Guard Your Mind

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8 NIV


When I grew up, life was much simpler, decidedly slower and unquestionably cleaner. Evil wasn’t in your face every time you turned on the television, went to a movie or even walked through the hallways of a public school.

Times have changed. We live in the age of communication. Our children have access to the most perverse and illicit forms of evil imaginable…right at their fingertips via the internet on their smart phones and other digital devises. One of the frightening crazes young people take part in is sexting…using cell phones to take and send pornographic pictures of themselves and others. Parental controls are no match for techno-savvy kids who find ways to get around even the most sophisticated software roadblocks. Students have told me many kids carry a second cell phone their parents don’t even know about, to bypass supervision. Oh how I wish there was a way to protect their minds like a bicycle helmet protects their heads! Sadly, there is not.

The best defense against evil is a strong defense. We can’t make our kids keep their minds pure, and we can’t be with them 24/7 to monitor everything they see and listen to. We have to develop in them a desire to choose purity over unrighteousness on their own. How? Discuss purity issues as a family. Don’t take away or limit access to things without offering better alternatives. Explain why certain movies, words, activities and friends aren’t appropriate. Reasons are always more effective than rules. No disinfectant known to man can disinfect a dirty mind…images last a lifetime. Make it a priority to teach your children to protect and closely guard their minds from filth!


PRAYER: God, protect the innocence of my children by guarding their minds from filth and perversion. Create in them an appetite for good and a distaste for evil. May they never fall prey to the enemy’s temptation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Protect the Ears

“You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked.”

Psalm 12:7 NIV


Kids take some pretty hard hits growing up – other children can be cruel and hurtful with their words, leaving emotional scars that take a long time to heal.

In the early 90’s when we still lived in Abilene, woven poncho jackets were the “in” thing for boys to wear. We gave our 9-year-old son, Drew a red-and-tan striped poncho for Christmas, and he bought a blue-and-green one for himself with Christmas money. He proudly wore one or the other of the ponchos almost all the time. Right after Christmas, we moved to Plano. When classes resumed in January, Drew was faced with starting all over in a new place. On the first day of school, he wore his favorite poncho, put on a brave face and walked through the glass doors of the unknown.

Drew was cute and instantly popular with the fourth grade girls which didn’t set well with the fourth grade boys. Over the next couple of weeks, the boys jealously picked on him, ridiculing everything about him – especially his poncho jackets. He came home in tears one afternoon and threw his ponchos in the trash. In retrospect, I should have talked to the teacher but Drew was embarrassed and begged me not to.

On the outside, kids can appear resilient when they are emotionally beaten up. But many times they build defense mechanisms on the inside, compartmentalizing hurt feelings so they can cope. In some cases, they stash feelings away so deeply it becomes difficult to have a healthy relationship…even with someone who isn’t hurting them.

How nice it would be to place protective gear over our kids’ ears so hurtful words would slide off of them like water off a duck’s back! Without that option, we must make ourselves available – just like Jesus is always available when we need Him – to comfort, offer perspective and provide encouragement. What may seem small and insignificant to us can translate into devastation for our child’s self-esteem. Watch, listen and be ready with open arms to embrace your child when he needs you. A parent’s love, prayers and support are the salve that soothes the pain and prevents a forever broken spirit.


PRAYER: God, may my eyes and ears be keen to observe when my children hurt on the inside. Grant me sensitivity and wisdom to help them emerge from each circumstance without permanent emotional scars. Draw them unto You and allow them to sense protection in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Learn When to Let Go

Shannon on her 1st birthday, 3-16-79

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Isaiah 43:18 NIV


It was a Sunday morning. I was crouched on my knees leaning over the bathtub shampooing Gwen’s long blonde hair while our one-year-old Shannon crawled on the floor behind me waiting for her turn in the bubbles. I’d already plugged the curling iron in so it could get hot. I thought it was safely out of reach on the bathroom cabinet…

All of a sudden, Shannon let out a blood-curdling scream that wouldn’t stop. She was less than three feet from me, but with my back turned I didn’t see her pull on the electrical cord and grab hold of the curling iron when it fell on the carpet.

Despite her hysterical screaming, Shannon didn’t let go of the curling iron. Her tiny hand clenched the hot metallic barrel and I had to literally pry it off. Her hand was severely burned. I later learned that when children (and adults) feel sudden pain, our muscles respond by tightening up. In Shannon’s case, that response caused her to hold tightly to the very thing that was hurting her.

I credit Abilene’s West Texas Rehabilitation Center and a very special physical therapist, Mary Lou Garrett, for saving the use of Shannon’s hand. Every day for weeks, Shannon went in for a sterile hand bath followed by painful debriding of the dead skin. There was nothing easy about this process…this was Shannon’s thumb-sucking hand…and that never changed. She sucked her thumb through medicine, bandages, gloves and every other creative obstacle I could think of.

Almost everyone has painful experiences…some physical and some emotional. We can hold onto bitterness, hurt, disappointment and even anger for a lifetime. It’s a natural reaction. But if we do, the hurt will continue to fester inside of us…and it won’t go away. The sooner we learn to let go of things that hurt us, the healthier we will be!

Teach your children a simple exercise in letting go. When they get upset or hurt and are “hanging on” to an offense, have them imagine that offense sitting in their hands. Is it something they like? Do they want to keep it? Does it hurt when they think about it? Then it’s time to hand that offense to God once and for all. Instead of dwelling on something that hurts them, train them to give it to God and let HIM deal with it…so their healing can begin.


PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me teach my children to never hold on to past hurts, but to give You those painful things so Your Holy Spirit can bring healing to their minds and their hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

More Effective Than Grounding


“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13 NIV


When our oldest daughter Gwen started taking driver’s education classes, my mother gave us an extra car she didn’t need anymore. It was a little Chevy Citation hatchback – nothing fancy, but the price was right and it was in great shape. Unfortunately, Gwen hated the car. She was embarrassed to even be SEEN in it, and horrified to think of driving it. Grant took pity on her, and as soon as she got her driver’s license, she got his sporty red Nissan and he drove the Citation. Life was good – for Gwen and for me. As the mother of four, I was thrilled to have a new driver in the house who could run errands and drive herself to and from school. The time savings was huge – except when she did something wrong and Grant took her car keys away. It easily added an extra hour of driving to my schedule every day. After a few “groundings”, I had a heart-to-heart with Grant explaining that when he grounded Gwen by taking her driving privileges away, he was in effect grounding me too. Because then I had to drive her everywhere. We were in agreement she needed to be punished. We just needed a different plan – something that would motivate her to make good choices without making my life more difficult. The answer was simple. We wouldn’t keep her from driving. We would make her drive…the Citation.

This was the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) punishment EVER. And it worked! Just a hint Gwen might have to drive the Citation was enough to keep her moving in the right direction.

Staying on the right path is never easy. Temptation is constantly pulling at our kids …trying to seduce them into making harmful choices that can affect their lives forever. As parents, it’s our job to steer them in the way they should go without breaking their tender spirits. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. As “painful” as it was for Gwen to drive that Citation, she was better off in the long run, and likely saved from situations that could have caused her real pain. We must stay on our knees and seek God’s direction for the right kind of discipline needed in each circumstance, so our kids stay healthy and safe as they grow into the young adults God wants them to be.


PRAYERHeavenly Father, I pray You will continually guide each of my children towards the path You have set out for them. When they stray, help me know how to discipline them in a way that brings repentance and not rebellion, in a way that molds but doesn’t tear down and in a way that plants in them a desire to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Busted

galveston-jail“For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” Luke 8:17 NAS


As a young mother, my days were spent teaching our four children the importance of choosing right instead of wrong – and how to know the difference between the two. At times it seemed I was fighting an uphill battle because even when they clearly knew better, the kids were deliberately disobedient. To make matters worse, when I confronted them, they lied. And if there’s one thing this mamma doesn’t tolerate, it’s a lie. I can’t tell you the number of times I doubled a punishment because dishonesty was added to the “crime”.

Despite their sneakiest efforts, I always managed to find out when my children did something wrong. I didn’t have eyes in the back of my head. I just had a secret weapon – prayer. I knew if they didn’t get caught, they’d grow comfortable making wrong choices and continue to walk down a path that would eventually lead to bigger risks and more serious consequences. So I prayed – regularly –  a simple prayer in line with the truth of God’s Word in Luke 8:17. I asked Him to expose all things where my children were concerned, and to cause all things hidden to come into the light. The result? Time and time again, when they least expected it, they found themselves BUSTED!

Because it was God and not ME who found them out, the kids learned even if nobody else saw what they did. . .God saw. And no matter how carefully they spun a lie. . .God knew. Eventually, each one of them decided right is better than wrong. Always. No matter who sees or doesn’t see.


Prayer: God, thank you for being faithful to your Word and for helping me teach my children they couldn’t get away with making bad choices. Continue to work in their lives so they will walk in integrity in every circumstance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Passing the Hat

Lima-Hat-Web

“Be careful…that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 NIV


There is something about a daddy’s hat and a little boy…need I say more? It it’s Drew’s, Liam wants it. At the ripe old age of one, Liam was already copying his dad. He would even swing his arm when he walked…just like daddy did (who by the way picked that trait up from his dad). Kids are in many ways, their recycled parents. Scary thought, isn’t it!

Over thirty-five years ago, God allowed me to see how influential my actions were. I remember it like it was yesterday. My personal wake-up call came when I walked in on Gwen and Shannon toasting one another with water-filled wine glasses. Grant and I weren’t big drinkers, but even an occasional glass of wine was already being emulated by our two toddlers. That “reality snap shot” changed my life forever. How could I expect them not to drink alcohol if they saw me do it? What if they couldn’t stop after one or two drinks? What if my actions influenced them to do something that would later destroy their lives or marriages? I never took another drink of alcohol.

Today’s blog is not about drinking…it’s about influence. As parents, we will ALL be copied. When we “pass the hat” to our kids, it comes with our habits (good and bad), our traits and our character. We must take a long, hard look at ourselves and make the necessary changes, so the person we are is the kind of person we want our kids to become.


PRAYER: God, it’s not just about me anymore. My influence is shaping my children and grandchildren. There are areas of my life that need to be cleaned up and gotten rid of. I submit myself to You. You be the potter and I’ll be the clay. Mold me into the person and parent I need to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Heroes In Disguise

Superman“Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19 NIV


My Mac laptop had to go to the Apple doctor awhile back for some warranty service. I loved the statement on the shirts of the IT experts working at the Genius Bar (that’s the fixit counter at the Apple store). It read, “not all heroes wear capes”. How true. Those technicians were saving the day for me and countless others, by getting our sick and broken electronic tools back into service. They were our heroes.

Flip through the television channels on Saturday morning and you’ll discover a plethora of animated superheroes, equipped with special powers they use to help mankind. My kids grew up watching and reenacting these kinds of shows. Drew used to pin a blanket on his shoulders and fly through the house, jumping from bed to bed or chair to chair. One day I found him literally swinging from the chandelier above our dining room table. How grateful I was that the builders had solidly anchored the light fixture to the ceiling!

Kids love pretend heroes, but they need real heroes in their life…not the ones who wear leotards and capes, but the ones who they look up to for the things they do. In all my years of parenting and ministering to children, I’ve come to believe heroes in disguise are the people who make time to listen when children talk. Shame on the author of that 15th century proverb, “children should be seen and not heard”!

Kids want to talk. Some of them talk quite a bit. (I think I wash one of those kids). It’s not that what they’re saying is earth shattering, but when someone takes the time to listen to them, they are made to feel valued as a person. In fact, their need is so great to be listened to, if we as parents don’t give them our ear, they will find someone who will. And that can be dangerous.

A great time to listen to your kids is at the dinner table. The key word is “listen”. Bite your tongue if you must. Don’t offer advice. Don’t lecture. Don’t preach. Let this be the safe time where they can share their hearts without fear of being put down or criticized. You’ll be amazed how sitting still and opening your ears can turn you into their hero in disguise!


Prayer: God, many times I’ve been so overloaded with my own thoughts and distracted but he phone or the TV that I’ve failed to listen when my children needed me to hear them. Help me to realign my focus and give them the attention they need and deserve. Thank You for always being there to listen to me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Life Can Get Messy

IMG_5625_JPG“Not we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.” 2 Corinthians 13:7a NIV


Home ownership is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment a young couple can experience. Grant and I were filled with pride when we closed on our first house in Lubbock, Texas and set about the task of updating it in contemporary earth tones that were so popular in the 70’s. We carpeted the living areas with a bright rust shag (ouch! those visual memories are downright repulsive) and had brown and gold plaid indoor-outdoor carpet glued to the floor in the kitchen and dining room. You’ll have to take my word on this…at the time, it was quite stylish.

The year was 1976. Gwen was just learning to walk and nothing at her eye level was safe…this I learned the hard way…

Grant was at work and while I folded clothes in front of the television, I totally forgot there was an “attack toddler” on the loose. Can’t you just hear the drum beat from “Theme From Jaws” playing in the background? Dum dum, dum, dum. All of a sudden, I snapped to my senses and sensed the proverbial “quiet”. No noise in the house outside of Monty Hall describing his latest challenge on “Let’s Make a Deal”. No pitter patter of little feet. No Gwen. If you get nothing else from my blog, remember this equation…”quiet” plus toddler equals disaster.

I began the search, starting in the bedrooms, working my way through our Jack-and-Jill bathroom, past the entry and into the kitchen. Where was she? Hmmm. The door to the pantry was slightly ajar. I placed my hand on the doorknob and opened it slowly. I will remember that next moment for the rest of my life. I can laugh now, but at the time…it wasn’t the least bit funny.

Gwen…AND my beautiful new (ugly) indoor-outdoor carpet were soaked – not just covered – with a full bottle of Aunt Jemima’s Maple Syrup! It was the most horrible mess you could imagine, with no simple clean-up possible. There were places we stuck to on that kitchen floor until we sold the house eighteen months later!

The truth is…there are times when life will get messy and there is no easy way to clean it up. You can spend time living in the mess, or you can figure out what got you there, and work on preventing it next time. For me – the syrup went on a high shelf from that day forward. In life…we must examine ourselves and break habits and patterns that keep making our life miserable or getting us into trouble.

Help your children learn to avoid repeated personal disasters. If they continually find themselves in unpleasant situations or constantly getting in trouble…they can change their messy circumstances by making different and better choices. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It’s always better to avoid the mess in the first place, instead of trying to clean it up later! Reading through the book of Proverbs and discussing it with your children is a great way to help them gain God’s insight on how to act and live.


Prayer: God, help me teach my children to follow Your path and live by Your direction so they can avoid painful messes in their life. When they don’t, I pray You’ll give them strength and wisdom for the clean-up process, and that they’ll learn not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.