A father of some teenage children had the family rule that they could not attend PG-13 or R-rated movies. His three teens wanted to see a particular popular movie that was playing at local theaters. It was rated PG-13. The teens interviewed friends and even some members of their family’s church to find out what was offensive in the movie. The teens made a list of pros and cons about the movie to convince their dad that they should be allowed to see it. The cons were that it contained ONLY 3 swear words, the ONLY violence was a building exploding (and you see that on TV all the time, they said), and you actually did not ‘see’ the couple in the movie having sex – it was just implied sex, off camera. The pros were that it was a popular movie – a blockbuster. Everyone was seeing it. If the teens saw the movie, they would not feel left out when their friends discussed it. The movie contained a good story and plot. It had some great adventure and suspense in it. There were some fantastic special effects in this movie. The movie’s stars were some of the most talented actors in Hollywood. It probably would be nominated for several awards. Many of their Christian church members had even seen the movie and said it wasn’t ‘very bad.’ Therefore, since there were more pros than cons, the teens said they were asking their father to reconsider his position on just this ONE movie and let them have permission to go see it. The father looked at the list and thought for a few minutes. He said he could tell his children had spent some time and thought on this request. He asked if he could have a day to think about it before making his decision. The teens were thrilled, thinking, “Now we’ve got him! Our argument is too good! Dad can’t turn us down!” So, they happily agreed to let him have a day to think about their request. The next evening the father called in his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into the living room. There on the coffee table, he had a plate of brownies. The teens were puzzled. The father told his children he had thought about their request and decided that if they ate a brownie, he would let them go to the movie. But just like the movie, the brownies had pros and cons. The pros were that they were made with the finest chocolate and other good ingredients. They had the added special effect of yummy walnuts in them. The brownies were moist and fresh, with wonderful chocolate frosting on top. He had made these fantastic brownies using an award-winning recipe. And best of all, the brownies had been made lovingly by the hand of their own father. The brownies only had one con. The father had included a little bit of a special ingredient. The brownies also contained just a little bit of dog poop. But he had mixed the dough well – they probably would not even be able to taste the dog poop, and he had baked it at 350 degrees, so any bacteria or germs from the dog poop had probably been destroyed. Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat the brownies, which included just a ‘little bit of crap,’ and not be affected by it. Of course, none of the teens would eat the brownies, and the smug smiles had left their faces. Only Dad was smiling smugly as they left the room. Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something he is opposed to, the father just asks, “Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?”
I was so encouraged by this testimony from my friend. They were selling their home, which was located by a power line. The agent’s photographer erased it from the photos to make it look nicer. He was really proud of his work and spent a lot of time editing the photos, so my friend didn’t say anything but sensed it was not fully accurate. They had an offer that fell through, and when my friend asked the Lord about it, he sensed God telling him to change the photos back to the original. He asked the agent to change the pictures and asked God to increase the price. He sold it for 25K, HIGHER than the previous asking price with the altered photos. My friend went on to share, “I feel like the closer we go with God, the higher the level of obedience He requires.” YES! I agree! Character matters. Obedience matters.
The family operates like the gears in a machine. My sweet Ellie was in a season of big emotions (oh boy). I could tell the emotions were overwhelming her, but when I asked if she was okay, she said, “Yes. I am totally fine,” yet moments later, she released a bunch of crooked emotions. It made quite a mess and affected everyone in the family, including being late for school and my meeting. When she came home from school, she asked to talk about it, quickly apologizing. I sensed more was going on as this was becoming a new pattern and not just a bad day moment. We revisited earlier that day when I invited her to give her heart a voice, and she lied when she said she was ‘totally fine.’ We began to ask Jesus to show us why she was not honest. She said, “I am used to doing things right, and I do not like it when I make a mess.” I encouraged her to allow Jesus to speak into that area as He wants us to live whole and fruitful lives. If we are uncomfortable with our growth and process, we will move into a performance-based lifestyle, which is not His will or Kingdom. I asked her “What about making a mess makes your heart so uncomfortable?” and she burst into tears. YEP. There it is. She recalled a situation not that long ago where I had just spent the entire afternoon lavishing on her and intentionally connecting 1:1 but she came home and began picking a fight with her siblings. I had a meeting to get to and lots to do (I was running late because I was out with her). I commented how her attitude was affecting the rest of us, and since that comment, she felt like having big emotions was bad, so she lied about how she was feeling. Was that my true heart? NO! Was I telling her she couldn’t have emotions? NO! Was I trying to shut her down? NO! Did I handle the situation the best I could? NOPE. I was rushed, pressured, and honestly a bit frustrated with her that I had just poured so much into her, and she was choosing disconnection with her siblings. Her ‘lying’ was revealing a heart splinter (hurt, lie, or offense). That is a GOOD thing. As we sat with Jesus, He showed us what was going on underneath her lying and brought the lie she believed about not being allowed to have big emotions into alignment. Parenting was never meant to be a call to perfection. It was meant to operate like the gears of a machine, knowing that everyone affects each other and can be used for HIS glory and HIS alignment. She got set free from the lie. I got to model humility by cleaning up my own mess.
P.S. If you want to learn more about how to partner with God in your parenting, consider joining our online JOURNEY class: Journey – ONLINE CLASS – Let the Children Fly
Do children need to be believers to play in the Kingdom or do they play in the Kingdom to choose Him? I think it is both. When did God speak the loudest to Saul (Paul)? When He was Jesus’ enemy #1. When did Jesus invite Matthew? When he was full of greed. When did Jesus welcome the man on the cross? When he was destined to hell. God’s most profound act of love was a free gift to those who didn’t know Him. Oh, yes, He cares for those who do not yet know Him. God speaks and interacts with unbelievers. And in doing so, it provides an encounter with the One who is worthy of it all. Encounters become the gateway in which many realize He is the One and make the choice to follow Him. This is a glorious, beautiful event because it becomes their testimony which no man can argue or deny. Our goal as parents should be to seek to provide our children with encounters with Him and the joy of playing in His Kingdom so that they experience Him. Head knowledge is religion where encounters are relationship.
Some ways to usher our children into an encounter could include: showing them a Scripture of how much Jesus cares about them (not just to correct their behavior), asking Jesus questions that pertain to their world, heart and cares, inviting Jesus into their pain, taking them to church, allowing them to stay with you during worship, sharing with them what He showed you during your quiet time, telling your own God stories, letting them dance at home with worship music, soaking (simply sitting/lying quietly generally with music on to feel His peace), asking God to help them with something (and then helping them see how He responded).
When my children were little, I had a sign on the wall that said, “Dear Jesus, thank You for ______. Would You please help me with ______”. Each day they would pray filling in the blanks. I was modeling for them how to be thankful and come to Jesus with what was important to their heart. At the end of the day, we would play the High/Low game where they would share what was the high and low of their day. Their highs would almost always reflect the very thing they asked Jesus for. One day my daughter asked Jesus to help her get a sweet treat. It felt rather insignificant to me, but hours later we were at a store, and a clerk said she made one too many ice cream cones and offered it to my daughter. I immediately reminded her of her prayer that morning. I saw my role as a dot connector. Teaching them to pray, then helping them see the way God was responding and speaking to them. Their faith grew each time leaving them hungry for more. We were building their stories with Him long before any of them made a personal decision to follow Him.
I was in line at the post office one morning and checked something on my phone, which caused me to click on a recent post. My daughter saw the number of likes and said, “Man, Mom, what did you post that everyone loved so much.” I realized a few of you probably know my heart behind my posts. I never share any of the testimonies of my children without their permission. It is their story, and I would never want them to feel exposed. For every story you hear, there is a handful that we keep quite close to our hearts. I take great care with their testimonies as it is the relationship between them and their Father. At the same time, they clearly understand that God has given us a gift and that we have a call on our lives to steward it well and give it away so others can receive too. I also realized few of you probably know that I do not share the posts, the likes, or your comments with my children after I ask permission. I do not want them to value (or devalue) what God had done for them based on the number of likes and responses. I have intentionally shielded them from social media and think it will be quite a shock to them when, one day, they see how their experiences with Jesus have impacted so many families around the globe. I am not raising celebrities on a platform. I am raising a Son and Daughters who have a lifestyle of going to their Father. You just get a front-row seat to witness it.
John Bevere wrote a book called The Bait of Satan, and it is just that, a bait. Someone does something that causes us to be offended, and we nurse it until it becomes a wildfire spreading to our mind, spirit, and body. We open the door to the enemy through his bait of offense. I gathered the kids, and we played a round of ‘Hot Potato’, where you catch the ball and throw it as fast as you can, pretending it is a hot potato so that it doesn’t burn your hands. Laughter broke out, and then I switched gears and explained to them about offense and how we can feel offended, but God wants us to be super quick to let it go and toss it back to Him, just like the ‘Hot Potato’ game. I have been able to cash in on this teaching over the years and remind them, “Hey, remember the ‘Hot Potato’ game? If you choose to hold onto this offense, it will cause greater hurt. Do you want to let it go?”
One of the things I love about traveling and speaking is the ministry time. One touch of God can change a life in a moment. I often spend a great deal of time with God before asking how I can partner with what He is already doing in a particular community, as I never want to come in and just do my thing. At one place over the summer, He said to do ministry time totally different than I was used to (love that!). The Presence was so sweet and tangible. As a minister, you want people to encounter and receive all they can, but there was something that wouldn’t let me move forward. I had to process what He was doing and how I could partner with it while standing on stage in silence. He said, “I don’t want to come in as Fire tonight. I want to come in as a Gentleman. There are people in the room who need to know I am safe.” People encountered a safe Father, and it was breathtaking. It was the simplest yet most profound ministry time I have ever led.
I was in a really intense season – probably the most significant spiritual battle I have ever walked through. Sometimes you just get credit for staying in the game and not quitting. Yet here we are, sitting as a family, all on our laptops, writing out our testimonies to encourage others. I have tears in my eyes looking around the room at my kids typing away, eager to share their journey with others. The enemy may do his thing, but GOD is still on His throne, and as for this house, we serve the LORD!
Picture a toddler screaming and crying in the middle of the grocery store. No matter what you say, he turns a deaf ear to you. He is kicking and flapping his arms hysterically – a total and complete meltdown. Everyone is looking at you in the checkout lane, wondering why you can’t control your child. You feel the piercing stares of judgment. How would you respond?
How about this scene? Picture sitting in a country club – the kind where they eat lunch in diamonds and pearls – and in walks an elderly man and four children. The children are all nicely dressed but unruly, bouncing all over the chairs and disrupting the people around them. The youngest won’t stop crying and the eldest are bickering. The guests are getting more and more agitated at this appalling site. Judgment and stern looks are being thrown towards the man allowing such disgrace to intrude on their well-to-do luncheon.
What would you say if I told you the young toddler above was dealing with a double ear infection, and his eardrum just popped? Is the issue the meltdown or bacteria in his eustachian tubes? I am sure the words ‘eustachian tube’ were the last thing on your mind, but that area of his body is raging with pain, and nothing else matters to him at that moment. What would you say if I told you the rest of the story of the kids at the country club? Finally, the affluent guests couldn’t take it any longer and called the manager over to request the immediate removal of such nonsense. The manager replies, “Oh, I am so sorry. That is their grandfather, and they just came from their parent’s funeral. They both died in a car accident last week.”
I share this to make a strong point – we have to look beyond their flesh and have to discover what is REALLY going on inside of them. Spanking, time outs, discipline, removing toys, withholding dessert, doubling chores, yelling, ignoring, giving them an electronic or bribing them with a sugary treat is as foolish at that moment as treating a broken leg by doing laundry. When we are empowered with the truth of what we are dealing with, we will be so much better and help them overcome and win the battle.
Gather the kids and talk about how incredible our bodies are. We have legs to run, ears to hear, eyes to see, and lungs to breathe. Each part is a gift. Ask them what part of their body they are the most thankful for. Take time to thank God for the way He created our bodies to move and our minds to work. He is so smart!
Sometimes life just HURTS. I always tell my spiritual daughters, “If you are going to walk as a Daughter, you are going to have to learn how to feel hard emotions.” Orphans run to things that numb their hearts like a shot of novocaine (porn, shopping, anger, social media, gossip, busyness, checking out, denial, eating, rage, etc.) As Daughters, we need to learn that pain is okay. It reflects our hearts and how we experience life. We need to practice feeling the pain and, in the midst of it, running into HIS arms, crying out to Him. We can tell Him: “It hurts,” “I am sad,” “I feel lonely,” “I am disappointed,” “I am scared,” “I feel anxious,” “I need help,” and then WAIT and rest in His ability to not only care for your heart and wipe your tears but to move on your behalf.
Psalm 56:8 (MSG) – “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights. Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”