Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's the End-Goal of Parental Discipline?

Now that the emotional furor surrounding Adrian Peterson's discipline style has settled down a bit, I thought I'd take another look at parental discipline. I think we get bogged down in methods, and we forget to step back and consider the long-term purpose of our parental discipline. Isn't the end-goal of all our discipline to send our young men and women off into the world equipped to discipline themselves, to control their own dangerous and destructive desires?

Parental discipline is vital for our children -- unless we are to doom them to learning everything the hard way. We've had plenty of time and experience to gain perspective. We know the heartbreak of losing that first love, the desire to instantly buy all the stuff it took our parents 20 years to acquire, the tremendous pressure to conform to our peers who seemed so sure of themselves but were blinded by their own inexperience and lack of perspective.

We can be sympathetic to our children because we remember, often quite vividly, the lessons we learned the hard way after refusing to listen to our parents. We also can remember the stubborn streaks and the rebellion that made us butt heads with our folks, especially as we struggled through that rough transition from childhood to adulthood.

With all that perspective, we now turn to discipline. Each child is different. Some are more sensitive than others. Some learn fast while others are headstrong and stubborn. Since each child is different and every situation unique, it's important to remember all the different tools you have in your parenting tool box. Sure, you have corporal punishment, but there's no need to use a hammer if a screwdriver will work. Then again, maybe some sandpaper is all you need. There's always time-tested grounding, withholding of privileges, etc. Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments below.

Again, remember your end goal. You want to emerge from your child's adolescence with an intact relationship. You don't get there by being their friend and not their parent. But that certainly doesn't mean you can't have good, frank discussions. When you share your own adolescent experiences with them -- your failures as well as your successes -- you help them recognize consequences and dangers they may not clearly see in the passion of the moment.

It is also important to give your children a voice in setting house rules and punishments. Sitting together and establishing these rules will give you some insight into how they think, and give them the invaluable experience of working through things they encounter at school, at work, on the Internet, or in the community.

And we shouldn't exempt ourselves from those rules as parents either. When our actions don't match our words, the old adage rings true: "Actions speak louder than words." When we consistently live by the same rules we insist on our kids following, our words take on more meaning, more authority.

And one last thought about seeing the end goal of parental discipline: we all want our children to enjoy successful lives on earth. But far more important is their eternal destiny. Above all else, show your child what it is to live as God's child. Make worship and Bible class a priority for you as well as them. Statistics show that a father's involvement (or lack thereof) in worship influences the worship attendance of their children even more than mom's. Jesus said it well in Mark 8:36. "What does it profit (your child) to gain the whole world and forfeit his/her soul?"

Your comments on the Men's NetWork blog are always welcome. Go here to tell us what you think: Click here!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Little Perspective, Please

I was planning to write about a sideline incident at the Rams/Cowboys game last Sunday. It seemed like a good reminder of pulling together in tough situations rather than letting adversity drive us apart. But I just came back from an informational meeting and somehow an NFL sideline issue doesn't seem quite so important anymore.

The Men's NetWork's parent organization, Lutheran Hour Ministries, has many international ministry centers. Yesterday, (Monday) the director of our Lebanon ministry center gave a report on the plight of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Before the war, Lebanon had a population of 4.4 million. Then between 2012 and 2014 about 1 million Syrian refugees crossed the Lebanese border to flee atrocities by Bashar al-Assad's Syrian government. With this year's sudden rise of the even more brutal Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), another 400,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq have crossed the border into Lebanon. Adding 1.4 million refugees to a country of 4.4 million has been overwhelming for Lebanon.

Sunday night I watched a 60 Minutes report on ISIS that kicked off the new season. It spoke of a village of Christians where men were separated from the women and children; the men were trucked off to a nearby mass grave, lined up, and shot with multiple weapons. The interview included two wounded brothers who crawled out of that grave when a plane flew overhead and scared off the Islamic State soldiers.

This morning we saw a slide of a house in Mosul, Iraq. In the middle of the night ISIS had painted the Arabic letter "nun" (its shape is essentially a rounded "u" with a dot over its center) on the wall. It's equivalent to our letter "n" and stands for Nazarene, referring to Jesus -- of Nazareth. It notified the Christians inside they had 48 hours to make a choice: convert to ISIS' oppressive brand of Islam, pay an exorbitant war tax on each individual in the house, or face barbaric execution for the men and enslavement for the women. Defying this choice, most Christians flee. A few days later a second announcement was spray painted on that wall: "Property of the Islamic State."

I couldn't help thinking of the victims of Nazi Germany in World War II. The Star of David was painted on the homes of Jews, and their possessions confiscated by the government. Stories circulated about terrible atrocities and genocide, but they were unbelievable -- even when reports spread from Soviet soldiers coming across places like Auschwitz, as they drove through Poland toward Germany. How many memorials have we built so the world will never see another holocaust like that one? God give wisdom to the leaders of our nation and the world, and guide their considerations!

Of course, Christians aren't the only people fleeing ISIS. Refugees include anyone who is not willing to join the Islamic State such as Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, and other ethnic minorities. Now more than a million refugees are living in tent cities scattered across Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of children are living without adequate food, hygiene, education or the prospect of a future.

If there is a bright light, it is the brave staff of our Lebanon ministry center. They are going into those camps, sitting down with these displaced families, learning their stories, and addressing individual needs that organizations like the UN and the International Red Cross are unable to meet (medication, diapers, baby formula, etc.). And most importantly, our ministry center personnel are sharing the victorious love of Jesus Christ with people who are homeless, hurting, and in desperate need.

This week I was going to write about a sideline incident in the NFL, but in the big scheme of things it's just that: a sideline incident. I'd encourage you to keep up with the Lebanon story by going to its blog. Click here to read!

Please keep the victims, those who help them, and the entire Middle East in your prayers. If you'd like to learn how you can help fund our Lebanon ministry center's individual care for families, you can do that here.

Reach out to victims of ISIS persecution in Syria and Iraq: Click here!

Your comments on the Men's NetWork blog are always welcome. To tell us what you think, click here!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It Was Never Our Intention

Urban Outfitters had a great idea: sell college sweatshirts from the '70s in a sun-faded vintage collection. But it didn't work out so well when it came to the Kent State University sweatshirt.

Had Kent State chosen blue or green as its school color it wouldn't have been a big deal. But Kent State chose red. When you take a dark red sweatshirt and fade it down, there are spots of dark red that remain -- and oddly -- they look a lot like blood stains. The vintage collection also wants to build in the wear and tear of 45 years, so they added holes that look -- again, strangely -- like bullet holes.

It was eerily reminiscent of the Kent State massacre in 1970 when four unarmed students were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard in a Vietnam War protest. You can only imagine the PR disaster that resulted. Urban Outfitters immediately removed the sweatshirt from its website.

Was it an honest mistake, or was the company intentionally pushing the envelope to increase sales? Urban Outfitters wrote, "It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such." Click here to see the sweatshirt!

This brings to mind the whole matter of giving and taking offense. Growing up in the 1960s I was taught to hold a door open for a lady, but by the 1980s I was told that was offensive and chauvinistic. I got my degree in elementary education in the late 1980s and was warned about putting my hand on a child's shoulder or giving a hug. To do so was fine for a female teacher, but not a male teacher. People's perceptions were changing, and they became increasingly suspicious of a man that would want to be a teacher of young children.

Over the years the lines have only become more blurry. If we want to avoid being bombarded by criticism -- especially online -- we have to walk a narrow tightrope of people's perceptions.

The reason for this is we can't read each other's minds. Therefore, we have to guess at the hidden motives of the heart as they are demonstrated in the words, deeds and attitudes of those with whom we interact. And they have to do the same with us.

That's why we can do and say things with the best of intentions, yet be attacked by someone who took offense at our words or actions. Jesus was quite familiar with that.

But there is only One who perfectly knows what was in the heart of the folks at Urban Outfitters ... and what is in your heart and mine. Our God alone completely perceives our intentions, our thoughts, and desires. Of course, that's a scary thought when we realize our sin lies bare before His eyes. But that is why He sent His Son Jesus to pay for our sins of thought, desire, word and deed.

As we move forward in His forgiveness, we have to remember the message of the cross is offensive in and of itself. We don't need to add to it by our careless words or behavior. Just like Jesus in His earthly life, we strive to be as loving, pure and winsome as possible (see Matthew 5:48; 18:6-9; 1 Corinthians 8). But knowing the power of sin and temptation, we know we will be misperceived just as Jesus was. Just keep one thing in mind: in the end, the only perception that really matters is His.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When the Other Shoe Drops

Last February, video was released showing Baltimore Raven Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée from a casino elevator. The NFL saw the tape and suspended Rice for the first two games of the 2014 NFL season.

Now the other shoe has dropped.

Early Monday morning TMZ released security video footage from inside that elevator. All that morning "Ray Rice" was trending number one on Twitter. Most tweets were calling for the Ravens to release Rice. Others wondered why everyone was so shocked by the violence on the video; there must have been a reason she was unconscious when he dragged her out from behind the closed doors of the elevator.

But seeing the deed on video somehow made it more damning. Staring down that video evidence the Ravens had no choice but to release Rice Monday afternoon; the NFL commissioner had no choice but to suspend him indefinitely; every other NFL team considers him radioactive; and now Rice faces the very distinct possibility he has played his last NFL football game a month before he took his fiancée to that casino.

But what if you stood in Rice's place? Each of us has done shameful things "behind closed doors." How would you feel if your darkest deeds were somehow secretly recorded and then shown to the whole world? Makes me real glad I'm not a celebrity.

The trouble is there actually is Someone who knows every dark, shameful thing I've ever done or said, even behind closed doors. What's more, His record doesn't just include the things I've done and said; it shows the very thoughts, desires and attitudes that were lying behind those deeds and sayings. I may shudder to think of the world's shock and outrage if it could look into my heart and mind, but what about standing face to face with my Creator and God and facing His wrath and rage?

We can bury our head in the sand and convince ourselves there is no Creator and Judge. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are here by chance or the coincidences of evolution. It's easy to bury our deep, dark secrets and convince ourselves they will never see the light of day. Maybe that's what Ray Rice thought: two games' suspension and it would all be over. But that tape was still out there, and no wishful thinking could make it go away -- just like God's knowledge of our sins.

That's the toughest part of confession: to stand before our God in honesty, our sins exposed, our hands stained with blood. But the incredible thing is God's answer. It isn't shock and outrage. It isn't God calling for our heads. That's because 2,000 years ago Jesus took Ray Rice's place, your place, and my place, and suffered God's wrath on the cross -- for us. Now God's answer is forgiveness, peace, restoration.

Ray Rice is paying a huge price for what he did in that elevator, and that penalty may well follow him throughout his earthly life. But Jesus Christ paid the greater price for him. The risen Lord offers him forgiveness and the certainty that our Heavenly Father will never reject him or cut him loose, but receive him into an eternal home far more glorious than anything the NFL could ever offer.

That offer stands for you and me as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Favorite Season

Ah, it's here again. Labor Day is past and football season is back. High school games began a couple of weeks ago; college pre-conference season games are underway, and the NFL kicks off with a big game as the Seahawks and Packers meet Thursday night.

I always wanted to play football when I was a kid. I dreamed of being the star running back on the team, my name echoing out over the loud speakers as I ran for touchdown after touchdown. But there was one problem: I was too thin and scrawny. I ended up on the sidelines, playing tuba in the marching band. Only later did I learn that for every glorious minute on the field the football team spent grueling hours practicing and working out.

The guys on the football team and those of us in the marching band took our separate paths. Each day we practiced, and so did they. But every Friday night we came together, each ready to take the field in our own time, and bring glory to our school. Even now, on Friday nights when I drive by a high school and see the stadium lights and hear the drums pounding, it takes me back.

Life seems cyclical, isn't it? These days I find myself in a similar situation with my son. He's started his senior year at high school, eager to graduate and head off to college next year. I'd love to be out there with him, enjoying all his experiences -- the struggles as well as the triumphs. But both of us have a different path to take: I'm off to work each day, while he's at school preparing to succeed at college and forge ahead with his career.

Like the marching band and the football team, we'll end up doing our stuff apart. But I can encourage him from the sidelines with my thoughts and prayers. I'll look forward to those "game times" when I can take my place on the sidelines, and cheer him on.
The other day the thought finally sank in that odds are I won't be there to watch his whole game. After all, my dad died the day before my game began -- the day I was ordained into the ministry.

Thinking of my son, it's likely I'll miss many, if not most, of the greatest accomplishments in his life. But if I can be around for the first quarter or even the first half, I'll be a very grateful man.

How do you feel as you watch your children "spring up" before your very eyes? Do you have any special or innovative ways of staying a part of their lives, especially as they move beyond your household?