How to manage the christmas season before it manages you

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

In 1926, the Neiman Marcus Company started publishing an annual catalog of unusual Christmas gifts; but for a number of years, the publication attracted little attention. Then in 1959, the Marcus brothers decided to generate publicity with eye-popping gifts for the person with everything. That year they offered a Black Angus steer, to be delivered either on the hoof or in steaks with a silver-plated outdoor cooker. Each year since, the gifts have become more extravagant. Last year’s catalog included a $1.7 million trip to send six passengers 63 miles above the Earth via Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo; or, for a mere $139,000, you could give your friend a limited-edition BMW convertible.

But Christmas can get out of hand even if you aren’t a Neiman Marcus fan. The stress and strain on our schedules and budgets isn’t what God intends; and I want to humbly suggest that if the holidays leave you worse for wear, you need to heed Henry David Thoreau’s famous dictum: “Simplify! Simplify!”

  • Set a spending cap for yourself, and covenant not to spend more than a certain amount for any one gift, no matter who it’s for. Reduce your gift list. Even one less person can be a significant savings of time, money, and energy.
  • Cut back on your schedule. You don’t have to attend every party or accept every invitation. Sit down with your December calendar and reserve some evenings for peace and quiet. (The secret words are: “I’m sorry; my schedule won’t allow it.”)
  • Don’t worry if your decorations aren’t all up. Less is more. You can vary from year to year which ones to use.
  • Take time for your devotions during the season. Keep a journal of your daily Bible reading, and select thirty-one people during the month to receive a special gift of prayer. You might compose a special prayer for each one, jot it on a Christmas card, and tell them it’s your heartfelt gift for them this season.

Remember, it’s possible to slow down when we have to. If you’re clipping along at 70 mph on the freeway and come to a construction zone, you have to slow down whether you like it or not. If you’re working 70 hours a week and come down with the flu, you have to slow down long enough to recover.

How much better to slow down by choice! Manage the season instead of letting it manage you. We can’t do it all, so we have to tackle the important things and leave the rest in God’s hands. It’s His agenda we should fulfill, and His burdens are light.

In the Dick Francis novel, Under Orders, the main character, Sid Halley, meets a political friend inside the complex of the British Parliament Building in London. Here’s the way he put it: I arrived at the Peers’ Entrance at one o’clock exactly . . . . The tones of Big Ben were still ringing in my ears as I stepped into the revolving door, a time-warp portal rotating me from the hustle and bustle of twenty-first century London on the outside to the sedate world of nineteenth-century quiet and formality on the inside . . . .

We all need a portal through which we can find a quieter life, at least occasionally. For too many of us, Christmas is a nightmarish revolving door in which we’re spinning faster and faster. But the wiser among us find it a sort of time-warp portal, rotating us from the hustle and bustle of twenty-first century life to the sedate world of a quieter time.

So this year, slow down, look up, breathe deeply, spend less—and simplify, simplify! This is the way of Christmas.

– cross walk

How to encourage your family at the dinner table

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

One Trick to Inject Encouragement into Your Family

Whether in coaching sports or business leadership, the principle is well known that people progress best when leaders encourage more than criticize. We can see this in our homes as well.

However, life can be discouraging for our children. It can seem like we are always correcting them. Things often don’t go their way. In addition, family squabbling between siblings can also deflate the atmosphere in our homes.

What if I told you about one simple trick to change the tone of your house? My wife and and I practiced this consistently around our family dinners, and it often provided a much needed boost.

The Pumpkin or The Red Plate?

As the leaders of our homes, we have the power to make it fundamentally an encouraging place or a discouraging place. In the late 1980s, when I was a computer programmer, our team used a quirky little object as a means of motivation—“The Pumpkin.” This small ceramic pumpkin sat in the cubicle of the last person who had messed up. Even though it was given out in fun, it still sent a message that the team was focused on mistakes. So when a more encouraging manager took over our team, The Pumpkin was the first thing to go in the trash!

Some of us parent with The Pumpkin in mind—primarily thinking about and reminding our children of the day’s failures. While there is certainly a place for correcting the negative, how much better to “catch” our children doing something right? And so our family adopted the tradition of The Red Plate.

Around the time we were raising our children, many families were buying a red plate that had the words printed on it, “You are special.”

Liking the idea (but not wanting to spend the money) we bought our own red plate and bowl. The red plate came out at special times to celebrate a family member.

Why is The Red Plate so Powerful?

1. It gives you a way to highlight something that might go unnoticed.
We did use the plate on occasions we all celebrate, like birthdays; but more often we used it to highlight one child who had been especially loving or kind or had studied hard. Rather than rewarding outcomes, we tried to reward godly character.

2. It contributes a positive tone to your house.
Rather than focusing on correction, it moved our focus to affirmation. We were trying to be a happy family, catching others in the act of doing something right.

3. It teaches your other children to rejoice with those that rejoice.
The Red Plate turned the attention to one special family member and created a sense of family identity. We wanted the other children to have an “All for one and one for all” mentality. The Red Plate was a way to actively train this attitude.

4. It gives direction to your dinner time discussions.
The Red Plate given by Mom allows the whole family to report to Dad what the recipient did. And Dad should be the chief affirmation officer. This gives him a chance for the whole family to hear his praise. (And it is really encouraging when Mom gives it to Dad or Dad gives it to Mom!)

So, if you want to really improve your home team’s success by shifting to a higher encouragement to correction ratio, why not begin with your own red plate tradition and start celebrating each other?

You’ll only be sorry you didn’t start earlier.

– cross walk

The perfect Christmas gift: a wedding dress for a poor bride

December 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Ecuador, December 4, 2017: A Catholic wedding planner has encouraged married women in Ecuador to “put a smile on the face of a poor bride” by donating their wedding dresses this Christmas.

“The goal is to have women give up their wedding dresses, since they don’t have a real use for them anymore. What’s better than keeping them is to give them to someone who needs one,” Maria Alejandra Guerra told ACI Prensa.

Guerra explained that the idea came to her Nov. 26, when she went with a group of missionaries from the Bonds of Marian Love Movement to St. Arnoldo Janssen Parish, located in a poor section of Guayaquil, to coordinate a Christmas campaign for the children there.

She said that the pastor, Fr. John Codjoe, told them that one of the parish’s ministries was marriage preparation, and that because “most of these women don’t have wedding gowns,” that he was looking for dresses to be donated.

“So that little light went on, because that was something I wanted to do for some time, and so I said to him ‘Father, I’m a wedding planner, I’m going to help you and I’m going to promote this for your parish,” Guerra related.

Fr. Codjoe “was thrilled” with the proposal and told her about 19 couples who would soon be getting married in the parish.

“That’s why I decided to launch this campaign on my social media. I didn’t think I was going to get a good reception because some time ago I did a poll and most women told me they preferred to sell their wedding dresses. But it turned out just the opposite and now seven women have offered to give me their dresses,” she said.

“I’m going to go pick up the dresses and I’ll bring them over to St. Arnoldo Janssen parish. I even told Fr. Codjoe that I wanted to attend the couples’ weddings,” she commented.

On her Instagram account where she launched the campaign, Maria Alejandra Guerra said that Christmas is a “joy, it’s giving something to someone you don’t know but who needs it more…’giving without remembering and receiving without forgetting,’ because that bride you give the dress to will be immensely grateful.”

She hopes that “we can put smiles on the faces of the brides most in need.”

Guerra said that “if I succeed in coming up with the dresses that Fr. Codjoe needs for next year and I continue to get more dresses, then I’ll be looking for other parishes that will want to receive them as donations.”

She also invited married women from other Latin American countries to look for churches where they could give their wedding dresses to low-income couples who are preparing for marriage.

For women who live in Mexico, Guerra suggested they give their gowns to the charitable initiative called “Brides with a Cause” which collects dresses throughout the country to give them to needy young women.

– cna

How to talk to children about their adoption story

December 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

The following is an edited transcript of Russell Moore’s podcast Signposts.

I had a listener who asked me how I told our children that they were adopted. At first I was reluctant to take that question because I assumed it’s just a very narrow niche of people for whom this would even be an issue: people who have adopted children and people for whom those children are still at home or still young.

But the more that I think about it, the more I think that actually applies to all of us in the body of Christ to some degree or other because all of us are dealing with our adoption into the family of God, and all of us are trying to reckon with who we were before our adoption into Christ. So I think there are some things that we can all learn about that and then also about the way that we can minister to families who have adopted children and who are working through that sort of question.

Here’s what I would say. The question assumes something that didn’t happen. What the question assumes is that we sat our children down and revealed to them that they were adopted. We have five sons; the first two are the ones that we adopted. I was speaking one time at an event and I had my fourth son, Jonah, a biological son, with me, and the person who was introducing me said, “Russell Moore and his wife have five sons, all of whom were adopted.” Normally, people say things and get little facts wrong in introductions all the time, and I do that too, but this time I stood up and said, “You know I don’t normally correct that, but I really feel like I need to right now because Jonah is sitting on the front row and he’s probably thinking, nobody told me that I was adopted.”

So with the first two children what sometimes people will think is that you sit them down and you say, okay, we are about to have a very difficult conversation with you, here it is, and you were adopted. That’s not the way that we did it, and that’s not the way that I would recommend anyone do it.

Instead what we did was to from the very beginning–our kids were a year old when we adopted them, the two that we adopted–and from the very beginning we were telling them their story. “This is what happened when we went to Russia, and here are the pictures of when we saw you for the first time, and here’s the day in court when you became our children,” and we did that all along as they were growing up.

Even when they weren’t particularly interested in it because you know when you’re three or four years old, you kind of assume everybody was adopted. You think people just sort of sprung up somewhere and you don’t really get the dynamics of biological connectedness except at the intuitive level, anyway. And so we are telling that to them even when they don’t care—for one main reason, and the main reason is we don’t want them to think that coming into our family by adoption means that there is something wrong with them or that this is something to be ashamed of; we don’t think that.

So, we would tell them their story about the adoption process in the same way that with our sons who came along biologically we will point out whenever we go to Louisville, we will point out the hospital and say, that’s the hospital where you were born. Sometimes we have stories that go along: “Jonah, you came along three and a half weeks early and a bunch of people had to come over to the house and watch the other kids and your dad was in Nashville at a meeting at the time and had to rush back home and then they sent us home and we had to go back at three in the morning”– all of those sorts of things, that’s just part of his back story and it is nothing that we are ashamed of, that’s just how you came into our family. We try to do the exact same thing with our children who came into our family by adoption.

Now, what happens though is that because in every situation with adoption, there is always some tragic back story, somebody died, somebody left, something happened, and so as you are moving on with your children, you are often going to have more and more difficult questions that are going to come up.

In my experience in dealing with families that have adopted, I have found that more often girls are the ones who raise those issues earlier, the kind of questions like, “Why did my birth mother place me for adoption?” And sometimes, “Was there something wrong with me?” That kind of identity question can come along with that. I don’t think that it’s because girls care more about that. I think it’s because girls are, at least in our culture, more verbal about their emotions than sometimes boys are and just because a young man is not asking those questions doesn’t mean that it’s not weighing on him.

So sometimes you are going to have tough questions and my counsel on that is to treat it exactly the way that you would a conversation about human reproduction. There was a time when the typical thing to do was to just sit the children down and say, here’s what sex is and here’s how babies are conceived and here’s where babies come from; it’s just kind of out of the blue.

I think the better way to handle that is to answer honestly but age appropriately all of those questions as they are coming along, so when your three year old says, where do babies come from? On the one hand you don’t want to say, “Why are you asking me that question? Wait till you are older and I’ll answer that question.” Nor do you want to say, “Okay, here’s a chart of how this happens”—you are going to traumatize a three or four year old if you do that.

I think a similar thing is true when you are talking about adoption. I think you realize what at this age can this child handle and speak honestly but in a way that discloses details at times that you think your child can handle it. So, you may have a situation where you have a birth family where there is substance abuse.

I know of one situation where a young man found out that his birth mother had been a prostitute and he was really shaken by that. His parents didn’t want to talk about that when he was ten years old but it is part of his story and they want to be honest with him about that later on in the fullness of time. So, unfold that in an age-appropriate way but don’t ever act as though you are threatened by having the question. When that child is coming to you asking what their birth mother was like, what the birth father was like, why did they do these things, don’t take that personally as some sort of repudiation of you.

This is a child who is trying to answer the question that all of us have to answer: Where did I come from? What are all the factors that made me me and how do I explain the narrative of my life? We are all grappling with that in various ways.

Now, here’s why this is important for everybody. It’s important for everybody again as I said before, because we all have to deal with that. We all have a tragic back story, we were all, Ephesians 2, previously those who were in a different family and now we are in the family of God. Something happened to move us into this new family that is happening by adoption and we all have things that have gone wrong in our lives.

I think the same thing is true there, when we are dealing with that, we need to have a sense of honesty about where we came from. You can’t go back and fix it. You can’t go back and make it some other way, so we deal with that honestly and, yet, at the same time, we say, “I’m here in the body of Christ, I’m here in the family of God and I’m not here accidentally.” That’s what the doctrine of adoption is seeking to teach and that’s why in Ephesians and in Romans and in Galatians the doctrine of adoption is tied into with the doctrine of predestination election.

Now whatever you think about predestination and election and how that relates to human freedom really doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that we know that we are here and we didn’t kind of accidently get here. The shepherd came looking for that one lost sheep and brought us back out of the wilderness and so we are welcome, we are wanted here, and that is something we have to work through all of our lives.

Sometimes we are going to look back and we are going to say why did God allow me to go in my own direction for so long? Or why did God allow those awful things to happen to me back there in my past? And sometimes we don’t have an answer to that, often, I think maybe even most times we don’t have an answer to that.

God just doesn’t give us decoder rings to be able to figure out why everything that’s happened in providence has happened to us. But what we do know though is that God has been at work in our lives from not only before we were born, but throughout all of cosmic history and working all things together for the good for us that we would be conformed into the image of Christ that He might be the first born among many brothers and He knew that we would be in his family, He wanted us in his family, He has actively brought us into his family, and in some way those back stories that we all have, all have some meaning and purpose.

There’s a reason why Jacob is walking with a limp after wrestling with God at the river side. There’s a reason why Joseph is thrown into that pit and ends up being a ruler in Egypt who is able to provide the grain that the Israelites will need, and the other eleven brothers and their tribes would need in order to survive in the land of Canaan in order that through them would come the Christ. In all of those things we don’t know what their meaning is, we don’t know why God permitted those things to happen, but we know that God is Father and we know that God is good and we know that God is sovereign and we know that we are welcome when we are here in Jesus Christ.

So, I think we need to remind each other of that. We need to teach each other that. We, when things start to go wrong or things start to be dark, say “Hey, remember who you are,” just like that family has to do with that kid who was adopted and says “Hey, where’s my birth mom?” and you say, “I don’t know. I don’t know why that happened to you, but here’s what I know: you are my son, you are my daughter, I’m glad you’re here and I’m never going to leave you, I’m never going to forsake you, you are always going to be part of our family.” We need to hear the same thing for those of us who have been adopted into the family of God.

– cross walk

7 scripture verses your daughter needs to hear about modesty

December 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

“But everyone else-” my daughter trailed.

“But you’re not,” I interrupted.

Modesty isn’t only about wearing a sports bra that covers what it’s intended to in it’s entirety, but also behavior and self-perception. A lack of it leaves the door wide open for comparative worry and anxiety, threatening to steal a lot more than innocence. Here are the verses about modesty that your daughter needs to know.

1. “We are God’s handiwork.” (Ephesians 2:10a NIV)

The Greek word “handiwork” translated is “work of art.” My children bring home a lot of messes that they deem “art.” Papers and projects adorn my fridge and paintings and drawings are framed in my bookcase. I frame their messes! God has framed our “mess” with the sacrifice of His son. Jesus chose to die for the imperfect version of all of us. The messes… God’s works of art.

2. “Do not allow this world to mold you into its own image.” (Romans 12:2a The Voice)

Raising a secure daughter in a society full of comparison requires the development of humility, discretion, and constraint. God made us, and Jesus paid our ransom on the cross. A strong sense of who they are and whose they are allows them the ability to look up for assurance instead of around for answers.

3. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

Everyone’s body type, and place in God’s plan, is unique. Overemphasis on “being in shape” can lead to an unhealthy obsession in achieving true happiness through fitness. Ephesians 6:10b (NLV) reminds us to “Be strong with the Lord’s strength.” I don’t doubt the miraculous power of God to make us physically strong, but training our spirits by studying His Word allows God to strengthen and instruct us to be wise beyond our physical capacities. Walking with God daily produces a healthy, balanced life.

4. “Women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with elaborate hair arrangement or gold or pearls or expensive clothing,” (1 Timothy 2:9 AMP)

Jesus attracted attention by who He was, not what He wore. He fed 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-18), walked on water (Matthew 14:22-24), and healed a bleeding woman on His way to raise a girl from the dead (Luke 8). And in those miracles we find a man with gentle and loving character, taking the time to help others before he grieves the death of His cousin. Sensing a woman’s desperation in her touch of his robe.

“Daughter, your faith has healed you-go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

It’s fun to express our personalities, but let’s make sure to note that our faith is the most beautiful thing we wear.

5. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5 NIV)

The humble way in which Jesus, the Son of God, walked the earth will never come naturally to us. I see this struggle in my eight-year-old’s eyes as she forcefully mumbles an apology that isn’t heartfelt to the beloved sister that she wounded.

Jesus was “in very nature God” (Phil 2:6) but “made himself nothing” (Phil 2:7). “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death” (Phil 2:8).

Continue to strive after His example: refusing to take credit for, unnecessarily flaunt, or arrogantly claim answer to any blessing we’ve been gifted by the grace of the cross.

6. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1Peter 5:5)

I once heard a representative for Operation Christmas Child state that the best way to reach the parents in remote and underprivileged countries is through the children. A big part of modesty is swallowed up by the entitlement and privilege that our culture teaches us we’ve earned. If Jesus wasn’t too good to wash His disciples’ feet, (John 13) we can replace the urge to claim status and authority with a heart ready to listen to and serve all walks of life.

7. “It should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4 NIV)

People need to see Jesus when they look at our lives, reactions, wardrobes, and facial expressions. They need to know that it’s okay to live outside of the confines of what the nightly news covers. It’s not about what we tweet or post, but the reality of hardship we endure graciously in the name of the one who saved us.

My prayer for my daughters and yours is the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit to see into my heart, your heart, their hearts… and see a modest woman, truly seeking the Lord every day.

– cross walk

5 things to do when you know your teen is lying

November 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

I always speak the truth and refuse to tell a lie. –Proverbs 8:7 (CEV)

Some claim that the silly gesture of crossing your fingers behind your back to cover up a lie originated with Roman persecution of Christians. To escape death, those who lied about their faith in Christ, just as Peter did, made the sign of the cross behind their back to ask God’s forgiveness.

That sounds more like a fable to me, but it’s a fact that teenagers today seem to be crossing their fingers behind their back more and more. They are cheating and stealing more, too. The latest Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, shows teens are lying more often and more easily than ever. The report indicates an increase in lying, cheating and stealing among youth since 2006, when the report was first published.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they lied recently for financial gain. Sixty-four percent said they cheated on a test during the past year, and 38% had cheated more than once. Eight-three percent said they had recently lied to their parents about something significant.

Concerning theft, 33% of the boys and 25% of the girls in the survey admitted to shoplifting in the past 12 months. Twenty-four percent said they had stolen something from a relative or parent in the same time period, and 20% had stolen something from a friend. Perhaps the most telling bit of data was that 93% said they are “satisfied with their personal ethics and character.”

All teenage behavior, including dishonesty, has a motivating factor. Teens hope to get something out of everything they do. Some will cheat or lie to feel esteemed or to appear perfect at any cost. Some just need to feel that they are never wrong, so they lie to cover it up when they are. Some are untruthful because they fear the consequences from mom or dad for telling the truth. And as far as stealing, kids steal things because they feel entitled to own them, or for the thrill of getting away with it, or just to fit in with their peers.

Let’s not overlook the way our culture glorifies all forms of dishonesty. It’s difficult for one to think of an unimpeachably honest public figure today. Every day we hear of politicians, business leaders, sports figures, police, teachers and judges — people whom we once looked up to as role models — who have been caught in a lie or a cheat or a theft of some kind. And consider the explosion in popularity of so-called “reality” TV shows, whose plot and strategy are usually based on deception and lying in order to gain a monetary prize or fame. It’s a far cry from the most popular TV shows in my teen years, like Bonanza, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie. They may have been corny at times, but they had recurring themes of honesty and good character.

The most popular form of entertainment for teens today is the Internet. Due to its anonymity, deception and fantasy are rife on the Internet. Parents should be concerned that such deception, what I call “digital courage,” can spill over and fuel an attitude of deception in other areas of the teen’s life. So, I tell parents to follow their instincts. Even if there is no obvious cause for concern, they should keep a wary eye on their teen’s online surfing and make it a policy to know all of their teenager’s web passwords. In fact, I recommend parents install good monitoring software to track all of their teen’s Internet activity. Knowing that mom and dad are monitoring will go a long way toward keeping the teen honest in what they see, do and say on the Internet.

High academic expectations can also put a lot of pressure on a teen to cheat. Holding kids to unnecessarily high achievement standards can sometimes pressure them into getting a good grade at any cost. This and social stresses at school are more troubling for kids today than most parents realize. In fact, the Journal of Adolescent Health recently found that the stress of school keeps 68 percent of students awake at night, with 20 percent of them at least once a week. And of course, lack of sleep reduces their ability to think clearly and handle stress, so it becomes a vicious cycle. Could this be pushing more kids to cheat? Possibly.

Dishonesty may seem like a minor issue in comparison to other problems like drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and eating disorders, but it is a vice that parents should never ignore. Dishonesty is rooted in an attitude of disrespect; disrespect for others, disrespect for authority, disrespect for other people’s things, disrespect for your family’s values, and disrespect for oneself. If you ignore dishonest actions by your teen today, you may have to deal with bigger problems later. It won’t usually go away with the mere passage of time. It will reappear at significant stress points later in your child’s life—when they go off to college, get a job, or get married. Getting away with lying, cheating or theft today can lead to a lifetime of dishonesty, and that can land them in real trouble or heartache in the future.

It reminds me of the story some parents recently told me of their immature 18-year-old who had to learn this lesson the hard way. While skateboarding, he and some friends spotted an abandoned, broken-down farm house nearby and decided to go exploring. The boys didn’t know that the old house with no front door had recently been vandalized, nor that the neighbors were on the lookout. Taking some souvenirs of junk they found in the vacant house — things worth no more than a few dollars — they were putting them in the boy’s vehicle when the Sheriff arrived. Long story short, the boy was arrested and charged with felony burglary of a building. Though given probation for his first offense, he learned how difficult it is to survive thereafter with a felony arrest record. No one would hire him for years to come, regardless of the less than sinister circumstances of the “burglary.”

I’ve always said, “Life is hard, and harder if you’re stupid.” Mistakes can cause a heap of trouble for both a teen and his parents, and many of those mistakes begin with some form of dishonesty or disrespect for normal boundaries. Since nothing is more central to a person’s character than honesty, it is important to address dishonesty any time you discover it in your teen. Seek, search, and pry into areas you don’t normally think about in order to uncover and understand the root of it. Do all you can to ensure your teen is truthful in even the smallest things. I tell kids, “If you lie, I will pry. If you hide something, I will seek the truth. If you steal, I’ll make sure you suffer the legal and social consequences before your lying results in a life-long problem.”

If you’re a parent who sees dishonesty creeping into your teen’s talk, texts or website; or if you learn they have cheated or stolen something, today is the day to expose and deal with it. Here are the steps I recommend taking:

1. Briefly describe the dishonest behavior.

2. Tell them how you feel about it and how it is counter to your values.

3. Affirm that you know they can do better.

4. Make them right the wrong, including confessing to whomever was wronged from the dishonesty, cheating or theft.

5. Enforce appropriate consequences and make sure they know that you will be on the lookout for any form of dishonesty in the future.

Parents need to “keep a vigilant eye” if they want to turn the rising tide of dishonesty. Call it an “alert mom or dad,” or an “involved parent,” if you will. Let your teen know that it is your job as a parent to keep your eyes wide open for dishonest behavior, not so you can “catch them doing wrong,” but so that you can keep them from falling into that trap.

And by the way, be sure to model honesty yourself, and make it a habit to be truthful. If you think you’ve hidden dishonesty from them in the past, think again. Teens can read their parents like a book. They don’t miss a thing and they detest hypocrisy. So, if you know you’ve been dishonest in front of your teen, ask their forgiveness, and give yourself some consequences for the bad behavior, so your teen knows how important it is to be honest. Teens need some good role models in regard to honesty. If not you, then who?

– cross walk

3 ways to successfully establish family rules

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

When I was growing up there was one major rule—don’t make mom or dad mad. If we broke that rule, we got whacked when Dad got home. It was a “My way, and there is no highway” kind of arrangement.

That kind of militaristic approach just doesn’t work today. We live in a more relational culture. Most parents today have better relationships with their children than parents did when I was growing up…but while that’s largely a good thing, there is a downside as well. If our teens don’t “buy in” to the rules, the relational approach makes enforcing those rules more difficult.

So, let me share some ideas for successfully creating rules for your household. The earlier you start this process the better. If there’s still time for you to do this while your children are still tweens, it will be easier than if you wait until they’re old enough to drive. If yours is already in the teens, start today. Preferably before the sun goes down.

1. Have your teenager help you establish the rules and consequences.

If you establish the rules unilaterally, especially if your home has been relationally focused, you’ll probably face significant push back from your teen. They aren’t going to understand why they have no say in the process and they’ll be less likely to follow the rules as a result.

Sit down together and discuss what you think behavior in your home should look like. This is a time to turn off the cell phones, the television and the laptop and focus on what you’re doing. Talk about how your family expects to deal with issues like dating, driving, cell phones, church, school work, friends, media . . . the list can go on and on, but be sure to major on the majors. Discuss (don’t dictate) what kinds of behavior fits with your family’s values and which don’t, and include some rules for the adults in the family as well, so the kids don’t think this process is just targeting them. Talk through the reasons behind the rules that you are establishing and get everyone’s opinion about what consequences should be applied for breaking the rules. You’ll be surprised how tough your kids will be on themselves when consequences are being discussed, so you might have to lessen them to be realistic.

In working with thousands of teens over the years, there are some warning signs that point to great trouble ahead. Disrespect and dishonesty are two of those for which violations should have clear and steep consequences, so that your teens know what to expect if they cross one of those lines. So, tackle those first. Never bend on character or moral issues, but allow some slack in other areas so your teen feels there is some give and take.

The point is this, by getting their input in drawing up this document, you are giving them a sense of ownership of the rules and foreknowledge of what consequences to expect. It allows them to weigh the consequences against breaking the rules. So, as you work through this process over several weeks, have the final document typed and printed out so that it is clear for everyone to see.

2. Allow the consequences to play out.

Once you have laid down the rules and the consequences with your children, don’t back down when it comes to enforcing them. Teens are masterful at trying to get exceptions made “just this once.” Parents are often afraid that if they enforce the consequences that have been set they will damage their relationship with their child. The truth is just the opposite. Kids actually want their parents to be consistent, and they can live with the consequences, so let them be involved in setting those consequences. I’m not a big fan of, “I told you so,” but it’s appropriate to remind them when they step over the line that they chose the consequences and will now have to live with them.

Proverbs 19:19 says, “If you rescue [an angry child] once, you will have to do it again.” It’s far better for the consequences to teach them; you don’t want all the teaching of teenagers to come from you. Don’t give in, but don’t give up either. Your child will push against every rule you have and even violate each one at one point or another. So keep at it. Keep letting the consequences work in your favor. And keep giving them unrelenting love as you go through that process with them.

3. Beliefs and values never change; rules do.

Don’t think of your rules as written in stone. That’s one of the nice things about having them on your computer; they can be easily adjusted over time. So check your rules every six months to make sure they still apply to the maturity of your child.

Sometimes parents don’t adjust the rules and they make the mistake of holding a sixteen year old to the same exact rules they had for him as a twelve year old. This can be exasperating for an older teen. I’m not suggesting you let him do things that are wrong. But some things that are procedural can be relaxed as they mature. For instance, bedtime and curfew can be moved to a later hour, more independence and decision making can be transferred, and more responsibility can be added.

There are obviously limits, however. One of the things that I believe pretty strongly is the old saying that nothing good ever happens after midnight. So when our kids got older, we moved their curfew, but we never moved it past midnight. It’s a very positive thing when you show some flexibility. The problem some parents have is that they aren’t willing to change on anything. The world has changed, and we want to be sure we’re only holding on to the things that are worth holding—and not holding on to things just because “that’s the way it was when I was growing up.”

Above all else, I encourage you to work diligently to keep your relationship strong. As you can probably tell, I think rules are really important, but the relationship you have with your child is even more important. Take the time to involve them and help them take ownership of the rules. I think you’ll find the fights decreasing and the relationships and harmony in your home increasing. It’s worth the effort!

– cross walk

Why you should get coffee with Jesus

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

As 2013 was drawing to a close, God had begun to shake my spiritual foundations to the core. I suspect so He could put down new ones.

I had my one goal in place for the upcoming year and was attending a new Bible study that had revolutionized my relationship with Jesus. One night a wonderful lady stood up and gave her testimony about her quiet time with the Lord, and her words left me speechless. When she enters into her quiet time, she sits in her favorite place and visualizes she’s there with Jesus, simply having a conversation with Him. Her place is her front-porch swing, but you can really pick any place that represents peace and calm and open- ness to you. (You can actually do this wherever you are, even if you are on the other side of the world from your special place. Just close your eyes and picture yourself there! That’s the beauty of meditation.)

Why had I never thought of this before? Why had I just always talked at Him and not to Him?

In case the concept of spending quiet time with God is unfamiliar to you (as it was to me for a long time), it’s basically taking time either within your normal prayer time or throughout the day to get silent before God and listen for His voice. The Bible tells us in John 16:13: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (NASB).

The Holy Spirit wants to talk to us. But He is a gentleman. He will not attempt to compete with the noise around us, or shout to be heard over Netflix, or force us to listen at all, if we are determined not to.

Think about it. If you had a friend who was always talking, talking, talking but never stopped to take a breath and listen to what you had to say, would the friendship last very long? Our relationship with God is much the same way. It can be either as shallow as we settle for or as deep as we are willing to go.

Well, I decided I was tired of the kiddie pool. I wanted to go deeper with Him. I wanted to know Him more.

I wanted to know Him all I could.

The place where I began to visualize myself talking to Jesus was in front of my fireplace with a cup of coffee. And that is where my quiet time is spent to this day. Warmth to me fosters communion and closeness and conversation. I sit by my little fireplace with my cup of coffee and picture Him there with me and invite Him to join me in my quiet time and tell me anything He wants me to know. Most days don’t start until I’ve had my fireside chat with Jesus. My prayer time has never been so rich or so sweet. We don’t hurry, Jesus and me. We take our time. Sometimes I talk first; sometimes I simply wait. It’s becoming easier and easier to close my eyes and see Him sitting there beside me, coffee mug in hand.

Sometimes He speaks to my spirit. Sometimes we sit silently. I tell Him funny things. I tell Him serious things. I ask Him questions. Sometimes He answers. Sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes I picture us toasting our coffee mugs together in celebration when some- thing really good happens.

But whatever we do, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful and uncertain and even a little vulnerable, inviting Jesus to join me in the midst of whatever mess I’ve created this week. It’s all about patience and childlike faith and a willingness to wait.

As are most worthwhile endeavors in life.

BEAUTIFUL CERTAINTY:

I’m learning God wants to speak to us, and we have to offer Him the beautiful silence to do so. When I quiet my heart and my thoughts and just draw close to Him, I begin to hear His still, small voice in my spirit. Today I urge you to stop talking and stop asking and stop begging and stop requesting and just get silent in His presence and listen. Who knows? His still, small voice might just blow your mind.

– cross walk

10 lessons learned from superhero movies

November 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

One of my fondest memories as a child was the night the very first X-Men movie came out. I was only thirteen at the time, but like many boys that age I loved superheroes. The X-Men in particular were my favorite; a group of rag-tag misfits who protected the world with amazing powers. My parents had always been careful about what I was allowed to watch, so it came as a complete surprise when my Dad suggested the two of us go see it opening night. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that mediocre movie would go on to shape my life in some surprising ways.

Fast-forward a couple years, and superhero films have now become a mainstay of today’s media. For the most part they’re still campy, action-filled, thrill-rides, but like that first X-Men movie, they can be important in their own way. This is especially true for Christian families with young children. Aside from being a great way families can bond, here are ten lessons learned from Superhero movies.

What about you? Do you see spiritual lessons in superhero films? Be sure to check out CrosswalkMovies.com for our reviews of this month’s superhero entries – Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok.

1. Real Courage Demonstrates Compassion

In Captain America there’s a scene where Steve Rodgers sits down with a friendly scientist and asks why he was chosen to become Captain America. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, in fact he came in last for almost every test. The doctor explains that strength and bravery are not the same thing. A strong man can become a bully, but a brave man remembers compassion. It’s a lesson many people have sadly forgotten.

As C.S. Lewis once said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality”. This life is filled with battlefields. Sometimes courage means protecting others from violence and cruelty, but other times, it’s daring to reach out with a compassionate hand

2. Your Actions Can Inspire Others

Everybody knows the origin of Batman. After witnessing the murder of his parents at a young age, billionaire Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl to battle crime under the cover of night. What few remember is how Batman wanted more than to just beat up criminals, he wanted to become a symbol which would inspire others. Furthermore, at the end of The Dark Knight, we see he succeded. When the Joker tries to turn the people of Gotham against themselves, they choose to save one another instead.

Our actions, big or small, can have a profound effect on those around us. Simply being a part of someone’s life can lead them to places they would never have thought to go. This is especially true for Christians, who are encouraged to live out the Gospel of Christ alongside our friends and neighbors. When you act in such a way that honors the Great Commission, others will takes notice.

3. We Can Overcome Prejudice

As mutants, the X-Men live in a world which fears and despises them. Of all the dangerous villains they’ve encountered throughout the years its clear their greatest enemy is a creeping prejudice hiding within the hearts of mankind. It would be simple for the X-Men to lash out with their powers in the face of such bigotry and discrimination, but the students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters have chosen a different path instead. These heroes believe we can overcome our differences by striving to understand each other, and they fight to protect both mutant and human alike.

We exist in a combative and polarizing age. Fear often splits us down the middle, and even among believers there is an intense suspicion of anyone who doesn’t share our values. When surrounded by such overwhelming hostility it’s tempting to close ranks and view everyone outside as “the enemy”, but that is not how God commanded us to live. Rather, we are told to love our neighbors and meet adversity with courage. 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” and it is through this power we overcome hatred.

4. Women Can Be Strong Too

Comic book movies are typically seen as a male pastime, but the Defenders of Justice have more than a few women within their ranks. In fact, while some areas of modern media are still laboring to bring us positive depictions of women, superhero movies have become trailblazers in gender equality. Where would The Avengers be without Black Widow? Or the Justice League without Wonder Woman? More than once it’s been a superheroine who swoops in and saves the day.

Characters like these show girls everywhere that they can be strong too. They can be smart, and driven, and passionate about helping others. For Christians, superheroines serve as terrific parallels to Biblical figures like Deborah (Judges 4), Esther (Esther 1), or Rizpah (2 Samuel 21), who demonstrated great courage and faith while under fire. Whatever their talents may be, women everywhere have the potential to be legendary.

5. Don’t Be Defined By What You Were

More than a few superheroes began their journey on the wrong side of the tracks. In Guardians of the Galaxy, audiences got to watch as a group of ne’er-do-wells discovered the hero inside each of them. Sure, they’d all made mistakes and were a little rough around the edges, but when the galaxy needed heroes, they stepped up and delivered. By the end of the film, their past crimes had been whipped away and they were free to start their lives anew. That sounds an awful lot like grace if you ask me.

In a way, we’re all a bit like the Guardians; broken, hurt, and struggling to make up for our past failures. Yet the cross stands as constant reminder that we aren’t defined by our past. As the Bible teaches, once we have accepted Christ we are a new creation, “The old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Who knew you’d find that in a movie about a talking raccoon

6. We Are Stronger Together

What’s better than a lone superhero? A whole team of superheroes, that’s what! Individually the members of the Justice League are all very impressive. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, Aquaman is King of the seas, The Flash is the fastest man alive, etc. But when united together, they become a part of something far greater than themselves. The Justice League has accomplished feats no single hero could reach on their own. By combining their gifts and abilities, they have learned to build each other up while standing strong against the forces of chaos.

It may sound cheesy, but the Church is supposed to operate a lot like the Justice League. It’s made up of Christians with different spiritual gifts and abilities, called together for the purpose of implementing Christ’s justice and grace on Earth. Alone, we can only achieve so much, but together, we can do the impossible! The Bible encourages believers to, “…agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). For together we greater than the sum of our parts.

7. You Don’t Need to Be Great to Be Good

In the grand pantheon of Marvel heroes, the Defenders are what you’d call “low-stakes players”. They don’t fight galactic tyrants or interdimensional beings, they stop muggers and keep neighborhoods safe from crime. This may seem trivial when compared to the likes of Thor or Iron Man, but just because the Defenders operate on a smaller scale doesn’t make their actions any less meaningful. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have all rescued innocent lives from danger. They may never reach the heights of an Avenger, but these heroes understand you don’t need to be great to be good.

Some Christians look at their life and wonder if they’re really doing enough to serve God. If you’re not digging wells in Africa, or building houses for the homeless, can you even call yourself a follower of Christ? In reality, most of us will never achieve this level of spiritual commitment, and that’s okay. Small acts of faith can still play a significant role in the Kingdom of Heaven. Volunteering for Sunday school, helping a neighbor in need, treating others with kindness and grace, all of this can point others toward God. Always remember, you don’t need to be great to be good.

8. There is Value in Our Differences

Aquaman has always been an odd character, even in a universe filled with colorful heroes. Unlike the other members of the Justice League his powers work best underwater. His Atlantean heritage gives him a different perspective of surface life than his companions, and experience has taught him what it means to be an outsider. Yet nobody else can do what he can, and that’s what makes Aquaman so valuable. His unique gifts have become a vital part of the team.

The Bible teaches us that we are all part of the body of Christ and we all possess certain gifts.

“To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:8-9

Every gift is different, as is every person, and that’s a good thing. There is value in our diversity because it allows us to learn from each other and see this life through many eyes. Without these precious differences, the body of Christ would be paralyzed.

9. It’s Not about You

Dr. Stephen Strange begins his journey as a brilliant but self-centered surgeon, until a freak accident leaves him without the use of his hands. Desperate to reclaim his former glory, Strange seeks out the enigmatic figure known as the Ancient One in hopes of receiving healing. Instead, the Ancient One begins instructing Strange in the mystic arts. Though Strange excels in his training, he soon reverts back to his old, narcissistic habits. This eventually leads the Ancient One to confront Strange with a startling message, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all; it’s not about you.”

The first and simplest lesson we learn as believers is that it’s not about us, it’s about God. So many people come to Christ looking for healing, direction, or comfort, only to discover the plans of God are radically different from the plans of man. Like Strange, it’s tempting to turn our focus inward and think only of ourselves, but God commands us to put away selfish desires. As Jesus once said long ago, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)

10. The Power of Self-Sacrifice

Sacrifice has always been a running theme in comic book films, a common trope being the lone hero who willingly puts their life in danger to protect others. Look at Man of Steel, where Superman sacrifices his freedom to protect the people he loves. Look at Thor, where the humbled hero shields his friends despite being powerless. In the same way, Christians are called to “take up our cross and follow Jesus” (Matthew 16:24), sacrificing our dreams, our reputations, maybe even our lives for the sake of the Gospel. That being said, these films also demonstrate that self-sacrifice is not the same for everyone.

For some, it means standing up for what you believe regardless of the cost. For others, it means refusing to succumb to your inner darkness. In a few cases it even means admitting when you were wrong and seeking forgivness. What matters is that all selfish motives are left behind. As Corrie Ten Boom once sagely stated, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

– cross walk

6 simple (but life changing) money habits

November 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

We’ve all heard it many times: It’s not how much you earn but how you spend what you earn that counts. Or how about this formula for financial success: Spend less than you make and do it over a long period of time.

So why are such simple principles so hard to live by? Why are they easier said than done?

The apostle Paul was very familiar with the struggles we face today as we attempt to wisely manage the resources God entrusts to us. Listen to Paul’s words from the book of Romans: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (>Romans 7:15).

Do you feel the same way when it comes to making financial decisions? Are you struggling with regrets, as you look back at mistakes and bad financial choices you have made? If so, don’t despair—there really is hope at the end of the tunnel.

Acquiring sound financial behavior is a journey, and you can begin by changing one thing, one habit at a time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and making smart financial decisions, and seeing the results of those decisions, won’t happen overnight either.

So what are some simple changes you can make that will have a big impact on not only your pocket book but also on you as an individual?

Recognize that all you have is really…well…not yours. You are a manager of God’s resources. 1 Chronicles 29:11 tells us “Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord…”

Understand that God expects you to manage His resources wisely. As you are faithful with little, He’ll entrust you with more…as He deems appropriate. 1 Chronicles 29:12 tells us that wealth comes from Him, and Him alone.

Find out where the money is going every month. Track ALL of your spending for 30 to 60 days. It will be a very telling exercise. After all, you can’t get to where you want to be if you don’t know where you are right now. Proverbs 27:23 tells us, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds…”

Make a PLAN. This is where you or you and your spouse sit down and decide how every dollar will be spent each month. You can use a simple Excel spreadsheet and list all of the “categories” you spend money on monthly (home, utilities, food, debt, and so forth). If you enjoy technology, the Mvelopes® budgeting system is a great free tool to help you make a plan and stick with it.

STOP using credit. Make a deal with yourself to wait 30 days before purchasing items that would require using debt. For some this may be a hard habit to break. It will require doing without, saying NO, and learning to be content. I promise you, the payoff is well worth it!

SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. There is really no way around it. If you want to break the debt cycle, you have to learn how to be a saver. If you don’t, then any emergency or unexpected life event will drive you deeper into debt. So make a commitment to set aside even as little as $30 to $50 a month. “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has” (Proverbs 21:20).

Often we keep going in the wrong direction because we simply don’t know what that first step in the right direction is. The financial problems may seem so overwhelming, and you may be looking for complicated solutions to solve your complicated problems.

Stop looking. Start trusting that God’s simple, ancient wisdom is the solution. So here it is again, in six simple steps:

  • Recognize that He is the owner.
  • Accept your responsibility as a manager.
  • Track ALL of your spending.
  • Make a plan.
  • Stop using credit—apply the 30-day rule for purchases.
  • Become a saver.

– cross walk

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