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A “Middle Years” Mindset

God is so smart.  He knew exactly what He was doing when He chose to teach us about boundaries with sleepovers and birthday parties at a Growing Families International (GFI) conference back in 2009.  I had no idea how this one teaching would shape our family over our kids’ combined 8 years in the Middle Years (2010 to 2018).

At the conference, during a “lunch and learn” breakout session, the couple teaching asked if we would like to hear their family’s perspective on sleepovers and birthday parties.  We enthusiastically agreed.  Their family decided that birthdays were special, but that they wanted to celebrate them at home as a family without “inviting the neighborhood”.  They also decided that play dates should end before bedtime and sleeping should be done at home.  They had several reasons for making these decisions, including their children’s safety when not under their supervision, the financial strain of numerous birthday parties, and the time involved.

As we drove home from the conference, with so much new information in our “parenting tool box”, we decided that we needed to pick one topic to focus on.  This was the topic we chose and it was an easy one to implement, since our kids were only 3 and 7 at the time.  Our son had a best friend since kindergarten, who he was already spending a lot of time with, and we made an exception for them, as we had a close relationship with their family.

What I didn’t know in 2009 was that we would open our first fishing bait and tackle store at the end of 2011, and that I would have a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter when Joshua was 9 and Jordan was only 5.  Keeping our children close to home, close to our business, and not “shipped off” here and there was so important.  In the beginning of this crisis, we were fortunate to have friends help with public school drop off and pick up, but as I got healthier, I realized that part of my healing included taking over those tasks.

The fifteen hundred days of preadolescence are all the time you have to prepare your kids for the nearly thirty-seven hundred days of adolescence.  Let’s make the most of every minute.” – Robert Bucknam, MD, from the “PreTeen Wise” foreward

I wanted to make the most of every minute.  John was extremely busy with his full time job and with the new tackle store and, whatever time he did have available, needed to be with me and the kids.  Building our family identity happened in large part because we were always together.  If our kids weren’t at school or at a church activity, they were most likely at home.  Yes, Joshua spent time with his best friend and Jordan spent time with my parents, but these were all like-minded influences.

If the terms “building family identity” and “like-minded influences” aren’t familiar to you, I would highly recommend that you take the Middle Years class (ages 8 to 12).  If a class isn’t available right now, Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD have a whole series of “On Becoming” books (think “On Becoming Babywise“) and “PreTeen Wise” is the book you’re looking for.

Leading your children from your authority is critical when your children are young and you’re establishing first-time obedience.  But it definitely works against us when we get to the Middle Years.  Moving from “leading from your authority” to “leading from your influence” could be the hardest task you’ll ever face in your parenting, but it pays such dividends.  You’ve spent years “filling your child’s moral warehouse”, and now it’s time to see what’s really in there.

Think about this.  God doesn’t ask His children questions because He doesn’t know the answers.  God asks us questions to pull out of us what is inside, clarifying for us what we really believe.  Just as God plants seeds of wisdom into us as we grow in maturity with Him, we as parents also plant seeds of wisdom into our children (“filling their moral warehouse”).  It is our job to ask questions of our children, pulling out of them what is inside, clarifying for them what they really believe.  If we’ve done our job well (with the Lord’s help, of course, as none of us are perfect parents), those seeds of wisdom grow over time and our children will be able to verbalize what they’ve internalized, further solidifying their beliefs for themselves.

We don’t want our children to act a certain way because “Mom said so”.  We want their behavior to reflect what they truly believe inside.  And the only way to do that is to pull that back out of them time and time again, just as God does with us.

Now that our kids are 14 and (almost) 18, they fully participate in family decisions and we consider their input carefully.  We have made conscious decisions together to allow a sleepover or a birthday party here and there, allowing our kids to give their reasons, cite potential issues, and explain what they will and won’t participate in.  It’s put the responsibility for their behavior in their court, not because “my parents said I can’t”, but because they’ve thought through the consequences of their actions ahead of time.  Owning their own behavior has made all the difference.

**Having a middle years mindset begins by starting early, taking an age-appropriate parenting class and seeking advice from those who’ve gone before you.  Thinking through and explaining the “moral reasons why” a family decision is made will help your kids to want to follow your lead.**

 

Twenty-Four

24 years ago today, a 22 year old girl and a 28 year old guy were married.

Beth & John 1994

They weren’t going to have kids, and then they changed their mind.  They had two kids, they started a business, they had their ups and downs.  Lots of ups, but, boy, there were a lot of downs too.  From a temperament standpoint, she’s a melancholy “quitter” and he’s a choleric “commitment freak”.  Thank goodness he’s committed.  No matter how many times she wanted to give up on life, he kept her going.  But it certainly hasn’t been easy.

Thankfully, they kept up with date nights.  It helped to get out and unwind.  Six months ago, date night was a Switchfoot concert.

IMG_4571

And after that Switchfoot concert, they waited to see if Jon Foreman would play an after show.  Sitting in the car, refreshing Twitter, no updates, they decided to leave Meadowbrook and head home.  Jon must be spending time with his Michigan family tonight.  However, on the way home, one more Twitter refresh, and the after show was announced.  And this guy, he turned the car around.  What a guy!  🙂

They arrived in time to catch the last 2 songs out of 3.  And the third was “24”.  She grabbed her iPod and captured the moment.  The video and lyrics are posted below.

Today, on this 24th wedding anniversary, the words of this song are so perfect:

I am the second man now
And You’re raising the dead in me

Second man?  Who is that?  Well, Adam was the first man and Jesus was the second man.  Adam brought death, but Jesus brought life.  Like Adam, we are physically born into this world just once.  But we can be born again, a “second birth”, a spiritual birth.  This is raising the dead in us; Jesus Christ living inside us.  All we have to do is ask.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good.  He came to make dead people LIVE.

The girl and the guy, they weren’t bad people.  But they were still people.  Human beings, born in the spiritual deadness of Adam, ruled by pride and selfishness.  Jon Foreman says it this way in “24”:

Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

Sounds like marriage to me.  I don’t think that girl and that guy would still be married today, 24 years later, if they hadn’t asked that Second Man to come live inside of them.

Is there dead inside that needs raising in you?

Ask Him.

He will.

That’s why He came.

That’s why He died and rose again.

To raise the dead in us.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
-The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, Verse 11 (English Standard Version)

And if you’d like to read more about what happened between 24 years ago and now, check out this post:  Joshua the Prophet 

“Twenty-Four”

Twenty four oceans
Twenty four skies
Twenty four failures
Twenty four tries
Twenty four finds me
In twenty-fourth place
Twenty four drop outs
At the end of the day
Life is not what I thought it was
Twenty four hours ago

Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And I’m not who I thought I was twenty four hours ago
Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You

Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

See I’m not copping out not copping out not copping out
When You’re raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now

And You’re raising these twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts
But I want to be one today
Centered and true

I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
You’re raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You’re raising the dead in me

I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You’re raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts.
I’m not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.

-Switchfoot, from the album, The Beautiful Letdown

 

Meet Your Maker at “The Shack”

If God is so good, why did He allow my little girl to be murdered?  That was the question that haunted Mack and kept him stuck in The Great Sadness.  How many of us are stuck in a great sadness of our own, brought on by one tragedy after another, day after day?  Would we jump at an opportunity to have our questions answered by God Himself?  One day, Mack received an invitation to meet God at “The Shack” to do just that.  I would like to invite you to do the same.

Have you ever invested hours and hours of your life in great book, only to go to the movie theater and be completely devastated by how a wonderful book could be turned into such a disappointing use of two hours?  This is not the case with the movie “The Shack”.

I spent much of the summer of 2013 listening to “The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity” by William P. Young on CD in my car.  I listened to it a full three times before the library insisted that I give it back.  And when I found out that the movie of “The Shack” was going to be released on Friday, March 3, 2017, I grabbed my print version, which I had never actually read, and dove in.  I’ve invested a good 25 hours of my life in this book, and the 2 hours and 12 minutes that I spent on Saturday, March 4th watching it unfold on the big screen did not disappoint.

Actually, the only criticism I’ve heard about the movie is that “Father God”, also known as “Papa”, is played, for most of the movie, by a an African American female actress.  If God is our Father in Heaven, why is He portrayed as a woman in a dress?  That’s another question Mack wanted answered.  Papa responded:

“To reveal myself to you as a very large, white grandfather figure, with a flowing beard like Gandalf, would simply reinforce your religious stereotypes, and this weekend is not about reinforcing your religious stereotypes.”

I would say this entire book (and movie) is all about challenging our religious stereotypes.  How many of us struggle with God as a Good Father simply because we have no earthly example of a good father?  Might it be freeing to see God through fresh eyes?

Consider Genesis 1:27:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

If God made us male and female in His image, then His image contains both male and female attributes.  God demonstrates this throughout the Bible by referring to Himself not only in “fatherly” terms, but also in “motherly” terms.  Here’s just one example.  The Apostle Matthew records Jesus lamenting over His children with a Mother Hen analogy:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matt. 23:37 (NIV)

Papa has full knowledge of Mack’s “father wounds” that keep him far from a Fatherly God, and so He presents Himself as Mother.  And this is just one example of God’s goodness and kindness portrayed in “The Shack”.

Another example has to do with the rest of the Holy Trinity and another character known as “Wisdom”.  Papa is an African American woman and, later in the movie, a Native American man.  Jesus is a Middle Eastern Hebrew man.  The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman.  And Lady Wisdom is a Hispanic woman.  What a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom:

“Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Clare Herbert Woolston

So, if you’re red or yellow or black or white or purple, if you have questions for God about good and evil and why He allows such things, I urge you to go see “The Shack”.  And if you want to know more, read “The Shack” (or take it out of your library on CD and have it read to you). Eugene Peterson, who wrote “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible, is quoted on the front of my print copy of “The Shack”:

“This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.  It’s that good!”

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