CHRISTMAS PRAYER 2014

Nutcracker on Christmas TreeHeavenly Father, the first thing I’d like to do in my prayer today is to thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, into the world.  He didn’t have to come, but it was a choice he made, in a divine conspiracy with you and the Holy Spirit to rescue us.  It must have been an act of love and passion, because I can’t think of any reason why the creator of all that is, who lives in perfect trinitarian fellowship, would want to live amongst us.  We are so contaminated with hate, jealousy, pride, violence, greed, lust, and intolerance that it is hard for me to think about how jolting it must have been for you.  Yet in love you chose, in Messiah Jesus, to live as one of us, just as we do–coughing, bleeding, with fatigue, soreness, blisters, sweat and snot.  I don’t pretend to understand how you did it, how you were human and still God, how you were the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three different persons but one God, but I believe, just as those who have come before me, that you indeed did it.  You lived like us, and you died like us.  Mystery is the only way I can describe it, and love is the only explanation I have for it, so I thank you.

It feels like every Christmas I end up asking you for some of the same things.  The locations change, but the requests are the same.  I ask, O Lord, that you help us find some way of bringing peace in the world.  I ask that wars and strivings cease in far away places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and in Central Africa.  I ask that ISIS, al Qaeda, the LRA and other oppressive militaristic groups be defeated.  I ask that violence end, that peace flourish, and hope erupt.

There are many issues here, though, within the borders of the nation I love that are hard to imagine.  Somehow, Almighty God, show us how to achieve a justice and equitable society in which criminals are punished but the innocent are not unjustly beaten or killed.  We have a severe lack of trust that stems from generations of suspicion, fear, racism, crime, and the politics of division.  Please forgive us of our past and help us make a future so that we never have reason to see protests on the streets of America again.

I have a spiritual request too, Lord God.  I fear that ‘church,’ or what passes for church, has lost its way.  At one extreme it can look like a neurotic control freak trying to tell everyone else what to do.  At the other extreme it often looks like a lethargic glutton who will not get off the couch.  Neither one of these is good.  I pray that you bring a new generation of leadership with the boldness to call us out on our sins of selfishness, and then lead us to a better way.  I love the church, but fear we are on a path of self-destruction.  Save us from ourselves.

Things seem to have gotten a little better, Lord, in the last couple of years, but I know that many people are hungry, economically distressed, unemployed, and broke this Christmas season.  Help those who want jobs to find jobs, bring relief to those who have ended up on the wrong end of the economic field, and allow honest businesses to thrive.  I intercede also for those caught on the struggle of a political border between two nations–one wealthy and one not.  I pray for all immigrants, that they would find what they need.  I ask that our politicians gain the courage to formulate policy that makes sense and which is true to our highest ideals.  How ironic, Lord, that immigration is on my mind as we celebrate the birth of Jesus–who lived as an immigrant during his toddler years.  It is kinda sad, Lord.  Help us to do better, I know we can.

For many people Christmas has become all about family, tradition, and nostalgia.  I reject those as spiritually inadequate for the grandness of the miracle of the incarnation, nevertheless I am grateful for my family, our family traditions, and the memories of those who are no longer with us but who rest in eternity.  I ask that this Christmas be one of joy, laughter, and rich spiritual meaning.  In the name of Jesus I ask, submitting to his divine will and certain that whatever good I imagine or ask for is far less than his desire for peace, hope, goodness, and love in this world.  Amen.

THANKSGIVING POLL

I don’t have time today for a long blog post because I have a root canal in about a half hour.  I hope it doesn’t ruin my holiday.

But before I go, I wanted to find out what mattered most to you regarding Thanksgiving day.  Make certain to click the vote button to register your vote, then share with your social media to get as many votes as possible.  Check back later to view results.

ADVICE ON RAISING CHILDREN

The happiest day of my life was when I bought my last diaper.  Wow, that was a long time ago, but my children are such an important part of my life that I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.  Being a parent is the hardest work on the planet–it is only for the brave of heart and those with strong stomachs.  When we became parents we felt woefully unequipped.  We read lots of books and talked to lots of people, and over the years here are some of the things we have learned.  Take what you like, disregard what you don’t, and feel free to leave comments on some of your parenting strategies.

What Is The Goal?

To my mind, this is where the greatest confusion occurs, and by definition, the greatest damage is done in most parent/child relationships.  By damage I mean things go askew.  Let’s start by stating what the goal is not.  The goal is not for a parent to a be a child’s friend or buddy.  Adults should have their own friends and children should likewise learn to make friends in the real world.  The goal is not to keep a child safe and always out of pain.  Overprotective parents (I know, because I am one) often do more psychological harm than good.  Learning how to cope with hurt and pain is an important part of growing up.

Then what is the goal?  The goal is to produce a thriving member of society who is equipped to face the challenges of life in a dangerous world.  That’s the job you are given.  When the nurse puts that baby in your arms, the clock begins to tick.  You have somewhere between fifteen and sixteen years to accomplish this goal.

Will She/He Ever Go to Sleep?

Some parents like to let their children sleep in the bed with them.  I do not.  My bed is for me and my wife and the children just kind of muck it all up.

We found it helpful to never use bedtime as a punishment.  For that reason, our children have never thought of sleep as a negative event.

When they are little, resist the urge to comfort their crying and give into their audible assault.  Shut the door and let them cry it out and he/she will fall asleep.

Food

Lighten up about what the kid eats.  She will eat when she gets hungry, and don’t make her eat when she is not.  We tend to always put food in front of our children and if they wanted it that was great, if they didn’t, they didn’t have to eat it.  We did make them try it, but always let them know that if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to eat it.

How Much Should an Allowance Be?

Nothing!  Never give your child an allowance.  Allowances were developed by script writers for television shows in the 1950s so as to create artificial tension in fake households.  Allowances are evil because they teach children that they should be paid for contributing to the household work and it establishes a tit for tat relationship based on bargaining instead of responsibility.  The usual reason for giving allowances is that it teaches responsibility with money.  It does not.  It teaches children how to manipulate minimum work for maximum payoff.

Instead of an allowance, we have always given the sprouts money whenever they need it, and usually tell them to keep the change if any is left over.  In turn, though, they are expected to wash dishes, do their laundry, vacuum the floors, take care of the trash, clean their bathrooms, keep their bedrooms respectable, and just about anything else we ask them to do.  They should do their work because it needs to be done and they are apart of the family, not because we pay them.  Capitalism does not breed good family dynamics.

We began giving them age appropriate responsibilities as soon as they could walk and talk.

What About Punishment?

Early and often.  Here is what I mean.  It has been a very, very, very long time since I have had to punish either one of my sprouts.  With both of them, after about the age of 7, punishment was rare.  The reason for this is that when they were very young, toddlers and in diapers, we punished them and taught them to respect authority.  If you discipline a 2 or 3 year old and keep at it until they are 5 and 6, then as they begin to piece things together you will never really have to do it much.

Punishment needs three attributes to be successful.

  1. It must be swift.   Instant time out or removal of a toy works nicely.
  2. It must be known.  A child should know what the consequences are for certain actions.
  3. Consistent.  That child must know that 100% of the time punishment will come.  If a parent is inconsistent then the whole point is lost.

Be creative with your punishment, and try to make the punishment fit the crime.  (Oh, you wrote on the wall with a crayon?  Now you’re going to clean it up AND I’m taking away the crayons until tomorrow.)

Two key things to remember about punishment.  Never punish a child when you are angry.  As a parent you must work to remove your personal feelings from the endeavor.  The child is not attacking you, the child is simply pushing against boundaries.  Anger doesn’t help anything at all.  We always found tag teaming it helped.  If one of us was angry, then the other parent did the punishing.  Second, never hurt your children.  I know that spanking is a big debate, but whether you spank or not there is no excuse for a big strong adult to hurt a child.

 

The key to happy children is for your family to find its own mojo.  This doesn’t happen quickly, but your children will help you discover the ebb and flow of life.  We found that certain television shows we all enjoyed and foods that made us happy and planning vacation helped us grow stronger.  Church, school, books and our friends all provided the dialogue of our lives and it was in sharing these aspects that helped us bond with our children in ways that I think a lot of parents miss.

ALIVE IS FINISHED

Yesterday I finished my ALIVE sermon series that started on Easter.  The series was topical as it focused on essential issues in in life.  These issues are universal, but the way Christ-follower’s deal with them is unique.  In a nutshell, here are the five sermons.

#1–ALIVE FAITH–this was the Easter sermon.  I decided to preach not on the resurrection of Jesus so much as the resurrection of our faith.  Many people who attend church on Easter have a connection to church and God, that is why they come.  The problem is they let their faith die.  This death can be because they are brain dead (logical problems) or because they are cardiac dead (they’ve been hurt.)

#2–ALIVE FAMILY–Far too many families, Christian and otherwise, are broken and near relational death or on the morgue slab.  But there are some concrete things that families can do to be alive again.  Part of this involves a broad definition of family, investing time, and creating boundaires.

#3–ALIVE DREAMS–By far and away this was my favorite sermon in the series.  Sometimes our dreams are dead because of life and we need to revive them with concrete actions.  Other times, our dreams are needing to be euthanized so we can dream new dreams.

#4–ALIVE FINANCES–One of my key goals this year was to preach about money more.  So far I haven’t lived up to that, but I’m doing better than int he past.  One third of Jesus’ lessons were about money.  I’m nowhere near that.  This sermon used five words to highlight how we can bring our finances back to life:  Wait, thrift, ant, give, record.  My favorite part was the ant–based on the instruction from Proverbs 6 for us to observe the hard work and preparation of the ant.

#5–ALIVE CHURCH--I used Revelation 3 and the church at Sardis to talk about the things that can bring a church back to life again that is dead as well as keep a church alive in the first place.  A fun part of this sermon was that I read, straight from my iPhone, a part of a blog post from a friend who pastors in Florida.  Thanks David for helping our church keep it real.