Teaching Our Children About Contentment

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Tax Day is coming up pretty quick, and you better start getting your papers in order. You probably are not fond of the idea of giving back to the government; I love this quote from an unknown author “People who complain about taxes can be divided into classes: men and women.”

Paying taxes isn’t a government thing, it is a personal issue. Money is a private matter to us and sometimes it can be hard to talk with our children about because of the personal side of it.

This month, I am talking about learning how to handle money and for many of us it brings up many emotional reactions. Some of us grew up without much, and some of us grew up never even thinking about it…until we had to. But no matter if you have a little or a lot, it is important for your teenager to know how to earn, spend, save, and handle their money in the right way.

We must first teach them the attitude they should have about money. In Philippians, Paul very specifically tells us to be content!

Philippians 4:11-12 says,

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.

That seems so simple yet so hard at the same time! If we are content, money can’t control us. According to www.debt.org the average credit card debt for undergraduate is $3200, and by the time they graduate will have almost $8000. That means young men and women are already behind in life, because they not content with what they have while in school.

If we are content, we can make wiser decisions with the money we have. But please know that contentment does not mean lazy or without drive. On the contrary! It just means you recognize the blessings that God has already given you.

Then we teach our teens that they must control their money or their money will most control them. And when money controls us, it limits our decisions and even our freedoms! Whether you believe debt is right or wrong doesn’t change the fact that it controls our friends, our churches and our government. We must not let debt control us, and we must teach our teens what debt is and how it can affect their lives. Immediate gratification is the birthplace of debt for many, and our teens need to know what that looks like!

The topic of money can be very arduous or can be very exciting, and I am learning it has a lot to do with our attitude towards it!

Take Heart!

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“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Think about the power that we have to encourage each other, to influence one’s life, to make life easier for others to live by simply say these two words, “Take Heart!”

Are you struggling? Take Heart!

Do you need peace? Take Heart!

How can these two simple words change our mood, life, and attitude?

Because, Jesus has overcome the world. Jesus has overcome death through the resurrection, and if we are believers in Him, we also can overcome spiritual death.

These two words can be given any believer as an encouragement because a kind word cheers other people up.

Next time your Christian friend is struggling, tell them to “Take Heart, for Christ has overcome this world!”

Your Prayer Life Impacts Your Family’s Prayer Life

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There are some things that come natural. For example, I am naturally gifted in putting my foot in my mouth, both literally and figuratively. I am also good at making awkward moments more awkward. I wish I was naturally good at sports or something useful, but God blessed me in the ways of weirdness.

The normal qualities in life are the things that I have to work for on a regular basis. My prayer life is one of those “work in progress” types of things. You would think, being a person who makes a living by communication and spirituality, that I would be great at prayer? I wish it were so, but instead of an eloquent, tearful and thoughtful prayer, you hear a fumbler, mumbler, and word repeater. One time I prayed these words, “we are blessed because of our blessings.” Okay, maybe I didn’t say it that beautifully. My prayers always make me feel like I did a disservice to the people who are needing prayer.

We all struggle with certain things and there are certain things that we can just stop doing and move on to something different. But praying and other spiritual disciplines, are things that we shouldn’t quit simply because we are bad at doing them. Being better at prayer isn’t just good for my job, it is also good for my family.

Why is it good for my family to see and hear my prayers?

First, you are setting aside your time to show your family the importance of prayer. Having times of vocal prayer at dinner time or bedtime are vital spiritual moments where our children learn to communicate thankfulness and concerns to our God every day. Communication with God is essential in continuing an active relationship with Him.

Second, you can hear your families concerns even if you didn’t know they had concerns. There is something about prayer that brings out honesty and transparency in people, even children. To hear them praying for schoolmates might be a sign that they are being treated poorly by others. hearing them pray for someone who is sick, may be a sign that they are thinking about their mortality, which is a good sign they are ready to make a commitment to Christ. Those things, may not come up in the daily routine, so having a set-aside prayer time can highlight those things.

But what if I am personally uncomfortable with my own prayers?

First, welcome to the club. It might not be the greatest club, but we do have some good fundraisers for trips to Disney World, where we can stand awkwardly in lines for hours at a time.

Seriously, you need to work on it. You need to recognize those bad habits you have like repeating nonsensical words over and again. What helps me, is to slow down, and when I start repeating, I pause and think before I speak.

Sometimes I think about those prayer acronyms that help you focus your prayer time.

Here are a few that might help

ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication
PRAY – Praise, Repent, Ask And Yield

or just KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

Prayer is something that we can’t give up in our life simply because we are not good at it. Prayer builds up your relationship with God, and it helps build your family’s relationship with God. No matter how you feel, don’t neglect your prayer time.

Are You Radiating Joy

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While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. (Matthew 9:10 – 15)

Have you thought of how Jesus relaxed? Many pictures of Jesus show him in terms of a somber, melancholy tone. But look at the scripture above. We see Jesus sitting down in the midst of dinner, having a joyful time with friends and sinners. How do we know that He has a joyful time? Because when the religion bullies come to question Jesus, he uses a parable of a wedding day. Last time I checked, weddings are not supposed to sad, but rather a celebration.

Christian living is supposed to be a joyful experience, especially in the midst of those who do not believe Christ to be the savior. One of the elements of Holy Spirit, which is in all Christians is joy.

So the question for you, “Is your life, a radiation of joy, a component of your testimony to your faith in Jesus Christ?”

Influencing Your Family

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I love living in today’s culture. Sometimes I listen to podcasts about the past, and I becoming incredibly thankful for all the things that we have right now. All the advances we have are incredible and the easiness it brings to our lives is fantastic. For example, I recently went back to school and received my Master’s degree in Youth and Family Ministries. It was a cake walk compared to my undergrad more than a decade ago. Was the school work lighter? No, it was more work but because of technological advances I had an easier time. Gone were the day’s of putting together a table of contents or footnotes. I didn’t have to write down the info on an index card, stick it into a pile of other index cards and then go back later for a paper. Now I could read on my Kindle, highlight, copy and paste, and boom footnote is added. If I had this during my undergrad, I might have scored a lot better in classes (Of course I might not have, I still had a lot of growing to do).

Like I said, I love living in today’s world. But as a parent, I am terrified of raising my kids in this same culture. Why? Because it is easy for students to become influenced by the wrong people. I am not just talking about celebrities or pseudo-celebrities I’m more worried about complete strangers. Currently, with social media, teens can be influenced by other’s opinions. They can get lost in body images or even use tools to alter their online appearance. Teens can be bullied by people all over the world. It’s hard to protect our students from dangers close by, but now the world is at their fingertips and the world is not always kind, especially the internet.

As a parent, I know I can’t protect my children from everything in this world and as a more hands-on parent, I don’t like that fact. However, that doesn’t mean I simply sit back and allow outsiders be an influence on my children’s lives. The primary influence on any family’s life is the parents. Students are still subjected to other influences, but it is the parent’s job to make sure that they remain the first influence over their children’s lives.

As a Christian parent, I know that my faith is the main influence I want my children to have. Biblical faith is meant to be generational. What I mean by that, is that the faith that I have should be passed down from generation to generation, so that my grandchildren will have a stronger grasp of the faith than I do right. As I grow in my faith, I am growing faith to the next generation.

3 Ideas To Influence Your Family

Part of my plan to be proactive in remaining the number one influence in my child’s life is to have intentional spiritual moments. Here are a few ways we’re doing that.

Rite of Passages Experience

At my church, we use a resource from http://www.parentministry.net, called Rite of Passages. These rituals start from birth and go to graduation and are intended to be used every year to have a special moment with your children. I recommend this resource to every church.

Family Dinners

There is plenty of research out there that shows the importance of eating meals together. Currently, we have dinner with each other almost every day, but I am slowly working up to adding more spiritual time into the supper time conversation. Once a week, we recap what they talked about on Sunday and how we can apply it to our daily lives. In the near future, we might be using a resource from D6 called Splink, which comes to my email every week for free. You can check out more at http://d6family.com/splink/

Great Family Experiment

I came across this resource a month or so back, from Connexus Community Church called the Great Family Experiment. http://www.connexuscommunity.com/gfx/ Currently there is only three experiments right now, but over Christmas break we are going to be doing the Widen the Circle material.

These are just a few ways we’re trying to be intentional in how we influence our children. I would love to hear from you, on ways you are influencing your family. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Your Child and Being Thankful

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If you have young children, you probably have said this statement before to them,  “What do you say….?”  Then after a brief moment your child says in a muttered voice, “Thank You.”   This is almost a weekly interaction I have with my at least one of boys. I thought that after eight years, at least one of my children would know when to say “Thank You,” without being reminded.  Sometimes, they say the words, and out of habit I say “What do you say…?”  Which then I get a response of “I did” with a little chuckle that say’s “D’uh.”

This is probably an exchange of words that happens more often than you expected in your home as it does mine, because one of the disciplines we teach our children is that of thankfulness. I know for me, I strive to teach my children this discipline because I don’t want them to grow up in this world with a privileged mindset.  They don’t know the world outside of the U.S.; they don’t know the poverty and despair that is around them.  They only know, what’s in their school where young children are well-fed and they have numerous luxuries.  Even the children that are considered “poor” in their schools have more than the normal children in this world.  I want them to know, that because they were lucky enough to be born in the U.S.,  they need to be thankful for everything that is given, because they could easily have less.

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

It is God’s will for us to be thankful.  Not just in the good days, but in every day.  Why should we be thankful?  Because of Gods indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) of Jesus Christ.

Creating Thankfulness In Your Home

As a Christian Parent, I not only have to teach my children thankfulness, I also need to show it.  When I am with my children, there should be more positiveness coming from my mouth than negatives.  When I am in a restaurant, I need to be more thankful that I am able to spend the money on luxury foods instead of moaning that my steak isn’t properly cooked.  Our child will become the type of person that our mouths profess.  And if they hear me complain all the time, then I will be raising some complaining adults.  Be the example of thankfulness.

A great place to practice thankfulness as a family is at the dinner table.  The dinner table is a great time because food is something that we all can be thankful for.  It is something they have numerous times each day and it can be easily taken for granted.  So instead of ignoring the blessings of the food, why not give a blessing every time you eat.  Maybe even talk about something good that happened that day or share some insights on how you could have made things better.  Take that 15 – 30 minutes with your family and spend the time with positive, thankful attitudes.

To create thankfulness, you need to be the example of thankfulness and find the best opportunities to talk about thankfulness.

7 Day’s of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a week away, but you can start helping your children understand thankfulness by reading a scripture each day with your family. I prefer doing this at dinner time, and letting my oldest son read the scripture. But you can do it in the car ride home, before your child going to bed, during breakfast or whatever time works best for your family.

Day 1: 1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Day 2: 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Day 3: Philippians 4:6 ESV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Day 4: Psalm 147:7 ESV
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!

Day 5: Psalm 100:4 ESV
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Day 6: Psalm 95:2 ESV
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Day 7: Colossians 3:17 ESV
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Helping Your Student With Friendships

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The beginning of the school year is a conflicting time of emotions. Students are excited to have something to do on a regular basis, but are bummed that it’s school. They’re looking forward to meeting new people and new friends. School is a great place to be, except for all the classes and homework.

It’s already November, more than likely your student has already made new friends. They might have invited them to hang out at home or brought them to church. While they’ve made new friends, it’s also possible they’ve lost a friend or two. In the past few months, they probably experienced both the happiness of new friends and the sadness of losing old friends.

Friendships Are A Double-Edged Sword

They bring fun, excitement, adventure, love, compassion, and many other positive attributes. Those things alone are reason to have a friend or two in our life. But, friendships can also bring sadness, drama, heartbreak, lack of self-worth, trouble, hate and other negative attributes.

Some might ask, “Is making friends even worth the adventure and possible heartache?” I believe relationships are totally worth the possibility of being hurt because once you find a friend that survives, it is an incredible experience.

Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

When it comes to friendships our role, as a Christian, in that relationship should be different than that of nonbelievers. God calls us to be transformative in our lifestyle, and that needs to be evident with our closest relationships.

Romans 12:18 say’s “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

It is our responsibility to foster a relationship of peace with the people around us. If they choose to break the relationship, it should not be because of us or something negative that we did.

Your Student’s Friendships

The best way to keep peace is for them to start with the right friendships. There are some people, who are not the best match for your student and family. Growing up, I had a couple of friends that always got me in trouble. Whether it was shoplifting, lying to parents, smoking or underaged drinking. The friends didn’t make do any of those things, but being around them made doing those things a viable option.

Maybe your student has a friend that causes similar problems or maybe they have a friend that makes them have a bad attitude or unnecessary drama. There are just some people you would prefer to have your children not left alone with. That is why it’s important to teach your student what values to look for in a person. The more values they share in a relationship; the more peace will be in their life.

Tweet: Guide your teen in choosing their friend. Don’t control.

Another thing for your student to learn is about healthy boundaries by learning and using the word “No.” Isn’t it amazing our students can tell us “no” on a regular basis, but when it comes to their peers, it is rarely used? Helping your student in making healthy decisions is critical for them to learn how to stay away from bad relationships and the bad decisions that may result from those friendships.

Finally, as a parent we can’t protect our child from every person they meet. They will be hurt by someone at some time in their life. Knowing this, we need to make sure we are available for them to express their anger and frustration. You’re relationship, and God’s relationship with them should be a consistent place of love, grace and mercy.

When Your Child Fails

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It was my fifth-grade year; I don’t remember much from this year, but I do remember it was the year of the Science Fair. Every student worked on a project for the fair, except for me. I don’t remember how I forgot, but I do remember waking up one morning knowing that the fair was today, and I had nothing. How could I be in a class all year, a class that was preparing for a one-time event, and come out with nothing to show? What does a child do when a deadline comes, and they are not ready? Why, do what every teenage sitcom does to avoid big situations, and play sick. I remember getting up, telling my mom who was getting ready for work that I had a headache and wasn’t feeling well. She allowed me to stay home with my illness, and I played video games and watched The Price Is Right. The next day, I went in, and my teacher didn’t say a word to me about the science project. I had gotten away with it… until report cards came and I realized that the project was worth a whole lot of points. I didn’t fail the subject, but it was very close.

My parents didn’t fight for that grade to change or complain that because of “illness” I missed school that day. Rather, my parents allowed me to fail. I learned an embarrassing lesson that day; failures will happen. I don’t think my parents wanted me to fall short, but they were not going to protect me from my own consequences. I was lazy; I didn’t prepare, I lied to avoid the situation and I paid the price. It was my mistake.

Everyone fails

Not one person will go through life without failing at something. You can avoid a lot of things, but you can’t avoid taxes, death and failure. When our children are young, we want to protect them from failure. We check on their homework to see if it’s done. We protect them with safety equipment, so when they fall it doesn’t hurt. We fight for them to be treated fairly. Those things are all good things to do, but sometimes we go overboard to the point where we try to prevent them from experiencing life and consequences.

Does it stink when our children fail? Yes, it is horrifying. It is almost like your stomach gets turned inside out, and you feel terrible for them. But, instead of worrying about prevention, we should work on perseverance and grace.

Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

When we fail, we will suffer. It could be suffering spiritually, physically, emotionally or all three. When we are suffering, we can either be traumatized by it or we can be transformed, and that goes the same with our children. We can make it part of who we are, or we can use it as a building block to something greater. For you and your children, to be transformed, you need to persevere, which builds character and hope. And although failures feel embarrassing and shameful, we shouldn’t be ashamed because of God’s love that is given to us.

As a parent, to help our children persevere, we can show them God’s grace which is the ultimate sign of encouragement

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 say’s “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Tweet: Every failure, our children encounter is another time to teach and experience the grace of God.

Does this mean, we push them to fail? By no means, that would make us terrible parents, but we can’t protect them from every failure. Your child will fail at some point, so take those opportunities to teach and experience the grace of God.

Helping Your Child To Trust In God And Not To Fear

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I love being scared, which makes October one of my favorite times of the year.  Before I was a Christian and a parent, I spent a lot of time watching horror films. Even though, I no longer indulge in horror movies, there is something about being scared that I still love.  Whether it’s from entertainment, roller coasters or even a haunted house. And while I like being scared on purpose, I do not like to be scared unintentionally.  I don’t like normal people jumping in front of me trying to get me to jump back.  It’s not fun. If I am going to be scared, it has to be my choice.

No one wants to be fearful for real.  There is a different type of fear when you are in a haunted house or watching a scary movie, than having fear in your real life.  It is scary when something jumps out in front of you, but having fear of losing your job is terrifying.  Freddy Kruger is scary, but the bank wanting to foreclose your home is worse.

As adults, we know the difference between real fears and ones that are made up.  We know Freddy isn’t real, but you can lose your home.  Because one is real and one is fake, we are able to put up safeguards so the real fears don’t happen.  But, your children do not know the difference between things they should be fearful or and things that are fake.  They do not know that a scary movie is fictitious and cannot harm them.  As a parent it can be difficult to shelter your children from fictitious fears during this time of year,  While watching football, scary previews are shown during the commercials.  Neighbors put up Halloween decorations that may not be the most kid appropriate.

 

So what can we do, if our child gets scared?

Whether it be a real or fictitious fear, there are some scriptures we can use to limit our fears.

1. Trust In God

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

David was being pursued by his enemies and instead of fear taking over his life, he put his trust in God.  There is nothing in this world, that should make us fearful.  Trust in God fully, and fear will leave.

2. Give Your Fears To God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

We can give our fears to God with thankfulness, no matter what the situation is.  And then God’s peace will guard your life.  It won’t keep fear away, but when it does come back, we simply need to pray with thanksgiving and the peace that passes understanding will be back in  your life.

3. God Is Always With You

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

The Israelites were afraid to enter the land that was promised to them by God.  Our fears can cause us to not fully trust God.  However, we can know that no matter what happens, God is always with us.

 

Something to Try

Here is a simple game you can play with your child.  It’s called “Trust Walk”.  All you need is a blindfold and a good size space to walk around in.  If you have a messy playroom, that will be perfect.  Blindfold your child, and tell them to follow your commands and to trust your words.  Lead them around the area of obstacles  for a short period of time and make sure they stay away from anything that is harmful.

Once you’ve navigated them safely around the room, take off their blindfold and show them the path you took them through and the obstacles they avoided.  Explain that they were able to make it through because they trusted in your voice.  Then make the point, even though we can’t see God, we can trust in Him to lead us through life.

Tweet: Even though I can’t see God, I can trust when I am afraid that He will lead me through life.

Those verses not only apply to our children, but can be applied to us as well.  We can allow our realistic fears to take over our life.  Some fear is good, because it prevents us from crossing dangerous lines, but too much fear restricts us from God’s blessings in life.

Teach your children to trust God fully, but also apply that same teaching to your own life.

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