Connecting Struggles To Deeper Issues

Here’s a simple diagram that can help students understand their behavior- the iceberg metaphor. Only a small portion of an iceberg is above the water line; it’s the larger jagged portion (under the water) that sunk the Titanic. The same is true about our lives. The great one-liner, the issue is never the issue, comes into play:

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Here are some practical scenarios to help talk our kids through:

- They have to deliver a talk in speech class tomorrow. What type of temptations come (at the surface level) as a result?

- What kind of stress builds during tryouts?

- When faced with repeating temptations, pause in the middle and ask God, “what’s really going on here?”

- What role does technology play in my behavior choices?

-  Use a calendar to chart common temptations using symbols. Try to see patterns. Why did those temptations surfaced when they did?

 

One of the insidious aspects of sin is that it tends to keep us focused on the symptom instead of the core issue. And once we see core beliefs that fuel our behavior, it removes much of the pressure. Is the following too bold to use with kids?

FOCUS ON SURFACE STRUGGLES:  To simply attempt to use God to fix my problems will leave my relationship with him distant. He’ll seem like a small God who really doesn’t have much power. Why? Because my struggles always repeat.

FOCUS ON CORE ISSUES:  Instead of using God to fix my problems, I use my problems to know God deeper. I interact at the soul level, where lies lurk. In identifying them and replacing them with truth, I come to know God at an intimate level. He seems close as his power begins to change me from the inside out.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Top Ten Technology Tips For Parents

10.  Identify Your Personal Struggle with Technology – A Facebook mom recently caught herself. She’d do the daily chores- dressing and feeding the kids, cleaning the kitchen, etc. If she managed her time just right, she could plop the two older ones in front of a screen and grab her ½ hour of Facebook time while the baby slept. Here’s what she caught. Her kids were watching her do chores with drudgery but they also saw her light up in front of the blue screen. Her face came alive. And they learned….

9.  Indirect Conversations – Our kid’s technology choices often create tension points. And the confrontations are often counterproductive. Remove the flashpoint by talking about other families and situations. Explore stricter homes and more lenient ones. These types of conversations get insulated a bit because the focus is ‘out there’ and not ‘in here.’ They are indirect talks and are often better shoulder-to-shoulder (when traveling in the car together) rather than face-to-face.

8.  Limit And Replace – Limiting screen time is a huge responsibility for parents. But far too often we focus on limitations rather than replacement ideas. And this is where it gets tough. Since our kid’s reality is often in the virtual world, it feels punitive to them, like we’re downshifting their life from 5th gear to 2nd gear. If we say, “stop playing video games and go read a book,” it’s true. We’ve offered a replacement. But the comparison in their mind is lame. Get use to that feeling and to their initial reaction. It’s part of the challenge. The video games will produce a deadening effect in them whereas crossing something off their responsibility list will be empowering. The challenge is one of deferred gratification. We’re slowing down their dopamine release and getting them back into the real world of hard work and real gratification.

7.  Focus On Unique Gender – Culture is sweeping us towards gender equity. This requires some extra work in the area of what is uniquely masculine and feminine. Get your one-liners down. For starters, borrow the following and try to make them better. “A real man steps into uncertainty rather than avoiding it.” “A real woman empowers people rather than attempting to control them.”

6.  Make An Appointment – Find another mom or dad who get technology. How to set limits, how to shut off the router between 10pm-6am. How to monitor and regulate aggressive texters, how to turn various websites on and off. Which apps circumvent parent control and accountability? Which devices enable WiFi and which don’t. This brief post can get you started on which devices are age-appropriate for your kids. And make that appointment right now.

5.  Hands-On Experience –  The virtual places and spaces all compete for our kids’ attention. To achieve balance, adolescents need to get into the real world. Taking a machine apart, getting dirty with a shovel, learning how a pump works, climbing a tree, going for walks, driving a car before they’re 17, supplying wood for a camping trip, reading a physical book, raising something and keeping it alive, doing a mission trip. Here are some ideas for guys. The book Shop Class as SoulCraft is excellent on this topic.

4.  Simplify Categories When Talking About Sex – Notice the complexity in the following list: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, experimenting, asexual. And the list goes on. But there are two biblical categories that our kids must become experts in understanding: 1) male and female (God created the roles in the beginning) and 2) procreation and pleasure (they are a package deal and cannot be separated). If you want a simple diagram to get your kids thinking, check out this chart. Now, re-read the complex list above using the two categories to evaluate them. Finally, consider using this question, “does God have authority over my sexuality?” It can launch a great discussion.

3.  Travel – Trips continue to be an excellent disruption for adolescents. Since they are right in the middle of their worldview forming years, it’s imperative that they expand beyond their own technology control center. Many families are beginning to introduce ‘study abroad’ options to their high schoolers instead of waiting for college. They are customizing the experience through missionaries and service organizations where the parent is comfortable with the host family.

2.  Hire Intermediate Influencers – Pray for specific people to cross paths with your son or daughter, people who are just a few years ahead of them and are working on their relationship with God. This will ultimately involve the misuse, abuse and correct use of technology. In some cases, it’ll be well worth some financial investment. Guitar lessons? Math tutor? Athletic trainer? Make an excuse and hire someone to help. In all likelihood they’ll say some of the same things you’ve been saying when all of a sudden it’ll make sense to your adolescent.

1.  Be Authentic & Transparent In Your Technology – “Be the person you want your child to be, so that when they turn out like you, you’ll like who they’ve become.” Let them see your own struggles and victories in areas where technology grabs you. This stuff is far more “caught” than “taught.” Pick one of the following verses and drill it into your prayer life: 1) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (Js 1:5), 2) Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Eph 5:15), 3) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Phil 1:9-10)

Our kids are just like us and therefore need three things in place regarding tech:

a.  Limits and Filters          b.  Relationships of Accountability             c.  A Personal Desire to Change

 

 

 

Talking With Kids About Deviant Sexual Categories

When asked about a particularly deviant practice in his time, Jesus responded with this.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  (Matthew 19:4-6)

As sexual deviance increases and new terms emerge, a simple diagram can help students see God as the original architect of sexual roles. Marriage is the centerpiece of God’s design and it maintains two components: 1) male/female and 2) pleasure/procreation. If either of these are separated, we are operating outside of God’s layout.

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So grab a napkin at Starbucks or McDonalds and sketch this design. Then, think through where the following would be placed. What quadrant would they located in?

Pornography – Notice the world of pretend. It may involve male/female and it includes pleasure, but there is no possible procreation. It’s a pretend world.

Masturbation – Similar

Emotional Porn – Same pretend world

Gay – This separates both male from female and separates pleasure from procreation

Lesbian – Similar

 

The overarching question that needs to be repeated on a continuing basis is,

“does God have authority over my sexuality?”

 

 

‘Auto-Sympathy’- Our Kids n LGBT

A parent sent this in the other day. Notice the result of our kids growing up in a radically different culture than we did:

Our kids have grown up in the era of constant propaganda that’s very pro LGBT. We didn’t. What they feel, we don’t. What we feel, they don’t. The argument they always come with seems to be stemmed in a victim mentality, “they can’t help it – they’re born like that”. If you listen closely, our kids often echo the media’s mantra. They compare it to race, as though there is no choice or impulse involved. Where we automatically bristle at the idea of ‘no choice,’ kids are on auto-sympathy. So the direction of the conversation needs to be toward empowering and taking responsibility for behavior. We need to be careful not to shut down the conversation with hatred, but keep it going by having concern for those who’ve bought into a destructive lie, and sympathy for the damage it leaves behind.

All immorality eventually leads to destruction. No matter what our impulses are, we can choose to indulge them or not. What the media never shows about LGBT are all the injuries to the body, the long-term after effects of some of the practices, the rampant STDs and the unstable, painful relationships left in the wake. And you see all these things in heterosexual promiscuity as well. It’s important to talk about these in general terms to bring focus to God’s protection through the boundaries he asks us to live by.

‘Auto-Sympathy’ is a term to repeatedly re-insert into our brains until we get it. Our knee jerk reaction to the world is often a 180 from the way our kids view it.

Parenting Resources Related To LGBT

The following resources track both sides of the LGBT debate for parents. Of particular note is that many of these are produced by students in their 20’s. I’ll try to give a brief summary next to each one.

Two resources that serve as bookends to the discussion are Washed and Waiting and Torn. What makes these books a compelling read is that they’re both written by younger guys who grew up in a solid Christian family and a healthy environment. They take two very different sides as they work through the excruciating effort of ‘coming out,’ and searching scripture. Wesley Hill decides to remain celibate while Justin Lee interprets scripture to allow him to move forward in a same sex relationship.

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Need help loving someone who is gay or lesbian? Andrew Martin remains conservative in his interpretation of scripture but refuses to let truth get in the way of loving the LGBT community. He’s written a good book entitled, Love Is An Orientation.  He’s living and working in a gay community, has started a foundation and pours his life out to help as many as possible.

Many of our college students are reading Matthew Vines (pictured below). He got big time attention when a YouTube went viral. Here’s one and even if you watch just 2 minutes, you’ll note how young he is and how soberly and seriously he approaches the subject. I believe he stretches scriptural interpretation way too far in order to fit his preference but it’s important to notice his work.

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Finally, here’s a fantastic resource. Laurie Krieg is a happily married Christian young woman who struggles with same sex attraction. She’s a tremendous thinker and handles the scripture with great care. Her blog offers great insight and can be a pivotal discussion tool for you to use with high school and college students.

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Three Questions to Ask Yourself About the LGBT Debate

The gay-lesbian debate remains entrenched with each side fortifying its walls. And as long as it stays at the ‘debate’ level we’ll only intensify the problem. Like the ubiquitous comment section on the Internet, it’s far too easy to hide and fire off distasteful words from a position of relative obscurity.

Jonathan Merritt says it this way:

The Christian Church in the West is now facing the most important debate of our time. It threatens to shred the church by the seams and leave it in a tattered heap. And more importantly, it intimately involves people with feelings and emotions and dreams that have been socially marginalized and deserve to be respected, loved, and heard.

Those on the left must stop labeling anyone who holds to a traditional Christian sexual ethic a “bigot” or “hater.” Those on the right must quit claiming that everyone on the left is a “heretic” or “doesn’t believe the Bible.” – Jonathan Merritt

Ask yourself three questions:

1.  In the difficult challenge of balancing truth and love, which side do I usually err on? Do I tend to recheck, rethink and clarify my position from the Bible? Or do I try harder to love individuals, wondering if I compromise too much? When faced with uncomfortable situations, how do I attempt to reduce inner tension? The difficult balance can be stated this way:

When truth is delivered without love, it is perceived as anything but true. When love is used to avoid tension, it ignores the bottom line welfare of another person and is hardly loving.

Rightly gauging our tendencies helps us achieve greater balance and take better risks.

2.  How deep is gender? Skin deep or soul deep? Does masculine or feminine change when the body is modified?

Rightly understanding our culture’s gender confusion can deepen our love for people.

3.  How personal are my interactions on the subject? Do I work hard to stay at the impersonal level or am I stepping into the messiness of relationships with all that entails?

Rightly engaging our world means interacting with and caring for real people. People like us, with emotions and hurts, dreams and frustrations.

While the debate rages, we can quietly build relationships that maintain both truth and love. Like is often said around here: it’s not the absence of conflict but how conflict is handled that defines a good relationship. Notice this balance of truth and love in Paul’s prayer for the people at Philippi:

“…that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:9-10)

Car vs. Phone

A bunch of parents were hanging out the other night, talking about trends in technology and how it’s impacting their families. One guy threw out the frustration of his son’s hesitancy to get his driver’s license. Several nodded, some joked and most of us reflected on the countdown in our own lives. Like Nascar, we were at the starting line, foot on the gas and watching the flag. Not a second to waste. The driver’s license represented freedom.

To fully understand today’s adolescent and the growing number of kids who delay getting their license, ask yourself two questions:

  • Where’s the action?
  • How do I get there?

A seismic shift is occurring under our feet and no sooner do we get some traction on one plot of ground when something beside us begins to fall away. It’s a funny thing. That one meeting launched several further discussions. You know, the meeting after the meeting. And in one of those encounters a guy came out with this:

“The car represented a gateway to independence, exploration & above all a social life with other teens. I think the smart phone fills all these desires or…squashes them”

We’re migrants to a new reality. It takes a few minutes to figure out how the natives function. And for many of us, it leaves us shaking our heads. For the license, and the necessary car, were markers of having arrived. A culturally agreed upon milestone.

Today’s adolescent chafes at limitation. Ironically, the car- able to transport us to the place of action- is ridiculously limited to time and space. One place at one time with only one set of people. The phone on the other hand transcends limitation. Instant, global, interactive, collaborative and multidimensional, it stamps the ‘car’ as antique and tows it prematurely to the museum.