Children, Encouragement, In the news, Parents

He Never Stops Searching for the Kidnapped

It’s an older story now and a Lifetime movie. In 1997, Luzaida Cuevas’ 10-day-old daughter, Delimar Vera, reportedly died in a Philadelphia, Pa row home fire. The mother searched for her baby in her crib and noticed an open window, but could not find her. The fire personnel told ‘Luz’ the fire was so hot it consumed her little body without a trace, but Luz never believed that story and tried to hire a lawyer. She could not afford those expenses, but never stopped believing that her daughter was alive. And then, one amazing day…

 

Six years later on January 24th, Luz was attending a children’s birthday party and she spotted a little six-year-old girl with a pronounced dimple she recognized immediately. She called the girl to her telling her she had gum in her hair. Having seen crime shows on TV, she was able to secure a few strands of the child’s hair for DNA testing.

 

The DNA test confirmed Luzaida’s suspicion, it was her daughter who was kidnapped by a frequent visitor to her home. The kidnapper set her home a blaze as a distraction. A local state politician helped Luz secure the DNA test and connected her with the police. The kidnapper was arrested and eventually Delimar was returned to her biological mother.

 

Reading this story about the never-ending love of a mother, a mother who did not give up believing her daughter was alive reminds me of something. After six years, that same mother just knew her eyes and her soul were connecting with the daughter she had last seen at the age of ten days. It reminds me of God’s love and God’s heart for me, for you and for all of mankind. I could just sense how our Father searches and waits to restore those who are lost, those who have been kidnapped by the world around them.

 

They are your relatives and your neighbors. Even though we may struggle in our relationships with these persons at times, God does not. He is relentlessly pursuing them with His love, His acceptance, His healing and His salvation.

 

 

“God, give us eyes to see them as You see them, to love them as You love them and to pray for them. Help us to not be angry with them, but rather with their ‘kidnapper.’”

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

Fatherlessness

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation approximately 35 percent of U.S. children under age 18 live in a single-parent home as of 2016. These children have a greater risk of drug and alcohol use, incarceration, poverty, dropping out of high school, suicide, running away or homelessness. Here are the statistics to lend support to those greater risks.

*85% of youth who are currently in prison grew up in a fatherless home. (Texas Department of Corrections)

7 out of every 10 youth that are housed in state-operated correctional facilities, including detention and residential treatment, come from a fatherless home. (U.S. Department of Justice)

39% of students in the United States, from the first grade to their senior year of high school, do not have a father at home. Children without a father are 4 times more likely to be living in poverty than children with a father. (National Public Radio)

Children from fatherless homes are two times as likely to drop out from school before graduating than children who have a father in their lives. (National Public Radio)

24.7 million children in the United States live in a home where their biological father is not present. That equates to 1 in every 3 children in the United States not having access to their father. (National Public Radio)

Girls who live in a fatherless home have a 100% higher risk of suffering from obesity than girls who have their father present. Teen girls from fatherless homes are also 4 times more likely to become mothers before the age of 20. (National Public Radio)

57% of the fatherless homes in the United States involved African-American/Black households. Hispanic households have a 31% fatherless rate and Caucasian/White households have a 20% fatherless rate. (National Public Radio)

Children who live in a single-parent home are 2 times more likely to commit suicide than children in a two-parent home. (The Lancet)

72% of Americans believe that a fatherless home is the most significant social problem and family problem that is facing their country. (National Center for Fathering)

75% of rapists are motivated by displaced anger that is associated with feelings of abandonment that involves their father. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Living in a fatherless home is a contributing factor to substance abuse, with children from such homes accounting for 75% of adolescent patients being treated in substance abuse centers. (U.S. Department of Justice)

90% of the youth in the United States who decide to run away from home, or become homeless for any reason, originally come from a fatherless home. (U.S. Department of Justice)

63% of youth suicides involve a child who was living in a fatherless home when they made their final decision. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The median income for a household with a single mother is $35,400. The median income for a home with a married couple raising their children is $85,300 in the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau) (*Note: The above stats are from the Life is Beautiful website.)

Fathers Play a Very Important Role

 Men and women, fathers and mothers are different. They are both vital in the raising of a child, but they parent differently while both add to a child’s development in so many unique ways. The above statistics lend value to the role that fathers play in particular. Too many today are attempting to tell us or show us in film and TV that men do not play important roles in our societies.

 

Perhaps a reason for this is that some men have left their post and sought a self-centered lifestyle. This absence has created a psychological need to “fill in the blank” so to speak by saying, “Are they really necessary anyway?” It obviously takes a male to create a family, but it takes a man to care for and love a family all the days of his and their life.

 

Fathers who are present and committed to their families bring security, provision, discipline, help build identity, can teach respect for oneself and others, especially toward women. Male or female, God says we are equal, but neither are unimportant or unnecessary. I love how our heavenly Father designed things this way. From Adam and Eve to your family today, God has given each of us a responsibility to fulfill. His word reminds us of this when it says, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:6)

 

May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants.

May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace. (Psalms 144: 12-13 NLT)

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

Helping You Stay Sane as a Couple During the C-19 Crisis: Honor

Can you remember before you were married how you could spend hours upon hours together and still desire more connection?  Prior to marriage, we practiced honoring one another with lots of grace, patience and time.  It was easy; we were in love and we were doing our best to make a really good impression.  Where does that go?

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Parents, Prayer

7 Healthy Responses to the Coronavirus

I love Psalm 91; it is so full of good news.  With all of the change the whole world is facing today, God’s word and His promises do not change and it is good to remind ourselves of this fact.  If you haven’t read this Psalm recently, please do and consider reading it daily as recommended in point number one below.  Its truth is so encouraging in this hour.

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Challenge, Children, Parents

10 Ways to Train Your Children in Finance

There is no better time than now, today, to start teaching your children about money, saving, spending, credit, debt and giving.  As we approach Christmas, a time of giving and receiving, you’ll have a perfect opportunity.

Take the financial lessons you have learned and use them as a teaching tool to those little ones in your life, either as a parent, a grandparent or a caretaker. Their future spouses, teachers and employers will love you for it. Author and financial teacher Larry Burkett once said that we are not responsible for our children’s decisions, but we are responsible for their training.

  • It all begins and hinges on helping them to understand that God owns it all. We are to be the best stewards of everything He shares with us and because God is so generous, teach generosity. There is no greater blessing than to give.
  • Teach the difference between self-discipline, delayed gratification, and immediate self-gratification.
  • Give your children regular and meaningful responsibilities – jobs without pay, e.g., picking up their toys. Do not give an unearned, free ride allowance, but rather, give your children regular jobs with generous pay, e.g., mowing the lawn or folding the laundry.
  • Teach your children to tithe from every dollar earned or given to them. It is all God’s, but discipline in regular giving grows a habit.
  • Teach your children to save a percentage of their income for the future (30-50%), all the while designating a percentage of what can be spent immediately.
  • Teach the difference between an asset and a liability – a consumable. Help them to understand the concept of investing and how that will help them beyond today into the future.
  • Develop a budget with your child as soon as they can comprehend the idea. It will serve them the remainder of their life. Start a savings account (start with a piggy bank) and when age appropriate, obtain a money market account and an ATM card. Teach them how to responsibly use and balance them.
  • Train them in the proper use of credit and how the borrower is servant to the lender. Borrowing for an asset vs. a liability.  Share with them the difference between paying interest and growing interest on their money/investment.
  • Share with your children your financial mistakes and how they can learn and benefit from them.
  • As is appropriate, walk them through all other financial concepts like loans, taxes, utilities, owning a home, maintenance, buying a car, auto repairs, insurance, etc. Take the time to teach your children what God takes the time to teach you about money and His resources. They’re never too young to learn.

And here’s a bonus for you as a parent.  Stop saying the words, “I can’t afford it.” Most times we can, we’re normally adjusting our priorities. So rather than this short answer, try explaining why making a certain purchase is not within your budget at this time.

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

Taking Back Dinner Time With Your Family

It’s time to reclaim dinner around our tables.  This practice is becoming lost in the midst of family busyness, jobs, school schedules, friends and activates.  We desperately need to recover this tradition within our families and here’s why.

 

When we’re sitting around the table eating, it’s a time to connect as a family.  It’s a time to talk about our day.  It’s a time to encourage, speak life-filled words, laugh and listen.  Dads and moms  can help provoke this time of communication and connectedness.  Here’s how.

 

There is nothing worse than everyone sitting around complaining about the meal, their day, not talking or simply engaged in words like, “Pass the salt” or “Can you please close your mouth when you chew?”  This opportunity for connection can begin with Dad sharing about his work day, Mom sharing about an important meeting she was engaged in and then the children following up with something that occurred in school, a paper due or a prayer need.  If no one is talking, you can begin a wonderful conversation just by asking, “So, what’s the craziest thing that happened today?” or “Finish this sentence: Today was a challenge because…”

 

The food takes a backseat to the conversation.  Before closing your mealtime, the conversation can turn to praying together as a family or asking if someone needs help with a certain task assigned after dinner.  Mealtime is a time for togetherness and relationship building.  Always include your children’s friends in the conversation and you just might start a new tradition in their home as well.

 

Do not lose the value of such an important daily connection and opportunity.  Proverbs reminds us, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Parents

If You Had One Last Call: 9/11

September 11th, 2001, a day we will all remember here in America and around the world. I was sitting on a plane at the Baltimore/Washington airport waiting to fly to New England through New York air space when we were all asked to disembark the plane and to go home.  That day, 2,996 people would lose their lives.

 

I remember reading about the final calls being made to spouses and loved ones.  Over 1,000 phone calls were made within ten minutes of the first plane hitting the first tower and thousands more made thereafter.  These would be calls in which the two parties would never speak again on this side of heaven.  While we can’t predict our death, some of the persons in those two towers and planes had an opportunity to share some last words.

 

These were the final words from a stewardess, “Hi baby.  I’m, baby…you have to listen to me carefully.  I’m on a plane that’s been hijacked…I want to tell you that I love you…please tell the children…I’m sorry.”  Another, “The only thoughts I have are of Nicholas, Ian and you. I am terrified.  I needed to tell you that I truly love you.”  And then there was this one, “It’s not looking good.  I want you to know I absolutely love you. I want you to do good, have good times…I just totally love you…goodbye, babe.”

 

As I look at the anniversary of a very sad day, I can’t help but think about final words.  What would I say in a last phone call?  What would I tell my wife?  Perhaps that question is a good exercise for today while we’re alive and well.

 

If you had one last call, fearing a close end, what would you say to your spouse or your loved one?  Please say it now, don’t wait.

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Children, Marriage, Parents

Stop Punishing Your Children; Rather, Correct Them

Honestly, the most difficult times were when I had to enforce a boundary for my children as their father. Providing the appropriate discipline in the appropriate manner was often a challenge. Is there a difference between punishment and correction?

 

Punishment has to do with me preserving my right to be angry with my child and keeping my posture as the one in charge. It says that my child must pay for what he or she did wrong. Punishment is often done out of anger lacking any training toward change, put simply, a more powerful parent enforcing his or her will upon the weaker child. Punishment is more about inflicting shame and pain for wrongdoing.

 

Correction, on the other hand, is not just about reward and punishment; it is more about challenging actions and shaping a will in a life-giving method. It is training out of a spirit of love. It is more about guiding and forming the spirit of the child rather than reinforcing the will of the parent. It is less about anger and more about what’s best for the child.

 

Correction takes time to administer because it includes instruction toward a different and healthier future. Punishment on the other hand is normally abrupt, more about reaction and often with little thought. Proverbs 29: 15 says that the rod of correction imparts life – correction imparts life!  Job 5:17 tells us, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”

 

As parents, share the responsibility of correction and do not make one parent the mean one and one parent the nice one.  Switch it up so your children can identify your father and mother heart.

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Challenge, Children, Parents

Help! I’ve Lost My Son!!

“Ian, Ian, I’ve lost my son…his name is Ian!  Ian, Ian, where are you? Help me,”screamed the frantic mom pushing the empty stroller down the aisle of terminal A.  I had just arrived at my gate, returning home from being out of the country. This mom was hysterical and desperate.  She had one single focus…finding her lost son.  Everyone began standing, looking all around and wondering what they could do for this fear-filled young mother.  Those persons who are parents immediately felt her pain because most could empathize with exactly what she felt having more than likely a similar situation happen at one time or another.

 

Soon an announcement came across the P.A. system saying, “A little boy was found at gate 2C.  If you’re his parent, please return to gate 2C.” Everyone, and I do mean everyone, was relieved as she turned to head back to the gate.  We all felt her relief and our hearts returned to our chests.

 

I sat down and almost immediately received a very special picture in my spirit.  I saw our heavenly Father running frantically down the aisle, through the hall, in our schools, at our work places, down our street and in our homes calling our names, knowing we were lost.  Most of us didn’t realize our lost condition, but He did and He pursued us with everything He had.  In fact, He gave His Son, Jesus, to pursue us, to seek and search for each one of us. His love as a parent was and is reaching out to us, beckoning us to come follow Him and never be lost again.  Have you answered His call?

 

I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again.(Ezekiel 34:16 NLT)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage and Grow Older Together

Over 44 years ago, Mary and I promised to never, ever use the “D” word when it came to our relationship – divorce.  We have kept that promise.  Along the way we have discovered there are a lot of things we can do as a couple to provide strength to the marriage relationship.

After eliminating the divorce word, decide to maintain honor in your relationship.  Honor is a hard word because none of us act honorably every day, at every moment.  Honor means to hold in high respect and worth and high public esteem.  To honor the marriage relationship is to place it before the children, your job and your ministry, but not before your God.  Love God first and then your closest neighbor, your spouse.

 

Keep giving each other space.  That means when she needs some alone time, do your best to help her make it happen.  If he needs a guy’s night out, help him plan it.  That “space” can help to recharge your batteries and who doesn’t want their life mate to return refreshed?

 

Share your financial expectations and maintain your budget.  Money can cause the biggest disagreements.  At least it did in our marriage.  All too often couples have differing money values, but a money date where we openly discuss our goals and look over our finances can really help the two of us to be on the same page.  Money dates could happen as often as weekly, but need to happen at least monthly.

 

Speaking of communication…never stop.  In fact, over communicate as often as you can.  You just can’t beat talking!  Taking a daily time, at least 20-30 minutes of time that is not interrupted by the children, the phone or the TV, is invaluable to your relationship.  It will keep you on the same page.  Whether it’s the kids schedules or your weekend plans communicate, communicate, communicate.

 

Be good to yourself and to one another.  Take care of yourself and your health.  Try to look good for one another.  I know, you have baby food on your sweatshirt and dog hair on your pants, but for heaven’s sake take the time to clean up a bit, have dinner together once in a while and share words of appreciation and encouragement. It will go miles in your relationship. This also means prioritizing dating your spouse.  Dress up, get a babysitter and spend time together laughing and having fun.  The investment is worth any cost because the return is incalculable.

 

Give each other room for failure.  Failing is a part of life and through it we often learn what doesn’t work.  I fail, you fail, we all fail.  Stop being so hard on the other person, acting as though you don’t fail.  When we give room for failure, we are showing good will and giving one another the benefit of the doubt.  Walk and talk through it and then forgive. Forgive quickly. Forgiveness is medicinal and we are both desperately in need of it.  Forgive as you have been forgiven.

 

Refuse to allow sexual intimacy to be stolen from you.  It’s yours and yours only. While frequency may decrease and children make it challenging, do not lose it.  Create a schedule if you have to and maintain it.  Nothing removes the “little foxes,” those growing annoyances, like love-making and nothing keeps passion alive like sexual intimacy.  Make a promise to yourself, to one another and to the God who gave this gift to you to never let it go.  You are one and sexual intimacy reinforces your oneness.

 

The glue that holds all this together?  Prayer.  Learn to pray together.  There is no better way to communicate, resolve issues, gain wisdom or “cast your care” than to pray together.  You will find the intimacy you have only dreamed of if you’ll pray together.  You will discover answers to lifelong problems, to long-term financial disagreements, to present frustrations and to future visions and goals.  Prayer is intimacy of the highest degree in marriage as together we reveal our hearts’ desires to God and to one another.

 

Lastly, seek the wisdom of others as needed.  None of us can go it alone.  We need mentors: older, wiser married couples in our lives.  We need a local church that provides teaching for our family and causes us to look beyond ourselves and to the mission of helping others.  We need those who will challenge us to be better parents, lovers, friends, employees, business owners and servants.

Read through this blog together, discuss it and then ask your life mate how the two of you are doing in the above areas.

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