Stop & Smell The Burning Wood

In a world where time marches on, and things continually change, this chilly afternoon & evening by the fire was such a great blessing. Kym and I sat by the fire, both doing work on our own computers, and watching a few movies. It was very peaceful and relaxing in a world where things move too fast most of the time. Pretty cool just to have a rare day of down time together.

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We’ve seen quite a few things change in the past couple years as our children have grown, and are often busy with their own things. I’ve written (here) about how that hasn’t been exactly easy on this dad’s heart, and how it’s been a learning stage of life for both Kym and myself. Funny how God is always teaching something and stretching us.

Seems like today God wanted to show a glimpse of what life might have in store every now and then during this new stage. Thankfully, by his grace, I didn’t miss the beauty and ease of this day. He gifted our crazy North Texas area with a chilly day, and we enjoyed the sounds of a crackling fire for hours.

I’ll see your rudeness, and raise you kindness.

I guess the dude had been forced, unnecessarily, to wait for an extended amount of time (like 52 seconds) before someone noticed him, and asked what they could do for him. I mean, really. C’mon! He had decided to patronize your establishment, and you ignored him for nearly a whole minute? What is this world coming to, when you can’t walk in to a store and be immediately served? Heavy sarcasm definitely intended.

Lately I’ve made several trips to a certain coffee shop, and come to know some of the morning employees. I’ve also seen some of the usual customers who stop in regularly in the early morning hours. It’s always been cool to me to build customer/worker relationships at my favorite places. Ever since I first watched some Cheers episodes, I’ve wanted to be a “Norm”.  I like getting to know people, and you’d be amazed at what you can learn from others.

At this particular java spot, I’ve been in awe of one of the managers. The way he handles customers, and seems like he genuinely wants to help people have a good day is inspiring. I wish I could say I’ve been shocked by some of the customers’ attitudes and actions, but unfortunately rudeness and anger are all too common these days.

This manager’s gentle and kind way of handling even the most aggravated and frustrated customer has reminded me of a simple truth- how you respond is your choice. Just this morning the man who had to wait almost a whole minute without being served felt it necessary to berate the manager. He clearly decided that he was justified in treating this manager so poorly. Yet, this manager responded with kindness, and did his best to help this man have a better day. He literally said he was sorry for this man’s wait (52 seconds) at least three times, gave him a free coffee, and said he hopes that he has a much better day. In the face of this jerky behavior, I was amazed at the self-control and appearance of genuine kindness of this manager.

I’m not sure if he is a follower of Jesus or not, but he definitely acted like it. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:9,

Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Ephesians 4:32 tells us to treat everyone with kindness. It doesn’t say we should do it only when others are kind to us. In fact, the Bible says we are to “love your enemies” in Matthew 5:44.

Truth: people are going to treat you badly. They will put themselves before everyone else, and take out their frustrations on you, sometimes in a very nasty and ugly way.

Another truth: you do not have to repay that sentiment with ugliness of your own. In fact, try the kindness route and see just how many times you can defuse their angst. You’ll be surprised at what a little kindness will do.

Now, do not expect every angry, belligerent person to soften in response to your kindness. Sometimes they’re just too far gone, and lost in the middle of their bad attitude. But, remember, you’re choosing kindness as a matter of principal, and not just to change the other person. More times than not, it will work wonders. And, even when it doesn’t work, you will know you did what you could to help them.

I’m a Pastor & a Sinner

Thankfully, the concept that pastors are somehow more spiritual and closer to God has been blown to pieces over the years. Unfortunately it has happened due to gross sin being exposed in the lives of pastors and ministry leaders. Even so, it’s a great thing to get fixed in your mind…we are all sinners.

Sin appears in my life daily. Often they are sins of commission, where I am very aware that I have missed the mark of godliness by my direct actions. Other times they are sins of omission, where I again am aware that I missed the mark, but by my inaction. Then, there are times that I miss the mark, but I do not realize it at the moment. In every case, I have lived out my life in a way that falls short of the glory of God.

By God’s grace, and thanks to his mercy, I am able to see my sin. Granted, I do not always see it or even admit it easily, but God has a way of bringing people into my life who help me recognize my sin. This allows me the honor of working on growing in these areas.

What I struggle with (just behind dishonoring God with my sin) is the pain that my sin causes others. This is never more evident than in my own nuclear family. God has richly blessed me with three wonderful gifts to be part of my family. These people know me best, and neither of them have run for the hills. They see the faults, the struggles, the angry moments, etc.

Sometimes I am more concerned with being right than listening. Other times I seek my own agenda rather than seeking to lead and love well. My reaction to tense situations and discussions is often to protect my own interests. When I have messed up, or I need to answer for something I did or said, I tend to defend myself at all costs. In these moments, my family feels the pain of my sin.

However, they don’t give up on me. They don’t beat me down when I mess up. Somehow they still love me, care for me, and help me work towards being more like Jesus. Talk about a man being blessed way beyond what he deserves. Wow!

I think that is because they understand that they too are sinful. They understand that we all, no matter how hard we strive to honor God, fall short (Romans 3:23) of the standard set by Jesus. Having these kind of people around you is paramount in helping you realize your sin, and push you to grow in Christlikeness. Because God is so awesome, he has also placed others in my life that have license to speak directly into my life.

One question for you as you read through this short post: Do you realize that you are a sinner, and do you let people in your life have license to help you grow? That’s more like two questions in one, but it’s okay.

To my family: Thank you from the bottom of my sinful heart for sticking with me, by my side, and allowing God to use you in my life. I’m not sure where I’d be without you.

 

Tebow Time & His Airness

It’s super late, actually just really early…1:15am to be exact. Yesterday, during his first professional baseball game, when he saw his first pitch, Tim Tebow promptly deposited it deep over the center field fence. Yes, he hit the very first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. Now, this fact has nothing to do with what Tim’s baseball career might or might not be. If you know anything about baseball, you know it is a difficult game, and it can take years and lots of hard work for a minor league player to make it to the big leagues. Then, it takes even more hard work to stay there.

So, again, I am not saying this proves that Tim Tebow is the next baseball phenom. However, that one swing, and all the hoopla around it did get me thinking. Truth is, I’ve been perturbed ever since Tim announced that he was going to tryout for major league scouts. What bothered me was the way so many people (experts and amateur fans) quickly and summarily dismissed Tim’s chances.

It reminded me of the Sports Illustrated cover that convinced me to never pick up another issue. bag-it-michael-si

In 1994, the magazine decided to sell a few more thousand copies by slamming  Michael Jordan for his attempt to play professional baseball. He cut off all communication with Sports Illustrated, even to this day.

Both of these men have something in common- they are winners. In their professional lives, whatever they’ve attempted, it seems something inside them wills them to win. Michael Jordan is considered the best basketball player of all time. Tim Tebow was one of the best college football players ever. He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, and he lead the University of Florida to 2 national championships in three years. Even in his very short NFL career, Tim had a knack for getting his team the win.

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However, critics can’t seem to say enough bad things. Michael didn’t make it to the major leagues, and maybe Tim won’t either. But, it seems to me that every man and woman should be given the opportunity to try something without being lambasted and denounced as a failure before they even get started.

Honestly, some people are probably dissuaded from even attempting something new just because of the very real chance they’ll be trashed by others. This cynical approach to life, and seeming joy we take in bashing those who dare to stray from what we think they should do is a sad trend in our society. It makes me wonder just what would magazines, blogs, and sports talk shows be filled with, if negativity and cynicism didn’t exist.

So, let me give you this quick bit of encouragement…DO IT NOW! Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to try, dying to see if you can accomplish, hoping you could find the courage to try…just get up off your couch and get started.

As a believer and follower of God, I’m inspired and motivated by this verse in the Bible,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.     -2 Corinthians 9:8

Whether you are coming from a foundation of faith in God or not, you will need inspiration. You will face cynicism, and you need to be able to shake loose the doubters and haters. Then, pick yourself up and get started. I am reminded of another story that challenges and inspires me ever year on May 21st. That day in 1982, a 21-year-old Cal Ripken, Jr. was inserted into the starting lineup by Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, where he would remain for the next 2,631 games. He played every single baseball game for the Orioles for more than 16 years.

The only way a story like that happens is by someone getting started. So, when the voices are telling you that you’re not good enough, and they say you can’t do it, that you’ll fail if you try, that’s when you will be faced with a decision- go forward or give up. You’re likely to face that kind of decision many times in your life, but it can be an especially difficult one when you’re changing course, or trying something new.

Just tell those cynics…well…on second thought, don’t tell them anything. Instead, ignore them, turn around, and walk away. Stay away from people like that. Seriously. The world has way more than enough, you don’t need that kind of influence in your life. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, care about you, and root for your success. They also have to be ready and willing to speak truth into your life. That’s for your protection. But most importantly they must have your back.

Make the decision. Turn away from, ignore, and remove the cynicism from your life. Then, get started. DO IT NOW!

 

Texas Lost Some Good People Today

If you’ve had dear friends that have been a crucial part of your life for many years, then you know the pain of losing them when they move. This is an especially difficult part of life for a church family. Of course, after two decades serving as a pastor with the same church, it is something you come to expect. Families move to town. They become integral parts of your church and even your personal life. Then, whether they truly want to or not, life takes a turn, and they are quickly gone…moving on to a new destination.

Our church will most definitely miss this dear family. They have served faithfully, willingly with a heart for others. You name it in the church, and they have had a hand in helping that ministry achieve excellence. God doesn’t just have to replace our friends, but also a big part of our ministry team in our church.

We trust in the knowledge that God definitely has a plan, and that his plans are for our good. Still, the empty feeling of loss that resides in the depths of our hearts is real. And, sometimes the question of “why” just won’t stop its nagging. That’s why I like to stop, think on the memories, and recount all the super fun times we’ve enjoyed together.

Days & Days kiddos

These pictures show just a smidgeon of the fun times we’ve had with this family. It’s crazy! Friends have a way of becoming family when you do life together. Personally, we have done ministry together, seen each other most every week, and spent lots of time together in various ways.

My own baby girl learned how to be a babysitter with these cute faces in these pictures, and my son learned the importance of being an example to others. The age difference between our kiddos provided a very neat opportunity for unique friendships, that I am convinced will last for many, many years to come.

Kym Beck Pres

My wife took on an important job of being a kindergarten teacher, and Becky was sweet enough to jump right in with her. They were side by side for the last three years pouring in to each other as they worked hard to bestow knowledge to their kinders. As a husband, I’ve been increasingly thankful for the friendship Becky has given to my wife. I’ll have my hands full trying to help soften the hurt in her heart in the coming weeks and months.

I was blessed to be there for the first time Eric took his son, Jake hunting. It was a great day as one of our resident hunting experts in Berean, Big Joe, was showing us all the ropes. We didn’t get a ton of doves that day, but we did have lots of fun trying. See what I mean, remembering good times is a good tool in handling sadness.

Jake's 1st hunting trip

So, yeah. The sadness is real, and there is no magic trick to make it disappear with a snap of the fingers. But, we know God wouldn’t have us stay in this sadness-stricken state. He wants us to know that what he has planned to come will be just as amazing. That’s not because the Day family is so easily replaced (FAR from it)…it’s because our God is so awesome!

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  -Philippians 4:19

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”           -2 Corinthians 1:20

During these times (like we should at all times), we cling tightly to his many promises, and trust his sovereignty in all things. He knows the sadness and the hurt we have, and he’s at work in it all.

Does Your Attitude S#@%…sometimes!

Mine sure does…suck, that is. Please excuse the word choice. I know it’s harsh, and I would normally go with something like stink, but sometimes my attitude is honestly way worse that just stinking. And, the harshness of that word is incredibly accurate as it points to the sin that overtakes me and torpedoes my attitude.

Of course, given enough time, I do eventually get over it. And I usually think how sad it is that I let myself get so focused on different things and circumstances that it took over my whole attitude. However, if I’m not careful, I end up doing it all over again.

Why is that?

Attitude collage

With all the clever, sayings & quotes, memes, graphics, etc…you’d think we could just pick ourselves up out of the doldrums, grab some encouragement and move on. Of course, it is often much harder than that, and for some, a bad attitude can stick around for many days, even weeks.

Real quickly, I just wanted to drop a few words that might help, if this finds you dealing with a bad attitude.

Ask yourself these questions to evaluate yourself…

  1. Did someone do something that attributed to my attitude problem?
  2. If so, why did I (or continually do I) give them such power over me?
  3. Did something I do cause my attitude to tank?
  4. Was it just one thing, or did multiple things stack up on each other?
  5. Are things exactly as you think they are, or are you assuming?

Part of our sin nature is to care about what people think of us, to care about how people treat us, to get down on ourselves, and to think that our perception of reality is always correct. People will say, “Well, he said ‘_________’. What else could he have meant by that? He clearly has a problem with me.” We leave no room for the possibility that there might be another explanation. On top of that, we are very good at adding things up until we have this tower of issues that submerges our attitude to the depths of our being.

In a very real sense, we want to be our own god. We want total control over what happens to us, how we’re treated, how others handle their own lives, etc. If it connects to us at all, we want things to go the way we want things to go. In other words, we want to be the gods of our own lives…controlling all circumstances and situations in a way that we see fit.

Instead, we should be looking at each situation with humility.

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.      -Philippians 2:3-4

 

We are, instead of trying to be our own god, to have the mind of Christ.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus    -Philippians 2:5

Even when things go sideways, people actually do treat us poorly, and sin against us, the call on our lives is to follow the Lord’s example. Jesus faced real trials, persecution and suffering. Yet, in the midst of it all, he remained hopeful and was ever patient.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.       -1 Peter 2:23

When you find yourself stuck in this position, fighting your attitude, and nothing seems to help you get unstuck, do these two things.

First, go to a good family member or friend who you know loves God, and loves you. Even if you have a stack of issues, it’s a safe bet that one person isn’t at the center of it all. Find that person, share your heart, and let them be a blessing to you.

Second (and most importantly), sit down and make a list of the great blessings you have in your life. I hear you right now saying, “Oh yeah, I know, be grateful. I get it.” And you’ve got that rolling eyes smirk on your face. Get past that self-centered bull, and begin to make an actual list of the ways God has blessed you. You will be amazed at how your heart can begin to shift when you are focused on God’s goodness to you.

That’s it. I’m Done!

You’ve met multiple times, done tons of talking, and discussed how the Bible addresses the struggles of life. There have been meetings for coffee, lunch appointments, quick breakfasts, and even a few late-night Waffle House trips. This person is your friend, your fellow Christian, and you’ve always been willing to meet and talk. You’ve been told that your friendship and counsel is a real blessing to this person.

However, you’re reaching the point of giving up. The talks have gone on and on, but there are zero signs of change. This person has the same problems, and most every step of forward progress has been met with two or three steps backward. Now, you are facing the struggle of considering whether or not you should continue spending (or wasting) time in this manner. Seriously, you wonder if wouldn’t be better for you to pour into a young Christian, and see them grow?

So…when is it okay to just be done? Can a Christian just decide enough is enough? The quick and easy answer is, “No.” But, there is also some ambiguity when it comes to defining what giving up means.

Matthew 10:14 is a verse often used to declare a Christian’s right to be done.

“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

Truth is, that verse is specifically referring to non-Christians who refuse to hear the gospel. This verse can’t be pulled out of context, and applied to Christians living in community together. Yes, it can be frustrating to your spirit when your friend seems to continually ignore the truth, but you can’t just pick a verse that you think gives you an out.

Our example for living this life is Jesus. Jesus modeled a life of self-sacrifice, infinite faithfulness, and ultimate love, and he tells us to love as he does.

Ephesians 4:2 says that we need to have all humility, gentleness, and patience, as we bear with one another in love. In 1st Peter 4:8, we’re told “above all, keep loving one another earnestly.”

1 Corinthians 13:7 gives some definition to love saying that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

So, as we are loving well and that love is enduring all things, we can “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9. This verse is not a promise that as long as we do not give up, everything will definitely work out with our friend, and that friend will turn from sin. But it does mean that we are to stay faithful to the work of living in biblical community with one another, and let God handle the change that needs to take place in a person.

“Not as involved in pursuing your friend is not the same as giving up.”

Once it is understood that there is no allowance for giving up on a fellow Christian, we can evaluate what level of leaning in we need to offer our friend. The level of involvement has to change based on level of response from your friend. When your friend is listening, studying, and trying to make changes, you’ve got to be all in. You can meet regularly, and be the supportive and encouraging friend…always speaking truth in love. As long as things are progressing, everything is good and on track.

Moving to the next level happens when that friend ceases to pour into changing, misses meetings, or doesn’t do the studying. The next level comes when your friend does the yoyo thing with you. They are serious for a time, then missing for a time, and seeming not to care. Then, they come calling, and you start the process all over again. While you will still pour in, and lean in to help them change, you will do so with a certain level of guard. This isn’t because you do not care as much, or are not serious about helping. It is because there is an important shift from you doing the pursuing. The friend is reaching out, and you are going to still be there to help.

The final level for me is when you make significant changes to the amount of availability you have for this friend. This means that you might meet when your friend calls, but you won’t enter into a regular meeting or counseling situation. Instead, you will wait and ask to see some commitment and consistency from your friend. If this is a serious time of wanting change, it will be an easy step for your friend. If not, then, you haven’t wasted any time, and have saved yourself opportunity for frustration.

Remember, this is a way of approaching a fellow Christian when you are having feelings of wanting to give up. The pervading thought should be, “I won’t give up because God has never given up on me.”

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.