TEENS & LEARNING DISABILITIES // ONLINE ETIQUETTE FOR PARENTS // WHO NEEDS A CAR? FEBRUARY 2014 TM
KNOW. GROW. BECOME.
THE NEW TLW RESOURCE t r u e l ove
TRUE LOVE PROJECT How the gospel defines your purity
+ c l ay t o n
how the gospel defines your purity
and sharie king
C l ay t o n & s h a r i e K i n g
Students place more than 200,000 True Love Waits pledge cards on The National Mall in Washington D.C. at the 1994 rally.
WHY LOVE STILL WAITS WWW.LIFEWAY.COM
Twenty years later, the message of True Love Waits still matters.
FEBRUARY 2014 // USA $3.95
VOLUM E 36, NUMBER 5
FROM PRESENCE, PURITY How can you instill the value of purity in your teen’s faith? It starts with your presence: face to face, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand.
TEENS & TECH
This month’s column offers a primer on the importance of online etiquette—for parents.
By Clayton King
CHOOSING YOUR BATTLES
Fighting your teen can leave you empty and exhausted. Choosing the right battles can keep your relationship in the right place.
How do we know when being patient in a relationship is being too patient in a relationship? Jesus’s command is clear: when in doubt, love people.
INSIDE 4 The Wire 6 Media Reviews 8 Teen Issues: Learning Disabilities
GROWING UP YOUR ENDURING A LONG TEENAGER WALK UPWARD Parenting doesn’t end when your teenager leaves the house. Looking forward to a healthy adult relationship with your son or daughter means pushing them, challenging them, and encouraging them—no matter what.
14 The Final Walk 20 Teen Voice 26 Single Parent
27 Blended Family If you need a picture of biblical perseverance, look no further than 40 On Your Knees the promises of Romans 5. 41 Conversations 43 Essential Connection FEBRUARY 2014 1
encouraging and equipping parents with biblical solutions to transform families VOLUME 36, NUMBER 5 | February 2014 Vice President, Lifeway Church Resources | Eric Geiger PRODUCTION & MINISTRY TEAM Editor | Scott Latta Production Editor | Angela Reed Graphic Designer | Kaitlin Redmond Editorial Team Leader | Mike Wakefield Send questions/comments to: Editor, Parenting Teens One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0144; Or make comments on the Web at www.lifeway.com MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL Director, Student Ministry | Ben Trueblood Director, Student Ministry Publishing | Jeff Pratt ADVERTISING One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 136, Nashville, TN 37234 Phone: (615) 251-2289 Fax (615) 251-2039 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Media kits: www.lifeway.com/magazines/media Director, Magazine Advertising & Circulation | Rhonda Edge Buescher Advertising Production | Scott Hancock PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Parenting Teens (ISSN 2167-8936; Item 005075228) is published monthly by LifeWay Press®, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234, Thom S. Rainer, President. © 2012, LifeWay Press®. For inquiries visit www.lifeway.com, or write LifeWay Church Resources Customer Service, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0113. For subscriptions or subscription address changes, visit www.lifeway.com/magazines, fax (615) 251-5818, or write to the above address. For bulk orders shipped to one address, visit www.lifeway.com/magazines, fax (615) 251-5933 or write to the above address. Annual individual or gift subscription, $22.50. Bulk orders shipped to one address when ordered with other literature, $1.55 each per month, plus shipping. Please allow six to eight weeks for arrival of first issue. ADVERTISEMENT DISCLAIMER: This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services.
“Winners never quit, quitters never win.” If you’ve ever been involved in athletics, you’ve probably heard that phrase. But the message isn’t so much about winning as it is about perseverance. It’s about having the heart to keep pushing—to shoot extra free throws, to take more ground balls, or to run a few more sprints. But the concept isn’t limited to sports. It also takes perseverance to study a little harder for the test, keep pushing for a better grade, practice a little more to get the part or to make first chair. And perseverance also applies to parenting. Admit it—there have been times you wanted to give up. Your son won’t listen. Your daughter keeps making bad choices. Rebellion reigns. But you can’t give up. That’s the message of this month’s Parenting Teens. We hope this issue encourages you to persevere. Keep praying. Keep setting appropriate boundaries. Keep encouraging your teens to reach for excellence. Keep teaching the truth. And not just when she’s 13, but when she’s 15, and 17, and beyond. One area I encourage you to persevere in is helping your teen stay on the path of purity. Twenty years ago this summer, teenagers from all over the nation made a statement for purity, placing more than 200,000 True Love Waits commitment cards on The National Mall in Washington, D.C. They made a promise to persevere. Millions of teens all across the globe have made that pledge since that time. We hope you enjoy reading a little about the history of TLW from one of its founders and hearing an encouraging word from Clayton King, the author of LifeWay Students’ new resource on purity, the True Love Project. Perseverance. It’s needed in so many areas of our lives and the lives of our teens. Model it and encourage it. Hang in there!
All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Cover photo courtesy Big Oak Ranch
Check out our blog at www.parentingteensmag.com
Mike Wakefield Team Leader, Parenting Teens email@example.com
your teen’s world
FEBRUARY 2014 3
IT’S IN THE MAIL
Pedal While You Learn
Great family dinner conversation: Are desks attached to stationary bicycles ridiculous or cool? For $300 a pop, these desks let students slowly pedal their way to better health while reading, listening to a lecture, or even working on a laptop. Take a look at www.fitdesk.net.
How long has it been since your teen received a genuine piece of snail mail? This Valentine’s Day, make or buy a card that expresses your love in a sincere but lighthearted way. Sign it, address it, stamp it, and send it!
Families and Film
John Fithian is the current president of the National Association of Theater Owners. At the 2013 CinemaCon convention, Fithian had this to say: “If exhibitors could make one recommendation to our studio partners, it would be make more family titles and fewer R-rated movies. Only two R-rated movies made the top 20 last year, even though more R-rated movies were distributed than any other rating category.” Source: http://movieguide.org
Hands on the Wheel
Send your teen to ItCanWait.com to sign a pledge not to text while driving. If your teen needs a little nudge, test out the Texting & Driving Simulator available on the site.
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Can Teens Give Blood?
IMPAIRED RIDERS AND DRIVERS
To donate blood, the American Red Cross requires that people be at least 17 years old and weigh more than 110 pounds. In some states, teens 16 years of age may give blood with a parent’s permission.
A study published in a recent Journal of Public Health finds that more than onequarter of high school seniors report being a passenger in a car with a driver who has just used drugs or alcohol or after having using drugs or alcohol themselves.
CARING FOR AGING PARENTS In June 2013, More magazine released survey findings indicating that 81 percent of American adult children plan to care for their aging parents. One interesting segment of the survey touched on why these sandwich generation adults plan to participate in elder care. • Almost half (46 percent) said they feel a sense of duty. • A quarter (26 percent) care for their parents out of love. • A smaller group (11 percent) indicate they felt it was their moral obligation. Source: http://forbes.com
WHO NEEDS A CAR ANYWAY?
The average American between 16 and 34 years of age drives 23 percent less than their counterparts of just a few years ago. According to a report released by U.S. Pirg Education Fund, these technology-savvy young Americans are increasingly open to car sharing, bike sharing, and ride sharing rather than purchasing vehicles of their own.
JOY FISHER is a freelance writer, editor, and reviewer. She and her husband, David, make their home in Nashville, Tenn.
FEBRUARY 2014 5
Reviews REBUILD THE LETTER BLACK
ROYAL TAILOR ROYAL TAILOR
TOOTH & NAIL
After a few hiccups around the release, The Letter Black has finally gotten around to releasing Rebuild. Featuring the soaring vocals of Sarah Anthony and the intense guitar playing of her husband Marc, Rebuild now comes across as a statement in strength and perseverance. Sarah’s sense of melody on the single “Sick Charade” gives the song a more palatable edge, yet without losing its teeth—in fact, that’s how the whole album is put together; the heaviest of metal with the heavenliest of vocals. Hear the combo at theletterblack.com.
Sophomore records can be a blessing or a curse for a young, successful band. After RT’s first album was nominated for a Grammy, the band was wondering if lightning could strike twice. It can and it did. On their follow-up, RT dug deep into their hip-pop groove catalog and came up with some of the catchiest music I’ve heard in a long time. The band is still reaching up and reaching out with fairly tame lyrics, but you’re never left wondering where they stand or from where they get their strength. Check out the new sounds at royaltailoronline.com.
INSTRUMENTS OF MERCY BEAUTIFUL EULOGY
MY HOPE: MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE MESSAGE AND THE MISSION OF BILLY GRAHAM VARIOUS ARTISTS
HUMBLE BEAST RECORDS
I’m a pretty lame suburban guy of a certain age, which means that hip-hop almost never registers on my radar unless a song becomes a radio and cultural smash hit. However, thanks to a growing movement of MCs who use their lyrical platform to straight up preach, I’m bumping down the road to Beautiful Eulogy sermonizing about sin and the sovereignty of God. Instruments of Mercy is an incredibly dense 47 minutes from the Portland-based trio that will leave you convicted, encouraged, and equipped— which is exactly how I feel after hearing a great sermon. Hear the word at www.facebook.com/ beautifuleulogy.
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CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
Most compilation albums are simply repackaging of previously released materials. The best ones (City on a Hill, The Story) are completely new recordings made specifically for those projects. My Hope from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association falls somewhere in the middle. A few artists (TobyMac, Newsboys, and others) contribute previously released songs, while Nichole Nordeman, Matthew West, Michael W. Smith, and others perform never-before-heard tracks. My Hope is a pleasant musical journey, but in the end comes nowhere near the immeasurable impact of the man by whom the music was inspired. Listen at billygrahambookstore.org.
THE BOOK THIEF (PG-13) GEOFFREY RUSH FOX
A feel-good movie set during the Holocaust seems like an oxymoron. And it’s true—The Book Thief, despite its sweetness, is still heavily weighted by the atrocities surrounding the story. However, Marcus Zusak’s popular novel-turned-film never turns a blind eye to the horrors, but instead shares another inspirational story of hope from the era. The Book Thief, set in World War II Germany, tells the story of Liesel, a courageous young girl who affects the lives of everyone around her when she goes to live in a foster home. It may fly over the head of younger viewers, but sensitive, older teens will never forget it.
BANDFUSE: ROCK LEGENDS BANDFUSE.COM
Following the current trend and backlash against video games that simulate musicianship, BandFuse ups the ante with their “Rock Legends” release. Your in-game teacher is genuine guitar hero Slash, and your controller is the included Fender guitar. Yes, an actual guitar. BandFuse is definitely the standout as it’s a real game and teaches the instrument. The emphasis on heavy metal songs (some with questionable lyrics) keeps me from fully recommending BandFuse, but as a gaming/ teaching concept, they got it right.
PT’S GRADE: A
PT’S GRADE: C+
ENDER’S GAME (PG-13) HARRISON FORD
Teens are so bombarded by screens and information overload that there seems to be a growing disconnection between their actions and their emotions. Originally written in 1977, Ender’s Game is the story of a young man (Ender) who is a compassionate leader who turns out might be the one to save the planet from destruction. (Star Wars anyone?) The visuals are all modern, but the morality refreshingly hearkens back to a bygone era. In fact, The Dove Association gave it their highest rating, which is rare for most Hollywood releases.
Combining the ease of online shopping with a buy-one-give-one business model, Warby Parker has established itself as the standard for inexpensive, cool eyewear. The process is ridiculously simple: click on the pair of glasses you like, and they will ship up to five frames to try on at home for free for five days. Once you’ve made your selection, it only takes a few days to get your new glasses, and they’ll only set you back between $95 and $145, shipping included. I never could have guessed that buying glasses could be enjoyable, but now going to a physical store to buy your glasses is just so 2000.
PT’S GRADE: A-
RANDY WILLIAMS is a Grammy-nominated musician and writer who lives in Franklin, Tenn.
PT’S GRADE: A+
FEBRUARY 2014 7
* T EEN|| ISSUES
by Gretchen Williams
Elizabeth’s mother was perplexed. She couldn’t understand why her bright, verbally articulate fourth grader would be bringing home C’s on her report card. Elizabeth’s mother had her evaluated by a psychiatrist, who diagnosed her with Attention Deficit Disorder. After the diagnosis, Elizabeth’s mother read everything she could get her hands on about ADD and followed the doctor’s recommendation of medication to control her symptoms. While the treatment and her mother’s support helped Elizabeth function better in school and at home, the emotional impact of her diagnosis was significant. Ashamed of her habit of talking too much in class or reacting emotionally to others, and frustrated by the difficulty she experienced in completing assignments, she resented being different from everyone else. The reality of her disability affected her view of herself for years. In the U.S., approximately 2.4 million students ages 6 to 21 have been diagnosed with a learning disability. LD is a broad term that incorporates a number of challenges people face, such as processing information, maintaining attention, communicating, reading, writing, calculating, remembering, and perceiving. Since the adolescent world is built around school and preparing for the future, many students
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are completely overwhelmed every day, and the emotional impact can affect them well into adulthood. As a parent, addressing the feelings underlying your teen’s difficulties can help him or her integrate these struggles into a healthy sense of self.
THE EMOTIONAL UNDERCURRENT While each learning disability carries its own challenges, the emotional experiences are universal. Here are a few of the feelings your teen may need to express. Shame: Belonging is a key desire—and real need—for teenagers. Anything that separates them or identifies them as different from their peers is a threat to their feelings of self-worth. When they can’t keep up academically with their classmates, or when their weaknesses become obvious to others, they feel embarrassed. Social withdrawal or behavior problems are a way of hiding behind their shame. Inadequacy: Lack of success in one area can lead many teens to believe that they aren’t
capable in anything; the dropout rate for LD students is 20 percent, compared to 8 percent of the average population. With every experience of failure, negative beliefs about their ability to succeed are reinforced, whether by themselves or others. Students may choose not to do assignments or avoid attempting large projects because they seem impossible. Anger: The persistent irritation of having to ask for help, not understanding material, or taking a long time to complete tests or assignments can wear on students’ patience. This frustration can transform quickly into anger, especially for teenage boys. Loneliness: Because an LD student has to spend more time studying, he may miss out on social events. Or he may feel he is “the only one” struggling. It can also be hard to admit weakness, so students may not always communicate that they need help, and internalize their fears. Fatigue: It is not unusual for an LD adolescent to complain of being tired. Tasks that are effortless for some students can feel like insurmountable obstacles to those with a disability. These students have to work harder to achieve the same results, which can be extremely tiring, both physically and mentally.
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR TEEN WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY Listen. Sometimes all adolescents want is for their parents to understand them. Ask your teen to explain to you what it feels like to have a learning disability. Open a nonjudgmental path of communication at home so she feels she can open up to you. Give her a chance to acknowledge her feelings without judging them or trying to fix them. Focus on what your teen does well. Your teen is living and breathing his disability every day. Think about how many hours a week he is in school, or doing homework, or expected to perform. It’s all-consuming. Praise your teen for effort, even if his grades don’t reflect it. Hard work is an important skill that will serve him well after high school. In addition, if there is an area in which your teen excels outside of school, such as sports, arts, or even his social life, praise him for that, too. He needs to hear that he is successful. Utilize resources. Consult with the school counselor to help your teen find success, or consider finding him a counselor outside of school. The issue goes beyond just grades and homework, and deeper emotional support may be needed. Also, if your teen is supposed to be receiving accommodations such as extra time on tests or reduced homework load, make sure teachers are following through, and that your teen is taking advantage of the support services available to him. Get support for yourself. Helping a child with any kind of disability can be overwhelming. Reach out and ask for support,
Sometimes all adolescents want is for their parents to understand them. Ask your teen to explain to you what it feels like to have a learning disability. Open a nonjudgmental path of communication at home so she feels she can open up to you.
especially from other parents who are in the same boat. Many learning disabilities have national organizations that list support groups in your local area. You’re not alone! Now in her thirties, Elizabeth has finally come to terms with her learning disability, and has even been able to see the benefits of it. She uses her social intuitiveness, creativity, enthusiasm, and crisis management skills in her role as a successful communications executive for a large company. She says of her experience: “My world hasn’t changed in light of ADD, it has just come into focus in a new way I never thought possible. I have spent many years feeling like I don’t quite fit in, but never knowing what was so different about me. “I believe we’re all uniquely and wonderfully made. I am embracing the gifts of my ADD brain, addressing the challenges and giving God room to teach me that my identity is not in my attitudes, behaviors or quirks. I am a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, worthy to be called such because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.” If your teen has been diagnosed with a learning disability, don’t lose hope. Your love and support can help him or her grow into a successful, emotionally healthy adult. Not defined by weakness, but by status as a beloved child of God. GRETCHEN WILLIAMS is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Austin, Texas. She has more than 17 years of experience working with teenagers in a variety of capacities, including current counseling work with adolescents and their families. In her free time she enjoys traveling, photography, and playing piano on her church worship team.
FEBRUARY 2014 9
As True Love Waits celebrates its twentieth year of ministry, we asked one of its founders to revisit how a cafeteria napkin led to 200,000 commitment cards, a battle against HIV/AIDS, and a legacy that’s carried it around the globe. By Jimmy Hester After 26 years of ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources, I retired September 30, 2011, as Senior Director of Student Ministry Publishing. Of all the assignments I had at LifeWay, the one that blessed me most and brought the greatest joy was True Love Waits. True Love Waits launched in 1993 during the testing of a Christian sex education series. The series was for parents to use with their children from preschool through the teenage years.
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Since then, millions of students have signed commitment cards pledging sexual purity. 3. On the same day the first national display of cards was held in Washington, True Love Waits was launched in Uganda during a multicountry conference on AIDS. True Love Waits quickly moved beyond the United States to become an international campaign. In Uganda, True Love Waits is credited by government leaders for a remarkable drop in the HIV/AIDS infection rate—a drop that went from 30 percent of the population in some parts of the country in the early 1990s to around 6 percent 10 years later. When Richard Ross and I sketched a plan on a cafeteria napkin to provide students a way to express their commitment to sexual abstinence, we never dreamed it would travel to the ends of the earth and touch millions of lives these past 20 years. May God continue to bless students making commitments to True Love Waits. JIMMY HESTER is co-founder of True Love Waits and retired senior director of Student Ministry Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources. ©©TrueLoveWaits
TRUE LOVE’S ROOTS
Parents and teenagers involved in focus groups were frustrated because all they were hearing were safe-sex messages that assumed all teenagers were sexually active. They asked us, “Can you help those of us who believe in abstinence until marriage share our commitment to God’s plan for sexual behavior?” The answer became True Love Waits. Of the many memorable moments in those early days, three stand out and affirmed True Love Waits as God’s idea. 1. True Love Waits was launched in April 1993 at a national youth workers conference in Nashville. During an evening session, students from Tulip Grove Baptist Church stood before 1,200 youth workers to declare their commitment to sexual abstinence. The 10-minute standing ovation that followed was electric and a confirmation that students would stand strong for God’s plan for sexual behavior. 2. The first True Love Waits national celebration took place in July 1994, when more than 210,000 covenant cards were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. That day on the Mall was a spiritual experience for those who witnessed it, and it set the stage for the impact of the emphasis.
PURITY How can you instill the value of purity in your teen’s faith? It starts with your presence: face to face, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. BY CL AY TON KING
I CO N V E R TE D TO FA ITH I N C H R I S T AT 1 4 . My story is not typical, because on the night I was saved, I sensed God calling me to preach the gospel. It was actually while I was praying the Sinner’s Prayer that I felt a tangible touch from the Holy Spirit, and it seemed as if God began opening doors the very next day. So for the next 15 years I traveled the globe preaching to small and large crowds in small and large settings. The largest
audience I spoke to in those years were always students. Students were my life, and are still a huge part of my ministry. At 29, after 15 years of leading youth retreats, Disciple Now weekends, True Love Waits rallies, and even the occasional “lock-in,” my wife and I found out we were pregnant. The first person I called was my dad. When I shared the good news of our pregnancy, he responded, “Son, I am so happy for you. You’ve been teaching and leading other people’s kids for 15 years.
“Now let’s see how you do it with your own.” Those were wise and sobering words. It’s a reality that every mom and dad faces when God blesses them with a child. All the idealism goes out the door when reality sets in: we are responsible for this little human being! My wife and I began the parenting journey with great trepidation and excitement, but the one area we were most anxious about in raising our kids was sexuality and relationships.
FEBRUARY 2014 11
EMBRACE THE AWKWARDNESS AND BEGIN TALKING TO THEM ABOUT SEX—THE SOONER THE BETTER. DO AS MANY ACTIVITIES WITH THEM AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN: FISHING, COOKING, EXERCISING, SHOPPING, YARD WORK, HOUSEHOLD CHORES. THEY WILL LEARN TO BE AN ADULT BY WATCHING YOU BE AN ADULT.
IGNORANCE OR INFLUENCE You’ve certainly been overwhelmed by the sheer weight of being a mom or a dad. The pressures of parenting seem insurmountable at times. There is so much to be done and little time to do it all. Laundry and meals, ball games and piano lessons, practice and church—the incessant, never-ending emotional roller coaster that is a teenager’s changing hormones. Then there are
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their friends—the ones you like and the ones you fear. Honestly, it’s easy to get so caught up in doing things for the sake of your student that you become ignorant of your child as they face sexual temptation and cultural pressure. Every parent knows how fast those years fly by. Choose not be ignorant. Choose to be an influence while you have them at home. You cannot influence them unless you are involved in their lives. Create a home where they have their friends over often for meals, movie nights, bonfires, or ball games. Start a tradition where their “first date” is always at your house, beginning with a meal at your table. Set aside 15 minutes every night before bed as “family meeting” where you talk about their day, upcoming events, chores, and school. Set clear daily time limits on video games, TV, Internet, and social media interaction. Less time “plugged in” means more time face to face. Influence begins by being intimately involved in the life of your teenager, particularly in their relationships. You have to get face to face with your child, and this needs to begin as early as possible. You can’t be distant and uninvolved until they turn 15, then all of a sudden decide you want to become the authoritative parent. It needs to start early. You need to start now. Take small steps now to show them you’re there. Eat dinner together at least five nights a week. Choose how many sports your kids can play in a year, then hold to it. Plan a one day family trip for every season, allowing your kids to give input
on where they want to go. Embrace the awkwardness and begin talking to them about sex—the sooner the better. Do as many activities with them as you possibly can: fishing, cooking, exercising, shopping, yard work, household chores. They will learn to be an adult by watching you be an adult. If you are always there with your teenager, involved in conversations and activities, they will not only be receptive to your guidance on sexual boundaries and expectations…they will crave your wisdom and involvement. SHOULDER TO SHOULDER If you take the “face to face” approach and deliberately immerse yourself in the life of your kids, it will quickly become a “shoulder to shoulder” relationship where the two of you stand side by side as your teenager faces the no-man’s land of American adolescence. My dad did this with me, and I am absolutely certain that if he had not been there beside me from ages 14-18, I would have gone off the rails and destroyed my life in high school. He was a constant companion. He was regularly talking to me about girls. He warned me about sex before marriage and cautioned me to avoid a few girls that I was interested in. I trusted him when he warned me to steer clear of them because he had been there for me as long as I could remember. My mom cooked dinner every night and we ate at a table with the TV off. My dad worked a blue-collar job, made it to all my games, taught me how to cut grass and change a flat tire and how to
We, of all people, understood how essential it would be to begin the conversation early and to have the conversation often. We had seen the effects, both good and bad, of parental influence (or the lack of it) on students as they matured into adolescence and eventually adulthood; there was a direct correlation between their relationship with their parents and how they did relationships with the opposite sex. We read all the statistics and realized that our kids would be less likely to engage in sex before marriage, less likely to get divorced, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and more likely to succeed in every single measurable category—if my wife and I were consistently involved in their lives while they were young. We made a decision together: No matter what we had to do, we would prioritize the hard work of raising and training our kids to love Jesus, to work hard, and to be responsible people. We would have to be intentional. We would have to be involved. We would have to be there.
CLAYTON KING came to faith at age 14 and began preaching the gospel at youth rallies and churches in the eighth grade. Since then he’s traveled to 36 countries and 45 states preaching to more than 3 million people. He is Founder and President of Crossroads Ministries and Summer Camps and Teaching Pastor at Newspring Church and Campus Pastor at Liberty University. He’s married to Sharie and they have two sons, Jacob and Joseph. He loves black coffee, good books, 4 wheelers, tackle football, and classical music.
and sharie king
You’ll find that intentional involvement in your children’s lives will create trust and intimacy. Even when they push back or seem freaked out that you ask so many questions, they internally crave your presence. They need you to be there. Talking face to face leads to standing shoulder to shoulder. By the time they are approaching graduation, deciding what to do after high school, the goal is to walk with them hand in hand. They need to be able to come to you with their sexual temptations. They need a safe place and a godly voice when they feel cultural pressures to sleep around, look at pornography, and party with hard crowds. They also need to know that there are rules, and those rules come from you, not them. You’re the parent, which means you’re in charge. Let them know that if and when they do mess up, there will be more than just consequences. There will be forgiveness and unconditional love. If you’ve already been intentionally involved for years in their lives, you won’t have to say that to your teenager. They will know it intuitively. When I was a junior in high school, I had committed myself to the Lordship of Christ and committed my
+ c l ay t o n
HAND IN HAND
body and mind to staying pure until marriage, but it seemed impossible at times. Then the unthinkable happened: a girl at school asked me to sleep with her. The inner conflict I felt drove me crazy. I sat beside her every day in class and every day she let me know that she was ready when I was ready. There was one thing that kept me from giving in: the multiple conversations I had with my mom and dad about the situation. I can sum it all up in three words: They were there. It’s not rocket science or brain surgery. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t need a counseling degree. You don’t have to be a seminary graduate. If you want your son or daughter to see sexual purity as a reflection of their walk with Christ, if you want them to honor God with their bodies, and if you want to one day see them flourish in a Christcentered marriage, then it’s actually easier than you thought. You just have to be there. ✤
t r u e l ove
treat a woman. My mom taught me to do laundry, make up my own bed, and clean a kitchen and a bathroom. They both prepared me for more than just sexual purity. They prepared me for life! They prepared me for marriage. I knew how to resist sexual temptation as a teenager because I knew I had a mom and dad at home whom I could talk to and whom I could go to, no matter what I was facing.
Following in the line of True Love Waits resources, the True Love Project continues in this legacy of helping students understand issues pertaining to sex and purity through the lens of Scripture. Authors Clayton and Sharie King explore a number of issues relevant for students, such as: understanding how sex, purity, and our individual stories fit into God’s larger story and design; how to understand Jesus’ lordship over one’s life; cultural and biblical perspectives on sex and purity; forgiveness, etc. Not only that, but by building from this biblical worldview, Clayton and Sharie discuss practical ways, and help answer practical questions, as to how students can fight for personal purity. how the gospel defines your purity
C l ay t o n & s h a r i e K i n g
The True Love Project is not simply another Bible study for students on the topic of sex and virginity. It is a summons for the next generation of students to understand their sexuality in light of the gospel. When students realize how the gospel impacts their purity, their lives will be changed from the inside out. Once students pursue Christ through their sexual purity, they will demonstrate to the world around them that Jesus is the ultimate destination and desire of their hearts.
FEBRUARY 2014 13
THE LASTS SHALL BE FIRSTS By Cynthia Hopkins Tonight was senior night at the varsity basketball game. That’s the night of the last home game, when the senior basketball players and their families are honored before warm-ups. We lined up, walked out on the court, and smiled politely as the public address announcer tried to summarize the four-year high school athletic career and future plans of each player. I don’t want to go off on a Solomon-esque tangent about how everything is meaningless. It really was a nice ceremony. But as I listened to the applause that was often as polite as the smiles, I couldn’t help but think about the futility of it all. A different group stood out on that court last year, and another one will stand there next. The truth
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is that, for most of the people in the arena, the applause would get really passionate only if one of these boys were to make a big shot later to win the game. To those of us with graduating seniors, this night represented something big and life-altering. Over the years, we have poured countless hours sitting on bleachers and traveling to different gyms because of our sons’ love for the sport; for us, the night was a momentous last. We parents will always remember, but aside from that, Solomon is right: “There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them” (Eccl. 1:11). People tend to think Solomon was a depressing guy. He probably would have had to sit alone at the high school basketball games. No one wants to hear that kind of talk. But for me, the realization is less depressing than it is a healthy dose of perspective. The senior year is all about lasts. It started in August when my son announced, “Hey, mom, it’s my last first day of
high school!” These seniors have had their last football game, volleyball game, and halftime band performance. It’s the last semester of high school. This was the last basketball game. We pour so much energy into our kids’ high school endeavors, and at the end of it, we’re standing on a court with a long stemmed red rose while people who don’t know much, if anything, about our children clap out of appreciation, yes, but mostly for the sake of proper decorum. If I focus on the lasts, then I’m definitely going to be sad, and I might miss the bigger story taking place right in front of me. It’s true: graduation night will serve as the grand culmination of a long string of lasts that started when our children were just infants. But what we must remember is that every single one of those lasts have been accompanied by firsts. The firsts usually didn’t get the applause of a crowd of people, but we didn’t care about that or get too sad, because it was fun and exciting to watch; it was life. So here’s what I’m thinking. Instead of looking at senior night and prom and graduation and all that stuff as lasts, maybe I should focus on the firsts that spring up from them. Instead of thinking about graduation as an ending, I should recognize the joy in the new beginnings. After all, isn’t that what Solomon came to understand: that God is good and life is a cycle that eventually returns to Him (12:1,7)? God knows this last is a necessary step in His plans for some really important firsts—some firsts that aren’t the least bit futile. The beauty and joy of it is in knowing that God’s applause is never just polite. He is passionate in His purposes for these upcoming firsts. They are meant to be fun and exciting; they are life. And even though it will look a little bit different for me, I am an important part of it. Tomorrow will be his first real look at life outside the lens of high school sports. Lord, help him always find his identity in You rather than his abilities, accomplishments, or the opinions of others. When he graduates from high school, he will have the freedom to pursue goals not put on him by anyone else
IT’S TRUE: GRADUATION NIGHT WILL SERVE AS THE GRAND CULMINATION OF A LONG STRING OF LASTS THAT STARTED WHEN OUR CHILDREN WERE JUST INFANTS. BUT WHAT WE MUST REMEMBER IS THAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE LASTS HAVE BEEN ACCOMPANIED BY FIRSTS. for the first time. God, help him discover how You have uniquely gifted him and purposed his life for Your glory. When he moves out, he will learn to be completely responsible for himself for the first time. Father, thank You for being with him even when I cannot. Surround him with Your unfailing love, and give him Your courage and confidence when he faces uncertainties. For the first time, he will choose friends apart from the streets of a neighborhood and walls of a high school. God, bring people into his life who love You and will hold him accountable. Bring others into his life that he can help lead to You. When he heads off to college, it will be his first opportunity to choose a church by himself and decide how much and in what ways he will be a part of it. Lord, show him what it means to own his faith. I can’t wait to see how You will grow his faith. As he transitions from high school to this next phase of life, our parent-child relationship will transition into adulthood for the first time. Father, what fun experiences and challenges we have ahead of us! Remind me that as I must let go of some things, You never will. Bless our relationship in ways I can’t even imagine.
CYNTHIA HOPKINS has been writing for LifeWay for more than 12 years. She has two teenagers and is married to an associate pastor. She also speaks regularly at youth and women’s events. Check out Cynthia’s blog at cynthiahopkins.org.
FEBRUARY 2014 15
ONLINE ETIQUETTE FOR PARENTS By Brian Housman
NE OF THE GR EATEST FEARS FOR A TEENAGER IS THAT THEY WOULD BE EMBARR ASSED BY A PAR ENT IN PUBLIC. I remember not wanting to walk with my mom through the mall for fear that one of my friends would walk up and hear words tumble out of my mom’s mouth that would make my eyes roll back in my head. With Facebook’s 1.2 billion members and Instagram’s 200 million members, social networks are the malls of the new millennium. This also means they are the new places where typical teens break out in beads of sweat when they see that their parents have joined. There is nothing wrong with parents being on Facebook. I think we should be there. It’s a public forum and a great way to keep up with what is happening in society. There’s also nothing wrong with parents liking, poking, or being friends with their teens on Facebook. As a matter of personal opinion, I think you absolutely should. But being your teen’s friend online is much like being a carpool parent. You hear conversations and comments without responding to every giggle or punch. You know that the knowledge you gain by observing far outweighs the benefit of jumping in yourself. The same principle applies when living online with your teen. Here are four destructive actions to stay away from. 1. Never post potentially embarrassing photos of them, or you. Too often parents post pictures they think are oh-toocute of their son’s first bath or daughter dressed like an Oompa Loompa from her third grade play. And after all the time you spent training your teen not to share inappropriate photos of herself online, don’t blow it by doing just the opposite yourself. The muscle-flexing shot of you on the beach last summer is out of the question. You might think it’s cool or funny, but your teen might disown you.
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2. Keep your comments to a minimum. Occasional comments on your teen’s profile are fine, but keep them short and sweet. And don’t comment on everything they post. Give them space online away from you. 3. No lecturing online. Let’s just assume that your teen is going to be like most and at some point in time is going to post or say something online that they shouldn’t. Don’t confront them online, unless your goal is to isolate and ridicule. Instead, talk about it in person. Remind them of the boundaries you both discussed before you allowed her to be on Facebook. 4. Keep the friend circle tight. While you certainly should “friend” your teen on social media, your goal is not to be friends with every one of her friends. She needs space to interact without you being a part of every conversation. Likewise, please, please don’t send friend requests to her friends. It can look creepy and inappropriate. If one of your child’s soccer buddies or church friends sends you a friend request, you should tell your teen before accepting. Otherwise, he will feel like you are encroaching on his territory. You are going to learn things about your child that maybe she hasn’t shared with you yet. As long as she is exhibiting good choices online, there is no need for you to respond to everything you see and hear. She needs the space from you, within reason, to create a canvas of herself online. Let her be herself and consider it a privilege that she welcomes you to be a part of the experience. BRIAN HOUSMAN has been working with parents and teens for more than 20 years and is a regular speaker at camps and conferences. You can connect with Brian on Twitter at @awaketolife and read more from him on teens and technology in his book Tech Savvy Parenting.
Your Battles By Kathy Cassel Parenting battles are part of life, and those battles change as children get older. An important part of parenting is choosing your battles carefully. There are many things you want your teen to do or not do, but trying to enforce all of them is overwhelming both to you and your child. Stand firm on things that involve your teen’s health or safety that are part of your biblical values and that will help your child become a productive citizen.
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+ Young Teens (13-15) + The same types of rules are important at each stage of your child’s life, but the younger the teen, the more necessary it is that rules are spelled out clearly and the consequences are in place. Children of this age are starting to assert their independence from their parents, while imitating their friends’ actions and styles. It’s easy to get into battles over clothing and hair, social media or schoolwork. Although it may be hard to give in on these issues, choose to enforce rules that are about values, safety, and learning to be responsible. Young teens need freedom within strictly set boundaries. Respect is a must. This includes respect for parents, teachers, and other authorities. It also includes respect for
THERE ARE MANY PARENTING BATTLES THAT WILL BE FOUGHT OVER THE YEARS AS YOUR CHILD JOURNEYS FROM INFANCY TO ADULTHOOD. TRYING TO FIGHT EVERY BATTLE WILL LEAVE YOU EXHAUSTED. peers, siblings, and property or possessions. Young teens may feel they need to start dating, but interactions with the opposite sex at this age are best limited to youth group and school activities. Pairing off with little supervision isn’t something they are ready for. Young teens still need to be supervised. Friends shouldn’t be invited over when there’s no adult home, nor should they go to a friend’s house where there is no supervision. Wandering the mall unsupervised also is not a good idea. Limited screen time—computers, iPads, and other media—allows your child time to interact with family, complete chores and school work, and get enough sleep. Have your child log-in information so you can monitor his activity, and keep computers and iPads in an area of the house that is monitored. Collect cell phones before homework time or at bedtime.
+ Middle Teens (16-17) + At this age teens have the means to be more independent. They may have a part-time job and a driver’s license. More of their time is spent away from home in places where parents don’t control the environment. A balance of offering guidance and allowing them enough freedom to make their own mistakes and gains is important. Avoid battles about clothing and hairstyles but insist on modesty, cleanliness, and decency. Hair that’s longer than you’d like on your son or that has a streak of pink on your daughter isn’t nearly as important as it being clean and combed—as long as it doesn’t represent an attitude problem or rebellion. At this age, drivers are still inexperienced and having rules about passengers in the car and how late your teen can drive will help him have a better chance of being accident or ticket free. Rules for dating and hanging out with friends need to be in place. The rules may vary by situation and responsibility—for instance, you can be out later because you’re at a school or church event, or you’ve been home on time every night so you can stay out a half hour later
than usual. Make sure you know where your teen is in the evening hours. Even “good kids” can get into trouble when not held accountable. Completing chores and homework need to be a prerequisite for driving and dating.
+ Older Teens (18-20) + Your older teen may suddenly decide he’s an adult and can do what he wants. But if he lives under your roof, he needs to be willing to follow the rules that will keep him safe and on the road to successfully living on his own. Your older teen should be actively involved in making plans for his future. While you can guide him and help him find out where to get applications and when they are due, completing and submitting them are his responsibility. If your teen seems more interested in hanging out with friends than filling out scholarship forms or applications, you may have to sit down and make a list of things that must be done and when. At this age hopefully your teen will be abstaining from drugs, alcohol, and wrong relationships, not only because of your rules but because it’s part of his own personal values. If you see warning signs that things are going on that shouldn’t be, don’t be afraid to speak out. Help your teen understand both the spiritual and physical pitfalls of wrong choices. There are many parenting battles that will be fought over the years as your child journeys from infancy to adulthood. Trying to fight every battle will leave you exhausted. Focus on the things that are most important as you guide your child through life.
KATRINA (KATHY) CASSEL, M.Ed., lives with her husband and four of their eight children in the Florida panhandle. Katrina is the author of several books. The newest is The One Year Book of Bible Trivia for Kids (Tyndale 2013).
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In her bestselling book Captivating, Stasi Eldredge writes, “Life is a tenuous thing…fragile, fleeting. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Be here now! Be here now! Be here now!” That’s a hard concept for a college freshman to grasp. I recently began a new chapter of life. Last fall I drove my tiny Kia Soul from my comfortable Nashville home to the unknown land of Waco, Texas. The past few months at Baylor University have been full of new: a new city, new people, and a new school. When teenagers enter into a new season, it’s easy for us to become restless and ready for the next stage or to be filled with nostalgia and longing for the previous one. The questions of doubt can be overwhelming. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Where are you, God? Thoughts such as, “I don’t feel known here,” become the norm. In The Christian Student’s Calling, Dr. Leland Ryken writes, “When God calls his people to a task, he also calls them to a time of preparation.” It’s easy to want to skip the time of preparation and jump straight to the task, or to think that the preparation isn’t important. As a result we make choices that could potentially fill us with deep regret later in life. I was both convicted and humbled as I read through the story of David a few days ago. In 1 Samuel, when Samuel anoints David as king, David doesn’t become king right away. A period of time passes where the Lord
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WHATEVER SEASON OF LIFE YOU CURRENTLY FIND YOURSELF IN, I ENCOURAGE YOU TO STEWARD IT WELL. IT’S NOT JUST BUSY WORK. IT’S PREPARATION.
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge. Copyright ©2011. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
CAROLINE GREENE is a freshman Communications major at Baylor University in Waco, Tx. She is also a founder of The Movement, a group of student-led, orphan-care service clubs in high schools across America hosted by Show Hope. When she’s not studying or advocating for orphans, you can find her frolicking around campus or cozied up at the local coffee shop with a good book.
WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE ALL THERE
prepares David to be the king of Israel. David had to steward each season of life with great faith, trusting that God had a much grander plan than he could fathom. God doesn’t call us to a life of certainty, but rather to a life of faith. We have to step out in faith, believe that we have been called to something higher, and trust that we are being prepared for an eternal glory that far outweighs the present circumstances of this life. Whatever season of life you currently find yourself in, I encourage you to steward it well. It’s not just busy work. It’s preparation. The choices you make matter. Be patient. Trust that the timing of our God is never too early and never too late. During times of change, He is unchanging, and His promises are the same.
your parenting skills
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Love PERSE VERES How do we know when being patient in a relationship is being too patient in a relationship? Jesus’s command is clear: when in doubt, love people.
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BY ANDREW GREER
WHEN IT COMES TO RELATIONSHIPS, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A FAIRLY LOYAL PERSON. Though I’m not married and have no kids (which is probably causing you to beg the question why am I opining in the pages of a parenting magazine), I am drawn to relationship. And longterm relationship to boot. In my day-to-day friendships, I look for and try to cultivate relationships with folks who get to know and understand who I am, and for whom I do the same. My spiritual community is made up of friends and mentors who share a mutual investment with me since I was in college a decade ago. My dating relationships—well, that’s a subject for an entirely different publication. But the point is I have always been compelled to relate. Even as a singer-songwriter in the ever-shifting tides of Nashville’s music industry, I choose to partner with those who value a bit of business savvy and a whole lot of personal relationship. Making music my career was a result of wanting to relate to as many people as possible. And though I am often working out kinship via the close proximity of a van or bus, you are very likely in the middle of your own close-quarters relating, juggling a family, a career, and most bewildering—an adolescent. And that relationship requires a great deal of patience. When I was growing up my dad—who as a therapist made a living from helping people relate to God, each other, and themselves—recognized early on that I liked to be around people. And for better or worse, I wanted to be available to them through thick and thin. Dad appreciated and cultivated my relational instincts, but he also helped (and still helps) me understand the difference between a two-sided, reciprocal friendship and a one-sided lean-to, where I merely played the role of burden bearer. So how do we toe the line between being patient in relationship and potentially enabling unhealthy behaviors in others? As a parent, how do you balance “letting them be kids” with a responsible call for action? Before running out of steam, stacking up resentments, and blowing your lid,
IN AN INSTINCTUAL INSTANT THE PATIENT MESSIAH DISPELS ANGRY TENSION WITH FREE-FLOWING GRACE. AND EVEN MORE MYSTERIOUS, YET PERFECT, ABOUT JESUS’ RESPONSES: THEY ASK FOR NOTHING, BUT INSPIRE EVERYTHING. step back and filter your short-term perspective through the big-picture relational lens of Jesus, our greatest example and closest friend. When I take a time out to deduce how Jesus wants me to fulfill that seemingly lofty Matthew 6 ideal, “on earth as it is in Heaven,” I consistently reference his responses to the Pharisees and the woman caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees, obsessed with fulfilling Jewish law, try to crack at the letter of love paradigm shift Jesus is inspiring among their constituency by presenting him with a scarlet letter woman and asking his opinion on her lawful consequence. Jesus responds coolly and with great care. “Let any of you who are without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). In an instinctual instant the patient Messiah dispels angry tension with free-flowing grace. And even more mysterious, yet perfect, about Jesus’ responses: they ask for nothing, but inspire everything. As the pharisaical men drop their stones one by one, Jesus asks the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” She answers simply, “No one.” Not one. “Then neither do I,” Jesus says. “Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). When relationship is tempered with grace—true, unconditional love—it is not some apathetic sin, but a conviction to change. In the spring of 2012, when President Obama came out in personal support of gay marriage, I was performing
FEBRUARY 2014 23
for a conference at the headquarters of one of United States’ largest evangelical organizations. During an open forum question and answer with one of the organization’s leading men, a thoughtful woman bravely recognized the question lingering in each attendees’ mind and asked, “I’m not interested in being political with this question, but since we are here, what is your take on the President’s recent endorsement?” In a disarmingly gentle response, a man whose every move is opined on by critics all over the world posed his own equally thoughtful question: “When did we consider it loving to sit down across from someone and say, ‘I hate what you do. Now let’s have a conversation’?” He proceeded to encourage the silent room with the notion that conviction deep enough to cause change is born from building relationships like Christ did—with patience and perseverance. It is easy to be quick on the draw. To state our offense. Judge the action. Discount the person. But this careless,
passive way of interacting neglects seeing our co-worker, our neighbor, our pew mate, our teenager with kingdom eyes. And kingdom eyes says every person, every person, is of value because He first loved us. He first loved me. And that changes everything. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. Love does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NIV). Love always perseveres. Always. ✤
ANDREW GREER is a singer-songwriter, music journalist, and co-creator of the Hymns for Hunger Tour with fellow singer-songwriter Cindy Morgan. When not on the road he enjoys his home in Franklin, Tenn. For more information, visit andrew-greer.com.
IT IS EASY TO BE QUICK ON THE DRAW. TO STATE OUR OFFENSE. JUDGE THE ACTION. DISCOUNT THE PERSON. BUT THIS CARELESS, PASSIVE WAY OF INTERACTING NEGLECTS SEEING OUR CO-WORKER, OUR NEIGHBOR, OUR PEW MATE, OUR TEENAGER WITH KINGDOM EYES
FLEX PAGE thomas nelson
A Different Angle:
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING, KNOW THAT HE HAS PLACED YOU IN A COMMUNITY SO THAT HIS CHURCH CAN DO ITS JOB, LOVING ONE ANOTHER. ASK FOR HELP AND BE BLESSED IN THE ACCEPTANCE OF IT.
By Dedra Herod
It’s funny how God continues to teach me the exact characteristic that I’m called to encourage you in monthly. I’m sitting in a stackable plastic and metal chair in a hospital waiting to get results from my oldest child’s procedure. He’s been really sick at college and it progressed so quickly that it landed him in the hospital. A scary thing for a college adult. A scary thing for a parent who is states away. Perseverance has shown up so vividly in my life recently. For me, it’s been through the form of major life changes. Nothing is comfortable or familiar, except for my family members. I’ve struggled with my own emotions, doubts, and thoughts. I tend to get wrapped up in the “how it feels” or “what it looks like” moments of my day, and God’s been faithful throughout. Shocker, I know! We must choose to persevere. You have to choose to persevere. Instead of worrying or giving into the fear, I’m choosing to believe who and what my God says He is. Instead of immediately giving into my history of “I can do this,” I’m choosing to persevere in surrendering to His will and way. I
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DEDRA HEROD is wife to a husband that refuses to be tamed, mom to three college kids that make her laugh, and whose desire is a home where everyone loves to hang out, as long as they clean up after themselves.
PERSEVERE IN COMMUNITY
royally mess everything up when I jump in without going to Him first anyway. What are you currently facing as a single parent that you need to choose perseverance over? Are you struggling with how hard it is to parent alone? Are you anxious about how to buy groceries or pay the light bill? Are you beyond exhausted in dealing with how hard it is to raise your teen who struggles with a mental illness or disability? Persevere in Him. Choose His words over the words of others. Please don’t get me wrong—I love encouragement from my family and friends, but there is nothing like His Word. It brings me great peace that no one else can grant. It speaks Truth like no person can. If you are struggling, know that He has placed you in a community so that His Church can do its job, loving one another. Ask for help and be blessed in the acceptance of it. We are not meant to parent alone. We are meant for community. There are resources in every community to help you shake off financial hardships and life changes. It’s one of the many ways He has designed our world to work for our good. Perseverance is a choice. I pray you choose it today. He loves you and wants nothing more than all you are right now. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” —Romans 5:3-5, NIV
A Different Angle:
I F Y OU DON ’ T DET ERM I N E A H EA D OF T I M E T H AT Y OU W I LL P ERS EV ERE W H EN I T G ET S TOU G H , Y OU W I LL T U RN BA C K. Y OU WON ’ T FI N D T H E BLES S IN GS T H AT A C C OM PA N Y Y OU R J OU RN EY I N T H E EN D . S T EP FA M I LY S TAT I S T I C S C ON FI RM T H AT.
PERSEVERANCE WINS THE PRIZE
By Gayla Grace
In the early years of our marriage, I wondered if we would make it to our next anniversary. Blending four children, grappling with our stepparent roles while learning to parent together, combating ex-spouses, and trying to stay afloat with job, church, and community obligations seemed impossible. But as we celebrated 18 years of marriage recently, I’m thankful we never quit. Randy and I lead an ongoing stepfamily class at our church and often counsel other step couples. One day I asked him why he thinks the divorce rate of remarried couples is so high. His answer was simple: they quit too soon. Yes, there are struggles with ex-spouses, a complicated schedule, bickering kids, financial concerns, and on and on. But the reason most remarriages fail is because step couples don’t devote enough time to work through the kinks and find success in their relationships. Perseverance is a foreign word in too many homes. Step-parenting should be seen as a marathon, not a sprint. If a marathoner begins a race with even a small
consideration to quit when it gets hard, he won’t finish. When the muscle cramps slow his gait, when the road stretches endlessly, when his breathing labors under the hot sun, as others stumble along the way, he has to decide he won’t give in to the temptation to stop. The choice is daunting. It’s no different as a step-parent. Without a firm commitment to trudge through the challenges that come your way, you won’t make it. It’s tough. Very few stepfamilies escape what stepfamily authority Ron Deal calls the “wilderness wanderings.” The wanderings will look and feel differently for every stepfamily, but just as the Israelites wandered aimlessly through the wilderness for 40 years, you will endure days, and possibly years, of hardship and suffering in your stepfamily. If you don’t determine ahead of time that you will persevere when it gets tough, you will turn back. You won’t find the blessings that accompany your journey in the end. Stepfamily statistics confirm that. Perseverance requires an intentional choice. But with your choice comes reward. I love the promise of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV). James 1:12 offers another promise: “A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” If you’re trudging through some difficult days in your stepfamily, don’t give up. Rely on God’s strength and power to sustain you—He will see you through to better days ahead. GAYLA GRACE trudged through her single parenting years with two young daughters. She later remarried and is now a mom/stepmom to five children, ages 12-28, and ministers to stepfamilies at her website, stepparentingwithgrace.com.
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Growing Up YOUR TEENAGER
Parenting doesn’t end when your teenager leaves the house. Looking forward to a healthy adult relationship with your son or daughter means pushing them, challenging them, and encouraging them—no matter what.
30 PARENTING TEENS
By Toby Simers
sat in disbelief at my dining room table. There was a tender moment where I thought I could have a rational conversation with my daughter about choices. Then there was another moment where I thought I had been sucked into the wormhole to Crazyville and all I could do was hold on to my remaining hair and scream like a small animal caught in a claw trap. Being a parent is never about being the coolest person in the room, or just bringing the hammer down like the mighty Thor, or just being the resident therapist, or—no matter how much you might want to—pulling the covers over our heads and hiding. Rather it’s being the coach and mentor and advisor and chief life developer, at each stage, through each emotional swing, doing whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, through the adolescent years and beyond. Those are big words. So let’s pause for a minute. Glance out the window. It’s February. What can we notice in the present moment? There may be snow on the ground where you are today. There may be a hope for the cold weather to end. There may be strong desires for things to return to normal. And yet it’s time to realize there may be a new normal emerging in your family this year. Spring will carry in senior proms. May will bring graduation and parties and trips. Summer will fly through your house at mach speed approaching college move-in day. This year will change things again. Prepare for the new normal. Teenagers may seem ready to be out from under their parents’ roofs, but they are not ready to be out from under their parents’ wings. Things will change, and things have to change. Life has to look different moving forward. Parenting is about pressing through change, either joyfully or begrudgingly. So how do we do it well? Where is our focus? How do we parent well over the long haul? What gets in the way? I have
If your kids are now the adults you wanted them to become, you can have healthy adult relationships that provide depth and joy. But if they are “dysfunctionally careening” toward adulthood, as if they were still those moody sarcastic teenagers from an earlier life, then we’re not done. Because we didn’t finish what we started. We’re still parenting; we’re still called to persevere.
asked the question of many people, and there are several philosophies and opinions. But there are a lot of mixed emotions on the parent’s continued involvement beyond high school and college graduations. Perceived roles emerge, and many parents become: The Idealist: “Well, once a parent, always a parent! I got this.” The Dependent: “Oh, I miss ‘em already…what am I gonna do?” The Panicked: “Wait, you mean he’s never really leaving… I’m not done? What?” The Distressed: “Hey, have you experienced her room and her attitude? I don’t want to be a parent forever; I just want her to grow up.” If your kids are now the adults you wanted them to become, you can have healthy adult relationships that provide depth and joy. But if they are
“dysfunctionally careening” toward adulthood, as if they were still those moody sarcastic teenagers from an earlier life, then we’re not done. Because we didn’t finish what we started. We’re still parenting; we’re still called to persevere. Let’s question why and how this happens. Imagine—a young guy sits in my office, early 20s, recently graduated from college, back living at his parents’ house, anxious, depressed, without a career or even any prospects, and riddled with regret. He has little awareness of his convictions, goals, and desires. But before we even get to those we have to work on something he didn’t get, or resisted, growing up. He doesn’t have the mindset to succeed. He doesn’t know how to live in-between gratitude and challenge—a spirit of gratitude for what is already part of his life and a spirit of challenge for the next move toward what he wants.
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It’s time to grow our kids up. The research has been in for a few years, largely from Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, and it seems the self-esteem movement that invaded our schools and psychology 20 to 30 years ago hasn’t worked. And it isn’t going to work. Because not only does it not include the mindset to succeed, it actually impedes it. We’ve been duped into giving our kids trophies for just showing up, rather than teaching them self-worth through challenge, accomplishment, and gratitude. My son mows our yard. I usually ask him to do a little more than he would have on his own and when he’s done, he typically just walks off. So I go get him and make him walk out to the curb with me. I ask him to look over what he just did and tell me if it looks better or if he can see that it looks better. He sees
it and says yes. When that has sunk in, I remind him that “he” did that. “Good job,” I tell him. “You made a difference. Smile, be proud of your work.” Challenge, accomplishment, gratitude. It’s not about praise and rewards. Those can happen in due time. First it’s all about a challenge for him to accept, an accomplishment for him to recognize, and a mind of gratitude for him to enjoy. Here’s my deal, and I invite you to join me. I’m going to keep looking for opportunities like that with my kids. Ways to eventually pass on a baton that allows us to have a healthy, enjoyable relationship when they are adults. I want that. I’m looking for anything I can think of to reframe in the form of challenge and accomplishment and gratitude. I’m going to miss some or mess some up.
But I’m going to keep on looking and trying. And they are going to accept some and reject some. But I’m going to keep trying. I know I will fail miserably if I purely lean on my own capacity and merit. I know I will succeed only by the grace of God in the midst of my own surrender. I know I will end up in both places at times. But I’m going to keep on looking and trying because I owe it to them. No matter what. ✤ TOBY SIMERS is a therapist in private practice and at Revelop Institute, St. Louis, Mo. He spent 12 years in vocational ministry, graduated from the Willow Creek Internship program and earned a Masters in Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary. But more importantly he’s a devoted and growing husband, father of two and stepfather of two.
FLEX PAGE christian edu
more like Christ
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ENDURING A LONG WALK UPWARD 36 PARENTING TEENS
IF YOU NEED A PICTURE OF BIBLICAL PERSEVERANCE, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE PROMISES OF ROMANS 5.
ot long ago when we were in South Korea, we took a day off from our teaching to do a little site-seeing. One of the sites was the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. One of the more interesting features at the DMZ is a system of tunnels that the communists in North Korea attempted to dig in the 1960s and ’70s to launch a surprise attack on Seoul, the capital of South Korea. We toured one of those tunnels. A three-quarter-mile descent, by foot, took us deep underground to the tunnel. Once there, we walked another half mile in the tunnel, which averaged a little over four feet high. Without even mentioning the claustrophobic environment, being forced to walk in a stooped posture was an energy-drainer. By the time we returned to the walkway that led back to the surface, we were already tired. But then came the steep climb up. We ignored the tram offered to those who were unfit for such a climb. We aren’t that old, yet. Halfway up, I rued our decision to walk instead of riding the tram. My pulse was quickening and I found it difficult to take a deep breath. I actually panicked for a moment, but after stopping and leaning against the wall I was able to catch a deep breath and relax. I’m only 58, I kept telling myself. I can do this. Convinced I was able, I relaunched my trek upward, with every step saying to myself, I must lose weight and get in shape. How can I expect to be an effective missionary if I am not physically fit? (Since this day I have relaunched my long “walk” upward toward physical fitness.) Whether walking a steep grade or walking by faith in Christ, endurance is the key. My experience in the tunnel rekindled a desire in my heart for spiritual endurance. While it is necessary for any servant of the Lord to keep himself or herself physically fit so that we have energy to serve hard and long, even more crucial is our spiritual fitness. In my recent search into the Scriptures regarding spiritual endurance, I came across a passage in Paul’s epistle to the Romans that has been very beneficial to my fitness plan. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the
hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” —Romans 5:1-5 In this power-packed passage, Paul informs us of four resources every believer possesses for spiritual endurance. FIRST, WE HAVE RIGHTEOUSNESS (V. 1). Just as Abraham was credited righteousness because of his faith (See Romans 4) so too are we when we place our faith in Christ. God declares us righteous, meaning that He approves us and conforms us to His standard. Having a right standing with God produces godly endurance in our lives. WE ALSO HAVE PEACE WITH GOD (V. 1). This doesn’t mean that we never encounter trials or trouble. The word peace means “to join together as a whole.” This is a magnificent truth. Ephesians 2:3 says that, while still in our sin prior to salvation, we were enemies of God. But Christ put enmity to death by His death on the cross (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16). Our faith in Christ removes the enmity and makes us friends with God (Jas. 2:3). So, we are joined together as
JUST AS ABRAHAM WAS CREDITED RIGHTEOUSNESS BECAUSE OF HIS FAITH (SEE ROMANS 4), SO TOO ARE WE WHEN WE PLACE OUR FAITH IN CHRIST. GOD DECLARES US RIGHTEOUS, MEANING THAT HE APPROVES US AND CONFORMS US TO HIS STANDARD. a whole with God. When we face trials and trouble, we remember that we are joined together with God. This gives us spiritual endurance for every circumstance in life. WE HAVE ACCESS INTO GOD’S GRACE (V. 2). There are many places and resources that are not at my access. I don’t have access to your bank account. I don’t have access to the President of the United States. But I do have access to the
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YOU MIGHT BE FACING A LONG AND STEEP WALK RIGHT NOW. GOD MIGHT BE MOVING YOU OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. STOP. LEAN AGAINST THE WALL OF HIS GRACE. RELAX. YOU HAVE RIGHTEOUSNESS.
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is frustrating. The isolation from family is lonesome. The climate and culture is sometimes wearisome. Everything is foreign. But we have these four resources—righteousness, peace, access, and hope—that produce spiritual fitness and long-lasting endurance. We have also discovered how God can turn the foreign to familiar, if we will endure. You might be facing a long and steep walk right now. There may be things or people in your life that are turning everything familiar to foreign. God might be moving you out of your comfort zone. Your pulse is quickening and you’re finding it difficult to catch your breath. Stop. Lean against the wall of His grace. Relax. You have righteousness. You have peace with God. You have access to God Himself. You have hope. You can do this. Endure. ✤
DAVID CRIM and his wife Cindy are the mission coordinators of the Two-Thirds World Network. They live in Manila, Philippines, where he also serves as Senior Teaching Pastor at the International Baptist Church of Manila. ©©Getty
greatest resource in life: God’s grace. This is exciting! All of God’s power, all of God’s resources, all of God Himself is at my access. The word “access” is only used two other times in the New Testament, and each time it refers to direct access to God. Don’t waste this resource for spiritual endurance. FINALLY, WE HAVE HOPE (V. 4). Possessing Christ’s righteousness, peace with God, and access to God, we rejoice, whether in comfort or in affliction. In joyful hope, we know that God turns affliction into endurance. We rejoice that endurance proves our godly character and gives evidence of a hope that never disappoints or runs dry. Paul’s word for hope is interesting. Its root word means “neck” and presents an image of one holding his head high in confidence. Paul presented a picture of God-given confidence that enables us to endure any hardship or obstacle to faith. As I reflect on our three years in the field in the Philippines, I see how crucial Paul’s words are to my spiritual fitness. Living in a foreign culture is stressful. People speak words we cannot understand. The food is unfamiliar and sometimes even distasteful. The traffic
On Your Knees
PRAY FOR PERSEVERANCE
Christ-like living • Living righteously grows one stronger (Job 17:9)
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Never give up (Gal. 6:9) Living righteously is a sign of truly being saved (John 15:9-10)
Prayer • God answers those who persist in prayer (Luke 18:1-4) • God will answer as a loving Father (Luke 11:1-13) • We are commanded to pray constantly (1 Thess.5:17) Hope for the future • Hope completely in Christ (1 Peter 1:13) • Know that Christ is returning (Rev. 3:10-11) • He rewards the diligent (Rom. 2:6-7) As you pray for your teenager, take inventory of the example of perseverance you have set. Teenagers often accuse parents of double standards. Ask God to help you in your Christian walk in order to be consistent in front of your child. Set an example in living for Christ. Pray consistently. Let your attitude be one of hope in Christ. Your teenager will benefit from watching and following your positive example.
Living in today’s world provides many challenges. Shifts in morals, policies, and expectations give cause for fear and anticipation about the future. Know that God is in control and have the faith to persevere in spite of any difficulty. Be concerned about the future of your children, but trust God to help them as our world continually changes. As a parent of two, I pray for my children to live like Christ, stay in communication with God, and remain focused on their eternal homeland so they can fearlessly live for God in this temporary world. I pray for them to persevere in pursuing God throughout their lives here on earth. I know that He will provide and that He, alone, is the answer. This faith and knowledge brings peace and calm in a chaotic world. God is in charge. You can pray this for your child, as well. Pray for your teen to learn perseverance and to thrive in this world. As you pray for your teenager’s perseverance, focus on these three areas. Make sure to meditate upon the Scriptures provided. Pray for your teenager to persevere in:
TALKING THROUGH TEEN ANXIOUSNESS
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” —Hebrews 12:1-2 Paul wrote these words after describing saints of old who had endured trial, torture, and death yet persevered. He listed them as examples of true faith. To persevere is to have your heart set on the hope of God’s deliverance through the trial. Perseverance requires faith. No matter how bad things feel on earth, there are those who have endured much more and kept their hearts yoked to God’s promises in order to persevere. When your teenager comes home with a disappointment on a test grade, remind him that he should have faith in his ability to apply himself more and study harder for the next test. Tell him that you believe in him but that hard work and diligence pay off. Help him learn to manage his schedule
more wisely in his studies. All teenagers are anxious about the future. The next time you see a young family out shopping, mention to your teenager that God has a plan for his life and it will all work out. Tell him that he should look to God as he grows up, holding to the promise that God loves him and will provide His very best for him. Take time to talk about the relationships within your home and extended family. Talk about any that seem to be strained and cause pain for your teen. Remind your teenager that is God’s job, not his, to work on those people and change them. Help him realize that his job is to reflect the love of Christ through all situations, enduring any discomfort those relationships may bring. Perseverance without faith is impossible. Help your teen look to God for the strength to endure any situation in life. KEVIN GARRETT has served in music ministry, collegiate ministry, and student ministry. He currently serves as associate pastor for education and outreach at Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, Ala.
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RIGHTEOUS | COMFORTER | INFINITE | TRUTH
A C O N S I S T E N T WA L K W I T H C H R I S T. LO V E F O R H I S W O R D . A D E S I R E TO K N O W H I M . There are many spiritual tools you want your teenager to develop. Essential Connection: Devotions for Students is a monthly devotional to help them get there. Each issue of EC focuses on four aspects of God’s character—one per week—and asks students to consider the implications His character has on who they are and how they are to live out those truths in their daily lives. But faith is not something teenagers need to journey alone. You need to be there right alongside your son or daughter, and so Parenting Teens is now including all of EC’s Scripture references in our pages for you to read alongside your teen. Each week looks at Scripture through
three lenses: God’s character (who He is), Transform (how it shapes your teen’s faith), and Live It Out (how it affects your teen’s life and witness). This month’s Scripture focuses on how God is righteous, comforter, infinite, and truth. As you read these Scriptures alongside your teen, discuss the beauty of God’s character together. What are we promised in Scripture? How does this change our lives? How can we use it to change the world? EC is available in a variety of formats, including print and a digital app, and can be found online at lifeway.com/ec.
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GOD IS RIGHTEOUS Psalm 36:5-10
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
LIVE IT OUT
2.1 The Point:
2.4 The Point:
2.6 The Point:
God is as immovable in His righteousness as the mightiest mountains. He always does what is right, no matter what.
God’s righteousness demands a payment for sin—one we cannot repay on our own merit. But Jesus became that payment so that God could declare us righteous.
God has declared us righteous and made us ambassadors of His gospel to the world. We can’t keep the message to ourselves!
2.2 The Point: Nothing clouds God’s judgment. He will always judge fairly and righteously, which is worthy of praise.
2.3 The Point: Even when the world seems out-of-control, we can place our trust in a righteous God who will do what it right.
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2.7 The Point: 2.5 The Point: Because we have been declared righteous by faith, we have access to God and all of His benefits.
Because we are ambassadors for Christ, we have a very important purpose: to pierce the darkness of the world with the light of His gospel.
GOD IS COMFORTER Isaiah 66:12-13
2 Corinthians 1:1-7
1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
LIVE IT OUT
2.8 The Point:
2.11 The Point:
2.13 The Point:
Our God is our great Comforter. He never ceases to care for us and is always near. He comforts and loves us in all seasons of our lives.
The Holy Spirit is our Counselor and Comforter. He is with us and guides believers in every part of their lives.
God is not distant from us, but a Comforter who meets our needs. He expects us to do the same for others, comforting them out of the comfort He has shown us.
2.12 The Point: 2.9 The Point: God comforts His people tenderly, bringing hope into seemingly hopeless situations.
2.10 The Point:
God alone provides true comfort. We must submit the idols in our lives to experience the freedom and protection that comes from a life of worship to the True Comforter.
2.14 The Point: Every believer has a responsibility to comfort and encourage brothers and sisters in our lives.
God is active in the lives of His people, working to free them from captivity of sin and to heal their broken hearts. He has done all of this through Jesus!
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GOD IS INFINITE Psalm 145:1-7
1 John 3:19-20
LIVE IT OUT
2.15 The Point:
2.18 The Point:
2.20 The Point:
God’s greatness is beyond our human comprehension. No matter how hard we try, our finite minds will never fully understand our infinite God.
In a world that says we should do whatever makes us feel good, we must remain focused on Christ and the promise of heaven. God’s infinite blessings are worth more than the world’s temptations that only satisfy for a moment.
The only thing in this world that has infinite value is knowing Christ.
2.16 The Point: God’s ways and thoughts are perfect, infinite, and eternal. He knows what has already been and what is to come.
2.17 The Point: God’s name will be eternally and infinitely praised. His character will endure for all generations.
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2.19 The Point: When your conscience condemns you, trust the God who knows infinitely more than you do. Remember who He is and listen to the truth He has declared in His Word.
2.21 The Point: Christians are made for infinite worship of the infinite Lord. That means we will never stop worshiping our Heavenly Father.
GOD IS TRUTH Psalm 31:1-5
1 John 1:5-10
2 Corinthians 2:13-17
LIVE IT OUT
2.22 The Point:
2.25 The Point:
2.27 The Point:
God isn’t just truthful; He is truth. He always remains true to His character, meaning we can trust Him in all things because He will always do what He has promised.
Because Jesus is the truth, we know that all He has promised is also true. He has promised eternal life to those who believe in and commit their lives to Him.
If God is truth, then believers must also live in the truth. Our lives should be characterized by His light and truth.
2.23 The Point: Not only is God truth, but His commands are truth—all of them. We can depend on God’s Word to reveal the truth to us, rather than the world’s ideas.
2.24 The Point: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The only way we come to a saving relationship with the Father is through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
2.28 The Point: 2.26 The Point: Those who know Jesus are set free by the truth. He frees us from the bondage of sin, the law, doubt, fear, anxiety, and anything else that stands in the way of the abundant life He offers.
If God is truth, we must speak with sincerity for Christ and share His gospel honestly and genuinely.
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NEW RESOURCE from true love waits
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