Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men, Parents

Raising Your Children Without Faith

Ten years of my working career were spent as a social worker in the foster care field. Then, another fifteen years were given to marriage, family and individual counseling. After 25 years I felt as though I had heard and seen it all or perhaps too much. 

In foster care I saw the direct result of youth who had little to no faith training from their biological homes. Perhaps this was not on purpose or to drill secularism into their heads, but more so the lack of faith among parents. This lack of faith came with direct consequences to the child. 

In counseling I saw missing fathers or abandoning mothers, divorcing parents, single or single again parents and lost children. These children, with no faith to rely on, often enter into a world of self-blame, depression, emotional upheaval and/or self-destructive behaviors. 

When you choose to raise your children without faith you are making a choice to have your children ultimately trust themselves and the adults in their lives who have proven to be trustworthy. At one time or another, we are let down by those adults and we have to return to the single thought of self-trust. This creates a seedbed for selfishness, self-reliance and the possibility of continually letting oneself down when discovering that all of a child’s self-effort is simply not enough.

Without faith also means without a faith community – a local church. That community reinforces your values, provides relationships and amazing activities for children. It gives them a sense of belonging to a larger family that worships together and does life together.

Without faith also means without the word of God, the Bible. These words handed to us from God provide the ultimate spiritual training, reinforcement of sound values, love and a source of daily encouragement. The stories of Jonah and the big fish, the parables of Jesus, the wisdom found in Proverbs and the prophecy about the future are all more current than tomorrows newspaper.

When God and God’s Son are not a part of the picture, we are left with our best thoughts. But when training our children to love and trust God first in their lives, we are preparing them for eternity, we are bringing them hope for today and their future and we are encouraging them to look beyond their personal limits to a limitless God. When children are taught to love God first they will have a greater capacity to love others and to properly love themselves in a healthy way. (See Matthew 22:37-39.)

When a child is taught to act on faith rather than their best thoughts or intentions, they are acknowledging personal limits, a need to trust Someone bigger than themselves, that life with faith in God is a life with meaning beyond what parents and things/possessions can provide. For a child to learn to acknowledge faith, they are acknowledging a need beyond personal limits with a healthy expression of “…seeking first the kingdom of God.” (See Matthew 6:33.)

When a child learns to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” they are learning that ultimately their physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs are met by a loving heavenly Father first and foremost. They are learning the security of God’s loving boundaries. They are discovering faith in their Creator who has their best interest in mind. They are receiving an affirmation of their existence, a security, an identity and safety in the Protector who watches over them 24/7. 

Dads, you are a primary source of faith training to your children. How you live your life and how you share your faith will directly reflect upon how your son or daughter views their heavenly Father. When your children see you serving God, serving their family, serving them and serving others they will identify with a loving heavenly Father. The love and security, affirmation and acceptance from you directly translates into your child’s ability to discover those things from Abba God. And what a joy to hear your children’s prayers, to see their loving acts, to find security in a God they can trust and to watch them follow the God you yourself follow. 

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Happy Father’s Day to you!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

Trying to Reason with a Mocker

For reasons beyond my capability to understand, some persons have become extremely cynical, arrogant and engaging in mockery. Let me try to explain.

It seems that once a side is taken, a mind is made up and this is the way they have self-determined it to be, teachableness severely decreases, if it is existent at all. Being able to approach this person with a different thought or view becomes almost impossible. These persons immediately enter into a defensive mode, with raised voices, anger present and a listening ear completely turned off. 

What makes anyone think they know it all, are completely knowledgeable and/or need no outside input into their lives? Is it the media, the internet, the mocking podcasts, their peers or their inability to admit they could be wrong? I’m really not sure.

But, I did come across one very poignant and powerful answer. I found it in the book of Proverbs, chapter 9. Consider these words:

If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face;
    confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins.
So don’t waste your time on a scoffer;
    all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.
But if you correct those who care about life,
    that’s different—they’ll love you for it!
Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it;
    tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.
Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God,
    insight into life from knowing a Holy God.
It’s through me, Lady Wisdom, that your life deepens,
    and the years of your life ripen.
Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life;
    mock life and life will mock you. 
(The Message Proverbs 9:7-12)

Wow, “…mock life and life will mock you.” It’s ok to have your opinion, but it’s not ok to close yourself off from learning something new from a trusted relationship. They may be just as sincere as you think you are, but we need to offer more grace to one another in the process.

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Challenge, Encouragement

Pigeons Carried Messages that Saved Thousands

Were you aware that the undergarment company, Maidenform, designed and created 28,500 pigeon brassieres? They were vests really. The vests attached to the pigeon leaving their head, wings, tail and feet exposed.

 

Using carrier pigeons throughout WWII was a safe, secure and reliable method of communication. The Army Signal Corps sent out 30,000 messages via these homing birds. They traveled at 50 miles per hour and an average of 25 miles per mission. Pigeons were actually capable of 600 miles of travel if needed.

 

Housed in their vests were messages, maps, photos, reports and even tiny cameras. While the U.S. military utilized 55,000 pigeons, the British used 200,000 feathered messengers. Some even received medals of honor.

 

Today technology has replaced the pigeon. But this story caught my eye because man has this unique way of discovering the reasons that God created certain animals, plants, bacteria and matter. With bombs dropping and bullets flying these birds, not recognized by the enemy as a threat, flew behind enemy lines to deliver life-saving messages to troops on the ground. Their heroic efforts saved thousands of lives.

 

Christians carry a message too, and it’s life-saving. The Bible calls it the gospel, i.e., good news. It’s not political, it’s not controversial, it’s not negative and it’s not embarrassing; but it is urgent. The good news of the love of Jesus to all of mankind is life-changing and it is our responsibility to carry this message to the world.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day

My “Victim Awareness Letter of Apology”

A number of years ago we were robbed. What a mess with such senseless damage to deal with. There were police reports, insurance company calls and descriptions, pictures taken and more police calls after the individual was caught.

 

Long after the damage was repaired and we were able to identify what was stolen, we received the following letter from the minor who created this nightmare. It read:

 

Dear Mr. Prokopchak, I’m sorry for what I did to you and I know it was the wrong thing to do. And if there is anything that I can do for you tell me or write back. And will not ever do some thing like this again. So plz take my apology and I’m really sorry.

 

We were pleased the probation department of his county required this letter of apology and for him to pay his fines. It was a costly mistake.

 

I did write him back. I told him how violated we felt. I told him that it was not good for him or for us and I told him that taking responsibility for his mistake was the right thing to do. More importantly, I told him that we forgave him and we would not hold it against him. Finally, I told him that I believed it had matured him and that he would become an amazing young man with a wonderful future who would experience personal growth through all of this.

 

Then I shared what he could do for me. I wrote, “You could receive God’s forgiveness for what you have done and then forgive yourself and start over. All things could become new in a personal relationship with Jesus.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Men

Our Remarkable Mothers

My amazing mother was a hardworking hair stylist and worked most Saturdays.* One Saturday, my Russian speaking Ukrainian grandfather was in charge of my care until she returned home from the beauty shop. He loved mushrooms and mistakenly decided to pick some orange ones that were growing beside an old tree stump in our front yard.

You might be able to surmise these were no ordinary mushrooms, nor were they suited for human consumption. They were toadstools, a toxic and highly poisonous mushroom. My grandfather cooked them. They turned green and we ate them. My young body became ill, violently ill. When my mother returned home and identified what “Pop” had cooked for lunch, she gave me warm milk to expel the poisonous contents from my tender stomach. Then she rushed us both off to the doctor.

The doctor told my mother that she saved our lives by creating a way to rid the two of us of the toxins. My trust in my mother increased hugely that day and my dependency on her increased as well. I felt secure with her presence or just knowing she was in the background somewhere. From this and multiple other incidents in my life, she became a safe place to me.

How about you? Was your mother a safe place for you? It’s time to honor her this week for Mother’s Day. “Her children arise and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28)

(*Note: The above story was taken from my bookIdentity: The Distinctiveness of You.)

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Parents

A Crochety Old Store Owner

Down the street from where my mother worked as a beautician was a candy store with every child’s dream of sweet delights. So many kinds of candy imaginable and most of it was one cent per piece. However, on this particular day, I was after an ice cream cone. The problem was, there were too many flavors to choose from. The elderly store owner was growing impatient with me, but I just struggled to decide. Finally, she barked, “WELL, WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” I looked at her, the flavors, the ice cream, fiddled with the change in my hand and then shrugged my shoulders.

 

The next thing I knew she told me to, “GET THE H*** OUT” until I could decide. I was so scared, I ran for the door, ran down the street and ran into my mom’s beauty shop. Through my tears, I told my mother what happened. She marched me right back to that store, letting the crochety old lady know the little boy hiding behind her was her son. Man, did that store owner ever change her tune in a hurry. With ice cream in hand, my mother taught me a few lessons that day.

 

The first lesson was to not be afraid of confronting my fears. My mother was not afraid or intimidated by that store owner. She pursued what her son was too fearful to complete. Believing my story, she refused to allow her son to be treated in such a harsh, unpleasant way. Parents protect. She taught me that I could stand up for myself and it wasn’t wrong to do so. There was no love in that store owner’s expression to me, only fear-filled words. My mother, on the other hand, spoke only words of love.

 

Joshua 23:10 expresses that God would be with Joshua and fight for him. I believe He fights for you and me. Like a loving parent, He sees how His children are treated and responds in love to each of us. You are protected by Him and with His voice of love, encouraged to face your fears.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Women

If You Have Chosen to Be Sexual…

I had this thought the other day when considering sexual boundaries in our lives. It’s one that I suppose some persons will agree with and perhaps others will strongly disagree with. It’s an observation I have made over the years as I watch how people respond so differently to God’s sexual boundaries lovingly written to us within His word.

Here’s the thought provoking question: If one chooses to be sexual prior to marriage, why not be sexual outside of your marriage?

It’s the same act isn’t it? It’s breaking the same moral guideline, right? It bears similar consequences, doesn’t it?

When we sow sexual seeds before marriage, what makes us think we’ll reason differently or be tempted differently while married?

If you are a young person who desires to obey your heavenly Father, then choose to sow into your future marriage relationship by following God’s moral code today. Do not think that you’ll get away with acting out sexually and then have no consequences after you say “I do,” having spoken vows of commitment for the remainder of your married life.

If you have crossed God’s boundaries, then I urge you to ask for forgiveness and experience deep repentance over disobeying your heavenly Father. Your future is very connected to the seeds you sowed in the past. Break off any soul connections from prior relationships. Declare Galatians 3:13 over your life and disconnect yourself from curses spoken or sowed. Commit once again to purity before marriage and within marriage.

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Challenge, Encouragement

Everything That Can Be Invented Has Been Invented

In 1889, Charles Holland Duell was the Commissioner of the U.S. patent office. He is infamously quoted as having said that the U.S. patent office would soon shrink in size and eventually close because, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

 

Seems humorous and extremely shortsighted to us today doesn’t it? In fact, we might say there is still so much more to be invented and discovered. Did you know most new inventions are simply improvements over prior inventions? Just think about the transitions the lightbulb has gone through. We might say the more we know or discover, the more there is to know and discover.

 

It feels like decades ago now, but I met the man who invented something he called the “Stick.” He picked me up at an airport in Kentucky to take me to where I was speaking. Being inquisitive about him, I asked what he does for work. Driving an older car that was several different colors and had a trunk full of tools in it in which my suitcase did not fit, he told me he “…owned a lot of apartments that [he] had to maintain.”

 

The Stick was the tech piece that allowed the internet and your land line telephone to be used together. Prior to his invention, we used either the phone or the internet, but not both. He told me he sold his invention, not mentioning the value or bragging about his accomplishment.

 

Later, his pastor told me he became very, very wealthy through his sale, but it did not change who he was. He still loved working with his hands and getting dirty. He even rebuilt the transmission of his old car on his dining room table. He told me his wife was not very happy with him and he was looking forward to our marriage seminar that weekend! He volunteered to be my driver to and from the airport. Truly a man of humility.

 

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

 

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. (Proverbs 22:4)

 

Don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

 

By the way, Charles Duell left the patent office to become a District of Columbia judge appointed by President Roosevelt in 1904. Perhaps a better fit for him?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Women

Is It Right to Withhold Sex in Marriage?

Throughout my years of marriage counseling, I often heard the confession that one spouse was unwilling to engage in sexual relations or, for reasons unknown, was withholding sex. With some couples it had been months and for others years had passed since they were intimate. Unfortunately, distraction or dissatisfaction in the sexual realm within marriage is not uncommon.

 

Most couples have seasons of infrequency or loss of the joy of sex or boredom, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way or that a new precedent is being set. For many married folks it is the most difficult subject to bring to the table. It seems that no matter how you approach the subject, one person can be easily offended or hurt.

 

When sex is withheld, most couples can connect it to a temporary issue like a recent fight or a strong disagreement on frequency or stress and sometimes illness. But there is a difference between decreased desire and intentionally using sex as a form of punishment or control.

 

I discovered a long time ago that abuse is always connected to power and control. Anger out of control is a form of control. Financial withholding for basic needs is a form of control and a spouse who feels unsafe, unloved or unappreciated can use sex as a form of control. Sex as a weapon in any form is unacceptable.

 

Most persons do not misuse their sexual side in a relationship but there are those who do.

 

When a woman withholds sex from her husband, it is usually a sign of something deeper going on and not about sexuality. Many women have figured out that their need for sexual release is different than their husband’s and they can use this as a form of control. Perhaps it’s not intentional, but it does happen. The problem, however, is that most women will not receive the results they are desiring. The desire to punish him for his rudeness, for forgetting your anniversary or for exhaustion will not provide for you the positive outcome that you tell yourself it will.

 

When men withhold sex, they are often denying themselves because of a fear of performance. Frequently they are carrying too much stress or are focusing their attentions elsewhere, like on a career. If a man fears rejection from his spouse, he will protect his emotions and his esteem by not asking. Also, men involved in pornography can lose interest in marital sex because their partner is not measuring up to the pictures or videos they’re viewing.

 

Here’s the thing though: if couples do not seek help outside themselves, how will they know what is normal or what is abnormal? We do not customarily enter into these conversations with others very readily so we are not aware of what are common problem issues in the bedroom. As well, we tend to assume the worst about ourselves or our marriage without clear communication.

 

Some places to start to initiate change:

  • Begin by praying about your sexual lives together.
  • Share your heart, listen and work to understand rather than to just air your grievances.
  • Listen for deeper issues that begin outside the bedroom, e.g., pain, stress, memories that surface, anxieties, depression, illness. There are reasons for no or little sexual desire.
  • Give permission to your spouse to say some difficult things without the fear of retribution or taking offense.
  • If there is a record of anger, wrongly spoken words and threats about where your sex lives have gone, then back up, repent and ask one another’s forgiveness.
  • Ask God for a means of re-set, i.e., how do we start over following prayer and communication?
  • Support one another in any way possible. You’re in this together and you’re best friends.
  • Affirm one another and reinitiate affection. Affection, like kissing, enhances sexual desire.
  • Find ways to reduce stress and time commitments outside the bedroom.
  • Maintain sexual purity and do not turn to pornography or lust.

 

Continual rejection hurts our spouse and our marriage. Sex is not a power to be wielded in order to achieve a certain outcome; it is a gift from God. Sex is something we give; it is not something we take. To be sexual within marriage means to be vulnerable. Tolerating the ongoing withholding of sex does not benefit anyone. (See I Corinthians 7:3-5.)

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