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parenting

December 06, 2011

Daddy DatesIt is unlikely that I am the only father who is more than a little bit intimidated at the thought of raising daughters. Terrified and overwhelmed is more like it. If I didn’t have strong, Christian role models to emulate (my own parents among them), I might just despair. One of the early lessons I have learned (I’m still relatively new to this—my girls are just 9 and 5) is the value of daddy dates, which is to say, taking out my daughters and spending time alone with them.

Greg Wright is a motivational speaker and executive coach whose challenge is twice as tough as mine; he has 4 daughters. Wright is the author of a new book titled Daddy Dates: Four Daughters, One Clueless Dad, and His Quest to Win Their Hearts. The book showed up in my mailbox the other day and I just had to read it. This wasn’t a tough thing to do since a) it’s only 210 pages long, b) those 210 pages are quite small with a lot of them being blank, c) the book is meant to be easy-to-read and d) I know that I need help in this very subject.

What this book is not is yet another parenting book on how to lead your children from the cradle to the wedding day. The focus is narrower than that. Wright seeks to help fathers pursue the hearts of their daughters. He does this primarily by pointing to his own example; the book is a memoir of sorts in which he shares lessons—the good and bad—from 18 years of raising girls.

June 19, 2011

This is something that seemed appropriate to share for Father’s Day. This is an excerpt from John Paton’s autobiography, an excerpt in which Paton describes leaving his home in Torthorwald to attend missionary school in Glasgow (just to get to the train he had to walk some forty miles). His godly father accompanied him for the first portion of the journey, knowing that accepting the missionary life was accepting the call to leave family and very probably never seem them again. Here is what happened:

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence - my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!”

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me.

June 14, 2011

Part of the joy of blogging is in interacting with other people through the comments. When I write an article, and especially an article on a difficult topic, I am always aware that I have not said it all. There are always ways in which what I have said can be improved.

This was the case yesterday with the article “I Am Unalarmed.” I’d like to draw your attention to a few of the (many) comments that I found very helpful as I continued to think through the topic.

The first came from Mark J. LaCore who wrote this:

I would ask you not to oversimplify your response to the oversimplification of the statistics.

I am 55 years old and have been an active believer for 38 years. My wife and I have been just about as passionate about our relationships with Christ as it is possible to be. We spent years in churches that did the best they could to preach the gospel, and we have served whole-heartedly in those churches as we raised 4 children to adulthood, all the while consciously and actively praying for them, living in integrity to the best of our ability, modeling the grace and love of Christ to them and others, and doing all we could to ensure that they would not be so turned off by the church that they would become one of the numbers in the statistics you have quoted.

Two of those four children actively follow the Lord and serve in the church. Two of them have utterly rejected Christ and the gospel.

It is a source of great joy that those two love the Lord and give themselves to service and (for the one with children of his own) are raising kids to do the same. But it is a source of tremendous heartache to us, who know the gospel, know the power of Christ in us, and who long to see our other two sons brought out of darkness and into light.

All four were raised in the same house, in the same atmosphere, by the same parents. The first and the third reject Christ; the second and fourth walk with him.

We could second-guess the way we raised them, wish things had been done differently, and beat ourselves up over some failure in the past, but we know there is no value in doing so. We simply pray, thanking God for two that love Him, and asking that He who is sovereign would yet choose the other two, and call them, and give them to Christ for His glory and their joy.

I do not in any way disagree with you that a gospel-saturated environment creates the sort of atmosphere that gives a child ample opportunity to hear the good news and respond. But it is also critical to remember that it is God who elects and calls and saves, and no amount of ensuring the right environment will guarantee that any child will believe as an adult.

I appreciated this comment because I felt it is complementary to all that I was saying. In an early draft of my article I had spoken at some length about the fact that God is sovereign and that “no amount of ensuring the right environment will guarantee that any child will believe as an adult.” Amen. Ultimately we do what the Lord commands and trust him with the results.

July 16, 2010

Today’s guest blog comes from my good friend Mark Tubbs. Mark has taken upon himself much of the day-to-day work associated with Discerning Reader and for that I am deeply indebeted to him. Today he writes about marriage and parenting.

*****

Back in May, my wife and I attended an incredibly challenging and inspiring Paul David Tripp conference on marriage, entitled What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (there is a excellent Crossway book of the same name). I learned so much about parenting.

Did I say parenting? Yes; I took away manifold parenting insights from this marriage conference. That’s not to say that I didn’t imbibe any marriage insights; I certainly did. I was chastened up and down regarding all the ways I superimpose my failings onto my wife. I was humbled to learn that the secret to our long and successful marriage is that we share a deep and abiding love for me (HT Jess MacCallum for that phrase).

It’s no secret that the Bible speaks to parenting, but it may be a surprise to you just how often it does so indirectly. At his conference, Tripp stated, “The Bible isn’t arranged by topic. If you go only to the “marriage” passages, you miss most of what the Bible says about marriage.” In his book, he elaborates in a section entitled “Using the Bible Biblically”:

October 14, 2009

Earlier this year I was asked to prepare a talk on families and technology. I was to speak to a group of adults, mostly parents of teenagers, and address issues related to digital technology. I was pleased with the challenge and was reasonably happy with the final result. As I prepared that talk I began to think about the role of parents in the media consumption of their children. I turned to the Bible and found three biblical description that I found helpful in describing how they are to serve their children: teachers, watchmen and gatekeepers.

Teachers
You are familiar, I’m sure, with the words of Jesus in Matthew 23 where we find some of his strongest “woes.” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” There is an exhortation here to the listeners to ensure that they do not fall into the temptation to be like those whitewashed tombs, sparkling and clean on the outside but actually full of death and decay. They are not to make a show of being clean on the outside while remaining a mess on the inside. An application for us today is that we are to know and remember that the eye of God is upon us at all times. Though new technologies give us unparalleled opportunities to do deeds in secret, we cannot ever escape the gaze of God.

These exhortations apply to those of us who are adults and parents. They apply to us especially in this role. We know the words of James 3:1: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” What applies to teachers applies to parents, the most important teachers our children will ever have. In our position of teaching and authority, we will be judged more harshly. We are responsible before God to ensure that we are modeling godly wisdom and discernment in our use of such technologies. How many fathers would be devastated to find their sons looking at Internet pornography even while dad knows that his computer is stuffed full of the same filth? How many mothers wish their children would stop spending so much time using the PlayStation even while mom spends the national average of 28 hours per week in front of the television (which means, mom, that by the time you are 65 you will have spent 9 years in front of the tube).

We are to be teachers, leading our children to greater wisdom through the wisdom that we have been given. We do not need to spend much time in Scripture to see how the Bible compares age with youth. Time and again the Bible tells us that youth is to be regarded with suspicion, age with respect. These verses are typical of Solomon’s proverbs: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him (Proverbs 22:15).” Compare that with Proverbs 16:31 which tells us that “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die (Proverbs 23:13).” “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother (Proverbs 29:15).” Leviticus 19:32 says “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” God even commanded that his people were to stand in the presence of the elderly to render to them the honor due. Perhaps one of the clearest endorsements of God’s commands towards the aged comes from Job 12:12. “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”

The job of a parent comes into focus when we consider that the Bible tells us our children are foolish, in desperate need of discipline and in desperate need of both wisdom and discernment. If Proverbs does not teach us that, it teaches us nothing! Meanwhile, our task as parents is to lead and guide our child from foolishness into wisdom. Without our leading, our guidance, they will use technology foolishly and inevitably make foolish decisions about media.

Watchmen
Ezekiel 33:6 offers an important warning: “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” While we have to grant that this is a specific law given at a specific time, it is applicable even to us today. As parents, God has appointed us as the watchmen of our families. We stand at the gates of the home and at the gates of our children’s hearts. Like watchmen, we need to be vigilant, knowing what to look for and where to look for it. It is our job, as watchmen, to be aware of what technology our children are encountering. It is our task to watch, to warn, to protect. And this is exactly what a watchman would do.

He would watch to see if an enemy was advancing against his city. He would be focused outward, looking for the approach of anything that posed a danger. As a watchman, he needed to be constantly vigilant, never sleeping at his watch, never growing tired or distracted or disinterested. And like this, we are responsible before God to be vigilant, looking out for the safety of the families we guard.

This is where Ezekiel’s warning gets especially serious. The watchman was not just to watch but was also to warn. If he saw that the enemy was coming, he could not simply watch the advance while resting his head on his hands. Neither would his lack of watchfulness serve as an excuse. His life was tied directly to the lives of the people he protected. If an enemy was able to sneak past the watchman, it is the watchman who would be held directly responsible. In the same way we, as parents, are responsible for warning our children against what might harm them. This may mean warning them against specific dangers such as the addictive quality of the pornography that is so easily shared and viewed on a cell phone, or it may mean warning them of the remarkable power and privilege that is theirs simply by virtue of having that phone.

Of course if an enemy was advancing against the city, the watchman would not run home and go to bed, content that his task was done. No, he was a soldier and would be involved in the battle. He had to protect his city. As a defender of the wall, he might be the first person to wade into the battle. He would watch, he would warn, but he would also protect his city and its people. Likewise, it is our task to protect our children—to fight for them (and yes, I know this often means fighting with them!).

Gatekeepers
Finally, we are the gatekeepers of the family. We read about gatekeepers often in the Old Testament and usually in relation to the temple. The gatekeepers were assigned to the entrances to the temple and their task was simple—they had to keep out whoever or whatever was unclean. Like the watchmen, they would assume at least some of the responsibility were they to allow into the temple a person or even an animal that was forbidden.

Our task as the families’ gatekeeper is to guard the entrance to our children’s hearts. There are more entrances to their hearts than ever before. We need to be aware of what is on the television screens they watch, what they are writing about and taking pictures of when they use their cell phones and what they are downloading while on the web. We stand between them and the world as a gatekeeper stands between the temple and the crowds.

The Bible tells us that our children are foolish! Today we give them incredibly powerful tools and often simply trust them to handle them in a responsible way. It’s like giving a baby a set of power tools to play with and trusting him not to cut off his hands! Our children need us to teach them to use technology wisely. Our children need us to shepherd them in their use of technology, teaching them to seek wisdom and apply discernment to their use of any technology.

August 01, 2009

Here are three brief quotes quotes from Leonard Sax’s Boys Adrift. I thought of this book recently as I was talking to my parents and heard them describe a person they know whose child apparently suffers from “Oppositional-Defiant Disorder.” That explains the third quote. The other two are just good to think about. If you’ve got boys of your own, do take a look at Boys Adrift; it is a good read.

*****

“Forty years ago, even thirty years ago, there was no shame in a young man choosing a career in the trades. Beginning in the early 1980s-and particularly after publication of the Nation at Risk report in 1983-a consensus grew in the United States that every young person should go to college, regardless. “Vocational education” lost whatever prestige it had, and came to be viewed in some quarters very nearly as a dumping ground for the mildly retarded.”

“Traditionally, one of the factors driving Western society has been the fact that women prefer successful, affluent men over men who are less successful. Because men understood that women would be reluctant to marry men who couldn’t comfortably support a wife and children, men were motivated to be successful. That simple mechanism has suffered a double whammy in the past forty years. First, sex has been divorced from marriage. Second-and here’s what’s really disturbing to those of us in the over-thirty crowd-sexual satisfaction has been divorced from women altogether.”

“Thirty years ago, if a boy cursed his parents and spit at his teacher, the neighbors might say that the boy was a disobedient brat who needed a good spanking. Today, the same behavior from a similar boy might well prompt a trip to the pediatrician or the child psychiatrist. And the doctor is likely to ‘diagnose’ the boy with Conduct Disorder (DSM-IV 312.82) or Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (DSM-IV 313.81). The main criterion for both these ‘disorders’ is disobedient and disrespectful behavior that persists despite parental efforts.’ Is there really much of a difference between a neighbor saying ‘That boy is a disobedient brat,’ and a doctor saying ‘That boy has oppositional-defiant disorder’? I think there is. If another parent whom you trust and respect suggests that your son is a disobedient brat who needs stricter discipline, you just might consider adopting a tougher parenting.”

October 19, 2008

In his sermon this morning our pastor quoted John Paton’s Autobiography (still in print almost 120 years after it was first published). It’s a quote I’ve heard often and one that has stirred me every time. It describes Paton leaving his home in Torthorwald to attend missionary school in Glasgow (just to get to the train he had to walk some forty miles). His godly father accompanied him for the first portion of the journey. Here is what happened:

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence - my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl’s down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!”

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him - gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dike and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me.

June 02, 2008

What follows are three quotes from Leonard Sax’s book Boys Adrift. I am going to post a full review of the book soon, but for now suffice it to say that if you have boys or you are a boy (or a young man), you need to read this book!

Forty years ago, even thirty years ago, there was no shame in a young man choosing a career in the trades. Beginning in the early 1980s-and particularly after publication of the Nation at Risk report in 1983-a consensus grew in the United States that every young person should go to college, regardless. “Vocational education” lost whatever prestige it had, and came to be viewed in some quarters very nearly as a dumping ground for the mildly retarded.”

Traditionally, one of the factors driving Western society has been the fact that women prefer successful, affluent men over men who are less successful. Because men understood that women would be reluctant to marry men who couldn’t comfortably support a wife and children, men were motivated to be successful. That simple mechanism has suffered a double whammy in the past forty years. First, sex has been divorced from marriage. Second-and here’s what’s really disturbing to those of us in the over-thirty crowd-sexual satisfaction has been divorced from women altogether.”

Thirty years ago, if a boy cursed his parents and spit at his teacher, the neighbors might say that the boy was a disobedient brat who needed a good spanking. Today, the same behavior from a similar boy might well prompt a trip to the pediatrician or the child psychiatrist. And the doctor is likely to ‘diagnose’ the boy with Conduct Disorder (DSM-IV 312.82) or Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (DSM-IV 313.81). The main criterion for both these ‘disorders’ is disobedient and disrespectful behavior that persists despite parental efforts.’ Is there really much of a difference between a neighbor saying ‘That boy is a disobedient brat,’ and a doctor saying ‘That boy has oppositional-defiant disorder’? I think there is. If another parent whom you trust and respect suggests that your son is a disobedient brat who needs stricter discipline, you just might consider adopting a tougher parenting.”