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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Whip Him Upside the Head?

Photo courtesy of: think4photop,

During the Baltimore upheaval two evenings ago, one young thug in a black hoodie with his face covered got what he wasn’t expecting: his mother! She came at him, raging like a crazed mama bear! She slapped him upside the head. She pulled the scarf off his face.  She yelled at him. She pulled his hood off. She shamed him in front of his peers.


He was looting and being violent. He was breaking the law, and she wasn’t going to have any of it.

This mom is praised for going out there and doing something.

But, what’s wrong with this picture?

I’m not against the mother telling her teenage kid what for. I’m not against her shaming him for what he should have been ashamed of--and not done in the first place. I am certainly not against this woman taking action, although I’m not in favor of her methods.

Having lived more than fifty years observing human behavior, I’ve noticed that the moms and dads who hit their kids upside the head haven’t trained their children when they were little. When they slap at their kids’ heads, they're at the point of anger. They’ve had enough. They are reacting in violence.

It’s more than that. It’s a lack of discipline—both self-discipline and child discipline.

How much better it would have been if the young, hoodie-clad guy in our story had been trained calmly from the time he was little about what is right and wrong. At age sixteen or whatever he is, he would have been home studying or at school practicing sports instead of looting and rioting. He wouldn’t have thought of shaming his mother. He might even have had a job and understood the value of private property, respecting other people’s businesses.

The kind of hoodlum behavior exhibited in Baltimore is a sad reflection of the lack of training in the home. The few minutes of filming that I saw from Baltimore featured mostly teens. They are, no doubt, living with their parents and not on their own. Their hoodies, jeans, and name-brand sneakers were paid for by their parents. It means they are still responsible to the authority of their parents!

I don’t completely fault the parents. I imagine there are a lot of single moms out there, doing their best to work and parent, and they are finding it very difficult. Maybe this mom is one of them. I don’t know.

But, after seeing the video clips of this mother whipping up on her son’s head, I think maybe, just maybe she would have done better to warm up another part of his anatomy once in awhile when he was small.

The Bible says,
  • My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. . . .We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path (Proverbs 1:8-10, 13-15). Doesn't this sound like the Baltimore situation?
  • The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother (Proverbs 10:1).
  • He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Proverbs 13:24).
  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him (Proberbs 22:15).
  • The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame (Proverbs 29:15). 

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Living on the Mountaintop

Photo courtesy of: watiporn,

Sometimes I laugh. If you listen to some smilevangelists (my word), the Christian life is one feel-good victory after another after another. Top that with whipped cream—prosperity—and keep beaming, because the Christian life is WONDERFUL. Everyone’s happy. YOU can take hold of VICTORY every single day, etcetera.



Positive vibes.

Rose-colored spectacles.

Live on the mountaintop! (There are no valleys.)


If you’re dwelling on a mountaintop today, make sure you’re being real. I mean, life doesn’t work that way. The Bible simply doesn’t teach that. The Bible does offer hope in the midst of trials and victory over temptation and help going through adversities. But, you never, ever in the Bible find any man or woman who lives on the mountaintop every single day.

I won’t cite every Bible personage, but if you look carefully, you’ll see a lot of valleys along with the occasional high, wonderful, spiritual experiences.

Abraham—Mostly, he experienced God’s leading and generous provision as he followed God’s leading and lived in tents. He knew God’s covenant. He even saw the pre-incarnate Christ and entertained Him in his home. He also dealt with the negative consequences of his own lies, the selfishness of his nephew Lot, and he had to basically give up one of his sons (Ishmael, born to Hagar his concubine because Sarah tried to give him an heir her way). He had to rescue Lot by going to war. The Lord asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac (and the Lord provided a ram to take his place). It wasn’t all hearts and flowers.

Joseph—Jacob doted on his favorite son and gave him special gifts. Joseph was good looking. He didn’t have to go out and work in the fields like his brothers. God gave him special dreams. But, his brothers sold him as a slave, and he was taken to Egypt, where he was sold again to begin a life of service. He was falsely accused of fornication, and he was thrown in jail for more than two years, where those he befriended forgot about him. Later, God promoted him to second behind Pharaoh in Egypt, and he was able to save all of his family and reconcile with his brothers. But, it sure looks like his valleys were long and tough.

Hannah—She was Elkanah’s favorite wife but childless. She suffered scorn from her husband’s other wife. Even though her Elkanah loved her, her childlessness was a great sorrow. God answered her fervent prayer and gave her a son, Samuel, whom she gave back to God’s service. The Lord then blessed her with five more children. Can you see her hills and valleys?

Elijah—He presided over a school for prophets and was used by God to prophesy to kings and other dignitaries. He was God’s messenger for many years. God used him to defy the false prophets on Mount Carmel, one of the most spectacular proofs of God’s power in the Old Testament. Immediately afterwards, Elijah suffered depression and despondency. God used ravens to feed him and brought him out of his funk. After the super-high mountaintop experience, Elijah had his deepest valley. Later, Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind and a fiery chariot. He didn’t even die!

David—He’s one of my personal favorite biblical characters, since the Psalms share his deepest feelings. Chosen to be the next king of Israel, he went through a lot before it actually came to pass. David defeated Goliath with God’s help. Later, he played the harp for Saul—and was almost pinned to the wall by jealous Saul’s spear. He married Michal, Saul’s daughter, whom he loved, but she was not always good for him. He experienced God’s victories in battle, and God spared him from Saul’s army. But, he spent years running from Saul and then from his own miserable son, Absalom. Because of his adultery with Bathsheba and consequent murder of her husband, his baby died. Later, David was a good king and did much for Israel, including providing much of the material for the Temple and an heir, Solomon. The man after (God’s) own heart experienced both hard and heartbreaking times and victorious times. He went through deep depression and victories. He knew God’s hand on his life and God’s hand in punishment.

Abigail—Married to Nabal, who fit the description of “fool” and was churlish and evil in his doings (1 Samuel 25:3), Abigail averted the destruction of all of her household by her generosity, respect, and brave pleading. Later, she became one of David’s many wives. After that, she was captured and carried away by the Amalekites. Then, in a fierce battle, David rescued her and the others. This was the life of a God-fearing woman.

And many more Old Testament persons . . . indeed, all of them!

Let’s skip to the New Testament:

Mary, the mother of Jesus—This exemplary young lady was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. First, her fiancĂ© didn’t understand her pregnancy. Then, she went away for three months. (You can imagine all the gossip about her. No one would have believed her story.) Mary gives birth in a stable, receives confirmations of her Son’s being the Messiah from shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and later, the wise men. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt, because Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Mary reared the only Perfect Child in all of history along with at least six other children. We can only imagine the challenges. Sometime before the cross, Joseph passed away, leaving her a widow. She followed Christ all her life—even to the cross and afterwards. After the resurrection, she had the joy of seeing her other sons become believers. God used them to write the biblical books of James and Jude.

Peter—One of Jesus’ fishermen disciples, Peter figures in the “inner circle,” those disciples closest to the Lord. He got to walk on water--and sink, too. He was a witness at the Transfiguration. He was the impulsive disciple, always ready to say something. He affirmed, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). He’s the one who pulled out a sword and chopped off Malchus’ ear when they came to arrest Jesus. He prayed in Gethsemane for a while, then slept. He denied Jesus three times, afterwards repenting with bitter tears. Peter was the leader of the disciples after the resurrection and the main preacher after Pentecost. God allowed him and John to heal in Jesus’ name. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Peter, the fisherman, wrote 1 and 2 Peter in the New Testament. Because of his hothead personality, Peter had many ups and downs, but look how God used him!

This is already a much longer post than I usually write—sorry, folks—but I feel we need to have a realistic view of the Christian life. It isn’t normal to experience only mountaintops. That isn’t anyone’s life story. God wants us to trust Him where He leads us—through our highs and also through the very worst circumstances. He wants us to come back to Him after we’ve failed. He really and truly understands and cares.

Let me close with a couple of verses to encourage you:

Like as a father pitieth his children,
so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame;
he remembereth that we are dust.
(Psalm 103:13-14)

Friday, April 24, 2015

My Aunt Ann: A Tribute

My Aunt Ann passed on to heaven a week ago.

When I think of her, the first thing that comes to mind is her laughter. She laughed often, and she had one of those infectious laughs that soon had everyone laughing with her.

I also remember wonderful food smells. When we were little kids, my aunt would spoil us—my brother, her two boys, and me—with pancakes. One day, she told us she would make as many pancakes as it took to see who could eat the most. I think I won, but I bet every single one of us looks back on that day and thinks he won! My aunt always used cast iron skillets and griddle. There’s something about cast iron that lends more flavor to food. She made good old country fare.

I think of some funny things, too. She would chase after her two boys with a fly swatter when they did something bad. As far as my brother and I ever observed—holding our sides and laughing—they never got the spankings they deserved. They ran too fast! Oh, it was funny!

She loved me. We’re a close family. (My dad’s an only child, and my mother is one of three, so my aunts and uncles and their families are our family. I was the only girl for many years. Later, we happily welcomed my cousin Debbie, my little sister Ruth, and Debbie’s brother Shawn.) My aunt made me doll clothes. (Do you know how difficult those tiny things are?) She made a bridal gown, casual wear, dresses, and even pajamas. She gave me a doll, too. When our daughter was born, my aunt crocheted for her two dolls with happy faces. Becky loved taking the dolls’ hats off and putting them back on again. I was the “princess,” accompanied by her sons and my brother. We four did everything together! Most of my favorite memories growing up include her boys, my little brother, and our adventures. It was fun to be the special little girl, and it was great to be part of the gang.

My Aunt Ann loved her husband and her boys. My uncle was a sweetheart. He called his wife “Kiddo.” He loved her and loved all of us. He was the kind of uncle that every child loved. My aunt took care of him and made his favorite foods. He provided for her, and they built a lovely house up on a hill. She continued to live there after he passed away.

My aunt was a math teacher in a local public school for many years. Her specialty was algebra. At her funeral, lots of people raised their hands to signify they had been her students. She was tutoring someone the week before she passed away. She helped me understand algebra over more than one Thanksgiving weekend. My aunt was great at explaining math concepts. She loved her students, and they loved her. I remember going into town on several occasions with my aunt and cousins. It seemed like everyone greeted her!

My aunt wasn’t the mushy type. Far from it! She said things the way they were. No sugar coatings and no falsehoods. You got the truth the way she saw it.

She was a hugger. I would love to get another of her hugs. Maybe in heaven!

My aunt was a reader. She read everything from Grace Livingston Hill romances to Louis L’Amour, from biographies and missionary stories to new ways to teach math. I loved borrowing her books when I was at her house.

Aunt Ann was a dedicated Christian lady. She accepted Jesus as her Savior at a young age and strove to serve Him faithfully. She was always in church, took her boys to church, and she was an active member. Her fellow church people were an important part of her life.

My father wrote us about her funeral, which took place last Sunday. It exalted Jesus Christ and provided fond memories of my Aunt Ann. I am so very thankful for her influence in my life and for her consistent Christian testimony.

I quote my dad’s letter: “The long-time pianist there and Pastor W. both said that Ann had threatened them, ‘If you don’t sing “It Is Well with My Soul” at my funeral, I’ll come back and haunt you.’ We sang it.”
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

I praise the Lord for my godly heritage. Part of that heritage was my wonderful Aunt Ann. Now, as the hymn says, her faith is sight.

“It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Let the Words . . . and the Meditation"

Photo courtesy of Victor Habbick,

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD,
my strength, and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14)

This familiar prayer of dedication by David contains two main thoughts and some special insights. Notice that David speaks of two aspects of his life: his speech and his heart’s meditation. Let’s look at them more closely.

The words of my mouth—The Bible has much to say about our speech. It seems that if our tongues are under the Holy Spirit’s control, we are truly living according to God’s will.
  • A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh (Luke 6:45; also in Matthew 12:34).
  • If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain (James 1:26).
  • Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell . . . But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. . . . For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (James 3:5-6, 8-10, 16-18).
  • For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (1 Peter 3:10).

The meditation of my heart—Whatever your heart dwells on is what you truly love. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). The Psalmist David wanted his heart’s meditations to be acceptable in God’s sight. Here are a few verses that refer to our heart’s meditations:
  • But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2).
  • My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding (Psalm 49:3).
  • Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 3:3).
  • Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known (Proverbs 14:33).

David wanted his speech and his heart to be right with God. He prayed about it. It was important to him.

I think we sometimes forget to pray for ourselves. We pray for relatives, for sick people, for situations, and we forget to pray for our own spiritual status with God.

What’s my speech like? Do I go around gossiping about others? Do I spread poison? Is my tongue a fire starter? Or, does my speech glorify the Lord? Is it uplifting? Does it please God? Is praise in my tongue?

What’s my heart like? Does it meditate on God’s Word? Is it full of grace and truth? Does my heart have understanding? Is it filled with wisdom?

Are my speech and heart meditations acceptable to God? This should be our prayer.

Then, David addresses the Lord as His strength and redeemer. The word LORD is “Jehovah.” It’s the proper name for God. In the Old Testament times, Jews wouldn’t even pronounce this name for God; it was so holy. It’s the “I AM” name that God uses when He speaks to Moses (Exodus 3). It’s the same name Jesus claims when He says, Before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58). We know that the Jews understood Jesus was claiming to be God because of their reactions: Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:59).

The word David uses for strength is literally “rock.” The Lord is David’s foundation and strong place. He is ours, as well!

And then, David refers to the Lord as his Redeemer. I looked up redeemer, and I found it refers to a “kinsman redeemer.” Of course, it foreshadows Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself on the cross to redeem us. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). What a lovely insight!

The next time you read this verse, I hope it will be richer. And, my hope is that all of us will have words and hearts that are acceptable in God’s sight. 

Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD,
my strength, and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14)

God bless you!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Fiction Review: The Impressionist

Photo courtesy of: Apolonia,

The Impressionist by Tim Clinton and Max Davis

Adam is losing it all. He and his wife don’t get along, and she’s threatening to leave him. Their seventeen-year-old son is on drugs and in trouble. After a heated quarrel with his wife, Adam leaves the house and ends up in a park where he meets an elderly man who paints. The man is friendly and asks if he can paint Adam’s portrait. Adam isn’t nice to him at first, but during the course of the painting, a friendship blooms. Jim Ed (short for James Edward) delves into Adam’s life by telling snippets of his own story. The painting takes several hours, and the men bare their souls. Finally, the painting is finished, and Adam returns home. There’s more to the story, and you will love it.

For one thing, the book reads like a counseling session. If you have ever been married or had a child, it’s got something for you. If you’ve ever been treated unjustly or borne a grudge, it will speak to you. There’s a lot of biblical counseling going on while the painting gets painted—and a lot of the counseling is for the reader.

I loved the concept and the book. I was trained in art, so the idea of the painting was one I particularly liked, but I think you will, too. I liked that the man was named Adam, and I thought Jim Ed's character sounded like the kind of person I would love to meet. He reminded me of my own grandfather. I also like the way the book ends, and I won’t spoil it for you.

I wasn’t surprised to learn at the end of the book that the authors are professional counselors. They know what they’re doing.

If you’re looking for classic literature, this isn’t it. But, if you’re looking for a great story that just might include your story, this is a book I highly recommend. This is a relatively short book and a good read.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gospel-Centered Politics

Illustration courtesy of: Stewart Miles,

The political contests are on! I'm fully entertained by the British campaign coverage. Not being a U.K. citizen myself, I can listen, laugh, sit back, and appreciate. And just recently, the American contest has begun in earnest. I shake my head. It’s a circus!

Before I start my post in earnest, let me state clearly: if you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, or anything else, it’s your right to vote the way you wish. You can lean left, right, or center. It’s your business, not mine.

My post is about the gospel and politics. Can they mix? I wrote a previous post about gospel-centered living. (You may access it, here.) I believe that a gospel lifestyle should color every aspect of our lives—including our politics.

Let me explain.

First, we’ll review the three parts of the gospel: 
  1. Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins
  2. His burial
  3. His resurrection.
That’s the Good News!

A person who lives the gospel shuns sin and lives for God. He’s morally pure and actively serving the Lord.

Politically, the gospel-centered person will look for candidates and parties that allow him to live as God commands.

If you listen to the campaign rhetoric, you’ll hear promises of Utopia. You’ll also hear mud slinging and watch nasty-tempered ads. Each party promises the moon and criticizes everyone else.

So, how does a Christian live out the gospel in politics? (I’m using male pronouns, but they represent both sexes.)

Vote for:
  • Freedom of religion—so that you can live a godly life and be free to worship.
  • Morality—This means you should take into account the candidate’s platform on abortion, gay marriage, family interests, and crime and punishment.
  • Character—I believe you can evaluate each candidate’s personal record. Does he lie? What is his voting record? Are there any past scandals? Has he committed adultery? Does he have a strong family? What are his positions on moral issues? How does the candidate act?
  • Honesty—Analyze what the candidates have said in the past. Have they misrepresented the facts? Have they promised and then flip-flopped? Have they flat out lied? If they have been public servants, have their policies been aboveboard, and funds been used as designated? Have they helped rather than harmed?

Vote against:
  • Those who promote evil.
  • Those whose policies would limit your Christian freedoms.

If you’re involved in politics:
  • Make sure your priorities are right: your personal relationship with God, family, and then your work. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). If you can’t keep your priorities in the right order, then you’d better rethink your political involvement.
  • Be honest. If you are asked to do anything dishonest, you know that doesn’t please God, and you need to refuse. If you’re active in a party, and you cannot be honest, you’re in the wrong party.
  • Be modest. Humility is a hallmark of the Christian life. Give credit to others. Honor God. Dress appropriately and modestly.
  • Stay clean. A clean, moral life is what God expects. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
  • Be kind. A Christian should be gracious and tactful. It’s always appropriate to act like a gentleman or a lady. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).
  • Be a true public servant. 

The “separation of church and state” was never meant to mean that religion has no place in people’s lives or in the government. It means that people should have the freedom to worship as they choose, and that government doesn’t financially support any particular religious group. The founders of the United States of America respected God and believed in the freedom to worship.

May we all consider what God would have us to do in these upcoming elections.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

7 Steps for Rearing Non-Wimpy Sons

Photo courtesy of: stockimages,

I don’t understand what’s going on, but the symptoms are everywhere. I turn on the news. The sportscaster has too-white teeth (yeah, I know everyone does, but still . . .) and talks as if he had slush in his mouth. He’s cutesy and sweet—too sweet. Another anchor seems nice. He really does. But, he talks like it’s quite okay to be “precious” (if you know what I mean), and he over plucks his eyebrows.

One only has to look back a few years, and the movie stars had square jaws, cleft chins, walked and sat like men, and even the handsomest ones (think Paul Newman, young John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper) were masculine, square-shouldered, and tough. Today, the stars are baby-faced, long-haired, and if they didn’t carry guns, they wouldn’t be tough at all.

In the “old” days, any successful man dressed, talked, walked, and sat like a man. There was an unwritten understanding about how a man was supposed to act. He didn’t talk sweet—although he might sweet talk. He didn’t look pretty—though he might have been very handsome. He dressed like a man. (Don’t get me started on dress! The androgynous look is awful on both men and women. Enough said.) I’m not saying men need to go back to wearing suits every day and, like in the old TV shows, climbing and going after crooks dressed to the nines. No, we’re less formal today. But, tell me what’s wrong with looking like a man, even from a distance?

I realize that some boys are naturally more manly than others. I’m okay with that. If their dads act like men and spend time with their sons, I believe those sons will outgrow any limp-wristed tendencies, don’t you? I also understand that more sensitive men become artists, writers, and musicians, but they don't have to be effeminate. A tenor can be manly. Intuitive, creative males can act like men. There’s no reason for a guy to be wimpy.

It’s interesting to read some of the Bible passages on this subject. (Are you surprised?) Read these:
  • And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD (1 Chronicles 28:20).
  • Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me (Job 38:3).
  • They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks (Joel 2:7).
  • But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ . . . and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).
  • Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men (be like men), be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).

So, how can we help our sons become real men? 
  1. Don’t underestimate the power of example. When a boy’s father is masculine and kind, most of the time, the son will follow. Oddly enough, when the mother is feminine and fulfills her biblical role in the home, she also helps her son to be manly. If the boy’s father isn’t involved in his life, the mother can make sure he has another positive male role model (uncle, grandfather, etc.) who will take extra time with him. His mom can also point out men she admires and say why. (If your child is artistic, point out artists who are manly: James Galway, Lang Lang, and Yo Yo Ma come to mind. They’re exceptionally sensitive artists who act like men.)
  2. Never shame your son! Only point out positive role models without saying anything negative about your son. For example: “Your dad (or Mr. Jones) certainly acts like a man. I admire him.” “Did you see how Mr. Smith opened the door for his wife? Well done!” “Phil’s new haircut is so nice and masculine.” “I like the way Stephen sits.”
  3. Don’t overprotect your son. Helicopter moms don’t let their boys climb trees, get dirty, and play ball. Let your son act like a boy, even if he needs a Band-Aid from time to time.
  4. Teach boys manners, how to dress, and the refined way to speak and act. Help him learn how to order in a restaurant. Show him courteous driving. Help your son be a gentleman.
  5. Encourage all his interests. Whether your son is interested in science, math, technology, music, fishing, art and design, sports, carpentry, or cooking, encourage him to develop his talents. Some of his interests will eventually fall by the wayside, but your son will, in the process, find what he loves best. When we encourage our sons, they rise to the occasion and become better men.
  6. Look to the future. Your son needs to know he will be on his own after college (or other vocational preparation), therefore he needs to become an independent man by that time. Help him to grow and plan. Talk to him about his future, when he’s willing to talk. (I found one of the best times to talk to my own son was in the car when it was just the two of us. It wasn’t very confrontational, since I had to look ahead to drive. Maybe that will work for you, too.)
  7. Praise your son. Nothing helps anyone more than sincere praise. When your son acts like a man, tell him. “You really look nice today.” “I’m impressed with the way you fixed that leak.” “Some woman will get a jewel in you.” “Way to go!”
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth (Psalm 144:12a).

Monday, April 13, 2015

How to Stock the Missionary Closet at Your Church

Photo courtesy of stockimages,

A friend asked me to ask my missionary friends for things they’d like to find in a missionary closet as well as things they wouldn’t use. I was overwhelmed by the many answers, so I felt like sharing their list with you.

Maybe your church already has a missionary closet, or maybe it doesn’t. Here’s my own definition: a “missionary closet” is a place in the church where helpful items are collected, so that missionaries that visit your church can go through and take what they can use.” Some churches use a point system, where the missionary can take up to 25 points, for example. Others let them go through and choose anything they can use. I have yet to see any missionary abuse this generosity. Most are choosy, since it is costly to take anything overseas. They think about present travel needs as well as their future needs on the field.

RECOMMENDED ITEMS (Most recommended first, least last)
  • Gift cards—gas, restaurants, Walmart, hair stylists, Amazon, etc.—preferably to chain stores, restaurants and stations.
  • Kids’ travel games and activities—books, sticker books, coloring books and crayons, games, etc.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Stamps
  • Thank you and blank notes
  • Baby wipes, cleaning wipes
  • Travel-size shampoos, conditioners
  • Girls’ hair clips, bows, bobby pins
  • Travel sewing kits
  • Diapers—name brands, several sizes
  • Music and children’s CDs
  • Unscented lotions—Quite a few missionaries said unscented because of allergies. Some also said Bath and Bodyworks lotions.
  • Unscented laundry detergent pods
  • Duct tape
  • Breath mints
  • Good make-up (Mary Kay, Avon, etc.)
  • Essential oils
  • Flash drives
  • Shaving supplies (for men and women)
  • Cough drops (some sugar free)
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes
  • Small tool kit
  • Small office items
  • Books—missionary biographies, children’s books, homeschooling books
  • School supplies—pens, pencils, highlighters, paper, etc.
  • Paper plates, bowls
  • Travel snacks
  • Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Advil
  • Good multi-vitamins
  • Travel snacks
  • Yarn—for the crafty traveling lady
  • New duffel bags, carry-ons, luggage
  • Towels, wash cloths, hand towels, dish cloths, dish towels
  • Sheets
  • Seasonal decorations and or tablecloths: Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas
  • quarters for laundromats (small bags of them)
Usually, missionaries do not want clothing, but here are a few things—new and in style, please—that would be nice in your missionary closet: nice, men’s black socks; boys’ ties; children’s socks, slipper socks, girls’ tights, children’s clothing, pantyhose, costume jewelry, scarves, purses. (These last three and boys' ties can be used and in good condition.)

  • Anything that's past the expiration date and old
  • Anything you wouldn’t be delighted with yourself
  • Old clothing
  • Underwear
  • Large-size toiletries
  • Large toys for children—no space in vans!

One thing that several of the women mentioned is that it’s much easier to go through the missionary closet by themselves. They know what they need and don’t need, and they don’t like to feel pressured to take things they don’t have space for or can’t use. Many missionaries live in small spaces on the field, and when they are on deputation, there is only so much space in a car or van. (Some said the same for going shopping. They didn’t want to feel pressured to find an outfit. They would rather find one by themselves.)

Every missionary appreciates a missionary closet! It shows you care about your missionaries and about what they’re doing on the field. If your church supports missionaries, this is one way your people can be a blessing to them.

I’d love to know if you found this list helpful. Does your church already have a missionary closet ? (If not, maybe you can start one!) Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Learning About Trust in Psalm 18

Photo courtesy of: xedos4,

The introduction to Psalm 18 tells us it’s written by David in the day that the LORD Delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.

The very first line says, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. There’s a lot of substance in those words. David loves God with his will, with his might. Then, he credits God for his strength. In fact, he says that God is his strength.

Do we love God? Do we depend on Him and credit Him for doing everything?

The next verse is one of my personal favorites. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Look at the layers of protection:
  • Rock—cliff, strong rock
  • Fortress—castle hold
  • Deliverer—helps me escape
  • Buckler—shield
  • Horn—horn (musical), or hill
  • High tower—lookout tower
The Lord is our rock, fortress, deliverer, strength, buckler, hill or horn, and lookout tower. David trusted in God for all of this. Do we?

I think sometimes—many times—our trust is in our own selves, in our abilities, brains, methods, etc. We forget that God is and can be all we need to help us and to protect us.

There’s a woman in our church who, every time I ask her what I can pray about with her, responds, “protection.”

We can depend on God for our protection. He has many layers of protection at our disposal.

Verse 3 says, I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

First, we see that David called upon the Lord. He called out to God. He prayed. Do we pray? When we have troubles, is our first reaction to pray?

The next phrase seems out of place at first glance: who is worthy to be praised. David is mindful of the greatness of God, even as he’s calling to God for deliverance.

The Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer that Jesus gave his disciples, begins with the greeting, Our Father which art in heaven. The next thought is praise for God’s holiness and His Name, Hallowed be thy name (from Matthew 6:9). This is very similar to the structure of prayer expressed by David in Psalm 18. He addresses the Lord and then praises Him.

I wonder if we remember to whom we’re praying? Do we stand before God in awe and wonder? Do we recognize Him as completely holy? Do we remember His greatness? Do we remember that we are only dust, and He is everything? Do we remember He’s the Creator of all?

The Lord is worthy to be praised. That reminds me of verses in Revelation about God:
  • Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (4:11).
  • And they sung a new song, saying, Thou (Jesus) art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation . . . Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing (5:9, 12).

I would love to trust God as David did—wholly, trusting, praising.

How about you?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Non-fiction Book Review--The Monster Within: Facing an Eating Disorder

Photo courtesy of: samuiblue,

The Monster Within: Facing an Eating Disorder by Cynthia Rowland McClure is a fascinating testimony of one prosperous young woman’s battle against bulimia. She reveals why she finally decided to get help and all of the process behind her journey. It isn’t an easy, fun, painless process. It’s hard. It’s brutal. It’s emotional.

“To get to hope, you must have courage to face and battle the monsters within.” That’s exactly how Cynthia felt—like there was a monster inside her, controlling her. She says, “Those who have an eating disorder are obsessed with the body, not the heart. But it is the heart that is really hungry.”

“The questions . . . are ‘What are you really hungry for?’ ‘When did the madness begin?’ ‘What was going on in your life and who told you you were damaged?’” All through the book, she’s asked, “When did you become damaged goods?” Finally, Cynthia figures it out, and that is the beginning of healing.

Another thing that really impressed me was that several of the causes of her very deep hurts weren’t true at all. When she finally confronts her experiences, talks to her parents, and finds out what really happened when she was a child, the events that were the most damaging to her didn’t happen the way she perceived them. This ended up devastating, so devastating that Cynthia was repeatedly suicidal—even in the hospital.

There are many lessons in this book. As a counselor, I learned some interesting points about counseling people who self harm. As a Christian, I learned about how to confront old memories and forgive. I also better understood how, in a good Christian family, perceptions can go horribly wrong very easily. It’s a call for transparency and communication in families. This book is a revealing glimpse into anorexia and bulimia and the hard battle to come back from the brink.

My only problem with this book is with some of the counseling methods that are used in the mental hospital. They include threatening, bullying, and lying. Of course, the therapists weren’t coming from a Christian perspective. I understand that their methods wouldn’t be the same as a Christian psychologist’s.

I’m glad Cynthia told her story and that she is helping others to find peace and healing. I believe this book is important for those who counsel and for people who work with teens and young adults. It’s also a good read for parents of teens, so that they can recognize troubling signs that might indicate an eating disorder.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Glorifying the Bad Guys

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I’ve been following the news about the Germanwings crash. It seems that about 80% of the coverage is about the young copilot who purposefully flew the plane into the mountain, killing himself and 149 other souls. So far, there’s been talk about a depression he had many years ago, about possible eye problems, about a little bit of emotional-mental instability. Most recently, they say he researched suicide and cockpit safety online. The real motive for mass murder hasn’t been revealed at all.

What bugs me is that he’s getting all the attention. It seems to me that the victims deserve attention. It seems like the pilot deserves attention for trying so hard to get into the cockpit again—with an axe.

Why is the media so fixated on the bad guy?

It’s often that way.

Murderers, robbers, traffickers, embezzlers, rapists, terrorists, swindlers, and all other kinds of criminals get the spotlight while their victims languish, suffering horribly. Is this fair?

Life isn’t fair. We know that. I just wish the media spotlight would refuse to shine on the bad guys. Why glorify the actions of the wrong side? It only makes crime appeal to vulnerable young people (and old people, for that matter).

I have a few more beefs. (Stay with me. There’s also hope.)
  • Why do video games have to be so violent? Why do you have to “kill” people, sometimes gruesomely (as if murder could ever be clean).
  • Why are music videos practically pornographic? And, why are the lyrics so raunchy? Why are they so demeaning to women, objectifying women? Do people really think this is okay?
  • Why does pop culture lean towards everything sinful, and why can’t pop divas ever dress modestly?

Well, the answers are in the Bible. Carefully read this list. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Thankfully, there’s hope in the Lord. A personal relationship with Him makes all the difference. These verses come right on the heels of the verses you just read: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). What a contrast!

Here are a few more verses that might encourage you:
  • If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world (John 15:19a).
  • Jesus said, I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14-16).
  • That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).
  • Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

So, when we’re overwhelmed with the bad guys’ fame and the popularity of lust, evil, and darkness, let’s keep our focus on the complete victory we have in Christ. What a blessing!

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them:
because greater is he that is in you,
than he that is in the world.
(1 John 4:4)