Dear Moms and Dads,

Dear-Mom-and-Dad

Moms and Dads,

I’m not a big one to write any kind of “open letter,” but I don’t know how else to say these things that are on my heart. You see, I spent the last week with some of your sons and daughters, teaching through the Old Testament. We talked about God’s love and protection and how from the beginning of time, He’s simply been calling us back to Him because of His great love for us.

We talked about how there is really nothing more loving and caring than the truth that because of God’s great love for us He has spent all of time warning us of the danger of His judgement and wrath, and showing us the way to be saved from it through our  faith in and allegiance to Jesus.

As we talked about the times of the prophets and how God sent them to His people for over 400 years, we reasoned together that it really made no sense for someone to hear a warning for their entire life and not respond to it. In fact, they thought that seemed just crazy!

They also reasoned that even if the time was 300 years, or 200 years or 50 years or 10 years, the only logical response to a warning of this magnitude was to respond, run to and stay in the care of the One who could save you from the impending danger.

And so they responded. They shared their hearts about how they were like the people of the Bible. They, too, knew these things of God, but weren’t responding. But now, they wanted to be different. They no longer wanted to be like those who knew, and did nothing.

As we shared about their lives when they returned home, a common thread could be found woven into their stories. They felt as though even though they knew God was with them, they would be humanly alone in their families.

I heard student after student share that their families were no longer following the Lord. Parents and grandparents who love their children, know God, and are connected in some way to a church have lost their way–so much so that commitment to God and His church have become an afterthought in their lives. The same parents and grandparents who sent them to church camp are not camping out with them in church!!!

Parents, hear this. Your children want to go to church. They want to be a part of what God is doing. They want lives that are different, they want to be a part of making a difference, and they want to do it with you!

Please, please, for the sake of your children, your children’s children and for yourself–I want to remind you and warn you that you will be held accountable for your actions–COME BACK TO THE LORD. Put aside your hurts, busy schedules, sins, fears or whatever it is that is keeping you from walking with the Lord TOGETHER WITH YOUR CHILDREN and start walking with them, beginning today.

Your kids hearts are breaking. They are breaking for you. Your kids need you. They want their families together with Jesus, forever. They want to be with you!

Think about it. High School students who want to go to church. With their families. They want to live for Christ. They want your help.

It seems like to not give it to them, would be, well, just crazy.

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not be done.” Romans 1:28 NIV

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5 Things to Know About Social Media and Your Child

Today’s blog post is adapted from a parent talk my non blogging kidmin son, Trevor Farris, has put together for the church where he is a children’s pastor. I asked him if I could share it, because I believe every parent needs to be aware of what’s going on in their child’s social media world. Trevor ministers to some super amazing kids and with some even more amazing volunteers at Valley Real Life is Spokane Valley, WA. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check it out.

Social Media is big, but think about it—it’s the smallest that it is ever going to be.

Every day, more videos, tweets, pictures, and blogs are being uploaded onto the Internet than ever before. This chart from domo.com gives some pretty convincing evidence that social media is big–every minute of every day. Go ahead, take a second and check it out really quick.

every minute of every day

Those are some insane statistics! As more and more websites and apps are being created, it’s nearly impossible for adults to keep up . . . but. . . it’s not for your kids.

So here are 5 things you need to know about Social Media, your child, and what you can do to be more informed about it.

1. Your Kids Probably Know More Than You About Social Media
This is by no means an insult. They simply have the time to learn! With texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, KiK, AskFM, Omegle, and a million other options, they can absorb more budding technology than we can dream of. And they use it for everything! So what do you do?

2. Ask Them to Teach You
You don’t know if your child is ready for SnapChat? Ask them about it! Are you not sure how Instagram works? Ask your son/daughter! You need to know what your kids are doing, because there is so much that they are able to do on their iPods and phones. But please understand this—you don’t need to know more about technology than them…just being aware is a huge step.

3. Remember ANYONE Can Use Social Media
Speaking of being aware…it is really easy to lie about who you are on the Internet. Your children may not be sharing information with the person that they think they are. Make sure that your kids are using appropriate social media (Honoring age restrictions is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), and are familiar your rules on Internet etiquette.

4. Community in Isolation
Kids and teens today have hundreds and thousands of friends. And if they are anything like me, they don’t know who most of them are! If someone sends me a friend request on Facebook, and I have a mutual friend…BAM! we’re friends now. And they can have all these friends at their fingertips while they sit in their bedroom alone. They don’t have to go out and have conversations. Be sure to have “Tech-free” times in your home when personal interaction is required to keep your kids checked in to reality.

5. #Hashtags
For those of you who still don’t understand hashtags, you are not alone. Hashtags are sort of like little file folder tabs that help you created to help you find what you are looking for on a certain topic. Let’s say you and your family go on a short vacation to Six Flags St. Louis for Spring Break. Your daughter posts a selfie from the line of the Batman ride. And the caption says, “I LOVE SIX FLAGS! #RollerCoasters #Family #SpringBreak.” But you need to realize that when she clicks on the “#SpringBreak,” she has access to ANYONE’S pictures that have that same tag. Think about that. I’m assuming there are pictures from Spring Break Cancun on the Internet that you’d love for your kids to never see. Know what hashtags your kids are using, because they can have access to all sorts of things they probably shouldn’t.

In short, talk to your kids about what they’re doing online and on their phones. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to have a different set of family rules than other families you know (or don’t know). Give them rules and guidelines that keep them safe, and as you expand those guidelines as they get older continue to have conversations with them. *

Thanks for the Memories–Mama Mia Monday

camp wordsblackandwhite

I spent last week teaching at our local church camp. It was a great week! Teaching God’s Word is one of my all time favorite things to do, and teaching it at camp is like the icing on the cake of Bible teaching goodness.

While talking with some campers, they asked me how long I had been coming to camp, and although I wasn’t quite sure exactly how long it had ,I did remember one of my first times teaching was at a week of camp I went to when our son, Connor, who is now 26 was in the 7th grade.

“Woah! That’s a long time ago.”

“Thanks, campers.”

What made it especially cool though was that Connor was our missionary for the week. He now serves in Russia as an English and Bible teacher, and I am so thankful for the memories that we have made and are continuing to make as we have these precious opportunities to serve God together even though we are miles apart.

I told them how we used to teach upstairs above our slightly dilapidated bath domes and in shelter houses scattered around the camp. I recounted how I had taught in one of the shelters near our old outdoor chapel (before we got air conditioning in a retreat center) and had written the key points to my lesson in chalk in the beams of the shelter house. And I told them how the last time I checked (a couple of years ago) the words were still there.

So, of course, we took a quick adventure to see if anyone had yet dared to erase the “immortal” words of the summer of 2001, and alas they had not–the words were still there. The picture above is reinforced the heart of lessons on being servants of God.

That summer as I taught those lessons Connor was a camper, and he and I never told anyone that we were related. Oh a few people knew, but as I told stories of my sons and some of our teachable moments, the spotlight stayed off Connor and on God and His Word. At the end of the week, we had the “big reveal” and as I told the campers that my son was actually at camp as a camper, they wouldn’t believe it and we had a great laugh and made a great memory.

In the years since, both my boys and I have spent quite a few summers together at camp. Through those times of serving together, we grew as family, we grew in our faith and we lived out the words of the shelter house as we became servants of God. And we made memories. Lots of them.

Mama Mia! Lots of memories. Memories of rap songs, baptisms, a guy named Pierre, mildew in the camp, catching snakes, heat stroke, “keep away from the water balloons!” going back to the beginning and so much more. Oh so much more.

So Mamas, let me encourage you today that a great way to make lasting memories with your children is to serve with them–side by side. Find a project, go on a mission trip, serve at a camp. . . .let God grow you closer and bind your hearts together as you serve Him together.

Mama Mia! I’m thankful for the memories!

Why I Will No Longer Accept Your Child’s Facebook Friend Request–Mama Mia Monday

like-us-on-facebook

Got another one–

Last week I received another facebook friend request from a child I know, and I just can’t click confirm.

I will admit I have accepted requests in the past. I talked with some friends about it, read some articles and finally relented with the belief that since their parents were allowing it, it was still a chance for me to connect with them and even to keep up with what’s going on in their lives.

But I was wrong.

Because in doing so, I affirmed to them that it’s okay to lie, that it’s okay to lie with your parents’ permission, and that I, as their children’s ministry leader, think a little lying must be okay.

Yet, that’s not what I believe at all.

I’ve been a part in putting them in danger of identity theft, bullying (from either side), child predators, negative self image (both physical and mental) and entrance to an adult world they weren’t meant to join until they were, well, adults.

Yet, I could never imagine doing that intentionally.

Children are not yet capable of fully understanding the consequences to some of their actions or the concept of marketing. Facebook is designed to target those who sign up for it. So when a child registers with a false age beyond their years, they are now targeted with ads for someone “beyond their years.” This includes sites about drinking, gambling, meeting singles and more.

In the United States it is illegal to collect information on people under the age of thirteen–one of the reasons facebook doesn’t allow children under the age of thirteen to have an account. I find it ironic how often we get upset when the government lies or acts unethically, yet now we are enabling that process. In fact, we have become the very thing we say we abhor.

And why?

I’m not sure. Some of the reasons I hear are so that our children can have friends, have fun or be like everyone else. Some parents have admitted they just didn’t want to tell their children, “No.” They didn’t want the fight. Others have said they felt like the lie wasn’t really a big thing because they are monitoring what their kids are doing on their pages.

We, as the adults in their lives, are supposed to help our kids navigate the waters of character and integrity. We are supposed to model for them virtues like truth, honesty, patience and self control. These underage users–Wow! That’s a startling term considering the addictive nature of social media– aren’t quite yet capable to understand the whole “when it’s okay to lie and when it’s not okay to lie” thing isn’t really supposed to be a thing. Apparently we, as adults, aren’t either.

Mama Mia!

**In 2011, ABC news reported that it was estimated that almost 7.5 million facebook accounts were used by underage children who were using facebook with their parents’ permission. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/underage-facebook-members-75-million-users-age-13/story?id=13565619

Boys to Men–Mama Mia Monday

boys

Well, prepare yourself for a week of post wedding posts! You won’t hurt my feelings at all if you decide to pass right on by, but as I decompress from wedding weekend palooza, there are still so many things that I treasure from our time.

One of those has to do with Trevor’s friends. One of the terms they use to describe their lives and the things they have done is “grown man saga.” I know that as I talked with them and observed them this weekend I’m more likely to choose “Boys to Men.” Not Boyz II Men, the group, but these boys have become and are becoming men, and I am so proud of them.

I don’t know all of their moms, but if their moms are reading this, I want them to know they, too, should be very proud of their sons.

Because as they are transitioning from boys to men, they are growing in character. This weekend we watched them as they cared about others more than themselves. Our sons know how to work and serve. They honor the women in their lives and the women around them. They are friendly, kind and compassionate, all the while exuding strength, masculinity and a strong competitive spirit. They can cook, clean, cry and wrestle–oh can they wrestle. They still love bubbles, wearing sheriff’s badges and silly hats. Those that have already married are devoted to their their wives. They love God, and they are willing to sacrifice to serve Him.

bubbles

nelson

trevor

Mama Mia! These are the boys we dreamed of raising. And how did we do it?

Jesus. Grace. Commitment. Forgiveness. Perseverance. Love, lots of love. Prayer, lots of prayer. Tears, lots of tears.

We’ve allowed them to fail, to fall, to make mistakes that they had to wrestle out with God as He humbled them, molded them and shaped them; and we’ve allowed God to do the same to us.

We’ve encouraged them, disciplined them, maybe even been a bit, just a bit, frustrated with them. But we didn’t give up on them, and God in his infinite wisdom and grace stepped in and where we were weak, He was strong; where we were inadequate, He was capable; where we may have failed, He is bringing victory.

I saw great things in these boys this weekend. I saw the character of Christ in them. I saw it in Trevor, and I saw it in Kyle, Nelson, Sunshine, Chase, Zach, Miller, Daniel, Cameron, Creighton, Austin, Tyler, Ryan, Scott and the boys of Boatman, Williamson and Strong Halls, and it made me proud to know them.

boys 3

Even more, it makes me proud to know the God that is helping moms everywhere raise their sons from Boys to Men. Don’t give up moms, because while this going from Boys to Men thing may not always be pretty, it is a beautiful thing to behold.

boys 2

There’s Still Time to Pack a Shoebox

operation christmas child

Marilyn Monroe said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”  Today I would add, “Give a girl the right shoebox and she can change the world.”

Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child is changing the world one shoe box at a time, and there is still time to get in on the fun. This week, November 18-22, is their national collection week.

If you haven’t taken the time to fill a box yet, let me encourage you to grab a box, head to the store and impact a life.

Operation Christmas Child distributes shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene products, candy, and more to children in need all around the world. To participate, just go to the Samaritan’s Purse website www.samaritanspurse.org for complete details on appropriate items for your box. Choose the gender and age of the child you would like to purchase items for, pay your shipping costs and download a label which allows you to track where your box will be delivered to.

Then just wrap and fill your box, pop the label on and take it to the nearest drop off location. (Locations are available on the website.) We are fortunate to have a location in our small town. Years ago we would drive about an hour to take our boxes. It’s still a great memory of mine, traveling to a nearby town with a van full of 6th graders who helped me load and unload the boxes. We would then grab a bite to eat a local restaurant and head back home filled with a joy that comes only from giving.

operation-christmas-child

Filling a shoebox is such an easy thing to do with your children or family. I’m continually encouraging people to find ways to help their children grow in generosity and selflessness and Operation Christmas Child is a great way to do both.

So, if you haven’t had a chance yet this year to fill that box, or you’ve never filled a box before. . . there’s still time!!!

Mama Mia!! It’s such a great way to give. Oh! And don’t forget to check out their Facebook page for stories and photos of all the boxes being packed across the country. https://www.facebook.com/groups/46793099481/10151832378269482/?ref=notif&notif_t=group_activity#!/OCCshoeboxes?fref=ts

Happy Packing!

 

 

 

Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave?

WhyCantIGetMyKidsToBehave-COVER-210x300

It’s a Mama Mia Monday and I have a great resource to share with you mamas out there.  Our friends, Joey and Carla Link, have written a dandy of a book. I am so excited to see in print the principles they taught Tim and me, and thousands of others, about parenting our children.

Why Can’t I Get My Child to Behave? is practical and personal, filled with the tools, examples, and encouragement to see us through our parenting journeys on both our brightest and darkest days.

Joey and Carla walk us through the importance of real obedience, and how to bring our children to God’s standard. They share with us the tools of structure, routine, discipline and consequences, as well as how to focus on the inward not just the outward aspects of our children’s lives.

Before I tell you all about it, I hope you will soon find the time to pick up a copy of your own and begin to apply the principles the Links are sharing with us. Why Can’t I Get My Child to Behave? is available at Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions, at Barnes and Noble and through their moms’ notes website www.momsnotes.com/orderingresources