Thoughts on Kobe

Like so many other people all across the world, I was stunned when I learned about the horrible crash of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other lives. Nine total lives were lost in the wreck and the ripples of this tragedy began to make their way literally throughout the whole world.

My own daughter texted a group of us to ask if we had heard. Sunday afternoon, relaxing after church & lunch, I began to search for news. Is it true? Can this be a real story? Hopefully this is just a bad case of misinformation. However, it didn’t take long to find that it was in fact true. Over the next hour, I watched news and details come in and my heart continued to sink.

The days that followed were difficult as close friends of Kobe began to share their reactions and memories of their time with Kobe. So many emotions shared by so many people who had been touched by his life in one way or another. There were many times when my eyes filled with tears as I watched and heard the pain others were experiencing.

The hardest emotional hit for me (a person obviously not friends with Kobe) was hearing his daughter was on the plane with him. I am a dad. I have a daughter. Seeing all the pics and videos of Kobe with his daughter just ripped at my heart. Knowing that his wife and three other daughters would be grieving and hurting so deeply was tough to think about.

So many athletes and people from the NBA, other sports as well, celebrities, public figures and random people who had interacted with Kobe in some way were sharing their thoughts and feelings. There was no shortage of proof that Kobe’s life had greatly impacted the lives of many people. Emotions were raw, heavy and real.

A beautiful part of it all was seeing just how many people bonded over their mutual respect and admiration of Kobe. His basketball prowess was one part, but the way he lived the rest of his life was celebrated to an even greater extent. Being a father and specifically a #girldad seemed to be one of Kobe’s most fulfilling roles.

Again, being a sports fan, a father and a #girldad had me often very emotional as I watched this all unfold. I truly felt for all those who were grieving and hurting so badly and I also felt some enjoyment seeing how much everyone seemingly cared about Kobe and his family.

However, being a person of faith, I couldn’t help wonder just how many people who were experiencing so much emotion over this loss of life actually had a grasp on what life after death means for us.

The truth is, all nine of those souls left this mortal world in an instant and found themselves in eternity. You might not believe in any kind of life after death, and I get that. Every person is free to believe what they will. But, I whole-heartedly believe in the Bible and the truths it contains. I believe that every human being will leave this earthly plane as their body ceases to live and either find an eternal reward or eternal suffering. I believe in a literal Heaven and hell as taught in the Bible.

The truth of the Gospel of Jesus is that he is the only way to heaven. He paid the debt for our sinfulness and secured for us an eternity in heaven with God. Our path, the only path, to an eternity in heaven is to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”  Acts 4:12

No matter how good a person is in his or her life, and no matter how well they are liked or loved, the bottom line concerning life after death is whether or not their faith has been put in Jesus. Salvation through Jesus Christ is based solely on the grace of God, not on anything we can accomplish ourselves.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  Romans 5:8

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”  Ephesians 2:8-9

My prayer has been that Kobe, his daughter and the others left this physical world knowing Jesus as their Savior.

My other prayer is that this closeness many shared in grieving this tragedy will be used by God to bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Times like these are great opportunities for God to work in the hearts of people. When we stare death in the face, we are reminded just how fragile life truly is, we are primed to consider our own mortality. May you consider your own life and what would be your final resting place if you entered eternity in the blink of an eye.

Wanna Go Back-2-School?

If you’re like me, the answer is “Uh…no.” School was great. I honestly enjoyed it. However, being out for a few years now, I’m 100% certain I do not want to go back. This week, many will not have the option to simply say, “No.” They will have to go back to school.

Truthfully, it has already started for lots of folks. Some schools have already had their school year begin. If not officially started yet, many district employees have been hard at work preparing for the coming year. Being married to a Kindergarten teacher, I know firsthand just how much pre-work goes into a year. There is the planning for lesson plans, gathering materials, learning students’ names, and the huge task of getting the classroom just right.

No matter where you fit (teacher, administrator, support staff, coach, aide, facilities, transportation, student, parent, etc.) I believe my brother has put together a great prayer guide as you begin the school year. Check it out here- Back to School Prayer Guide.

May God bless and protect you during this school year.

Merry Christmas To All

Nothing. Really, I mean it. There is not one thing I enjoy more than the arrival of the Christmas season and all it ushers in. There are lots of get togethers and parties with family and friends, as well as Christmas lists from our kiddos. Then, there are the cold nights and sitting by the fireplace as the fire crackles. It usually takes until around the first week of December for it to get chilly enough for fires in the fireplace. Although, my wife and I have been known to open all the windows and turn all the fans on (including a/c blower fan) to pull in the cooler air and make it cold enough to light a fire. If you like fires in the fireplace and you live in Texas, sometimes it calls for desperate measures.

Our family Christmas Tree is the highlight of the house during this time of year. It is usually in the stand right after Thanksgiving, lights up the living room, and takes us into the New Year. Flipping the switch is the first thing Kym and I do when we get up in the morning or walk in the house at the end of the day.

Our first year to cut down our fresh Christmas tree was 1992. We were still in college n Missouri and celebrating our very first Christmas as a young married couple. Twenty-six years later, we went to the tree farm for our 27th fresh Christmas tree. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and we walked most of the farm until we found the perfect tree.

It’s a family tradition for us. Kym and I started together in 1992, added kids & some friends during years 1995-2017, then went it alone again this year. It was different, of course, but also just as fun and special as always. So, yeah, it’s my favorite time of the year. Even down here in Texas where we might be wearing shorts and flip-flops while cutting down our tree, it’s so much fun.

2018 Mike & Kym
This is us this year. If you want, scroll to the bottom to get a look at some of the other pics from years gone by.

BUT…the real wonderment of Christmas Time is about WAY more than traditions, more than parties, and also so much more than Christmas trees and houses decorated with lights. It is, at its very core, all about Jesus. We have a holiday set aside to celebrate because Jesus was born. So, when our Christmas tree is in the stand and we hit the switch to turn on the pretty lights, we are reminded that Jesus is the Light of the World! Our tree points like an arrow toward heaven to also remind us that it is Jesus who left heaven to be born as a baby in a manger, so that we might be reconciled to God.

It occurred to me this year that the Christmas Season comes to our society each year in a similar fashion that Jesus came to the earth some 2000 years ago. We were a sin-sick, broken people and we needed a Savior. Our sinfulness kept us separated from God, our Creator. It was Jesus who came and ushered in the good news: He was our Savior!

Likewise, Christmas seems to come each year to a people who need a little brightness. Life on this planet, with all its ups and downs, can get quite dreary for so many. There are hurts that run deep, and there are pains that seem to never yield. Yet, at Christmas time, there seems to be a little more joy spread around. There is Christmas music (no matter if you are particularly fond of it or not) playing all over the place, and it just feels like more faces are wearing smiles.

Hmmm…could there be a connection? Even as we acknowledge that our world is still so very sin-sick, and even as evil appears to be ever on the increase, could it be that Jesus still infuses our spirits (yes, the very spirits He created in His image) with His joy at Christmas time? I think, YES!

May these verses remind you and give you something to consider as you get ready to celebrate Christmas.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.    Matthew 1:21

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!    2 Corinthians 9:15

DSC_0099DSCF0116December 1, 2007 158December 1, 2007 153IMG_1626DSC_0176IMG_2642Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 6.18.55 PM2013 Funny Kylee2017 Funny

Family First?

It was a weird car ride back in 1980-something. I was riding with my family in our maroon 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlas, and we were traveling down 287 heading home from a trip. We had just spent time with more of our extended family and it was rather late in the night.

None of us are sure why, but we got on a rhyming binge and couldn’t stop. I think it started with the word “destination” and went crazy from there. We were rhyming, laughing, and crying as Dad tried to keep the car on the road. You know how you laugh so hard your eyes fill with tears and you can barely see straight? That was us and we all still remember it fondly. It was weird. It made no sense at all. However, we will talk about it and laugh again when we get together.

I’m sure most families have their own version of unique stories. I also know it’s not every family that has lots of great, fond memories. Some families have really tough histories and few times of laughter and silliness. That being the case, it seems like somewhere in almost every family (even if it has to include extended family members) there is this sense of comfort and welcome when we’re with family.

In my own life, being with family is right at the top of my list! Whether it’s just at home watching a movie with my wife and kids, cooking out on the grill, or getting together with my parents and sister’s family…I truly L.O.V.E. these special times. We all do Thanksgiving together (rotating homes every year), and I look forward to it all year long!

So, I ran across this video from Francis Chan that made me consider my affection for and heart toward my own family. Watch it real quick and give it some thought.

 

As a pastor, I’ve seen this kind of overzealous sense of family take over some families. Other pastor friends of mine have shared similar occurrences in their churches. The truth is that some families will elevate their family above everything else. There are families who were at one time very involved in the church, serving faithfully, helping out and using their gifts to bless others, begin to pull back and fill their time with all things family. If you have a family that you love, as I have said about my own, it’s probably not difficult to see how this happens. We just love being with our families, watching our kids grow up, even move on to have their own kids.

If you want to, you can use the Bible to build a case for this type of family first approach. See 1 Timothy 5:8 for an often used verse. However, to put your family first, above everything else, you have to ignore a myriad of other responsibilities given to followers of Christ. To put it plainly, those who do elevate their family and give it this place of preeminence in their lives (to the level of not faithfully serving, supporting, engaging the church) have to turn their backs on God’s purpose for His church.

Thom Rainer wrote a great book that provides a clear, concise picture of what it means to be a church member. It’s a really good book, especially if you are part of a church family. Matt Chandler said of this book,

If you love your church, are frustrated with your church, or don’t understand why membership matters, I encourage you to pick this book up and read it.”

I Am A Church Member

We’re not all at the same place in life. Our families look different, are in different stages, include many people, or maybe it’s just yourself right now. None of that matters when we see clearly our responsibility to be part of God’s church…the church for whom Jesus gave himself.

Ephesians 5:25 says, “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He didn’t do that and institute the church so that we could take it or leave it, or relegate it to the back burner so that we can enjoy life and family however we want. In fact, Jesus taught that if our family gets in the way of us being faithful to serve Him, we should leave them behind in order to be a faithful disciple to Him. (Luke 14:25-33) He is teaching what it means, what it will cost, to be one of his disciples.

All that being said, family is a huge blessing in lots of peoples’ lives. There is great comfort, companionship, and joy to be had in a strong, supportive family. As followers of Jesus, we must diligently seek to keep family in its proper place as it relates to our responsibilities to God.

Seasons of Ministry

In North Texas we live without getting to experience four separate, clearly defined seasons every year, or most any year for that matter. Being born and raised here, I’ve spent most of my life wishing I could experience at least a taste of a real winter. I’m told I would get my fair share of shoveling snow then be on the next plane for the south again. Maybe so, but I’ve always wanted to try it for a couple of months.

After 24 years in church ministry, I have had the privilege of experiencing some other types of seasons. There have been very distinct seasons of ministry. Regardless of the denomination, I suspect it’s a similar occurrence. Many ministers begin by helping out somewhere in the church as a volunteer. It could be as a door greeter, running sound & lights, preparing meals, or helping in a class for young children. A good church will have plenty of options for getting people involved in serving.

When a person makes the move to full-time church ministry, the start often comes in the area of Children’s Ministry. Next is sometimes a move to Teen Ministry, then adult ministries and finally a position serving as the lead pastor for a church. My story follows that timeline exactly. I volunteered in my local church as a young person, then attended bible college after high school. My full-time ministry jobs were Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Adult Ministries, and I’ve been serving as a Lead Pastor for the last several years.

Each season of ministry has had its own level of satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment. Little children, teenagers, and adults all express their faith and their love for church leaders in very distinct ways. Just the other day, someone took me out for lunch. As a lead pastor, ministering to the church as a whole, those things happen from time to time as a member wants to show some appreciation. As expected, when I served as the Children’s Ministry Pastor, expressions of love were much different. There were tons of homemade cards and lots of hugs with sweet little “I love you’s” from precious children. If you’ve worked with teenagers, you know it’s a totally different story. Somehow they’ve heard it’s uncool to let people know that you care about them. You know, the teenage years are just different all the way around.

To be clear, serving God in local church ministry and pastoring is not about how much love you get from those you lead. Not at all! I share those stories simply to note the different stages of church ministry. There are many other distinctions I could mention. With children you might have to wipe some snotty noses. Teenagers might need a ride to or from football or volleyball practice, which would almost always require a stop by Sonic. Adults often need someone to talk to, help with their children, and more formal counseling from time to time.

Today, as a lead pastor in the church, I have seen a new area of ministry that has developed very naturally and organically. As our own kids have grown into adults, Kym & I have seen an influx of young adults at our house and subsequently at our church services. It really has kinda come out of left field. With our own kids grown and not being around as much, we were having to adjust to the house being more empty. If you’ve been there before, you know it can be a real transition when you aren’t necessarily needed the same as you were as parents. It has been a Godsend, and we are very thankful for these men and women.

In a world full of people who often look down on young people and give each generation a new title to define them, it’s a true joy to be able to speak truth and encouragement into their lives. The Bible says,

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”   1 Timothy 4:12

Kym and I work daily alongside these young adults to help them see that verse through in their lives. There are very real ups and downs, but the ride is a breath of fresh air.

In the midst of us trying to lead them, they joined our own kids and combined their efforts to send us on a trip. Kym & I are celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary this year, and we were given a surprise trip this Christmas. It was such a nice blessing, and we were both blown away!

I wanted to include a heartfelt THANK YOU to all those who had a part! We love you all, and are looking forward to what God has in store for us in the future.

Time for a Different Christmas?

We are bent toward enjoying the fun of Christmas while forgetting the Son of Christmas.

WANT A DIFFERENT CHRISTMAS?

Many look at Christmas with very fond, almost magical thoughts, and simply can not wait to celebrate every year. Putting up the tree and decorating the house are activities that truly fill their hearts with joy and excitement. Then there are others who have memories and thoughts of Christmas that are not so fondly held. Knowing that, let me share just a bit of what I think might help you have a different Christmas this year.

 

IMG_2886
Harper Family Christmas Tree 2017

Here’s how a Harper Family Christmas begins. Our family, once again, cut down our own Christmas tree and have it proudly displayed in the living room. Since 1992, my wife and I (joined by our kiddos in ’95 & ’99) have visited a tree farm to choose and cut down our tree of choice. We have visited many different tree farms, including a stretch of 10+ years to the same tree farm until it closed. The day normally involves some drive time, lots of walking, looking at tons of trees, cutting down the perfect tree, hauling it to the truck, and grabbing some lunch before heading home. I can’t imagine not doing this.

Above is our 26th hand-cut Christmas tree, and I couldn’t be any happier with it. When we sit in the house at night, and the lights from that tree are sparkling through the night air, I am in one of my most joyous places of all. The Christmas season really does bring and strengthen my joy!

However, over the last several years, our church has chosen and shared an Advent series for us to read. It’s a short, daily reading to help us focus on the true meaning of the season. The sermons during December go along with the reading and tie the whole season together well. Yet, I have never completed an entire Advent reading. I do look through it as we are deciding which one to use. I also pay special attention to the sections from which I will be preaching the particular sermon.

The problem is, I’ve missed the whole point. The purpose of reading through an Advent series is to help us slow down and focus on Jesus. The design of a small daily reading is to force us to sit down, get in the quiet, and be reminded of the beauty of Jesus…who is Christmas! It is definitely not busy work just to add another thing to our Christmas season. We’re prone to be so busy with shopping, cooking, entertaining, traveling, wrapping, etc. In all the busyness, our flesh is bent toward enjoying the fun of Christmas while forgetting the Son of Christmas.

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy is the Advent series our church is following this year. It is by John Piper, and I hope it will be a blessing to you and your family. Maybe, just maybe, it will be a whole different kind of Christmas in your life, your family and your home. May the peace, joy, and hope of Jesus brighten your Christmas!

Or is it Happy Life, Happy Wife

Here’s another old saying that gets kicked around now and again. Someone mentions it around a newlywed or a group of husbands joke about it (out of the wives’ earshot of course). The underlying thought to the statement is that an unhappy wife casts a dark cloud over the rest of the home, and every single member of the family is affected.

I’ll admit that I like it when my wife is happy. Actually it’s more about when she’s able to rest in real joy. Happiness is such a fleeting emotion that can literally come and go in a nanosecond. It is solely based on how current circumstances are affecting us. Joy, on the other hand, stems from a depth of spirit, and it is something we can rest in no matter what is surrounding us in a given moment. The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord can be in us, and that it can be full.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.        -John 15:11

If it resides in us, and it can be full, it doesn’t matter what things might be happening outside of us. The indwelling joy can overcome whatever we might be facing at a given time. Isn’t that great news?

So, back to happy (joyful) wives. I read some counseling training a while back that included a note from a husband. He was discussing how he attempts to keep his wife happy in normal everyday life. One of his quotes really jumped out to me.

He said, “Happy wife? Are you kidding me? I’m just trying to keep my wife from being hostile, combative, and argumentative. Happy is a pipe dream, and when it happens I’m 100% stunned!”

WOW! He went on to say that despite having that negative mindset he honestly tries to do the things that he knows she wants done. So, while his motives are definitely skewed, he does spend time trying to be attentive to the things that matter to his wife. I found myself thinking that’s a good thing…I guess. She wants things done a certain way, he does them, and everyone’s happy.

However, after spending some time mulling it over, I decided that it’s really not a good thing at all. Our motives matter! The reason we do things is really the most important part. Our actions can often be a facade we use to show others what we want them to see. On top of that, this husband’s actions are actually way more about his desires than his wife’s. It’s ultimately a practice in selfishness. He does particular things just to keep his wife off his case. It’s really all about him.

If you’re thinking, “What’s the problem? Everybody seems to get what they want”, I’ll tell you. This kind of bartering system whereby I do some things and you do some things in order to build some semblance of harmony in the home is a sham. It never works. Both he and she have no joy. What will inevitably occur in this husband’s (and almost certainly his wife’s) heart is a building up of disdain. He will continue to try to do those things to attain his level of peacefulness, but he will become angry, bitter and then resentful. Instead of building a lasting peace and joy in the home and marriage, he will come to resent his wife and the fact that he has to be married to her.

Now, not every marriage in that state ends. Some can sustain that level of cohabitation without many flare ups or confrontations. They continue to do their own things, staying out of each other’s way, and doing enough to stay cordial. They might even experience a passing moment of intimacy together, and no one is the wiser to the actual state of the marriage. Tragically, many marriages end up like this.

What’s missing? Why do so many marriages struggle and others end? The most important ingredient is missing. That is love. We’re talking about the kind of love that brings you joy to serve your spouse. It’s the opposite of this husband’s motive. Instead of just doing stuff to keep peace, and keep his wife quiet, the husband who truly wants to be a source of God’s joy for his wife will faithfully, cheerfully, generously serve her.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.        -Ephesians 5:25, 28

Learning how your spouse works, what he or she likes, and what he or she doesn’t like is living in understanding and wisdom (1 Peter 3:7). Serving her because you have committed to love her all the days of your life is what it is all about. Do that in a gracious and generous way and see where happiness shows up over and over in your marriage. The joy that comes from the Lord, lived out in your marriage, will manifest itself in repeated moments of happiness.

Holding On Loosely

The classic rock band 38 Special sang, “hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” The song was released in 1980, when I was a young nine year old boy. I know I heard it from time to time on my parents’ radio, but it’s a certainty that I gave it little to no thought. It was just another cool sounding song.

The last three and a half decades have afforded me the blessings of aging and acquiring life experiences that have given me a certain perspective on the idea of holding on loosely…even though it’s very difficult at times.

When you have something you do not want to lose, holding on to it with anything less than a death grip seems totally illogical. Right? In those situations, you normally grab and hold with everything you have. The blood rushes away from your fingertips and they turn white as a sheet. So, the idea of holding on loosely boggles the mind. If I’m not serious about holding on to it, I’d just as soon not hold on.

The last couple of years (especially recently with my daughter) I have learned firsthand that parenting requires this kind of holding- loosely. I joked with my wife that if I had known we were going to have to let go of our children and let them live their own lives, I would have never gotten into this whole parenting thing. Truly, it’s been downright tough on this dad’s heart.

In today’s picture-happy world, there seems to be no escape from the reminders of just how special the early days were with my kiddos. It’s hard to go more than a day or two without seeing something that brings a warm smile to my heart. And, as a very good friend of mine pointed out to me the other day, I am quite sentimental. Actually, he told me he knew I would more than likely struggle with this stage of parenting. I’m still not sure why he never warned me.

Here’s what God’s word has reminded me of during this particular season of life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”, and the Byrds kind of echoed it with their song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1965.

Psalm 103:15-16 says, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”

My Kiddos Jan 16 blog

Things change. That is life. Both of my amazing children, who need their parents less and less each day, will one day go on to live their own lives. Instead of my wife and I oohing and awing over all their cute little antics, we will strive to embrace their maturing and celebrate their accomplishments. The job has changed on a daily basis, but I must still joyfully enjoy, and be thankful for each and every different season of life.

“ADRIAN!”

 

In between watching more than my fair share of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies (simply because I love my wife), I happened upon a classic movie, and it brought tears to my eyes. What movie you ask? Rocky. Yes. Rocky. The first Rocky movie is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I don’t mind admitting that it brought me to tears as I watched roughly the last 40 minutes.

Assuredly, you are probably struggling to understand how this movie could induce a teary effect. I mean, it is a man’s man type of movie with lots of action, physical aggression, blood, sweat, etc. So, what’s the deal with the tears?

Well, for me, it all has to do with the deep connection of two souls. Critics will tell you that the movie is overly dramatic, and even cheesy as it tries to pull the viewer into the story, but I find it eerily believable. Rocky Balboa begins to doubt himself on the eve of the biggest fight of his life with the world champion, Apollo Creed. After walking the streets and visiting the arena where the fight will take place, he tells his girlfriend, Adrian, that he can’t do it. He knows he can’t beat Apollo, and he’s bearing his soul at this moment with Adrian. She reminds Rocky of how hard he has worked to get ready for this fight. She has had a front row seat, and she is reminding him that she is in this with him.

Rocky goes on to fight, and he fights valiantly. He is grossly outmatched by the much better boxer, and his body pays the price…but he fights until the last bell. He gives as much punishment as he takes, proves to himself that he can stand toe-to-toe with the champion, and holds his own. As a matter of fact, he nearly wins the fight.

The camera cuts back and forth between this epic battle in the ring and Adrian’s face as she watches. The connection between this man and woman who care about each other so deeply is unmistakably evident in her eyes. It’s as if she feels every blow that lands on Rocky’s head. His pain is her pain, and after the fight is over, his exuberance is hers as well.

With microphones shoved in his face, and reporters trying to get a comment, Rocky simply yells, “ADRIAN” over and over. Then we see Adrian yelling Rocky’s name as she pushes her way through the crowd and sneaks into the ring. Rocky’s face is mangled, and he probably can’t see Adrian out of his eyes that are swollen shut…but they find each other and embrace as if nobody else is around. It’s a magical scene.

Picturing that scene in my mind right now brings the same swell of emotion. These two shared their dreams, fears, failures, struggles, and accomplishments with each other. Rocky had a desire to compete for the championship, and Adrian walked each step of the way with him. They had a connection on a very deep level, and that is what shows through what some call a cheesy, over-acted classic movie.

What do I take from this as a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor? Honestly, there are many lessons I think could be shared. But for me, what stands out is the challenge to live deeply and passionately. I am challenged to find something worth going after, share it with my wife, and strive together to achieve it with everything I have. It’s a challenge to live life with purpose, making all decisions based on how it will affect the ultimate goal, and moving forward with confidence.

Too often, people find themselves relegated to and settling for the only life they think is attainable, and there they just exist. Going to work, coming home to dinner, and some sort of entertainment before falling into bed…just to do it all over again the next day. Most times there is little passion, few dreams, and no thought of achieving something greater.

Husbands and wives don’t talk about the deep things of their hearts. Parents and children go to separate rooms for the night, with little to no communication. Homes all over the world are filled with people who have settled into “the way things are” and they are happy to live out their days catching up on their latest favorite show.

I believe that living is much more than existing, and it is a conviction on my soul to think that I have taken the great blessings God has bestowed upon my life and neglected them as I simply exist. He has a greater plan for his children than that. God tells us that we can do all things through him according to his strength in our lives (Philippians 4:13). What a waste to have that kind of power and strength on our lives…and then not really live. May we all strive to live big for his honor and glory.

Yes. I was moved in my spirit thusly, and all from catching the end of Rocky. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. You might end up inspired.

No is not a bad word

 

Here’s a quick thought about the state of parenting in America today.

Maybe it was a specific time and place, or a particular worldwide event that sparked the change, but something has clearly shifted in the way parents raise and train their children. At times it almost seems that the keys to the kingdom have been flat handed over. Mom and Dad just hope and pray that their little heathen spawn do not take over totally and destroy everything.

Overstated? Maybe. But similar scenes play themselves out over and over in our society today. A scene in which mom or dad want the child to do something, but can not acquire even a modicum of compliance. The kid glares at the parent with a look of, “Did you just tell me to do something” or “You talkin to me?” Then the child continues to do exactly the opposite, and there are zero consequences…unless you count the pain and suffering the rest of us have to endure as consequences. It’s nearly impossible to make even a short trip to a store without witnessing parents at the end of their ropes, and kids screaming and yelling as they’re carried or dragged down the aisles.

While each child is unique, as well as every parent, there does appear to be a common thread that connects these awkward and chaotic parent-child battle scenes. The word “NO” has become a bad word for parents. Obedience and compliance to the wishes of the parents (who are supposed to be the ones with the wisdom) is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there are very few commands given at all in the new parent-child relationship. It’s as if parenting has become a daily exercise in bargaining. Parents ask questions of their little darlings, like asking permission to have them do or stop doing something, and then just hope the child will agree.

Ludicrous is the word that best describes this parenting practice for me. Even at times when the child’s safety is at stake, this same practice is prevalent. Seriously? A child stands up in his high chair at the restaurant, his head a good 4-5 feet above the concrete floor, and there is still this idea of, “Please sit down, Sweetie.” “Let’s not stand up, Bubba.” Parents need a grasp of what it means to parent with a loving, firm hand of leadership. Protecting your young children is at stake. Children need to have a very clear sense of who is in control, who is their authority, and who is there to help and protect them.

When they are doing something that they shouldn’t, you need to tell them, “No”, and they need to know without any doubt that you mean it. The same goes for when you tell them to stop or start doing something. Young children need to be taught how to obey right away. They’re young lives are shaped and molded by how they follow leadership from their parents. They are learning that life is not all about them. In fact, it’s mostly not about them, and they need to know that.

As they age, and learn to do things on their own, the percentage of their lives that belong to them grows. However, in years 0-4 or so, their young lives have little of that ownership. They live lives of “do this/don’t do that”, and these formidable years are crucial to them being able to understand life.

So, parents, teach your children the word “no”. Teach them that it is a good thing for them. Help them know that part of living life is understanding that we will have to hear “no” from time to time. Show them that the word “no” can be used with both kindness and firmness…that it is an important part of life. The younger they get a handle on this truth, the easier it will be for them as they grow and mature. And, the easier life will be for you during the early years of childhood.

One other quick note: mean what you say and say only what you mean. Take this principle from the Bible in Matthew 5:37. Let your “no” mean “no”, and your “yes” mean “yes”. Be an example of consistency and integrity as you lead your children. If you continually allow them to disobey as you repeat, “Stop that!” and “I told you…”, you are fostering in them a very real sense of confusion. Young children will ever push and search for the real boundaries that make them feel safe.

These words are shared in hopes of helping you in your journey of parenting. My hope is that you enjoy your children as you raise and train them to be God-honoring adults one day.