I have a high school senior looking at colleges. Next year she’ll head off to the big wide world, but will she be prepared for the over-sexualized culture on many campuses? There is so much bad info. There is so much dangerous activity young adults are engaging in without any knowledge of consequences.
There’s new research showing the effect of hormones on the brain. Along with those findings, we’ll talk about the widespread “hook-up” culture found at many campuses.
Listen to the Focus on the Family radio program here: http://bit.ly/17QcHER
A co-worker with a six-month old is pretty bleary-eyed these days. His child just doesn’t sleep well. How I remember those long nights of interrupted sleep, on and off, sometimes waiting for the alarm clock just to be spared the pain of another cry from the baby! While he has other children, Leland’s dilemma brought to mind these tips I offered to new fathers, in particular, in my book, First Time Dad:
1. Stay connected with your wife. Make room in your schedule for daily talk times and weekly dates. Do things together as a family. Hang out at the park with parents who also have younger kids. Develop routines like Thursday night pizza, or Sunday afternoons. Take family hikes or bike rides.
2. Remember your wife is not your enemy. She is the love of your life, and you need to treat her as the shining jewel that she is for you. So don’t get angry with her. Don’t blow up when she is exhausted and needs you to really help out. Extend lots of grace. Follow the Scriptural admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 NIV
3. Remember this child is not your enemy. You love this little baby, really, you do! So don’t for a minute think that she is an enemy to your marriage. Yes, she will demand a lot of you and she will extract a lot of your wife’s energies and attentions. But she’s your child, and you have a tremendous responsibility to raise her well. It’s your job to allow her needs to dictate a lot of your life’s choices and activities – for now. And that’ll impact your marriage.
4. Share the load. Now is the time to show your wife you love her by sacrificing your pride – or your stubbornness – and really stepping up the contribution you make to her life. Clean the kitchen, or her car. Empty the trash. Change that baby’s diaper. Make dinner. Those domestic duties that you’ve let her handle need to be shared, as she is pretty tired from being a Mom. That means you have to come alongside her and help. Look around, find practical things that need to be done, and get to work. Trust me, your wife will notice, even if she doesn’t say anything right now.
5. Get some sleep. Suggestion: Take turns wearing earplugs. Seriously. Buy some Mack’s Silicone Earplugs and learn to love ‘em! I didn’t want to consider these things, but Dena started using them and it became apparent that she was sleeping well – while I didn’t, because our son kept waking me up during the night. So when you are desperate for sleep, wear earplugs. Alternate turns, so at least one of you gets a good night of rest, every night.
That last item is a tip I’m still using from time to time even though our children are older.
How about you: Any tips you’d add to this list? What advice do you have for a new dad…or even an experienced father who isn’t getting enough sleep?
My wife asked our youngest daughter the other day, “What do you think character means?” Tauvi replied, “Its who you are when no one is looking.”
I think my daughter got it right. If my kids will make good choices and behave well when no one is looking, they’ll show some character.
Abraham Lincoln once famously said,
“Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.”
Our character is not just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do what is right.
Dictionary definitions of character usually reflect an understanding of an individual’s inner qualities, intangibles that are sometimes rarely revealed. These often include things like honesty, loyalty, courage, integrity, compassion, commitment and devotion
At times, a person’s character is on display. Circumstances reveal those previously hidden attributes. Usually, difficult situations cause our true character to become very apparent to those around us. Almost always, we attach a positive value to our definition of character. If a person lacks these positive values, we suggest they “lack character.”If asked, most folks would agree that good character involves positive traits like integrity, honesty, loyalty, and dependability. These qualities transcend time, nationality, race, and gender.
Here’s how the United States Air Force Academy defines character:
…the sum of those qualities of moral excellence that stimulate a person to do the right thing, which is manifested through right and proper actions despite internal or external pressures to the contrary.
Some have suggested that character is the foundation for all true success. I’d agree. A person may have money, position, or power, but unless he has “good” character he or she is not considered to be truly successful.
Where is character acquired, or learned? The primary place is in the context of family. School, Scouts and sports can help develop a child’s inner qualities, but it is in the family such attributes are cultivated, refined and ultimately brought out. It’s YOUR job as a parent to help develop character in your child.
There are many aspects to character. Conviction to do the right thing. Even when nobody is looking! And how about curiosity…something that leads to discovery and adventure? Let me suggest one other character quality you’ll likely want your child to have as he or she grows up: compassion. A desire to help others in need, doing right for those less fortunate.
What does it mean to be compassionate? In my mind, it means to care for those who are hurting, powerless and in need of assistance. That’s something I want to see in each of my kids. As they demonstrate true “other-centered” hearts, they reflect the heart of God and reveal an inner quality that is desperately needed in this world.
How do my wife and I try to cultivate compassion in our kids? Well, we’ve attempted to model it. Let me share a quick story about how that worked on a cross-cultural trip we took as a family.
The flights to South America were the realization of my wife’s long-time dream of a family service project. We traveled with two other families, and our entourage included six adults and thirteen children. We centered our activity on an orphanage in Ayacucho, Peru, where we spent most of our time loving on some precious children who had experienced a lot of difficulty in their short lives. These kids had no family, but they were a family, living together and developing bonds through their common pain. Their struggles and challenges in life had been overwhelming, in many ways. But as a small group of survivors they had a lot of shared experiences and had become close.
It was really gratifying to see my children interacting with the orphans. Upon our arrival, they instantly – and intuitively – knew that physical touch was important to the young residents of Casa Luz. They scooped up the littlest ones, hugging and holding them. When the older children came in from school, our kids engaged them in conversation – through some mangled Spanish and English translating – and some football (soccer) on the patio.
Despite the language and cultural differences, those of us from the States enjoyed watching our children reaching out to the kids who were disadvantaged in so many ways. There were bonds formed between them that remained in place long after we left Peru. I was pleased that all the kids in our entourage showed compassion. They looked out for and into the lives of the children we visited. They didn’t consider themselves better than the orphans – in fact, they realized how privileged we are in America and how little those Casa Luz kids really had. This wasn’t pity –this was compassion at work. And it came from their heart. That kind of attitude and openness to others is what I want for my children. I desire that they let go of inhibitions that might keep them “safe” from uncomfortable situations and to actively express love and care to others. Even when they are thousands of miles away from home and nobody is looking.
The subject of abusive relationships isn’t often discussed. The reality is, however, that many of those around you are likely dealing with such a painful situation. From an online article at Focus on the Family’s site, some insights about emotional abuse:
…chances are you or someone you love is in an emotionally abusive relationship. Your abuser may be a spouse, a boss, a brother or a sister. You may have tried to ignore it, deny it and fix it. Perhaps you have even tried to accept it. But it hasn’t worked. This is your moment of truth. Are you willing to do what it takes to break the cycle of abuse in your life?
While the optimum situation is for both parties in an abusive situation to seek help, Dr. Tim Clinton, President of the American Association of Christian Counselors, insists one person can change the relationship.
“Change a person; change a relationship,” he says.
On the other hand, if the abuse is severe and occurring within the marriage relationship, it’s time to take bold steps and assert biblical, healthy boundaries.
“Sometimes separation can be a powerful attention-getting boundary if you’re fully ready to use it,” says Karla Downing, abuse survivor, counselor and author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. “The purpose of the separation can be to physically or emotionally protect you and your children or to convince your husband (or wife) that you’ll not continue to live the same way. Separation can also be by mutual agreement for each to work on your own problems separately with the goal of reconciling your marriage.”
Author and counselor Leslie Vernick discusses the warning signs of an emotionally destructive relationship and the necessary steps to stop it in this radio program. Listen, if not for yourself, so at the least you’ll be informed and ready to help that friend or family member who is in need.
Lately, I’ve been traveling about once a month. That means a fair amount of time in airports and on planes.Anyone who thinks travel is glamorous hasn’t done much of it lately. Yikes!
As I fly, I am aware that from the moment you enter the airport, there will be cranky people. It might be the counter or TSA agent, the customer whose flight got cancelled,or the child in seat 23B who has had enough of it all. So, I have incorporated a rather relaxed approach to most of the experience. I often take a deep breath, figure it won’t be too bad, and resign myself to the fact that few of us love being here, so let’s not get overly excited.
There’s no doubt that the professionals along the way get a lot of verbal abuse. Demanding, irritated, unreasonable passengers make an airport worker or flight attendant’s day mighty long. So I try to be as kind and non-combative as possible. And upon reading this article about what those flight crews make, I am reminded that they have some extreme hours, and often don’t seem to get paid sufficiently for the work they do.
With that knowledge. this gentle reminder that if you have air travel anytime soon, practice a little patience and some extra kindness to those you encounter.
As the writer put it many years ago,
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
He faced many difficulties and failures, the types of circumstances that would have stopped lesser men.
“Whatever happened, Magellan’s response was always, “Sail on, sail on!” “He never flinched. It was always, “Sail on, sail on!”
That line is from a book by Os Guiness, The Call. In his excellent exposition about God’s will and His call on our lives, Guiness references the power of being laser-focused on the right things. That ability to concentrate on something – often something larger than life – comes from within. It isn’t an external characteristic that one puts on. It is a burning inside. It is the “gravel in the gut,” as an NFL coach recently described one player’s inner fortitude. And that conviction often carries men and women to greatness.
Ferdinand Magellan had this quality. As Guiness describes him,
“Magellan’s character was far from perfect…but in his single-mindedness, his unflinching conviction, his resolute indifference either to approval or rejection, and his stubborn defiance of discouragement, defeat, and death, Magellan demonstrated the fortitude of a life in focus.”
I think the world is hungry for men and women like that, who adhere to principle no matter what circumstances occur, no matter what worldly pressures come to bear. An individual who speaks the truth unflinchingly, regardless of the criticism leveled at him. A person of such conviction that nothing – nothing! – can move them from their course. People around us want to see and to follow individuals who are single-minded in their convictions.
As we enter 2013, I want to be more like that. Single-minded in all I do. Seeking to please God and not man. I want to live life with an unwavering conviction of God’s plan and His empowerment – despite the odds or what others think.
Reading recent headlines it seems apparent there will be plenty of opportunities to show courage. People of faith will be able – no, will be called – to increasingly reflect values that are out of synch with the world. We do so out of personal conviction, but not to convict others. We do so because it is what God asks of us. It’s what Paul wrote about in Romans 12:1, pleasing only God and not worrying about what the world around us thinks:
So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. (New Century Version)
Or, here’s how Eugene Peterson wrote those verses in The Message,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
May your “everyday, ordinary life” be full of God’s power and grace. Today, and every day of the coming year.
From the New King James Version of the Bible, Luke’s account of the birth:
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
May you ponder the birth in a special way this blessed season. Merry Christmas!
Stunned. That’s how I responded to the horrific news last Friday of the shootings in Newtown. I’m pretty sure that’s how you reacted, too. There simply are no easy answers. It is evil, wrong and impossible to comprehend. Even now I am still unable to understand how those families are going to make it through these next days, especially with Christmas here. Such a joyful time for so many, now a time of exceedingly great loss and grief.
How to explain? We live in a world of contradictions. We rejoice in many wonderful things, everyday gifts of grace God gives, throughout life. Special moments with friends and family. An unexpected kindness. The simple joys of a child’s smile, or the beauty of Christmas lights.
We live in a world of evil, suffering and great pain.That unfathomable crime in Connecticut is the most recent of numerous events which make me keenly aware that life is full of sorrow.
While we can grab onto the abundant life God offers through Christ today, we also live with a daily reminder that this world is not our home. We grieve as a relative or close friend battles cancer. We hurt over strained relationships. We struggle with financial pressures. And we mourn over inexplicable events like those of last Friday.
It was THIS world, full of sin and struggle and death, into which God sent His one and only Son. He gave Jesus to such a world to save us, to offer healing. Christ came to restore that which is broken…ultimately, to restore us to Himself.
The Bible assures us that we are not to give up. We are instead to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We are to press on…even when things seem dark and we feel we can’t cope. We are to persevere even when it seems the Devil is succeeding at stealing, killing and destroying.
So as our hearts are heavy for the families who are still numb from last week’s shootings, we rightly weep with those who weep. And we find comfort in the knowledge that the Babe in the manger grew up, gave Himself sacrificially upon a cross for you and me, and then rose again to be the King of Kings. We await His return, when all is made right. We look toward heaven, where there are no more tears, and there is no more sorrow.
May He bring the peace that passes understanding to those in need. And may He use you and me to do that today.
My oldest son made me aware of this compelling, short video about the sensory overload many with autism or Aspergers experience. Since 1 in 110 kids is on the autistic spectrum, you’ll likely encounter someone who reacts this way to their (sight- and sound-cluttered) environment. Maybe this will help you understand and respond more appropriately to their difficulties.
In his book It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men, Truett Cathy cites startling statistics which show that kids from fatherless homes face a world of hurt and trouble (and maybe you know firsthand about this kind of heartache). These children are:
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide.
- 32 times more likely to run away.
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
- 9 times more likely to drop out of school.
- 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
Aren’t those disturbing statistics?
And yet, there’s hope…when a dad shows up and gets involved in his kid’s life. Everything changes then! Dad, you have an influence to help your child avoid the difficult life choices that so many fatherless boys and girls have made.
In my book, First Time Dad, I suggest some easy ways to spend time with your son or daughter – time that’ll make a difference in his or her life. Things like:
- Taking him along when you run to the home improvement store. I can remember walking the aisles, answering Qs, and just hanging out with my sons. Good stuff.
- Being part of their bedtime routines. This is something I’ve tried to be really involved with…not always easy but almost always rich and rewarding.
- Letting them help you around the house (I know, I know, it is usually easier to just do it yourself. Resist that urge and let the kid help out!)
- Reading books
- Going to a local playground or park
- Take a walk around the block
- Teach him to ride a bike
- Volunteer together during the holidays to ring the Red Kettle bell, deliver meals, or visit a nursing home.
And the list can go on and on. These don’t have to be big getaways, or super-fancy celebrations. Just time together, so you are THERE and INVESTING.