Staying in Touch

Communication is critical in all aspects of life.  We are fortunate to live in a day when many options are available for staying in touch.  We have letters, cards, phone calls and messages, text messages, emails, Facebook, My Space, and Twitter just to name a few.  For those of us in the “Boomer” generation we must stay current with technology if we want to stay connected with the generations below us.

Don’t be afraid to try new things and make sure you listen and learn from those younger than you.  I need the input of those in there teens, twenties, thirties, and forties to connect to their generation.  I wonder if Joshua and Caleb were that way and that is why they still had life and energy and an assignment from God into there 80″s.

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Published in: on November 1, 2008 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

A System of Rewards

As parents our role is to model God to our children.  Our own concept of God and His nature has been fashioned by our parents this is indisputable.  Through our parenting we, as well, will become the single greatest influence that shapes our children’s concept of God.  In my opinion this is the greatest responsibility of parenting because it has eternal consequences.  An awareness of this responsibility will shape the actions of our parenting by forcing us to ask the question, “What would God Do?” or “How would God act?” as we parent our children.

So that brings me to a parenting question.  Should we build a system of rewards for our children?  To properly answer this question, as representatives of God in our children’s lives, we must ask, “Does God have a system of rewards for His children?”  The answer to that question should determine our response.  A review of the principles of the bible reveals clearly that God does have a system of rewards.  His rewards are based on our obedient response to His commands.  Joshua stood before the children of Israel at Mount Ebal and told them to choose; choose God’s blessings or His cursings.  Then he declared, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

A system of rewards is different than a system of performance in this way.  A system of rewards does not determine acceptance based on behavior or obedience but a system of performance does.  God’s system of acceptance is based on grace which has nothing to do with our performance.  God’s system provides for our lack of performance through Jesus Christ who performed on our behalf.  Our world is built on a system that says if you perform you are accepted and when you don’t perform and you will be shamed, humiliated, and ultimately rejected. By contrast a system of rewards makes this important distinction it is based on the concept of acceptance.  A system of rewards has at its foundation the declaration of acceptance.   God’s system of rewards declares that He accepts you and He loves you and states that this will never change regardless of your behavior.  Since that is God’s response toward us we must make sure that our response to our children reflects that same heart.   However, it is equally clear that, if you obey Him He will reward you; if you act in a way that is right He will support you in you action by blessing you with His presence, resources, and support.  If you don’t act right He doesn’t reject you He corrects you and that is what we must do with our children.

A system of rewards includes a mechanism of training that corrects wrong actions but does not reject the person because of the actions that are being corrected.  Let’s build a system of rewards for our children that is patterned after God’s system.  Let’s make it our goal because it is Gods goal to reward and bless our children.  He declares in Jeremiah that His plans for us are for good, for peace, for a good future, and to produce hope.  Our system of rewards should reflect that same motivation for the right behavior of our children.

The system should be based on God’s work in our lives but it will be personalized to each child and specific to our family.  God will give us wisdom as we fashion a system of rewards and He will caution us when that system slides over into a destructive process that confuses performance with rewards.  May God guide us with His wisdom as we reflect Him and His nature to our children.

Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Christmas

Is Christmas a celebration of Christ’s birth or is it a pagan celebration of materialism?  Does it confuse our children if we mix Santa with the true meaning of Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth?  Should we decorate or even exchange gifts? 

Although Jan and I did not struggle with most of these questions when our family was young I know some families do.  As a Christian family we did consider how to address the issue of Santa and the potential confusion it might cause our children in understanding that Jesus, who can’t be seen but is alive, is not the same as the imaginary Santa who can be seen in multiple malls and shopping centers but is not real. 

 We decided to allow our children to experience Santa.  We did not make it a big emphasis, threatening them with the thought that if they didn’t behave Santa wouldn’t come, or if they didn’t go to sleep Santa wouldn’t come, we just played along with their imagination while making the clear emphasis on Christ our Lord and Savior.  We participated in family events where Santa visited bringing gifts for the kids.  When our children asked about Santa we never lied to them.  When their questions became focused on the reality of Santa we told them the truth.  We felt this was important so that when we talked to them about a personal relationship with Jesus they would know that we always tell them the truth.

 What should you do about Christmas celebrating in your family?  My encouragement for you is to enjoy the festivities that surround the season while maintaining a clear focus on the reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.  He is the reason, and the way, for peace on earth and good will for all men!

Published in: on December 25, 2007 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Empowerment

Our family enjoys boating.  It has been a family activity that has provided enjoyment and a variety of experiences.  When you boat but don’t live on a lake the process of getting to the lake can be challenging; getting kids, coolers, towels, friends, food and last but least the boat to the lake has given us a list of exciting experiences and funny family stories.  After years of lake experiences and hundreds of boat launches and boat trailering my son Todd and I had an experience one day that pointed out a powerful parenting principle.

Todd is now in his thirties, married, with three children.  He is a wonderful husband, parent, and provider for his family.  We had gone to the lake and were preparing to launch the boat.  Launching the boat involves a a process that includes taking the tarp off, undoing the clips that keep the boat secured on the trailer, and making sure the drain plug is in before you back the boat into the water.  All this preparation had been made and we were ready to back the boat in the water.  Todd asked me if I wanted him to back the boat in and without thought I asked him if he thought he could do it.  It was an insult to his maturity and experience and he responded with, “are you kidding me?”  His reaction registered his insult and reflected my response as a father seeing him not as he is today, a mature responsible, man with experience but as he was many years ago an inexperienced son developing under my oversight.

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to empower our children.  The process of empowerment begins when they are in their teens.  We empower them by giving them responsibilities and allowing them the possibility of failure.  Wise parenting provides for controlled failure as a part of their preparation and move into adult living.  It continues as we acknowledge their growth, experience, and maturity as adults.

Failure to empower our children in the stages of their development will leave them unprepared for adult living.  Failure to acknowledge our adult children’s maturity by recognizing their experience and accomplishments will leave them resentful and unfulfilled.

I realized my mistake with Todd that day and quickly apologized asking him to back the boat in while I drove it off the trailer and over to the dock.  Big or little items of response it doesn’t matter we must empower our children for them to develop into the mature and fulfilled adults that God intends them to be.

Published in: on December 15, 2007 at 12:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Attitude of Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude is one of the greatest things we can impart to our children.  Psalm 100 tells us to come into God’s presence with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.  Gratitude in it’s simplest form is a heart of thankfulness that open doors with God.  It will also open doors with people.  It is more than a polite thing to do.  Expressions of thanks actually do things in the emotions that work as a key does in the ignition of a car to start receptiveness in the human heart. 

We live in a very negative world.  Research tells us that it takes seven positive inputs to overcome one negative input in our lives.  The reality is we get a lot of input when we fail but when we are doing great there is little praise and very little comment.  Praise is a form of encouragement and it also unlocks the heart.  The saying goes something like this, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”  Praise is one of the tangible ways we let people know we care.

Are you strategic in developing an attitude of gratitude?  Do you work to create an atmosphere of praise in your home?  Simple compliments that recognize how someone looks, how good the meal was, how clean the house is, how strait the bedroom looks, how nice the bed looks when it is made; they all go a long way to create and maintain an atmosphere of praise. 

Expressions of thanks aren’t trite instead they are forms that shape gratitude in the attitude of our children.  We must model expressions of appreciation for our children and then train them to do what we have modeled for them to see.  We must train them to say thanks when someone gives them something or complements them.  We must train them to send expressions of thanks by email, phone, or snail mail if an attitude of gratitude is to be developed in them.

Finally, we must monitor the critical comments and sarcastic humor in our family.  These forms of communication are like weeds in a garden.  If they are not contested they will increase in number and scope.  What might easily be contested at its inception becomes more difficult when it is allowed to grow over time.  If uncontested they grow in their impact to the point that gratitude and praise are chocked out of our home. 

Let’s think strategically as we work hard to maintain an attitude of gratitude in our home and create it in the heart of our children!

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leopards Don’t Change Their Spots

When I was in my late twenties an older mentor and friend was encouraging me to make a job change.  Although I saw it as a great risk he boldly guaranteed my success.  I asked him to explain to me why he was so confident and he responded with this phrase, “Because leopards don’t change their spots and things are transferable.”  He went on the explain that the character of my life had laid a foundation for the success I had already achieved.  He stated that my character was like the spots on the leopard.  He then told me that things transfer.  Hard work in one area translates into contacts and reputation which transfer into another area.  He told me that he knew me to be a hard worker with character and reputation.  That is why he was so confident.

Over the years I have sought to find this phrase in scripture but couldn’t find its exact wording.  However, it does accurately reflect the principles found in scripture of diligence, integrity, faithfulness, hard work and the importance of a good name.  If these qualities are present in our lives and increasing in their expression the hand of God and his favor will direct us to the finish line with His success.

Moses told Joshua to hold the word of God firm and meditate in it day and night for by doing so he would find prosperity and success.  Success is not easy or quick in God’s kingdom but it is sure.  Jesus declared in Luke chapter 11, “faithful in little, faithful in much.

This interchange now many years ago has had impact on my parenting as well.  It added to a principle that my dad had modeled and established in my life.  The principle of encouragment.  I try regularly to speak blessing to my children.  I did so as they were growing up in our home and I continue to do it over them as adults with families of their own.  One of the blessings I speak over them relates to their success.  No matter what they do they will succeed because they are committed to God and serving His purposes.  He will prosper them and give them success as they follow and obey Him. 

How do I know they will be a success?  Because leopards don’t change their spots and things are transferable.  Because things transfer.  So things like hard work, integrity, and a good name become reflections of faithfulness in little ways and create the foundation to built and expand upon opportunities with guaranteed success.  It gives me confidence to my children they will be succeed in an opportunity because of their previous behavior and their trust in God’s word for directing their lives.  It is true; faithful in little faithful in much.

Every effort is worth our best effot and nothing is to small to justify being over looked.  That applies to both attitude and behavior.  So remember and apply this wisdom from my friend to your parenting language: “Leopards don’t change their spots and things are transferable.”

Published in: on October 27, 2007 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Psalm 127:3-5  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

My wife and I have four grown children.  Three of our children are married and have given us, to date, 5 grandchildren.  I can personally affirm the truth of this passage.  Our children have been the greatest joy and reward of our service and commitment to God for now more than thirty-three years.  They continue to be a blessing to us as we observe their conduct as adults. 

 As they were growing up Jan and I sought to input God’s principles into them both by training and by example.  Our home was not perfect by any means but our effort to impart our love for God to our children was uncompromised even though it was flawed by our imperfections.  It was hard work and required faith and dependence upon God.

I can tell you though that what God has done and continues to do in our children as they now make choices to live uncompromised lives for God and as they train and model their own love for God to their children is the greatest joy and blessing Jan and I can describe.  We watch God’s hand at work and it motivates our praying.  It stimulates our response of thanksgiving on a daily basis to God for His work in the little and big things we see in our children’s and grand-children’s lives.

The reason I write this is as reminder and an encouragement to every parent that is working to form God’s character in their children that there is a prize that awaits.  Some days you wonder if it is worth all the effort to parent.  Some days you wonder if your children are even getting it.  Don’t lose heart but keep your eye on the prize.  The full reward for your work comes after many years of diligent effort.  But oh how rich it is one day to be able to declare with honor to God that a partnership with Him has overcome the work of the enemy intended to sabotage your children’s love and service for Him and has produced warriors able and strong assuming their role in His kingdom.

Keep your eye on the prize!

Published in: on October 27, 2007 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Words of Encouragement

I have a healthy self confidence. One of the major reasons I do is to my parents credit.  I received encouragement and positive input on a daily basis from my parents.  One of the most frequet things I remember my dad saying to me was that he was proud of me.  He often told me that he loved me and demonstrated it with expressions of affection.  My mom reinforced those words with her loving affirmation as well.

 As I got older my dad encouraged me to take risks with words like “you can do it” and “you will be a success at whatever you do.”  Compare these positive words with words that you received from your dad or that you are speaking to your children.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue! 

When, at 30, I felt God leading me to make a career change that involved leaving the business that my dad was an owner in and moving into vocational ministry my dad’s response was still the same.  On the day that I called him to talk with him about my decision he reminded me what he had told me all my life; that I did not have to choose the profession that he chose and that I would be a success at whatever profession I chose.  What powerful words!  Those words have produced great fruit in my life and laid a foundation for God’s work in me, and through me, for 55 years.

We parents should be the source of our children’s greatest encouragment and support.  Our words should propell them into new adventures of faith with confident assurance that we will be behind them and so will God!  What power our words carry and what fruit they can produce!  So, lets make them positive for the greatest impact!

Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 11:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Godliness

It is tempting to think that if we take our children to Sunday School; if we have family devotions; or if we make them participate in a host of other religous activities that they will become godly.  There is nothing wrong with religous activities and disciplines.  In fact, we did them with our children and I encourage parents to do God centered activities with their children that encourage a personal relationship with God.  However, we must give careful attention to the focus of these activities because they can do more to make our children religious than godly. 

To help our children become godly our focus must be to form in them god-like qualities.  This is a work of “being”, it is character before it is action.  If we think that it begins with “doing” and that actions of a religous nature will make them become what religion represts we are mistaken.

One of the frequent statements I remember my parents making related to behavior was this, “We don’t do that because Lane’s don’t do that.”  It was never said in judgment of another persons behavior but a comment related to the character of our own behavior.  When I came to know God one of the first things I understood was His character.  His character is represented in His name.  His name is faithful and just.  His name is righteous and pure.  His name is gracious, kind, and merciful.  He is trustworthy and generous.  The reason the righteous one’s of God can run into His name is because it represents the nature of His character — which is all that I have mentioned above and so much more. 

I have come to understand that as a follower of Christ the reason I don’t do some things is because I am now a “Christ One.”   “Christ One” is what Christian means.  Christian’s are supposed to do things that reflect God’s character.  Forming Godliness in our children is the process of modeling and shaping God’s character in them.  We must focus first on the “why” and then on the “what” of their behavior.  The reason we act this way or don’t act that way is because we are Lane’s and Lane’s don’t act that way.  This logic can be easily adapted to incorporate the personal commitment we make to Christ, and is then reflected by our families commitment as well, to serve God and reflect His character in our lives.  To the extent that His nature and character is formed in us we have become Godly.  We model and then transfer this work of character to our children.  It is a process.  God’s actions are always a reflection of His character.  By developing the character of God in our lives and then reflecting it in our words and actions we are becoming Godly.  Our children will see a model of godliness that is not built on religiously “doing” but is a reflection of the relational aspect of “being.”   When they see and understand this important difference along with the Holy Spirit’s help then it will further the process of developing the nature and character of God in their lives.

Here are the questions we must ask as we work to develop godliness in our children.  Is God-likeness being formed in me?  Am I focused on “doing” or on “being” in my own life?  The great thing about the process of developing godliness in us, or in our children, is we are not alone in the work.  God has given us the Holy Spirit as His agent to help us form the new nature of His character in our lives.  Godliness is the reflection of His character qualities in our lives.

Help us Father to become like you!

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Influence

I have a mantra for my life and it is this; “You are an influence or you are being influenced.”  I measure things in my life from this perspective and I have done the same for my children.  Ask any one of my children and they will tell you that this is the grid from which I evaluate all behavior and attitudes.  Another term to describe influence is peer pressure.  No matter what your age there is pressure to respond in ways that produce acceptance from people or the circumstances around you.  It is critical that we help our children come to grips with the proper way to respond to the pressure they feel from people to be or act a certain way.  The reality is, if they don’t have the tools to properly respond to the influences around them, they will be moved to act in ways they regret and even against what we have taught them.  My wife and I monitor the attitude and behavior of our children after being with people to determine the effect of the influence from the people they were around.  If the attitude is negative or worse; defiant and rebellious or critial of authority it is a huge red flag to us that they are being influenced more than being an influence.  This is happening and they don’t even realize it.  When we recognize this we curtail their ability to be around those people until we feel they are strong enough to be an influence rather than being influenced.  We encourage our children to be with people that encourage and inspire them to good things.  When they are around people that don’t live with our values then we want them to raise the standard of behavior by all parties rather than compromise their own behavior to be accepted.  All this begins with the realization that we are either an influence or we are being influenced!  That is true of us before it applies to our children!  So what about you?  In your neighborhood, office, with family, or friends are you an influence for good and Godly behavior or are you being influenced by the circumstance around you?  Remember you can only impart to your children what you believe and live yourself!

Published in: on October 4, 2007 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment