The Deadly Mistake Of Minding Your Own Business

He was the rock. He was a foundational leader of the church. But he wasn’t above being called out when he was wrong.

 

Peter was eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). At first, that doesn’t seem like much to me because, well, I’m a Gentile. But Peter had spent his entire life living by the strict dietary restrictions we find in the Old Testament. Things changed in Acts 10 when God gave Peter a vision of several unclean animals in a sheet and said every hunter’s favorite Bible verse, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-13). My friend calls this the first pig in a blanket.

So a little while later Peter finds himself doing the unthinkable. Eating with Gentiles. And I’m sure that he loved the taste of those pulled pork sandwiches and catfish. Something like that. You get the picture.

But then some of the Jewish elites showed up. And when they did, Peter was caught. Should he stay at the Gentile table at that proverbial New Testament high school cafeteria or should he go back to sit with his old friends. Peter went back to his old friends. But it was more than just nostalgia that pulled Peter away from the Gentile table. It was fear.

The message was clear from Peter. “Gentiles, I’m with you and this new covenant until my people show up and then it’s back to the old way. It’s been real.”

Thankfully, Paul was there and his message to Peter was even clearer. He opposed Peter publicly.

[14] But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas (Peter) before them all, “If you, though a Jew, llive like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14 (ESV)

Here’s a translation of what Paul said. “Peter, why do you hold the Gentiles to standards that you can’t even keep?”

This was a pivotal time for the church. Peter was influential and his hypocrisy could have led the young movement back into the self-righteousness that they had been delivered from. Paul’s open confrontation could have caused a major split between he and Peter and, by extension, the church as a whole.

But it didn’t. And for that, we have Peter to thank.

Paul doesn’t tell us how Peter responded to being held accountable by the former murderer turned missionary to the Gentiles. Did he storm out of the room? Did he post a vague Facebook status in all caps about people needing to, “Mind their own business?”

One of Peter’s letters, written years after this incident gives us a good clue.

[15]  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

Peter refers to Paul, the one who rebuked him years earlier, as, “Our beloved brother” and speaks of him having God-given wisdom. He acknowledges that Paul’s words can be hard to understand and easy to to distort but he finishes with a very important assessment of Paul’s letters. They are part of the Scriptures. That is, they carry the authority of God’s word.

We need Paul’s in our life. We need people who care enough about us and the gospel to lovingly correct us when we are wrong. The very worst thing that could happen to the church or to you as an individual is for everyone around you to, “Mind their own business.”

And when those people do step in to lovingly hold you accountable, it does no good unless you respond like Peter and accept their authority and wisdom. Use their words as an opportunity to examine your life.

My growth in my walk with Christ has little to nothing to do with my own individual perseverance. It has much more to do with God putting people in my life who love me too much to, “Mind their own business.” I pray that he does the same for you.

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Every Child Has Two Options

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Your kids will be known for something. Basically, they have two options. They can either be known for who they once were or who they are becoming.

If you put all of your parental efforts into making sure that you kid becomes a great student or athlete or musician, there is a chance that you’ll get what you worked for. But there will come a time when your kid will be known simply for who he used to be. The fourth grader who could hit a baseball harder than most high schoolers. The really good math student. The great piano player. While these accomplishments are certainly noteworthy, they aren’t enough.

Take Jake Lloyd for example.

You probably don’t recognize that name. A while back, Jake was arrested after leading police on a high speed chase. Earlier this week he was moved from prison to a psychiatric facility. He’s mother says that things are finally looking up.

Things weren’t always this way for Jake. In 1999 he played a young and innocent Darth Vader in the first of three new Star Wars movies. The movie made $2 billion. Some of that money went to Jake Lloyd. He had every young boys dream. A lot of money and a major role in a Star Wars movie.

But when we talk about Jake Lloyd today, we don’t say much about who he is becoming. We talk about who he used to be.

There is no accomplishment in this world that is worth the pain of simply being known for who you used to be.

In speaking to a group of suffering believers in the context of church leadership, the Apostle Peter helps to shift our attention away from the used to be and toward the becoming. The challenge he gives us in 1 Peter 5 is exactly the opposite of what many kids are told today, whether directly or indirectly, by parents, teachers and peers. If you want your kid to be known only for who she used to be, listen to the world’s advice. If you care more about the person she is becoming, follow the words of Peter.

The world tells your son to follow his heart. The Bible tells him to humble himself and follow God.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)

Teach your kid to follow his heart and he’ll grow up to be arrogant, in debt, sick, imprisoned, addicted and miserable. The heart is evil. It’s the last thing any of us should follow. If you care more about who your child is becoming, teach him to humble himself and submit to God in all things.

The world provides quick fixes for anxiety. The Bible invites us into a process of continually casting our concerns on the One who made us. 

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)

They make a pill that can help you daughter quit feeling so anxious. But that pill only addresses the feeling. It does nothing to address the source. When we cast our anxieties on Christ, we are giving him everything that we have. We are trusting that, even if our anxieties keep popping up, there is a Savior there to walk with us through them. And he doesn’t walk with us coldly or mechanically. He walks with us because he cares for us. If all you’re after is immediate success for your kids, teach them to mask their anxieties. But if it’s long term faithfulness that you’re after, teach them to make anxiety the check engine light of their soul that reminds them that they are cared for by a sovereign God who is big enough to handle what makes them worry.

The world teaches your kids to keep an open mind. The Bible tells them that there are some things worth closing their minds on. 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)

G.K. Chesterton said it best. “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” If your son walked around school all day with his mouth wide open, not wanting to miss whatever flavors were around him, you would seek medical help for him. But for some reason, it’s okay for him to do the same thing with his mind.

One of the primary ways that Satan will attack your children is through their belief system. Just as he did in the Garden of Eden, he’ll come at them with his usual tactic of, “Did God really say that?” And if all you’ve given your kids is an open mind, they’ll take the bait every time. It doesn’t have to be that way. They can resist. But their resistance doesn’t come through a crucifix or holy water. It comes through a faith that is firm and a mind that is fixed. If you have any concern at all about the faith your child will have when she becomes an adult, do everything you can to train her in what the Bible says and help her to make her faith her own. If all she has to stand against the devil’s schemes is the faith of her parents and grandparents, she will be devoured. Her faith must be her faith.

Finally, the world encourages kids to avoid hardship at all costs. The Bible teaches us that we’d all be dead without hardship. 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

The road of discipleship is a difficult one. There are sacrifices to be made and friends and loved ones who will abandon you. Discipleship can be painful. Success, while often requiring hard work, doesn’t work that way. Like water, it seeks the easiest way in or out, regardless of what damage may be done.

If you take the time to teach your kids what it means to follow Jesus and they follow your guidance, they will get hurt. There will be times of suffering. There will be pain. But this is momentary. The eternal glory of Christ awaits and it is much better than the fading glory of who they once were.

There are two options for your children.

They can either be known for who they once were or who they are becoming.

Which will it be?

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Excusing Our Kids To Death

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There is something hurting our children. It’s not in the water. It’s not the vaccines. And it’s not something on television.

The thing that’s hurting our children is parents.

That isn’t to say that we need to rethink the family institution and hand our kids over to the government, as some pundits propose. Rather, parents who really care about their children need to come to grips with the shortcomings of their children. Too many parents are excusing their children to death.

When my son was younger he was throwing a fit in public. This fit had all of the ingredients of a toddler tantrum: arched back, crying with no tears and throwing things. But I had a fall back. The fit had nothing to do with my son’s character or my parenting. He was teething. I joked with a friend that I’d be using the teething excuse until my son’s 18th birthday.

For some parents, that joke isn’t too far from reality.

We like to say that our uncontrollable toddlers are strong-willed. And when those toddlers turn into ten year olds, we blame it on a medical condition. And by the late teen years, when the prescription drugs have quit working, we just say that he, “fell in with the wrong crowd.” Never once do we blame the problem on sin or our own parenting.

When our child has a rampage at the McDonald’s playground and takes out three teeth from a girl half his size, it just sounds better when we blame it all on a psychotropic imbalance in his medial frontal artery or some such gibberish. If you just call it a sin problem, people think that you’re an idiot.

Let’s be clear. Your child has a sin problem. So does mine. So do you. And so do I. It is a problem of the heart. But somewhere along the way we began believing that a child’s heart problem could be treated by taking two pills and calling the doctor the next morning so that he can tell us to up the dosage to three pills.

Yes, there are strong willed kids. But in too many cases and for too many parents, strong-willed child is code for, week-willed parents. A strong willed child does not need a label. What he really needs is loving parents who have a will stronger than his.

Yes, some kids do have medical conditions that cause crazy symptoms and require medical attention. The key phrase there is some kids. Not all kids. The fact that the kid four houses down has a legitimate medical issue that requires a doctor’s attention does not mean that every parent on that street gets to throw away their responsibility to discipline and instruct their children and let a prescription do their job for them.

And yes, we do need to make sure that our kids do not fall in with the wrong crowd. But at the same time, we need to come to grips with the very real potential that our kids either are or are becoming the wrong crowd. When we fall back on the strong-willed child crutch or rely on pills over actual parenting, we should not be surprised when our kid becomes the leader of the Wrong Crowd Gang.

We are excusing our kids to death. Instead of justifying foolish behavior, we would serve our kids much better if we lovingly corrected that foolish behavior.

Parenting is hard. We all mess up. There are days when we feel like all we have done is correct our children and there are days when we go to bed at night afraid that we didn’t correct them enough. No matter how good of a job we do, when our kids grow up they’ll sit around a table with their friends and talk about something stupid we did while raising them. But we can’t give up.

We need wisdom.

We need prayer.

And our kids need us.

Us.

Our kids need us to guide them.

What they do not need is our excuses to cover for them.

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When We Talk About Divorce

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Churches are all over the place when it comes to divorce. Some pastors are sure to get a few amens on the topic so they preach against it every month or so. Others never mention it because the big money people in their church have been married a couple of dozen times.  Wherever you or your church fall on that spectrum, there are a few things that you need to remember.

I grew up in a house that was devastated by divorce. I know all about weekend visits and awkward phone calls. I do not write this as someone who read a book about divorce. I write it as someone who has lived it. I hate divorce. And God does too.

But we must be careful with our hatred of divorce. Yes, it is a sin but like most other sins, just because you have been impacted by it does not mean that you are the guilty party.

I’ve heard a lot of women whose husbands have walked out on them describe the anxiety, loneliness and condemnation they have felt walking into a church building. Whether true or not, they have told me, it sometimes feels like every eye in the house is directing its judgmental gaze toward them. Sadly, in many churches such a scenario is all too true.

The same is true for many men. The stereotype for them is that it was their laziness, drunkenness or infidelity that led to the divorce. I know many men who, though far from perfect, made great sacrifices to save their marriage and family. But it didn’t work. And so along with being abandoned by their wives, they get the added joy of being shunned by their church.

When we talk about divorce, we need to use a surgeon’s scalpel rather than a bully’s club. The scalpel can be painful but when used properly it brings healing. The club just knocks people around. We all know about the guy who loved getting drunk and sleeping with strangers more than he loved his own wife. But we must not forget about the hard-working, Godly husband who comes home one day to the surprise of a note from his wife telling him to jump in a lake and to have fun with the child support payments. One of those men needs strong correction and discipline from his church. The other needs love and assurance. They both need grace.

The Church must not follow the example of presidential politicians on the campaign trail. Trump, Clinton, Sanders and the rest can afford to paint with broad brushes on complex issues in order to appeal to the base. We can’t do that. We must speak to and love the individual in a way that is appropriate for the occasion.

There are a lot of broken hearts out there. Some of those wounds have been self-inflicted and others came like a shot from an assassin. But whatever the situation, God’s grace is sufficient. If we are serious about loving our neighbor we will do the hard work that comes with being vehicles of that grace.

We can’t do that if we are content to simply preach to the choir. And we can’t do it if we’re too scared to share the hard things the Bible says about painful issues. But we can do it if we take the time to know someone for who he is rather than who he used to be married to.

Divorce is painful.

I hate it.

So does God.

But God is the Master of bringing beauty from painful things.

May we who carry the name of Christ be used by him in that process.

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Your Kid Could Be On TV!

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Parents want to see their kids do well. Maybe even see them on TV one day. Just by following these simple steps, you will.

1. Only affirm your child. 

Speak pleasant words to her. Talk to her in baby talk if you’d like. Talk to her just like she’s one of your friends. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Just be sure to keep it positive. But whatever you do, never ever tell her not to do something or that something is not right. Psychologists tell us that kids aren’t able to handle such talk from adults until they become adults themselves, and that doesn’t happen until sometime in their early to mid 30s.

2. Never hold your child accountable.

It’s not his fault that he keeps getting in trouble at school. It’s got to have something to do with his teachers. They just weren’t fully appreciating his artistic expression that time when he cut his finger and wrote “I Am the Beast Lord” in blood on the desk next to him. Ah, second graders these days.

It’s not his fault that he took a bite out of the arm of some kid on his baseball team. That kid should have done a better job of keeping his arm out of your son’s mouth.

And it’s not your son’s fault that he failed his spelling test. Him missing 19 out of 20 words and getting lucky on the word for has nothing to do with his lack of focus and hard work. It’s the teacher’s fault for making the words too hard. So pull him out of that school. And the next one. And the next one. You get the point.

3. Fight for her rights.

Her lack of playing time on the tee ball team has nothing to do with that time when she jumped the fence and ran away when the coach put her in right field. You guessed it, it’s the coach’s fault. Be sure to let him know. And then bad mouth him in front of your daughter on the way home from the game. Remember, your child is a lock for the world of professional sports, just as long as her coach gets his act together and finally recognizes the talent of your little three-year-old slugger.

Just by following these three simple steps, you could see your kid on TV one day. It will probably look something like this.

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And, if your little angel doesn’t cause you to have a nervous breakdown before his big TV appearance, you’ll get to be on TV with him explaining to everyone that you have no idea where he went wrong and that, “he’s always been such a loving little boy who just fell in with the wrong crowd,” as the police haul him away and clean up the carnage of his latest misunderstanding.

BONUS STEP

You’re not just any parent and you don’t want your child to be just any child. So this bonus step is for you.

4. Worship your kid.

I know, it sounds funny at first. That’s just because no one ever admits to worshiping their kid. But believe me, plenty of parents do it.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to dress up and go somewhere for this kind of worship. Well, unless your child wants you to. That’s really what kid worship comes down to. Whatever he wants, he gets.

So the next time he goes nuts when you take the fork out of his hand while he tries to jam it into an electrical outlet, give it back to him. His way is the best way.

The next time you tell her that it’s time to leave the park and she loudly tells you and every other parent in the county that she’s not ready yet, just lean back and say something about parenting being hard. And give her another ten minutes. Or an hour. It’s her call.

And remember, no self-respecting person would ever discipline his god. That would just be weird. So make threats if you must. Scream if you have to. Count to three five or six times. But, under no circumstances, should you ever actually carry through with those threats or do anything that even closely resembles correction. She’s your god, remember? And gods don’t need correcting. That’s why they’re gods.

If you can manage to follow through with this bonus step, you’ll do better than having a kid on TV. You’ll have this.

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Your very own dictator! Imagine the pride that you’ll feel when all of the other parents talk about their kids going to college and starting families when you trump them with stories of your little sweetie taking over his own country.

Who knew that raising a criminal and possibly even a maniacal mad man could be so easy?

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I’d Like To Have A Word With Jeremiah Heaton

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I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

When someone wants to have a word with you, it’s never a good thing. No one says they want to have a word with you and then proceeds to ask for your opinion on last night’s episode of Wipeout. When it’s a word that someone wants to have with you, it’s always about something serious.

This is no exception.

I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

You might be asking yourself who Jeremiah Heaton is. He’s a king from a land near Egypt. Sort of. Actually, he’s just a dad. A few weeks ago he made a flag, traveled to some desert in Egypt, put said flag in the ground and claimed that 800-square-foot area of the world as his own. He’s calling it the Kingdom of North Sudan. King Heaton’s first order of business in his new territory was to name his daughter the princess of the Kingdom of North Sudan.

Here’s how he describes it.

“I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true.”

Kids?

Did I read that right?

What exactly does King Heaton expect to do for his other kids? I can hear it now.

“Dad! You gave Emily her own kingdom so can I at least have a pony?”

The world’s newest king didn’t stop with his land grab. He’s also asking that people refer to his daughter as Princess Emily from now on so that she will be reminded of how much her dad loves her.

As you can imagine, the Internet is blowing up over this one. People are saying that Heaton’s actions are creepy and taking our nation’s princess culture too far.

Aside from the cost of air travel and the trouble of making your own flag, how are Heaton’s actions any different from a lot of other parents in our country?

You know, the parents who go thousands of dollars into debt, move across the country, spend every weekend on the road  and even take legal action all just to to make the wishes and dreams of their kids come true.

You know, the parents who never consider the option that maybe there’s more to parenting than making a child’s wishes come true.

Jeremiah Heaton is an exaggerated example of an all too common problem in our culture where dreams and wishes are more important than truth and training. The truth is that our kids don’t need us to discover a new country on their behalf. They don’t need us to drive them all across the country to another tournament 50 weekends out of the year. But they do need something much more important.

They need us to train them.

Making a flag, putting it in sand and calling the place your new kingdom is easy. A lot of parental dream-chasing under the guise of what’s good for the kids is easy as long as you have the time and the money. Training is much more difficult.

I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

If we had a chance to talk, I’d encourage him to focus more on the training and less on the dream-chasing. I’d tell him that dreams, even if they do come true, are dangerous in the hands of an untrained child. I’d tell him to skip the next trip to the desert and stay at home.

It’s at home where our children learn that it’s okay to pretend to be royalty as long as they know that it’s all pretend.

It’s in the home, from their own parents, that kids learn what it means to sacrifice for the good of another.

But again, that’s training and training is hard work. So why not just discover your own country and make your little girl the princess? Or sign your 9-year-old up for three tournaments in one weekend.

Here’s the thing about the culture of royalty many of our kids are growing up under. Princes and princesses don’t like to stay princes and princesses. Eventually, they’ll want a promotion. They’ll want to be kings and queens. Guess where that leaves you the parent.

You get to be the servant.

While servanthood is a noble necessity of parenting, it only serves to turn our kids into little tyrants if we are not also leading as we serve. Many times, leading means saying no. Leading means frequently reminding our children that they are not royalty.

I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

Six or seven years from now.

By then, King Heaton will have been overthrown. His kingdom will be handed over to another. His daughter. And he will be left as a lowly servant in this new tyrannical kingdom.

All because he valued childish dream-chasing instead of training.

I’d ask him if it was all worth it. Would he do it all the same if he had it to do all over again?

Jeremiah Heaton’s daughter is still young. There’s still time to make things right. But time is running out.

I hope that someone has a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

Before it’s too late.

How To Raise A Person Of Interest

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It’s been a while since we’ve had a good boogeyman.

Charles Manson is old and in jail. Jeffrey Dahmer is dead. Football players at Auburn are busy with their summer conditioning.

If the lack of creepy men roaming our neighborhoods and cities has left you feeling a bit down, fear not! You can always add more drama to our lives by raising your own little person of interest. All it takes is one simple step.

Disregard your child’s capacity for evil.

There’s this dog at the end of my street. She’s evil. When I walk in front of her house, she barks real loud and chases me with her teeth showing. The kid who lives there always says the same thing.

“She won’t bite.”

True. She won’t bite. But only because I can outrun her.

But if she was younger and faster, she would bite.

Humans can be the same way.

Some parents refuse to discipline their children until they’re old enough to walk. Or drive. Or join the military. Their reasoning sounds simple enough. Babies can’t do anything wrong. Just look at them. They’re so cute.

Simple. But wrong.

Babies lie. If you don’t believe me, put one in a crib and leave the room. (Editor’s Note: Only do this to your own baby. Don’t just find someone else’s baby and tell them that you need a baby for an experiment you read about on some pastor’s blog.) When you leave that room, there’s a good chance that your baby will cry. And not a cute cry. It will be more like the kind of cry you would expect if the baby woke up to see Charles Manson, or an Auburn player, standing next to his crib.

So you run in to check things out. You pick the baby up. Suddenly, all is right in the world.

Babies are cute. But they’re also liars. They get it from their parents.

Have you ever tried changing a baby’s diaper when she didn’t want to be changed? It’s like a wrestling match. And it’s not cute. It’s rebellion.

That doesn’t mean that you need to beat your baby. It just means that you need to realize her capacity for evil. Just because she can’t roll her eyes, huff and cuss at you doesn’t mean that she’s not trying to do those things. Never mistake inability for innocence.

Well, unless you’d like to see your kid on the news someday. And not for getting first place in the county-wide art contest. In that case, just ignore their cute rebellion until they turn 13. And then wonder where things went wrong.

Cheap And Easy Places To Take Your Kids

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The family vacation is important. It’s good to get away as a family to rest and make new memories. But you can only take so many family vacations in a year. Well, unless you happen to be an elected federal official but that’s for another post. What about the rest of us? Are there any places for normal parents to take their kids on a random Tuesday in the middle of July?

You bet! And there are added benefits to these destinations. Along with being cheap and easy, they just might help your kids along in their process of growing into adulthood.

1. The Backyard

I’ll never forget the time when my mother threw me out of the house. I was probably six-years-old and I was most definitely devastated. My mom didn’t care. Well, she cared. That was her whole reason for throwing me out. She just didn’t care that I was devastated.

I was spending too much time inside. And by inside, I mean following my mother around everywhere she went. Maybe she needed her space. Maybe she was thinking of my future. I don’t care. I’m just really glad that my mom threw me out of the house with very simple instructions.

“Stay outside until I tell you to come in. And get dirty. You’re a boy. It’s what your supposed to do.”

This parenting technique has fallen out of style. Progressives tell us that boys should never be told that, gasp!, there is a difference between the sexes. Safety Nazis remind us of all of the toxins that are in our mud. The self-esteem gurus preach a gospel of affirmation at all costs.

And just look at all the wonderful places these new and improved parenting techniques have taken us.

They’ve left us with a generation of kids with clean fingernails, confusion about their sexuality and fear about all of the terrible things that might happen to them.

Parents who care about the long term well-being of their children will take them on a trip outside, drop them off and go back inside without them. The kids will be fine. If you don’t trust me, just check in on them from afar every so often. That’s why the kitchen window was invented. And remember this, the broken bones, twisted ankles and scraped knees that may accompany your child’s otherwise unaccompanied trip to the backyard are not near as bad for him as the smooth skin that comes from an entire childhood spent in front of a television.

2. The Bathroom

Every kid needs to be taken to the bathroom. And I don’t just mean when nature calls. I mean taken to the bathroom. As in, “If you don’t straighten up, we’re going to the bathroom.”

There aren’t enough trips to the bathroom these days. We’ve all been in a restaurant with our significant other, finally able to enjoy a quiet meal together that neither one of us had to cook. Everything is perfect. The service is friendly and prompt. The food is delicious. And they even let you throw your peanut shells on the floor. You know, one of those classy places.

But  there’s one problem. The kid sitting behind you can’t stay quiet. He’s screaming like he just sliced his finger open with that dull knife they bring out with the complimentary bread. Nothing his parents/handlers try seems to work. Realizing this, his parents/handlers give up. This would all be quite understandable if the upset child were 6-months-old. But this kid is ten.

While said parents/handlers enjoy their meal in relative comfort, as if this drama is no different from any other night of the week for them, you are left with a wasted date, a to-go bag and peanut shells in your hair.

All of this would have been solved with a quick trip to the bathroom. Parents who love their kids, as well as their fellow restaurant patrons, will care enough to privately and sternly correct their child in the restroom.

We didn’t do many family vacations when I was a kid. They didn’t usually fit into my single mother’s budget. But there was always time for those cheap and easy trips that helped to shape me.

One Friday night my mother was helping to serve food at our church. A kid a few years older than me walked in to tell a joke to all of the nice church ladies in the kitchen. It was a  dirty joke. Filthy is probably a better description. Eddie Murphy would have blushed. The kid’s mother asked him where he heard that joke from. The kid said my name. He wasn’t lying.

My mother took me to the bathroom.

I never told that joke again.

The Neglected Child

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There was a time when people lived in the house. There had to be. And they probably drove the car that’s parked out front.

But not anymore.

Now the house is almost impossible to see from the road. The weeds surrounding the house look like small trees. One of those small trees is growing through the car parked in the front yard.

The questions run through your mind. What turned this house into a shack? How long does a car have to stay in one place in order for a tree to grow through it? What happened?

And then you realize that the answer is much simpler than you first thought.

Nothing happened to this house. It’s all just a natural result of neglect.

A while back I took my kids to an indoor playground. I can’t prove it, but there are somewhere around 43 new diseases waiting to be discovered in indoor playgrounds. The folks responsible for these places know this. That’s why they put hand sanitizer dispensers on the wall.

I was watching my kids play while simultaneously wondering what kind of weapons grade bacteria was growing on the sliding board. Another kid caught my attention. He was playing with the hand sanitizer dispenser on the wall. Did I say playing with? I didn’t mean that. What I meant to say was eating. He was eating the hand sanitizer that came from the dispenser.

It’s always awkward when you have to correct someone else’s kid. But in this case I couldn’t help but think about this little boy losing his eye sight, needing a liver transplant and getting high. So I said something to him.

“Hey, buddy. You need to stop eating that.”

His answer was bold.

“No!”

The questions ran through my mind. How does a kid get to the point where eating hand sanitizer seems like a good thing to do? More than that, what was he taught that made him think that it was okay to yell at an adult?

The answer was simpler than I first thought.

Nothing happened to this kid. His actions were the natural result of neglect.

Parents who would never dream of leaving their child in a hot car while they run in to play a few games of video poker can still be guilty of neglect. You can stay by your child’s side every hour that she is awake and have her sleeping next to you during the hours that she sleeps and still neglect her.

It happens when a parent laughs when correction is needed. You’ve probably seen this before. A small child disobeys a direct command from her father. And it’s not just a lazy disobedience. It’s a bold, you-can’t-make-me-do-anything type of disobedience. Instead of correction, the father laughs it off and says something about her being just like her mother.

Sure, there may be a threat or two thrown in but it’s never followed through. In some ways, this is even worse than doing nothing. Empty threats train kids to believe that words and rules carry no power behind them. Even if those words come from a teacher. Or a judge. Or God.

Neglect also happens when a child is treated as an object of worship rather than a human being in need of training. On the surface this may look like the opposite of neglect. You’re with the child all the time. Your whole life revolves around him. Everything takes a back seat to his baseball schedule. Everything. Which is another way to say that you worship him.

If you want your son to have an identity crisis later in life because his professors, bosses and friends don’t treat him like a god, do everything you can to treat him like a god now.

Kids are a lot of fun. But they make terrible gods. They need their parent’s instruction, not their parent’s worship.

And kids are funny. But some of the things they say and do that seem funny at first are actually quite deadly. That’s when they need their parent’s discipline and correction instead of the nonverbal approval of mom and dad’s laughter.

Nothing good ever comes from neglect. It’s true for cars and houses and it’s true for kids. If you want to raise monsters, neglect the hard work of discipline and instruction. But if you want to raise men and women, you’ll have to get some dirt under your fingernails.

Compassionate discipline and correction are the preventative maintenance that helps to keep the monstrous weeds of idol worship and rebellion from growing up around your child.

There is no such thing as a perfect child.

Nor is there a perfect parent.

But that’s no excuse for neglect.

Are Your Kids Killing You?

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Do you ever feel like you’re going to have a stroke if your kids don’t quit fighting with each other? You keep correcting them. And you do it in a loving way. You measure out discipline that is just and beneficial but it doesn’t seem to be working. They still fight. In a way, you sort of hope that the nervous twitch in your eye gets worse so that you can show them what they did to you. Maybe then they will learn.

Does it ever seem like you are holding a press conference? One question after another. Each kid on his own quest for more information. And you are the search engine. You want your son to know about the inner workings of stuffed crust pizza. You really do. You’re glad that he is inquisitive. But why does he have to ask you now, in traffic? And why do your other kids have to ask you their own questions at the same time? Google only has one box for questions. Apparently, you have 600.

Is your schedule a mess? Are you and your spouse forced to constantly make adjustments in order to make it to work on time or just to get in a quick workout? Do you ever wonder about all of the time and money you could be saving if you didn’t have to drive your kids to school and practices? How much extra work could you have gotten done yesterday if you didn’t have to take your oldest son to the doctor and drink pretend tea with your daughter?

Are your kids stressing you out? Does it feel like they’re taking years off of your life?

Congratulations. That probably means that you’re doing your job well.

One of the great mistakes parents make is assuming that the job of training children to be responsible adults will be easy. It’s as if we think that the goal of parenting is a drama free 18-years, a college scholarship, a nice wedding, a good job and plenty of grandkids that visit often but never for too long?

The job of a parent is never easy. Unless of course, we decide to contract our job out to others.

I used to live in a town with a 24-hour daycare center. 24-hours! Now that’s easy parenting.

That’s the danger of our assumption. When our job gets tough, we tend to withdraw. Sure, we may say that it’s because we have to work in order to provide for our family but at the core, that work can be nothing more than an escape from our harder job. The job of parenting. So long kids. Hello 24-hour daycare center.

But there’s another danger. If my kid is constantly asking questions, fighting with her sister or drawing on the wall, it must be because she has some sort of condition. To be fair, there are real conditions that impact a child’s behavior. But there are also make believe conditions that serve no other purpose than making doctors and drug companies rich and your job of parenting a little less difficult. And hey, isn’t it so much easier to parent an over-medicated zombie than an actual child?

Parenting is fun. And rewarding. But it can also be hard. If you’re doing your job well, it will be hard. There will be days that you miss a workout or show up late for work with your hair all messed up and vomit on your sleeve. There will be times when you will have to sacrifice the ever popular “Me Time” from your schedule.

Your eye will twitch.

Your chest may even hurt.

But it will be worth it. It will be worth it when you stand next to your little girl to place her hand in the hand of her future husband and tell the minister, “Her mother and I.” And you will say that with no regrets.

When your daughter is out of the house, you will know that you gave it your all when she was living with you. You skipped meetings so that you could drink imaginary tea. You answered ridiculous questions about stuffed crust pizza. You traded in your “Me Time” routine for her bedtime routine.

And it cost you.

Maybe even a few years of your life.

But that’s what love does. It puts aside personal gain for the good of another.

What’s the point of living a long and comfortable life if it’s not spent doing that?