Why Smart People Listen to Their Momma

A few years ago it would be unheard of to see a young person knock out an elderly man and unthinkable that they would punch older lady. But security cameras are catching these thugs doing just that. A few years ago, when a police officer told you to stop doing what you were doing and put your hands in the air, you did just that. (At least I did.)

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You Mad, Bro? The Key to Dealing with Anger

 I’ve recently run across more and more angry people. People that on the outside you wouldn’t think struggle with it. Our society is trying deal with an increasing level of domestic violence.  I have a history of anger that kind of ambushed me. There were times when I would be going along just fine and then BAM! Someone would do or say something that would trigger an angry outburst.  After I settled down I asked myself, “Where did that come from?” Years later, I’ve learned where it came from and how to deal with it so it doesn’t control my life and motivate me to do things I will regret later. Here’s what I’ve learned.

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Finding Vision

Hikers

While working as a youth pastor, I attended a fair amount of high-school graduation ceremonies. I took interest in class themes and commencement speeches. One senior class theme stunned me however. Not because it was crass or somehow offensive but because of what it stood for – nothing. It represented one of the greatest deficits of this generation – vision. The senior motto proclaimed, “We’re here, we’re not somewhere else, so we might as well be doing what we’re doing.” Exciting isn’t it?

One young man came to our church with a t-shirt his graduating class created. It was blue and said, “ut vinceret.” I asked him what it meant. He said proudly, “We will conquer!” I followed up, “What will you conquer?” He looked quizzically up at me, paused, and said, “I don’t know.” and walked away. This generation wants to conquer but has no idea why they are here. They recognize life is important because you only get one shot (YOLO!), but they can’t find their place because they have no idea that there is a story that God is unfolding. John Eldridge likened this generation to a person walking into a movie half way through. They notice the action unfolding on the screen but they cannot put the pieces together. They are on a stage, they know a play is unfolding, but they don’t know their lines. This culture has removed them from the greater story. They have no connection to the meta-narrative that will ground their story in something bigger.

Their science class tells them they are simply evolved animals propagating a species with no real purpose other than passing on your DNA. The priests of evolution proclaim,

“There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.” Will Provine, Evolutionary Biologist, Origins Research

Richard Dawkins preaches hope to them in his book River out of Eden. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” p132-133

These philosophies will sap the vision out of anyone. But God proclaims that before he formed you in womb, he knew you. He created you to know Him and enjoy Him forever. God is unfolding a redemption plan and each unique person was created to play a key role in that plan.

Vision: Vision is possessing an unfolding revelation of your purpose and destiny and having the courage and fortitude to pursue it. If life is ultimately purposeless, you will never connect with a greater call. Life can then easily degenerate to living for the moment.

Proverbs 29:18 famously declares that without vision, people cast off restraint. Vision constrains our wandering and intemperate hearts.  So first, we must get a sense of God’s unfolding redemption plan and our place in it. This will help us see that the world does not revolve around us but was meant to be impacted by us. Our story is a part of the unfolding story that went on before we arrived and will continue on after we have spoken our last line.

The key to finding our dreams begins by discovering what God dreams about. Our most fulfilling dreams will only come to the surface when we immerse ourselves in the flow of God’s dreams. This will unlock the door to finding why God put us here in the first place.

What does God dream about? He dreams first, that all would come to know his love lived out through Christ. (John 3:16) He dreams second, that those who receive Christ would grow to their full maturity. (Ephesians 4:11-14, Colossians 2:1-10) Thirdly he dreams that his kingdom, his rule, his wisdom and love will manifest on earth as it is in heaven. When we begin to ask ourselves, how can we best reach people who have never heard about God’s grace? How can I help people grow strong in their faith? And, how can I best live out heaven in my earthly life, we will begin to gain ears to hear God’s unfolding plan for us. Life begins when we lose ourselves in the unfolding redemption plan of God. When we try to control our purpose apart from the larger story, we lose both.

Three Strategies for Raising Kids with Character

As a father of four kids, I want to address a great need in our world — kids with character.

I want my children to achieve greatness with their life. Kim and I have pushed them to succeed academically. We have encouraged each of them to flourish in an art and a sport. Many parents want their students to flourish in these ways, however, if they lack character, their success in other areas will leave them deeply flawed. Our nation doesn’t need any more educated brats or athletic punks. Our culture creates a challenging environment that feeds the narcissistic lusts of human nature making it a challenge to raise kids with character.

There are, however, some strategies to help you guide them in their character development.

1. Model character in the context of relationship.

You cannot lead where you do not go. You must model character. The home is the first, and most important, learning environment. If you can’t control your temper, if you have a porn stash, if you cheat at business, don’t expect your children to do better. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And the words, “Do as I say, not as I do” ring hollow.

Let your kids see you praying. Let them see you wrestle with ethical dilemmas. Let them see you making positive moral choices. Then invite your children into your world at age appropriate times to watch you do the right thing. Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.

2. The number one enemy is the wrong crowd. Bad company corrupts good morals.  

 Buddy Scott has worked as a youth therapist for many years. He has specialized in young people struggling with major character issues – stealing, harming others, runaways, and rebels. In his book, “Relief for Hurting Parents,” he says the number one enemy for your child is the wrong crowd. I have interviewed many people for my writings. I have watched the choices and consequences of many lives in 24 years of ministry, and when I listen to the stories of people who end up at my office trying to get their life back together they all have this phrase in common, “I started hanging out with the wrong crowd.”

Proximity equals influence. Eugene Rivers, a Pentecostal minister in one of Boston’s toughest neighborhoods, moved into the city from the suburbs. Trying to learn the neighborhood, he sought out a local gang leader and drug dealer named Selvin Brown. He was a tough talking, sassy, inner city gun-slinger. Selvin showed the good pastor around the neighborhood and gave him a lesson as to why God was losing and gangs were winning the battle for souls of inner-city kids

In one sentence he explained it: “I’m here when Johnny goes out for a loaf of bread for Mamma, I’m there when Johnny goes to school and when he comes home from school. I’m there, you’re not, I win, you lose. It’s all about being there.” Make sure you are there for you kids. And make sure you know their associations. It’s okay for you to show up at their school and have lunch with your child and their friends. It’s okay for you to follow up on where they said they were going and who they are with. You are the parent. Protect them from poor influences.

3. Teach moral principles based on God’s nature

God has given us a moral law that – just like physical laws – govern our world. He has also given us a will in order that He can rule in love. These moral laws are not arbitrary. They are rooted in His nature and character. Therefore, when you train your children, help them see the bigger picture so that they understand that God gave us moral laws to help us live well in the world He created.

I recently watched a public figure answer a question regarding a certain behavior. She was challenged on it and replied, “Well, that’s how I was raised.” What she doesn’t understand is that the moral law is not dependent upon how we were raised. Right and wrong exist independently of how we were raised. Being raised by thieves doesn’t make stealing right.

Right and wrong are rooted in God’s character. Lying is wrong because God is truth. We have fair and unfair because God is just. Sexual immorality is wrong because God is loving, pure and faithful. These things are not wrong because the Bible says they are wrong. The Bible says they are wrong because the Bible reflects God’s character. Whatever does not correspond to God’s character is not true, moral, or right. Therefore, making poor choices will lead to a fractured relationship with God and others, violate our purpose and lead poor consequences.

When we model right decision-making, guard our children from poor influences, and give them the larger picture of right and wrong, they will have a greater opportunity to allow their talents to propel them to greatness without the hindrances of poor character.  Stay tuned for more on this as we honor the role of the father.

Dear Daughter, Lets Talk About Boys and Clothes, Pt. 2

modesty pic alli

Dear Daughter,

I want to follow up with our previous conversation about clothes. Recall that I mentioned spring is arriving and with it proms, passions, and new fashions. You’re old enough now to be aware of the world around you. You may have noticed that the world contains funny, awkward, smelly and sometimes cute boys. These creatures have weird powers to influence you to dress, talk, or act certain ways. I’m writing this short series of notes to let you in on the secret mind of the male as it relates to how you dress and act. Most girls do not understand what I am about to tell you. Consequently, they dress, talk, and act in ways that will cause the opposite effect they are going for. I want to share with you what guys think about what girls wear and give you insight into the positive power of modesty.

God has gifted you with the power of femininity.  The power to inspire, motivate, and encourage. To use your God-given femininity to refresh the world around you and lift others up.   This power, value, and dignity is the target of a cultural attack that wants to steal natural beauty and innocence from you by eliminating your sense of modesty and decorum. Don’t let them define you. You are valuable enough as a person without having to show parts of your body to people who have not one shred of investment into your life.  Save that for someone who has made a life-long covenant to lay down their life for your well- being and growth.

Now, what I am about to tell you is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the realm of masculinity.  This is one of those instincts that God wired us with and you won’t hear this in too many other places.   What guys value they cover. What they don’t they won’t So when we see something covered, we naturally think “This is to be valued and protected, loved and cherished.” When we see something uncovered, we naturally think, “This is to be played with, possibly mistreated, and destroyed for my pleasure.”

Even from when we were little boys, we had this in us.  Boys collect things.  We collect bugs, reptiles, comic books, and sports cards.   The sports cards that we loved — our favorite players or the ones that had some real value — we covered.  We put them in little plastic covers so they wouldn’t be damaged.  If our little brother got a hold of them, we would wrestle him down to protect that precious card.

The ones we didn’t care about? Well, we did other things with those.  We put them in the spokes of our bikes to make it sound like we had a motorcycle.   Oh, it would destroy the card, but it sure made our bikes sound cool!

Take cars, for example. Most guys like cars.  They are attracted to different kinds of cars.  Every summer there are thousands of guys that flock to the fairgrounds to see cars smashed up in the demolition derby until the last one is running.  I love it!  These cars are playthings.  They are to be used abused for our pleasure and fun, then thrown away so we can get another one.

And then there are other cars we also like. Classic, beautiful, expensive sports cars.  If a guys is fortunate enough to get one of these.  You can tell.  They walk around with a smile on their face.  They think often of her and give it a special name.  They speak about her in hushed and reverent tones.  You won’t find him entering THAT car into the demolition derby.  In fact, when he invites you over to see it, you will approach his house and not see the car because it will be covered by the garage.  Maybe even a separate garage built just for the car.  You will open the garage door and the first thing you see will not be the car, it will be the cover.  Upon removing the cover, you will see the car.  This is a car he values, cherishes, he protects.mustang

Which car would you rather be?  The demolition derby car or the highly valued sports car?   Your dress and demeanor as a young woman will trigger one of these two instincts in a guy.  What they see uncovered, they think, “toy to be destroyed for my pleasure.”  What they see covered, they think “valuable, worthy of protection, something I want to keep.”  Now keep this in mind as well.  Some boys don’t have the maturity or character to appreciate the valuable car.  Don’t be surprised if THOSE kind of boys walk away when you won’t let them play with you like a derby car.  They will, unfortunately, spend their lives destroying rather than covering those around them.  I’m just trying to make sure you are not included in that mix.

What does that mean to you?  Simply this:  If you want to be valued, dress modestly.  If you want to be thought of as cheap, low-end, bargain goods to be played with and then discarded – well – dress immodestly.

How you act and how you dress is an outward reflection of an inward heart.  A pure heart, will come out in a pure dress.  A heart to please God over what the herd in our culture is dressing like will show in your dress.   A heart that cares about honoring God more than trying to fit in, is very rare. Because it is rare, those who possess it are very attractive indeed.

You are beautiful like a rose.  You cannot force a rose to bloom, but I’ve seen many a beautiful young lady try to rush the process of growing up.  They try to force open the bud but they only destroy it in the process.  If you will be patient, learn to honor God with your heart which will be reflected in your dress and conduct, your beauty will unfold in God’s time and your fragrance will enrich the world.

 

Love,

Dad

 

 

 

Dear Daughter, Lets Talk About Boys and Clothes, Pt. 2

modesty pic alli

Dear Daughter,

I want to follow up with our previous conversation about clothes. Recall that I mentioned spring is arriving and with it proms, passions, and new fashions. You’re old enough now to be aware of the world around you. You may have noticed that the world contains funny, awkward, smelly and sometimes cute boys. These creatures have weird powers to influence you to dress, talk, or act certain ways. I’m writing this short series of notes to let you in on the secret mind of the male as it relates to how you dress and act. Most girls do not understand what I am about to tell you. Consequently, they dress, talk, and act in ways that will cause the opposite effect they are going for. I want to share with you what guys think about what girls wear and give you insight into the positive power of modesty.

God has gifted you with the power of femininity.  The power to inspire, motivate, and encourage. To use your God-given femininity to refresh the world around you and lift others up.   This power, value, and dignity is the target of a cultural attack that wants to steal natural beauty and innocence from you by eliminating your sense of modesty and decorum. Don’t let them define you. You are valuable enough as a person without having to show parts of your body to people who have not one shred of investment into your life.  Save that for someone who has made a life-long covenant to lay down their life for your well- being and growth.

Now, what I am about to tell you is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the realm of masculinity.  This is one of those instincts that God wired us with and you won’t hear this in too many other places.   What guys value they cover. What they don’t they won’t So when we see something covered, we naturally think “This is to be valued and protected, loved and cherished.” When we see something uncovered, we naturally think, “This is to be played with, possibly mistreated, and destroyed for my pleasure.”

Even from when we were little boys, we had this in us.  Boys collect things.  We collect bugs, reptiles, comic books, and sports cards.   The sports cards that we loved — our favorite players or the ones that had some real value — we covered.  We put them in little plastic covers so they wouldn’t be damaged.  If our little brother got a hold of them, we would wrestle him down to protect that precious card.

The ones we didn’t care about? Well, we did other things with those.  We put them in the spokes of our bikes to make it sound like we had a motorcycle.   Oh, it would destroy the card, but it sure made our bikes sound cool!

Take cars, for example. Most guys like cars.  They are attracted to different kinds of cars.  Every summer there are thousands of guys that flock to the fairgrounds to see cars smashed up in the demolition derby until the last one is running.  I love it!  These cars are playthings.  They are to be used abused for our pleasure and fun, then thrown away so we can get another one.

And then there are other cars we also like. Classic, beautiful, expensive sports cars.  If a guys is fortunate enough to get one of these.  You can tell.  They walk around with a smile on their face.  They think often of her and give it a special name.  They speak about her in hushed and reverent tones.  You won’t find him entering THAT car into the demolition derby.  In fact, when he invites you over to see it, you will approach his house and not see the car because it will be covered by the garage.  Maybe even a separate garage built just for the car.  You will open the garage door and the first thing you see will not be the car, it will be the cover.  Upon removing the cover, you will see the car.  This is a car he values, cherishes, he protects.mustang

Which car would you rather be?  The demolition derby car or the highly valued sports car?   Your dress and demeanor as a young woman will trigger one of these two instincts in a guy.  What they see uncovered, they think, “toy to be destroyed for my pleasure.”  What they see covered, they think “valuable, worthy of protection, something I want to keep.”  Now keep this in mind as well.  Some boys don’t have the maturity or character to appreciate the valuable car.  Don’t be surprised if THOSE kind of boys walk away when you won’t let them play with you like a derby car.  They will, unfortunately, spend their lives destroying rather than covering those around them.  I’m just trying to make sure you are not included in that mix.

What does that mean to you?  Simply this:  If you want to be valued, dress modestly.  If you want to be thought of as cheap, low-end, bargain goods to be played with and then discarded – well – dress immodestly.

How you act and how you dress is an outward reflection of an inward heart.  A pure heart, will come out in a pure dress.  A heart to please God over what the herd in our culture is dressing like will show in your dress.   A heart that cares about honoring God more than trying to fit in, is very rare. Because it is rare, those who possess it are very attractive indeed.

You are beautiful like a rose.  You cannot force a rose to bloom, but I’ve seen many a beautiful young lady try to rush the process of growing up.  They try to force open the bud but they only destroy it in the process.  If you will be patient, learn to honor God with your heart which will be reflected in your dress and conduct, your beauty will unfold in God’s time and your fragrance will enrich the world.

 

Love,

Dad

 

 

 

Dear Daughter, Let’s Talk About Boys and Clothes Pt. I

Modesty

Dear Daughter,

Spring is arriving and with it proms, passions, and new fashions. You’re old enough now to be aware of the world around you. You may have noticed that the world contains funny, awkward, smelly, and sometimes, cute boys. These creatures have weird powers to influence you to dress, talk, or act certain ways. I’m writing this short series of notes to let you in on the secret mind of the male as it relates to how you dress and act. Most girls do not understand what I am about to tell you. Consequently, they dress, talk, and act in ways that will cause the opposite effect they are searching for. I want to share with you what guys think about what girls wear and give you insight into the positive power of modesty.

This message is so vital for you because society is telling you that to be feminine is to be erotic.  Sociologists are calling this phenomenon the pornographication of our girls. If you buy into this lie, you will try to find power in sexual appeal but what you won’t see is that you simply become a tool for some man’s selfish gratification. This power is fleeting, for in the exchange, you lose the dignity and value that is your deepest desire.  And you will resemble God less and less; losing the very basis of your dignity.

Because men are relatively simple, they can be pretty predictable.  God has wired them internally to respond almost subconsciously to certain situations, not the least of which is how girls dress.  God has wired men to be visually-oriented.  Much of the input that comes into their brain comes through their eyes.

When we are around females, (which is much of the time because they consist of half the world’s population.) we not only see with our eyes, we think with our eyes.  We are highly tuned to two things: beauty and conquest.  We want a beauty to rescue and a challenge to conquer.  This is how we are wired.  How you dress and present yourself will tap into these instincts. You can harness these traits with the power of your femininity to your advantage or let them work against you.  It’s your choice to make.

Because guys are wired to respond visually; females can get attention by dressing immodestly.  Immodesty does have the power of attraction.  However, you must be careful what you attract. Immodesty has great power to draw males with predatory instincts.

Predators think mostly of themselves and their gratification and they don’t care who they hurt along the way.  Princes, on the other hand, are strong, godly guys who want nothing more than to spend their lives on behalf of the people and principles that are important to them.

Immodesty does have the power of attraction, but it’s the predators you’ll attract.

Modesty however, has the power to attract men of princely character, as well as the extra power of retention.  The girl that has the strength of character to dress modestly wherever she goes — at school, the beach, the mall — has great power to keep the attention and interest of the right kind of guys. Because she is confident that her beauty is not only vested in her body, but her mind and her soul as well. This is a girl who will grow more beautiful as she ages. This type of girl is highly attractive to the prince.

I spent a year studying and filming regarding this topic.  We finished with a short documentary called “What Guys Think About What Girls Wear.”  One of the questions we asked guys was: When you see a girl dressed immodestly, are what are your thoughts toward her? Do your thoughts lend themselves to a long term relationship or short term?  Every boy said, “Short term.”

What I found is that guys look at girls that are immodest and they make instant judgments, “thinking with their eyes.”  When we asked, “What are your initial thoughts regarding a girl who is dressed immodestly?” here were some of the responses:

“They have a need that they have unmet in their life, maybe something they didn’t get from their father, like love and acceptance.”

“She has a complex about the way she looks and is trying to reveal herself in other ways to attract attention.”

“Need for attention; bad judgment”

“…maybe immoral (easy), snap judgment, she’s immoral, or maybe insecure, trying to show off.”

“Crying for attention”

That she’s immoral (easy), doesn’t care about herself, trashy, just a woman, property to be owned.”

Miuccia Prada, who runs the fashion empire, Prada, spoke about this in an interview in GQ magazine,

 “With women, the more unhappy they are, the more undressed they are. This is true. Dignity’s another very important part of this…You have to have dignity for your body—this is with men and women. You need to have dignity towards how you are, how you dress, how you behave. Very important.”

How you act and how you dress is simply an outward reflection of your inward attitude.  If your outward appearance screams “needy, immoral, insecure,” guy’s that have their act together will not want anything to do with you. You will be perceived as too much drama.  Guys that see an opportunity for sexual gratification, however, will put up with the drama for a while, then move on.

Let me add that this is no attempt to let guys off the hook.  They, too, must possess the self-control and discipline necessary to reflect godly character.  Each of us must do our part to reflect Christ in this broken culture.  But as a father, my heart is to protect you and help you understand how to safely walk through this season of your life.  We will talk more about this later. This is enough to chew on for now. God has gifted you with the power of femininity, allow it to blossom in healthy ways and your fragrance will enrich the world.

There is No Pill for “Can’t”

I’ve recently been working as a tutor and self-defense instructor for a group of junior-high and high- school boys through the Joseph Center. The Joseph CeGame in a mobile phone is more interesting, than on the pianonter is a ministry devoted to helping boys mature into men who know who they are as sons (adopted by their heavenly Father), leaders, lovers, protectors and providers. More than once I’ve come home grieved at where they are as young men. (Not all of them for sure. But enough to spot a trend.)

It comes down to this: There is no pill for “can’t.” 

My partners and I do our best to challenge and call them up to the level of their potential but more often than not we are thwarted by a blockage in their mind of “can’t.” One day after class, one of our leaders said of one boy, “It’s my goal this entire semester to get (boys name) to stop making excuses. Every time I ask him to do something, he has an excuse why he can’t.”

Winners find a way, losers find an excuse.

Somewhere along the line for these boys, “can’t” became convenient. “I’m not a good test taker.” “I’m not good at math.” “I have ADD.” “I’m not a good reader.” One after another, the excuses flow from their mouths like well-rehearsed lines of some kind of mantra.

While each of these boys deal with complex situations at home, somewhere early in their life, the adults stopped expending the energy to expect excellence and started tolerating excuses for poor performance. Yes, it takes energy to expect and even more energy to inspect. But the adults in a child’s life — starting with the PARENTS — must create a culture where “can’t” is a dirty word. God has given each of these boys incredible potential. Many will graduate below grade level in every subject because somewhere in their life people stopped expecting and they started tolerating mediocrity and worse.

We have found ways to medicate and pacify our young men but I have news – you can’t medicate “can’t”. You can only lay out healthy, high expectations and strong, real consequences for not meeting them. Many of these boys struggle with basic math – addition, multiplication, and so forth. Most of these boys suffer not from ADD but from “Lazy Brain Syndrome.” They do not struggle because they are mentally impaired, they struggle because somebody gave up on them and allowed them to settle for “can’t” because “smart” is hard.

If your son cannot read and perform basic skills then you have the power to stop their life until they get it right. It is not the teacher’s fault. They don’t go home with your son. Pull out their pacifier (television, the internet and video games) and pull out the old-fashioned flash cards and get busy. I don’t care if they’re bored. I don’t care if they whine. No dinner before we drill the 12-multiplication family! You control the food supply! Their room has a door and a circuit breaker, doesn’t it? The door can come off and the breaker can be switched off! Switch off the breaker and switch on their brain! They will need it! And we need them to bring forth their talents to bless the world!

A young man walked in today for the tutoring session with a comic book. I said, “What’s this?” “Homework,” he said. “They let you read a comic book for literature class?” came my astounded reply.  “Yup, because the other books bore me.” Somewhere along the line, a teacher and a parent said that this boy’s entertainment is more important than his education. We have lowered the bar.

Last week during my mentoring session with a third-grade boy, the teacher suggested we play the “calculator game.” I asked, “What’s the calculator game?”  “You get a dry erase board, the student gets a calculator and he calls out math problems and you race to see who can get the answer faster.” I questioned, “You mean, I get the calculator and he gets the dry-erase board?“No, he gets the calculator and you get the dry-erase board.” My reply, “I already passed the third grade.” I took the dry-erase board and left the room grieved as the young man used the calculator to solve 10 + 3.

I realize not everyone has the same academic capacity. I recognize the classroom is not suited for all learning styles, but no learning, no achievement, no success will come with “can’t” in the way.

A generation ago, men rode on the end of a missile all the way to the moon using a slide-rule and some guts. Now, too many of our children have people in their lives that have fooled them into thinking that a productive, healthy life can be carved out on this rock without, blood, sweat, and tears. And the students have trained the adults in their life to lower the bar so they can step over it without straining themselves — they just say the magic words, “I can’t.”