Becky: Before I start, it should be noted that the "Dad" of this here operation is quite under the weather, and would appreciate your prayers. (And a sidenote from a future nurse - his throat is SO gross, but looks SO cool!)

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.


Holy Week

Becky: This week during my morning devotions, I've been reading through the various events of Holy Week. I've never been very good at keeping the four gospels apart, and have the hardest time remembering which book a certain passage is in. However, I've found this week to be eye-opening, as I'm discovering my "favorite" account of each of the different parts of Holy Week.

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.

Happy reading.


To Dance or Not to Dance

Becky: Why is it that so many guys don't like to, or downright refuse to dance? You'd think that, with their superior athleticism, it would be something they'd enjoy. But no - getting a guy to dance in any way, shape, or form can be like pulling teeth. What is up with that?
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).