Category Archives: Parenting

Breathe Deeply, Live Fully – The Present Moment is Sacred

This post is dedicated to my atheist friend (aforcier), who has a better grasp on the present moment than I do (as a Christian Theist ironically enough).

Erma Bombeck wrote a piece entitled “If I Had Life to Live Over Again”? In it, she wrote: “I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains…When my child kissed me impetuously, I would have never said, “Later. Now get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more I love yous, more I’m sorrys, but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute, look at it and really see it, live it, and never give it back.”

I remember the testimony of an anonymous friar in a Nebraska monastery. He wrote it in a letter late in his life. He says some surprising things and admits the need for being in the present moment. Remember, he’s lived an entire life of rigorous self-discipline in such a way that he feels he’s been cheated out of his present moments, and this is what he says:

“If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax, I would limber up, and I would be sillier than I have been this trip… I would be crazier. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets. I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice cream and less beans… You see, I’m one of those people who lives…sensibly hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead each day. I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, aspirin, and a parachute. If I had to do it over again I would go places, do things, and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over I would start barefooted earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.”

So if you have today, enjoy it immensely. Enjoy your job. After you’re done for the day, go get some taco’s. Sprinkle a little hot-sauce on them. Chase that down with some Schwann’s vanilla ice-cream, half-melted so you can stir it up in the bowl. Curl up on the couch and watch a football game. Keep your toes warm by putting them under the family dog’s belly. Make brownies to go with that Schwann’s vanilla ice-cream. Watch a little Andy Griffith after the game. Get lost in a great book.

Or, if you love nature (and all of us do to one degree or another), go outside, and enjoy a quiet place, on a log, by a river, with the smell of decaying leaves wafting through the air. God has created in such a way as to give you present moments. “God could have left the world flat and gray; we wouldn’t have known the difference. Be he didn’t. He splashed orange in the sunrise and cast the sky in blue… Did he have to make the birds sing? Was He required to put stripes on the zebra or the hump on the camel? And the funny way that chickens scurry or the majesty of thunder when it rings? Why give a flower fragrance? Why give food its taste? Why wrap creation in such splendor? Could it be he loves to see that look upon your face when you you recognize for the first time ‘You did this for me.’ (Lucado, Grace I and II).”

Trust God and have fun and make life better for someone else along the way – create a great present moment for them! Get lost in God’s world, even if but for a moment. Tomorrow will bring some unexpected things – and you may even cry about it – but you have today – this present moment.

You see the greatest tragedy of all in life is to assume that life is nothing more than humdrum, that there isn’t anything in it to seize or that there is no one seizing me. That’s the problem with post-modernism – there’s nothing to seize – no larger story going on. We live and we die in a series of disconnected moments. But there is One who is in an ever present sacred “Present Moment.” Join in the mystery of that moment.

Someone once asked Mark Buchanan what his biggest regret in life has been. He said, “I thought a moment, surveying the vast and cluttered landscape of my blunders and losses, the evil I have done and the evil that’s been done against me. ‘Being in a hurry,’ I said. ‘Pardon?’ Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me… Through all that haste, I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”

Don’t throw your moments away. You have this moment. Live it fully, breathe deeply.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Christianity, Happiness, Intelligent Design, Larger Story, Life Purpose, Parenting, Post-modernism, Present Moment, Spiritual Life, Theism, Universe, Worldview

Adolescent Girls Are Losing Themselves – Like Intoxicated Saplings in a Storm

The book Reviving Ophelia, written by Mary Pipher several years ago, argues how our little girls are like saplings in a storm. Our children but especially our daughters live in a media-drenched culture flooded with junk values. Not getting what they need from their parents, our kids, especially our girls, turn to the world for self-esteem. The world fragments them into powerless sex objects. Sex is not just sacred; it’s a way to sell suntan lotion, clothes, and popularity and young girls get lost in all this.

Writes Pipher: “The story of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet shows the destructive forces that affect young women. As a girl, Ophelia is happy and free, but with adolescence she loses herself. When she falls in love with Hamlet, she lives only for his approval. She has no inner direction; rather she struggles to meet the demands of Hamlet and her father. Her value is determined utterly by their approval. Ophelia is torn apart by her efforts to please. Despondent over the death of his own father, Hamlet spurns her because she is an obedient daughter and sides with her father, she goes mad with grief. Dressed in elegant clothes that weigh her down, she drowns in a stream filled with flowers (p. 4).

Pipher maintains that girls are losing themselves like Ophelia – a symbolic figure for troubled, voiceless adolescent girls. It’s great to honor your father. But dads and moms must build a healthy self-esteem into their girls, otherwise, they will fall into the people-pleasing trap. And if you betray yourself in order to be pleasing to someone else, you lose self-worth. Society tells you many lies. You have to be a certain weight, have a particular look. Girls get mixed messages all of the time: Be sexy, but not sexual. Be honest, but don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Be smart, but not so smart that you threaten boys. The world preaches a doctrine of image management.

What are society’s values?

Beauty: The most highly valued personal attribute in many cultures is physical attractiveness. When we as adults respond to what we perceive to be “a beautiful child” versus “an unattractive child” this has a profound impact on a developing personality. Attractive kids fair better in their grades, for example, and get more attention from adults. Beauty is retained as a value among women their entire lives. It’s not wrong to be beautiful; it is wrong to ascribe worth simply on the basis of looks or the perfection of a bodily form.

A song writer wrote: “I want to be beautiful and make you stand in awe. Look inside my heart and be amazed. I want to hear you say who I am is quite enough. I just want to be worthy of love and beautiful (Bethany Dillon “Beautiful”). This ageless longing takes on a competitive edge.

Wendy Bantam puts it this way: “Every day in the life of a woman is a walking Miss America Contest.” Sadly, girls lose if they are either too plain or too pretty. Girls who are too pretty are seen as sex objects; their appearance is their identity. Boys gravitate toward these girls, so they are popular for their looks. On the other hand, if you are too plain, you’re left out and scorned.

Intelligence: This ranks at the top of our value system. Our society says you have to be smart and you must have smart kids in order to protect the reputation of the parent. For the slow child, an educational plan that is shaped for fast-learners can disassemble the esteem of a child.

Wealth: A pimply faced kid on a bicycle is different from a pimply faced kid in a BMW. If you’ve got money, and clothes, and prestige, then you’re valuable.

Athleticism: If you’re really good athletically, you have value and notoriety. Our culture worships the sports hero.

Tony Campolo tells about a married couple that had bought into these cultural values. They were sitting in his office at Eastern College painfully confronting the reality that their nineteen-year-old daughter had not only been sexually promiscuous, but she was pregnant and had no idea who the father was. With tears running down her cheeks, the mother turned to her daughter and said “How could you do this to us after all we’ve done for you?” Campolo said if I had asked the mom just what it was she had done for her, the mother would have probably gone through a long list of all the things she and her husband had bought for their daughter. Society had conditioned them to believe that it was things their daughter needed. They had failed to provide their daughter what she really needed: available, loving parents to pay attention to her.

A few years back, I found a response to Piphers book. Sara Shandler wrote a book in response called Ophelia Speaks. She invited girls to write to her and share what was actually going on in their lives. These adolescent girls said that they felt like disappointments when compared to the media models. “They hurl us into self-loathing.”

Sara Shandler heard from young ladies who took off their masks and what she learned was an avalanche of discovery. They tell of sexual abuse, broken families, missing fathers, lost friends, pregnancy, eating disorders and dysfunctional siblings. The common wish they all had was for simple stability, a safe place where they could sort life out.

One of the themes prevalent in these Shandler essays was intoxication (46). It seems to be the medication of choice for most people. One gal writes: “Drunken couples maul each other on beer-soaked furniture. Others dance wildly. They jump and slam into each other while swearing and puking. I step over their bodies sprawled across the floor, drowning in their own vomit. As I walk toward the bedroom, the sweet mixture of incense and pot smoke drags me into the cloudy room. I join the circle. Hours later, I wake in a large, strange bed with only half my clothes… I shove the stranger off me… My eyes are bloodshot… Beer and puke stain the white carpet. The stench of the room almost causes me to fall over… I walk down litter-covered streets… It feels like forever since I last had a bath… I walk toward by friend’s house.

‘Can I crash here today?’

‘Sure…Rough night?’

I nod and… walk to the bathroom. My face is still dingy from the night before… It seems so old. I’m only fourteen.”

She tells of abuse that landed her step-father in jail. She talks about boyfriends and pregnancy and her baby boy.

This is how she concludes her article: “I’m eighteen now… Matthew (her son) is two and a half years old… Despite all that has happened to me, I have hope for my future. I don’t blame my problems on what happened. I take responsibility for my actions. I look forward to having my own place. I look forward to the beginning of my adult life. I know it’s hard for most girls to deal with a situation like this, but, for sanity, for a chance at life, it has to be dealt with (53).”

Even though this young girl began to take responsibility for her own life and decisions, many young ladies never do. Like saplings in a storm, drunk with the junk values of culture, they sheer off at the ground, and never find the safe, nurturing environment of stability that they crave.

Don’t allow this to happen in your family. Be the safe place, a place of nurture, values clarification, and identity and self-esteem development. Base it all on God (and don’t even think about being an atheist – it only complicates things).

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Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Daughters, Parenting, Teenagers, Uncategorized

Why is My Child An Atheist? | Rules Minus Relationship = Rebellion

Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

There have been many parents who have questioned why their child has become an atheist (and doesn’t appear to be coming back to their spiritual roots), especially in light of what Proverbs 22:6 says. What are we to make of this?

Chuck Swindoll in writing about this verse said, “I know any number of rebels who were forced into a restricted, parent-dominated, externally religious lifestyle during their early years in the home. And when they got free of all that, they split the scene and ran wild. I mean, really wild! And they never did stop running. In fact, they didn’t return to the Lord, even when they grew older. I know some, in fact, who died while running from Him.”

If I could give just a simple word of advice to parents, especially those with their children still at home. Parent each child individually according to their natural inclinations, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. You must raise children, not just a family.

Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go (the way he is inclined to go, i.e., habits and interests), even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Some things to remember when you read and apply this pithy saying of wisdom to your life, particularly in the context of this question.

Remember, this verse is not a promise; it is a proverb, or a probability. A child still has a choice when he is grown and may choose to depart from what he or she was taught. But if you get to know your child deeply, and you become a student of his/her ways, the lessons you teach about God will not be soon forgotten. Chances are they’ll grow up to be Theists, but there is no absolute guarantee. Abraham Lincoln said, “There is but one way to train up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel it yourself.” When you do that, there is a strong probability that your child will also follow your lead. What you do has more impact on that probability than all the lectures you could ever give.

Remember, this verse requires some wise disciplinary measures. The text says, “Train up a child.” This is more than just a one time event! And, this process of training starts at child birth. According to one prominent psychologist, it’s best to start disciplining your children when they’re young, approximately 14 months of age. Youngsters are more pliable until they’re around 4 years old. After that, the concrete hardens a little and you have to work harder at breaking it up. The pyschologist summarizes discipline like this: At a football game when a guy jumps off sides, what does the referee do? He doesn’t get red-faced and begin screaming about the virtues of keeping the rule. He drops the flag and he steps off the penalty. In the same way, when your child messes up, don’t break the peace of your home. You step off the penalty –– and you do it consistently. Don’t reason with the little guy or gal. Discipline them in love and with full explanations.

Remember, this verse requires that parents know their children deeply and create memories with them. The text says, “Train a child in the way he is inclined to go.” In other words, if your child likes baseball, teach him about God, about values, about life through the game of baseball. If your daughter loves art, become a student of her art and teach values through art. If your child loves hunting, teach him about God, about values, about life through the sport of hunting. And, if you personally as a parent loved to play the sport of baseball (but your son doesn’t) and couldn’t stand the sport of hunting (but your son does), learn how to hunt too if you kid loves hunt! If your child has some great questions about the deeper things of life, encourage them to keep asking them and answer them the best you can, doing research and guiding them in a Christian Theistic worldview. Remember, it’s according to “his/her way” not your way, your plan or your curriculum. Memories are more important than things. When you know and do things that your kids love to do and teach them about God in the process, they will attach your words with some of their fondest memories.

My friend Ed Frank shares that it’s important to “Discover Your Child’s Passion and Giftedness” in thinking about these things: “I would perhaps show parents ways to expose their kids to a bunch of different things while they are young (music, sports, languages, etc) and learn how to identify something their kid may enjoy and excel in, and if they do enjoy and excel in something – to “exploit” that and be willing to channel whatever resources of time, energy, and money to allow them to excel….And also to point out that if their child is a “plain jane” then that is alright because the foundation of everything is character…” Good advice Ed. But, he has more: Show the parents not to try and live their lives (with their missed goals and dreams) through their kids by forcing something on them that “isn’t them” and also avoid not exposing their kids to something because the parents don’t personally like it – like athletics (since they may have been couch potatoes all their life).

I have learned that for the most part if someone is going to be great at something – the passion and foundation is usually going to be formed during those first 18 years while at home. Start creating a thirst for God early in their lives. Do this as long as their living with you. Make being a Christian Theist a normal part of life.

Remember, this verse applies to all of your children equally, not just a select one or two of them. Otherwise, you will fuel what already exists – sibling rivalry. One of the biggest things that parents must guard against in their home, especially in the blended family situation, is sibling rivalry and parental favoritism. Susan Yates wrote about her friend Joe and his two boys. Joe’s first boy was real athletic. Because he was so athletic, he was the apple of his father’s eye. His dad loved to roughhouse with him and he encouraged him to be tough. Joe’s younger brother, Jeff, was a very sensitive child with a slight build. He disliked sports and shunned physical activity. His tendency to recoil from aggressive play irritated his dad, and he began to make fun of his son by saying, “You need to be like your brother, Joe.” But Jeff couldn’t, and he soon became the object of sarcastic comments and subtle ridicule. It was no surprise that the boys began to dislike each other. Today, as adults, the siblings have nothing to do with each other. Parents, the tendency is to favor the child that brings you the most glory and honor. If we play parental favorites with our children, showing more pride in our athlete as opposed to our artist, we’re only setting the stage for problems between our children now and down the road that may take them years to sort through defunct atheistic worldview explorations.

Sibling rivalry generally occurs for one or two reasons: (1) children are discovering who they are, and in the process, they are competing to find their own niche (their own talents, activities, interests); or (2) children feel that they are receiving unequal amounts of attention, discipline, and/or responsiveness from their parent(s). Love your children equally. Become a student of their ways and desires. Don’t compare your children with each other. Instead, study the unique way God made each one, and nurture their individual gifts. Train them to support and cheer for each other. Parents, when you pull into the driveway at home and you step out of your car and into the house, at that point, you’ve got to forget about your hard day and go after your kids like your life depended on it.

1. Parent’s, make sure before you go to bed tonight that you tell your son or daughter, “Son/Daughter, I love you. I’m proud of you.” Make sure your home is a place of affirmation. Take time with a problem child. So often what they need is meaningful human interaction.

2. Brothers and Sisters, the day will come that you’ll go your separate ways. Before you say that critical remark or offer that scourging rebuke, remember, God might want to use your sibling in a powerful way and he might want to use you in building them up.

3. Parents, love your rebel. I love this line from Josh McDowell: “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Rebellion is a cry for relationship – “Pay attention to me.” If you have a rebellious child, don’t let it ruin your future. Create the kind of home and relationship that they will want to run back to. Lovingly hold them accountable and make sure they see how their behavior negatively impacts others in the family. But in all of this – love them.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Children, Christian Worldview, Family, Father, Home, Mother, Parenting