Victim or Survivor?

Victim: Something destroyed; something completely sacrificed in the pursuit of an object or situation.

Survivor: One who outlives another or a situation of conflict.

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In this world, it seems that we begin to classify ourselves as either a “Victim” or a “Survivor” of our past or current circumstances.

It’s become easy to play the victim card and stay a prisoner of the past. Not allowing ourselves to look forward, but to be perpetually stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  We use the pain of past or the trials of the current to set the tone for our life. We become “Hand-Wringers” and use that victim card to remain hopeless and broken. It is the excuse we carry so we no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions but instead we place blame on the past.

Or, we take a new ownership and call ourselves Survivors! We have overcome the past. We no longer place blame on the past, but instead we know where the pain came/comes from and we conquer it. We take either responsibility for our actions or we choose to forgive the one who caused us the pain and terror. We no longer live in the grip on its guilt. We point back to our past and declare we are a survivor.

However, I am asking that you notice something from both those classifications: Victim or Survivor. They both still point to the past. While one is victorious and the other is brokenness, they both rely on the past as their “Badge.”

In the next couple of weeks, I will share with you all some very personal and raw emotions and events from my past. I will also take time to share with you where I was a Victim, where I became a Survivor, but most of all, when I chose to become a New Creation in Christ. The past is gone, a new life has begun.

Hear me please, I truly know that there are many circumstances out in the world that are so overwhelming that you cannot fully understand how to even begin to survive. I will not be trivial nor contrite in the upcoming weeks. I give you my word that I will be honest, true and very transparent. I will share with you my journey and where my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought me. So please, let me share with each of you my heart.  Thank you. We will continue this discussion next Monday.

Kerry

A Prayer for Your Children

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It was about 15 years ago that Kerry came across a “Daily Prayers for Your Children” article from Focus on the Family.  Since then, she has made copy after copy for us. She has also implemented those daily prayers as a guide for the teachers at her school as they pray for their students. She has even made copies to hand out to parents in our Bible Study classes.

What I appreciate most is that my wife not only realizes the importance of prayer, she is gifted by the Holy Spirit and is a dedicated prayer warrior. Since Samantha was an infant, we have prayed over our children daily. For their future spouses, for their protection, for them to get caught in lies or deception. Most of all, we have prayed for their salvation through Jesus Christ. That they will live for Him, first and foremost.

So I will share with you the prayer plan we have adopted and made our own, originally from Focus on the Family.

Monday                                                                                                                                    -Place a protective, solid hedge around them so satan can’t reach in and lead them into temptation and so they will be safe from harm.  2 Thess 3:3, Ps 33:20

Tuesday                                                                                                                                  -They will use Godly wisdom in selecting friends and that they will make a positive difference in their lives. Give them discernment of people and knowing right from wrong.  Prov 1:10, 18:24, Deut 13:6,8

Wednesday                                                                                                                            -Stay pure in their thoughts and deeds. Ps 24:4-5, Job 17:9

Thursday                                                                                                                                 -They will be caught if they cheat, lie, or are mischievous. Heb 13:18-19

Friday                                                                                                                                     -They will be alert and think clearly in school and activities. Help them to be motivated to do their best.  Col 3:17, 1 Cor 10:31

Saturday                                                                                                                                 -Their future spouse. That they will come from a Godly background and desire the life you want from them. That their goals will be the same and their homes will be one that seeks holiness first.  Deut 5:29

Sunday                                                                                                                                   -They will live for Him and that He will use them for His Glory. That they will fully mature spiritually.       Ps 78:1-8, 103:17-18, Is 54:13, Eph 3:20-21

Stay True Advice…Baylee’s list of roughly 55 things all teenagers need to know

We shared this 2 years ago when our youngest daughter graduated from high school. Since it’s that time of the year again, it seemed appropriate to share again.
Baylee, as well as the other graduating Seniors from our Youth Group, were asked by our Youth Pastor to share some wisdom and advice to those still in the Youth Group.  In her usual fashion, Baylee took this time to truly share what was on her heart and what she has learned these past 7 years as a Youth.  Both Kerry and I, as well as Pastor Bill, were so touched by her reflections on life and God, we just had to share.
Parents, go through the list. Whether you agree with it or not is not the issue, instead listen to the heart of a young lady who loves the Lord. You may learn something about your own child.
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Stay True Advice aka
A list of roughly 55 things that Baylee thinks is important for you all to know:
•Make it a point to say a prayer before you even step foot out of bed, I promise it’ll help your day.
•Never be friends with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable (for any reason, whether it’s your beliefs or actions or something they say.)
•Love yourself so much that when someone treats you wrong, you recognize it.
•Never underestimate Gods grace in the midst of your brokenness.
•Boys, girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out. The friend zone is not a real thing.
•Falling in love with yourself first doesn’t make you vain or selfish, it makes you indestructible.
•Boys, if you want to get a girls attention learn to compliment her on things OTHER than her beauty.
•Just because someone desires you, does not mean that they value you.
•Boys, If your not going to marry her take your hands off another mans future.
•Girls, If your not going to marry him take your hands off another womans future.
•Don’t act like someone else. Don’t waste time on pretending.
•If they won’t hold your hand, don’t let them hold your heart.
•If you aren’t walking with God maybe you aren’t right for the person that’s right for you.
•There is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering with your life.
•When entrusted with a secret, keep it. I don’t care if you and that person are mortal enemies now, you still don’t tell a soul.
•It’s never too late for an apology.
•If you’ve made your point, stop talking.
•Learn to admit when you’re wrong.
•Be understanding. If someone has a different opinion than you, listen to them. Don’t just sit there ignorantly, plugging your ears and screaming your opinion to the world.
•Set goals. Set them high and learn to accomplish every goal you set for yourself.
•Alcohol does not make you cooler.
•Girls, never EVER send boys naked pictures. The boys asking for them are the boys that should not be trusted.
•Never beg someone to stay in your life. If they choose to leave, let them.
•Discover your passion and run with it.
•Dance a LOT!
•High school dances are overrated.
•Girls, never spend more than $7 for mascara.
•If you’re ever uncomfortable in a situation you’ve ended up in, call your parents. I promise they’d rather you be safe and they will forgive you.
•Go to as many concerts as possible.
•Just because you turn 18 does not mean suddenly you can do whatever the heck you want. If you’re under their roof, you’re still under their rules.
•The stupid cliche “you can’t be loved until you love yourself” is so false. Listen to what others love about you and learn to love that about yourself too.
•Stop underestimating yourself. If you’re walking with the Lord He’s got your back!
•Eating a whole tray of brownies while watching Grease with your best friend can and will help you feel better. Trust me, I’ve tested this one out multiple times.
•If your parents don’t like you hanging out with a certain person, listen to them. They are smarter than us.
•Comparing yourself to others is NEVER a good idea.
•If you can’t say it to their face, don’t say it to them over text.
•Changes don’t happen overnight.
•No one can live a perfect Christian life, but you CAN intentionally decide that next time you are faced with a choice, you choose the one that glorifies God.
•When somebody hurts you, don’t try to hurt them back.
•Learn the importance of calling your friends out if they are in sin. It may feel awkward but they need it, and you’re called to do it.
•Save your money every chance you get. Future you will be thankful.
•Your mental health is so important, and if you’re ever struggling please find someone you can talk to.
•Your value is NOT based on the number of likes you get on Instagram.
•You are going to mess up, and you’re going to regret some choices you’ve made. But you have to learn how to forgive yourself, and decide to grow from the situation and not let it destroy you.
•Reading a book is more fun than reading your Twitter feed.
•One day you’ll realize how much your parents have sacrificed for you. Thank them over and over and over.
•Like people’s selfies. It takes guts to post them.
•Every time before you read scripture, pray and ask God to reveal something new to you. He’ll blow your mind every single time!
•Take pictures. So so so many pictures.
•Don’t take yourself too seriously.
•Breakups hurt. And they are allowed to hurt. They suck and knock you on your back, but the key is not staying down on your back. Look to God, use Him to fill up and repair that broken heart.
•Never diminish other’s feelings.
•Deciding to live your life completely surrendered to God is the best decision you’ll ever make!
~Baylee Vivian – Class of 2015

Prayer Stones: How Do You Pray For Your Spouse?

 

If you are ever in my office you will find a small clear container holding polished, iridescent, glass stones. My wife, Kerry, began leaving me these small stones daily, in different locations. They were to be a simple way to tell me that she was praying for me and loving on me. I in turn began praying for her and our daughters each time I would discover a ‘prayer stone.’
This time of prayer has begun a wonderful journey between me and God. As I began to pray for Kerry, Sam and Baylee, the Lord then began to lay other individuals on my heart to pray for. I sought God on a very intimate level. I realized that this prayer time was more than supplication and worship; it was an opportunity for developing a repentant and regenerative heart toward Him.
I need to be right with God before I pray. I have to ask for His forgiveness and ask that He would create in me a new heart, a new attitude. May I say that this is a very humbling experience for me.
Not that I am all there, come on, you all know me and know that I am a work in progress; however, I am progressing toward Him.
During this journey, I meditated on the 51st Psalm. What a beautiful and direct way God has us look at our sinful heart. “The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.” verse 17 David is a broken man, seeking forgiveness and taking ownership of his sinful actions. It again revealed to me that that is the first step we should all take before coming before the throne of God with our supplications and requests. We must worship Him with a pure heart and clean hands.
Kerry’s ‘prayer stones’ became so much more than precious reminders of our love for each other. They became a way for me to see the power, strength, and humility that prayer and communication with my God can be!
Let us shed that proud exterior and be truly transparent to Him. By asking for forgiveness from our sins and repenting, we will then be that much closer in our relationship with the King.

Paying Attention to Detail

“Be careful to obey all My commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.”  Deut 12:28


So I am still in the book of Deuteronomy. For those of you that know me well know that I have been in this book for the past 6 months and I am now finishing up chapter 12! Just have 22 chapters to go…

In the past two chapters, 11 & 12, I noticed that the phrase “Be careful to obey…” is stated 11 times.  The Holy Spirit had me to reflect and meditate deeper on that word-“Careful.” As I began to ponder the personal application He had for me, I also took time to look up the definition of careful. 

Careful: To pay close attention to detail. It implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes. Making sure to avoid potential danger, mishap or harm. 

This took me back to my time as a Hot Air Balloon pilot. Before every flight, starting with the initial weather briefing through the process of flight to landing, I was to be careful in every step of my checklist. I was cautious and meticulous each and every flight. The responsibility as the pilot was to be taken seriously, regardless of the hours of flight I had. Each flight I was to make sure that the potential for danger, mishap, or harm was addressed and the decision to fly or not was taken seriously. I was careful every time.  

So now I looked at these past two chapters in Deuteronomy. “Be careful to obey…”   I had to be clear and transparent with myself, God already knows my heart, to see if i approached His Word as carefully as I did as a pilot. 

Am I cautious to really apply what He speaks to me through His Word? Do I pay close attention to detail or do I just try to pick out the “easy” stuff to obey? Do I approach His teaching as one that will keep me from danger or harm? Or do I read, think good thoughts, maybe even post an image verse but never allow the obedience through application to take root? 

Look at the second part of verse 28: “Be careful to obey all My commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.”

When I take time to truly apply God’s word into my life, life will be joyful, God’s attribute. I will be doing what God deems holy and righteous. And considering who God is, that’s a great place to be.

So how careful are you to obey God’s Word?

Joe

“MY CHILDREN WON’T LISTEN!” 9 STRATEGIES FOR A BETTER PARENTING JOURNEY 

“MY CHILDREN WON’T LISTEN TO ME!”

As a Children’s and Families Pastor I’ve seen a lot of different personalities and temperaments over the years. I’ve seen kids who have faced significant life challenges and show incredible resiliency. On the other hand, I have witnessed children burst into tears because they didn’t catch the ball in gym because they’ve rarely been allowed the opportunity to try and to fail in life. I’ve witnessed so many parenting styles that look good on paper but fail miserably in the long run.

When we as parents try to make things “comfortable” for our children, when we focus on “fighting” their battles for them, when we “shelter” them to the point of emotional stagnation…we begin to set up our children towards failure as they approach adulthood.

Instead, we as parents need to take time to invest into our children and guide and facilitate them in a positive and loving strategy towards emotional, physical and spiritual maturity. This takes sacrifice or our time and of our agenda. This means that we will place a priority on allowing our children to shape our souls as we in turn parent them as God guides us.

1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE:

Your actions are the biggest influence in your child’s life. They are looking to you to see how you interact with the world and respond to life situations. If you tell them to be kind but they see you demeaning the waiter when your order is wrong, they are more likely to follow your example than heed your advice. If you tell them that God is a priority in your life, yet they see you make excuses for lack of Bible study or not going to church as a family. “But we have an important tournament for you to compete in…” Know that little eyes are watching and YOU set the example of what your children will grow into. 

2. FRAME REQUESTS IN THE POSITIVE: 

Instead of saying, “Don’t hit!” say, “We use gentle hands” or “Hands are for high fives.” Current research states that when we frame our requests in the negative, most kids will only actually hear “hit” and disregard the “don’t.” When we frame requests in the positive we are not only telling them what NOT to do, we are telling them what TO do as an alternative. Your tone will also go a long way in making sure the request is not only heard but applied. Remember to Interact not Overreact.

 3. FOLLOW THROUGH:

In the heat of the moment, we’ve all threatened consequences we have zero intention of actually following through with. When you start a sentence with, “If you do that one more time…” whatever comes next must be practical, reasonable, and connected to the offense. When we don’t follow through, our children see no reason to stop what they are doing. If our follow through is unreasonable they lose their trust in us. Our response must be proportionate to the situation and act as a firm boundary to encourage positive choices in the future.

4. GET DOWN ON THEIR LEVEL:

Yelling across the room will rarely generate the result you desire. Kids are often so wrapped up in their activities, they’re often not intentionally ignoring you – they really don’t hear you. If you want their attention, turn off any competing electronics, crouch down, look them in the eye, and make your request.

5. CALL OFF THE RESCUE MISSION!:

Let natural consequences play out. Not doing their homework has a natural consequence of low grades. Not putting their toys away in time to go to a playdate has a natural consequence of not being able to attend. Constantly bailing your children out of difficult situations creates a false sense that someone will always be there to clean up their mess when they make poor choices. More importantly, it inhibits their ability to cope with bigger life challenges. As parents we never want to see our children suffer, but allowing them to solve their own problems will equip them with the self-confidence necessary to manage difficult situations in the future.

6. PROVIDE CHOICE WHENEVER POSSIBLE:

When we demand compliance, kids are more likely to rebel. Engaging in a power struggle is rarely effective and often damages your relationship. Instead of demanding they wear the outfit you picked out, give them a choice between two. Instead of demanding they clean up their room this minute, set a reasonable amount of time in which to clean it up. I’m not inferring that you should always give choices in every situation, there will be times that there is only one option and that’s the one they need to follow. What I’m trying to convey is that by seeing what situations: menu selections, clothing, play/activity options-These are great times to strengthen your child’s ability to make good decisions. Remember this, don’t Lord over your children…Love over your children instead.

7. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS:

Kids are not little adults. It’s unreasonable to expect that they will never make a mistake or be anything other than the perfect child you had envisioned from their inception. It’s up to you as their parent to recognize that they will mess up, and love them through it anyway. Practice unconditional love on your children and recognize their current emotional and physical abilities.

8. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES:

When children don’t know what the rules are, they will continue to push up against the boundaries until you tell them what’s okay and what’s not. They were born to do this. Expect it. Plan for it. Kids feel safe and secure when they know where the line is and exactly what will happen if they cross it. I use the picture of a highway and guardrails. Initially, our children need to be on a one way road with super high guardrails. Then as they get older, the road becomes a two lane road then in time becomes a 3 lane to then even a four lane highway, all the while maintaining the guardrails so they will not go over the edge. Establish those boundaries, those lanes and guardrails for your children today.

9. FORGIVE OFTEN:

Kids make unadvisable choices every day. By extending grace and forgiveness you are teaching them empathy. It doesn’t mean there aren’t still consequences. It just means that you’re not going to define them by the mistakes they make. Kids need to know that you’re not going to hold their poor choices over the their heads for the rest of their natural life. Learn to let it go, and let them move forward. And likewise, if you need to ask forgiveness from your children, and you will-I promise you that, then seek forgiveness from them. You will be reflecting Christ in such a genuine and loving way.

Parenting is about the journey. It’s not a straight road, and you’ll have to take several detours along the way. If we as parents do our job right, seeking God at every turn and twist, allowing His Spirit to speak to us during those scary times where we feel we are traveling next to a cliff, then our kids will enter and engage this world just a little bit better than the day before.

Joe & Kerry

3 Keys for Your Boys in A Sex Saturated Culture

 

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The first time I saw a Playboy magazine, I was about 12 years old and hanging out at a friend’s house. My buddy had covertly collected a secret stash of magazines under his bed. He had gone to great lengths to acquire the contraband, and his bedroom stash became the stuff of legend among our adolescent crew of hormonally-driven friends.

I had been brought up with parents and church leaders who taught me about the sacredness of sex and the dangers of objectifying women. Still, my raging hormones and weak willpower got the best of me and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the airbrushed images. Those magazines became a “gateway drug” of sorts and ultimately led me down a dark road towards more graphic pornography.

I’ve been porn-free for a little over two decades, but I’m still living with some scars in my mind and my marriage. Thankfully, God’s grace and my wife’s love (plus some important accountability measures) have helped me escape from the grip of porn.

Kerry and I know we have a sacred responsibility to our children to teach them about sex and protect them from all the ways the misuse of sex can harm them. We raised two daughters; however, we also know what we were praying for and longing for in a man for our daughters.

So let’s share with you parents raising sons. The first step is obviously teaching your sons to have a deep and abiding respect for women, but respect alone isn’t enough to help them overcome the bombardment of visual temptations out there. If you’re looking for some practical ways to get started, here are three simple ways parents of boys can equip them to live with sexual purity in a sexually-saturated culture.

3 keys to raising boys in a sex-crazed culture:

1. Don’t just have “The Talk;” have many talks about sex and purity.

Instead of having one big talk about the birds and the bees like many of our parents did when we were growing up, open up an ongoing, healthy dialogue about issues related to sex and porn. Ask questions and encourage your son to ask you questions too. Be as transparent as possible in your responses. Kids don’t expect you to be perfect, but they need you to be real. If you want some practical tools to help guide you through those conversations, check out Jonathan McKee’s book, More Than Just the Talk.

2. Try to understand your son’s thought process.

If you’re a man raising boys, you already know all about the male thought process and mental wiring that makes visual temptation so powerful, but your son is living in a different world than ours, so keep the dialogue open to learn how he’s thinking. If you’re a mom and you’d like to understand more about how and why males react so instinctively to visual images of sex and sensuality, I’d encourage you to read the new book, “Through a Man’s Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men”, which is written by Craig Gross and Shaunti Feldhahn. The research in the book is eye-opening, and their insights made me think they’d somehow installed hidden cameras in my brain! This book and accompanying video series could help you understand your son—and your husband, too—on a new level.

3. Monitor every screen in your home.

The average kid sees porn by age eight. Sometimes, kids are exposed to porn on accident, and other times, they’re deliberately looking for it. Parents must be constantly vigilant by setting parental controls, downloading porn-blocking software, and using every tool at our disposal to protect our kids from unwanted images. Know where your kids are going online and let them know you’re watching. Tell them what’s off limits, but also follow up by inspecting. Kids aren’t usually as interested in what you expect as they are in what you’ll inspect. Remember this bit of advice, Don’t Overreact-Interact when you discover your son viewing pornography.

As you get started…

You may be intimidated by the thought of even beginning these conversations with your kids. That’s completely understandable. I think we all feel that way at first. This aspect of parenting is indeed one of the most difficult, but also among the most important. As parents, we must conquer or own fears and feelings of inadequacy to give our kids the help they desperately need.

Don’t feel like you have to do it alone, because there are many great resources to help you and your family. Don’t be passive in this process. Be present. Your kids don’t need you to have perfect answers to all their questions, but they need you to be present and transparent with them. If you’re willing to do those things, and to use the tools and resources at your disposal, you will navigate these complex issues with great success.

 

Joe & Kerry