we know what’s best for them. However, when it comes to teaching our kids faith, we have to take a different approach.

A couple years ago, Emily and I were fighting about what she was allowed to wear to school. Yoga pants and leggings have been the bane of my existence since my girls were in middle school! We have struggled and fought with our girls for years about dressing modestly. Modesty is not a popular concept.

Emily was really into hair, makeup, and fashion then. She put a lot of time and energy into her beauty regimen and it concerned me. I didn’t want her to mistakenly think that she was in any way defined by her beauty. Or that her beauty brought her power.

During our devotions one Saturday, I decided to have us study Isaiah 3:16–17.

The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore, the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.”

The passage goes on to talk about how vain and seductive women can be. It talks about how women use their beauty as a source of power.

You can imagine how well that went over. It was clear to whom I was directing this teaching. Dumb!! I should have known better.

A couple weeks later, I realized that I was teaching her a law-based faith. I went up to her room and I apologized for focusing on what she was doing wrong.

It’s so hard as parents not to make this mistake. What is parenting for the first decade of our kids’ lives if not teaching them right from wrong?

Obedience to Christ must be taught within the context of extreme love and grace.

Kara Powell, coauthor of Growing Young, discusses a helpful method for teaching kids faith that avoids the behavior-based model. She takes the basic “Guilt—Grace—Gratitude” model of the Heidelberg Catechism from Reformed theology, and adds the topics, God’s Goodness, God’s People and God’s Vision, to make it a complete picture of the gospel. She calls it “grounding moral obedience in the invitation of grace.”

Guilt is only one small part of the gospel story. We must overwhelm our kids with the message of God’s love and grace through the blood of Jesus. And teach them all aspects of the gospel story.

Powell’s method is a great way to teach the gospel to our kids. If we try to keep this progression in mind, they might have a better chance of understanding the true gospel.

All aspects of the faith are important. We must not get stuck on guilt and obedience.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:9

We must demonstrate the beauty of grace in our parenting. This is crucial. Just as the king forgave the debt of his servant who owed him money in Matthew 18, we must extend grace to our kids.

Young people won’t be won to Christ by pounding the rules into their heads. Or, by shaming them. It’s our job to teach them about God’s abundant love and grace. We must show them the beauty of the gospel.

The Empty Next

My daughters were recently on a mission trip in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I was so proud of them. My husband and I prayed they would experience spiritual growth and that God would break their hearts for what breaks His.

They were gone, in another country, without me. The house was quiet, and the days were long. I missed them terribly. And it didn’t help when my husband kept talking about the fact that our kids we be gone in three short years.

My husband and I are approaching the “empty nest.” As I was typing, I accidentally wrote, the “empty next.” As I looked at the words in front of me, I realized, this was exactly how I felt about it.

Three more years and both girls are off to college. At which time, I will have been a stay-at-home mom for twenty years. Twenty years is almost half my life. I hardly remember who I was prior to having kids.

I love being “mom” to my girls. It’s been a joy and I don’t want to give it up—not that I have a choice.

How do I create a whole new person with a whole new life, practically overnight? And what if I don’t want to?

I was getting a taste of life without them, and I didn’t like it. There are seasons, I know. It’s just more comfortable being in the middle of one, than at the end. It’s hard to say goodbye.

My book, Pouring In, comes out toward the end of the year. This project has been a blessing to me. And I know God is laying the foundation for my next ministry. However, for me, nothing compares to my role as mom.

After a few days of the kids being gone and feeling sorry for myself, God brought to mind the scripture where the Lord called Abraham to go to another land.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

He had to leave everything behind, everything that was familiar and comfortable. And Abraham didn’t know where God was sending him.

The thought occurred to me, am I willing to do the same?

After contemplating what God asked of Abraham, two words came to mind; joyful and expectant.

God is calling me to be joyful and expectant about the good things that are waiting for me around the corner. But, I have to be willing to turn the corner, and leave the street I love and am so familiar with.

The next season of my life will be just as good as this one. Of course, I can’t imagine it. Nothing could be better than this. Even though it hasn’t been easy, and we have had many ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade these last seventeen years for anything.

So, while my girls were mixing concrete, building walls, playing with Honduran kids, and drawing closer to God as they served a thousand miles away, I decided to be joyful and expectant of what God was doing in their lives, and mine.

Even though I couldn’t be with Emily and Jessica for those ten days, He never left their side. He is a good, good, Father.

They are now back safe and sound, and life is good again. As I cherish the next three years with my girls, I will also be joyful and expectant about what God has for me in the next season of my life.

My girls don’t belong to me, they belong to God. How easily I forget. I only get them for a time. A precious season. And I thank God for every moment I have with them.

Our job is to teach them how to follow their true Father, their true Master. Then we let go because we have returned them to their rightful Owner.  —Francis Chan, You and Me, Forever

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How Important Is Self Esteem?

A few years ago, my daughter went on a junior high retreat. When she got home, I asked her what they talked about in their large group sessions. The only thing that she could remember was self esteem.

Self esteem has been a hot topic since I was a teenager in the ‘80s. Anywhere there is a gathering of kids or youth, this seems to be a hot topic.

I have always been a people pleaser. Humility is a natural thing for me almost more than pride is . . . almost.

Am I always humble? Absolutely not. I will always struggle with pride, with wanting what I want, and being selfish. I am human.

However, I had many challenges in childhood that caused me to think less of myself, or have “low self esteem.” Is this a curse? Or is this a gift?

Is it possible that I am capable of more humility than most people because I started out with such a low image of myself? If that is the case, then thank you God for low self esteem!

Because of my humble beginnings, I have been open to seeing how enormous God is. I didn’t have to “get over myself” quite as much when elevating God in my life. I was never as much about myself to begin with. And God has been showing me my great worth in Him and because of Him.

God has not built me up through the years, He has been revealing more of Himself to me. I no longer care how small I may be. He is great and mighty and that gives my soul peace and freedom. Yes, I still believe that I am wretched, but I have been redeemed by an almighty God.

Self-confidence, popularly conceived is not a virtue. It is a vice. It has at its root pride. —Paul Gould

We must teach our kids to highly esteem God, not themselves. That is what God asks of all of us. He asks us to be a servant to all. Just as Christ was.

He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:7-8 (NIV)

While self esteem focuses inward, God teaches us to focus outward and upward.

Those on the self-confidence bandwagon are placing their identity in the wrong thing! We ought not to be so confident in the self.  —Paul Gould

Are we teaching our kids to love themselves? Do we realize that God’s Word teaches the exact opposite?

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:25

Teaching our kids to love themselves contradicts the Word of God. And it can lead to pride.

Instead of teaching kids that they should think highly of themselves, we should teach them about the greatness of our God. Instead of focusing on praising our kids, we need to focus on glorifying God who above everything and everyone. What if we taught our kids not to focus on themselves, but on the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ?

All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. Philippians 3:8-9 (The Message)

If we taught kids mainly about God’s worth and the joy of knowing Him instead of loving themselves, the emotional health of future generations would greatly improve.

So, I am not going to teach my kids to love themselves, or worry about their “self esteem.” I am not going to go over the top with praise, or continuously feed their egos. I am going to teach them the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ. And that because of Him, they have great worth as God’s beloved children.

Our kids’ worth should come from being sons and daughters of the King. And their worth should come from knowing that God loves them so much that He sent His Son to die for each one of them.

3 Ways to Feed the Souls of Teenagers and Emerging Adults

The following is an excerpt from Kim Kurtz’s upcoming book, Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation.

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Pouring in is probing. Pouring in is listening. Pouring in is seeking to know our kids at a soul level. It is searching for the child of God that is in each one of our kids.

In addition to being loved, three of the greatest longings of the human soul are to be seen, heard and known. It is no different for our kids, whether they are five, fifteen, or twenty five.

1) The human soul longs to be SEEN. God sees us.

Whether it is in the joys and the celebrations of the soul, or in the difficult times of life, we all long to be seen. This desire makes us human and unites us all.

I recently watched the movie, Hidden Figures, about African American women mathematicians who worked at NASA in 1961. They were “computers” before there were computers. Three in particular were pivotal to the space program, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan.

At the time, however, segregation was still very much a part of American society. What must it have felt like to be these brilliant woman and not be seen? Or, not be recognized for their contributions?

Every human being longs to be seen. God made us that way and He sees us.

Or in the movie, Avatar, the Na’vi people who inhabit the alien world of Pandora, say “I see you” instead of “I love you.” This shows the power of being seen. Being seen is equated with love.

There are many names of God, however, the most beautiful to me is El Roi, The God who Sees.

This is illustrated in the story in Genesis where Sarai couldn’t conceive a child and in desperation, offers, Hagar, her slave, to her husband, Abram.

What ensues is a mess, which is usually what happens when we take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God.

Sarai mistreats Hagar, so she flees. And God finds her beside a desert spring.

After a conversation with God, Hagar calls Him, El Roi, The God Who sees. She was the only person in scripture to give God a name.

He sees me, and He sees you.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

We need to make an effort to really see our teenagers and young people in the church and the community. They are beautiful souls made in the image of God.

Young people . . . don’t want to sit passively on the sidelines but are drawn to churches and leaders who help them get in the game.
—Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin, Growing Young

 

2) The human soul longs to be HEARD. God hears us.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them.  Psalm 34:17

I was with a friend recently who had just been to at a family reunion. She teared up when she told me that she often spends days with her family without anyone asking her what is going on in her life. She said “Not being heard crushes your soul.”

According to writer and speaker, Steven Argue, who has a PhD from Michigan State University and is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute, the three most important words to use with our children and youth in general, are “Tell me more.”

I think we need to remember as parents that the first question isn’t as important as the second or third question. A first question usually comes from our own agenda—we want information, clarity, or context. Second and third questions are responsive questions that emerge from the conversation. They show our kids how well we’re listening and really seeking to understand, rather than just interrogate. . . . Maybe for us, “Tell me more” is more of a posture than a solo question!

We must hear our kids. This means not just listening, but hearing and sometimes probing. We must turn off our devices, or the TV when our kids are talking to us. They deserve our time and undivided attention. This is how we feed their soul.

And young people must be heard in our churches.

3) The human soul longs to be KNOWN. God knows us.

The human soul longs to be known. Known to our bones. We want someone to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of who we are and still love us.

We don’t have to hide with God, because he knows us intimately.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5

Being truly known, loved, and accepted is what we all long for.  —David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Good Faith, Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Being Irrelevant and Extreme

Do we take the time to really know our kids? Do we seek to know our teenagers? Do we desire to know the young people at our churches? Or, do we dismiss them because they are young?


Pouring into our kids requires that we see them. It requires that we hear them. And it requires that we seek to really know them. These are the things that will feed their soul, and cause them to be open to the gospel.

Look for Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation in bookstores this fall.

3 Things We Told Our Teenager When She Got Her Driver’s License

My daughter recently got her driver’s license. For me, this milestone in parenting has been about as much fun as potty training. It’s been nerve racking, stressful, and sometimes has caused contention between my daughter and I.

My husband once told me about a boss he had who gave his kids a brand new car at sixteen and said “here, go do your stuff.” In other words he was tired of driving them everywhere.

I’m sure he wasn’t quite so callous when he said it. And, I get it—driving our kids around is exhausting. I have two teenagers who always want to go somewhere. The requests are endless. And it feels like you live in your car.

So it is tempting to let your kids get their driver’s license without giving it much thought. That is what we did with our oldest daughter.

However, I realized something. As parents, we do not owe our kids a driver’s license simply because they turn sixteen. As far as teenagers go, driving is a privilege, not a right. And many factors play into the decision of whether kids should get a driver’s license or not.

As long as teenagers live in their parents’ home, driving is a privilege, not a right.

Looking back, I wish I would have slowed things down a bit and thought things through. I wish I would have thought about what I could leverage for the privilege of driving our car. Car keys are a great leveraging tool. And, oh, the lessons that come with car keys!

Here are three things we told our daughter when she got her driver’s license.

1. If you want the privilege of driving our car, you are expected to go to church and youth group.

When our kids are practically adults (16 or 17), it is often no longer productive to force them to go to church. Teenagers often become resentful if they are forced to go. And, at this age, they must start taking ownership of their faith.

Telling them that driving the car and going to church go hand in hand might alleviate stress on Sunday mornings. If they choose not to go to church, than they choose not to drive the car that week. But the main point is, it’s their choice.

Teenagers feel more empowered if they are given choices. If they can choose whether they go to church or not, it is more likely to be a positive, not a negative.

2. If you drive to school with a car we have provided, you will drive your siblings as well.

It seems like my oldest daughter wants everything to be perfectly “fair” between her and her sister. And it isn’t “fair” that her younger sister doesn’t have to ride the bus as a freshmen like she did. Therefore, she didn’t want to give her a ride.

What a perfect time to dispel the “everything has to be fair” myth. Life isn’t fair. The earlier our kids learn that, the better off they will be. Maturity is accepting life as it is, which is less than ideal.

As long as we have provided a car to drive to school, she is not going to leave the house without her sister. Especially since they go to the same school.

3. You will obey ALL of the laws regardless of how stupid you think they are.

When my daughter got her driver’s license, we learned that there are a lot of probationary restrictions right off the bat. In Indiana, teenagers can’t drive with anyone other than their family members for the first six months. They also have curfew. And they aren’t allowed to use a device, such as a phone, in the car.

My daughter complained about these rules saying, “that’s dumb,” or “nobody else cares about that rule.” With this attitude came a lot of teaching moments.

In this country, we don’t get to pick and choose which laws we follow. We are expected to follow all of them or face the the consequences. If my daughter is pulled over, a cop will never say, “Oh, you think that law is dumb, OK, then you can go.” Or, “Oh, you’re right, no one else pays attention to that law, never mind then.” Cops don’t care if you like or agree with any law, they only care if you break it.

Parents often make the mistake of assuming that once their kids are sixteen, they have the right to drive a car. Driving, for teenagers, is a privilege. Parents can leverage it, and use it in positive ways to reinforce mature behavior.