Dad: Sorry for the delay. Well, first of all, how you come down on this issue – seven literal days, old earth theory, some level of evolution, etc. – is not an absolute of the Christian faith. What is absolute in this category is that God created all that exists. For the finer points, one must consider the absolute of the authority of Scripture and explain what God meant when he said that He made each creature to reproduce after its kind. Also, in the scientific world, you can ask the question of those holding to evolution and old earth theory, “Do you consider a world-wide flood in your study?” Many non-Christian societies from places all over the world have flood stories that sound amazingly similar. Having a world-wide flood can explain many of the fossils, and evidence many use for old earth slow development. It is interesting how many Christian scientists have taken an objective approach to seek what is actually true, considering all possible explanations, listening to historical accounts, and examining as much evidence as possible, and yet secular scientists often refuse to consider certain possibilities off-hand. What then is science?
With the 7 literal days, if God can create it 7 days, but to fit theories we like each day lasting millions of years, we could also ask, “Couldn’t God create the universe as is in 7 seconds?” Why are we trying to fit the Bible’s account into a pre-determined theory?
There are many Christian scientists who have honestly done this work already, and if your friend is truly interested in finding the truth, he should be honest with himself and seek out sources from all perspectives. A good place to start is Ben Stein’s documentary, “Expelled.” It shows how the chief evolutionists are not honest scientists, and how higher education often discriminates against those who believe in, or are even willing to consider intelligent design. Ask your friend if he has heard of intelligent design. In a recent discussion I had, the others I was talking with had not even heard the term. I had heard of all of their theories ad nauseam, and they hadn’t even heard the name of the basic concept of the creation side. They started that particular conversation by claiming that Christians are close-minded when it comes to science. Ken Ham is another source – Answers in Genesis is his organization. The Institute of Creation Research is another excellent option. I suppose they all have websites, and books to no end.
There are so many fun questions that have no good answers such as, “What are the odds that mutations, or accidents have positive results? Do you actually believe that mutations and accidents made improvements in species to the point of developing new species?” The truth is that this process cannot be proven, and certainly cannot be repeated, so it cannot be science. You can ask if any equipment he has ever used has been the result of an accident, rather than the result of someone’s design. He certainly doesn’t need scientific proof to tell that his cell phone was designed by a creative, intelligent being. Ask him how he can tell. How much more complicated, and yet logical is the human body, and yet many believe it evolved by accident. Examining the complex systems of the body that we are only beginning to understand shows that someone much more intelligent than we are designed them.
The final thing to address here actually has nothing to do with science. I’d suggest you ask your friend what is his world-view. He may not have heard of that term, but everyone has one, and it is simple to discover through basic discussion. Ask how he knows what he knows, and let the conversation flow, by just continuing to ask, “Yeah, but how do you know?” You need to have the answer for yourself as well, and if you both believe in the authority of Scripture, then a thorough and continuous study of the Bible should help you shape your world-view, that is if you ignore popular, cultural opinion. I find that people with completely opposing world-views can argue ‘til the cows come home, and be missing each other because they just don’t agree on much more basic issues, such as the existence of God. Pray for your friend, and have a good discussion. Don’t let him get away with pat answers, and don’t you give any either. Just keep asking, “How do you know?”
Dad: Ahh, America: the land of the buffet. Isn't it amazing that we even have this dilemna. We have to think about what we think the local church should be for and be like, and then we can most likely find something pretty close, and then if we don't like it, we can try another one.
For a freshman in college, there is the new dynamic of being in a large group of peers and experiencing their energy and enthusiasm. That can make for an exciting and growing body of believers, and I wouldn't discourage you from enjoying that to the fullest. At some point you may want to ask some more long-term questions, which you are already doing (as usual): What is the local church? What is the purpose of getting together once a week? Is it important to be part of a congregation that will look more like what you will experience when you leave college?
As far as what you should do now, you may want to start with attending the student group to help you develop those positive Christian relationships with fellow students. That can be a tremendous strength as you go through your college years. There will come a time when those long-term questions become more pertinent. You may also experience the phenomenon of feeling like you've outgrown the college group. At some point it would be good to visit some local congregations and worship with a broader age group, and be part of a body with families living life in the real world. Nothing is a better teacher than living life with those who are actually living real life after college (other than living life after college yourself).
There isn't the perfect timing for everyone for doing this, so I suggest you just visit churches on occasion to remind yourself that someday you will end up being an adult with a life in a local congregation. Try out different things now while you can. Making mistakes and learning is all part of maturing in life, and these years are made for that kind of learning. There is much less to lose. Of course I'm not referring to moral mistakes. There is a lot at stake there, and that is one reason why having a solid peer group now is a good foundation for the other areas of learning.
One think you might try is inviting others to go with you when you visit a church and later talk about what it was like. Visiting churches can be an enlightening experience. If you decide to attend a local church, there may be a mid-week service for college students that you could still attend for the peer relationships.
Dad: The classic book on cults is Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin. It has an extensive overview of all the major cults. It's been so long since I've read it that I don't know how it's organized, but it gives an overview of each cult and then how they don't fit with Christianity, and how they are wrong. I doubt it's in a local library, but you may find stuff on line.
Read the overview in Wikipedia. It's a good summary of what I've heard before (you may already have). Then ask her what she believes, not necessarily what CS teaches. Politely dig deep, like if she believes in God, find out what she believes about God. If she believes that everything is good, ask her if there is evil or sin. Uncle Howard kept saying, "Everything exists in the mind of God. God is good, therefore everything is good." He had no answer for evil, except it was our inability to remove our minds from the imaginary physical world. I challenged him by pointing out that if we are wrong about the existence of the physical world -- which would not be a good thing -- how can something not good be in the mind of God if everything is in the mind of God and God is good. Anyway, you probably won't have to get too deep with her, because she probably doesn't really know what she believes, kind of like most Christians.
Your best bet is to stay in the Word, and just play dumb and ask a lot of questions that show that anything not in line with God's Word ultimately doesn't make sense. Also, if you pray for her and show true concern, you will be more likely to have the opportunity to share the Gospel. It is really amazing to me that I have never had to convince anyone that they were a sinner, or at least have sinned. What sometimes happens is that people think that God could never love them because they aren't good enough. I think you know how the Gospel answers that concern.
I will pray for you and your interactions. May God give you the relationship and words so that you can be part seeing the birth of a new creation in Christ. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen fast, or you ever see it happen at all. You may be #6 out of 16 that she hears from to get her to the point of giving her life to Christ.
In honor of Father's Day, I thought I'd post a question relating to being a father. As teenagers, I think it can be hard for us to realize all that goes into being a parent. Are there things we can be doing, right now, to prepare for parenting? Specifically, what are some things that young men can do now to help them become better fathers down the road?
Now is always the best time to start preparing for parenting, or anything else you have set as a goal. A few things come to mind that would help in the process.
First, it is important to be strong as an individual in your faith before you seek to accomplish anything important in your Christian life. Time spent in the Word, worship, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians is important to your faith growth.
Second, a general principle my older brother has often emphasized is that we should use as our examples those who have succeeded and listen to them. So often we are expected to listen to those that have failed and try to learn from their mistakes. Uncle Dave's point is that we have a better chance of going the right way if we are focused on it. In learning from others to parent effectively, observe those whose younger children are well behaved, whose teenagers treat others, especially adults, with respect, and whose adult children have gone on to live productive and godly adult lives. I believe that raising godly, successful children isn't up to chance and just prayer. If you get the chance, ask those who have been successful what they believe about raising children, and you will usually receive some strong advice. It may actually be helpful and interesting to ask parents whose children have strayed what they believe about parenting. Much of what I don't agree with I learned from those parents.
This brings me to the third point: read what the "experts" are saying. The Bible has lots of good principles, so make sure you know them and purpose to follow them. For more specific methods, there are more resources than you can possibly read or watch. To narrow it down, you have to find out what the author believes about parenting, and then follow those with a biblical view. There are a lot of good techniques that may work temporarily, but making kids behave, and raising children to be godly adults is not the same thing. The first is working on outward behavior; the second is training the heart.
Secifically regarding young men who want to be godly fathers, I'd say that learning to work hard, to treat women with honor and respect, to stand up for righteousness, to lead, to have fun with all ages, and to maintain good health. Those areas would be a good start, and set young men apart from a majority of their peers.
Yes, I am getting to the question. Be patient.
So I was wondering - what do you do about personal devotions? Do you typically have a book you go through, or just read through the bible cover-to-cover, a certain amount each day, or something else entirely? What have you found works for you, and why?
I'll share what I've done in my 2.5 years of experience, and liked and disliked, once you answer. :)
Dad: It's great to have outside circumstances to blame for how we turn out, now isn't it. Your mother and I are also second children, and thus can blame that for our own inconsistencies in developing good habits. Truthfully, everyone can come up with excuses, but they don't produce the life God desires for us.
This area of quiet time / devotions / Bible study has been a blessing and a curse for many Christians. As with any biblical command, principle, or even good idea, it can quickly turn from something God wants for us to enrich our lives and relationship with Him, to a legalistic requirement to make us "good Christians." I say this because we so easily turn something relational into something required. If we are already Christians, then we realize there is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. All that is required has already been done by Jesus. All we need to "do" is to accept his finished work. The law doesn't go away, but instead of serving to beat us down to show us our sin, it is there as a standard that motivates us to live closer to the God who saved us from our sin.
Devotions can be an area like this. Many of us have faithfully spent quiet times for both reasons. We may at times be merely checking off our list so we feel like a good Christian, or at other times, it has become a time of real growth in our relationship with our savior. In my experience as a saved sinner, we never get past the temptation to try to earn God's approval, so the struggle to spend personal time with Him will always have an element of legalism; that is, I feel like I get points for doing this. However, as we mature in our faith, we will discover the blessing of this time, especially when we are working through life's difficulties. The Psalms are good examples of David doing this. If you are wondering if you are spending time in devotions for the right reasons, try to see why you are motivated to do it: trying to please God, being able to raise your hand if a group is asked who read their Bible today, or from a desire to grow in your relationship with God. Keep in mind, our motives will never be 100% pure until we are in Heaven, but being aware of the struggle, and confessing our sinfulness along the way, helps keep us pointed in the right direction. Basically the point here is that we want to be motivated more and more by a desire to grow in our relationship with God.
There are so many things you can do for quiet times that I won't try to set up the ideal plan. It would be a mistake to attempt it anyway, because we are so unique. It is better for each of us to discover these things on our own, like a friendship developing naturally. I will list some of the things you can do that have been helpful for others:
Reading the Bible
Some read the Bible all the way through every year. Wow, what an accomplishment! I've done that maybe three times in my life-time, and it's a blessing, but I'm not sure it would be the best thing to do every year, at least for me. Many read the Bible through over a period of years, just so that they read it all. I've done that too, and it is more relaxing than the one-year plan. What I do when I read the Bible through is to underline things that surprise me, or that I hadn't noticed before. Plus, I have a few symbols I use to mark specific concepts, like parenting helps, the trinity, evangelism, the divinity of Christ, key ideas, etc. For me, the discipline of that approach is helpful every few years, but not as helpful if I do it every year. I think it would become more and more legalistic for me. Another Bible reading approach that is not so challenging, and possibly more personal and helpful, is to chose a book of the Bible and read it through. Before you begin each day, pray that God would teach you something for today. Stop each day when you come to a verse that says something that seems to be for you today. Read it again, and ask God to help you use it today. The next day, begin from that point and read on. This is simple, yet it can be a profound way to hear from God each day.
In some way, include prayer. This can be something as simple as what I just mentioned above in your Bible reading. It can be much more. Personal prayer takes a life-time to develop because so much of the prayer Christians experience is formal corporate prayer, and sometimes written for an occasion. Personal prayer is more like a conversation with a mentor. It can include various tools like P.R.A.Y (praise, repent, ask, yield), or A.C.T.S. (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication). Prayer can be telling God that you are upset, jazzed, confused, etc. I talked to someone once who said that most of his prayers lately were telling God he was mad at Him. That's prayer, just talking with God. Be bold in prayer. Pray for miracles. God is in the business of action in our lives, not just watching and hoping we turn out okay. Prayer needs to include listening to God as well. He will speak to you in some form if you take the time to listen.
These can be very helpful especially in groups with a variety of ages or maturities, for focused study, or if you feel the need for help or dealing with a specific issue. Some of them are excellent, and some are sappy. They definitely have their place, and can be a good tool. I have used so many of these that I often just turn back to the Bible and see what God has to say to me.
In our fast-paced lives, this can be a most helpful discipline. "Be still, and know that I am God." Our schedules are not God. I am not God. My troubles are not God. My profound thoughts are not God. My emotions are not God. He is God. Sometime silence is our way of giving up our lesser priorities to remind us of the one true highest priority.
Here I'm referring to the narrow definition of worship as using music to praise God. (There is a book to be written about a life of worship.) For many this is a key part of their time with God. This can be singing, listening to praise music, or just having it playing quietly in the background as you read or pray. The only times I use this tool is when driving, or if no one is home. Making a joyful noise can turn a personal time into a time when others in the house may wonder, "What's that noise?" However, the car is like a "cone of silence." (If you're driving, sing with your eyes open.)
Many have found that writing is a helpful exercise in time alone with God. I did a lot more of this when I was in college. What is helpful here is that you can look back and observe what God has been doing in your life, plus it is also a good way to collect and process thoughts into a usable form. Many profound thoughts and prayers have come from time writing.
Generally speaking, I have three main suggestions: First, do something. Don't worry if your are doing the best thing. Do what seems best at the time. Add or revise your routine as it seems necessary. Second, variety is good. This can help you move from requirement to relationship. If you went on a date once a week and you always went to the same places and did the same things, it would get boring. Maybe God gets bored when we do the same things with Him. Third, do what works best for you. Everyone is different, and that's good. God gets to spend time with billions of us, and yet he knows each of us personally. Be personal, and be yourself. My life varies so much every day that it is difficult for me to have a routine. I use car time for some of my focused time with God. (I don't read while driving.) Find your best way to spend time with God, and then do it. What ever you decide to do, keep your motives in check. God doesn't want "good Christians". He wants us. He wants you. He wants me. Today. Every day. All day.
I don’t expect you to have right answers to these questions, but I’d like to hear a young lady such as you share your observations on this subject. Simply put, why are a growing number of young people over-weight, and at the same time, why are some so skinny?
Becky: Wow, sorry to let this one go so long without a reply. I'm not avoiding the issue - just having a rather hectic end-of-school-year/beginning-of-summer transition! However, I've got to admit that this is a tough one. Weight is a tricky thing to talk about, especially in a day and age when, like you said, we see such a variety, and more people than before on each far end of the spectrum. I've been thinking about it a lot, so I have quite a bit to say - stick with me here, and definitely comment with anything that strikes you as odd, unusual, or right-on. ;)
The whole teen weight issue is hard to really lump into one category and deal with as a whole. There are so many different facets of it, from obesity to anorexia, etc. And, although you said "putting aside kids whose metabolism allows them to stay thin no matter what or how much they eat," we have to realize that can play a major factor in the struggles people have with weight.
So where to start? I guess with the issue of being overweight or obese. It has become an increasing problem, and I think a lot of people like to blame it on the advances in processed and instant food we have. While it is true that the newest innovations with food seem to be growing as far as general unhealthiness, we must also admit that, as Americans, we have a vast array of selections when it comes to our meal options. Yes, these unhealthy foods are readily available - but so are an increasing amount of all natural, healthy, wholesome foods. We have a choice in what we eat, and we, quite naturally, reap the consequences of those choices.
Now, I've always been very wary of blaming things on "environment" - as just stated, each person has choices that they make, and those choices are the primary factors in shaping who they are. However, the blame of the problem America has with overweight children and teens can be placed, in part, upon parents, and the family lifestyles that our culture supports and encourages. Let's face it - what family do you know who doesn't have their life pretty packed with activities? I know our family is very busy - and while we've always prioritized family mealtimes, with good, healthy, well-balanced food items. . . things come up, games and practices get scheduled, and we often find ourselves "on-the-go," grabbing whatever we can, when we can, to eat. More often than not, this results in poor eating habits - and this busyness can also, in many cases, result in in-activity and unsubstantial exercise for young and old alike. The combination of these two things can be deadly for children and teens who aren't blessed with great metabolism and such.
While they might realize that their eating habits are unhealthy, I suspect that most teens are either a. too busy to take the time to change their lifestyle and address their eating problems, b. lack the motivation/consistency to do so on their own, and don't find their parents to be helpful in this area, or c. are too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask for their parents' help. Especially in situations when the teen has developed a real problem with being overweight or obese, it can be very hard to ask for help in taking steps to fix it. Asking for help is admitting a problem, and that's something that even adults struggle with doing. And adults, especially parents, will shy away from the issue as well - either a. they know that they don't really have the time to address it properly, and so they ignore it; b. they don't want to damage their child's self-esteem, and act like it isn't a problem; or c. they don't actually see the problem at all - they are blinded by their closeness to the issue.
So where does that put teens, who find themselves overweight or obese because of the bad habits they have developed as a result of a busy lifestyle and inactive parents (inactive as in "not active in their lives and problems," not "failing to exercise") ? Well, here is where the "eating as an escape" and the eating disorder issues come in. First, eating as an escape. . . I actually don't have a lot to say on this. Everyone has different emotional escapes, but this isn't one of mine. I think, however, that it's something people tend to do more after they already have bad eating habits - they grow so discouraged about trying to lose weight, that they just give up. Dieting can be incredibly depressing - I'd imagine anyone who tried to do so would eventually turn back to food because they see that they were happier emotionally (although not healthier physically) when they didn't keep track of their food intake. I believe that there are also physiological factors involved, about eating being a pleasurable, and possibly even addicting thing, but I don't know enough about that to comment.
The other extreme seems to be developing some kind of eating disorder because of a weight problem (we'll get to eating disorders in people who don't have weight problems later on here). This is a pretty obvious one - the teen feels the pressure, desire, or need to be thin; they see that they aren't thin; they feel uncomfortable asking for help to lose weight; they realize that dieting is hard, and discouraging; they go the route of either anorexia, bulimia, or something in between, in a last-ditch effort to lose weight. My heart goes out to kids in this situation - so often, I think that lack of communication and relationship with parents is the root of the problem.
So what about teens who don't have a weight problem, and yet still seem obsessed with being thin? Obviously, we can see this is mostly a problem among girls. You asked if it's because of "TV models," and I laughed. Growing up in a Christian home and school meant that I got my fair share of self-esteem pep talks - the typical "God has created you in a beautiful way, and you don't have to try and fit the mold that the world has given when it comes to beauty." It was good stuff - as a result, I honestly don't look at models, celebrities, or entertainers as "the ideal" when it comes to weight, size, and shape. Just look at the cover of any magazine at Walmart, and you'll see a story about this or that actress who is in rehab once again because her weight is out of control - and looking at the pictures of that would make anyone turned off to their idea of "beauty." However, I can see that a solid diet of TV shows, movies, and teen fashion magazines could quite easily cause a teenage girl to see those women as the "norm," and to feel that she must be like that. And, because many of my peers have grown up in a culture where they are bombarded by this stuff night and day, I would say that yes, "TV models" do play a part in the development of an eating disorder, for many girls.
However, the area that I've found most of my friends struggle the most is among their peers. I've had many girls admit to me that, when around friends, they can (at times) be constantly comparing their size to the girls around them. And, when a girl sees that she is bigger than the girls she spends time with, she can start to feel discontent. I guess this would also be where low self-esteem comes in. If that girl doesn't get the kind of love and support she needs from her family and parents, and hasn't been made to feel beautiful, she can quickly begin to think that being thin is something that will cause others to love and accept her. Here begins what can be a life-long battle, always trying to be the same as her peers when it comes to weight and size, and thinking that, if she isn't, those around her won't love her as much.
I would say the main reason we see this problem with teen girls more than other age groups is because of the boy factor - let's face it, teen girls want to be attractive to teen guys. And, while we know that any boy worth our time won't judge us purely by outward appearance . . . we also know that guys are visual and do care at least some about how we look.
The issue of eating disorders then, seems to be more about emotions and self-esteem than it is about health. However, we can't totally discount genuine desire to be healthy among some who struggle with eating disorders, As with obesity, I think that the reason this is a problem is lack of communication. How can a kid tell their parents that they want to be trim and fit, and avoid being overweight, when their parents will either, a. be too busy to care or consistently help; b. brush it off with a "you don't need to worry about this;" or c. freak out, because they think their teen is starting to/already has an eating disorder. Most teens, because they don't have a good and comfortable relationship with their parents, will try to solve it on their own, rather than risk having to deal with one of the above parental reactions.
If a teen does develop an eating disorder, whether because of emotional or physical reasons, parents need to realize that it is almost impossible for them to find the strength to admit the problem and get help. Especially among Christian families - as I mentioned earlier, the steady diet of self-esteem seminars for young girls are helpful . . . but often, they paint eating disorders in such a terrible light, that when a teen suddenly and abruptly finds themselves in the middle of one, they feel guilty or wrong, as if they have let down family, or even God. And where do they turn, if their parents have not made a habit of being an active participant when it comes to the exercising and eating habits of their kids?
So, in summary, I'm going to have to say that the root of this problem in America, on both ends, is parent/teen relationships. Communication is vital, and parents have to take the time to make sure their kids are healthy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so I've heard. :)
Moving onto a new question however. . .Recently, a friend and I were discussing the concept of getting married and starting a family at a young age (18, or 19). I told her that, while I can definitely imagine having a husband and even young children in the not-too-distant future, I would be very hesitant to do so, because of the enormous responsibility of parenting. Loving and caring for a cute little baby is one thing - but training and disciplining that same cute little baby (especially the times he is not being quite so cute and cuddly) is entirely different, especially when you are intent upon doing so in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. I was quick to admit that I don't think my 17.5 years of life have come close to preparing me for that. However, she said that the part she would be concerned about with parenting is the teen years - she says that she has a huge fear of her kids falling away from their faith as they grow older. This puzzled me - after all, I feel like, by the teen years, you, Mum, and I have become more of a team, working together to get me into the next stage of life. It seems to me like the teen years should be easier on the parents, not harder. I would venture to say that those early years are the ones that are crucial, and really determine just how the teen years - and ultimately adult years - turn out. But you're the parent! What do you think?
Dad: Cough!! Hack!! Gurgle!! Spit!! Swallow, AAHH!! Where’s my medicine?! Make me some tea with honey and lemon; what’s taking so long? Groan, moan, I can’t stand this… God, save me from this body of death!! Okay, so I’m a big annoying baby when I’m sick. But keep in mind, I don't get sick very often, so I have to get my money’s worth.
Is this the time to write the rough draft of my book on Christian parenting? I’ll try to restrain myself, and just hit on the specific questions you asked, and give some general concept answers.
You definitely have the right idea, that the early years are the most crucial, and determine how the later years turn out. There is heated disagreement, even in the Christian community on how to raise children, and if yours turn out well, you will be told that you were lucky to have good kids. While we can’t completely control how our kids turn out, we have a tremendous effect, and are mandated by God to raise them “in the way they should go” (Prov. 22:6). I strongly believe that if we do our parenting job right, it would be rare to see one fall away. Since we all have weaknesses and failings, it does happen, but if we were faithful to biblical principles, we wouldn’t often see it. Some say that we just do our best and pray. This can be a lazy approach that puts parents into years of praying for their adult children, not that they shouldn’t pray, but we have turned so far away from biblical parenting that for many, the only tool they can confidently claim is prayer.
Okay, so what are these principles? I’ll just list a few to avoid the book thing. First all, as you said, the early years are critical. The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This basically means that we begin our honest relationship with God by fearing Him – yes being afraid of Him. God has the authority to determine our eternal destiny. That’s scary! Eventually, as we learn to obey God, and develop good habits, we enjoy His blessings, and we learn to love Him. When we realize how much He’s done for us, we come to the point where we want, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to do whatever he wants us to do, even if we don’t understand. The final result is the ability to discern His will, and live in sync with it.
The same principles apply to parenting. We shouldn’t start as our children’s friends, but friendship is a long-term fruit of good parenting. The starting point is “The fear of Dad is the beginning of wisdom.” This means that we insist on obedience from the time they are able to obey. The changing table offers lots of opportunities to expect specific behavior. When children learn to walk, they must be taught to stop, go, and come. These are both issues of obedience and safety. If we insist on obedience as the foundation of our training, we lay the groundwork for all of the moral behaviors and life skills we will work hard at developing in our children.
The result is that our children have a sense of security because boundaries are well defined, and behaviors and skills are learned without the fighting that too often occurs otherwise. When children learn quickly because behavior isn’t as much of an issue, then confidence grows. (Self-esteem used to be called confidence.) Confidence comes from accomplishment and improvement, not flattery. Encouragement must be part of it, but it must be for genuine growth.
The positive results of this approach are that the real battles are fought in the early years, not postponed for the later years. Would you rather deal with winning the battle of teaching a one-year-old to come when he’s called, or deal with a 17-year-old who won’t come home from a party when he’s called? However, many parents, especially moms say, “But I don’t want to be the bad guy all the time.” How is insisting on what is right being the bad guy? The bad guy is the one who lets his children misbehave without correction. Besides, one of the most gratifying accomplishments in life is seeing your children grow in obedience and life skills.
There is so much written on this subject, but most of it is not biblically strong enough, and is too easy on the obedience issue. As we continue to discuss this stuff, I’ll share with you what we’ve found as helpful resources. Fortunately our parents modeled good Christian parenting, and we discussed, and still discuss the principles they used that were the best, and have tried to do those things that we believe are effective. Of course we have not been as consistent as we should have been, and often reap the fruit of that in you kids, but for the most part, where we’ve held the line, we have seen success.
One last thing: in no way do I want to minimize prayer. We have prayed for you kids from before you were born, and strongly believe that God has been present with you from the beginning. We pray more for your spiritual health than your physical health; more for your holiness than your happiness. Ultimately, our goal is to see you in heaven, and your worldly success is secondary.
Do you have a favorite gospel account for each of the following events? If so, which gospel? And (if you have time), any special reasons why?
- The Triumphal Entry
- Jesus Clears the Temple
- Jesus Annointed at Bethany
- Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet
- The Lord's Supper or The Last Supper/Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial &His Betrayal
- Gethsemane or Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
- Jesus Arrested
- Before the Sanhedrin
- Peter Disowns Jesus
- Before Pilate and Herod/The Guards Mock Jesus
- The Crucifixion
- Jesus' Death
- Jesus' Burial
- The Resurrection or The Empty Tomb
I'll answer too, once I can find the time to sit down and compare. :)
Dad: I can't say that I could tell you off hand which Gospel is my favorite for any of these events, except to say that Mark has a lot less about a few of them, and not every Gospel has every event or statement. I generally like whichever Gospel gives the most detail, with the exception of John, which sometimes goes way beyond the story and into all the prayers and teaching, which is important, but when reading the story, I often read it from another Gospel. I've heard there is an entire Bible which is a chronological version, with all the verses, unless they are repeats from other books of the Bible. That way the whole story with all its details are together in one chronological sequence.
I do like to read all four though, because each Gospel is from a different point of view, so it is interesting to read each one. If you want to compare the accounts in each Gospel to decide which one you like best, or to see how they compare, we have a book called "Synopsis of the Four Gospels" which has all four in parallel so you can see it visually without turning back and forth.
Another way to enjoy the story is to see the various movies that have been made about Jesus. One frustration, though, is that almost every movie has taken liberties with the details. When I hear something that isn't right, I wonder why. It isn't that difficult to get it right. I can understand leaving things out to manage the time, but to get wrong what is included just isn't right.
Disclaimer: I realize that there are guys who do enjoy dancing, and I give you a big thumbs up for that. I carefully phrased it "so many" and not "all" for a reason. :)
Dad: Oh boy, I think you're picking on me this time. I just read this late and I won't answer tonite. On second thought, it may help me sleep. Hopefully this subject won't have the same effect on readers.
Some guys don't like to dance because of a variety of reasons:
1. They feel awkward because it can be an artistic expression, and involve a grace that girls usually feel more comfortable with. In that sense, dancing seems like something for girls.
2. Girls like to dance therefore they don't!
3. They are self-conscious about how they look, and don't want people watching them "perform".
4. They really like girls, and that is scary, especially if you have to be that close to one. They don't know how to act around these mysterious, beautiful creatures, and don't want to do something dumb that would jeopardize their chances of capturing one. For a guy who is innocent in guy/girl relationships - in a positive way - touching, or being paired up with girl can be a significant thing. It gets the mind running and, depending on the actions of the girl, can evoke a lot more than what (or maybe exactly what) the girl is trying to start. Now, I don't think most girls even think that, but based on how some flirt, there are a few that sure seem to like to stir the pot.
5. They think that cool guys don't dance, and they want to be cool.
6. They don't like the music.
7. It's pretty rare when someone gets hurt bad, and there are never any car crashes or explosions.
For me (as you know, I'm not too wild about dancing), I think it is mostly that I feel awkward trying to figure out what to do. If the dance has learnable steps, I don't learn them too fast, and feel stupid. If I know the steps, I usually enjoy it a bit, but the process can be slow. I'm not opposed to dancing, if done in a tasteful, non-seductive manner, and it can be a good way for guys and girls to learn to relate, although it does tend to feel more feminine than masculine (see # 7).
Dad: Lent has been a meaningful time for me as well, similar to Advent. I guess for me it has meaning because so much of what we do as Christians can easily become routines of habit, and Lent and Advent are designed specifically to help bring meaning and preparation of hearts to receive what God wants to do in us. As you know, I don’t like to just do stuff because we always do them. I like to ask why, and dig until I really know. Lent and Advent fulfill that need I feel to know why. They also take us away from the commercialism of their respective celebrations (Easter & Christmas). It’s difficult to commercialize self-reflection, meditation and prayer.
Different denominations have discovered meaning in different traditions, and have developed them independently of each other; however, as in any human endeavor, some of our practices can become reactions to abuses, or even heresies. During the Reformation, there was a desire to bring salvation to individuals, and not just center the Christian life on an institution and its practices, which in many ways had grown corrupt and distant from God’s Word. When renewal comes, some respond by trying to eliminate those things that remind them of that which they are trying to overcome. As a result, a few church bodies developed a tradition of seeking not to look Roman Catholic. Things that some rejected were statues, icons, symbols, crosses – especially crucifixes, stations of the cross, formal saints, praying to Mary, formal confession, the seasons of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, etc.), seminary training of pastors, robes, liturgy, stained glass windows, formalized expressions of faith, infant baptism, the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, etc. The result, however, of basing meaning on a reaction against something, is that we may miss some of the good that some of these traditions help us receive.
We observe Lent because it gives us the opportunity to ponder more deeply what Jesus did to save us from our sins. We focus on those Scriptures that tell the story of His suffering and death, and the teachings He gave us during that time. Increased prayer time, fasting, wearing a cross, holding additional worship services, giving up something we like, etc. can be helpful in deepening our relationship with Jesus. As in anything, the better we are prepared, the better time we have when the event comes. Easter is more glorious and exciting, and carries more meaning if we take the time to understand the depths of the suffering preceding the Resurrection.
So now, my question is this: What are the things a girl does to "lead on" a guy? How can a girl have meaningful friendships with the young men around her, without making them think that she likes them? Are their several absolute "do not do this if you don't want a guy to think you're interested" gestures, words, or actions?
Dad: Just to set the record straight, guys can do the same things, as far as leading on. Watching Spiderman 2 reminded me. Peter is conflicted about his role as a super-hero, and his love for M.J. He feels he can't tell her how he feels because it would put her in danger with his enemies. I bring this up because what drives me crazy is the lack of communication between people who obviously have a certain level of trusting relationship, even if it is just a good friendship.
Balancing on the tightrope of young relationships is extremely difficult, and if you make it to the other end without ever falling, you'll be one in a million (which reminds me of a Paul Overstreet song which reminds me of you, but I digress...). If you can actually define the status of a relationship it helps you determine what is appropriate. In the movie situation you mentioned, the guy had clearly stated his intentions -- to marry her. In that situation, it just bugged me that she really didn't like him, and yet just barely put him off. She could have just stated straight out that she wasn't interested, that he should stop pursuing her, and he should consider looking for someone else. The problem is that quickly resolved conflict makes movies too short, so they had to keep it going until he did something really dumb.
In real life, people don't usually pursue each other so blatently. Occasionally someone will ask the other if their relationship will ever move to the next level, and in that case, tactful honesty is the best response. If you're not sure how best to answer, or are unsure of your answer, it's okay to say you'll have to think about how to reply, and share with your parents, or a mature, trusted friend/mentor how you feel, and get suggestions about how to respond. In reality, the typical situation involves uncertainty about the future of a relationship, and both are reluctant to ask about it, or even wonder if they should.
Since you and I have talked about the courting concept vs. dating, I won't go into that here, but in your case, if the subject comes up with a male friend, it may be wise to share your planned approach. That way, you may relieve any tension either of you may feel as you get to know each other. One sure fire way to avoid conflict in this area is to keep from getting too close in the first place. That may seem cold, but if they think there is a possible dating relationship, and you don't get too close, it may not come up, and if it does, you can explain your plan.
Overall, clear communication as opposed to hoping they get it by hints, lies, tricks, etc. is better. It's funny that, like Peter Parker, we think our good friend can't handle the truth, so we may keep them guessing. If we have a trusted friend, let them decide how they will handle the truth. If they are mature, they will process it and go on. If not, they aren't the right person anyway. A few weeks after Mom and I became friends in college, she asked me if I thought our relationship would ever become more than just friends. I said, "Probably not," and she said it relieved some tension, and enabled her to just be friends and let things happen naturally, if they were to happen at all. Of course I was just unsure at the time, and we eventually saw what God had in mind. It just helped to open the subject and have that understanding.
One strategy that you can use to communicate is referring pursuers to your Dad. You can just say, " before I date/court anyone, he has to talk to my Dad." That way only the most confident guys will continue, and that gives you the chance to let me know what you think about him, and I can fend him off accordingly, or if you think it's a good thing, I can check him out for you, and encourage him too continue.
As far as what "leads a guy on"... It doesn't take much. Remember that guys are especially suckered by flirting. If you look at him in that ever-so-slightly-overly-friendly way that just might say, "I could possibly be interested in you," he will see it as an invitation to pursue. Also, what you wear (revealing, tight, etc.), how you stand (bent over, butt sticking out, leaning on him, etc.), and any physical touch communicate far more than you realize. Guys are so visually and physically motivated. Just be careful, and assume that any of those kinds of friendliness can be misunderstood. Obviously everyone is different as far as the degree to which those things affect them, but guys are still guys.
(You can see why some take an extremely conservative course -- long dresses, high collars, no dating, etc. It's not because they are naive about sex, it's because they understand it's power, and don't even want any hints of going that direction.)
In the long run, we all appreciate genuineness in relationships. If a guy thinks a girl is flirting, he might like it, but when he is alone, thinking it through, he may have the maturity to realize she's being shallow. Now, not all flirting is bad. Those "shallow" routines can be the start of interest, but they won't sustain a genuine relationship.
What you are doing with your group of friends is healthy. You do a lot as a group, and there's almost no "dating" going on. If you are all mostly on the same page, a lot of difficulty will be avoided. Another thing you are doing that is especially helpful is developing relationships with other girls. Guys should have other guy friends too. A lot of good discussion can develop, and you can help each other grow spiritually, and work out how you are going to approach these things.
(Annie, the movie Becky mentioned was "Belle and the Beast", a modern adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast." It was fair as far as movies go, but the messages were good.)
Becky: Ironically, the reason I have not yet been able to answer this is because my older sibling duties this week have kept me quite busy! However, since I am having a sick day, I have been temporarily relieved of some of those responsibilities, and figured blogging was a nice break from sleeping.
To be honest, I haven't thought about this in a while. I used to be very resentful. Especially last year, when Andy (my older brother) was attending public school, and I was the oldest at home for the first time. He would normally not come home from practice until around dinnertime, then spent much of the evening doing homework. On the weekends, he would invariably sleep in, and then spend time chilling with his friends. I slowly grew more and more upset at the little he did to help out around the house.
One evening, he was sitting in the kitchen for some reason, as I was washing the dishes. I blew up at him, and started ranting and raving about how unfair it was that I did all the chores and extra things around home, and that he never contributed at all, etc. etc. Being Andy, he let me yell away for a while before simply saying something along these lines: "Becky, isn't one of your primary goals in life to be a wife and a mother? I, on the other hand, am going to have to support a family. Right now, you are doing things that will prepare you for what your future is going to be; I am going to school and playing sports as a part of preparing for what I want my future to be. When you get married, do you think that your husband will come home from work every night and go around picking up the house and washing the dishes for you?" (And, typical of Andy. . . although he didn't admit at that point that he should be doing more around the house, I did notice him helping out a bit more after our conversation. :)
It was then I realized the problem of my point of view. I had been thinking of all the things I did around the house as "extras," simply because the other kids didn't do them. From then on, I chose to think about the things I did differently. They were not extra, in addition to what I ought to be doing - rather, I found that everything I did fell under a category which could be titled "the role of a big sister and daughter, namely Rebekah Hall, in her family." After all, this really is my only role in life right now. I don't have the responsibility of a family, a husband, or a job. I am under the authority of my parents, and I honor and obey by serving them and my siblings. This is what God has called me to do right now, in life - it's not glamorous, or exciting, but it is rewarding. To have my siblings, especially the youngest ones, be so comfortable with me, and so free in their expressions of love, makes everything really worth it. And to know that Mom and Dad appreciate what I do is also nice. :)
So really, I don't think about being resentful anymore. When I do get angry or frustrated with my siblings in regard to chores, it's not because I feel that they aren't pulling their share. It's more that I'm concerned they won't learn how to work hard, and do things without being asked - taking some of the burden off of Mom and Dad in doing so. And I must admit, I do occasionally get frustrated that I often seem to have the responsibilities of a parent, and yet not the authority of one. It can make a day at home babysitting somewhat difficult to manage.
One more thing - I think that one way Dad and Mom have really helped me to not be resentful is by allowing me to have a lot of time doing my own thing, with my friends. They have always encouraged us to have our friends over, and our friends know that fun times and good food are always to be found at the Hall house. They make our home a place that others like to gather, and are almost always willing to host whatever schemes we come up with. For example, yesterday I spent all day on a mini-road trip with my friends. We drove our family's 12-passenger van all the way into St. Louis, and spent the morning at the zoo. The trust my parents place in me, and my friends, makes being a good daughter pretty easy. They have given me a lot of freedom in how I choose to spend my time, and this makes it hard indeed to be resentful!
I credit their good parenting to the fact that I choose to spend most of my time at home, with my family, in my role as sister and daughter. And the more time I spend with my siblings, the more it becomes a joy, not a burden.
Dad: Keeping your perspective on your long-term goals seems to be a good strategy for dealing with momentary challenges. In case we don't say it enough, we really do appreciate your role in our family, and will miss you next year, except that your siblings will get a chance to learn what you're learning. It is also humbling to realize that we as parents have weaknesses, and that all of our children will be stronger than we are in some area. As we are all honest about our abilities and efforts, granting grace for failure, and encouragement in success, we can be a good family team as we work through our child-raising years.
There was a time that Mom and I were quite critical of our parents and their weaknesses. As we saw it then, we used it as an opportunity learn from their mistakes and do our parenting right. Don't get me wrong, we had exceptional parents, but in our simplistic minds, we were going to do better by not making the same mistakes. We did better than they did in some areas, but have now experienced our own set of weaknesses, and therefore, mistakes. The advantage you have being an older sibling is that you get to see more parenting first-hand, and even practice at times. You will have strengths and weaknesses we don't, and maybe even the maturity to recognize them earlier than we did.
Humility is a key to this, and it seems most of life. In your case, you will probably do a better job of parenting than we are doing, but then again, maybe that means we're on the right track.
Dad, what does it take to become a good leader, especially for a teenager, leading his/her peers? So often, I feel myself get placed in a role where I ought to be leading, but can't seem to do so without coming across as bossy. How can I lead in such a way that people will want to follow?
Dad: Actually, this is an extremely important question, and depending on the context, could be inspirational as well. One reason this is such an important question these days is that we see so many poor examples of leadership. We see the failure of so called role-models, such as professional athletes who use drugs, get involved in extra-marital affairs, or are arrested for beating up someone. These are clearly bad examples of leadership. I remember one athlete, whose name escapes me, saying, "I am not a role-model," by which he meant, he didn't want the pressure of being a role-model because he would be expected to behave himself. Unfortunately, today, famous people are role-models whether they want to be or not, simply because people follow their example.
Here I suppose we can make a distinction between a role-model and a leader. A role-model is a type of leader whom others emulate simply because of their role in society, whether they like it or not. A true leader is usually intentional about leading, or becomes intentional because others begin to follow. In your case, you are a role-model because you are a big sister, and friend to others who are younger who see you as a role-model. People don't get to decide not to be a role-model. They just are because of their role in others' lives. True leaders develop their position as a role-model, or by occupation or calling and lead others to accomplish something.
A truly good leader is difficult to find, but there are qualities of leadership that you will see in good leaders. The first, and most important quality of good leadership is humility. There are many leaders, but few humble leaders. You may have heard the term "servant leadership." This means that a good leader isn't a dictator, but leads by example first so that they aren't a "do as I say, not as I do" type leader. That negative attitude will cause a leader to lose respect quickly. Unfortunately, pride leads many leaders to have the attitude that, "I'm the leader, so you have to do what I say." Humility says, "I am following someone too, because I also have a lot I need to learn."
Second, a leader must have integrity and character. As a leader, you are a role-model, and what you do when no one is looking, will eventually be seen. Your example of humble integrity will say more than your profound speeches. Here is where the world has it backwards. Napoleon Dynamite says that what you need is skills. Actually, what is more important is character. If you have great leadership skills, but lack character, you will compromise truth, engender mistrust, and eventually lead people in the wrong direction. There is a long history of famous leaders who had great skills, but poor character. Yes, many followed them, but where were they really going? A few quick examples are Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Jim Jones, and a less extreme modern example, Bill Clinton. Sorry Bill, but while you may have been popular, your lack of moral character led America in taking greater steps toward societal immorality. Time in God's Word, worship, prayer, and time spent with others of strong character will help you develop character.
Third, leadership skills are very important. While character is more important, because it determines the direction you lead, skills are also needed so that you can actually lead. Character takes a life-time to develop, and can be easily destroyed. Loss of character can permanently mar your trust with others. Skills, on the other hand, are more easily gained, and are never lost, just constantly refined. Leadership skills deal with how you organize, listen to others, delegate, train others, communicate, raise up other leaders, etc. You can learn leadership skills by reading, attending classes/seminars, learning from others, and experience.
Probably the most powerful quality of leadership, but also the most dangerous, is vision. All the negative examples of leadership have a powerful vision. But so do positive leaders. Vision is what usually motivates followers. If you have a strong sense of vision, and can communicate it to enough people, you will most likely develop a following. Your humility, character and skills will keep people following. The ability to keep the vision as the primary motivation is also essential for long-term success.
As a teen leader, these principles definitely apply. (What do teens like to be called these days? teens, young people, dudes & dudettes...) Teens flounder because of lack of vision. They don't seem to know where they are going. If you want to be a good leader, continue to seek the Lord as far as your personal vision. If you know where you are going, or at least know how you will find out, you will be a leader among your peers, whether you want to be or not. Then, as you become more confident, which is a by-product of having the above-mentioned qualities, and if you have a real love and concern for your peers, you will become a good leader. If you see that you are becoming a leader, you need to seek ways (mentioned above) to develop character and skills.
With your peers, you will make major progress by simply listening. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Trite, yes, but true. Be patient as you grow. Becoming a good leader takes a life time, but you are well on your way. I see many of these qualities already developing in you. Don't let your role as a leader go to your head. Pride in leadership is considerably more common than humility. It eventually leads to mistrust, instead of relational followers. If you stay humble, you will be more likely to learn quickly.
God bless you as you discover His direction for your life, and in that confidence lead others to what God desires for them.
Dad: Well, we have such a great time discussing the things we care about, and remember, we thought it might be fun for others to listen in on our chats. It's not often a dad has such an insightful daughter he can spend time with discussing topics relevant to everyday life. Besides, you ask great questions, and I enjoy trying to come up with answers that actually help you. Plus, I have questions you answer pretty well too. So, ask away. What do you want to talk about?
Becky: First, I think we should clue everyone in a bit as to the format of this blog. If you read the brief history on the sidebar, you'll see that this all started as conversations in the car, and us pretending to have our own talk show. We hope to continue that style on this blog. The basic idea will be that one of us posts a question - and the other will answer. The ensuing back and forth conversation will quite possibly bring up new topics of discussion. . . we'll try to keep it all organzied though, with labels and a new post for each new subject, so you can find things easily. Also, we'd love to hear your thoughts! (Isn't that part of what blogging is all about?) Please, feel more than free to comment on each post about what you think. Also, if you have a question you want answered, ask away! Parents - I am here to give you a feel for a teenager's point of view on those tough questions that you might not be ready to ask your kids yet. And teens - Dad is just great at answering questions you might not be comfortable asking your parents. : ) Annonymous comments are fine as well, obviously only nice words. As Thumper's mother says, "If you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."