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

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun, Parents

Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Santa Claus?

The story of Santa Claus goes back to the 3rd century. A patron saint, a monk named Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, modern day Turkey. He was known as the protector of children. The name we use today, Santa Claus, was derived from the Dutch nickname of Sinter Klaas.

 

In 1881 artist Thomas Nast, drew what we recognize as our modern-day Santa: a plump, cheery and white bearded man. It was Nast who provided Santa’s bright red suit and North Pole workshop with elves and a wife, Mrs. Claus. Prior to this image, he was often depicted as a gaunt or scary-looking man.

 

In the 1890’s the Salvation Army began to use this image by dressing their donation collectors in Santa Claus suits. But where this image received a huge boost was from none other than Coca Cola.

 

Santa has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920’s and the image used was close to Nast’s original art work. From 1931 to 1964 Coca-Cola ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading his scroll-styled lists and always enjoying a Coke.

 

While Santa Claus and his imagery are fun for children around the world, it was a very real Catholic monk who was said to spend all his money on rescuing young persons from slavery or prostitution. He gave away his inherited wealth to help the poor and the sick. It is that St. Nick that sounds the most like the Christ, the first six letters of the word Christmas.

 

May we all display the true meaning and character of this Christ by serving others, giving gifts of meaning and remembering the needy around the world. Nine hundred years before the Son of God came to earth and was born in a manger, the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, scribed these words:

 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us]. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14 and 9: 6)

 

(Note: Much of the history above is taken from History.com)

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

The Passing of My Father

My father has been in assisted living for seven years. For almost six of those years he was very unhappy to be there and voiced his complaints vehemently to me during almost every visit. More recently we were unable to see him from March to August due to COVID restrictions. We called, but it’s not the same and a 97-year-old blind man whose day-to-day life does not change struggles to have conversation on the phone. But finally, in August we were able to have an outdoor, “socially distanced” visit with him.

 

Not understanding COVID and not understanding the distance, he kept reaching his arms out for our usual hugs. We explained the situation only to have him do the same five minutes later. The nurse explained, but once again he wanted a hug, any kind of touch from us when the visit was over. It was heartwrenching and way too sad for my dad, knowing he wasn’t comprehending a world pandemic.

 

Several weeks later we were told by hospice staff for no known reason that he was going downhill very quickly. We went to see him. This time they allowed us in his room with masks. We touched him, talked to him, prayed with him and kissed him. He never awoke or responded. The next day we were back. We held his hand and stroked his arm, we read scripture and prayed and there was no response. My children called their grandpa and voiced their tear-filled goodbyes; then my mother and finally my sister also spoke to him. I placed the phone by his ear hoping that he could hear them.

 

Because he was a professional accordion player since he was a teenager, we found accordion music on my phone — polkas, his favorite. For his last hour of breath, he heard something familiar and something he loved, an accordion. In three brief hours he passed, forever gone from our lives on this earth. Under my breath I said, “See you later, Dad; it’s not goodbye.”

 

There is no perfect family and certainly no perfect father. I was not a perfect father and I do not have a perfect family. We hold our parents up to perfection, but at the same time give ourselves a free pass from maintaining any form of perfection ourselves. There is no perfect son or daughter.

 

I am thankful for the father God gave me, for it was He who saw fit to give me birth into this family and not another. And at his moment of death, I was also thankful for so many other things. Things like: he prayed with my wife to receive Christ ten years earlier; we were in good relationship; I walked in forgiveness; I told him I loved him; I was not angry at him for anything and I trust I will see him again because Someone else forgave him.

 

Enjoy a video of my father still playing his accordion in his mid 90’s. I remember him commenting about his mistakes and how embarassed he was by his “old age,” not so nimble fingers.  

 

It was Jesus who said we were to forgive as we have been forgiven. Those words are straight from His prescription pad. When taken seriously, they have medicinal purposes. It is medicine, not for the one who you feel needs forgiven, but rather for you. Forgiveness always brings personal freedom and can mend relationships.

 

Over many years of life I have come to believe that one of the greatest indicators of personal and emotional health is if you have dealt with your father wounds – for some, mother wounds. Regardless of history, he is still your father and the love of Jesus demands that you love him and serve him in any way you can. When we take that fifth commandment of the Old Testament (repeated once agan in the New Testament) seriously, we are given a promise: if you honor your father and mother, God will honor you with long life.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

A Lack of Protection and Security in Your Home

During my grade school years, we had the occasional, but normal fire drills and we also participated in bomb drill exercises. We were instructed by our teacher to place our heads and upper torso under our desks, just in case the day would come that there would be a real bomb. Those were some pretty powerful desks! Our school even had its own bomb shelter located in the basement of the building. It seems the thought was during the cold war, at any given time, we could be bombed. Pretty scary stuff for a grade schooler.

 

If you or I grow up in an unsafe environment, an environment of insecurity, abuse, neglect or simply without parental protection we too can deal with similar emotions of fear. We all need a safe environment and we all need protection. We need the protection of laws to maintain society. We need the protection of natural parents and spiritual parents.  We need the protection of our spouse. Each of us require multiple areas of needed protection.

 

However, occasionally that protection is missing, neglected or lacking in existence. Sometimes a husband is standing idly by and not protecting his wife and family. Sometimes a wife has her priorities elsewhere. When we as a spouse fail to follow God’s word, responding in a godly manner with righteous, loving, protective authority, our spouse and our children will not know security. Long term insecurity can lead to anxiety, a loss of identity and fear. And when fear is present, love is absent.

 

A spirit of fear is not from God. The Father’s heart is to love and protect you and it is His desire to use husbands and fathers, wives and mothers in that protection as well. In what ways are you providing loving protection to your spouse and children today, which in turn brings security, safety and the lack of fear?

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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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