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 questions you ask to fall in love…

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The other night, Megan and I were at home watching the first episode of this season’s The Bachelor. I think of that show the same way I do American Idol. I have no interest in it.

…except the first couple shows.

Is it okay to admit that? The first few episodes are downright hilarious. There’s something inside of me that takes an unusual amount of joy from seeing a train wreck. And that’s exactly what this show is. So anyway, we’re watching this show and I’m cruising news sites on my phone and I come across this article that says any two people that talk through a list of 36 questions can fall in love. Well, Bachelor was on the tv, love was in the air, and my curiosity was piqued. So I looked into it a little bit.

The story goes like this:
In 1997, a psychologist named Arthur Aaron was able to make two complete strangers fall in love in his laboratory. He had a man and woman enter his lab from two separate doors, where they sat across from each other and answered a series of questions. The result: rainbows, unicorns, and l-o-v-e. Arthur went on to publish his studies, which flew under the radar. Only recently did the study find popularity, after an article in the New York Times. The article, written by a university professor named Mandy Len Catron, tells of her interest in the topic. She then persuades a pseudo-stranger she knows from the gym to try it out with her. In her article, she talks about the series of questions (they start simple and get more and more intimate) and the final instruction to stare into each others eyes silently for 4 minutes (scary, right???). Her results? Wedding bells.

You can read Mandy’s article here…

Now I’m not saying that any couple who does this will fall in love. Many of the couples in the lab didn’t. And I’m not trying to offer pointers to singles who desperately (Bachelor style) want to find love. But what I’m saying (specifically to the couples from my church who are really my only audience) is that taking the time to be with someone is always thrilling. But too often, couples spend far more time maintaining life than they do just enjoying each other. I could go on and on about the importance of dating your spouse, but you’ve read all the research and blogs and “Top 10 Reasons Why…” already. I find it incredibly sad though, that no one dates less than a married couple.

…except a married couple with children.

So my challenge to you is this: clear out your weekend schedule. This weekend. Next weekend if you’re too lame to make it happen now. But date your spouse. Make it fun. Get dressed up like you would if it were a first date. Girls, put them sassy heels on. Guys, take a shower. Maybe even wear cologne. Go to a nice restaurant and spend a couple hours falling in love again. Take your time. Order appetizers. Smile. Eat dinner. Laugh. Don’t skip dessert. Blush. Stick around for drinks afterward. Bask in each other. And make it fun by taking these 36 questions with you.

Think this all sounds stupid? So did I. Out of curiosity though, I talked Megan into going over them with me. Wanna know what happened? We fell in love to a degree that man has never seen. The heaven’s parted and we saw the face of God, who smiled, winked at us, and sang love songs over us, in his deep baritone voice, while we slow danced on a cloud.

Okay, that’s a lie.

But it was fun! Some of it, we could answer for each other. Some of it surprised us. But it was fun! And if you’re honest with yourself, you and your spouse don’t have enough fun. And that’s just not right. You married because life wasn’t the same without them. Now life is just the same every day. Break out! Do something fun!  Do something romantic!  Do something silly!   Just do something!

Here’s the thing. You married your spouse when they were one person. We age, we grow, we mature (some of us), and we change. The beauty in marriage is changing together. We don’t stay in love with the same person for years and years and years. Rather, we fall in love with that person over and over and over. But this is a very intentional act.

I’ve heard the story too many times. A couple goes through life maintaining and 30 years later, don’t even recognize each other. The husband has changed. The wife has changed. They didn’t do it together.

But you’re not that couple. That’s not your marriage. You’re meant for the long haul. So rediscover your spouse this weekend. Enjoy them. Let yourself get butterflies again. Find today’s new reason to love them. And just for kicks and giggles, ask these questions…

Set I
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Set III
25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Grand Finale
Stare into each other’s eyes silently for four minutes.

Have fun, you crazy couples!!!!

5 ways to enjoy your family this weekend…

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The weekend is upon us!  PTL!  It’s difficult to find ways to engage your family and keep them all smiling together.  The following are 5 ideas for you to have a blast with the people God has given you.  I daresay, these may even be social media worthy… you know, the stuff you and your kids like so much you show it off online.  So keep the mower in the shed and look past all the dust bunnies on your floor.  Your family is much more important than little tasks.  I also encourage you to be open minded with what you do with your family.  Especially when our kids get older, we think we always have to be cool and avoid anything that looks hokey.  But you know what, hokey can be great.  We get the idea that we always have to be super entertaining, especially when it comes to sharing our faith.  But that’s just not the case.  Your kids will appreciate hearing from you, regardless of how spectacular your stories are.  You’re intentionally taking time to be with and share with them.  That’s far more important than keeping things hip.  And if it’s the first time you’ve talked with them about faith, it can feel a little awkward.  But embrace it.  I always tell my youth group: awkward is awesome.  It means you’re doing something new and different that stretches you.  Besides, the more you do it, the more natural it will become.  And sharing our faith with our kids should be natural.

So I’ll get off my soapbox and let you continue reading.  Pick something fun and get after it!

1. Volunteer – Get your family out serving!  This weekend will be easier than others.  No need to set up anything in advance.  With all the storms and wind we’ve had, there’s limbs and junk all over the place.  Pack up some rakes, saws, and other tools, cruise town looking for people to bless, knock on a door, get permission, and do work!  BONUS: after seeing how many houses you can hit in an afternoon, grab some Dairy Queen and talk about how Jesus modeled having a servant’s heart.  Point out scripture with Jesus, the savior of the world, washing the feet of His disciples.  Discuss how we’re called to lead like Jesus, by being a servant and meeting the needs God makes us aware of.

2. Food Fight – Not literally, but if you do, you’re probably the coolest parents in the world!  Have a dessert making contest!  Before dinner, split the family into two or more teams.  Give them a spending limit, invade the grocery store, and get to cooking.  After dinner, serve up both desserts.  Winner has bragging rights, loser has dish duty.  The only thing better than delish desserts with the fam is the fun of working together!  BONUS: over dessert, share your journey of faith with your kids.  Talk about how God used all sorts of ingredients to make your life great.  Focus on all the characters God brought you and how they helped you or all the situations he used and redeemed to lead you to where you are.

3. Take in a Game – It doesn’t need to be big leagues to be enjoyable.  Find a school that’s competing or hit up the local fields to see if anyone is playing a game, be it 3 year-olds playing soccer or travel baseball.  Bring a cooler full of popsicles or a whole mess of walking tacos to give out to everyone else watching the game.  Make lots of friends, cheer for good plays, and have lots of laughs!  BONUS: if you’re watching young kids play, have your family break apart after the game and tell each of the kids playing how great they were and offer them compliments.  Something along the lines of “You played great out there!  High five for those wicked awesome [cleats, fingernails, hair bow, eye black]!!!”  BONUS: on the ride home, talk about the smiles you saw on the kids faces and the joy it brought them.  Mention scripture where we’re told that our tongues can be used for good or bad.  How it’s our choice to be people who speak joy, life, and encouragement.

4. Read Aloud – Who doesn’t enjoy being read to?  Have everyone pick out a short story or fable that can be read in 20 minutes or less.  Have a fire outside, or turn off the lights and light candles inside.  Get absurdly comfy with an overwhelming amount of pillows & blankets and take turns reading stories to each other.  A living room fort would work wonders too, just skip the candles!  There’s something magical about storytelling, when a person takes on characters and leads the listeners through a grand tale!  The one rule for the night, no pictures.  Even if the book has pictures, encourage everyone to use their own imagination to visualize the story.  That way, after the story, you could talk about how differently you pictured the people and events.  BONUS: once the stories are read, point out how scripture tells us to pass on our own stories.  How the Israelites use to set up altars at different places so when they walked by them, they’d remember what happened and how God cared for them.  Talk about your family’s stories: times where God took care of you, the story of the kids’ births (they love that story), funny things the kids did when they were little, how God has led your family to where you are now.  Celebrate God and His story of your family!

5. Photo Contest – Split the family into teams of two or more.  Choose a location: the backyard, a nearby park, your church.  Arm teams with cameras (phones work great).  Snap away!  Encourage teams to take pics of their favorite things, play with angles, new perspectives, close-ups, etc.  Have a stop time and meet up together.  Load the pictures onto a computer and have the family gather around close.  Pick a favorite from each team and celebrate all your favorites.  You can also buy frames and put them up in the house to remind you of the fun and encourage you to do it again and swap the photos out.  BONUS: When you’re done with the contest, flip through your wedding book or the kids baby books.  Look back and celebrate each other.  Share stories of the people or events in the pictures.  Praise God for His goodness and all the joy He’s brought your family.

Hope you’re at least inspired!  Now go!  God has given you an unbelievable family.  Enjoy them and make memories!

 

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.