Praying for Your Family

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What’s up team?  We’re in week three of our February theme of relationships and I hope by now you’ve gotten to have some good conversations about the greatest relationships in your life.  No earthly relationship is more important than the ones we build at home.  So I hope you’re being intentional about the time you invest in your spouse and kids.  This week, we’re talking again about or families, but in a slightly different way.

We’re gonna talk about how we pray for them.

I’m not going to waste any breath on the importance of prayer.  You guys know that already.  You’ve seen the power and difference it can make.  But how many of us really devote time to praying for our family?  Now I’m not talking about the generic, “God bless my family” or “God, take care of my family.”  That prayer is weak.  And if I hear it, I call it out.  Seriously.  I really do.  Every night, we pray together as a family and we take turns leading it.  Just the other night, Owen was tired and gave one of those half-hearted prayers.  And without even waiting for him to finish, I interrupted and blurted out, “Weak!”  It led to a short, but good conversation about what we give to God.  Do we give Him our best or do we give Him our leftovers?  And when we pray, are we having a conversation or are we just saying words.  A good litmus test is asking yourself this question: would anyone enjoy this conversation?  If it’s not good enough for a friend, why would we offer it up to God?

…I’m getting off track.  Anyway…

So often, when we pray for our family, we’ll pray generalities.  Keep them safe.  Keep them happy.  (Like safety and happiness are God’s ultimate concern for us).  But our prayers often look like a list of things we want.  And so often, it’s hard to pray this way.  Because we wonder, does this honor God?  Could this move His heart?  Am I even moved by what I’m praying?

A couple weeks ago, we had a conversation as a staff about bold prayers.  What they look like and why we don’t pray them enough.  And one of the things that was brought up was that we often don’t pray boldly because we’re afraid they won’t be answered and we don’t know if it’s what God desires.  And that led to another cool conversation about prayer that I want to share with you.

Of course we want our kids to be safe and happy.  Of course we want them to grow.  We want them to have good relationships, we want them to be challenged, …fill in whatever blank you want here.  But what does God want?  How can I pray God’s will for my child when I’m not even sure what God’s will is for me?

One of the greatest things that we can do is pray scripture over our family.  Because here’s the cool thing with that: it always honors God.  We don’t have to question, “does God want this?”  They’re His words!  It’s what He’s telling us He desires for us!  So when we pray scripture over our kids, we’re not asking God for things that He may or may not want.  We’re asking for things that God delights to give!  We’re not strong-arming God into getting our way, we’re asking for His will to be done.

So thanks to the help of Pastor Jeff, here’s a list of prayers that God delights to answer.  There’s one for your spouse and one for your kids.  And I encourage you to make this a part of your daily prayers.  That every morning, you cover your family with prayer, not just prayer that benefits them, but also honors God.  And watch how God will move as you do this.  Bonus points to the parents who also pray these over their kids’ future spouses!  It’s never too early!  And feel free to copy and paste this.  Print it out and put it on your nightstand.  Or bookmark this page so you can access it easily every morning.  But if we say we believe in the power of prayer, let’s put our money where our mouth is.  Nothing has the power to benefit our family  more than this.  So join me and lets get after it!


17 Prayers for your spouse:

Pray For His/Her Strength  “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7)

Pray For Increased Faith  “And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain,‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” (Matthew 21:21)

Pray For His/Her Peace  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Pray For His/Her Work  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Pray For Encouragement  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

Pray For Freedom From Fear  “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Pray For His/Her Health  “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2)

Pray For Self-Control  “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28)

Pray For Grace  “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15)

Pray For Confidence  “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)

Pray For His/Her To Recognize Her Purpose  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Pray For His/Her Needs  “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Pray For His/Her Influence  “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)

Pray For Transformation  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Pray For Sexual Intimacy  “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Pray For Rejuvenation  “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Pray For A Humble Spirit  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2)


8 Prayers for your kids

Bless and keep them throughout the day  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Let your light will shine through them  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Give them a spirit of power, love, and sound mind  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

They will not be anxious about anything  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

They will know that You are with them  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

They will grow in the grace and knowledge of God  “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

They will stand for what is right  “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Ephesians 6:14).

They will know Jesus Christ more intimately  “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

 

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This one’s for our kids…

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Kids are amazing!  I had no idea what I was getting into when I became a dad.  They’ve taught me so much about myself and about growth and about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  And it never seems to stop.  They’re just always showing me new things.  And even when they’re not showing me new things, God is showing me new things through them.  I can’t count them times I’ve been disciplining the boys for doing something and God suddenly says, “I hope you’re listening to what you’re saying.”  And through their bad behavior, God sharpens me.  It’s so crazy.

And now that the students in my first couple youth ministries are getting married and in the baby-making stage, I always say the same thing when they ask me for advice: “there’s nothing that I can say to prepare you”.  And it’s so true!  The only way we become better parents is through being parents.  Books might help.  Advice might help.  Blogs might help.  But to be a good parent, you’ve just got to be a parent.

One of the cool things about being a youth pastor is getting the opportunity to see what’s in store long before it gets here.  When I was new in ministry, I’d be shocked by the things some kids are doing.  Now, nothing surprises me.  Seriously, it’s almost scary the things I hear that don’t make me bat an eye anymore.  By the time my boys get to be teens, I’ll have seen everything a hundred times already.  I’m not even sure they could invent new ways to mess up.  It’s always the same, playing on repeat.  The Bible says that there are no new problems under the sun.  We’ve seen it before.  We’ll see it again.  Just wait.

But when talking to teens about their parents these last several years, certain themes keep coming up over and over.  And since most of our kids are still young, I feel like we can pull something away from each statement, so that the same might never be said by ours.  And if they’ve been said before, we can gain a little wisdom in how to grow going forward  So in the name of gleaning some wisdom from our ministry and growing our kids, lets look at some things I hear from students all the time…

My parents are so out of touch.

What do they  mean by that?  I think the answer may surprise some of us.  Because guess what, our kids could care less if we know how to dab.  Their view of us has nothing to do with acronyms they use while texting.  They don’t care if we know the newest songs or have seen the trailers to new movies.  They don’t care.  And so we don’t necessarily need to be in the middle of pop culture.  So stop watching MTV and take TMZ off your list of shows you’re recording.  You don’t need them.  Perhaps stop dancing while chaperoning their formals though.  For everyone’s sake.

What these kids are saying is that their parents are out of touch with them.  And to be honest, most of the time, they’re right.  We parents have a way of thinking that if it’s not on fire, it doesn’t need our attention.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.  So often, we truly are out of touch with our kids.

Here’s a test:  What’s your kid’s favorite show?  Who’s their best friend?  What did they talk with their friends about last weekend?  What are they excited about this week?  What are they nervous about this week?  What prayer request has been on their list these last couple weeks?

Hopefully you did pretty good answering those questions.  Maybe you did awful.  But here’s the even scarier part: it only gets harder.  When kids are young, they’ll help you out.  They’ll tell you everything unprovoked.  Later on, you’ll have to pry such simple things from them.  And they might even act like they don’t want you to know about them.  But in my time in youth ministry, I can tell you with absolute certainty, that teens desperately want to be known by their parents.  They want so badly to be understood.  But so often they’re distant.  So often they hold things in.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.  Because statement number two that I always hear is…

My parents only love me because they have to.

Maybe they say my parents only take care of me or my parents only spend time with me.  But the sentiment is always the same.  It’s because they have to.

“That’s not fair,” all the parents cry as one.  But take a step back and think about it.  They are almost completely without responsibility.  Sure, we give them chores and rules.  But they’re really not completely accountable for anything.  They don’t pick out cars and make loan and maintenance payments.  They don’t make a budget, buy a house, and pick out a mortgage plan.  They don’t have kids of their own they have to grow into adults.  They have school.  That’s as close as it comes.  And while school is important, you and I both know from living on this side of it, that life in school truly effects very little of our current life outside of school.

My point is that they don’t have very many things they have to do.  They don’t understand the responsibility of paying a mortgage or putting new tires on the car.  They don’t get that we do these things, not out of obligation, but out of care.  They only have one responsibility: school.  And they despise it.  So when they recognize that you are their responsibility, they assign that same emotion to it.  You care for them because you have to.

See where this is going?  They see responsibility as awful.  We see it as a privilege.  We want to own a home.  We want to have a nice vehicle.  We want to love our children.  Those are responsibilities, but they’re ones that we take on with gladness.  Remember how elated you were when your babies were born?  So do I!  But they don’t.  They know that they require money, rides to and from  everything, grief over disobedience, on and on we could go.  But they recognize they’re a pain.  They don’t recognize that they’re our joy.

So how do we remedy this?  Well, I’d like to say it’s by doing something simple.  But truthfully, it’s a long process.  And the process is this: allow them to witness you choosing them.  Not just once, but over and over again.  Let them see that you had an opportunity to go out with the guys, but you chose to go to play a pickup game of ball with them instead.  Let them see that you could have seen a movie with the girls, but you stayed home to watch a movie with them instead.  Let them see that you had a big dinner planned, but you did frozen pizzas and a couch fort at their request instead.  Let them see you repeatedly choose them.  And make sure they see it.  Make sure they hear it too.  Tell them that you chose them.  Tell them that your time is best spent with them.  Be careful in doing this though, because when done wrong, you’ll only exacerbate the problem.  They’ll think that you’re sacrificing for them.  And while there may be truth to it, the purpose of the whole thing is to show them that they are not only more important, they are more desired.  They need to understand that you’d rather have a relationship with them than any other person, outside your spouse.

So show them and tell them.  But be sure they see and hear your heart, not just your sacrifice.

My parents don’t care.

Here’s where we’ve gotta own up.  Because most of the time this isn’t just an errant thought.  It’s taught to them.  By you.

Can I be honest and say this is where I struggle the most?  I’m absolutely terrified of this one.  Growing up, my uncle was a pastor.  And his youngest son, my cousin, was my best friend.  But he would always comment that his dad loved the church more than he loved him.  If Oz or Jax ever said that, I’d be devastated.  The scary thing is they’ve come close.  When you put shoes on Jax, he says, “church, church”.  His assumption is that if we’re not at home, we’re at church.  Life isn’t spontaneous or joyful.  It’s lived in one of two places. Owen has said on more than one occasion that I’m never home or I’m always working.  This isn’t their fault, it’s mine!  I’ve shown them, through the use of my time, that some things are more important than them.  And I would tell you all day long it’s not.  I would sacrifice anything for those guys.  Literally, I would give up anything.  I’d walk away from my ministry right now if I needed to.  But I doubt they know that.

I don’t think I’m alone here though.  Actually I know I’m not.  I hear that said all the time.  And to be fair, sometimes it’s completely undeserving.  They’re hurt or want attention or something.  And they just say it to be proved wrong.  But most of the time, it’s just an observation of theirs.  They make time for what’s important to them.  So should you.  “But it’s harder for adults!”  You’re right.  But it’s also more important.

I’m reading a book right now that I’d recommend to anyone.  It’s short and you can read it in a day.  It was written by Andy Stanley, one of my favorite pastors.  He was the guy in the clip last week on marriage.  He’s awesome.  But he wrote this book called Choosing to Cheat.  And the premise of the book is that in life, everything and everyone wants our time.  And not just some time, as much as it can get it’s greedy hands on.  No matter how great we are, our boss always wants more.  No matter how effective we are, our ministry always wants more.  Everyone always wants more.  And when it comes down to it, we need to learn that someone’s gotta be cheated.  God forgive us if we choose to cheat our family.  The last people in the world I want to feel cheated is my family.

But that means we’ve gotta be intentional.  We can’t just hope.  We have to choose who gets the best of us.  So often it’s not our kids.  If you want to have any voice in their lives, make the change now.  Because our words are useless.  They’ll believe what we live, not what we say.

And while we’re on the topic of balancing work and play, there’s yet another way we need to balance work and play.  Some parents only discipline.  Some parents only act like friends.  The goal isn’t choosing the right one, it’s choosing both and finding balance.  I lean more heavily on discipline.  I’m pretty hard on my boys.  I need to look for ways to play more.  Some parents are like me and they discipline and not play.  They’re going to raise sad, distant kids.  Some parents only play and don’t want to discipline.  They’re going to raise horrible entitled monsters.  Finding that balance is just as hard as balancing anything else in life.  But we can’t hide from it because it’s scary.  We’ve gotta face this head on.

So these are the three most common things I hear from our teens.  Will I one day hear them from your’s?

I encourage you to take a moment and pray.  Ask God where your parenting needs to be more intentional.  He’s probably been telling you the whole time you’ve been reading.  But join me in prayer and see where God leads you.  Then have the wisdom and courage to do it.  No matter how hard it is.  For the sake of your kids.

God, thank you for my family.  Thank you for my kids.  I love them so much.  I understand that they’re on loan from you.  I understand that you’ll one day ask for them back.  God, in the meantime, help me to be a good steward of them.  Help me to invest in them and grow them so they live a life that honors you.  Lead me to lead them.  Dad, I don’t know what I’m doing here.  So I submit to your plan and will follow your leading.  I’m listening…

The one about the weirdness of growing up…

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You ever traveled?  I’m not talking hit the beach or visit the lake.  I’m talking traveled.  Have you ever packed your bags, jumped on a plane, and gone somewhere completely foreign to you?

Take yourself somewhere.

Right now.

Lets try out Paris.  I’ve always wanted to go.  Well, kinda.  In my mind, France has always had this duality of wicked awesome and utterly pretentious.  Like I can sip coffee on the sidewalk of a two hundred year old cafe, but I’ll have to put up with the angry Parisian chain smoker next to me, blowing intentionally in my face and uttering french expletives because every fiber of my being screams “MURICA!”.

Anyway…

Picture it.  You step off the plane and are greeted by signs you can’t read.  You exchange your dollars for euros, which are entirely too colorful to be real, and step out in the street.  Everyone walks like they know where they’re going, except you.  You stop in the middle of the street to get your bearings and create a roadblock that leads to lots of bumps, sideways glances, and not so quiet mutters.  You realize for the first time just how out of place you are and note just how alone you feel.  You line up for a cab and finally one arrives.  You step up to get in and are elbowed by a dozen other people wanting the same seat.  Having no way to protest, you just step aside bewildered.  After an extended time of holding your heavy luggage, having your toes trampled, and a close call with a street sweeper, you get a ride.  You clamber in the backseat and try to tell the driver where you want to go.  After more dirty looks and breathy mutterings, you’re finally on the same page.  You’re watching dreamily out the window, passing shops, cafes, monuments and for a moment, you’re euphoric; a brave traveler in a whole new world – until you start getting further and further from town.  You thought you booked a hotel in the heart of the city, only to find you’ve got your own room at Le’ Craphole hotel, tucked behind an alley with flashing neon lights and loitering drunks.  You somehow manage to get your key, after more than a little struggle.  You make it to your room, go to charge your phone, and realize the plug doesn’t fit.  You mutter your own expletives, all in English, and decide you need a bite to eat.  The first thing you pass is a small bakery.  What’s more French than a croissant?  You go in, order your food, and sit at a small table in the center of the room.  You look to your left and your heart stops.  You’ve spotted the most attractive frenchy France has ever seen.  Your eyes meet before you can look away.  You want to chat, but you’re so dumbfounded and nervous, you just spend the rest of the wait staring at your lap.  You’re finally freed from your navel gazing by an angry little frenchwoman who brings you something totally not what you ordered.  Now you’re arguing with the shopkeeper, who keeps throwing sharp little french words over your shoulder to the ever growing crowd around you, explaining to them that the stupid American doesn’t know what he’s doing… at least you think.  Once again, you’re alone, confused, embarrassed, the focus of undesired attention, and agitating the masses.

Are you uncomfortable yet?

Now think back to middle school and tell me the difference.

Through childhood, we parent a child to function in the world we create for them.  We tell them our rules, we give them our best practices, we teach them our language, we begin their basic education, and we allow them to practice them all in the safety of our little circles and under our watchful eyes.  We try to build their skills and their confidence and tell them they’re doing a good job if they can navigate our world.

Then middle school hits.  They’re no longer in the world we created for them.  And they’re told that if they want to survive this new world, they’ll need new rules, new best practices, even a whole new language.

But they’re starting to look grown.  They can hold a conversation with us.  They’re becoming much more physically able.  And so we start treating them like adults, completely ignoring the fact they they’re essentially babies, learning to navigate all over again.

And God love them, they try.  They try to find where they fit and where they thrive.  They try to learn what they think and what they believe.  They even try to make an impact and a name for themselves.  Sadly, it usually goes something like this…

Is that not the epitome of life in middle school?

My point in all this babble is this: you did a great job helping your kid navigate your world.  But your preteen is no longer in your world.  You need to have the same patience, compassion, and composure leading them now as you did way back then.  And regardless what they say and how they act, they want your help.  You were so gentle and encouraging when your little baby was learning to walk – wobbling through your living room with shaky legs and wide eyes.  You were always there with a kind word and a kiss to heal the boo-boo’s.  Keep it up.  Because they’re not just another year older.  They’re not just one grade higher.  They’re learning to walk all over again.  And they still very much need you.  Don’t give up on you.  Don’t give up on them.  Your love, grace, discipline, and persistence brought them this far.  Keep it up and it will take them further than you can imagine.

The one about guarding our words with our kids…

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The image above is from the most disgusting video I’ve ever seen in my life.  I thought about posting the video, but couldn’t stomach it.  I came across it on Facebook.  I don’t know why I clicked play, but I wish to God I hadn’t.  The video is of this lady abusing her small child.  It starts with hitting her with a pillow, moves on to slapping her face, then pinching her legs, and at one point even kicking her.  And all throughout, this little girl is trying to get close to her mother.  To touch her, as you can see above.  To crawl on her lap.  To be comforted by her.  And the mother just turns her away, only to hurt her more.  This video absolutely wrecked me.  I couldn’t stop seeing it in my head.  I couldn’t stop praying that God would do something for this little girl.  It’s unbelievable that this child wanted so badly to be comforted by the one doing the hurting.

But that’s how kids are.  They love their parents with a love that doesn’t make sense.  Need proof?  Just start talking to people.  You’ll hear stories of grown adults trying to win their parents approval their whole lives.  Of physically or emotionally abused kids, who grown to adulthood, still make excuses for what was done to them.

That’s why I hate it when I hear parents say things like, “Well my kid loves me.  I must be doing something right.”  Sadly, that is not the case.  We can put our kids through hell and they’ll still love us and seek our attention and approval.  And it’s got nothing to do with how you treat them.  It has everything to do with the love God puts in our hearts for the people raising us.

So we must pay very close attention to our words and actions.

First things first: If you have ever struck your child out of anger, stop everything and talk to someone.  Find a counselor that can help you with your anger and how you project that on your kids.  I’m not talking about spanking.  I’m not that guy.  But when you seek to hurt your kids, something is off.  So if that’s you, don’t even bother reading on.  Take action to end this action.

I want to ask the question of how guarded we are with our words.  Our words can be so damaging when we choose to just throw them around.  And these words we throw around so carelessly aren’t received nearly as lightly as how we use them.

Last week, I was convicted of this very thing.  Owen absolutely loves me.  He always wants to be with me, doing what I’m doing, saying what I’m saying.  So on this particular night, I was watching him ride his bike.  We live in a neighborhood, but the road itself is considered a county road, even though there are probably close to a hundred houses in a series of cul-de-sacs, which means the speed limit on our road is 50mph.  Add to that the fact that so many people live there, there’s always cars flying by.  So we watch carefully.  And Owen has been taught… maybe it’s more accurate to say that we’ve beat into his head… to watch for cars.  Anyway, Owen is in the driveway and I’m on the porch and little OZ man just goes right into the street.  Didn’t even look around.  Not once.  Well nothing happened, because there were no cars around.  But that scared me and I was seeing red.  So I call Owen over to me, asked what he was thinking, and then uttered the words “you acted so stupid!”  Immediately, I felt bad.  I tried to cover it by telling him that he was a smart kid, but still found myself saying he acted very stupid.  In my adult mind, I told myself that I wasn’t calling him stupid, just his actions.  But what did his 6 year old brain hear?  I’m willing to bet the farm, he heard one word: stupid.  And that’s what I said to him.  This man that is supposed to love him, guide him, cherish him, and lead him.  I can try to kid myself and play the whole “Well I actually said” game, but the only thing that matters is what he heard.  And I saw firsthand what he heard.  As his head bowed, his shoulders slumped, and I watched the joy leave his face.  He heard “stupid”.  And that’s all.

I had such a check in my spirit.  That’s not the dad I want to be.  That’s not the word I want him to hear.  There are a hundred ways I could have handled the situation, but my fear and anger led me to saying words that hurt him, not guide him.

But how often do we, as parents, play this game?  We are angry or afraid.  And we convey that with hurtful words, but we mask them.  “You dress like a slut”.  “You’re acting like an ass-hole”.  “You don’t care about anyone but yourself”.  And we get our point across loud and clear.  All the while damaging the ones we love most.

James, the brother of Christ, talks about the tongue in the third chapter of his book.  He says it is untamed.  That it is full of deadly poison.  That it is a fire, capable of doing great damage.  This mouth that is made to honor God and bless others, instead is often used to curse God and tear down others.  And though it should always be used to love, guide, and encourage our children, so often it is the source of hurt.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t call our kids out for bad behavior?  Of course not!  But there are ways to correct our children without tearing them down.  Harsh words when spoken can’t be taken back.  It’s like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube once it’s been squeezed.  Once it’s out there, it’s out there.  And even immediate apologies can’t pull the sting out from the wound.

So use my failure as an opportunity to reflect.  How can we communicate a lesson without using harsh words.  How do we speak correction without speaking anger?  How do we lead them and build them?  Redeeming a situation and restoring our kids never involves tearing them down.  How do we balance discouraging the action with encouraging the child?

I want Oz and Jax to hear words of affirmation from me.  I want to be a source of love, encouragement, and empowerment.  If I’m half the man I should be, I can figure out how to do that without bullying and hurting a child.

The one about falling short of perfect parenting…

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Last night my Blackhawks lost game 7 of the Western Conference Championship.  With just one ugly shot, our chances of another Stanley Cup are gone.  We (and I use possessive nouns to describe the team because, as any avid sports fan will tell you, we’re part of the franchise) had the lead all throughout the game.  The finals were in sight and it was ours to lose.  And we lost.  In one second of a sudden death overtime.

In every sport, the goal is always the same: to win a championship.  If a team isn’t playing to win, there’s no point in playing.  And it doesn’t matter how far you get in the playoffs.  Falling a little short of the goal is still falling short of the goal.  It’s failing.  It’s one more year of not doing exactly what we set out to do.

So there I sat, at a table in Applebees.  Dejected.  With a good friend sitting next to me.  Also dejected.  What do we do when it doesn’t work out?  When we set out for a purpose and fall short?

I’m one of those guys who tends to go all in.  It’s everything or nothing.  And that attitude permeates into every facet of life.  From ministry to parenting to whatever.  I give everything, so I demand perfection.  And I parent very intentionally.  I take advantage of teaching moments.  I speak to him the way I appreciate being spoken to.  But because I’m far from perfect, I’ll sometimes miss a teaching opportunity.  And I’ll beat myself up over it.  Like that one moment is forever gone and the lesson will never be learned.  Or maybe I speak to him like a child.  And I hate that!  I refuse to speak to him like a lesser person because he’s capable of understanding and responds so much better when spoken to respectfully.  But I’m tired.  Maybe not paying attention.  Maybe living somewhere else, besides the moment I’m in.  And I speak to him flippantly, only to hate myself later for it.  Like this one circumstance will damage our relationship forever.

What I’m trying to say is that I try really really hard, but I’m not perfect.  I wonder how many people face that same problem.  And when my imperfection rears its’ ugly face again, I beat myself up.  I feel like a failure.  I’m ashamed of myself for getting it wrong again! And I put one day’s failures on top of another day’s failures and sometimes I begin to wonder how badly I’m screwing up my kids.  Like they’re going to grow up into half people, who breath through their mouths, run into walls, and drool.

And so I read books, written by people who don’t have my kids.  Whose personalities and quarks they know nothing about.  And I ask other parents.  And as it turns out, every other parent is just as fearful that their mistakes are screwing up their own kids.  And I’ve found a very valuable truth in this process: that the parents who don’t think they’re messing up are the ones who are messing up the most.  Ignorant confidence is a horrible, two headed beast.

A couple months ago, the Denver Broncos, who had the best offense in the NFL got obliterated by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  I mean obliterated.  Smoked.  Owned.  Beat to submission.  With a final score of 43 – 8.  And after the clock ran out and players had their showers, it was time for the media to pounce on Peyton Manning and remind him how badly they were beat.  One guy asked the question if Manning was embarrassed of the team and the game.  And I loved his response.  He was visibly peeved as he said, “It’s not embarrassing at all.  I would never use that word.  There’s alot of professional football players in that room – the locker room – who put alot of hard work and effort into being here, into playing in that game.  The word embarrassing is an insulting word, to tell you the truth.”

I wish I had that perspective.  I wish I could translate that into my own life.  That even amidst my failures – especially my abysmal failures – I could be proud of who I am and what I’ve done.  I mean, here’s a guy, who is arguably the best quarterback of all time.  And yet, media and popular opinion give him a hard time of not getting the job done when it counts.  And even with all these voices in his ears, he can stand up for himself with confidence and boldness.  So what does he have that I don’t?  I mean besides a beautiful house, fancy cars, and millions & millions of dollars.

It reminds me of this guy I read about in the BIble named David.  David, amongst other things was a murdered, adulterer, and king, yet was still called “a man after God’s own heart”.  But before he was a king, he was pursued by another king, with the purpose of killing him.  And with this story in mind, we read his words in Psalm 23…

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the called of the shadow of death, I will free no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell n the house of the Lord forever.

Here’s a guy who has seen adversity.  Here’s a guy who’s made mistakes.  And yet, his confidence and his peace leads him to be still and secure.  And the reason is simple, his confidence isn’t based on who he is or what he’s done.  His confidence is in the Lord.  His confidence is in the will of God, not the actions of man.  Even amidst hardship, he’s confident in rest, goodness, love – all supplied by the Lord, not himself.

And so we can find rest.  We can find confidence.  But how do we maintain this confidence and rest?  How do we keep our sanity?  Well, indulge me for a moment, cuz I think I may be on to something…

Be confident in the work you’ve done, not fearful of the mistakes you’ve made – Sure you’ve screwed up.  We all have.  But you’ve also done some pretty awesome things!  You’ve loved your kids in moments they were unlovable.  You comforted them when they were hurting.  You’ve provided a love for them that no one else could provide.  You’ve done some awesome things!  Be confident in that!  Celebrate it!  Challenge your spouse to be on the lookout for great parenting and reward that with a pre-bedtime massage.  Disclaimer: I only mention that because there seems to be nothing I can do to get a pre-bedtime massage from my own wife.  But the fact remains, we’ve done some wicked awesome parenting!  Be confident of that!  Celebrate it!

Reflect on God’s goodness – The book of Deuteronomy is sometimes called the “Remember Book” because it’s all about remembrance, of who God is, what He’s done, and what He desires from us.  Chapter 6 tells us to teach our kids about God’s love, laws, and lessons “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  It goes on to say that when you are given gifts, when God supplies your needs, to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord”, who has given you and led you through so much.  So in your own life, remember.  Take stock of all God has done; the big and small things.  Remind yourself of them.  Tell your kids about them.  And in remembering, find the confidence and rest that comes from knowing that God has always and always will lead you.

Allow God’s faithfulness in the past to fuel your following Him in the present – How often do we do our own thing and wonder why it went wrong?  God says take a right, we take a left, and then yell at God for left being the wrong direction.  God’s grace and goodness will lead us.  But if we’re not willing to follow, that leadership is useless.  God will care for us.  But we have to allow Him to.  No one knows how to raise your kids better than our Father.  No one else knows their personality as perfectly.  No one else knows the amount of hairs on their heads in every moment.  No one else can see how each thought, each action, and each inaction shapes a person’s life.  So as you parent, be in prayer and be in tune.  God desires to lead your family.  Just let Him.  And find the rest, confidence, joy, and even forgiveness of imperfection that comes from working with the Lord.