i am the church // i am the family

Tag Archives: parenthood

I was just listening to a song by Lecrae called “Misconception.”  The more and more I look at our culture, I’m beginning to think that we have so many misconceptions about the point of parenting.  Two covers of one baby magazine that MK and I get in the mail have recently had “how to raise a genius” and “how to raise a cultured child.”  Then, of course, that “Time” magazine cover has opened up the floodgates of this idea of “attachment parenting”– orbiting your whole world around your kids’ “needs.”

We may have some misconceptions.  And, yeah, maybe we sympathize with the struggles of families on shows like “Parenthood” or laugh at what we have in common with the families on shows like “Modern Family,” how often do we really think about the point of all this?

Craig Groeschel really leaned into this issue at the Orange Conference, and I’m glad he did.  He spoke to the culture.  Let’s be honest, our culture says that parenting is all about “raising well-rounded, well-educated, happy kids.”  Maybe you can throw in some other things that you like, but those seem to be three biggies.  But, Jesus says, “What good is it if you gain the whole world yet forfeit your soul?”

Groeschel reminds us of Psalm 71:18:

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power TO THE NEXT GENERATION, your might TO ALL WHO ARE TO COME.”

This should be our prayer.  There is a different picture of successful parenting that is laid out in Scripture, and it looks something more like this:

“We are called to unleash single-minded, Christ-centered, Biblically-anchored, world-changers.”

Let’s break that down.  “Unleash” means that you let them interact with the world, make a difference in the world (you can’t do that from a “holy huddle”).  “Single-minded” implies that our kids would know how they are wired, what their gifts are.  “Christ-centered” rightly assumes that life is all about Jesus.  “Biblically-anchored” means that they would know God’s Word.  And the result of all of this would simply be that they are “world-changers.”  Or…”game changers” if you want to stick with the theme of the Orange Conference.

So…Groeschel explains some major ways in which we can do this, highlighting Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

1. As parents, we need to ENLIST SUPPORTING VOICES.

Moses is addressing “O Israel”– that’s like everybody.  Later on, this dynamic of widening the circle of influence is evident in the life of Timothy.  Yeah, he had his godly familial influences (Lois and Eunice, mom and grandma); but he also had Paul.  He would tell him the hard stuff like, “Don’t let anyone look down on you” and “don’t have a spirit of fear.”  Timothy had consistent harmonious voices in his life, encouraging him to step up and be a world-changer.

2. As parents, we need to RAISE THE EXPECTATIONS.

I guess we could aim for our kids to love God with some of their hearts and some of their mind and some of their strength.  That’d be the same as them getting some schooling or being kinda healthy, though!  Oh, how our standards have lowered in this area!  Did you know that back in the day, Jewish kids would memorize the first five books of the Bible before they were twelve years old?!?  [Now people in the church would gladly give a teenager $5 if they could just give the names of the books.]  This upcoming generation (“Time” magazine is calling our youngest adults now “kidults”) are growing up without much being expected of them.  [Apparently, getting trophies for just showing up wasn’t the BEST idea in the world.  You were supposed to feel bad if you didn’t get a blue ribbon on Field Day!]  So, the question really is, “How are you going to raise the expectations?”  Groeschel talked about how, amongst his six children, they each have to have a mentor and be a mentor for someone else.  He posed the semi-rhetorical question, “How many 11-year-olds can mentor or 16-year-olds can write a book?”  The answer: ones who are told they CAN.  But are we telling our kids these things: “You CAN lead a Bible study.”  “You CAN lead a friend to Christ.”  “You CAN lead a mission trip.”  Challenging stuff.

3. As parents we need to KEEP IT REAL.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9 has this undercurrent that talking about God should be NORMAL in your home.  Praying for others should be NORMAL.  Have we made this, as my pastor likes to say, “Abeenormal” (or as Groeschel would say, “Weird”)?  We’ve got to grow up a generation of young people who don’t think that God is just a “part” of their lives– He’s everything.  I love that Groeschel shared how he offers a fatherly blessing to his kids every morning before he leaves.  [Wow.  What a legacy that would be to Evie.  I can’t believe I had forgotten about that one!  Glad I’m reviewing my notes!]  Groeschel simply stated, “If it’s not real to you, they won’t do it.”  So is prayer real to you?  Is the Word real to you?  Is truth real to you?  Is integrity real to you?  Is grace real to you?  Even we ministry-types need to repent of ever putting “the work of God” ahead of His work in us.

In the words of Simon Cowell (but for totally different reasons): “The bar has officially been raised.”  Imagine the end.  What do you want your kid(s) to become?

She is the orange mom.

She’s like me in a lot of ways, yet we are delightfully different.  She’s more of an introvert.  She’s so creative that she makes me seem robotic by comparison.  She wears her heart on her sleeve.  I don’t think you ever have to ask her if something’s wrong.  You just know.  And God planned for us to be together from the beginning.

She’s got brown eyes and loves to get out of the house.  She cusses during college basketball games.  She cries during movies with talking animals.  Her eyes carry a million and one expressions.  She really likes to season just about anything with vinegar.  She has some sort of strange word association game that she plays where she thinks of a particular food when she hears a person’s name.

She’s a great photographer.  She captures what’s already there– not creating, but really just amplifying what God has placed in each of her subjects.  She loves to edit.  She loves to share the final product.  She’d do it for free (but please pay her because we have bills to pay).

She’s a great daughter and granddaughter.  She’s always Skyping and staying in touch, even though her parents live in India and grandparents live in North Carolina.  She buys cards and stuff.  Evie should learn from her in this regard…not me!

She loves Jesus.  She’s quiet in her worship.  She’ll stand there, not singing loudly (she thinks she’s tone deaf…not sure about that one), soaking it all in.  She asks questions when she doesn’t “get it.”  Her faith is a James kind of faith…faith with works: loving, serving, caring, taking the time.

She’s learned how to cook more than chicken a la king from a can.  She’s learned how to bargain shop and paint furniture.  She’s learned how to pay bills.  She’s learned how to be a mother of a newborn while also pursuing a degree in psychology.  She’s some kind of superwoman.

She loves me well.  I am complicated, conflicted all the time.  Trying to be some kind of bold ministry guy when really I just want everyone to work together and have fun.  She listens to me.  She protects me.  She’ll kill you if you say anything bad about me.  She’s fierce and kind.  I love her for it.

She is an excellent mother.  She trusts God enough to not freak out about everything.  She makes crazy eyes at Evie just so she can laugh.  She dresses her up in cute outfits.  She can feed her without getting baby food everywhere.  She lets other people hold her.

I’m so thankful for her.  And, yes, she’s orange.  She writes cards from Evie to the women who are investing in Evie’s life (her two small group leaders and her “babysitter”).  She knows that this widening of the circle begins young.  She is hard core when it comes to investing in others.  I’m sure there are a lot of young women out there who can say that God has used her in their lives (probably even some young men too).  She isn’t proud.  She demonstrates an authentic faith, doubts and all.  It’s fun to begin the process of creating a rhythm in our home.

It’s her birthday today.  Hey, if you have any encouragement for her, please write it below.  As for me, I’ve got to go work on more of my secret birthday plans…

For those of you who are not familiar with The Elephant Room, it is a discussion panel environment that was created by James MacDonald in order for people from different viewpoints of Christianity to get together, discuss their differences, but also come together in unity. I went yesterday, expecting a blood bath.

Here’s what goes on in my head when I saw the lineup.

“Ooh, I love that guy. He’s going to bring it.”

“Ooh, that guy annoys me so much. He’s going to get schooled.”

“Oh, ok, that guy’s solid. He’s going to set that dude straight.”

“Oh, man, that guys so flaky. Why would he even come to something that required thinking?”

“Oh, and I don’t even know who that guy is.”

I’m not proud of it. But that’s how I prejudge.

Somehow I already have a working who’s who of people I think are “solid,” and people who I think are suspect.

OK, I’m about to get a little more real. I especially didn’t want to like Steven Furtick or TD Jakes. For some reason, in my mind, I had reasons to disregard what they had to say. Looking back, the punishment (total disregard) didn’t match the crime (personality quirks or minor theological differences). But, man, it really took literally one or two sessions for my mind to change.

I realized that I don’t have to agree with everything these men of God believe, but I have to at least demonstrate Christian charity towards them (love them enough to expect the best of them). They are my brothers (in the case of Furtick) and my grandfathers (in the case of Jakes).

These guys are not the only Christian leaders who have been the object of jokes, sarcasm, or just outright accusations of “blasphemy” by me. I am a very, very judgmental person. I hide behind my crappy attitude by saying that it’s in the name of “sound doctrine.” God, heal my heart.

As a dad, and really as an orange leader, this has got to change. I’ve got to see the good and learn from the ministries of the whole body of Christ. I can’t just run with my own tribe.

Steven Furtick put it well yesterday (and I’ll paraphase). “Many of us mistake being ‘bold’ as tossing red meat to our own followers.” His implication was that most of us are afraid to have conversations with people who are different than us.

I want to teach my daughter better.

I want to lead the youth ministry team at New Harvest better.

I want to lead our youth better.

I want to teach them how to love and be fair.

We’re never going to have the opportunity to grill each Christian leader to our liking and check off whether they are “acceptable” or not. We’re just going to have to trust what God is doing in and through them. We’ve got to start with love, not with suspicion.

I don’t want my daughter to one day be in a conversation with a friend about she admires, and the friend mentions someone– and then Evie replies, “Ugh! I can’t stand that person.” Then the friend asks, “Well, why?” And then Evie says, “Well, because my daddy doesn’t like him.”

As for me, I am going to pray that God change my heart towards leaders who rub me the wrong way for whatever reason. Normally, it’s my reason that’s the sin– not the thing that rubs me the wrong way. I at least resolve to speak highly of the ministry of Steven Furtick and Bishop Jakes from here on out. I know I at least need to do that.

But here’s the question I have for all of us…

Without being intentional about it, are we raising our kids, teams, and flock to dislike certain Christian leaders (or politicians, or people)? Is that healthy? I know my kid will grow up hating the Cowboys and Phillies, but are there some things that we consider to be innocuous that are actually toxic that we’re passing down to the next generation?

Old Man Abraham had no kids at all, yet he was promised a “nation” worth of kids in his old age. I don’t think Abraham always had perspective of what the purpose of his family would be. A lot of times I wonder if us modern-day people really understand the purpose of family.

To some parents, parenthood is living vicariously through their kids. I’m thinking about “stage moms” (hence the “Toddlers in Tiaras” picture) and dads who push their kids to be the next great athlete (see Earl Woods or the Williams sisters’ dad).

To some parents, parenthood is a transitory thing, “I just want to raise them right. When they’re off in the real world, I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

To some parents, parenthood is pleasing their kids, “I just wanted you to be happy and to have everything that I didn’t have.” Maybe another way to put these things is to “focus on the family.”

But I think Abraham from the get-go understood that he wasn’t supposed to focus on his family. How could he? He didn’t have a child, and his wife was old. Beyond that, though, there was always a higher purpose for his family. He was supposed to focus his family. God preempted all of this family stuff with Abraham with a promise:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you…”

Most of us like to stop there. I mean, who doesn’t want to have bunch of kids and be blessed? Sounds like the American dream. But there’s more.

“I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

There was a purpose behind Abraham’s family. Yes, they would be blessed; but, more than that, they will “be a blessing” and “all the peoples on the earth” will be blessed through them.

Is it any different for our kids? How do we lose focus?

I was literally interrupted writing this post (hence the ellipses) by Evie, who was crying in her crib. She needed attention. Mom was tired. I grabbed her and started to talk to her. I put on some Raffi (yeah, Spotify) and started singing with her and ended up having some great pre-work, daddy/daughter time.

How do we lose focus?

Our kids demand attention.

Whether it’s because of needs or wants, our kids are going to usually let you know what they’re wanting at every moment. And, as a parent feeling responsible for them, we’re going to do everything we can to communicate love or figure out problems. I see it with the mom whose son is flipping out in the checkout line at Foods Co because he wants a candy bar. I see it in the high school mom who doesn’t know what to do because her daughter is caught up in relationship drama. Our kids demand our attention.

Our kids are so easy to focus on.

I was sitting there just holding Evie last night, and I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this is an awfully cute baby!” We have these moments. We love to watch them, see them grow, see them succeed, watch them shine, etc. Our kids are easy to focus on.

Even so, I think God is calling us to have a deeper perspective of parenting; and I think Abraham’s life is going to be helpful to us as we look at this more in subsequent posts.

We focus on the family.

God calls us to focus the family.

More on that later…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,227 other followers