Arkansas Christian Parent
Arkansas Christian Parent (ACP) is a special publication of the Arkansas Baptist News. 35,000 copies of the Fall/Winter 2012 debut edition were distributed across Arkansas starting in October 2012 and continuing through January and February 2013. ACP magazine is published with today's parent in mind. As Creator of all things, God has provided principles in the Bible to assist parents in raising their children. Articles within the pages of ACP include teaching faith at home, how to be an intentional parent, the challenges of blended families and how to pray for your children, in addition to other informative articles. Churches are encouraged to place a copy of ACP in the hands of all families in their church, as well as encourage members to give copies to their family, friends and co-workers.
Fall/Winter 2012 Top 10 lies parents tell themselves Bullâ€™s-eye parenting From head to heart 1 A publication of the Arkansas Baptist News F W Landers 2 Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 where school, family and church connect to equip students for academic excellence, athletic achievement and artistic endeavor. 501-868-9822 www.littlerockchristian.com 3 Post from the editor magazine Publisher Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine, Inc. We live in a time of unprecedented change. It seems every day brings with it news of war and natural disasters at home and across the globe. At the same time, the 21st century has introduced the world to wonders of medicine, science and technology. Our dramatically changing times are impacting the traditional family in ways unheard of a few generations earlier. What is a parent to do? Arkansas Christian Parent (ACP) magazine is published with todayâ€™s parent in mind. While the world continues to change around us, God is eternal and does not change (Malachi 3:6) and God is our only hope for a brighter future (Jeremiah 29:11). As the Creator of all things, God has provided us principles in the Bible to assist parents in raising their children. Articles within the pages of ACP include teaching faith at home, how to be an intentional parent, the challenges of blended families and how to pray for your children, in addition to other informative articles. We pray that you enjoy reading ACP as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you! We would love to hear from you too! Email us at abn@ arkansasbaptist.org. Additionally, the Arkansas Baptist News, the publisher of ACP, would like to thank all of our advertisers who helped to make this publication possible. Tim Yarbrough Editor Editor Tim Yarbrough Special Projects Coordinator Margaret Dempsey-Colson Designer David Oglesby Special Projects Advertising Heather Baker Assistant Editor/Writer Leah Fender Assistant Editor/ Office Manager Jessica Vanderpool Business Manager Becky Hardwick ABN Advertising Representative Nelle Oâ€™Bryan www.arkansasbaptist.org Arkansas Baptist News, 10 Remington Drive, Little Rock, AR 72204; phone 501-376-4791; toll-free 800-838-2272; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 What is love? From Mark Buchanan, in the sermon “The Greatest of These,” PreachingToday.com Fall/Winter 2012 A group of children were once asked, “What does ‘love’ mean?” Here are some sample answers: Rebekah, 8, said, “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time—even when his hands got arthritis, too. That’s love.” Billy, 4, said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Bobby, 7, said, “Love is what’s in the room at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen.” Nikka, 6, said, “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with someone you hate.” Tommy, 6, said, “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Cindy, 8, said, “During my piano recital, I was on a stage, and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me, and I saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. And I wasn’t scared anymore.” Jessica, 8, said, “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.” Features 8 Contents Teach faith @ home Do you want to know how to build up the faith of your children at home? Writer Ben Phillips offers time-tested principles for doing just that! 10 Top 10 lies parents tell themselves Here’s one “top 10” list that may just open your eyes to some subtle worldly influences that threaten to creep into Christian parents’ lives. 12 Bull’s-eye parenting: The end is where we begin To minimize parenting regrets, writer Bill Newton encourages parents to be intentional in how they raise their children. More . . . 4 Post from the editor 6 A merry heart 14 When they turn away: Drawing your adult child back to Christ 17 18 20 22 Choosing a church home How to pray big for your child Blending: A family work in progress ookie-cutter Christian family is so C overrated 24 From head to heart 26 Christian family truths to live by 28 The 12 lessons of fatherhood 5 A merry heart By Margaret Dempsey-Colson D id you and your family enjoy watching the recent 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London? Watching the athletes as they excelled beyond imagination was both inspiring and humbling. Hearing many of the athletes’ heart-warming stories of personal sacrifice on their journeys to the Olympics was a poignant reminder that dreams can come true. Seeing a gold medal hung around the necks of our fellow Americans created a sense of national pride. As I sat in my comfy armchair sipping a cola and watching the games, I reflected on family life. Do you ever feel like your children—and perhaps even the family pets—are engaged in an Olympic sport all their own? The name of their sport is Tag Team USA. Children everywhere religiously practice their athletic prowess for this demanding sport. They all desire the gold medal. The object of Tag Team USA is to keep parents on their toes. If given even a moment’s rest, parents might become sluggish and ineffective. The best antidote for lazy, incompetent parents is to keep them active and engaged in their fulltime job of parenting. The way this family-oriented Olympic sport plays out is that the moment—the very moment—a parent swells with pride, ready to announce to the world personal goldmedal worthiness in the role of parent—a crisis—some may even call it disaster du jour—looms. 6 Now these everyday disasters may be as simple as your son trying out a homemade parachute from the banister of your home’s staircase—or your daughter thinking it’s acceptable to do cartwheels in the middle of her first-grade classroom—or your dog eating a button from your favorite sweater and needing an emergency run to the vet (didn’t I tell you that family pets excel in this sport also?). Or, the disasters could be more ominous such as your daughter’s first broken heart—or your son’s less-than-stellar performance on college entrance exams—or the inability of your dog and cat to live peaceably. In Tag Team USA, just as one crisis is under control—the sheet parachute is folded and placed back in the laundry closet—another one rears it head—the teacher sends a note home about the unbridled enthusiasm of classroom cartwheels. Do you ever grow weary? Do you ever wonder if you have what it takes to keep going as a parent? Do you ever want to run away—if but for an hour or two? Take heart. Our God is bigger and greater than any Tag Team USA event that may come your way through children and pets. For parents needing wisdom, God has promised it (James 1:5). For those seeking peace, He has you covered (Philippians 4:6-7). For those who just want to sense the loving arms of God around them when they are feeling alone Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 in this great big world, you got it (Hebrews 13:5). When Tag Team USA threatens to rob you of your joy as a parent, stop for a moment and pray. Thank God for the unique and wonderful family He has given you. Submit to Him as your heavenly Father. Seek His indwelling Holy Spirit in your role as parent. And, take heart. As your children (and pets) seem to be going for the gold with gusto and enthusiasm, cling to the distinct possibility that, one day, you may see their beaming faces—as Olympic heroes—on cereal boxes in grocery stores everywhere. And you will be reminded that God Himself smiled on you when He blessed you to be a parent. Margaret and her husband, Keith, are parents of four young adult children. For the record, the button-eating dog is fine; the sweater did not fare so well. Real Service. Real Skill. Real Expertise. Is there more to life than this? BLACKWOOD TEAM There is... REAL ESTATE Jesus said, "My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10, NLT God loves us and has a plan for our lives. 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Go to www.arkansasbaptist.org to subscribe to the ABN or call 800-838-2272, ext. 5153 Bale Kia Advantage Rewards Program Includes: • • • • Lifetime Engine Guarantee Lifetime Multi-Point Inspections Lifetime Pre-Vacation Check-Up Plus Earn Points forEvery Dollar Spent in our Service and Parts Department • See dealer for details BALE x CHEVY 7 Teach faith @ home Mapping a strategy for spiritual development in the home By Ben Phillips T he starting point for my intentional faith at home journey began just prior to my daughter starting kindergarten. The Bible provides a well-blazed trail related to the spiritual development of children in the home, giving clear direction and a solid foundation for making course corrections in our routines at home. That was 10 years ago, and we have learned much through experiments, failures and triumphs. Reflecting on all the Scripture we read, the true north passage for us was Deuteronomy 6:4-9. In fact, my encouragement to new parents is to memorize those verses and then prayerfully ask God the question, “How can we put this into practice in our family?” Each family is unique and will apply this passage differently according to the routine, schedule or rhythm that is unique to their home. Families must discover what kinds of faith interactions work best for their family schedule and make course corrections to prioritize building faith at home. However, many families wander around lost when it comes to building up the faith of their children at home. They don’t have any biblical bearings, have never been down this road and did not experience what it was like to grow up in a home with parents who were intentional about discipleship in the home. Many just hope their children’s time at church will be sufficient to guide them toward a mature faith. The problem is children spend so little time at church and so much time at home that families miss many investment opportunities. According to Reggie Joiner in “Think Orange,” children spend on average 40 hours a year at church and 3,000 waking hours at home. Parents want their children to grow spiritually, but it involves more than dropping them off at church. The primary disciplemaking or small group unit is the family. If we want our children to grow spiritually, then we must grow spiritually. It starts with 8 “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions,” a child’s moral foundation is set in place by age nine, and a child’s spiritual identity is set in place by age 13. us as parents and then is transferred to our children. You cannot give away what you do not possess. Dads and moms must read and apply God’s Word in their own lives before they can lead their children to do the same. Traversing the hills and valleys of family terrain, we continue to adjust and set our course to TEACH faith in our homes to our children. TEACH is a memorable acronym to provide some bearings throughout your day. T is for Travel time (when you walk along the road). E is for Eating time (when you sit at home). A is for Arise time (when you get up). C is for Closing time (when you lie down). H is for Holiday time (when you celebrate). God intended for parents to build up the faith of their children multiple times a day through their normal routines, not just a few set aside times a week on Sundays and Wednesdays. There are some waypoints to consider as you map out your strategy to TEACH faith at home. Begin before your child is born by developing these routines in your marriage. Also, starting these routines when children are younger will make it easier to continue than if you wait until they are teens to begin this process. According to George Barna in Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 The earlier parents can influence their children to grow spiritually, the easier and more likely it will be that the transformation continues into adulthood. Regardless of the age of your children, start slow and focus on one aspect of your routine, then add additional elements to your overall plan. Personal research has revealed that parents who mapped out a strategic plan for frequently nurturing the faith of their children had twice as many faith interactions as parents who had no plan to guide them. Experiment with some different ideas to discover what works best. Don’t give up! Strive for consistency, and you will discover that your new routines will precipitate serendipitous faith interactions. Let’s examine a simple map and plot some coordinates to help you plan your route. Travel time Most of us don’t walk along the road, but we spend significant time traveling in a vehicle with our children. This is a normal part of our routines. Look for opportunities to capitalize on this time with your children. My family frequently prays together on our way to practices, games, church and long trips. One parent who attended a parenting class I taught decided to try this. He asked his son table. I must admit this did not happen overnight. Many years of ups and downs with this routine have led to this discipline. One family I know makes it a practice to pray together before they leave the house. Another dad leaves the house before his family is even awake, so he writes a verse down for the rest “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. of the family to read when they Love the LORD your God with all your heart and get up. with all your soul and with all your strength. These Closing time commandments that I give you today are to be upon This is a prime time to spend your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about with your children, especially them when you sit at home and when you walk along prior to their teen years. Utilize the road, when you lie down and when you get up. this time to pray together or read Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on a Bible story book together as your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your a family; or consider doing this houses and on your gates.” with each individual child. One Deuteronomy 6:4-9 family takes the time to bless their children every evening using a blessing from Numbers Capitalize on the time that you have a 6:24-26. Another family frequently asks the captive audience. question, “Where did you see God at work Eating time around you today?” Research illustrates that families who eat My family has used a variety of different together regularly have reduced rates of devotional books over the years. Choose addictions and abuse in their homes because something that is easy, quick and takes little they develop healthy relationships through preparation. It’s better to have shorter, more eating together at home. It’s important to turn consistent family devotions than fewer, off the television, cell phones, music and any longer family devotions. Your consistency other media and focus on eating together will eventually enable your children to engage around the table. Our family frequently for longer periods of time as they grow older. engages in a conversation exercise called If you have teenagers, then you will find the “high/low.” We ask each other what was the devotions produced by Richard Ross at high point of your day and what was the low www.heartconnex.org to be a helpful tool. point of your day. Another family discusses Holiday time something that made them sad, glad or Families already celebrate a variety of mad. The point is to engage in meaningful holidays throughout the year. Most Old conversation. If you have older children, Testament holidays were celebrated to consider discussing current events from a remember specific ways God acted on His biblical perspective. For some good ideas, go people’s behalf. Evaluate the holidays you to www.dinnerdialogue.com. already celebrate and prayerfully discover Arise time some practical ways to discuss spiritual topics Many families struggle with morning related to that holiday. Christians celebrate times because everyone is in a chaotic rush two major holidays—Christmas and Easter. to get out the door for school and work. One Utilize “what God wants for Christmas” and approach to make mornings easier is to go “resurrection eggs” to assist your family in to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier so that you creatively celebrating these important events can get up 15 to 30 minutes earlier and not make the morning routine so rushed. I want “The Lord bless you and keep you; my children to see me reading the Bible. the Lord make his face shine upon They have a natural way of imitating what you and be gracious to you; the Lord they see their parents doing. I also want my turn his face toward you and give you children to develop the discipline of reading peace.” the Bible daily. In order to foster this, each person in our family reads the same passage Numbers 6:24-26 each morning on his or her own. We then discuss what we learned around the breakfast while traveling home in the car if his son had anything they could pray about. The son said, “Dad, I’ve been wondering about trusting in Jesus. Could you pray about that with me?” The dad pulled over, had a meaningful faith interaction with his son and prayed with him. surrounding the life of Christ. Both of these resources can be found at a local Christian bookstore or at www.familylife.com. Venture out and establish some new family holidays and traditions. The halfway point of our faith at home journey ends 940 weeks after birth when they graduate from high school and leave home. Time is ticking away, and we need to be strategic parents who intentionally utilize every possible moment to TEACH faith at home. The final destination of our faith at home journey will be when we see our children take steps forward to build upon our foundation and pass along the faith to our grandchildren and become beacons guiding future generations. Want to learn more? Check out these resources: • “Growing a Spiritually Strong Family” by Dennis Rainey • “Family Worship” by Don Whitney • “Faith Begins at Home” (Dad, Mom, Devotions, and Prayer) resources by Mark Holmen • “Discovering God in Our Traditions” by Noel Piper • Also, two comprehensive books to guide you on this journey are “Growing Spiritually Strong Children” and “Mentoring Teens,” both produced by Focus on the Family. Ben Phillips is the family ministry team leader for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Contact him by email at email@example.com if you have additional questions or are interested in parent training seminars in your church. 9 Top 10 lies parents tell themselves By Wyman Richardson I n Christian parenting, we sometimes comfort ourselves with the thought that bad parenting advice is somewhere “out there” and is being advanced by people with bad agendas. Sometimes that is true. But sometimes the bad parenting advice we have to guard against is not “out there” but rather “in here,” in our own hearts and minds. So consider this “top 10” list of the lies we tell ourselves and see if you have embraced any of these yourself. One “They’re going to do it anyway, so I need to help them do it safely.” Two Usually this is said concerning the issues of alcohol use and premarital sex. The idea is that such activities are practically inevitable among all children, Christian or not. Some polls reveal that 25 percent of children who drink get alcohol from parents. Others show a growing number of parents who allow their children to have sexual relations in their homes. The “buddy parent” approach has wreaked a lot of havoc in our families. It is a seductive lie. We may be tempted to abandon the post of parent for the post of “best friend” or “pal.” But our children do not need more pals. They need parents. In Proverbs 5, the godly father communicates an expectation that his son will avoid the temptation of a seductive woman. What he most certainly does not do is tell his son that he can bring the woman home! Making allowances for sin does not make sin less attractive, but more so. The assumption that sin can ever be “safe” is profoundly naïve. Finally, the constant refrain, “Well, they’re going to do it anyway,” turns out to be a selffulfilling prophecy. Our kids should not hear their parents constantly saying, “We know you’re going to sin in this area.” We must, of course, teach the biblical truth that we are all sinners and that we all sin, but that does not mean that our children, through Christ, cannot have victory in these areas. Our kids should hear their parents saying, “We know that you can follow the Lord in your life, and we’re going to help you do it!” If our children fall in one of these areas, we lead them to the abundant forgiveness of the Lord, but we should not prep them to fail by assisting them in sin. 10 “I should be my child’s best friend.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12, Paul likened his work to that of “a father with his children.” In verse 12, Paul wrote that fathers do three things with their children: exhort, charge and encourage. Consider how different this is from being a mere “pal” or “buddy.” Parents are called to lead their children in the ways of Jesus in ways that their friends never can. The call to abandon parenthood for “buddyhood” is attractive, but what we abandon in doing so is deeply harmful to our children. Three “Church should be the main place where my child learns about God.” I am always touched when parents bring their children to speak to me about the things of God, especially when these parents have already done so themselves. However, I sometimes sense that some parents are outsourcing the spiritual development of their children to the clergy and are missing out on the joyful privilege of leading their children to the Lord themselves. In Deuteronomy 4:9-10, God instructed parents to teach their children His ways lest they forget them: “Make them known to your Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 children and your children’s children” (v. 9). In Genesis 18:19, God said that Abraham would “command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.” Finally, consider Paul’s touching reminder that Timothy saw the faith first in the lives of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). Parents, you are crucial to the spiritual formation of your children! Four “My child should think he or she is more important to me than anything else.” The nature of an idol is that it demands fear-induced attention, asks without giving and dominates the life of the worshiper. By this standard, many Christian parents actually idolize their children. In the long run, this proves ruinous for children and for the parents who misplace their primary love in such a way. At the heart of our faith is a paradox: it is only when we are willing to leave everything for Jesus that He gives it back. We must remember the great truth of Mark 10:2831, that there is nobody who has left father, mother, spouse and children who will not receive back “a hundredfold” now and in the time to come. This leaving is not literal abandonment (which itself is a sin against God) but rather a willingness to put Jesus before all others. Five “I should not make my children attend church.” expect in exchange for our attendance. I am speaking of an ad I once saw from a church that said, “What’s the first question you ask when you pick your child up? ‘Did you have fun?’” I do not object to the question, “Did you have fun?” I simply object to this being “the first question you ask.” There is a danger when parents force their children to attend church outside of the context of a loving, Christian example. Raw, arbitrary force that is often made even more The first question we should ask our farcical by parental hypocrisy during the week children is, “What did you learn about Jesus can disillusion children for years. But there today, and how can it help you follow Him is a difference between arbitrary force and this week?” Often, those truths are fun. At the clear, consistent parental expectation that other times, they are painful. If we put fun children will assemble with the people of before discipleship, we will continue God as a matter of identity. Thus, to grow religious consumers the position Christian parents “For God who see the church as a place should take is not, “You will so loved the world, to have felt-needs met and go because I said so!” but, that he gave his not as a place to grow as “We are going because only begotten Son, disciples, even when such it is who we are and it that whosoever believeth growth calls for sacrifice is crucial to our lives as in him should not perish, and even, at times, tears. followers of Jesus.” but have everlasting life.” In Deuteronomy 31:12, Seven John 3:16 Moses called upon the “I should shield my child children of Israel to “assemble from serious consequences.” the people, men, women, As a kid, I used to hear our and little ones.” In Psalm 148:12, school headmaster quote Robert Louis the psalmist spoke of “young men and Stevenson’s words, “Sooner or later, everybody maidens together, old men and children” sits down to a banquet of consequences.” I coming to worship the Lord. Bringing your believe that is true, but many parents believe children to worship as a matter of identity that consequences should be done away with and spiritual growth for the family is wise and when forgiveness is granted. Forgiveness right and good. does not mean the absence of consequences. Forgiveness simply means that, by the grace Six of God, the consequences we must face do “Church must be fun for my child.” not get the last word about us. Consider the I am an unapologetic fan of fun. I am not many biblical injunctions concerning “the saying that our children should not have fun rod.” Sometimes the word is used to refer to at church. I suspect the Lord delights in the a literal rod of punishment (Proverbs 13:24, joy and fun of His people. I can personally 23:12-13), and other times it is used more attest that some of the most fun moments generally to refer to consequences (Job 9:34, of my life have happened and do happen at 21:9 and 1 Corinthians 4:21). Regardless, the church! rod is abandoned at great cost to our children I am speaking instead of fun as a demand, and ourselves. a first priority or a religious commodity we Eight “There are some sins that my child is incapable of committing.” To be sure, there may be some sins and crimes that our children are unlikely to commit (i.e., most of our children are unlikely to become serial killers!), but “unlikely” does not mean “incapable.” The reality of human sinfulness is a crucial component of the gospel itself as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned.” After the flood, when Noah offered an offering to God, the Lord God noted that “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). In Psalm 58:3 the psalmist spoke of the wicked going astray “from birth.” To deny the extent of human sinfulness and its grasp on all of us, including our children, is to deny our great need for Jesus. If our children are not really sinners, then they do not really need a Savior. Do not deny the truthfulness of your children’s need for the cross of Christ. Nine “My child will do as I say, not as I do.” It would be wonderful if our actions were committed in a vacuum. In truth, sin is social, and the societies we most directly impact are our families. In Numbers 14:32-34, the Lord told His disobedient people that “your children shall . . . suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness.” But our children do not only suffer the consequences of our actions. They often suffer by being pulled into the lifestyles we have modeled before them. So we see in 2 Kings 17:40-41 that the children of the disobedient Samaritans observed their parents’ behavior and “did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” (continued on page 31) www.lockandkeyministries.org to see how to nurture your heart for God while growing His children. BOOK AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM OR DEEPRIVERBOOKS.COM 11 wo old high school friends who hadn’t seen each other in years were getting together for a weekend. Steve picked up Jon from the airport, and they headed to Steve’s house in the country. As they made the final turn onto the old, dusty dirt road that ended at Steve’s house, Jon noticed something on the side of the barn that was nothing short of amazing: 12 targets with the center of each bull’s-eye shot out. “Steve, that is incredible! Where in the world did you learn to shoot like that?” Jon asked in amazement. “Oh, it’s easy” Steve replied. “I shot the hole first, then drew the bull’s-eye around it!” Steve’s approach is brilliant—if you want to use it to play a trick on your friends. Sadly, however, Steve’s approach to shooting a bull’seye is how many parents approach parenting. When we first become parents, we have big hopes and dreams for our kids. Before long, however, the busyness of life—work, play and family schedules—causes us to push those hopes and dreams aside, and we think, “I’ll do that with them later.” 12 The result is often a time of regrets for the parent as their child moves into adulthood. Graduation occurs, and we send them off into the world thinking to ourselves, “Why didn’t I . . . ?” and “If I could do it all over again, I’d . . .” The ideas of a perfect family and parents without regrets are as mythical as the unicorn. However, there is a way to make the most of the time with our children in shaping them to be who God has for them to be and to minimize the regrets. Unlike Steve, who just scattershot and then drew a target around wherever the shot landed, we must be intentional in how we raise our children if we are going to raise them to be deep, passionate followers of Christ. If I’m planning a family trip to the beach, I don’t just say, “We are going to the beach, and we are going to have a great time” and two months later hop in the car and take off. No. I make plans based on my bull’s-eye for the trip: I research places to stay and things to do when we get there; I figure a budget for the trip; I find some fun things to do while we are there; I map out the best route to take us to our destination. Then, when we are on the trip, my family experiences the payoff of all that planning and work. I begin with the Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 vision of a great family vacation in mind and then begin to plan how to make that vision become a reality. It’s the same with the children God has entrusted us with. If they are to become the people who God made them to be, we have to be intentional about raising them to be disciples of Christ. We have to ask the question, “When this child graduates from high school and goes out on his or her own, what does God want this child to be like? What does this child need to know?” Once we have that end picture in mind, we begin working backwards to figure out how to make that happen. The key word in all of this is intentionality. As parents, we cannot just leave the spiritual wellbeing of our children to chance; parents must play an active role. Sometimes the temptation is to leave the spiritual raising of a child to “the church.” The church is important and plays a role, but the church cannot (and should not) replace the parent in a child’s spiritual development. For example, if we want our child to be a servant like Jesus (Mark 10:45), then as the child gets into the preschool years, we begin teaching the child about serving others. As the child moves into elementary and middle school, we do community service projects together. During the junior high and high school years, we send them (or better yet, we go with them!) on mission trips out of town, state or country. Having a heart for loving and serving others isn’t just going to happen; it has to be intentionally cultivated, exemplified and experienced for a child. Every statistic and article I’ve ever read on children and teens has shown parents have much more spiritual influence than the church. The most powerful and influential sermons preached to children are by the parents. As parents, we have to be intentional in teaching them the things of God. We have to remember that our children are not really our children; they belong to God. They are simply on loan to us for a short time. What that looks like for each child is different based on the unique personality God has given each particular child, but the end goal is to raise children who are deep, passionate followers of Christ. From there, parents must pray through and begin to figure out what the bull’s-eye is for their particular child. Will you hit the bull’s-eye perfectly? Of course not. But I’d rather miss the bull’s-eye God led me to aim for with my kids by a few inches and at least know what I was aiming for than get to graduation day with my fingers crossed, hoping for the best. So how does a parent figure out the bull’s-eye? Here are a few ideas: • Pray and ask God to give you wisdom and vision for how to be intentional. • Envision the type of adult you hope your child will become and write that out in a paragraph or two. This vision will often come from things you/your family values, hopefully based on biblical principles. • Once you dream and list a few core values, begin looking for ways to intentionally cultivate those in your children. For example, I place a high value on service, so we teach our kids about service and give then opportunities to serve. We want our kids to be biblically literate, so before our kids could even walk, we began reading stories out of a children’s Bible to them each night at bedtime. I value a sense of humor, so I make sure we laugh a lot at my house. Beginning with the end in mind and working to be intentional to do all we can to hit that target is not easy, but it is rewarding and worth it. God has entrusted me with one of the most precious resources I’m ever going to have; one of my targets is to one day hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” both in how I served Him in my vocation and in my family. Bill Newton is youth minister at First Baptist Church, Hot Springs. He and his wife Raynetta have two children, Korin and Josiah. 13 When they turn away: Drawing your adult child back to Christ By Rob Rienow T he apostle John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Unfortunately, the opposite of this is also true. There is no greater sorrow for us as Christian parents when one of our children is far from God. The church in North America is in crisis. It is a generational crisis! According to the current research, 75 percent of young adults who grew up in Christian homes and Christian churches have left the church and/or their faith behind. According to our church surveys, two-thirds of the empty-nest parents in our churches today have at least one adult child who is not converted, or not walking with the Lord. Many are suffering and grieving in silence, too embarrassed or ashamed to even ask for prayer. At this point, the enemy of our souls quickly moves in for the attack. “You blew it!” “You are a failure as a parent!” “You missed your chance, and now your child is mine!” Tragically, many parents buy these lies. They believe that their window of influence has closed, and all they can do now is pray. 14 I will never minimize the power of prayer, but don’t buy the lie that you no longer have influence in the life of your son or daughter. The parenting principles in the Bible do not have expiration dates on them. They don’t become null and void when your child enters adulthood or even moves across the country. God calls mother and fathers to a lifelong mission of impressing the hearts of our children with a love for God. Be encouraged! It is never too late for God to use you to point your child toward Christ. We all know there are no magic formulas when it comes to parenting. I can’t say, “Do these four things and your child will be reconciled with you and follow God.” But in the Bible God has given parents four essential principles for us to follow, so that we might do all in our power to lead our children to Christ and equip them to make a difference in the world for Christ and His Kingdom. Barna Group: “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years,” September 11, 2006. Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 Principle 1: Offer your heart to the Lord In Deuteronomy 6, God speaks to parents and gives them the clear mission to take the lead in passing faith and character to their children. God says, “You shall teach “my words” diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy. 6:7a). But there is a commandment that comes before this mission to disciple our children. There is a prerequisite to pointing our children toward Christ. Two verses earlier, God says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We can’t lead our children in a direction we are not going in ourselves. Offering our hearts to the Lord includes repentance. I have had to repent so often for my failures as a father. For many years I was a spiritual leader at church, but passive at home. As a youth pastor, I was putting energy into sharing my faith with everyone else’s children at church, while I was spiritually neglecting my children at home. There are no perfect parents. We can’t go back and “re do” our bad decisions. But we can repent. We can look back at the things we did wrong, and the things we failed to do right, and confess our sins to God— and He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us! If you want to move forward in your relationship with your adult child, it may need to begin by looking backward, and offering your heart to the Lord in repentance. Principle 2: Turn your heart to your child In Malachi 4 and Luke 1, God speaks of the power of His Holy Spirit to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of children back to their parents. When our hearts are turned to our children, particularly our children who are far from God, the Lord increasingly gives us a spirit of compassion toward them. In the book of Matthew, we find a beautiful picture of Christ’s heart for the lost: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Is this how you see your children who are far from the Lord? Do you have a child who has not trusted Christ as the Lord and Savior of his or her life? Jesus looked at the lost and He saw them as harassed, helpless . . . like sheep without a shepherd. It’s hard for us to admit it, but it’s very easy for a judgmental and critical spirit to arise in us, even toward our own children. Have no doubt that your child is in a spiritual battle. At the moment, the enemy is thrilled to have the upper hand in the heart of your child. He has no plan to let up. He will continue to pummel your child with deceptions, pain, trauma, rejection and temptation. He has your son or daughter down, and he wants nothing more than to keep your child down. He will do all he can to keep your child’s heart far from you, far from church, far from the Scriptures, and far from Jesus. My point is not to make excuses for our children, but to face the reality that they are under spiritual attack, and that should drive us to our knees and fill us with an overwhelming compassion for them! Your son is being harassed. Your daughter is like a sheep without a shepherd. Take a moment right now and pray for God to give you His heart of compassion for your son or daughter. Principle 3: Draw your child’s heart to yours One of the most powerful parenting principles in the Bible comes from Proverbs 23:26, “My son, give me your heart.” God wants parents to ask their children for their hearts and for children to open their hearts to their parents! Satan makes this a primary attack point. He will do everything he can to break the “heart connection” between you and your children. He wants to remove all warmth, openness, honesty and trust – because when we lose those things with our children, we lose influence. Do you want to have greater influence in the heart and life of your adult children? Then do all in your power to build a better relationship with them. A good first step may be to communicate honestly with your son or daughter about the fears and anxieties you have in talking with them about spiritual things. The conversation may go something like this: I would like to talk with you about something that I’m very nervous about. I’m uncomfortable even bringing this up with you. I feel like sometimes when I try to talk with you about personal things, it doesn’t go very well. If I try to talk about spiritual things, it goes even worse. I sometimes feel that I’m annoying you, or even angering you, and then I don’t respond well. I sometimes get sad or angry myself. Then we both go away from the conversation in a bad place. You’re angry and I’m sad. This seems to keep happening over and over again, and I don’t know all the reasons why. What I do know is that I want to have the kind of relationship with you in which we can talk openly and honestly about personal things. I’d love to have a better relationship with you, and for both of us to feel more comfortable being open with each other. I don’t know how to do that, but it’s what I want. I can tell that some of these conversations aren’t very pleasant for you, so I would imagine that you’d like to find a new way for us to relate to each other, too. What do you think? It can also be helpful to invite your son or daughter to be honest with you about his or her fears/anxieties in regards to talking T:7” T:7” (continued on next page) Steeped in history. Steeped in history. Built for the future. Built for the future. T:10” T:10” Teaching, Training, Recreation …Rest Sitting on a secluded 280-acre farm in Arkansas County the CrossHeirs Retreat Center is the ideal location for your next church, ministry, corporate or family retreat. Big Jim’s Lodge is the centerpiece of CrossHeirs. The three-story, 16 bedroom log cabin provides the perfect location for teaching, training or just getting away from it all to focus on what’s really important. 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See dealer for details. ©2012 Authorized Mercedes-Benz Dealers For more information, call 1-800-FOR-MERCEDES, or visit MBUSA.com. 200 Varick St. New York, NY 10014 : Phone 212-805-7500 MR2_ECS_P12614_4CP Client: MERCEDES-BENZ USA, LLC RDA WO: MY13 E-Class Steeped in History (7x10) 200 Varick St. New York, NY 10014 : Phone 212-805-7500 PATH: M.P_MECHANICALS:Volumes:M.P_MECHANICALS:Mercedes:MR2:ECS:P12614:MR2_ECS_P12614_4CP MR2_ECS_P12614_4CP RDA / PRINT WO: MY13 History (7x10) TEAM Client: MERCEDES-BENZ USA, LLC MEDIA INFO E-Class Steeped inCOLORS SPECS PATH: M.P_MECHANICALS:Volumes:M.P_MECHANICALS:Mercedes:MR2:ECS:P12614:MR2_ECS_P12614_4CP 15 Then be very quiet and listen for as long as it takes. Keep yourself focused on the purpose of the conversation. You’re seeking to draw your child’s heart to yours. If your son or daughter is talking and being honest with you about personal things, God is on the move. Principle 4: Point your child’s heart to Christ with you about spiritual things. Consider initiating the following conversation with your child: Can I ask you a question? I want to give you fair warning, the question is a little unusual, but it would mean a lot to me if you’d tell me what you think. Here it is: How comfortable do you feel talking with me about personal things or even spiritual things? Let me ask it this way. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being totally comfortable and one being not comfortable at all, how comfortable do you feel talking about personal and religious things with me? I’m hesitant to use this next illustration because for many people it’s all too real. But imagine for a moment that your child has a terminal illness. Time is short. Miraculously, you discover there is a cure for the illness! You rush to your son or daughter and say, “I’ve found the cure for your illness! I love you so much! You’re going to live!” With disdain your child responds, “Cure? I’m not even sick. Frankly, I’m offended that you even think I’m sick. All you do is criticize me.” Stunned, you reply, “You don’t want the cure? You are sick. It’s very serious. I love you and want you to get well.” Your child spits back, “Leave me alone! Don’t ever talk to me again about this so-called cure for an illness I don’t even have.” What would you say? Would you agree with your child? “Okay, I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or drive you away from me. I won’t bring it up again.” Not a chance! You’d try again. Then you’d try again, and again, and again. When it comes to matters of life and death, (continued on page 23) Be prepared for an awkward pause. Imagine that your son or daughter responded by saying, “Well, Mom, to be honest, I would have to say . . . three.” Imagine that no sooner is the number three out of your child’s mouth that you launch into a tearful speech: “Three! How could you possibly say three? Haven’t I always told you from the time you were little that you can tell me anything! You know that you can always tell me the truth! And now you say three. How did this happen?” It’s highly likely that a child would respond with a three because of a history of hearing speeches like that! The attempt at having a meaningful conversation to draw the child’s heart to his or her parent, from the child’s perspective, has turned into another guilt trip. Let’s look at this situation from a different perspective. You take the risk and ask your child on a scale of one to 10 how comfortable he or she feels talking with you about spiritual things. Your son or daughter indicates a three. At this point, don’t miss the beautiful thing that just happened. Your child gave you a piece of his or her heart and was honest with you. That’s exactly what you were looking for. Your first response should be, Thank you for telling me the truth. I think a lot of young people would just tell me what I want to hear. You didn’t do that. They would say eight, nine or 10. You had the guts to tell me the truth. You made the choice to tell me something I didn’t want to hear. That means a lot to me. Now, I want to understand where you’re coming from. Can you tell me more about why you said three? 16 Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 Best Party Location Choosing a church home By Heath Bryant H aving children often begins to change one’s perspective on things. No, I’m not referring to sleep deprivation. However, after going through many sleepless nights with each of my four children, it is certainly one of the first and hardest hurdles to overcome as new parents. flavor of ice cream you want at the ice cream parlor. There is “rocky road” variety that has had a difficult past, but is turning the corner (or so they say). There is the option of three Now that you are a parent, there’s a lot more to consider than just what is available for young adults. The perspective I am referring to, however, is one that hopefully has a much deeper and longer lasting impact. Often as newly married adults without children, the draw of an open weekend to travel and experience new things is simply too hard to resist. It’s easy to put finding a church home on the lower priority list. However, there’s something about having children that shakes our foundations to the core and causes us to reexamine our priorities. Many seek to find a church that meets their new and growing family’s needs. The question is, “Where do you begin?” Now that you are a parent, there’s a lot more to consider than just what is available for young adults. How do you recognize a quality ministry that teaches biblical principles, keeps your children engaged and makes them want to come back again and again? Is it all about shiny buildings and cool toys, or is there more to it than just those things? Church has changed drastically over the past 20 years, much of it, I believe, for the good. However, in our consumer-driven society, choosing a church home for your family can feel very much like choosing which scoops in a waffle cone with sprinkles on top with all the bells and whistles. Then there is just plain old vanilla in a cup—traditional and not flashy in the least. And, of course, there is pretty much everything in between. Now before you give up prior to even starting to look for a church home, I have a few suggestions for you to consider. Whether you’ve been out of church for a while or you are looking for a new church home for another reason, consider these ideas: First, talk to your friends and neighbors about which church they attend or what they know about churches in the area. You can bet that even people who don’t go to church often know a lot about what goes on at the local churches, especially for kids. If they don’t know anything about them, there’s a good chance the church doesn’t do much with kids. Second, check out the church’s website. As in the business world, the website is the front door to the church. While this is not always the case, most churches that do a good job with their website also do well with their ministry. This is also a great way to find out information on what the church believes, learn what to do on your first visit, and perhaps even listen to some sermons if you like. Third, once you’ve narrowed your search, make the decision to visit. Pay attention to how you are greeted. How does the church process first time attenders? Ask questions about security. Who will be with your child? How do you go about picking up your child? How does the church ensure that only those authorized are allowed to pick up your child? You may want to make a list of questions prior to visiting the church for the first time. Pay attention to the building. You can tell a lot about how important children’s ministry is in the life of a church by how much the church invests in the facilities for the children’s ministry. I am not suggesting that the facilities have to be professionally themed out, but they should be at the very least clean and presentable and hopefully have some element of color or creativity that says, “This is a unique space just for children.” Fourth, try to understand what measures the church takes to equip you as a parent for teaching at home. While church is vitally important in teaching kids about Christ, the church’s job is to invest and equip. (continued on page 25) 17 How to pray for Your Child BIG By Will Davis Jr. M ariah approached the beginning of middle school as a happy, normal sixth grader. She was a good student, would be attending her neighborhood school with her best girlfriends and was excited about the new adventure. But that all changed on the first day of school. Mariah basically experienced the equivalent of a panic attack. She started crying uncontrollably and inconsolably. The scene was repeated almost every day of that school year. Her mother would drive her to school but was often unable to get Mariah out of the car. Other days, Mariah would make a brave attempt to face her school fears, only to spend most of the day in the counselor’s office or crying at her desk. Her new How many times have you gone adventure had turned into to God in a moment of parental a nightmare. desperation and pleaded for mere survival? How often are we as Christian parents guilty of not asking for God’s best provision but simply his bare minimum? During that time, Mariah’s parents did everything they could to help her. They prayed for her and with her. She started seeing a professional Christian counselor, and her school counselor worked with her every day. She also started taking antidepressants. The next year, as Mariah was about to enter seventh grade, she and her parents agreed that she would try a new school. It was a Christian school with a great reputation. Things started off smoothly enough for Mariah, but within just a few weeks, the panic attacks were back. Mariah bottomed out in the late fall of her seventh grade year. Her mother, Kathleen, wrote, “It was the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever experienced, watching my child just try to slog through such misery. She was crying out to God. She was begging me for help. It’s so hard to convey how severe this was. I’m not 18 Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 talking about a bratty kid crying and refusing to get out of the car. I’m talking about true hysterics, rocking, making guttural sounds, etc.” Things were so bad that Kathleen and her husband drove Mariah to a local psychiatric hospital. They basically told Mariah that if she couldn’t gain control of her fears, they would have to hospitalize her. It wasn’t a threat; these Christian parents really didn’t know how to help their daughter. The drugs, therapy and prayers didn’t seem to be working. Mariah reluctantly agreed to give school another try. Kathleen remembers dropping her off and watching her frightened but determined seventh grader weeping as she disappeared through the school’s doors. Kathleen wrote, “I got in my car and started sobbing, and then I prayed for her like I had done every other day. I was praying things like, ‘O God, please help Mariah. Please, please, please. God, I know you hear her crying out to you. Why won’t you help her? Please just help her put one foot in front of the other and make it through the day.’” And then it happened. Kathleen had a breakthrough. As she sat in her car, praying for God to help Mariah survive the day, she clearly heard God say, “Is that really all you want from me?” That’s a really good question, isn’t it? How many times have you gone to God in a moment of parental desperation and pleaded for mere survival? How often are we as Christian parents guilty of not asking for God’s best provision but simply his bare minimum? How quickly do we forget while in our foxhole praying that Jesus promised abundant life to his children? Have you ever heard the Holy Spirit say, “Is that really what you want from me?” in response to your prayers? Kathleen felt the gentle rebuke in the Spirit’s question and decided to go for broke. She wrote, “So I just unleashed. I said, ‘No, that’s not all I want! I want Mariah to be great, not good! I want be the great wizard of Oz, instead of with the holy and creating God of the universe. Why do we frequently ask so little of God when it comes to our kids? when it comes to our kids—really, they’re his kids—we shouldn’t skimp. We need to pray with focus and not toss up weak and wimpy petitions to our holy God. And that’s exactly what God did. Mariah Perhaps you’ve prayed one of the following I’m talking about the difference between didn’t just survive that day, she actually enjoyed prayers: what I call pinpoint praying and no-point it. She was great, not just good. And she’s been praying. We can’t afford to waste our time by • God, please keep Sally from getting great just about every day since. Today Mariah praying no-point prayers for our kids. Nopregnant. is a happy teenager who is excelling in school. point prayers resemble the “God be with Bill” • God, please help Jake to pass math. She has friends, dances on the drill team, makes kind of praying that doesn’t ask anything of SOCIAL SCENE OF THEand SOPHISTIKID good grades, serves in her church. And God. More specifically, no-point praying is: • God, please help Timmy not to wet his SOCIAL SCENE OF THE SOPHISTIKID Please contact contact your your rep rep with with approval approval or or changes: Please changes: she’s completely off the antidepressants. Mariah pants today. • Too broad— No-point praying asks590-3340 God to Jennifer 590-2236 Laura 590-9140 Ronda is prevailing, not just surviving, because her Jennifer 590-2236 cure Laura 590-9140 Ronda 590-3340 world hunger or save all the people • God, help me and Joe not to argue today Sabra 590-6992 or fax changes to 501-975-6780 mother obeyed the leading of God’s Spirit and Sabra 590-6992 faxBroad changes to 501-975-6780 onor earth. prayers sound good (501) 975-6776 about his chores. (501) 975-6776 dared to ask for something big from God. Please respond by: __________________ on the surface but rarely have any real Please respond by: __________________ While there’s nothing really wrong with courage or passion behind them. Pinpoint praying versus this type of praying, it doesn’t ask or require • Too vague—This is the essence of the “God no-point praying much of God. Do you hear the “Lord, just bless Joe” kinds of prayers. They’re fuzzy How many times have you settled for the help us to get by” mind-set of those prayers? and have no real meaning. They don’t “Lord, just help my child to survive” kind of It’s as if the parent is approaching a God really ask anything tangible of God. praying that Kathleen described? How often who is irritated and worn-out by the parent’s have you mumbled some weak, pathetic constant pestering—as if God might react as • Too safe—No-point prayers don’t require prayer in hopes that God would help you we parents do when we’re tired and irritable. any faith. There’s no risk at all in praying or your child just to get by? Have you ever But God is not an irritable parent. He never them, because nothing that requires God thought about that? Have you ever thought grows weary of our requests to him. And to act is ever asked of him. about how ridiculously low we set the bar while there is nothing wrong with praying No-point prayers are completely inadequate when it comes to praying for our kids? One for little things, we should not settle for small when it comes to our children. They’re too would think that we were dealing with the answers when God has promised that all of (continued on page 31) little man behind the curtain who pretends to his power is available to us when we ask. And savvy AD PROOF PROOFCOPY COPY KzDS P R O O F I understand that thisthis proof is provided so so that I may correct anyany typographical errors. I have checked this adad I understand that proof is provided that I may correct typographical errors. I have checked this thoroughly andand authorize it for publication. Kid’s Directory bears nono liability. thoroughly authorize it for publication. Kid’s Directory bears liability. 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Prices available at participating stores. 19 Blending: A family work in progress By James Barham T he blended family structure is becoming the new normal. Less than half of American families are traditional nuclear families. Members of a blended family go through all sorts of challenges: remarriage, new living arrangements, new friends, stepsiblings, new rules, new expectations, loss of friends or community. In reflecting on her expectations for a blended family, one mother commented, “I knew it would be difficult, but I never knew how hard it would be.” Based on conversations with parents of blended families, these areas need to be considered. Emotion coaching: helping kids cope The emotional life of the family is critically important for the health of each member. As in any family, children need someone to coach them emotionally. “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” by John Gottman, is a very helpful resource on this topic. Children from a divorce or other traumatic loss who join a new family need to be allowed to grieve in order to prevent that grief and frustration from turning into anger. Scripture teaches that parents should not provoke or exasperate their children (Ephesians 6:4). Instead, parents can simply identify the emotions that their child is feeling in any given situation. Talking about the emotion or doing some other activity is a way of handling it without it turning into negative behavior. 20 One mother said that it was very hard when the kids blamed her for the breakup of her previous marriage. Everything shifted for their family after the divorce. One major change for her oldest son was that he became the middle child after her second marriage. Kids may enter the new family with a lot of resentment and frustration, especially if it has not been that long since the ending of their parents’ marriage. Or, they may have their routines set and not want to make any adjustments. Parents need to be sensitive to the emotional changes that their children are going through. Children certainly have all different ways of acting out their emotions. One parent remembers when her child threatened to leave to go to her dad’s house. This was a crushing moment for the mother. She felt a sense of loss and desertion. How could her daughter do this? The next time her daughter threatened her with this, she calmly said, “All right, pack your bags.” So, the mother helped her pack, got in the car and started driving her to her dad’s place. On the way there, her daughter changed her mind and decided she wanted to stay with her mom. What was happening? The daughter was emotionally acting out Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 toward her mother. After this incident, she never used this tactic on her mom again. Training up your child and someone else’s One of the biggest challenges that families face is discipline. How, when and who should train up the child? This is the big one. Many parents may step into a blended family and on day one start disciplining their stepchildren as if they were their own. Nearly all parents who were surveyed for this article agree that this is not the best approach. Just as there are stages of life for any traditional family, stepfamilies also have stages. The stepparent can eventually transition into a role where he or she does some discipline, but responsibility to discipline needs to be left up to the biological parent. Parents need to have family rules. “Positive Parenting with a Plan,” by Matthew Johnson, introduces a way that parents can do positive parenting with structure. He strongly He would encourage any parent about to join two families together to get into a mindset of service and humility. recommends that the parents sit down and make a list of what the family rules need to be. Another list spells out the consequences for breaking the rules, and a third list explains the rewards for good behavior. Ideally, both households that the child will live in would use these rules, but the majority of the time this is not the reality. Kids have a different set of rules in each of their houses. Do not be discouraged since this is typically beyond your control. The best thing that you can do is make sure that you and your spouse agree on the rules and the consequences for your home. One benefit of being on the same page with family rules is that parents are enabled to love equally. If a parent appears to be treating their stepchild unfairly, it is helpful for the other parent to step in and respectfully point this out, although perhaps not always in the moment. Many parents have commented on how this is a learning process as well. How can a parent love a stepchild as much as her own? As hard as it might be, the stepparent needs to constantly evaluate this process based on her own behavior and not that of the child. Growing together spiritually Where does any family get its strength to keep going each day? Parents can draw strength from their spiritual life as well as encourage their children to ask for God’s help. God designed the family to be the first institution on planet earth. It still is the best plan for raising kids. A father and mother are uniquely gifted with just the right balance of love/affection and discernment/discipline to shape a child. Stepparents rely upon the strength that God gives to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). A father remembered the challenges that he faced in trying to build a new home and safe haven for his children. “It has been difficult, frustrating, gut-wrenching, beautiful, wonderful, scary, mind-numbing . . . very challenging, forcing me to cry out to God for many, many needs, and so worth every day of it,” he said. He would encourage any parent about to join two families together to get into a mindset of service and humility. Others’ interests will need to be put ahead of one’s own in order for the family to work successfully (Philippians 2:4). Finding new meaning on holidays How should parents go about arranging events like holidays? It is possible that a court of law has determined how holidays will be spent. If this was not spelled out in the custody arrangements, then more negotiating may be required. Some parents find it helpful to simply double the celebration of birthdays and holidays, even if it is not on the exact date on the calendar. One parent noted that their holiday routines were one of the major losses of the divorce. They had everything in place and then had to change it all. Much of their time would be spent taking kids to and from different houses during the holidays. great tools to see how the couple is doing. It also comes with an online inventory that provides some insightful feedback. Having a blended family can be fun and exciting. It also takes a lot of hard work. No matter how hard it gets, one mother wants to encourage any stepparent brave enough to do it by saying, “It’s worth the work!” James Barham, a licensed associate marriage and family therapist, is the Jonesboro area director with Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries. He and his wife Mandi have two girls and a boy on the way. The writer would like to thank the Harrison Life Group of Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, as well as several others who completed a blended family survey. This group is made up of second marriages that daily model God’s grace and truth. Some helpful resources: • www.focusonthefamily.com • www.smartstepfamiles.com Taking care of the relationship Marital satisfaction is key to the overall health of a family. Some couples have remarked that it is easy keeping the romance alive; the kids, they say, are the ones who cause the problems. Other couples find it difficult amid all the demands of managing a household to pay attention to each other’s needs. Whatever the case may be, continuing to speak each other’s love language and meet deep emotional needs must be a priority. “The Remarriage Checkup,” by Ron Deal and David Olson, provides some 2013 CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY The perfecT family Trip vehicle for you, your kids tle it f l r r i i e e n h t d l s l a ! d n a Frank Fletcher DODGE • CHRYSLER • JEEP 5922 WARDEN ROAD • NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR 501.834.7700 WWW.FRANKFLETCHERDODGECHRYSLERJEEP.COM 21 Cookie-cutter Christian family is so overrated From single country girl to suburban stepmom By Leah Fender A t 29, I was single, childless and had just moved to a 100-acre farm to start remodeling a 50-year-old farmhouse. I loved my single life, and I loved coming home to two goofy black Labs that were always happy to see me. Though I considered myself independently happy, I still longed for a husband and family. Well, be careful what you pray for. Not long after making this huge transition, I met and fell in love with a man that had three children—Julianne (6), Brian (8) and Victoria (13) — and a black Lab puppy. We quickly fell in love, and nine months later we were married. I left it all — my farm, my single life, my solitude and my home. I even parted with one of my dogs because we all know that three black Labs, three kids and two adults in a 1,400-square-foot home in the suburbs would be a bit much under one roof. I left it all for love and the hope of glorifying God with my marriage and my new role as a stepmom. So began my transition with being a single gal to an instant wife and mother. And I had no idea what I was doing. None of my friends were stepmoms. In fact, none of them had ever dated a man with children. They were clueless when I came to them with questions about whether or not I should confront my teenage stepdaughter about borrowing my clothes and then leaving them on the floor, or if I start enforcing household chores — like folding laundry — for each child. My friends would just shake their heads and say, “That must be tough. Have you prayed about it?” Prayed about it? Really? My knees were calloused from praying so much. As much as I wanted to simply leave it with God, I wanted clear answers from other Christian stepmoms. So I prayed. I prayed a lot. But I still wanted 22 to connect with other “real-life stepmothers” who had all the answers. Surely there were other stepmoms in our church who had been through this before me, right? But how do you walk up to another mother and say, “Excuse me, are these your biological kids?” I never had the guts to ask that question; so instead, I spent countless hours crying out to God for answers and many more hours trying new things. It’s now been nearly two years since my husband and I said “I do,” and through this journey, I have found some interesting ideas and thoughts on how to make our new family work. If you’re in the same boat or struggling to stay connected even as a traditional family, hopefully these might help spark some ideas of your own. 1. Establish biblical foundations. From the beginning, we knew that Christ had to be at the center of everything we did or we wouldn’t survive. This has been paramount in keeping my husband and me on the same page. The children know our values and the expectations we have for them. Solomon declares, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established” (Proverbs 24:3). We study the Bible together as a family, and we take turns praying for each other at mealtimes and bedtime. Praying out loud for each other solidifies our family bond and affirms that we will make Jesus the center of our home. 2. Compromise. To live under one roof, everyone must compromise. After living alone for so long, this was probably the hardest on me. When it was just me, I could watch anything I wanted anytime I wanted and eat peanut butter straight out of the jar for dinner anytime. When you share the TV with four other Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 people and perhaps they don’t want peanut butter for dinner though, you have to learn to let go and compromise. If Julieanne wanted to watch cartoons, was it really worth the battle over the remote so I could watch “Dr. Oz”? It was also probably a good idea for me to eat dinner with the family no matter how much I’d rather be eating peanut butter out of the jar and not vegetables. Besides, if I expected them to eat their vegetables, I guess I needed to set a good example, right? 3. Eat together every night. Though our schedules are beyond hectic, we make it a priority to actually sit down and have dinner together as a family every night. Having just 45 minutes together to talk about our day allows us to take a breath and enjoy each other no matter how much we’ve been running around all day. Sometimes our dinnertime varies due to ballet class or baseball practice, but our time together as a family is consistent. The kids have even come up with a game that we play each day. It’s called the “high-low game.” Each person has to tell their highlight of the day, along with their low point of the day. It’s fun to hear what’s important to them and what made or broke their day. 4. Find unique ways to connect. Find fun ways to connect with each person in your family, both one-on-one and all together. For us, we love to be outdoors. Recently, we took a day trip to Blanchard Springs and explored the caverns together. Everyone had a blast, and for under $40, it was worth it for our family of five. Not only should you find fun ways for everyone to enjoy each other, but as a new stepmom, I found it helpful to find things that the kids and I enjoy together that is special to just us. For Julianne, we discovered washable markers. We take turns drawing Bible stories on the bottom of each other’s feet while the other one has to guess which Bible story is being drawn. For Brian, he eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. So our fun time is playing baseball together in the backyard. For our oldest, she is a typical teenager that likes to shop and just hang out. So I try to find time to take her out, just the two of us, to a movie or to just peruse around the mall. This is a great way to get birthday and Christmas ideas too because shopping for a teenager can be tough! 5. Spend time alone with your spouse. My husband is a firefighter, which means he works a 24-hour shift every third day. As such, our alone time is incredibly important to me. So when we got married, we made a pact that every third day, we would stop what we were doing and spend at least a couple hours alone together the night before he goes to work. This can mean going on a date or simply sitting together on the couch talking. We make sure we spend this time together. Regardless of the hectic, crazy day we’ve had, we always feel better and more connected by having that special time together. In addition, we have set our alarms on our phones for 8:50 each evening. This is our reminder to stop what we’re doing and study God’s Word together. Nobody who walks through our front door can possibly think we have it all figured out. We will probably always be working on our “blended-family dynamics.” Despite the difficulties and adjustments to living together, I know that our goal is the same: to live happily together under one roof. With Christ as the foundation, I know it’s possible. Leah Fender is the assistant editor/ writer for Arkansas Baptist News. When they turn away: Drawing your adult child back to Christ (continued from page 16) nothing would stop you from doing everything in your power to help your child. If we would be this dedicated to the temporary life of our children’s body, how much more passionate and committed should we be to the salvation of their souls? Be not ashamed of the gospel If you choose to take the tremendous risk of directly talking with your child about his or her relationship with God, Satan will shift his attack into high gear. I encourage you to post this verse on your bathroom mirror and computer desktop. Speak it out loud daily. God’s Word alone can equip you for the journey ahead. Commit this verse to memory: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The power to change your child’s heart doesn’t lie with you, but rather in the Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Trust Him! Share the gospel full of grace and truth with your children, and watch what God will do! Rob Rienow’s most important ministry is loving his wife and leading his six children to follow God. He is a pastor, author, church planter, and founder of Visionary Family Ministries – www.visionaryfam.com 23 From head to heart By Karen Rineheart So often I wonder what would have changed in my life had I not turned my back on God in my teens. I have come to understand how so often I get in the way of God’s blessings for my life. Scripture says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’” declares the Lord, “’plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). God has wonderful blessings planned for our lives, but all too often our lives get in the way, and we miss the blessings He has in store for us. As a parent and a Christian counselor, I pray and hope that my children and my clients will wait on God and receive all His blessings. I teach and pour into them God’s truth and use both my acquired knowledge and my God-given passion to share these truths. As a parent I struggle to teach my children how to be successful, honorable and wise according to God’s Word and not society’s standards. My passion lies in leading children from the head knowledge—or the simple understanding we instill in our children—to the heart change that is crucial for evident and permanent changes in behavior. The difficulty in transitioning to a heart change lies in our parenting and God’s grace. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to teach our children God’s truths and see them blossom by living God’s truths out loud? O ften I find myself wondering as a parent why it takes so many times of teaching my children the same thing over and over before they actually begin to respond and behave the way I hope and pray they will. The Bible teaches: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). I have heard, read and meditated on this verse, and I tend to find peace in this promise, especially when my children are more difficult. 24 I have also lived this verse as a child of God—sometimes a prodigal child. During my teen years, I did not have the relationship with God the way I should have; I made truly bad decisions. Yet I always knew God’s truth. I drowned out God’s voice and filled it with worldly advice and made worldly choices. I was raised in church and blessed with a mom who was involved in our church and with me. She was beside me when I decided to follow Christ when I was eight. She was there when I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart. Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 We often focus on teaching our children the knowledge, and they may appear to listen and learn. However, when challenged, they respond the same ways they did before. There are no lasting changes in their behavior. When asked, our children admit they know how they should have acted or responded. They have the head knowledge but are not responding as though they do. As a parent, I have often uttered the words, “You know better than that.” We are teaching the head knowledge and expecting the heart change. Without the heart change, our children will continue to react with worldly responses, or at best, there may be a temporary change in behavior with no lasting results. There is a distinct difference between knowing the truth and believing or living the truth. When we believe and begin to live the truth, there is a change in our heart. This is the change we are looking for in our children. This is the change I lacked as a teen. Making the change from head to heart knowledge requires: standards, consistency, time/involvement, love and prayer. Standards are your family values or rules your family agrees to abide by and to hold each other accountable to. As godly parents, we must model our family values and, in turn, hold our children accountable for their choices. Without accountability, our standards are meaningless. Children need direction and standards. Children will seek what is pleasurable and avoid what is painful. Without accountability, they will struggle to abide by your family standards. Consistency is an essential element in parenting. The same standards should apply in all circumstances and for all members. When a rule is broken, the consequence or punishment is followed through with each time. As a counselor, I know the importance of consistency. Yet as a parent, this is the most difficult area of parenting for me. It hurts me to take away things my children care about, such as time with their friends. However, without consistency our standards have little value. Children often appear wiser than parents in this area; they tend to challenge our rules when we are exhausted or our attention is drawn elsewhere. Remain consistent. Time and involvement are crucial in leading your child’s change from head to heart knowledge. From a loving heart and never from anger, share your hopes and honest prayers for your child. This is a time to express your wishes for your child’s future and then to commit to work together to develop their godly character. When consequences or punishments are given, instead of an argument, it should be a time of learning and possibly even great sadness as a parent. This is also not a time for a seminar, but rather an opportunity to express your sorrow over your child’s poor choice and to explore other options. Be sure to encourage your child to share ideas on what changes may be necessary and how you can help your child to make better choices next time. The past cannot be changed, but great learning can be achieved. We must teach our children right from wrong. If we don’t do so, society will do so in the form of friends, school and media. Currently, society’s standards are far from God’s standards. God says we, as Christians, will be strangers or aliens in a foreign land. For example, we will be considered strange when we hold our children to standards and teach patience instead of instant gratification. As I consider what society preaches, I do not mind being a stranger in this land. When we find ourselves and our children fitting in with society, we might need to take inventory of our purposes and get back to living out God’s purpose in our lives, to raise godly children. In all areas of parenting, we must show love. Punishment with love is very different than punishment out of anger. The responses and changes in our children will be evident as we parent with love and not from our personal feelings over their actions. Lastly, we must pray for our children as the Scripture teaches: “I will surely not stop praying for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). We must intercede on their behalf in all things. Our children belong to God; we are entrusted with them for only a short time to glorify God and to leave a godly legacy. Karen Rineheart is a counselor for University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, working with children in the North Little Rock School District. She and her husband, Dwayne, are members of Geyer Springs First Baptist Church, Little Rock, and have three children: Anthony, Cody and Cory. Choosing a church home (continued from page17) On average the church has a regularly attending child involved in ministry at church about 40 hours per year. Compare that to the fact that parents have children at home with them for more than 3,000 hours per year. A good church recognizes the need to make the 40 hours they have the kids in their care the best they can be, but the church also invests back into parents by equipping them to teach their children at home as well and take full advantage of the 3,000 hours entrusted to them. Fifth, don’t be fooled by fluff. Often a ministry can seem really flashy, but when you drill down you realize it is a mile wide and an inch deep. Try to talk with the children’s minister or director, or even the senior pastor if possible. Find out from them what is taught and what is important to them. Volunteer and be a part of the ministry, even if it’s on a rotational basis. It’s the best way to truly get a pulse on what is going on in your kid’s lives. Sixth, get plugged in yourselves. Find a small group that you can “do life” with and be involved. Learn from other parents and find ways to invest in others. Be consistent with your kids and don’t fall into the trap of thinking that church will fix everything. Author and leading family ministry expert, Reggie Joiner said it best, “What happens at home is way more important than what happens at church.” Our children have a front-row seat into our lives. Let them see authentic Christianity being worked out in the heart and lives of their parents who are not perfect, but are consistently seeking to honor God. Parenting is an incredible adventure, and finding the right church home for your family is vitally important. Remember to seek God’s wisdom through prayer as you walk through this journey. Remember that there is no perfect church, just like there are no perfect people. However, there are many healthy churches out there that will be a great place for your family. My experience has been that picking the right church home is much easier than picking out which ice cream I want at the ice cream parlor. Incidentally that’s why I usually go for vanilla in a cup. Heath Bryant is the children’s pastor at Cross Church, Springdale. Contact him by email at heathb@crosschurch. com if you have further questions or would like him to speak at your church. You may also follow him on Twitter @heathbryant. 25 Christian family truths to live by By Stella Prather 2. Treasure your children. One of my favorite songs is “Children are a treasure from the Lord,” by Christian artist Steve Green. When I listen to the lyrics from the song, I’m reminded how fast our children grow up and how short a time we have them in our home. Take time to treasure those “playful grins” and “bright and trusting eyes” that only comes from a child. They won’t last long. It seems like just yesterday that my sweet Branton came into this world, but I just sent him off to his first day of kindergarten. It’s a day I’m planning on treasuring for a lifetime. 3. Hug your children often. We all can benefit from being touched by loving hands. I will never forget many years ago when a preschooler I was babysitting looked up to me and said, “My mom says you will be a great mom one day.” of abused, neglected or abandoned children. Children who don’t have a mother or father to properly take care of them, encourage them, love them and nourish them. Unmarried at the time, I simply smiled and said, “Thanks Mary Alice! I sure hope so.” During these last two years, I’ve been reminded of several Christian family truths. Following are a few to ponder. It was several years later that my husband Bret and I married. Three years afterward, my first son Braxton was born, and in 2007 Branton, now 5, completed our family. Mary Alice’s words have come to mind many times since I’ve become a mother. Some days, I am sure I have not lived up to her title. Regardless, I feel very blessed to be called, “mom” by two blond-haired, strong-willed boys, even on days when they have heard me say, “You are driving me up the wall,” a least a dozen times. This role of motherhood took on a more meaningful significance for me when I joined the staff of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries two and half years ago. As director of communications I have the privilege of telling the story of how ABCHomes makes a difference in the lives 26 1. A little encouragement goes a long way. First Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .” You never know what a few little words of encouragement can do for a child. Theologian William Barclay once said, “One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement . . . It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.” Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 Throughout the Bible, Scripture tells of Jesus’ physically touching and that His touch was powerful. According to reports by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, mounting evidence shows that all of us can benefit from increasing the amount of physical contact we have with friends, family and others. During my work at ABCHomes, I’ve been introduced to many children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). RAD arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary caregivers in early childhood. According to experts, such a failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse, abrupt separation from caregivers, frequent change of caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child’s communicative efforts. I truly believe that nothing can compare to the hug of a caring mother or father. Take time to hug and bond with your children. 4. Your presence matters. I recently read a parenting article, that noted that, “Our children regard our presence as a sign of care and connectedness.” I’ve seen this truth come to pass many times during my visits with ABCHomes kids. I won’t soon forget the “look of delight” on Lisa’s* face when I showed up at her high school graduation last year. Lisa is a former resident of the ABCHomes’ Promise House Maternity Home. Tears still come to my eyes as I think about that special day in Lisa’s life when only one of her family members showed up to see her receive her high school diploma. “Thanks for coming, Ms. Stella,” Lisa said as she hugged my neck in the school hall. “I really appreciate it.” Although it may seem corny, I really believe a family that plays together, stays together. This could mean taking time to show up for your kid’s sporting events and dance recitals or simply planning a family game night and rewarding the winner. Regardless, our kids need us to be there for them. 5. Children are products of their environment. I can’t tell you how horrified I was a few years ago when my then 2-year-old yelled from the backseat, “Hey buddy, get out of my way.” How many times had he heard me say that on my commute to his babysitter? Billy Graham once said, “Children will invariably talk, eat, walk, think, respond, and act like their parents. Give them a target to shoot at. Give them a goal to work toward. Give them a pattern that they can see clearly, and you give them something that gold and silver cannot buy.” had been in at least eight foster homes before he came into the care of ABCHomes a few months ago. Last year alone, he had attended at least three different schools. As my heart broke for the sweet preteen who had been shuffled around his entire life, I thanked God for the stability I am able to offer my two boys. 6. Make it a priority to read the Bible and study God’s Word with your children. As Christian parents, we should strive daily to do everything in our power to create a safe and loving environment for our children. Some of these needs include nutritious meals, safety, love, nurturing and attention. Proverbs 22: 6 notes, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Growing up in church my entire life, I’ve heard that verse many, many times. I believed it to be true. But after coming on board the ABCHomes staff, I was reminded that not all children are familiar with God’s Word. Not all children know that Jesus loves them. I’ll never forget hearing of an ABCHomes child who, after hearing the Christmas story for the first time ever, said, “Wow, that’s the best story I’ve ever heard.” 7. Family stability is crucial I recently met 12-year-old Jason*, an ABCHomes resident. After only spending a few minutes with him, I learned that Jason OK, fellow moms and dads. Like me, you have at times blown it with your kids. We all make mistakes; we say the wrong words and do the things we regret. Thankfully God is a forgiving God. After all, he formed our families. So, go home today and if needed ask your kids for forgiveness. Then give them a hug, love on them, spend time with them and affirm them. Stella Prather is director of communications for ABCHomes. * Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy. 2013 CHEVROLET #1 SELLING IN CO M PAC T CA R A R K A N SAS ! ! ! OVER 36MPG Higher Learning. Higher Purpose. Starting at $ 17,130 GWATNEY AIR, POWER WINDOWS, POWER DOORLOCKS, CD PLAYER #11654* *Photo for illustration purposes only CHEVROLET G R E G O RY S T R E E T E X I T, J A C KS O N V I L L E 1. 8 0 0 . 8 5 6 . 0 5 97 G O G W A T N E Y. C O M Walnut Ridge, Arkansas www.williamsbaptistcollege.com 27 Th of e 12 fat le he sso rh ns oo d By Th om I once did an interview for an online publication, and one of the questions was: “Who has been the greatest leadership influence in your life?” Without hesitation, I wrote: “My three sons: Sam, Art and Jess.” Fatherhood has been an educational journey that no school could provide. I have learned so much. And even to this day, I listen to my sons. They may think that I am offering them words of wisdom, but I am learning from them as well. I do not see myself as the great expert on fatherhood. I hope I have been transparent and honest in my self-assessment, especially with the weaknesses and faults that I have. I also realize that the far superior parent in our family is my wife, Nellie Jo. I have never seen such sacrificial and unconditional love flow from one human to another. She is the true instrument of God who raised our three sons so well. But this is a column about fatherhood. At the end of the day, I have several lessons that I have learned about the great challenge of being a dad. Thank you for allowing this fellow struggler the opportunity to share these lessons. 28 S. Ra ine r Lesson 1: Children are precious gifts from God. If we parents ever fully recognize the incredible gift we have been given in our children, our attitude about them will be one of unceasing praise. I realize that not every couple has been given children. And I realize that I do not deserve my sons any more than husbands and wives who have not been blessed with children. They are gifts of grace. Undeserved and unmerited. Have you ever assessed a situation and realized how completely blessed you are? That is how I feel about my boys. One of the reasons that I have not failed completely as a father is that my sons know how much I treasure them. They have a confidence and assurance that they are wanted. They know that I see them as precious gifts from God. They know that I feel like I am the most blessed man in the world to have them as my sons. On those occasions where I have been weary and irritable, I often remind myself of this gift. Such thinking really puts minor issues in perspective. Children are gifts. Never, ever forget that truth. Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 Lesson 2: We must love our children unconditionally, and they must know it. A child who grows up with unconditional love is more secure and more joyous. He or she does not have to earn the love of a parent. It is there no matter what. The analogy of the heavenly Father’s love for us through Christ is a fit comparison. We did not earn His love. We did not merit His love. But we can be secure in His love. The Apostle Paul said it clearly in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” Paul spoke of the security of Christ’s love in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Our children can take a lot from this world if they know that Mom and Dad are there for them no matter what. The love of Christ is the greatest security. And the unconditional love of a parent is a child’s greatest earthly security. Lesson 3: Love your children’s mother. I am not a perfect father. Not close. And I am not a perfect husband. Far from it. But do you know what Art, Sam and Jess know? Despite my imperfections as a husband, despite my stupid anger, despite my selfcenteredness, I love their mother. I am with her until death do us part. My sons can live in the assurance and the confidence that, not only do I love them, I love and adore my wife, their mother. Nellie Jo and I are blessed with three daughters-in-law. These three young women are the answers to our prayers. They are beautiful physically but, more importantly, they are beautiful spiritually. And they love our sons. And we love them for that. I pray that my boys will show their children what it is like to love and adore their mothers. Lesson 4: Time can never be recaptured. Art often tells a story of his baseball team when he was seven years old. One day I was coaching at third base when Art hit the ball into the infield. Seeing that he was a certain out at first base, he did not run all the way to the base, a cardinal sin in baseball. The coach gave him several sentences of reprimand, which irked me. I was about to say something to the coach when Art came running across the field, holding back tears. He looked at me and said, “Daddy, that coach hurt my feelings.” I swept my son into my arms. He already knew that he had made a baseball mistake, so I did not dwell on that issue. After a few minutes, Art was fine, having fun again with his teammates. Why did I tell that story? I simply remember how good I felt when I held my son. And I remember how great it was to be able to soothe hurt feelings with a hug and a few sentences. I also remember how much fun I had coaching the team with both Sam and Art on it. That was nearly 20 years ago. Where has the time gone? The time that we have our children at home is so incredibly brief. Make the most of it. Enjoy each year of their lives. Celebrate each moment. It will be over before you know it. Lesson 5: Discipline is a sign of love. Neither Nellie Jo nor I enjoyed disciplining our sons, but we did so anyway. To do less was to tell our boys that we didn’t care what they did, that we had no boundaries. They did not like the discipline when they were children, but now they tell us how much they appreciate it. The writer of Hebrews tells us that discipline is a sign of love, and he points to God’s love as a disciplining love in Hebrews 12:5-11: “My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives. Endure it as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline — which all receive — then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” There were times when I was tempted to avoid the hassle and pain of disciplining Art, Jess and Sam. I am glad that I avoided that temptation. Lesson 6: Encouragement builds up a child. Sam was driving his truck one day, and I was in the passenger seat. “Dad, what one piece of advice would you give me on being a father?” Now that question really hit me for a couple reasons. First, my son was really asking for my advice. Second, I love this adult-son age where they really listen to me. I can’t say that I thought through the answer with any great depth, but the answer that came most quickly to my mind was: “Encourage your kids. Let them know how proud you are of them. Many children go through their entire lives seeking and not getting their parents’ approval.” Sam responded, “Yeah, Dad, that’s what you have done with Art, Jess and me. And it has worked!” The blessing. That’s what a parent’s approval is. And for whatever reasons, fathers seem to withhold such encouragement and approval more than mothers do. I thank God that I learned the lesson of the blessing. 29 Lesson 7: Communicate the blessing with words and touch. clothes, careers, hobbies, places to live, places to go and the list goes on. Even if our children know we love them and that we are proud of them, they need to hear it. They need to feel with our hugs. When they are young, the physical interaction with children is critical. When they are older, we must still keep hugging them. Lesson 8: Talk to your children. I love it. I absolutely love it. My sons still want to talk to me. My boys can call my cell phone at almost any time. Most of the time I will answer their calls on the spot. Otherwise, I get back to them quickly. I am honored beyond measure that those boys still want to talk to me. I think I instilled this desire early in their lives. I let them know that there was no such thing as a stupid question and that there were no subjects that were out of bounds. We really had some interesting discussions. Some of them were theological. Some of them were blunt talks about the “facts of life.” Others were about sports, girls, politics, morals, Lesson 9: Fun and humor are healthy. The Rainer house was a fun place to be. I think that’s why we became a hangout on the east side of town. All three of my boys have a great sense of humor. Our three sons like to joke with one another. They especially enjoy making fun of their old man. Because they had to endure hundreds of my sermons and speeches, they frequently would imitate my mannerisms and frequently repeated phrases. Their mother enjoyed popping paper bags behind them when they were not aware she was in the room. Lesson 10: Admit your mistakes. Art and his brothers have taught me much as they have raised their dad. My natural and sinful tendency was to speak quickly and harshly when one of the boys was out of line. I blew it many times as a father. But my boys have taught me to think before I speak and to be willing to ask for forgiveness when I was wrong. They have indeed raised Dad well. The All New 2013 Honda Accords I430 HAVE ARRIVE D HWY 300 COLONEL GLENN RD 501-227-7000 30 BALE HONDA X I430 D OD W DAVID O www.balehonda.com SALES: MON-FRI 8:30AM-8PM SERVICE: MON-FRIDAY 7AM-6PM SAT. 8:30AM - 7PM SAT 8AM-4PM SUN 1PM-6PM DR D 2011 Visit our New Location 10 Colonel Glenn Court · Little Rock Across from Rave Theatre Lesson 11: Know when to let go; know when to hold. Indeed, there were not many things that I did not share with my sons. And there were not many emotions I left unchecked. On the one hand, this transparency is good. My boys knew where I stood on almost all issues. They knew they could get clear and non-evasive answers from me. And they knew how I felt at almost all times. There was no doubt how Dad was feeling in the Rainer home. Arkansas Christian Parent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall/Winter 2012 On the other hand, I was often transparent to a fault. Kids need to be kids, and they do not need to be exposed to every feeling and concern parents have. I needed to protect them from the harsh world more than I did, instead of letting them hear almost every fear and problem with which I struggled. Some parents never let their children see the real mom and dad. And some parents let their kids see too much. I was guilty of the latter. Lesson 12: There is nothing more important than a child’s eternity. “Lord, please look over our sons. Keep them in Your protective and loving hands. Help us to be the type of parents that show Your love. And we pray for the salvation of our sons. We ask that they hear clearly one day the gospel message, and that they accept and follow Your Son Jesus.” Those words, or words similar to those, were prayed by Nellie Jo and me regularly. We do want the best for our sons in this life. But this life is so incredibly brief. Our most fervent prayer was for each of the boys to become a Christian so that his eternity would be secure. Though I was imperfect, I tried to model Christ to my sons. I wanted them to see Him in both my words and actions. I wanted them to have the freedom to talk with me about anything, especially spiritual matters. God answered our prayers. The most important gift a child can receive is the gift of salvation in Christ. And I thank God that He used Nellie Jo and me as His instruments in their eternities. Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com. It was adapted from the book Raising Dad (B&H Publishing Group, 2007). How to pray big for your child (continued from page19) broad, vague and faithless to be offered as real prayers for our kids. You and I know our children deserve better. God also commanded us to pray better than that. What he expects of us is pinpoint praying. Pinpoint prayers, as opposed to no-point prayers, have clear purpose, direction and focus. They’re the kind of prayers that honor God the most, and they’re the kind that you and I want to be praying for our children. Pinpoint prayers are: • Biblical—Pinpoint prayers are deeply rooted in God’s Word. They have authority because they flow right out of what God has already told us he is willing to do. There’s no guesswork in pinpoint praying. As a parent, you just take the world’s greatest prayer script (the Bible) and use it as your guide for what and how you pray for your kids. • Specific—There’s nothing vague about pinpoint prayers. They’re typically short, direct and to the point. Consider Jesus’ petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. His requests for God’s name to be glorified and for God’s provision, protection and forgiveness are all very specific and focused. There’s nothing broad or uncertain about them. Pinpoint praying requires you to think through what you want God to do, build the case for it biblically, and then say it in the most precise and deliberate way possible to God. No flowery language, no King James English, and no long or theologically loaded phrases are required with pinpoint prayers. Part of their power lies in their directness. • Bold—Pinpoint prayers don’t mess around. They don’t dance around an issue, hoping that God will get the hint and come through with a miracle without us really having to ask for one. Pinpoint prayers walk right up to God’s throne and plead for his best, for his kingdom, and for his favor in our lives and the lives of our children. This is not weak-willed praying. Can you think of any area where boldness, courage and faith are more appropriate than in prayers for your kids? Prayer is the most significant form of communication that humans, specifically parents, can engage in. When a Christian talks to God, all the power of heaven is at play, and cultures, nations and history lay in the balance. For parents, talking to our kids is critical; talking to God about them is even more so. Will Davis, Jr., is the founding and senior pastor of Austin Christian Fellowship, a nondenominational church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of “Pray Big,” “Pray Big for Your Marriage” and “Why Faith Makes Sense.” Adapted excerpt from “Pray Big for Your Child” by Will Davis, Jr. © 2009 Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, www.bakerpublishinggroup.com. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group. Est. 1979 Dance & Gymnastics Center New Preschool Gym Area Plus New Preschool & Recreational Programs Register Now! JACKSON V IL L E 613 Stonewal l S q u are Jac k son vi l l e 5 0 1 - 9 8 5 -1 8 1 8 N . L ITTL E R OC K 4101 Ri c h ard s Road N orth L i ttl e Roc k 501-945-1444 · 501-985-1818 www.huffnpuffgym.com Lies parents tell themselves (continued from page 11) While we may praise God that the grace of the Lord Jesus has the power to break children free from cycles of generational sin, it would revolutionize our lives if we understood just how far-reaching our actions are and just how directly they impact the lives of our children. Ten “I can teach my children to love Jesus while neglecting the church, Jesus’ bride.” We often see this mindset in the frustrated shrug of the parent whose child will not come to church. “At least he’s saved,” the parent will say. “That’s what really matters.” Of course, salvation is what matters, but it is not all that matters. A person who claims to be saved but who is indifferent toward church has a serious flaw in his or her understanding of what it means to have the mind of Christ. Jesus loves His church and has great plans for her (Ephesians 5:25-30). Yes, it is technically possible that our children may be saved while having nothing to do with the church, but only in the sense that it is technically possible that two people may be legally married without speaking to one another or living under the same roof. It is technically possible, but it is not healthy. Conclusion I do not offer these lies we tell ourselves in an effort to crush our spirits or cause us to despair. They are offered only so that we might be wise to the subtle influences of the spirit of the age. The devil hates Christian homes and does whatever he can to destroy them. Getting Christian parents to lie to themselves is one of his most effective tools toward this end. So ask the Lord to search your mind and your heart and reveal to you if and where you have lied to yourself. Then rejoice! We have a great Savior and He welcomes repentant parents with open arms! Wyman Richardson is pastor of Central Baptist Church, North Little Rock, Ark. If you would like to hear his sermons on each of these lies that parents tell themselves, go to www.cbcnlr.org/mediasocial.php 31