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Posts tagged ‘Family’

The Secret to a Lasting Marriage: Embrace Imperfection

SOURCE:  Deb Graham

When I was a little girl, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.

On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage, and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his toast, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school.

I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that toast and eat every bite! When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said: “Baby, I love burned toast.”

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Debbie, your momma put in a hard day at work today and she’s real tired. And besides-a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!”

In bed that night, I thought about that scene at dinner and the kindness my daddy showed my mom. To this day, it’s a cherished memory from my childhood that I’ll never forget. And it’s one that came to mind just recently when Jack and I sat down to eat dinner.

I had arrived home, late as usual, and decided we would have breakfast food for dinner. Some things never change, I suppose!

To my amazement, I found the ingredients I needed, and quickly began to cook eggs, turkey sausage, and buttered toast. Thinking I had things under control, I glanced through the mail for the day. It was only a few minutes later that I remembered that I had forgotten to take the toast out of the oven!

Now, had it been any other day — and had we had more than two pieces of bread in the entire house — I would have started all over. But it had been one of those days and I had just used up the last two pieces of bread. So burnt toast it was!

As I set the plate down in front of Jack, I waited for a comment about the toast. But all I got was a “Thank you!” I watched as he ate bite by bite, all the time waiting for some comment about the toast. But instead, all Jack said was, “Babe, this is great. Thanks for cooking tonight. I know you had a hard day.”

As I took a bite of my charred toast that night, I thought about my mom and dad, how burnt toast hadn’t been a deal-breaker for them. And I quietly thanked God for giving me a marriage where burnt toast wasn’t a deal-breaker either!

You know, life is full of imperfect things-and imperfect people. I’m not the best housekeeper or cook. And you might be surprised to find out that Jack isn’t the perfect husband! He likes to play his music too loud, he will always find a way to avoid yard work, and he watches far too many sports. Believe it or not, watching “Golf Academy” is not my idea of a great night at home!

But somehow in the past 37 years Jack and I have learned to accept the imperfections in each other. Over time, we have stopped trying to make each other in our own mold and have learned to celebrate our differences. You might say that we’ve learned to love each other for who we really are!

For example, I like to take my time, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m even-tempered. I tend to work too much and sleep too little. Jack, on the other hand, is disciplined, studious, an early riser, and is a marketer’s dream consumer. I count pennies and Jack could care less! Where he is strong, I am weak, and vice versa.

And while you might say that Jack and I are opposites, we’re also very much alike. I can look at him and tell you what he’s thinking. I can predict his actions before he finalizes his plans. On the other hand, he knows whether I’m troubled or not the moment I enter a room.

We share the same goals. We love the same things. And we are still best friends. We’ve traveled through many valleys and enjoyed many mountaintops. And yet, at the same time, Jack and I must work every minute of every day to make this thing called “marriage” work!

What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences – is the one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting marriage relationship.

And that’s my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your married life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Because in the end, He’s the only One who will be able to give you a marriage where burnt toast isn’t a deal-breaker!

Impossible Marriage Situation

(Question/Answer re “Impossible Marriage” Situation by Michelle Wiener-Davis, Author of Divorce Busting.)

I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING, BUT NOTHING WORKS !!!

QUESTION —
Dear Michele:
“I’m working on my marriage, but it still isn’t working.” Michele, after reading your books (Divorce Remedy, Divorce Busting and Getting Through to the Man You Love), I have one question: The underlying assumption of all three books is that you DO love your spouse. I am in a situation in which I don’t really love my spouse, and actually often don’t like or respect him. Yet he is a good father, and our children are incredibly devoted to our little family. I definitely believe that a divorce would be the best thing for ME (and probably for him), but the worst thing for my children. It’s been hard for me to try to divorce bust because I can’t seem to get over the hump of feeling I’m knocking myself out to work on something I don’t really want, namely, staying married to my husband. Does this mean mine is just one of the marriages that can’t be saved? Most of the posts I read on the boards seem to be from people who WANT their spouses. Any comments would be appreciated, and I’m sure would be enlightening to many on the board, because I’ve heard from many about to be Walkaway Wife’s who feel the same way I do — little, if any, love or respect for our spouses, and little, if any, desire to be married to them. Thank you. Jenny

ANSWER —
Dear Jenny,
You ask an interesting question and I hope my response will be helpful.

First, I want you to know that your assumption that my books presuppose love for one’s spouse is completely incorrect. My books presuppose a commitment to working on one’s marriage. It is absolutely true that when you love your spouse, it makes going through the hard times more palatable and sharing the good times more enjoyable. No question about it. But I don’t assume people reading the books love their spouses.

I know you won’t like what I’m about to say, but I can tell from your post that you have never really committed to working on your marriage. Yes, I know you’ve had a telephone consultation and some counseling. But that doth not commitment make. Too many people say they’re working on their marriages when they drag their bodies to therapy or talk to some sort of expert. That’s not even scratching the surface. Working on your marriage means making the decision to be there in spirit, not necessarily to be head over heels in love when you start, but to invest yourself fully.

Working on your marriage means giving of yourself completely, putting your spouse’s needs before your own- and vise versa. It means quitting the game of keeping score. It means forgiving and letting go. Working on your marriage means focusing on people’s strengths and downplaying their shortcomings. It means not expecting to have all or even the majority of your needs satisfied by one person. It means vowing to have a full and satisfying life of your own so that you don’t blame your spouse unfairly about your unhappiness. It means appreciating the little things and overlooking life’s annoyances. It means recognizing that no one, not even you or me, is perfect.

I’m not sure why I think this, but I have a distinct feeling that you are holding on to resentments from the past. (I don’t even know you but the feeling is there nonetheless). It seems to me, that your current willingness to stay is built on guilt and self-sacrifice rather than any pleasure derived from the gift you would be giving your children and “your little family” and as a result, yourself. As long as you look at staying through the eyes of resentment, you will not be able to fully immerse yourself in what you need to do to make your family truly work.

Unfortunately, no one, not your parents, friends, family, therapist, clergy or me, can make the decision to have a good, healthy family for you. Only you can make that choice. You have been sitting on the fence- staying but holding back. (Maybe that’s why you chose Paradox as your username.) This won’t get you where you need to go. I can promise you that. Make a decision. Own your decision. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re working on things when you’re not. If you feel you can’t forgive and start fresh, take ownership of that. Go. However, you know my first choice. But in the end, that doesn’t really matter. Yours is the choice that matters. If you choose marriage, the rest is relatively easy. You decide. Love is a decision.
Michele

It’s Not Your Job to Entertain Your Children

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Jenae Jacobson

There’s more to mothering than keeping your kids amused.

I fear that we are headed down a slippery slope when it comes to one aspect of parenting.  And we at least need to start talking about it.

For some reason we have this strange belief that it is our job to entertain our kids all. the. time.

In case you aren’t convinced … feel free to browse Pinterest for a few minutes or visit one of the amazing blogs with activities for children. I, too, am guilty of spinning my wheels day after day, trying my hardest to provide fun experiences for my children … all in the name of being a good mom.

Yes, we want our kids to have a happy childhood with a variety of experiences. But this certainly doesn’t mean that the mark of a good mother is spending all her time creating and engaging her kids in those activities.

My goal as a parent is to raise my children to know, love, and emulate Jesus.  Entertaining them is not what should take up the majority of my focus. My focus should be on others, just as Jesus’ was. After all, the two greatest commandments are loving God and loving others.

So, what is a mother to do?

Meet their needs of feeding, changing, and bathing? Yes.

Teach our children? Yes.

Engage with our children in play? Yes.

Enjoy our children? Yes.

Play with our children? Yes, although not every minute of the day.

Encourage our children to think of others before themselves? YES!

Laugh with, tickle, and kiss our sweet babies? OF COURSE!

Entertain our children every minute of the day? No.

The fact is, when we make it our mission in life to make sure that our children are entertained and having fun, we are teaching them that life is all about them! It also can prohibit children from using their imagination and creativity to come up with something fun to do on their own.  This is a problem with my firstborn—I continually entertained him from birth to 2 years of age, when his little brother was born, and now he has a hard time playing on his own.

Rather than going out of our way to find ways to entertain our kids, let’s go out of our way thinking of opportunities that we can serve and love others together.

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This article originally appeared as a post on MomLife Today®, FamilyLife’s blog for moms.

Surprisingly Simple Ways to Help Children Develop Empathy

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

The following exercises are not only fun, but also effective in helping children become more empathic.

I Wonder

Go to a public location where you can sit and watch other people coming and going –  i.e. airport, mall, park, fair, sporting event, etc.

Find a place to sit that is in an area of moderately heavy traffic.  You want it to be busy but not crowded.  Then start asking questions.

  • What do you notice about these people?
  • Where do you think they are going?
  • Can you pick out a particular person?  Tell me about them?  Who are they with?  Why are they here?

At this point, you might get a little push back with the child saying, “I don’t know.”  That’s okay.  Encourage them to imagine who the person they see might be.  Acknowledge that of course they don’t know for sure, but based on what they see, what story can they imagine. 

  • Look at their faces.
  • What do you see?
  • Do they look happy or sad?
  • What kind of food do you think they like?
  • Do you think that little boy plays any sports?  What sport do you think he likes best?

Continue reading at this site:  http://www.kimblackham.com/surprisingly-simple-ways-to-help-children-develop-empathy/

 

4 Easy Reminders to be a Great Parent

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

The title says these are “easy”…and they are in some ways. None of these are hard to remember. None of these are hard to implement…with personal discipline. But, living them daily, in addition to the normal stresses of life…can seem very difficult at times.

But, great parents are continually working at them.

Here are 4 principles to be a great parent:

(Or the best parent you can be…)

Be present. Be there for your kids. Stay committed to them throughout their life. Be willing, especially in the formative years, to sacrifice your time for them. They’ll know whether or not you really want to be with them. And, something positive happens when they have your full attention. They model. (So also live a life worth modeling.)

Be intentional. Make a plan for each individual child based on their needs and work the plan. Introduce them to Christ. Involve them in church regularly. Help them with their school work. Teach them Biblical principles. Do what’s best for them…even when it isn’t popular with them.

Be relational. Let love reign. Keep grace flowing. Provide healthy discipline…because you love them and they need it at times. Be patient, recognizing they are learning….even when it seems some days they are not. Don’t ever let them think they have to earn your love. You may not always approve of their actions, but be sure they have no doubts that you approve of them. Spend time with them doing what they enjoy doing. Sacrifice your time to play with them…even at the end of a long, hard day. It will be worth it.

Be consistent. Keep doing the right thing…always…continually. Over and over again. That’s what the great parents do.

Even if you do everything you know to do, children are unique individuals…with wills of their own. They will make choices in life…and mistakes…just as you do.

Parenting IS hard, but you’ve got this. And, the reward of seeing adult children thrive…worth every sacrifice.

Family: Imperfect – BUT – Important

SOURCE:  Family Life/Dennis Rainey

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

I believe there is nothing more powerful on Earth than family. It is the single most influential force for good (or for evil) in all human existence.

From birth, it marks you. Your family crafts your conscience and shapes your soul. At home you learn life’s lessons and begin the art of practicing them. At home you learn to love and to do what’s right. More than merely giving you a street address, your home and family imprint you with a spiritual and sexual identity shaped by the two people who gave you life.

Truly, nothing compares to the strength of being tightly wrapped in the protective fiber of family.

It’s who you are. It’s where you belong.

And if all goes well–as it should–it is your family that surrounds you when you start life’s journey, when you face life’s hardest trials, when you go through the valleys and when you die. More than anyone else, the members of your family are the ones who are there for you, caring for you and mourning the loss of you when you’re gone.

This should come as no surprise, because God created the family. At the very dawn of time, “God created man in His own image, . . . male and female He created them.” Of all the ways He could have chosen to inaugurate His creation, He chose to start with family. In fact, the Bible begins with a marriage in Genesis and ends with a marriage in Revelation.

Marriage and family have always been central to what God is doing on planet Earth.

I believe family is still of utmost importance to our heavenly Father. It holds the key to our health, our success as a society, and our future. And I believe it is worth whatever effort is required to nurture, encourage and support it.

Thank God for the gift of your family, regardless of its inadequacies and failures.

What Kids Need From A Mom

SOURCE:  Life, Love and Family Daily Fact Sheet/Dr. Tim Clinton

“Mothers”

  • 3 Ingredients for Good Parenting (Clinton & Hawkins, 2009):
    • Love—children need hugs, physical contact, words of encouragement and affirmation, and quality time—all of these communicate love. Love also helps break down barriers and walls that we can’t see with our eyes. As a mom, you are to love your children even when it is undeserved. This does not mean that you accept everything that they do. It does mean that you remind them that you love them even when you disagree with or are heartbroken by their actions.
    • Discipline—discipline, unlike punishment, always envisions a better future for the child. As a mom, you must discipline and train your children.
    • Guidance—as a parent, it is your job to teach your children about life, guiding them in all areas, especially in God’s Word (Deut. 6:4-9). Guiding your children may also mean allowing them to make mistakes.
  • Special Time: Helping Your Child Feel Loved and Cared for (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006):
    • Before more structured behavioral techniques are used to help a child, the parent-child relationship must first improve.
    • If a child is angry or feels unloved or uncared for, no parenting technique can make him behave.
    • Special Time is playtime that parents intentionally invest in their child, and it is totally command free.
    • During Special Time, parents are not allowed to give their child any commands or suggestions.
    • Special Time should last for twenty to thirty minutes at a time and parents should allow their child to pick the activity they’d like to do together.
    • Connection begins by starting with something your child actually likes. Avoid agenda-centered conversations. Enter your child’sworld. Be present and available to him or her without any other obligations competing for your time.
  • Quotes:
    • “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”—Abraham Lincoln
    • “A mother is the one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.”—Emily Dickinson
    • “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”—George Washington
    • “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children.”—John Steinbeck
    • “Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother.”—Billy Graham
    • “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”—Agatha Christie
    • “A mother understands what a child does not say.”—Jewish Proverb
    • “You are not making memories with your children; you are the memory!”—Josh McDowell
  • Key Thoughts (Morgan & Kuykendall, 2001)
    • Mothers face the challenge of investing their time and energy in the lives of their children. The culture, however, confronts them with two messages: “Mothering is not a job,” and “Mothering is not a skill.”
    • It can be difficult for women to value their major investment in life—mothering—when their culture judges that investment as having no value.
    • Similarly, mothering skills, where time and energy are invested in the lives of those who can’t do for themselves, are undervalued.
    • Mothers need to understand the value of their mothering from God’s perspective.
    • Mothering is highly esteemed in God’s Word. Children are declared to be precious gifts from God (Ps. 127:3). Proverbs 31, the chapter describing the “virtuous woman,” pictures a mother who diligently cares for her household.
    • Mothering cannot be defined by a paycheck or a promotion, but in the peace of mind that comes from being there for children.
  • Verses:
    • “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.”—Proverbs 31:26-27
    • “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”—Exodus 20:12
    • “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”—Psalm 127:3
    • “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying, ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”—Proverbs 31:28-30
    • “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”—Proverbs 22:6
    • “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”—Ephesians 6:4

Endnotes

Clinton, T. & Hawkins, R. (2009). The quick-reference guide for biblical counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Clinton, T. & Sibcy, G. (2006). Why you do the things you do: The secret to healthy relationships. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Morgan, E. & Kuykendall, C. (2001). “Does mothering matter?” The Bible for Hope. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Grand-parenting: The 10 Things You Don’t Say to Parents But Should

  • Here are ten things to say to your adult children that will support them as they grow into the role of parent, just as you adjust to being the grandparent

  • Take a positive spin

    The shift from being the parent to becoming a grandparent takes a major adjustment most of us never anticipate. It’s so easy to offer advice based on our years of experience raising children. It’s so easy to see what our adult children don’t. But we can get so focused on giving advice and telling them what they’re doing wrong, that we forget to tell them what they’re doing right. There’s nothing like positive reinforcement.

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    I respect how you’re raising your kids.

    You may not do things the way I did, but it’s a different world today, especially given the state of the economy and all the pressures on young families. (Now could you please stop making fun of me for not being able to buckle the kids into their car seats or collapse the stroller!)
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    Please, let me do the dishes!

    Or the laundry! Or change the baby’s diaper, then make dinner! I’m here to help!
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    Don’t worry; you’re wonderful parents.

    We all make mistakes sometimes—as I know only too well. So what if you let your daughter eat cupcakes for dinner every now and then? There were times when I let you run barefoot in the freezing cold and eat ice cream for breakfast—and you should have heard my mother! (And, true story, once I put fresh kibble in my son’s bowl in an attempt to cure his habit of eating out of the dog’s dish. It worked.)
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    Your children are wonderful.

    All kids go through difficult stages—you did, and look how fantastic you turned out!
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    I’m here if you need me.

    I realize that you’re up on all the latest information about childhood safety, diet, education, and health, which is different than back in my day. I trust that if you want my advice or opinion, you’ll ask for it.
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    All parents feel insecure sometimes …

    … especially with their first child. Parenting is an art that can only be learned on the job, no matter how many books you read or experts you consult. You know your child better than anyone. Just know that I’m here for you and if you ever want the benefit of my experience, say the word.
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    I promise to follow your rules …

    … as much as humanly possible. That means, I’ll feed the kids according to your instructions, limit the treats, make sure they do their homework, then get them to bed on time. And I absolutely swear I won’t start feeding the baby solids without your permission.
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    I support your decisions.

    You’re an intelligent, responsible adult with a good head on your shoulders, and I know that you think everything through carefully. If you want my opinion, I know you’ll ask for it. (You cannot repeat this often enough.)
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    It’s a privilege …

    … and an honor to be allowed to spend time with your children, because I know how much you love them and want to protect them. Thank you for putting your faith and trust in me.
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    I know I’m no longer the boss.

    It is strange, especially at first, to be the grandparent and not the parent. The truth is, becoming a grandparent takes almost as much on-the-job training as becoming a parent. Please forgive my mistakes and know that I’m doing my best to support you and love your children.————————————————————————————————————————————SOURCE:  Grandparents.com

    Barbara Graham, a Grandparents.com columnist, is the editor of the anthology, Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother.

Parenting: Lessons Along The Way

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by Dennis Rainey/Family Life

A Parent’s Top Five

A righteous man who walks in his integrity–

how blessed are his sons after him.
Proverbs 20:7

Barbara and I have not been perfect parents. But when you have as many children as we do, God gives you a few hundred lessons along the way. And from our years of experience, we’ve come up with a list of five non-negotiables that all parents need in order to raise a family God’s way:

  1. Understand the times. In past societies, the culture helped reinforce the values that parents were trying to instill in their children. Not today. That’s why you need to be surrounded with a few like-minded parents who can support, encourage and counsel one another through the choppy waters of modern life. A great church is where you’ll find them.
  2. Have a sacred commitment to each other. Your kids need to see your vows lived out in every circumstance, in times of both peace and conflict. Make it a priority to resolve disagreements with your spouse, to forgive each other, to remain faithful. These qualities of love build a powerful, profound sense of security in children.
  3. Know what you believe. You are the textbook your children read. Your deeply held values about life will influence your interactions with your children. As parents, you need to know what your unshakable convictions are.
  4. Remember God’s perspective on children. Never forget that children are a gift from God. Raising your children is a privilege and responsibility He has given to no one else, and they should be raised to know Him and walk with Him.
  5. Strive for the right goal. More than anything else, your children need to grow to love and fear the Lord. That’s more important than ensuring they have a good education, develop different skills or learn how to succeed in today’s culture. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Pray
Pray that your priorities will be shaped by God’s Word and will influence your choices for you and your family.

A Prayer for Parenting by Grace

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

Unless the Lord builds the house, Those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Ps. 127:1-3

Dear heavenly Father, it’s a joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house—including the household of faith and my children’s place in your family.

As I look back over the years of my pragmatic, gospel-lite parenting, I have a lot of regrets and sadness; but I’m also comforted by the assurance of your sovereignty and faithfulness, even when I was overbearing and under-believing. The move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace has been a slow journey, but one which continues to stretch me. Take me deeper; take me further.

Father, thank you for rescuing me from parental “laboring in vain”—assuming a burden you never intended parents to bear; for only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children. Only you can give anyone a new heart. You’ve called us to parent as an act of worship—to parent “as unto you,” not as a way of saving face, making a name for ourselves, or proving our worthiness of your love.

Oh, the arrogant pride of thinking that by our “good parenting” we can take credit for what you alone accomplish in the lives of our children. Oh, the arrogant unbelief of assuming that by our “bad parenting” we’ve forever limited what you will be able to accomplish in the future. Oh, the undue pressure our children must feel when we parent more out of our fear and pride than by your love and grace.

Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, Father, teach us how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners. More than anything else, show us how to parent and grandparent in a way that best reveals the unsearchable riches of Jesus in the gospel.

Give us quick repentances and observable kindnesses. Convict us quickly and surely when we do not relate to your covenant children “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). Restore the years eaten away by our moralistic, pragmatic, guilt-laced, fear-filled parenting. Write stories of redemption between us and our kids that clearly reveal your name to be Redeemer.

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ faithful and glorious name.

 

The Compassion of Truth: Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective

SOURCE:   Albert Mohler

Homosexuality is perhaps the most controversial issue of debate in American culture. Once described as “the love that dares not speak its name,” homosexuality is now discussed and debated throughout American society.

Behind this discussion is an agenda, pushed and promoted by activists, who seek legitimization and social sanction for homosexual acts, relationships, and lifestyles. The push is on for homosexual “marriage,” the removal of all structures and laws considered oppressive to homosexuals, and the recognition of homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and others as “erotic minorities,” deserving of special legal protection.

The larger culture is now bombarded with messages and images designed to portray homosexuality as a normal lifestyle. Homoerotic images are so common in the mainstream media that many citizens have virtually lost the capacity to be shocked.

Those who oppose homosexuality are depicted as narrow-minded bigots and described as “homophobic.” Anyone who suggests that heterosexual marriage is the only acceptable and legitimate arena of sexual activity is lambasted as out-dated, oppressive, and outrageously out of step with modern culture.

The church has not been an outsider to these debates. As the issue of homosexual legitimization has gained public prominence and moved forward, some churches and denominations have joined the movement–even becoming advocates of homosexuality–while others stand steadfastly opposed to compromise on the issue. In the middle are churches and denominations unable or unwilling to declare a clear conviction on homosexuality. Issues of homosexual ordination and marriage are regularly discussed in the assemblies of several denominations–and many congregations.

This debate is itself nothing less than a revolutionary development. Any fair-minded observer of American culture and the American churches must note the incredible speed with which this issue has been driven into the cultural mainstream. The challenge for the believing church now comes down to this: Do we have a distinctive message in the midst of this moral confusion?

Our answer must be Yes. The Christian church must have a distinctive message to speak to the issue of homosexuality, because faithfulness to Holy Scripture demands that we do so.

The affirmation of biblical authority is thus central to the church’s consideration of this issue–or any issue. The Bible is the Word of God in written form, inerrant and infallible, inspired by the Holy Spirit and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” [2 Timothy 3:16]. This is the critical watershed: Those churches which reject the authority of Scripture will eventually succumb to cultural pressure and accommodate their understanding of homosexuality to the spirit of the age. Those churches that affirm, confess, and acknowledge the full authority of the Bible have no choice in this matter–we must speak a word of compassionate truth. And that compassionate truth is this: Homosexual acts are expressly and unconditionally forbidden by God through His Word, and such acts are an abomination to the Lord by His own declaration.

Professor Elizabeth Achtemeier of Richmond’s Union Theological Seminary states the case clearly: “The clearest teaching of Scripture is that God intended sexual intercourse to be limited to the marriage relationship of one man and one woman.”(1) That this is so should be apparent to all who look to the Bible for guidance on this issue. This assessment of the biblical record would have been completely uncontroversial throughout the last nineteen centuries of the Christian church. Only in recent years have some biblical scholars come forward to claim that the Bible presents a mixed message–or a very different message–on homosexuality.

The homosexual agenda is pushed by activists who are totally committed to the cause of making homosexuality a sanctioned and recognized form of sexual activity–and the basis for legitimate family relationships. Every obstacle which stands in the way of progress toward this agenda must be removed, and Scripture stands as the most formidable obstacle to that agenda.

We should not be surprised therefore that apologists for the homosexual agenda have arisen even within the world of biblical scholarship. Biblical scholars are themselves a very mixed group, with some defending the authority of Scripture and others bent on deconstructing the biblical text. The battle lines on this issue are immediately apparent. Many who deny the truthfulness, inspiration, and authority of the Bible have come to argue that Scripture sanctions homosexuality–or at least to argue that the biblical passages forbidding homosexual acts are confused, misinterpreted, or irrelevant.

To accomplish this requires feats of exotic biblical interpretation worthy of the most agile circus contortionist. Several decades ago, the late J. Gresham Machen remarked that “The Bible, with a complete abandonment of all scientific historical method, and of all common sense, is made to say the exact opposite of what it means; no Gnostic, no medieval monk with his fourfold sense of Scripture, ever produced more absurd Biblical interpretation than can be heard every Sunday in the pulpits of New York.”(2) Dr. Machen was referring to the misuse and misapplication of Scripture which he saw as a mark of the infusion of a pagan spirit within the church. Even greater absurdity than that observed by Machen is now evident among those determined to make the Bible sanction homosexuality.

Different approaches are taken toward this end. For some, an outright rejection of biblical authority is explicit. With astounding candor, William M. Kent, a member of the committee assigned by United Methodists to study homosexuality declared that “the scriptural texts in the Old and New Testaments condemning homosexual practice are neither inspired by God nor otherwise of enduring Christian value. Considered in the light of the best biblical, theological, scientific, and social knowledge, the biblical condemnation of homosexual practice is better understood as representing time and place bound cultural prejudice.”(3) This approach is the most honest taken among the revisionists. These persons do not deny that the Bible expressly forbids homosexual practices–they acknowledge that the Bible does just that. Their answer is straightforward; we must abandon the Bible in light of modern “knowledge.”

The next step taken by those who follow this approach is to suggest that it is not sufficient for the authority of the Bible to be denied–the Bible must be opposed. Gary David Comstock, Protestant chaplain at Wesleyan University charges: “Not to recognize, critique, and condemn Paul’s equation of godlessness with homosexuality is dangerous. To remain within our respective Christian traditions and not challenge those passages that degrade and destroy us is to contribute to our own oppression.”(4) Further, Comstock argues that “These passages will be brought up and used against us again and again until Christians demand their removal from the biblical canon, or, at the very least, formally discredit their authority to prescribe behavior.”(5)

A second approach taken by the revisionists is to suggest that the human authors of Scripture were merely limited by the scientific immaturity of their age. If they knew what we now know, these revisionists claim, the human authors of Scripture would never have been so closed-minded. Victor Paul Furnish argues: “Not only the terms, but the concepts ‘homosexual’ and ‘homosexuality’ were unknown in Paul’s day. These terms like ‘heterosexual,’ ‘heterosexuality,’ ‘bisexual,’ and ‘bisexuali
ty’ presuppose an understanding of human sexuality that was possible only with the advent of modern psychology and sociological analysis. The ancient writers were operating without the vaguest idea of what we have learned to call ’sexual orientation’.”(6)

Indeed, Paul and the other apostles seem completely ignorant of modern secular understandings of sexual identity and orientation–and this truth is fundamentally irrelevant. Modern notions of sexual orientation must be brought to answer to Scripture. Scripture must not be subjected to defend itself in light of modern notions. Paul will not apologize to Sigmund Freud or the American Psychological Association, and the faithful church must call this approach what it is; a blatant effort to subvert the authority of Scripture and replace biblical authority with the false authority of modern secular ideologies.

A third approach taken by the revisionists is to deny that biblical passages actually refer to homosexuality at all, or to argue that the passages refer to specific and “oppressive” homosexual acts. For instance, some argue that Paul’s references to homosexuality are actually references to pederasty [the sexual abuse of young boys], to homosexual rape, or to “non-committed” homosexual relationships. The same is argued concerning passages such as Genesis 19 and Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Yet, in order to make this case, the revisionists must deny the obvious–and argue the ridiculous.

Likewise, some argue that the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality, but inhospitality. John J. McNeill makes this case, arguing that the church oppressively shifted the understanding of the sin of Sodom from inhospitality to homosexuality.(7) The text, however, cannot be made to play this game. The context indicates that the sin of Sodom is clearly homosexuality–and without this meaning, the passage makes no sense. The language and the structure of the text are clear. Beyond this, Jude, verse 7, self-evidently links the sin of Sodom with sexual perversion and immorality, stating that “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

This verse is sufficient to indicate the severity of the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 speaks of male homosexuality as an “abomination”–the strongest word used of God’s judgment against an act.

The most extensive argument against homosexuality is not found in the Old Testament, however, but in Romans 1:22-27, a passage which is found within Paul’s lengthy introduction to his Roman letter.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for the women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

As Romans 1 makes absolutely clear, homosexuality is fundamentally an act of unbelief. As Paul writes, the wrath of God is revealed against all those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”(8) God the Creator has implanted in all humanity a knowledge of Himself, and all are without excuse. This is the context of Paul’s explicit statements on homosexuality.

Homosexual acts and homosexual desire, states Paul, are a rebellion against God’s sovereign intention in creation and a gross perversion of God’s good and perfect plan for His created order. Paul makes clear that homosexuality–among both males and females–is a dramatic sign of rebellion against God and His intention in creation. Those about whom Paul writes have worshipped the creature rather than the Creator. Thus, men and women have forfeited the natural complementarity of God’s intention for heterosexual marriage and have turned to members of their own sex, burning with an illicit desire which is in itself both degrading and dishonorable.

This is a very strong and clear message. The logical progression in Romans 1 is undeniable. Paul shifts immediately from his description of rebellion against God as Creator to an identification of homosexuality–among both men and women–as the first and most evident sign of a society upon which God has turned His judgment. Essential to understanding this reality in theological perspective is a recognition of homosexuality as an assault upon the integrity of creation and God’s intention in creating human beings in two distinct and complementary genders.

Here the confessing and believing Church runs counter to the cultural tidal wave. Even to raise the issue of gender is to offend those who wish to eradicate any gender distinctions, arguing that these are merely “socially constructed realities” and vestiges of an ancient past.

Scripture will not allow this attempt to deny the structures of creation. Romans 1 must be read in light of Genesis 1 and 2. As Genesis 1:27 makes apparent, God intended from the beginning to create human beings in two genders or sexes–”male and female He created them.” Both man and woman were created in the image of God. They were and are distinct, and yet inseparably linked by God’s design. The genders are different, and the distinction goes far beyond mere physical differences, but the man recognized in the woman “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”(9)

The bond between man and woman is marriage, which is not an historical accident or the result of socialization over time. To the contrary, marriage and the establishment of the heterosexual covenant union is central to God’s intention–before and after the Fall. Immediately following the creation of man and woman come the instructive words: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”(10)

Evangelicals have often failed to present this biblical truth straightforwardly, and thus many of our churches and members are unarmed for the ideological, political, and cultural conflicts which mark the modern landscape. The fundamental axiom upon which evangelical Christians must base any response to homosexuality it this: God alone is sovereign, and He has created the universe and all within by His own design and to His own good pleasure. Furthermore, He has revealed to us His creative intention through Holy Scripture–and that intention was clearly to create and establish two distinct but complementary genders or sexes. The Genesis narratives demonstrate that this distinction of genders is neither accidental nor inconsequential to the divine design. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make for him a helper suitable for him,” determined God.(11) And God created woman.

God’s creative intention is further revealed in the cleaving of man to the woman (”his wife”) and their new identity as “one flesh.”(12) This biblical assertion, which no contorted interpretation can escape, clearly places marriage and sexual relations within God’s creative act and design.

The sexual union of a man and a woman united in covenant marriage
is thus not only allowed, but is commanded as God’s intention and decree. Sexual expression is limited to this heterosexual covenant, which in its clearest biblical expression is one man and one woman united for as long as they both shall live.

Therefore, any sexual expression outside of that heterosexual marriage relationship is illicit, immoral, and outlawed by God’s command and law. That fundamental truth runs counter, not only to the homosexual agenda, but to the rampant sexual immorality of the age. Indeed, the Bible has much more to say about illicit heterosexual activity than about homosexual acts. Adultery, rape, bestiality, pornography, and fornication are expressly forbidden.

As E. Michael Jones argues, most modern ideologies are, at base, efforts to rationalize sexual behavior. In fact, he identifies modernity itself as “rationalized lust.” We should expect the secular world, which is at war with God’s truth, to be eager in its efforts to rationalize lust, and to seek legitimacy and social sanction for its sexual sins. We should be shocked, however, that many within the Church now seek to accomplish the same purpose, and to join in common cause with those openly at war with God’s truth.

Paul’s classic statement in Romans 1 sets the issues squarely before us. Homosexuality is linked directly to idolatry, for it is on the basis of their idolatry that God gave them up to their own lusts [epithymia]. Their hearts were committed to impurity [akatharsia], and they were degrading [atimazo] their own bodies by their illicit lusts.

Their idolatry–exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and worshipping the creature rather than the Creator–led God to give them over to their degrading passions [pathos atimia]. From here, those given over to their degraded passions exchanged the natural use of sexual intercourse for that which God declared to be unnatural [para physin]. At this point Paul explicitly deals with female homosexuality or lesbianism. This is one of the very few references in all ancient literature to female homosexuality, and Paul’s message is clear.

But the women involved in lesbianism were not and are not alone. Men, too, have given up natural intercourse with women and have been consumed with passion [orexis] for other men. The acts they commit, they commit without shame [aschemosyne]. As a result, they have received within their own bodies the penalty of their error.

Beyond this, God has given them up to their own depraved minds, and they do those things which are not proper [kathekonta]. The message could not be more candid and clear, but there are those who seek to deny the obvious. Some have claimed that Paul is here dealing only with those heterosexual persons who commithomosexual acts. The imaginative folly of this approach is undone by Scripture, which allows no understanding that any human beings are born anything other than heterosexual. The modern–and highly political–notion of homosexual “orientation” cannot be squared with the Bible. The only orientation indicated by Scripture is the universal human orientation to sin.(13)

In other letters, Paul indicates that homosexuals–along with those who persist in other sins–will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10 is arsenokoites, a word with a graphic etymology. Some modern revisionists have attempted to suggest that this refers only to homosexual rapists or child abusers. This argument will not stand even the slightest scholarly consideration. The word does not appear in any Greek literature of the period. As New Testament scholar David Wright has demonstrated, the word was taken by Paul directly from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and its meaning is homosexuality itself.(14)

The biblical witness is clear: Homosexuality is a grievous sin against God and is a direct rejection of God’s intention and command in creation. All sin is a matter of eternal consequence, and the only hope for any sinner is the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, who on the cross paid the price for our sin, serving as the substitute for the redeemed.

Our response to persons involved in homosexuality must be marked by genuine compassion. But a central task of genuine compassion is telling the truth, and the Bible reveals a true message we must convey. Those seeking to contort and subvert the Bible’s message are not responding to homosexuals with compassion. To lie is never compassionate–and their lie leads unto death.

Endnotes:

  1. Elizabeth Achtemeier, quoted in “Gays and the Bible,” by Mark O’Keefe, The Virginian Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia (February 14, 1993), p. C-1.
  2. J. Gresham Machen, “The Separateness of the Church,” in God Transcendent, edited by Ned Bernard Stonehouse (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982 [1949]), p.113.
  3. From the statement by William M. Kent published in Report of the Committee to Study Homosexuality to the General Council on Ministries of the United Methodist Church, August 24, 1991.
  4. Gary David Comstock, Gay Theology Without Apology (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press, 1993), p. 43.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Victor Paul Furnish, The Moral Teachings of Paul: Selected Issues (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985), p. 85.
  7. John J. McNeill, The Church and the Homosexual, 3rd edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988).
  8. Romans 1:18. All biblical references are taken from the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
  9. Genesis 2:23.
  10. Genesis 2:24-25.
  11. Genesis 2:18.
  12. Genesis 2:24.
  13. Romans 3:9-20.
  14. D. F. Wright, “Homosexuals or Prostitutes? The Meaning of Arsenokoitai.”Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984): 125-53.

Parenting: Communication

SOURCE:  Living Free

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”

Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Thoughts for Today
How consistent is your communication with your children?

No matter what their ages, keeping the doors of communication open is vital. Two-way communication. The Bible cautions us to listen before we answer.

Communication with your child needs to be age specific. Try to avoid detailed explanations to simple questions. Be at eye level with your children as you communicate, especially as they grow older. Use a consistent, even tone of voice. Avoid communication when you are angry or frustrated.

Consider this … 
Communication takes time—something most of us lack. But communicating with our children should have a high priority in our lives. Healthy families talk to each other a great deal—and they listen.

You can begin developing more family communication by planning at least three evening meals per week with all family members present. Schedule regular quality time with each child individually. Talk to your children—share your heart with them—and listen, really listen.

Prayer
Father, I know that sometimes my priorities get out of line. I get so busy that communication with my children suffers. Help me develop consistent communication habits with them. And teach me to listen—not thinking ahead to my to-do list or planning my response, but really listening to the words—and the heart. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from :…

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

Five Key Things To Know About Marriage

#1: Marriage is not all about you. It’s not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It’s not about getting your needs met. It’s about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It’s about establishing a family. It’s about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now. 

#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson–you are both very selfish people. This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it’s true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It’s important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.

#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest. That’s the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.

#4: You can’t make it work on your own. It’s obvious that marriage is difficult–just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it’s so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.

#5: Never stop enjoying each other. Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.”

Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants … the movies you like … the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you … the times you make each other laugh … the games you play together.

And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids. When you are old, you won’t look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You’re going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together.

Grief and the Christian Family

“Why does a loving God allow tragedy? Why doesn’t He just stop terrible things from happening? What is going to happen next? How is this going to affect me and my family? Am I safe? Is there going to be a war? Can I go on my high school trip without being killed? What is going to happen next?” How can parents explain death, divorce, or terrorism to children and teens when they don’t even understand it themselves? These questions keep running through everyone’s mind, adults and kids alike. We feel so angry, so sad, so helpless, even so guilty for having a good day. What we all feel is grief. It’s a short word that stands for a whole array of excruciating emotions. Now, while in the midst of one of the most difficult times in our country, we have to go to work, or mow the lawn, or do the laundry, or balance the checkbook, or even be a parent to a child or teen we dearly love- previously sheltered youth who are hurting as much as we are and understand their own sorrow even less. There’s only one thing we can do. Wrap ourselves in the love of the Lord and let Him carry us through. Grief, this confusing, devastating, volatile mixture of emotions, is a natural response to any loss: death, divorce, loss of health, familiar surroundings, or treasured possessions. This article will discuss the impact of grief on the family and give suggestions for parents on what to expect and how to help. Much of the discussion will center around the death of a family member, but grief also accompanies a divorce or national terrorism. The only difference is the intensity.

Grief affects the mind, body, and spirit. It seems impossible to concentrate or think clearly enough to make even the simplest decision. The body reacts in unexpected ways: pain, sickness, sleeplessness, difficulty breathing, overwhelming fatigue for some, and for others, amazing bursts of energy. For a few, grief brings a deeper, more satisfying walk with their Lord. For many, a massive wall is built between them and their Savior. Surely, all who take the journey through grief find that it transforms their relationship toward God. For example, Susan, a high school student, couldn’t think clearly and had a sharp drop in her grades after a loss. She tried to deny the pain, but it showed. The stress caused her skin to turn a bright red and she quickly gained twenty pounds. Despite this, she learned to depend on God to help her though the sleepless nights. Stephen, on the other hand, has not been to church since he lost his father five years ago. He, like many, is mad at God. Even now, his grief is unresolved. Normal grief is an essential part of healing. Abnormal grief occurs when a person withdraws too long, pushes others away, or becomes bitter and depressed. Unresolved grief may cause involvement in detrimental activities such as drugs, alcohol, or other addictions. It can even affect the immune system and increase the risk of cancer. Grief seems like a silent enemy, but if you face the enemy head-on, it can become your friend.

Since the loss of security and a sense of trust can cause grief, we are currently a nation of mourners. We all hurt for the families of those lost on September 11. Those who have already experienced a loss, such as divorce or the death of a loved one, can have a particularly difficult time in a national tragedy. The following information is written for those who have had a personal loss, yet the process is the same for all grief. Certainly it is infinitely longer and more profound for those who have lost a family member, yet the information and suggestions can be used by anyone who is concerned about how their kids are coping with the nation’s tragedy. Parents need to find ways to tenderly touch the fragile hearts of every family member so they can talk about their most sensitive emotions and encourage one another in Christ.

A major loss often causes such a disruption that the family system can never fully recover. There are families that learn, with the help of the Lord, to comfort and support one another and, through the process, become closer and stronger. What is the difference between the families that survive the loss and those that fall apart? It seems that the survivors learn to communicate their feelings with each other and with God. This is agonizing at first, especially to children and teens. Children have active imaginations and think they can cope by pretending the loss didn’t happen and nothing has changed. Teens are usually reluctant to share their feelings with the family, so they try to work through their grief alone and pretend they are unaffected by the loss. This pretending is not healthy for adults or teens.

Everyone will experience some type of loss, and loss often leads to misconceptions. These misconceptions are often called magical thinking. Adults often use magical thinking somewhat jokingly when they say, “I’m going to take my umbrella so it won’t rain,” or “I knew it would rain because I just finished washing my car.” We know we can’t control the weather, but there’s an almost imperceptible feeling that we can. With kids it is a strong but silent feeling that causes much pain. Just like adults secretly think they control the weather, kids believe their thoughts control the world around them. In the deepest part of their being, they know the loss is their fault. Sometimes they believe in their hearts that a certain thought or action caused the loss, but sometimes they just know they are responsible. They only wish they knew what they did so they would be sure not to do it again. Just like Kevin in the movie, “Home Alone,” who wished his parents would disappear and woke up thinking his wish had come true, a child will believe an angry thought or wish was responsible for the loss.

Because it’s very difficult for children to admit these misconceptions, it’s important to keep communication open so they feel free to talk about these feelings. Adults and teens usually think this way after a loss, too. “What if I hadn’t had that fight with my Mom?” “What if I had called the doctor sooner?” “What if I had driven that day?” “What if I had been at home?” It’s easy to get caught up in this type of thinking, especially after a death, but the simple truth is that God has a time appointed for each person to die and there’s nothing anyone can do to change God’s timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) We can only trust that He has an eternal reason. Each life is like a mural on a wall, and He sees the whole picture before we are ever conceived.

Death is abstract and children think in concrete ways. Yet it is essential that they know the truth about the death of their loved one and the spiritual significance surrounding it. Most teens have begun to think abstractly. They want to find meaning in the loss. Be honest about the events surrounding the death, but keep the explanation simple. Answer questions honestly, but leave out the dreadful details.

Liz, a woman in her thirties, told this story while in a drug treatment program. When she was young, her father died of a freak accident. Her mother never told her anything. She just whisked her away to the neighbor’s house. Liz asked questions when she saw her dad’s picture on television, but instead of getting answers, she was rushed out of the room. No one even told her that her father had died. The philosophy then was to protect kids from hearing about tragedy, but it’s no surprise that Liz had an addiction, how could she ever grieve the loss of her daddy when she didn’t even know why he never came home again? She turned to drugs to deaden the pain of her unresolved grief. In trying to protect her from the truth, her family left her to the lies of her own imagination.

Kids need someone to explain to them what is happening in their lives and to assure them that they won’t be alone. One of their greatest fears in a loss is that there will be no one to take care of them. They need to be told who will be there for them. In most cases, children are attached to both parents and feel that a part of them is missing if a parent leaves or dies. They are also bonded to siblings and grandparents. After a loss, they see their families as a puzzle with one of the pieces missing. They often feel fractured and powerless, with no sense of direction in their lives. Teens feel sad, but they are more comfortable expressing their anger. Many try to fill the role of the missing family member and become prematurely faces with grown-up responsibilities. Kids need someone outside themselves on whom they can depend. They need someone to hold them and tell them that when everyone else is busy trying to rebuild their own lives, God is always there. Adults need this, too, so a wise parent looks to their friends and their church for support during this troublesome time.

No two people react the same way to loss and each individual’s feelings and reactions change from minute to minute. Children’s understanding of loss changes as they get older. Infants and toddlers believe that when an object is out of sight, it ceases to exist. They enjoy the game of “peek-a-boo” because it helps them begin to accept separation and loss. Since they are incapable of understanding that some people do not return, they can’t conceive of the permanence of death. If an infant loses the nurturing parent, bonding will be broken. It is essential for their future emotional health that they bond with another person. Children who have not completely bonded might be quite charming and make friends quickly, but they have difficulty developing long term relationships because they have never learned to trust. Some have more severe problems. These children need much emotional support and often could benefit from Christian counseling.

Preschoolers are still trying to grasp the idea of object permanence and they are dealing with much magical thinking. Because they feel responsible for the loss, they may feel guilt and shame. They think death is reversible, like it is in cartoons, and may ask many questions about biological functions. If parents get divorced, they will try their best to get them remarried. They can get lost in play and temporarily forget about the loss. Because their imaginations are so active, it is important that they be told the truth about the cause of the loss at a level they can understand. Children who are not told the truth will make up an explanation for the changes in their lives. Their imaginations run wild and adults would often be amazed to find what irrational thoughts are going through the minds of children. Before they can be completely free of the grief, little ones need someone to listen to their version of the story and correct their wrong thinking.

Between the ages of six and ten, children begin to understand that death is final, but they often personify it. It is important that euphemisms not be used, because children are very concrete and take what is said literally. A couple of stories demonstrate the literal thinking of children. Eight-year-old Devin said he is afraid of going to heaven. He thinks eternity is such a long time that he might get bored. He did admit, though, that heaven sounds better than hell. Jenny, age six, tried to console her grandmother after the death of her husband. She overheard Granny asking the undertaker if water would get into the casket. “Don’t worry, Granny,” said Jenny in her most reassuring voice, “God will give Granddaddy a drink of water.”

Death can be explained to a school-age child as the time when the body stops moving and breathing and the spirit leaves. Use a puppet to explain this in a concrete way. When the hand is in the puppet, it moves. When the hand is removed from the puppet, the part that makes it move is gone and the puppet is lifeless. That is like what happens in death. The spirit leaves the body and the body no longer moves or breathes.

Children who experience the death of a family member while in elementary school are overwhelmed with sadness, but they feel they must control it. For many children, especially boys, anger is more socially acceptable. Some children resist the expression of any emotions, but their behavior shows how much they are suffering. Jonathan, age seven, refused to talk about his trauma, but he loved jabbing pencil lead into paper plates. As he was doing this, he was exclaiming, “I’m not angry! I’m not angry!” Jonathan needed help learning to admit his normal anger. If children are not encouraged to express their feelings, they may never resolve their grief.

Teens try to find meaning in their loss. Although they feel sad, they are also more comfortable expressing their anger, which in some cases can lead to violence. Teens who experience the divorce of their parents may find it difficult to trust in dating relationships They long to retreat to their childhood just when more responsibility is being expected of them. They may feel guilt about their normal adolescent rebelliousness, thinking they should have spent more time with the person they lost.. If a parent dies during a time the teen is in rebellion, this can cause a strong feeling of shame, which is too embarrassing to admit, but can haunt the person for years. Allen, a man in his forties, wept when he finally revealed that, as a teen, he had chosen to play tennis rather than go to the hospital the day his father died.

Kids of all ages who are grieving may feel sad, lonely, guilty, and very angry. To avoid thinking, they are often in constant motion and have difficulty concentrating in school. They need the opportunity to express these strong feelings in appropriate ways. Like adults, kids need to grieve, but also like adults, they can resolve the loss. It is important that they receive prompt and accurate information about the loss and are allowed to ask questions, participate in the family grieving rituals, and have a comforting adult to rely upon. In telling kids about a loss, whether right after it happened or while discussing it later, be sure they know they are not alone. Use physical contact and be direct. Reassure them it was not their fault and it is not going to happen to them. Then encourage them to talk about the loss.

Children, teens, and adults move through the grief process in their own unique way, yet kids can experience the stages differently from adults. Jewitt (1982) describes the ways grief might affect kids. In the early stages of grief, youngsters may experience shock, denial, and a feeling of numbness, as if God is letting the loss sink in slowly. They will seem lifeless, smiling on cue, with possible outbursts of panic. Some may act as if they are not bothered by the news. Physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, tension, sighing, and relaxed bowel and bladder control. There is a possibility of sickness, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. The child needs comfort, warmth, and structure.

There are several forms of denial. Children may seem to forget the loved one is not returning. They may reject the loved one or refuse to admit that the person ever existed. For teens, it may be the feelings that are denied, as if to say, “This isn’t happening.” Children and teens often use excessive talking or hyperactivity to keep from thinking about the loss. Many will fear being alone. Some kids are too busy adjusting to a new situation to grieve. If denial lasts longer than three to six months, professional counseling may be needed.

As youngsters begin to face reality, their grief becomes overwhelming. They go between thinking about the loss and ignoring it, strong emotions and apathy. They need free time for this period of grief, so too many extracurricular activities can delay the grief process. They are often preoccupied with the lost person and wish he or she was still in their lives. They may be very active or bargain to get the person back, as if they are thinking they have some control over the loss. Since kids model the way their parent expresses grief, they should be included in the mourning process. Sharing tears can be a healing and bonding experience.

Just before kids begin to reorganize their lives, they go through the worst, but fortunately the shortest stage, depression. There is a sense of hopelessness, which may include slower movement, physical symptoms, helplessness, loss of appetite, and even fleeting thoughts of suicide. After this difficult period, kids begin to realize that life can go on and they are going to be all right. This doesn’t mean they are happy, but the strong, overpowering feelings are gone. Even small new losses, such as a move or the loss of a pet, can bring back the waves of grief. These secondary losses can revive all the previous emotions with a vengeance.

Adults must also journey through the grief process in their own way. As with children, the initial reaction to loss is shock and denial. The griever is not ready to accept the loss and reacts with a numb, empty feeling. There may be tears, some difficulty breathing, disorientation, and a need to do nothing but sit and stare. This fatigue may continue as the numbness gives way to overpowering emotions: anger, guilt, fear, panic, loneliness, sadness. There may be physical illness, tension, and aches and pains. Sleeping may be difficult, or the griever may want to escape into a slumber or some other type of isolation. The person will be edgy and may react to life’s little difficulties more strongly than usual. As time goes on, those who are moving normally through the grief process will begin to find new interests or revive old ones and find a new life without the loved one. This doesn’t mean they miss the person less or are happy about the loss. It just means they have found a way to resume their own lives.

For adults, teens, and children the grief comes in waves and can be brought on unexpectedly by a sound, a smell, or a thought at any time or any place. Something as simple as a trip to the grocery store can bring back memories that make the loss seem as if it has just happened. A smell of fresh lemons, a song played so low on the PA system that it’s not consciously heard, or a glance at the loved ones favorite food can produce a tidal wave of almost forgotten emotions. Talking about the loss and the loved one seems to facilitate a healthy progression through the grief process. Getting your family members to open their hearts and face their sorrow this way can be difficult, but there are some communications skills that may help.

Communication Despite the loss, you want your family to feel lovable and important. Your communication is like a mirror in which others see themselves; so it is important that you use good communication skills in discussing your loss. For children, especially young children, nonverbal communication speaks louder than verbal communication. If your nonverbal communication agrees with your verbal communication, then children feel they can trust what you say.

The most effective communication skill is listening carefully for feelings. Children don’t always have the words for their feelings, so they may need help in labeling them. Teens often have a difficult time talking to their parent about their feelings, yet a wise parent finds ways to draw out the emotions of their teens. Even adults feel understood if the listener responds with a word that describes their emotions. Practice using a skill called reflective listening. That involves listening for the feeling in a communication and reflecting that feeling back to the speaker. A good way to use this skill would be to listen and then say, “It sounds like you feel _________.” If you are wrong, the speaker will correct you, which makes the person have to think about his or her feelings to answer you. It is even more effective if you add the reason you think the speaker feels that way. Reflective listening requires sensitive listening to the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal messages and reflecting back the total message empathically without judgment.

This kind of communication can be helpful to a kid who is having behavior problems due to anger, because negative feelings always exist before negative acts and another feeling always comes before anger. It is usually fear or sadness. When we respond to the anger by reflective listening, then kids lead us to the underlying feeling. When youngsters have strong emotions, it is important to listen carefully to what feelings they are trying to express, accept the feelings without necessarily accepting the behavior, and providing an acceptable outlet for the expression of the feelings.

Another communication skill is called “I” messages. An “I” message can be used when the speaker’s behavior causes a feeling in you. This is a way to model the expression of feelings. “I” messages are effective because they express feelings without blaming. Follow this formula: “When you do _________________, I feel _________________, because ____________. For example, “When you say unkind things to Billy, I feel sad, because I care about Billy’s feelings.” It is important to help your family move through the grief process by working through their emotions. This is accomplished by allowing each member an opportunity to tell their story and explain their feelings. This can be difficult; so a parent can help by using good listening skills. Some of the skills that would be useful are:

1. Restatement – Let the speaker know you are listening by restating what was said in your own words.

2. Interpretation – Try to find the “why” behind the speaker’s behavior. Behavior that is understood is easier to accept and change, however, asking a direct “why” question can often put speakers on the defensive. The truth may be that they don’t even know why.

3. Confrontation – Point out the discrepancies between the speaker’s verbal and nonverbal behavior. For example, “You say you are sad, but you are smiling.” This helps family members to see that their behavior is not matching their feelings and the behavior may need to be reevaluated.

4. Minimal encouragers – Add the little “umhums” that show you are listening.

5. Summarization – Bring together the main points of the conversation.

6. Open-ended questions – Ask questions that encourage the family members to explore their thoughts and feelings by having to give an explicit answer. These questions usually start with how, what, would, or could.

7. Closed-ended questions – When there is a need for facts, ask a question that can be answered with a yes or no or other specific information. These questions are necessary sometimes, but they do not encourage communication on a feeling level.

8. Looking for misconceptions – Listen carefully for misconceptions about the death and the beliefs surrounding it. When you discover these misconceptions, be aware that they can be deeply held beliefs and it may take time and effort for a person to internalize the truth.

Whether a loss was the death of a family member, a divorce, or terrorism and the accompanying loss of security, the grief process is the same. A death or divorce is more devastating, while terrorism can cause a great increase in fear. A caring parent gives lots of hugs, even to teens who act like they don’t want them. A wise parent listens and encourages the younger members of the family to talk about whatever feelings they have. Even if the parent doesn’t agree with the feeling, it should be accepted as legitimate to the person who shares it. The following verses may be helpful for dealing with some common emotions:

Fear- Philippians 4:6-7 and Hebrews 13:5
Anger- James 1:19-20
Guilt- 1 John 1:9
Powerlessness-Ephesians 3:16

After a loss, the best thing a parent can do is turn to God for comfort and lead the family to do the same.

Bibliography
Jewett, C. L. (1982). Helping Children Cope With Separation and Loss. Harvard Common Press, Harvard, Mass.

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