To Date or Not To Date

Just when you think you know what you are doing as a parent. Just when you think “I’ve got this.” Just when you think you are a decent parent, your kids start dating. Then everything you thought you knew goes out the window. And you start over from square one.

Should we let our teenagers date? How old is old enough?

Kids in this country often start dating at such as young age. Kids are “dating” in middle school and even elementary. And by high school, they are playing house.

American culture has defined dating for teenagers as kissing, having sex, and using the word “babe” after every sentence. They try to act like they are practically married. It’s scary that this is the “norm.”

The emphasis of dating is on the physical not the relational or the spiritual.

A girl should get so lost in God, that a guy has to seek Him to find her.
~John Piper, Desiring God

There are two reasons why teenagers shouldn’t date in high school.

First, the obvious reason of teens and sex. It is hard to think of how many years my girls have before they will likely marry. If they get married at the same age I did, it will be in eight to ten years. That is a long time not to have sex in this culture.

Unless you live under a rock you probably know that most teens are having sex. And that includes those in the church. A significant number of kids from Christian households are growing up and deciding to have sex before marriage.

“80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex.” ~John Blake, CNN, “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore”

We are such a sex crazed nation. We have so perverted sex that it doesn’t seem to even resemble what God designed it to be. How do you come back from that? Is there any hope for our kids to remain pure?

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.  Song of Solomon 8:4

If our kids awaken love at an early age, they may do things that they will later regret.

Second, we shouldn’t let our teenagers date in high school because it takes their focus off of God, family and school. Our kids’ jobs as teenagers is to love and obey God and His Son Jesus, to love their family, and to learn a skill or trade (go to school!). That’s pretty much it!

Same sex friends and church are also an important part of our teenagers’ lives. They need to be learning how to love others and participate in a community.

Anything else is pretty much a distraction at their age.

However, each parent has to decide what is best for their kids and their family. You know your teen. If you don’t let them date, are they likely to withdraw from you and sneak around? Or, will they be upset at first, but basically obey you? We should consider these things when making our decision.

We must weigh the risk of a breakdown of communication with our kids. Fostering open communication with our teenagers is crucial. Parenting teens requires a delicate balance. It is like walking a tightrope over a very deep canyon. If you get it wrong, you can fall to your death.

I am not saying that we should parent out of fear. However, very few of the issues parents face with teenagers are black and white.

Sometimes I miss the days when my girls were little and right and wrong was clear and obvious. I was an awesome parent then! But now I realize, even though young parents are physically exhausted and don’t have much time for themselves, it is much easier to know what to do. My husband and I have faced so many gray areas in our parenting lately that we have forgotten what black and white look like! It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I am in no way judging parents who do let their kids date in high school. We did. However, I am realizing that the ideal would have been for our kids to have waited to date. That would have been the ideal.

However, how much of life is ideal? Not much, I find. Especially in parenting teenagers in America in 2017! We do the very best we can, and realize that we are not perfect parents. I am not even close!

Ultimately, only God knows what twists and turns our kids will make on their way to the cross.

But, we can pray, and teach them that there isn’t anything that can separate them from the love of God. And that there is nothing they can do to earn, or lose, the grace that has been freely given to them.

A man 2,000 years ago hung on a cross, bloodied and beaten, for your kids and mine. Their sins have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That is all the hope we need.


Kim Kurtz is writing a book called, Pouring In: Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation, due to come out this fall. A majority of Christian kids leave the faith after they leave home. She explores why this is happening and what Christian parents can do differently to change the outcome for their kids.

 

Is Your Faith Contagious? 3 Things Teenagers Need To See In Their Parents

On a mission, I grabbed the Clorox wipes and hurried to the kitchen. All I could see was a teeming cesspool of germs. My daughter had just gotten over the flu and strep. So, I wiped down the refrigerator handles, the microwave, the faucets, door handles, and the knobs on the stove.

It has been a rough winter in our household. We have all been sick a lot. Thank goodness for the MinuteClinic! In-out-on antibiotics-and back to bed! And just my style . . . . no doctors!

Just like those pesky germs, our character, who we are, is likely to be contagious. Contagious to those around us, and contagious to our kids.

Think about it, have you ever caught yourself mimicking things your parents said or did during your childhood? We all have.

Our character is contagious. And if we are living a life in obedience to Christ, our faith will be contagious as well.

We, as Christian parents, are the first step in the equation of our kids’ faith. Whether our kids develop a personal, and passionate faith, or a casual, watered down faith, depends a great deal on the faith and character of Mom and Dad.

We are told that if we live by the Spirit we will bear fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22–23

If we long to reflect the image of Jesus in front of our kids, all of these characteristics should be our goal. However, there are three overarching themes in the character of Christ, under which everything else falls.

There are three characteristics of Christ that teenagers need to see in their parents to make following Him irresistible.

They must see . . .

1) Love

Kids must see their parents being people that love much. Love God, love their kids, and love others.

If someone asked you if you loved God, you would probably say, yes. We all would. But what does it really mean to love God? Love is not a feeling or a fact. As DC Talk sang back in the ‘90s, “Luv is a Verb.”

As disciples of Christ, we must actively, willfully, deliberately, intentionally, and fully love God and His Son, Jesus Christ above all else.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30-31

Michael Smalley posed this question during the sermon he gave at our church this Sunday. “What was Jesus’ love language?”

We all know the love languages from Gary Chapman’s 1995 book, The Five Love Languages.

  1. receiving gifts
  2. quality time
  3. words of affirmation
  4. acts of service
  5. physical touch

“What was Jesus’ love language?” I repeated in my head. I figured it was a trick question. All of them?

Michael went on to say that Jesus’ love language was obedience. Of course!

“If you love me, obey my commandments . . . Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.”  John 14:15,21

Our kids will see that we love Jesus if we are obeying his commands. It’s that simple.

Our kids will also see if we are a people who “love much” based on how we love them. We must be continually pouring love into them.

And, this one will seal the deal on what our kids think about us. Our kids must see us love others. Are we loving our neighbors? Are we loving difficult people? Are we loving our enemies?

2) Humility

The strongest defining characteristic of Jesus after love, was humility. No one has ever been higher or more worthy of praise that walked this earth than Jesus Christ. And no one has ever been more humble.

I have often thought that if I found out someday that Christianity wasn’t true, following Jesus would still have been the right way to live. Because of the call to humility.

When we put ourselves below others, they are lifted up. If we all lived like Jesus, we would be loving others and lifting each other up. Talk about an ideal society!

If you want your kids to have faith in Christ, there is nothing that can make Him more attractive than a display of humility in you.

3) Surrender

Many Christian kids growing up in the church never experience parents who surrender their lives to Christ. No wonder they are walking away.

If we don’t follow Christ with reckless abandon, then we might as well forget about passing on our faith at all. Why would we want to anyway? If we are not seeking to surrender our lives to Christ, then, He must not be that important to us. At least not important enough to do what He says.

If we want to show our kids a loving, good God, then we must surrender to Him first.

Love first, humility second, and surrender third. These are the ingredients that make our faith contagious.

It might be time to take inventory. As Christian parents, we must look in the mirror from time to time. Am I a loving person? Do I put other’s first? And, have I given everything I have and everything I am to God?

If you are brave enough, ask your kids what they see in you. You might be surprised by what they say.

Pumping Up Young People On The Drug Of Faith

I recently read Addie Zierman’s book, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over. I adore Addie. She writes with such warmth. And though there is a slight difference in age between us, our stories are very similar. We both grew up fully immersed in the Evangelical life.

I could relate to the rituals and cliches of growing up in church. I could relate to the camps and mission trips. And I was all about my youth group friends and youth group crushes.

I could also relate to the disillusionment in my faith I experienced as I got older.

I was sprinkled as a baby, born again when I gave my life to Christ at church camp, and confirmed as a teenager. And I never missed a youth group activity, retreat or mission trip.

When Petra, Newsboys, WhiteHeart, DeGarmo and Key, Audio Adrenaline, and Jars of Clay, hit the radio waves in the ‘80s and ‘90s, that was all I listened to.

The band that rocked my world was DC Talk. Their first cassette (yea, I know, I’m old!), Heavenbound, was the first of its kind. It wasn’t just Christian rock, it was Christian rap! Finally, as a teenager, I could listen to the type of music I loved! And my parents approved.

I was really bummed when in 2000, Toby McKeehan (TobyMac), Kevin Max, and Michael Tate decided to break up and pursue solo careers. According to Wikipedia in 2002, the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music called DC Talk “the most popular overtly Christian act of all time.”

Along with DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Sandy Patti were also my favorites. Many nights I could be found in my room belting out Sandy Patti songs like, Another Time and Another Place or We Shall Behold Him.

What I remember looking forward to most about youth group were the boys. It was about who was hooking up with who. And youth group retreats were a hotbed of raging hormones.

Aaaahhhh, the magic of the Evangelical childhood.

It was the emotional rush of that last night of camp around the campfire. It was the spiritual high at concerts and during youth group worship. It was the mountaintop experience of summer camps and mission trips that kept me spiritually floating on air. As a youth in the church, Christianity, was one emotional or spiritual high after another.

When I left home and went to college, however, the highs ended and real life kicked in. The faith of my childhood and the world I later encountered were not in sync. They didn’t seem to fit together. They were like two positive ends of a magnet. So I did what most youth group graduates did, and left my faith behind.

Matt Bays expressed similar disillusionment with the faith from growing up in the church in his book, Finding God in the Ruins.

In time it would seem as though we’d all been given free tickets to The Greatest Show on Earth, and then when we arrived, nothing. No popcorn or lions. No ringmaster with a long whip strapped to his side. No trapeze, no high dive, no clowns, and no one being shot out of a cannon. Before we were saved, the preshow was exciting. But once we entered the big top, we found less pomp and more circumstance. We’d been had.

As young people, we were pumped up on the drug of faith. And we had our high. But it didn’t take long to come crashing down. All we knew was a kind of honeymoon phase of our faith. And nobody told us that the honeymoon would end.

Somehow, the message of the gospel got lost in translation for many Gen X’ers like Addie, Matt, and myself. It was one high after another. The Christianity that we came to know didn’t prepare us for a life of following Christ in the real world.

So, what can we learn from my and so many others’ experiences of growing up in the church?

We must be so careful not to pass on a superficial faith to our kids. It is a betrayal of the gospel. There is a misconception that in order to win kids to Christ, we have to misrepresent what it means to follow Him.

We don’t have to hide the truth of the gospel. We don’t have to constantly impress or entertain our youth. The true person of Jesus Christ, Himself, is captivating enough. We don’t need to dress Him up in order to make Him attractive. The gospel, in and of itself, is irresistible when it is truly understood.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8


I would love to hear what your experience was like growing up in the church. Did it prepare you to carry your faith into adulthood?

Comment and subscribe now and join the conversation!

 

Counting the Cost of Parenting

One of the few nuggets of information that I retained from business college was the concept of opportunity cost. According to Investopedia.com, opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action.

When making decisions concerning our time and money we must consider the opportunity cost. Most of us do this in the decisions we make everyday.

If I work full time, than I won’t be there when the kids get home from school.
If my kids play sports, we will frequently have to miss church.
If I teach this class, I won’t be home on Wednesday nights.

There is a cost to parenting. Just as God sent His Son to pay the price for our sins. And just as there is a cost to following Christ. Having kids also costs us something.

The question is, who will pay?

I recently heard about a friend of the family I hadn’t seen in a long time. He and his wife have a four-year-old daughter and a baby. Let’s call him Max.

Max had lofty career goals from the beginning. After college, he attended one of the most prestigious, and the most expensive business schools in the country. When all was said and done, he had student loans in the ballpark of $100,000!

He got a job working for one of the most prominent consulting companies in the country. It required travel which meant he would be gone Monday through Thursday just about every week.

After being out of town for a project, he noticed his relationship with his four-year-old daughter was suffering. Max wasn’t home very much, and when he was, he felt like he was constantly disciplining her. They were having very little positive daddy-daughter time. So, he requested to be put on local projects, and their relationship improved.

It’s not just quality time that matters, because . . .  it takes quantity to get to quality.

Max’s next project was only for two weeks. But the project was in Paris. This highly prestigious job was sought after by most of his colleagues, and the competition was fierce. It was the chance of a lifetime and he couldn’t give it up.

So Max went. And he traveled again, and again.

Max’s daughter suffered when she didn’t see daddy for long periods of time. There was a cost, and she was paying it.

There is a sacrifice required when we have kids. If we, as parents, aren’t feeling the pain of sacrifice, than our kids probably are.

Let’s look at another family. Let’s call them Jack and Diane.

Jack is a an I.T. guy at a consulting company. Diane is a partner at a prominent law firm. They have two boys approaching the teen years. Most of their money is tied up in their trendy, suburban, house, and Diane likes to shop for new clothes, new furniture, and new cars. Their lifestyle requires both of their high incomes.

The oldest son is having difficulty in school. He doesn’t fit in and is having a hard time making friends. He experiences bullying at school and doesn’t feel like his parents listen to him. What’s most alarming, however, is that he recently threatened suicide. 

A threat of suicide should never be taken lightly. It’s true, you know your kid best, and every adolescent is different. Some fully intend to follow through and some don’t. However, we must err on the side of caution. We must err on the side of life.

Never ignore a threat of suicide.

If your kid is getting bullied at school and it is affecting him enough to threaten suicide, drastic measures must be taken. Parents must do whatever it takes to help their children out of despair. If parents won’t, who will?

For Jack and Diane, this may mean that one of them quits their job and homeschools their troubled son. Or, they may need to move so he can go to a different school and have a fresh start.

When parents sacrifice for their kids, they feel valued. When parents don’t sacrifice for their kids, they feel worthless.

If we are unwilling to sacrifice for our children, they will likely suffer.

If we want to give our kids the very best, we must be willing to do radical things. Are we willing to sacrifice for our kids? Are we willing to give up our career and/or dreams temporarily so our kids can thrive?

There is a cost to parenting. Will we, as parents, sacrifice for our kids? Or, will we put the “sacrifice” on them?

I am not saying that both parents working is wrong in every situation. Parents know their children, and their needs. And every family is different.

However . . . .

If we, as parents, are not feeling the pain of sacrifice in our parenting, then it’s possible our kids are feeling it.

What are we giving up to be a parent?

Blasting Off to My Greatest Adventure

This morning I pushed the “red button” to launch and signed a book contract. In the next nine to twelve months, Pouring In, Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation will be on bookstore shelves and on Amazon! Praise God! It’s been a long time coming.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

I didn’t make this decision lightly. As I prayed about it for two weeks, I heard God say, “What are you afraid of? I gave you this book.” . . . or, did I? or, Was I just hearing what I wanted to hear God say? or, Was it just the voices in my head?

As I celebrated with family and friends, I could hear the subtle whisper of doubt in my ear.

Although the excitement of signing a book contract is overwhelming, so is the fear. What if no one buys my book? What if I can’t finish it on time? What if I FAIL?!

The fear of failure can be paralyzing.

I was watching William Lane Craig’s Defenders class on YouTube a couple months ago when he said, “Failure might be God’s will for your life.”

God’s will for your life can be that you fail. God can lead you into failure. Because he has things to teach you through failure that you can’t learn through success.  ~WLC

I had to stop and sit with that for a while. That thought has never crossed my mind.

Is it OK if failure is in God’s will for your life or for mine?

Obviously we won’t fail spiritually if we are following Christ. And we won’t fail when it comes to eternity. We have victory in Christ and nothing can change that. Amen!

But, what if it is not in His plan for me to be successful? Ever?! Would I be OK with that?

Again, I sat with it.

Part of me wanted to just jump up and appear holy and righteous by saying, “Whatever Thou willeth I will doeth with joyeth!” But, is that real? Could I really rejoice in that?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that failure and success are a state of mind. They are an attitude not an absolute.

My soul longs to love Jesus Christ and to follow Him with reckless abandon.

If we pursue Jesus as though He is the only thing that we are chasing, nothing else matters. If we surrender our lives to Christ, then success or failure become irrelevant.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter if my book succeeds or fails. All that matters is if it brings glory to God and His Son Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him.

A friend of mine who was about to start fundraising for her new ministry once told me, “don’t chase after the money . . . . chase after the mission, and God will provide.”

As I rest on the threshold of this extraordinary adventure, this is my prayer.

Dear Abba, Father,

Lord, you are so good and so loving. Thank you for your Word and the promise that You will never leave me. You are always by side. Therefore, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Keep my eyes always on You as I venture out into the great unknown. Build my trust day by day, and keep my spirit open to your Word. Help me stay connected to the vine, Lord, because YOU are my lifeblood, YOU are the air I breathe, and YOU are my everything. In Your Son’s precious name. Amen.

To God be the glory!  Here we go!

 

5 Life Questions Teenagers Need Help Answering

Parenting is an awesome responsibility; awesome in the fact that it is joyful and rewarding, and, awesome in the fact that it is an enormous undertaking. It is beautiful, breath-taking, frightening, intimidating, overwhelming, terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. What can I say, it’s awesome!

My kids are fourteen and sixteen. Finally, they are leaving the house wearing clean clothes that match. They no longer get knots in their hair. And, for the most part, they shower and wear clean underwear everyday.

Ahhh, the sweet, clean smell of success! And, like Nanny McPhee, I am tempted to walk off into the sunset satisfied with a job well done.

 . . . . but, wait! The job isn’t done yet!

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings! And she ain’t singing until my kids graduate from high school and leave home.

Much of our kids’ character and direction in life is forming during their teen years and into their twenties. As Christian parents, we mustn’t lose focus or parent on autopilot.

Our kids hit a fork in the road during adolescence. And the critical decisions they make at this juncture will determine the trajectory of their life.

1) They will ask questions of IDENTITY. Who am I?
  • Am I a beauty queen?
  • Am I an athlete?
  • Am I nerd?
  • Am I worthless?
  • Am I a child of God?

Teenagers are questioning their identity now more than ever.

Not only do they have to decide whether they will be the the criminal, the athlete, the basket case, the princess or the brain; and, what college to go to and what they want to be when they grow up. But, our kids are also faced with questions like, “What gender do I identify with?” and, “What is my sexual orientation?

The questions that young people are facing today are confusing at best and dangerous at worst.

If they don’t have guidance when answering these questions, they are likely to be overwhelmed by the lies of the world.

2) They will ask questions of PRIORITY. Who will I live for?
  • Will I live for myself?
  • Will I live for everyone around me?
  • Will I live for the person I love?
  • Will I live for God?

Kids will naturally answer the question, “who will I live for?” with a resounding “Me, of course!”

In a culture obsessed with self-esteem, we are told we should focus on ourselves. We should love ourselves. Because . . . “you’re worth it!”

Nowhere in scripture does it say to love yourself. The greatest love of all is NOT inside of you. The greatest love of all is the love of God.

How our kids answer the question of priority will determine the relational aspect of their future. Will they grow up to be in abusive, or codependent relationships? Will they be people pleasers? Will they be all about themselves?

It is up to Christian parents to model a life lived for God.

3) They will ask questions about REALITY. What is truth?
  • Is there one truth? or, . . .
  • Does everyone have their own truth?
  • Which religion is true?
  • Is God the author of truth?

Truth is what grounds us; morally and physically. Truth is what keeps us from floating around in space. The truth of gravity that is.

Establishing that truth is not relative but absolute is essential to passing on the faith to our kids. Without truth, everything else flies out the window.

“What’s true for me may not be true for you” makes no sense.

Belief can vary from one person to another. Truth cannot. Can a fact apply to one person and not apply to another? Of course not. Neither can truth.

4) They will ask questions about CONTENTMENT. Where will I find peace?
  • In relationships?
  • In substances or things?
  • In achievements or successes?
  • In God?

Coming out of the holidays, the phrase, “peace on earth,” is still fresh on our minds. We are told in scripture that when the truth of God is our foundation, peace is our reward.

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.  Psalm 29:11

However, peace can be tricky. Peace within a family or between nations is not a guarantee in this life. How can our kids be content in Christ and have peace in such a troubled world?

As our kids trek into adulthood, they will need to learn contentment. Our kids will have to answer the questions, How will I be ok with ‘what is‘? and, Where will I find peace?

5) They will ask questions about SUFFERING. How will I cope with life?untitled-design-75
  • With alcohol?
  • With medications?
  • With relationships?
  • With God?

So many kids today don’t have any coping skills. This is evidenced in the high number of school shootings we have witnessed in the past 10 years, and the growing number of teen suicides.

When trials come, and come they will, life goes on whether we want it to or not. Kids need coping skills and they need to know where to go for comfort.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3


Teenagers need input from parents when deciding the answers to these critical questions. They need a voice of truth regularly pointing them toward God.

We hope and pray our kids will answer these questions in a way that puts their life in God’s hands.

  • Who am I? . . . . I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26)
  • Who will I live for? . . . . I will live my life for God (Romans 12:1)
  • What is truth? . . . . God is truth (John 14:6)
  • Where will I find peace? . . . . I will find peace in God (Psalm 46:10)
  • How will I cope with life? . . . . God will get me through (Isaiah 41:10)

Our role does change when our kids become teenagers. But we still have a role.

We cannot stop having input in our teenagers lives. Because the noise of the world will never cease. And, the pull of the world is strong.

So, just before your kids become teens, take a short breather and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Then, prepare yourself for the hardest stage of parenting.

If you have teenagers, then you are almost done with the race. Almost. Don’t give up so close to the finish line.

We Must Always Look Back, We Must Always Remember

Well, this is it. That’s all she wrote for 2016.

As I reflect on the year, I see how God’s hand was at work. I see His faithfulness. I see His great love. And I see His goodness permeating the story of my life. I encourage you to ask God to reveal how He has moved in your life this past year. It might surprise you.

Friends, we must always look back and be thankful. We must always remember.

I was reading my devotional this morning and it was so beautiful I thought I would share it with you.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, December 31st     

     As this year draws to a close, receive My peace. This is still your deepest need, and I, your Prince of Peace, long to pour Myself into your neediness. My abundance and your emptiness are a perfect match. I designed you to have no sufficiency of your own. I created you as a jar of clay, set apart for sacred use. I want you to be filled with My very Being, permeated through and through with Peace.
     Thank Me for My peaceful Presence, regardless of your feelings. Whisper My Name in loving tenderness. My Peace, which lives continually in your spirit, will gradually work its way through your entire being. 

Thank you so much for joining me in my journey to love and know God more this year. And may God bless you in 2017!

Tis The Season of Night

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and the sun is going down. The shadows loom long behind me. Tis the season when the sun goes down before it is actually up. Tis the season of night.

I used to be cheerful around the holidays. I used to love the carols, cookies, candles, and the warmth of the season. I used to like decorating. I liked the tree and the lights and the celebration and gift giving.

Now, its mostly darkness. It’s mostly night.

I get why this season has the most suicides. There is something about intense jubilee and celebration over presents and a fat man in a red suit in the midst of a dark, troubled world that seems wrong.

But without darkness, what good would the light be?

I am so grateful to God. He has been so good to me, yet I can’t shake the darkness. I can’t shake the night.

Part of the difficulty of the season for many people is reconciling family with joy around Christmas. So many movies and commercials show joyful and magical families and traditions. Take for instance the inevitable Christmas Hallmark movie. It would be wonderful if everyone’s life was filled with a warm loving family, a passionate and fulfilling romantic relationship, and wonderful friends and the perfect job.

However, not everyone’s story has a happy ending . . . or a happy beginning, or a happy middle.

And it struck me. What about people who did not or do not enjoy a warm family and loving relationships? Their wounds are opened afresh in the name of Christmas. What they did not or do not have is dangled in front of them. And they are wounded all over again.

Who doesn’t long for peace on earth? Who doesn’t long for unity in their family? We all do. However, some people know they will never have it. How does one reconcile that?

Unity and peace on this earth are a luxury not a guarantee.

Even Charlie Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas was depressed at Christmas time.

charlie-brownI just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”  ~Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas

I, and many others, sympathize with good old Chuck.

I am glad that Christmas is over. I always look forward to the holidays being over. Maybe that makes me a negative person. But, I know I’m not alone.

We are told that we should be happy because of Christmas.

I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus, Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.  ~Charlie Brown

However, being depressed at Christmas might mean that you are more in tune with the reality of the world than those who are happy. And it might mean, that you see how we have turned Christmas into something that has nothing to do with Jesus. And that should make us sad. There is such a thing as Godly sorrow.

Jesus came into a dark world. A world of night.

He left the glory, beauty and light of Heaven and the love of His Father to save our sorry souls. He came to a place of darkness and perpetual night for us. Wow! It’s amazing! Would I have done the same thing? Probably not.

If the holidays are difficult for you, I’m right there with you. Your family might not see your hurt, but God does. And He blesses you.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
     for they will inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:3-5

Where We Went Wrong

I often wonder where we went wrong as a society in America. A majority of our kids are walking away from church and the faith when they get old enough to make their own decisions.

I have spent a lot of time in thought over this issue. And I have done much research for my book on the topic of passing on faith in Christ to our kids.

While on the treadmill the other day, a commercial came on about kids asking Santa to bring them their favorite toys. A scooter for $1,000, a princess carriage for $400, an American Girl doll and accessories for $120, etc.

It hit me that this is one of the ways we, as a society, have gone wrong.

Christmas is the story of Jesus coming to the world to save us. He was a King, yet there has never been anyone more humble than Jesus Christ. His crown was made of thorns not adorned with jewels. Jesus came with a message of love, grace and hope. He was the very picture of humility and selflessness.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,  Philippians 2:5-7

He taught us to love our enemies, take care of the poor, and turn the other cheek. He taught us to focus our attention outward, on others.

Yet often, at Christmas time, we send the message to our kids that causes them to focus inward. The message of Santa Claus is to focus on me. What do I want for Christmas? How many presents will I get this year?

Parents spend and spend on Christmas presents for their kids. And the holiday season becomes about selfishness, not selflessness.

At a pivotal age, we teach our kids the rituals of Christmas. We teach them to work hard and be nice, so they will get presents. God forbid they be on the naughty list! We teach them to focus on “what will get me stuff?” We teach them to focus on themselves.

Selfishness is human nature. We are born with it. Parents, little by little, have to teach kids to change their nature and to become selfless.

What if we had never introduced Santa Clause, Rudolph or Frosty? What if our observance of Christmas had always been about the message of Christ? What if we taught our kids selflessness at Christmas?

As I write this, A Charlie Brown Christmas is on TV. The message of Charles Schulz in this show is brilliant. He saw the materialism and all the silly things we focus on during the Christmas season back in 1965. He tried to portray the true meaning of the birth of Christ, and show us how we have strayed from it.

Schulz illustrated beautifully how we were, and still are, valuing the wrong things during the Christmas season. The money, the stuff, the decorations, the lights . . . .

Charlie Brown:  “I am in sad shape.”A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas-image

Lucy:  “Wait a minute, before you begin I must ask that you pay in advance. 5 cents please.” (Charlie Brown puts a nickle in the can)

Lucy:  “Boy what a sound! How I love hearing that old money plink! That beautiful sound of cold, hard, cash! That beautiful, beautiful sound! Nickles, nickles, nickles! That beautiful sound of plinking nickles!”

How we handle Christmas speaks volumes to our kids about our faith. If we treat the birth of Christ like it is no big deal, or ignore it completely at Christmas, our kids will see that it is less important than the ‘American Christmas.’

We must get back to teaching our kids the message of Christ at Christmas.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:35-40

Christmas is one of the ways that we, as an American society have gone wrong.

3 Words that Capture the Sacredness of Christmas

A manger rests in the middle of a musty barn. A beam of moonlight shines through the window as I strain to see. I don’t smell a scented candle in the night. No, the stench of barn animals, hay, work and sweat overwhelm me. The people around are not wearing bright, matching pajamas with their initials on it. Their clothes are made of sackcloth and ropes.baby-jesus-2 Worn out sandals adorn their feet. And the candles aren’t fancy, they are functional.

A tiny fist thrashes up into the moonlight as dust swirls against the darkness of the barn. Could it be? Could it be the savior?

The woman looks down at the baby with such love and almost awe. What is she thinking? She tenderly picks Him up and holds him close. He looks up at her with such peace. There is something about Him.

When I think about what it must have looked like when Jesus was born, I don’t think about shiny or sparkly things. I don’t see bows, candles or ribbon. I don’t see red or green.

I see a baby. I see a savior. I see the hope of the world kicking about in a manger.

Today, the scene is not quite so ethereal. The exquisitely divine nature of this miraculous event can be so easily missed.

Three simple words can help you focus on the sacredness of Christmas.

1) Advent

Advent in Latin means arrival. It consists of four Sundays starting with the Sunday closest to November 30th. This year it began this past Sunday, November 27th.

It is believed that Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany. Advent begins the new Christian year with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide.

Did you know that the twelve days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts until early to mid January?

And Thanksgiving is the perfect springboard for the season of Advent. What better way is there to prepare our hearts and minds for the arrival of our Savior than focusing on thankfulness?

2) Epiphany

Epiphany means appearance, manifestation, or revelation. It is the 12th day of Christmas and the official end to the Christmas season. It is also known as Three Kings Day because the wise-menWestern world associates it with the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus.

The feast at Epiphany celebrates the appearance and manifestation of God among us. The idea of God in human form through Jesus Christ is breath taking. How can it be?

Unfortunately, most of us have heard the virgin birth story all our lives, and it no longer thrills us. However, I pray that God will restore awe and reverence in His people this Christmas season.

If we focus on the appearance of Christ and what the manifestation of God in human form means, we can experience His power and presence this Christmas.

3) Immanuel

Immanuel means God with us.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

Seven hundred years before Christ lived on earth, the prophet Isaiah first used the word Immanuel when he predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin and dwell among the people.

If I think about who God is and who we are, it blows my mind. How could HE be with us? God and man are diametrically opposed to each other in so many ways. And sometimes I wonder how He can even stand us.

God with us.

There is such power in these three little words. Knowing that God wants to be with us can change everything. It gives us our worth. It gives us peace knowing He will always be there. And it gives us assurance of our future.


To the follower of Christ, Christmas is all about anticipation and preparation for the coming of our King.

How do we let these concepts dominate in our hearts and minds this Christmas season?

Close your eyes.

Imagine the black stain of sin in your life. In your mind, picture the darkness of humanity. As a species, we have lied, slandered, lusted, murdered, raped, abused, molested, tortured, and perverted everything God has made. Think about a world where everyone is out for themselves.

Imagine being cold and alone, so cold it hurts. And there is nowhere to go to ease your discomfort, and nobody to help you.

Now imagine seeing light off in the distance moving toward you. It takes over the darkness a little bit at a time. You feel warmth as the light grows nearer. This warmth eases the pain of the cold and comforts your soul. The pain turns to pleasure and the cold to warmth.

You start to see a face and the form of a man. You are no longer alone, there is an extraordinary presence with you. Pain, discomfort, fear, loneliness, and despair melt away. You are left with a peace unlike any you have never known.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

Bask in that for a while.

We have to be intentional about setting our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2). That is how we keep our minds free from distractions during the Christmas season. If we meditate on Advent, Epiphany, and the concept of God being with us, we will truly have something to celebrate.