When Our Children Are No Longer Safe

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The events over the weekend have been tragic. Two church shootings on the same day in different parts of the country—the widely reported one in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and another in Fresno, California . Twelve of the twenty-six victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting were children, the youngest being just eighteen months old. As I read the list of victims and look at pictures of their faces, I can’t help but weep. There but for the grace of God go I. We are not safe anywhere. These people were gathered to worship, just like I am with my family every Sunday.

Precious lives, lives that had hardly begun, snuffed out in seconds. The lives of those left behind forever changed.

As parents, one of our main responsibilities is to keep our children safe. We spend months child proofing the house before the baby arrives. We exhaust ourselves moving furniture and following our kids around the house so they can avoid some of the bumps and bruises that inevitably come with learning to walk. We make sure the car seat is installed correctly so they are safe in our vehicles. As they grow, we become their advocates, standing up to their bullies and encouraging them when they fail. We do our best to protect their hearts from the harsh realities of the world we live in. There is nothing more powerful than a mother’s love for her children. We would lay down our lives for them without question.

These tragic events were once again a reminder to me that we can longer keep our children safe in the way we used to. Our society has become one of unpredictability and pure evil, where even the most sacred places are no longer off limits. The day we live in demands that we surrender the lives of our children into God’s hands. We have no other choice but to give back to Him what He has entrusted to us. It’s time for us to grasp the fact that our children do not belong to us—they are His.

We can spend a lot of time talking about security outside churches, gun control, and mental health. Our humanness demands a solution to the problem. What can we do to prevent this from happening again? Truth is, we have no control over people’s hearts, so we are forced to once again acknowledge that God is in control. Nothing happens without His permission: “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5, NIV).

God’s plan is so much bigger than ours; He can see what we cannot. It’s easy to say that He is good in times of blessing, but can we say the same in times of tragedy too? I believe we can. In times of devastating trial, God’s Word comes alive, and His Holy Spirit is evident. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV).

Scripture tells us that in the last days, men will be brutal, abusive, without self-control (see 2 Timothy 3). We have a sin problem in this world that will not be made right until Jesus comes back and puts it right. Until then, we live every day trusting God for our futures and the futures of our children.

Moms, bring your children close. Love them, teach them, pray for them, fight for them—but hold them loosely and trust the Lord with them. He is able, and He is good.

As a mother of four, the events of this weekend hit my heart deeply. I cannot imagine the pain these families are going through, but I know the One who is able, in some way, to bring beauty from ashes. May it be so.

Lord, help us trust You with the precious gifts You’ve given us charge over. Help us hold them close but hold them lightly, because they belong to You. Help us in the midst of tragedy to say, “It is well with my soul.” We know that You love our children much more than we could ever love them ourselves. Father, bring peace to the communities of Sutherland Springs and Fresno and the families who have suffered such great loss. Be their comfort and peace. Amen.

Beware…This is Coming For Your Family!

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3,564,591,201 Can you guess what this number might be?

This number, is the number of internet searches for pornography since the beginning of 2015. As I put the digits into this post, the numbers continued to climb on my phone beside me, I can’t keep up.

Over the years we have seen many prominent members of the Christian Community exposed for their involvement in pornography and adultery. Lives lived in darkness brought out into the light. Many of us were truly saddened, we were disappointed, disgusted. Unfortunately, many stood in pious judgment, almost enjoying being a spectator of someone else’s demise.

It has been a reminder to me, that Satan really does prowl around like a lion seeking whom he may devour.  Even so, I also know that God will not be mocked. He will not allow His people, to on one hand proclaim Him, while on the other live in sin. It’s time to face it! Pornography is no longer the dirty little secret that hangs out in the back room of a seedy store. It is no longer just subject matter for the frat house, or boys locker room. It is HERE. In OUR homes, in our PURSES, at our DESKS, in our SCHOOLS, in our BACK POCKETS. It is as easy to access as our favorite recipe blog. It’s free, available and it’s not going away. The statistics are staggering.

  • 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch pornography at least once a month.
  • 51% of pastors say internet pornography is a temptation
  • 1 in 5 mobile internet searches are for pornography.
  • 24% of smart phone owners admit to having pornographic material on their device
  • 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before they are 18. Most are exposed by age 12. Many are exposed at church youth group.

I could go on. The statistics only get more heartbreaking. So, as Christians, what do we do?

It’s an easy thing to push aside uncomfortable subjects within the church. We hope to keep inappropriate things outside of our four walls. However, as the church becomes more compromised, and Christians become weaker in their faith, these issues have to be addressed. To be completely honest, I am tired of the devil gaining ground and God’s people not engaging in battle. I am over sin being called addiction or a sickness. It’s SIN, people!!

But there is good news! God has given us everything we need in His word,  to defeat the schemes of the enemy. There is nothing that we can be tempted by, that Jesus did not endure. “Well, He was God!” you say. Yes, He was. But He was God in the flesh, a man. He was open and vulnerable to everything that we are faced with today. He provided a way for us to flee temptation and overcome sin. It’s our CHOICE as to whether we take the way out or not.

So, you may be reading this and be thinking to yourself. “It’s easy for HER to say! She’s never dealt with this.” “People get sucked in by accident!” “It’s the devil’s fault!” “It’s an addiction!” “She doesn’t understand how hard it is!”

No, I’ve never had to deal with this issue personally. But I’ve walked with many that have. As God’s people, we need to STOP putting the blame for sin on others. We each have a CHOICE, a free will.

To the MEN:

It is a CHOICE to type those words into the Google search bar. It is a CHOICE to open that email. It is a CHOICE to click on those pictures. It is a CHOICE to look with lust at the woman walking by you on the street. It is a CHOICE to flirt with the co-worker in the office. It is a CHOICE to watch an inappropriate TV show or movie. I could go on. In all of this, there is a common thread. CHOICE.

The amazing thing is, is that God gives us the greatest CHOICE. His Word. When Jesus was confronted with temptation. He used scripture to fight. God’s promises are for us TODAY! Ephesians 6:17 gives us clear instruction to put on the helmet of salvation. Guys, a helmet is not attractive, or fashionable! We use a helmet for a practical reason. The helmet protects the mind from wicked and corrupt thoughts and schemes. Once again, it is a CHOICE to pick it up and put it on. God has provided. You have to do your part. Once your helmet is securely in place. DO WHAT SCRIPTURE TELLS YOU TO DO!!! FLEE!! We are never instructed to fight temptation. We are to RUN!

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

2 Timothy 2:22 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”

Men, for the sake of your wives, children or future wives and children. Do not let the devil steal your future. Put on the helmet and FLEE!

To the Ladies:

Yes, I’m addressing you too! Even though we tend to think that this is a ‘male problem’ we as women are not off the hook. I am not out to purposefully offend or ruffle feathers, but if I do that in the pursuit of truth, so be it. Before I get attacked for blaming women for men’s failings, I want to say this. We are not responsible for the sin of others. Men and women make their own individual choices. Their sin is their own. HOWEVER! We are called to be responsible to each other as believers.

Galatians 6:1-3 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

We are to bear one another’s burdens, not just physically, but spiritually. So, while we aren’t directly responsible for the choices of others, we are responsible to help in bearing their struggles. We are to do everything in our power to not aide in the falling of our brothers and sisters.

1Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

This doesn’t only apply to food and drink. It applies to anything that may cause someone else to stumble.

So, ladies. In short, this is what I ask. Please keep your short skirts, and low hanging tops at home for your husband. The only boobs and backside my husband should be seeing are mine!

Secondly, I find it quite alarming how many women within the church, are exposing themselves to what the world sees as reality when it comes to marriage. We are bombarded by Fifty Shades of Gray style books, Bad Mom movies, and we seldom blink an eye. We enjoy the escape from our boring, humdrum lives. For a moment we are able to leave to demands of house and home and be transported into someone else’s world. We are allowed for a short time to let our hair down, and laugh at those things we’ve been feeling or wanting to say for years. The problem is, (other than the fact that they are completely wrong, distorted and against what God created marriage and motherhood to be), they are leading women into a sense of dissolution with their own families. Visions of ‘life on the edge’, cloud our minds and fills them with falsehoods. Husbands are no longer enough, we long for something daring and freeing. Eventually women find themselves in a place of detachment and discontent. Stop buying in to the fantasy.

Ladies, fix your eyes on things above! Be thankful for the call that God has placed on you as wives and mothers. Find your contentment in HIM! Ultimately, God is the only one able to squash the desires for things outside of your marriage that are not good. Once again, we have a CHOICE. A choice, that even when we don’t fell like it we LOVE our husbands anyway. Even when we don’t want to, we are patient and nurturing to our children anyway. Please ladies, fall in love with God’s plan for you. It is good and right and will result in blessing.

To the Parents:

I want to finish this post by addressing parents.

Our children are in the middle of a battle. A battle for their souls. As their parents, we are responsible for them! That’s HUGE. We can no longer stand back from our teenagers and give them their space. They need you now more than ever.

If you want children that serve God, you have to spend the time teaching them how. You can not give them a phone, laptop, tablet or any other device, and not expect them to discover pornography. Whether intentionally or by accident, it is a click away. They will find it, and it will pull them in. Please take the time to check your children’s devices. My children know not to expect any privacy when it comes to their online activity. I check their texts, their  device history, and question them often on their viewing habits. We TALK! My kids know they can trust my me and my husband as their parents. Do not let anger with behavior cloud the bigger picture. If your children think you are angry, they will hide. Hide their activities, and their hearts. Ask the Lord how you are to respond. Go to scripture with your children, show them what God says. Pray with them. Hold them accountable. Love them.

It has taken me an hour to write this post. The pornography hit counter is now at 3,565,319,907 and counting. It’s time to step up, stop making excuses for sin, cast aside those things that hinder us, and be the Christian (Christ Ones) God has called us to be.

Lord, help us to be your followers. To be blameless in Your site. Strengthen us for the fight ahead. Help us to stand on truth and not believe the lies fed to us by the enemy. We are YOURS, help us to live like we believe it! – AMEN

Top 10 Tips for Parents of Teen Boys!

15304392_10154486145241130_4933238415767947997_oHow many times have you heard “Oh, you have teenagers! I’m so sorry” or “The teenage years are so hard—I’ll be praying!” I’m sure you could give many examples of comments and advice you’ve received from those who have gone before.

We currently have two teenagers in our home and two kids fast approaching the teen years. In looking back and remembering some of the things I read and heard about teenagers, I guess I always expected my kids to go to bed on their twelfth birthdays the sweet, loving, carefree children I had known to that point and wake up on their thirteenth birthdays acne-filled, moody, rebellious semi-adults I didn’t know anymore.

So for all of you naysayers and fearful parents of preteens, let me lay down some truth: I love the teenage years! In fact, I think this is my favorite stage of raising kids so far. Yes, my teenagers can be a little unpredictable, moody, spacey, and a little sassy at times, but I love it all.

What I am witnessing before me is God growing my boys into the men He has called them to be. The mood swings, unpredictability, and sass does not compare to the fun, laughs, deep life conversations, and growth that are taking place in our family. It also doesn’t hurt to have big muscles developing and practical help around the house!

People often ask me our secret to raising well-mannered, sweet teens who love God. My first answer is, “We are very blessed!” We gave our children to the Lord when they were born, and we understand that they do not belong to us but are gifts given to us for a time. What a huge responsibility God has entrusted us with. Because of that, my husband and I pray individually with our children every night. There are two things we want our kids fall asleep with: first, the knowledge that God hears their requests, and second, that their parents love them and are concerned with their thoughts and needs. I believe God is blessing our investment. He promised He would.

But on a practical note, there are some things we have learned along the way to help us and our kids navigate the teen years. Here are my top ten!

1. Never forget, you are the parent, they are the child! We need to behave like parents, not children! The teen years come with a number of frustrations. As parents, we are pushed and challenged on a regular basis. Oftentimes we are met with grumpiness, sour moods, and silence. It is easy to take these things personally and react rather than respond. Reacting is quick, sharp, and defensive. Reacting typically results in a negative exchange, which in turn causes a teen to shut down and walk away angry. Instead, respond. Take a second, pray, then speak. Now, we cannot give our teens a pass for a bad attitude or a disrespectful tone. Teens have to learn to control their emotions, even when it’s difficult. That’s life. Our job is to teach them how. The most effective way is through our example. The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is not and should never be a part of the conversation, ever! If we don’t respond in a godly, respectful, and reasonable way, how can we expect the same of our kids?

2. Don’t nag! This is a lot easier said than done. However, if we can back off on the little things that really don’t matter and pick our battles, so to speak, our teens will learn to relax, let down their guards, and be more willing to open up. If they know they won’t get barraged with advice every time they speak to us, they will be a lot more willing to not just listen but actually hear what we say when it really matters. Let your teens know what your expectations are, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

3. Never stop telling them you love them! Even on the bad days. Even when it seems awkward. The last thing all my kids hear before they close their eyes at the end of the day is “I love you.” Our love is not conditional. It does not depend on performance or behavior. Our children should know without a shadow of a doubt that they may not always have our approval, but they will always have our love.

4. Never give them space and hug them often! This is so important in the teen years and something I think we get so wrong most of the time. Yes, our teens need to accept responsibility. Yes, they need to learn independence. Yes, they need room to grow into adults. However, our job is to help them, shape them, support them, and keep them accountable—not move away from them so they can figure it out alone. I make it a point to ask my boys what’s going on in their hearts and minds. I monitor what they watch and look at online. I want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to be able to pray for them where they are and help them make wise and godly decisions. My goal is to point them to Jesus in all things.

5. Be their parent, not their friend! Sometimes our teens aren’t going to like this. Sometimes they will see us as the enemy. That’s okay. Scripture calls parents to provide, to discipline, to teach their children. Proverbs 22:15 tells us that foolishness is bound up in the hearts of children. We have a great responsibility before God to shepherd our children, to teach them by using our wisdom and God’s Word. As parents, we will stand before God one day to give an account for how we stewarded that which He gave us. May He say, “Well done.”

6. Teach them to work hard, and teach them to serve. “When we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat’” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NIV). Our children’s generation is quickly becoming the laziest and most entitled generation of our time. Hard work has been replaced by device time. Learning practical life skills in school has been replaced by meaningless busy work. If our children do not grab the concept of work for reward, the future of our society will not look good. Work together as a family. A family is a team. Accomplishment is a great reward for teens, and our appreciation and recognition of them shows that we value their time and efforts. In our selfish world it is so hard to teach “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV). Our teens can be pretty self-focused, and at times it seems that they believe the whole world revolves around them. However, if they are taught to give, to serve with their time, to help at home, then that will naturally translate to the outside world. Once they understand that the family doesn’t work as well without their participation, they will be able to understand it in the bigger picture of their community, church, school, and world.

7. Talk to them. Put down the device, and make them do the same. Gather around the table for dinner—no phones allowed. Contrary to popular belief, teens really do like to

talk, and they want to know that we are interested in what they have to say. Give them an opportunity to have a voice, to offer their thoughts and opinions about various subjects. You will be surprised at their insight and blessed by the time spent with your teens.

8. Give them responsibilities, and allow them to follow through. Do not come behind to fix what they’ve done. Accept the imperfect. What we are building in our teens is so much more valuable than the results we may prefer. Give them a chance to get things done. Trust them to follow through with what you’ve asked of them.

9. Let them be kids! For the most part, teens like to be considered adults. I find that my oldest would often rather sit and chat with the adults than be outside playing. Unless it playing involves basketball! However, there will be times when our teens will be silly, goofy, playful, and extremely immature. I am delighted when I see this side of my teens. It’s fun to watch them throw caution to the wind and not be bothered by the opinions of others or feel the need to be cool. They are still kids. We would do well to join them in their silliness on occasion. Too much adulting is unhealthy for anybody!

10. Never be too proud to say you are sorry! I know it’s not fun to admit, but as parents we often blow it. Apologizing and asking forgiveness does not just apply to the adults in our lives. Apologizing to our children does not mean we lose our parental position. It shows them that we are human, sinners, in need of grace, just like they are. Humbling ourselves is part of life, and admitting we’re wrong is part of life. Get over yourself, and do it!

My husband and I are not done raising our teens yet. We have a ways to go. However, I am thankful that God has given us everything we need in His Word to raise them well. He is willing and able to pour out wisdom and grace when we need it if we take the time to ask Him. On the days when I feel inadequate, I ask God for strength. And the times when I am out of patience, I ask for an increased measure of grace. For those occasions when I mess up and fail, I humble myself, ask forgiveness, and move on.

I leave you with this: “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20–21, NASB).