Loving through crisis: Divorce

Family conflict

You know what would be great?  If we never had to worry about divorce.  But guess what: we do.

Nationally, divorce happens in the homes of over half of kids under the age of 18.  That’s alot of brokenness.  Places like our own little Dburg are worse than the national average.  We’ve come a little ways, as we’re no longer the divorce capital of the country, but that’s hardly anything to brag about.

The sad truth is that you, being a youth volunteer, either mentor students whose parents have been divorced or at some point will.  And at some time, a student will come to you for help.  They’ll tell you they’re sad.  They’ll tell you they’re confused.  Your heart will break.

But what do you do?

Below are some things to keep in mind, as well as some do’s and don’ts (donts, don’t’s dont’s, donts’, donuts?) to help you help them through it.

They’ll be confused.  Even if the warning signs were there.  Even if they say it’s for the best.  Even if they appear to have it all together.  Because it’s a confusing time.  How did it go bad?  Do all relationships end?  What part did I play in it?  What happens now?  Where will I live?  What’s life going to look like?  These and so many other questions will be running through their minds.  Do reassure them that you’ll be there for them through it.  Hold them while they cry and contact them often.  Let your words and actions show them that they have someone to walk beside them.  Don’t make promises or speak on behalf of the parents.  Make sure you only speak for yourself.

They’ll blame themselves.  It’s much harder to admit that someone you loved has hurt you or done wrong than to carry the burden yourself.  They’ll put themselves under a microscope and analyze every action and conversation.  This blame can lead to anger and sometimes even turn them into a doormat.  They may find themselves doing every little thing they can to try to make amends for their imaginary wrongs.  Do remind them the decision wasn’t theirs.  Help them see that maintaining a relationship is the responsibility of the two individuals and no one else.  Don’t assign blame to one party (unless an incredibly outrageous grievance was committed and is already known).  It’s not your place to turn any child against any parent.  Your job is to love them through a difficult time, not be a judge and jury.  Besides, there’s always more to a story than we could possibly know.  Be as biased as possible while showing them that the fault is not their own.

The divorce can stunt their development.  Research shows that between 75 and 80% of the time, children from divorced parents eventually recover and become mature, responsible adults with no long term affect.  That’s the good news. The bad news is that in the moment and in the short term, it will almost definitely affect them.  Maturity is the process of a child becoming internally equipped and empowered to leave the safety of their parents and their home.  They learn who they are apart from them and learn who they want to become.  That process of slowly pulling away is hindered when they perceive a parent to be the one pulling away from them.  The process is almost reversed.  During a divorce, parents often become a little self-absorbed, while they’re figuring out how to make things work financially, dealing with the wounds they experienced, etc and that leads to spending less time with the kids.  The result is often children feeling insecure, or even anxious, about their relationships with their parents.  Do encourage them to have open and honest conversations with both parents.  Maybe even offer to be in the room with them for support, if you’ve prayerfully decided that would help.  Do everything you can to build that relationship.  Do continue to have high expectations for them.  If their attitude, grades, etc slip, call them on it.  Don’t make excuses for them because they’re going through a difficult time.  Let them know that being hurt isn’t a good reason to hurt others or damage their future.

They’ll be forced to grow up more quickly.  One home turning into two means less financial stability.  The cost of another home could keep them from being able to pursue extra-curriculurs or keep them from having certain privileges.  An extra home means more responsibilities.  More chores, less parental oversight, you see where this is going.  Sometimes a parent will even use their kid as a confidant and pull them into the drama more than they ever needed to be.  All this can cause them to become frustrated, angry and even calloused.  Do give them space to air their frustrations.  Let them know it’s safe to be honest.  Also give them a place to be a kid, free of responsibility.  They need to be goofy sometimes.  Don’t put more pressure on them to perform.  Telling them to take care of mom or dad isn’t fair.  And just saying it will most likely cost you your voice in their life.

On and on we could go.  If you want more info, I can provide that for you.  Overall, remember that your focus is them.  You offer support, encouragement, love, a safe space, and a judge free zone.  If you feel you’re in over your head, reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor.  Even if you don’t feel over your head, it’s good to reach out to someone to get new perspectives.  If you feel like they need to talk to a professional, seek out a good Christian counselor.  Don’t wait.  Don’t question your gut.  Help them make it happen.

And don’t ever feel like you have to have all the answers.  Walk it with them.  Be loving and be real.  Keep an eye out for alarming behavior, but keep in mind that it will get easier as time goes by.  Typically the first two years are the hardest.

Stick with them.  They need your constant love.

Pursuing the Right Things

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So most of you know that I went to college to pursue Business Administration, not any sort of Bible degree.  And it’s not because of any significant reason, other than I was more interested in being wealthy than Godly.  I eventually said yes to God and His direction, but not before learning a bunch of pretty interesting leadership stuff.  One of the principles we learned is one that Pastor Brian is a big proponent of.  And it’s one that our staff talks about constantly and I still try my best to apply and adhere to.  Because used correctly, this principle could literally change your life.

It all started with the dashing man shown above in the early 1900’s.  He was an economist, so he was big into nerd things.  And being big into nerd things, he realized one day that just 20% of his pea pods contained 80% of the peas.  Just a small portion of the overall yielded most of the harvest.  He later found that the same numbers appeared all over the place.  Most famously at the time, 20% of his fellow Italians owned 80% of the land in Italy.  And the more places he looked, the more he found this to be true.  It was true with wealth distribution (still is), it was true with productivity, it seemed to be true almost everywhere.  So here we are today with the Pareto Principle, most commonly known as the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule simply states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.  A really smart fella’ named Dr. Joseph Juron explained it a couple decades later as “the vital few and the trivial many”.

These two men said in a really smart way what we all seem to suspect deep down inside: that most of the junk we do is just that.  We spin our wheels and spin our wheels, but not much is actually accomplished.  And the reason is pretty simple.  We’re focusing on the wrong stuff.  We’re not necessarily focusing on unimportant stuff, but we’re focusing on unimpactful stuff.  Is unimpactful a word?  Maybe ineffective is a more effective word here.

Need a visual?  I gotcha…

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This is a principle that seems to hold true in every situation.  For example, it’s been shown that:

  • 20% of laborers do 80% of the labor
  • 20% of salesmen do 80% of the sales
  • 20% of the customers buy 80% of the product.
  • 80% of the problems come from 20% of the causes
  • 80% of the software failures come from 20% of the bugs
  • 80% of the complaints come from 20% of the customers
  • 20% of the products account for 80% of the sales

I’m not telling you this so that we can better sell our Hunger Project t-shirts.  Nor do I keep a count of who excitedly talks about our events and gets people to sign up.  Though maybe I should.  Just kidding

…or am I?

I say this because we all want to be more effective people.  Whether at work or at home, we all want to be more impactful.  We want to spend our time doing the right things that get the results we want.  And by applying this principle, we can turn our goals and dreams into reality.

Let me show you what this looks like in an area we can all relate to: youth ministry!!!

My time can be taken up with 1,000 different things.  Email, phone calls, budgets, networking, event planning, dreaming, counseling students, training volunteers, supporting parents, service prep, writing teachings, going to sporting events, creating graphics, cleaning, improving the auditorium, decorating, prepping the next grade to come into youth, developing student leaders, designing t-shirts, planning mission trips, having lunch at the schools, calling first time visitors, calling students who’ve been MIA, hanging out with students, creating teaching series, creating a social media presence, communicating everything going on in the ministry, getting parents’ support, calendaring, marriage counseling, blogging, helping kids discover next steps, maintaining the environment, making videos, fundraising, hosting events, on and on and on I could go before ever even talking about all the general church stuff involved in working at a church.

So there’s lots of things to do.  And all those things need to be done.  But where do I spend the majority of my time?

When I first entered the ministry here, the youth group was about 15 kids from a church of about 300 people.  Right off the bat, I found that the most impactful things I could do were gain the trust of the parents and build relationships with the teens.  So my top 20% that produced 80% of the results was spending time with students, gaining support from parents, and developing good teachings.  To that end, I went to the schools and had lunch with them several times a week.  I was at a game or event of some sort nearly every night of the week.  I hung out with students nonstop and made them a part of my life.  I met with parents to talk about vision and how I want to partner with them in what they’re doing.  I read lots of books and devoted alot of time to develop my teaching abilities and tried to provide a Wednesday night service they’d want to invite their friends to.

The result is what we see today.  I group that has grown tremendously in number and impact.*Full disclaimer: I do not claim to be the cause of God’s movement.  God is the one who moves and changes.  I merely claim to have done a halfway decent job stewarding the time and people He gave me.

However, I’ve recently had to take a step back and look again at what my top 20% is.  I can’t have lunch with every single student.  I can’t go to every single sporting event.  I can’t intimately know each student in our ministry.  I can’t counsel that many people.  Now to some extent, those top 20 are becoming the bottom 80.  Because life is like that.  It moves and sways.  Seasons come, only to be replaced by a new one.  That’s why we talk to our children differently as they grow.

So in an effort to better steward all the students we have, I’ve had to take a look at what’s effective in growing in this season.  And what I’ve found is that the best use of my time is training up leaders, empowering volunteers, and delegating/equipping others.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t meet with students anymore.  It just means that’s not my focus now.  Now my focus is developing others to do that.  I no longer rely on just me to build relationships with our teens, but prepare an army of 30 people to do the same.  I don’t focus on trying to run an entire Wednesday night service.  I focus on giving elements away to people who can do it better, so I can be more focused.

So hopefully you’ve got a clear picture of the 80/20 rule.  My question is: how can you apply this?

Maybe you’ve been thinking of work and all the things you want to complete.  Maybe you’re thinking of the youth group and ways you can be most effective.  Hopefully you’re thinking a little of your family and home life.  Because you’ve got dreams.  But dreams are sidetracked by all the little things that life throws at you.  We’ve all had that day where we plan on getting something super important done.  But emails come, people stop in, you’re asked to help with something, etc.  And at the end of the day, you’ve accomplished a whole lot of nothing.  The Pareto Principle begs you to find what’s truly important.  Then when the demands of the day sap away your time, you can identify the 20% of things that matter.  And when something on your agenda needs to be removed, you have the wisdom to say that it can’t be those things.  Don’t dodge the big, scary important task by completing all the easy, menial tasks.  In essence, it asks us to not just work smarter, but work smarter on the right things.

What are your right things?  I’d really encourage you to sit down and give this alot of thought.  If you’re married, talk about it with your spouse.  Pray on it.  Work through the WISDOM acronym Pastor Brian shared during this Why series.  What does leading your family look like?  What are you leading them to?  How are you getting there?  Are you building or just maintaining?  By facing these tough questions, you can change the direction and momentum of your life!  Do things that matter!

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).

 

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…