Back to School: 10 Things to Pray Over Your Students

Today is a monumental day for our home. We have two beginning their freshman year. My daughter begins her college career, my son begins high school.

My tradition of praying over them every morning has continued since the day I dropped them off at preschool. The obvious differences today is, first, I’m not holding their hand to the front door of their class and stopping there to pray. Second, they’re now leaving for school before I’m out of the shower. So more often than not, my prayers over them may have greater distance by proximity but are not less effective because of the authority of Christ. I believe a prayer in the name of Jesus, in accordance with His Word, brings change.

At Kfirst, we are in a series on Elijah called “Whirlwind.” And James reminds us about Elijah and about prayer.

“…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. “ James 5:16b-18

James seems to want us to know how powerful prayer can be while encouraging us that we don’t have to have the “credentials” someone else has (in our minds) to pray powerful and effective prayers. Elijah performed great acts and had powerful prayers. Yet it was “human as we are.” I don’t know about you, that builds my faith and encourages me to get my butt in the Word and step out in prayer.

So where your kids have already started school or today is “day 1,” let me give you a daily prayer list over your kids.

  1. Help our children to draw their identity from Jesus.
  2. Give them fearlessness with new opportunities and humility with familiar experiences.
  3. Help them to make good connections/reconnections with peers and faculty.
  4. Let there be no limit to their love for the people around them. Help them to love people like Jesus does.
  5. Develop deeper disciplines and capacity for learning.
  6. Let them see and step into opportunities to exercise generosity without reciprocation.
  7. Guide them to look for lonely people.
  8. Let their lives shine with the hope they have in Christ.
  9. Help their attitudes to rise above the flow of negativity and criticism.
  10. When they face disappointment or hurt, guard their hearts and bring them back to their identity in Jesus.

Amen.

Love you all. Praying over your kids today.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

PKs: 7 Thoughts For Pastors About Their Kids

If you’ve ever heard the term, “PK” then you’ve been in church a while. It’s part of an exclusive club that requires one thing: You must have a parent as a pastor (unless you are the child of a missionary…then you’re an “MK”).

I wouldn’t say I’m a “true PK” because I didn’t become one until sixth grade. I was brought into the collective (Star Trek reference). I guess I’m what you would call a “hybrid.”  I’ve lived in both worlds; seen both sides.  Being a pastor, my kids know nothing of the “other side,” but they have talked about it.  It’s not that they don’t like being a PK.  But they recognize that they are seen and treated in a different lens at church and school.  

It was at a funeral of a pastor where my entire world of parenting as a pastor changed.  

A 45-year-old youth pastor had just passed away.  It was sudden and unexpected.  Tim was very loved and respected around the state and the funeral was packed.  The usual funeral elements were there. It was wonderful and meaningful.  Then Tim’s young adult daughter got up to read a letter to her father.  Within that letter, she rocked my pastoral and parental world. 

“Dad…I remember teenagers would line up after youth service to talk to you.  They would stand in line waiting their turn to share their heart with you.  One Wednesday, I got in line because I needed to ask you something and I didn’t want to interrupt others.  What they had to say to you was important and I didn’t want to be rude.”

“You then stopped mid-sentence and motioned for me to come forward.  It was then you said, ‘You NEVER have to wait in line for me.  You are the most important teenager in my life and in this church.’  Dad, that’s how you always made me feel.”

I hope my memory gave her words justice because it transformed me.  I sat in a puddle of tears.  Does Cammi and Ethan feel like the most important children in my life?  Has my parenting taken second to my pastoring? We’ve pastored a few hundred kids.  Anne and I consider them spiritual sons and daughters.  But did my kids feel that they were held in higher regard than any one of them?

I just want to encourage our pastors that are parents.  I don’t want to heap the guilt that the Enemy would love to use to crush us.  At the same time, if this blog can be the wake-up call that funeral was to me, then it will be worth it.  

1. They have more pressure than you realize and/or that you remember.  I hear it from Cammi a lot.  She has people apologize to her for what they do around her.  She also gets left out of things (not sinful) that people assume she wouldn’t/couldn’t do because “her dad is a pastor.”  She loves being a PK…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t frustrate her.  People say ridiculous (IMO stupid) things to PKs: “You should know better, you’re a PK.” “Does your dad know you do that?”  “I expect more of you because of your dad.” 

That leads me to #2…

2. Let your kids be kids. Not sure what normal is, but let them be kids. I’m not saying to stop parenting.  They need to be allowed to be children and not have to live out a persona.  Are we as parents putting more pressure on them because of what other people are going to think? Is our desire to impress others and/or protect the “office of pastor” stronger than the desire to allow our children to be, well, kids? 

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3. Be there. I sat with a very wise pastor on a plane coming back from Africa.  He simply said, “Dave, someone else could’ve taught that class.  Someone could’ve lead the meeting.  I didn’t have to be me to head up the committee.  I should’ve been on the sideline, in the stands, or in the audience.”  I’m not saying you have to coach (even though it’s not a bad thing to be involved in your community…but that’s for another blog). You don’t have to lead anything (in fact, I’d encourage you to serve instead of lead in your local schools).  Your presence is powerful.  Your children being priority and feeling priority (there’s a difference) is impactful. 

4. Only use them as sermon illustrations IF they give you permission.  I know a pastor who pays his kids $5 per illustration.  My kid’s dad doesn’t hold to that policy. 🙂  But the policy I hold to is all about permission.  I don’t share unless they know.  I even check with them on details of the story.  They don’t mind.  Why?  I don’t make fun of them.  I don’t demean them.  There’s nothing embarrassing.  In fact, they love that they are a part of conveying the Gospel.  How did that happen? “Permission” paved the way. 

5. They need permission to interrupt. PKs know that you are NEVER off the clock.  Everywhere you go, you’re “Pastor.”  I’m Pastor Dave at Kfirst, the mall, Target, the park, etc.  I get stopped frequently in restaurants.  I get contacted most evenings by people and have conversations over Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM.  It’s just the reality of the day and age of social media.  BUT…my kids have permission to interrupt. Why? They’re more important than anyone in my congregation with ONE exception: my wife (click here if you missed the first part of this series and here if you missed the second part on pastor’s wives ).  My kids always walk up and say “excuse me” when they need my attention for something. Why are they polite about it? Because they know they are valued and they reciprocate the value.  

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6. Dates are not optional. Just as, I believe, relationships build the pulpit you preach from in your church, the relationship you develop with your children will build the platform to speak into their lives. I still go out with my kids on dates.  They both need individual time with me and it looks different for each. Also, they need “collective” time with me.  It’s a time where the three of us go out and have time together.  You need both.  If you don’t have time for that, it’s time to re-look at your schedule. 

Lastly…7. Don’t forget: you are “parent” before “pastor.”  You’re not called to be their best friend.  If you try that, they’ll lose all respect for you.  You’re not there to heap the mantle of PK upon their shoulders.  They already feel the weight.  Be a parent.  Love your kids.  Show them they are the most important children in the church because, well, they’re your kids. It does’t mean they get the best parts of the kids play at Christmas nor does it mean people have to salute them when they walk by.  It just means, in your life, they are highly valued and prized.  

Please hear my heart: If guilt is what you are experiencing, then recognize it as a tool of the Enemy to anchor you to past regrets.  He uses guilt to keep us from moving forward so that we drown in our past.  We are all products of grace.  We are all learning as we go.  None of us are experts as we all continue to learn. 

To some, if your kids are outside the home now: call them often, send them messages, and love on them.  If there are wrongs, repent if there needs to be repentance. If there fond memories, recount them and celebrate.  Continue to foster relationship.  No matter what, you will always be a parent and they will always be your kids. 

To others, if your kids are inside the home: make sure they know how valued they are.  I say the same things to you. If there are wrongs, repent if there needs to be repentance. If there good memories being made, recount them and celebrate.  But don’t stop fostering relationship.  

I love being a parent and a pastor.  I wish I did both better.  But I think if we’ll humble ourselves and continue to grow, God will continue to help us lead in both of these very wonderful roles.  

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Warning Shots: 10 subtle actions your marriage needs to pay attention to.

You’ve opened my ears so I can listen.
Psalm 40:6

I’m an aficionado of military movies.  And there’s certain lines and terms that you can count on hearing frequently.  For some reason, especially in movies involving ships, you’ll hear the term: warning shot. 

A warning shot is a military and/or police term describing an intentionally harmless shot toward the opposition.   The intention of the shot is to get the attention of the party at hand letting them know you mean business.  The warning shot doesn’t harm or hurt anyone.  It’s what I call the “attention grabber.”  It tells the opposing person that if you do not head the “warning shot”, consequences will follow. 

I’m not being a proponent of firing a shot, both literal and physical, at/toward your spouse.  But there are subtle things that happen in a marriage that are the “attention grabbers” of your relationship.  Many times, these are not intentionally done by a spouse.  They’re the subtle responses to situations that are not completely healthy. But to ignore these “warning shots” is to inviting the issuing circumstances. 

10 warning shots to take notice of: 

1. Taking for granted “The Big 5.”  They consist of: 

  • “I love you.”
  • “Will you forgive me?”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “You’re welcome.”

2. Love languages are becoming a side issue. I think couples should monitor the changes in their love languages as they get older.  The seasons of life change you.  What used to speak to your spouse may not speak to them now.  Take time to read, talk, pray, and discover each other all over again. The pursuit will feed the passion. 

3.The schedule doesn’t allow you to worship or pray together.  We are more than physical beings. We are spiritual as well.  When the two became one, the two were meant to experience everything together…including worship.  If the schedule is preventing time of spiritual refreshing, something needs to change.  When you can’t remember the last time you haven’t prayed together, served together, or worshiped together, they’re subtle hints that spiritual intimacy needs to be a priority. 

4. The decisions you used to make together are now being decided without the other.  This is a sign that communication and unified decision-making are beginning to break down.  It always starts off with the little things. 

5. Sex isn’t happening.  My love language is “Physical Touch” so this isn’t a subtle hint.  But for those of you who are not driven physically, if sex isn’t happening in a healthy frequency (no magic number for that), it’s a definite sign that something needs to change. The heart should drive the mood.  Both spouses should possess the heart of a servant to make sure that the most intimate needs of their spouse is being served. As I’ve always said, “you are the only one that can meet that need in your spouse.”

6. There’s much more tolerance for what you never tolerated before.  There’s freedom in Christ and there’s just cashing in on Godly standards.  Your entertainment, conversations, thought-life, and private time should have healthy Godly boundaries.  If they’re not attended to, it amazing me what gets past them and desires to take root in our lives. 

7. “This is your problem not mine.” becomes a common line.  This is one of many quotes that shows the breakdown of oneness in a marriage.  “Mine” and “yours” are natural words used by couples whose unity is beginning to erode away.  Take notice on how much they’re being used and in the context they’re being used. Take a step back and realize: you are in this together.  Make sure your words follow suit. 

8. Date night? I hear couples joke “Does that happen anymore?” and it makes me cringe every time.  When you can’t remember when it’s happened last, it’s a sure sign that you desperately need time alone.  It doesn’t have to cost much if anything at all.  Take a walk.  Go on a drive.  Do something together. 

9. Kids are higher priority than the marriage. I know you have such a short window of time to raise your children. I’m a firm believer that kids are a high priority…just behind my spouse. I don’t neglect or ignore my kids.  BUT…my wife is a higher priority.  She needs to know that.  My kids need to see that.  This is why so many people get divorced after 20-25 years of marriage.  Everything was poured into the kids and nothing into the marriage.  

10. There’s more talk about what you DON’T have than what you DO have.  Envy is a killer of joy in your marriage.  It wants to guide your eyes and heart to what others have and what you lack.  You end up forgetting the blessings of God because you can’t see them past all of the “stuff” that should be yours.  “If only I/we had it.” is a lie.  Why? Because when you do get “it”, you’ll still continue to say that line. 

My prayer for you is that of Psalms 40:6.  That you would be able to say, God “opened my ears so I can listen.”  Ask the Lord to open up your 5 senses to hear the subtle things that you haven’t noticed before.  If you see these things, they are the attention grabbers that are screaming at you saying, “it’s time to attend to your marriage.”

Don’t grow deaf to the “warning shots.”  Open up your senses and listen. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

What my parents didn’t teach me about marriage – Part 1

From the beginning of this new blog series, I need to let you know something: 

My parents are amazing. 

Nope…you won’t need to wait for the “other” shoe to drop.  There is no “but” as if I was going to use the blog-osphere to blast Hal and Linda (my parents) and my criticism of their job at raising me and my sister.  

Please don’t take any of the following blogs as a guilt trip to those who have struggled or have made mistakes.  I do not elevate anyone above Christ. But I do obey scripture to “give honor to whom honor is due.” 

But I found myself in a mode a few weeks ago.  I had been doing some pre-marital counseling, received phone calls from other pastors about marriage issues, and had been reading some marriage blogs.   As I read the blogs and thought though my phone calls, I realized something about some of the unhealthy marital situations I was a privy to: 

I didn’t see many of those issues growing up.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Hal and Linda Barringer have their issues.  How do I know that? I have issues and I’m told I have a lot of them (especially my father) in me.  So they are not perfect in the least.  

But…it began with a small list. And with that small list, I want to pour out in a series of blogs the things my parents didn’t teach me.  

First, what didn’t my parents teach me?  They didn’t teach me that the children were priority over the marriage

I knew dad loved mom.  I knew mom loved dad.  I knew that when the nest was empty, what I had seen before me would last because their marriage didn’t stop because of 3 children born.  Even when tragedy hit our home and my younger brother went to be with Jesus, what I saw before me was a strong marriage (not perfect) founded in a faith in One who has the strength, mercy, grace, and peace to get our family through ANYTHING!  They will forever be living testimonies of that. 

Why are so many marriages failing in the mid-years of life? There are numbers of things I could list.  At the top of the list, there are those that put their marriage on hold because of children.  Hal and Linda did not.  They didn’t teach me that.  In fact they taught me the contrary. 

In my years of being at home, not once if I expressed I needed them, did my parents ever fail at stepping up.  We were not spoiled (even though I think my little sister was more spoiled than me…but that’s an older brother speaking).  There wasn’t a single football game that was parentless. Every major event in my life, was always guarded in their prayers, involvement, and wisdom.  I know they have regrets…but who amongst us can’t look back with 20/20 and want to change things to make things better?  

What Rachael and I viewed was strong.  They would hang out with friends.  They served together in ministry.  They prayed together.  They laughed together.  To the chagrin of me and Rach, they kissed and hugged in front of us (which still disturbs me).  

But know this: I, as a child/teen, NEEDED them to place their marriage as priority.  I need to see a father defend his wife.  I needed a parent structure that had a unified front. For my life as child and teen, I need to view two people who stuck together, through the power of Christ, traverse through life-events that have the power to cripple marriages.  I didn’t need a best friend(s).  I needed parents.  School and church provided me with the friendships to fill those needs.  I needed mom to love dad and dad to love mom.  I needed my parents, together,  put their marriage as a priority.  Because of that, I benefited with the structure and example I needed to know what a healthy Christ-centered marriage looks like.  And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

Mom and dad, you didn’t teach me that your marriage was secondary to anybody or anything.  When I think of you, I think of 1 Corinthians 11:1

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

That’s what I’ve done.  I’ve followed you.  Like you, I’ve got some regrets with my 20/20 hindsight (hey, we’re human).  But me, Anne, and my children are very grateful that they have you to follow. 

See ya in part 2 of the series.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Confessions of a Marriage Blogger Part 6: “We don’t stay married for the kids”

Blog Thoughts of Pastor Dave Barringer

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Welcome back to the last installation of our “Confessions of a Marriage Blogger” series.  Thanks to all of those who visited our blogs over the past few weeks Part 5, “I had a mistress” and  Part 4 “Sex is not what we thought it was” and shared it.  It’s become the highest hit post in the past-year-plus of blogging on marriage.

If you’ve missed any of the previous blogs in this series of “Confessions”check out Part 1 “We irritate each other”,  Part 2: “Our kids are for sale”, and Part 3 “This is Not Who I Married!”.

Now back to breaking up the “Ken and Barbie” facade…

Ken and Barbie wedding

Part 6 We don’t stay married for the kids

Divorce sucks. (but I’ll get to that in a bit)

We can find a lot of reasons to do things.  For example, I find reasons to go to Best Buy.  What…

View original post 1,847 more words

Confessions of a Marriage Blogger Part 6: “We don’t stay married for the kids”

UW4A7136-10

Welcome back to the last installation of our “Confessions of a Marriage Blogger” series.  Thanks to all of those who visited our blogs over the past few weeks Part 5, “I had a mistress” and  Part 4 “Sex is not what we thought it was” and shared it.  It’s become the highest hit post in the past-year-plus of blogging on marriage.

If you’ve missed any of the previous blogs in this series of “Confessions”check out Part 1 “We irritate each other”,  Part 2: “Our kids are for sale”, and Part 3 “This is Not Who I Married!”.

Now back to breaking up the “Ken and Barbie” facade…

Ken and Barbie wedding

Part 6 We don’t stay married for the kids

Divorce sucks. (but I’ll get to that in a bit)

We can find a lot of reasons to do things.  For example, I find reasons to go to Best Buy.  What Toys-r-Us is to my son, Best Buy is to me.  It’s my love for all things technology that keep me going back to look, dream, and occasionally buy. What is it that draws me back to it time after time? It’s a simple answer called “passion.” (It’s at this moment, Kip’s wedding song to Lafawnduh resonates in my head.)

But at some point, the feelings of “passion” do run out. I don’t feel “happy” and therefore, want to go looking for another store to help fulfill the passion of all things technical.

Ministering teens for over a decade gave me exposure to a marital question that, when getting married, I didn’t know existed. “Should people stay married for the sake of the kids?” It’s the assumption that if people do, they will inevitably remain miserable in their marriage. This mindset creates a carousal of insanity that will spin causing everyone to get sick of the ride because there is no progression happening.

What do we do when the fairy tale is over?

Falling in love is easy.  Starting a fairy tale of idealistic relationships is quite simple. I fall in love EVERY time I go to Best Buy (with technology…not another woman).  Staying in love is a whole other matter.  It requires a particular set skills (insert a quote from “Taken”) — relationship skills.  These skills are what develops depth in a relationship that will foster marital longevity and health.  We learn relationship skills from a number of sources as we grow up. Unfortunately, from the earliest of ages, most people don’t have great role models or great examples of marriage.  The divorce rate is proof enough that our marital sources of wisdom are lacking severely. Even if we did have great role models, we might choose a spouse who wasn’t so fortunate.  If we don’t have adequate marital skills — knowing how to communicate, resolve conflict, recreate, co-parent, build on relationship strengths — our relationship with our spouse is going to struggle immensely.

It’s why Anne and I live out a simple TRUTHFeelings follow actions.  Actions do not follow feelings.

We make choices/actions that are the wise movements to make in our marriage and we’ve learned that the feelings will follow.  If we start with our feelings, we never get to the actions.  To many marriage operate on the “I don’t feel like it” mentality and need to act out of love instead of the “feeling” of love.

I still use the line that our “honeymoon hasn’t ended.” But in all truth, our life now looks nothing like the honeymoon season we had.  Admittingly, our “honeymoon” phase ended early with the arrival of our daughter.  We don’t blame her. (It’s not like she had a choice in the matter.)  We planned it and we’re glad we did.  Anne and I wanted kids early as to enjoy them in our youth and be young in our “empty nest” season.  Add onto having children within the first two years, we took our first position, bought our first car, and bought a home.  If you read the last blog, Part 5, “I had a mistress”, you’ll realize we had a marital concoction that had disastrous potential.  Why did we do all of that in the first two-year? Perhaps we needed more stress in our lives.  Perhaps we were young and didn’t know better. But regardless of our intentions, ignorance, or desire for less sleep, there is nothing we can change about our past.

I’ll make it personal: There’s nothing you can change about your pastSome of you reading this are consumed with trying to change that which is unchangeable. It reminds me of what Paul said in the Bible, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” We play the “what if” game.  Regardless on how bad our eyes and how thick our glasses are, our hind-sight is 20/20. We see the past clearly. The regret of the past eats us away like a cancer.  We then insert the pain of our past into the present and drain the joy out of our marriage.  It becomes our focal point.  It becomes our ideal.  We start chasing after, not a new start, but a rekindling of what we think we should have had and/or what we think we deserve because we didn’t get it before. We end up running our marriage aground instead of see it as an opportunity for God to form an image He is seen in.

You come to a decision, for the time being, to stay married…just for your children. You want them to see a mom and dad at home. You think when, their gone, that’s when you’ll pull the divorce trigger. After all, it won’t affect them then. Right?

Anne and I have some great memories and great regrets. We’ve had some seasons of hardship and struggle. We don’t compare ourselves to others. We could compare our pain as well as our successes to other marriage.  But in the end, we will end up either wanting someone else’s marriage or spend so much focusing on others marriages that we neglect our own.

When it boils down to it: We don’t stay married for the kids.  Why? We think being married is worth much more.

If your life has been centered around the children, your marriage is going to greatly struggle when they’re gone.

If you’re assuming you’re going to pick up where your marriage left off when the first child was born, you’re in for a rude awakening.

If you’re staying married just for them, you’re giving them a shallow example of what marriage is really about.

If there is nothing deeper about your marriage than being the parents of your kids, it’s time to get some help.

I love Cammi and Ethan. I love being a dad. But as much as I love them, I love Anne all the more.  They need me to love her more than I do them.  They need to see in us that we are planning on them leaving at 18 years old.  So, therefore, we operate our marriage to last beyond the empty nest.

If you’re staying married just for the kids, it’s time to “dig deep”.  It’s the term we used to use in coaching when you’re dealing with a team that is feeling defeated by the present circumstances of the situation. You may feel like it’s a losing situation. But isn’t time to dig deep. It’s time to dig deep past what’s happened.  It’s time to dig deep under the layers of bitterness.

You may feel your marriage isn’t salvageable…but dig deep.

You may have given up hope years ago…but dig deep.

It’s understandable why someone who is unhappy in their marriage might envision the future to be nothing more than a miserable extension of the past.  Can I speak something simple with some horrible grammar? It ain’t necessary. Marriage is not a machine.  It’s a living being where two lives have become one. Marriages can heal.  YOUR MARRIAGE CAN HEAL! With vision and a desire to change and improve with the proper help, health can revitalize your marriage.

Today I want to give ya some hope.

1 – Patience isn’t only a virtue, it’s a necessity. Like gas in a car, patience is fuel for longevity. Romans 5:3-5 says “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” Patience does exactly what the paraphrase says, it will forge your marriage into the tempered steel that prepares you for what lies ahead.

2 – Get practical…rekindle the love. As stated before, let your actions proceed feelings.  We’ve relegated “love” to a shallow emotion experienced when times are good.  Love never fails.  Something I learned quite well as a boy.  A fire, not tended to, will fade and go out.  It must be fed.  It must be stoked. It must be cared for.  You may not feel like feeding it, but when love is fed, the feels follow and the love flourished. Do some practical and strategic actions that will help stoke the flames. Restart dating. Buy chocolates.  Make a favorite meal. Get flowers.  Go for a walk together. Get the kids to bed early and watch something together. Get naked with each other (I threw that in to lighten you up).

You know what your spouse likes. Get practical and get stoking!!

3 – Eject.

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I’m a James Bond fan (BTW: Sean Connery was the best).  007 had, in his car, an ejector seat.  If there was someone he didn’t want to have next to him while he was driving, he’d hit the red button on the shifter and boom…they’d be laying on the road behind him. Eject, not your spouse, but the mindset that you’ve been carrying that has been eating away at your joy.  Eject doubt.  Eject worry. Eject malice. Eject unforgiveness.  Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things.” Don’t entertain thoughts of leaving or even staying for the wrong reasons.  Eject the mindset and embrace the truth and hope that Christ offers.

4 – Put the towel in the drawer. There’s an old term for quitting called “throwing in the towel.” Some managers will keep it handy in case the boxer they’re training gets into trouble and wants to stop the fight.  Why stop? They don’t want their fighter to get hurt.  Some of you have been hurting. Perhaps the hurts go back a long time.  Do your marriage a favor. Put the “towel” away.  By that I mean, do not make quoting an option.  Don’t make it a choice. Get your butt off the mat one more time and fight for your marriage. I understand you’ve been picking yourself up of the mat for a long time.  Don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Don’t give up.  Keep fighting because with Christ’s help, “in due season“, it will be worth it.

Divorce sucks. It’s the nuclear bomb that hits. Like a nuke, it’s not the initial impact that is the most damaging. It’s the fallout and the collateral damage that lingers on for years that causes the most havoc.

Stop just surviving in your marriage.  Stop saying “we are staying together for the kids” as your permission slip for giving upon your spouse.

It’s time to thrive.

It’s time to grow.

It’s time to forget “what lies behind and straining forward” together as one and live.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Confessions of a Marriage Blogger: Part 2 “Our kids are for sale.”

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We started a series of marriage blogs last week. If you missed last week, check out Confessions of a Marriage Blogger: Part 1 “We irritate each other”.

I started off by telling my own feelings about how I felt like marriage blog and book writers lived in a Ken and Barbie world of perfection.  I’m not afraid to admit how wrong I was (it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last time). But my thrust behind this series to help aid others in the marital cancer called “comparison”. Comparing causes a “double-jeopardy” of misery.  You get hit on a personal level and then you bring that into your marriage.  You think it won’t happen that way. You try to keep it to yourself.  But the problem resides in the oneness of marriage. When something effects you.  It WILL affect your spouse. Remember: The two became one when you were married (Genesis 2:24).  Again, stop comparing your marital journey with someone else’s trek. 

Part 2 – “Our kids are for sale.” 

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(Disclaimer for people with no sense of humor: I don’t really want to sell my kids.)

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the poet Shel Silverstein. Having a little sister, there was one poem in particular that I was very fond of.  The poem, “For Sale” was all about an older brother trying to sell off his younger sibling. The lines, “One sister for sale! One crying and spying young sister for sale! I’m really not kidding, So who’ll start the bidding?” should tell you enough about his frustration with her.  She “spies” and “cries” and thus must be removed and, according to the poem, to anyone who will bid.  I didn’t always feel that way about my sister.  I know I frustrated her and would bet she probably wishes she could’ve sold me a time or two.  Hey, it’s what us siblings do.

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I’m a pastor.  I’m a marriage blogger.  I love my two children Camryn and Ethan more than you can imagine.  Some boys want to grow up and be a fire fighter, police officer, or an astronaut.  I wanted to be a dad when I grew up.

But…

Sometimes they tick me off.
Sometimes, when I’ve had a long day, I lose my cool way to easily with them.
Sometimes I feel like a failure as a parent.
Sometimes I’m so frustrated with them find myself counting down the days to “empty nest” (7 1/2 years).
Sometimes I wonder if I have a leg to stand in helping (through blogging, preaching, and counseling) people with their parenting skills.

But I can’t be the only one to feel this way.

When I survey the disagreements and the frustrations that we have with our kids, and of course, they have with us, I begin to see some issues:

I see too much of me. What Anne and I discovered is some of the most frustrating things is that we see is…well…US. Cammi shows a lot of Anne.  Ethan shows a lot of me.  The question we have to keep asking ourselves: Is it their actions that are causing the conflict or are we seeing reminders of us? It has been said that opposites attract.  Perhaps it’s why moms and sons are closer and dads and daughters are so connected.  Seeing me in my kids, many times, is so irritating, not because they’re doing something wrong, it goes deeper into me seeing something in myself that needs correcting.

Advice: When confrontation starts up with the kids, Anne and I will stop each other and simply say “he/she’s being you.”  We’re not doing that to take a jab at the other.  We do it to remind each other to take a breath and realize that what we are confronting more within the moment is NOT our children but ourselves. When I’m confronted with myself, it forces me to deal with “ME”. Take a moment to think and reflect upon what the confrontation is really about. Ask Christ for healing in your own life.  Ask your kids for forgiveness for your impatience.  Share your story with them and how you’ve grown through Christ.  Rev. 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Help your kids be an overcomer by allowing Christ into your conflict and let your testimony lead them to freedom.

I’m too protective of them. Every parent wants to save their children from the pain and frustrations that they, themselves, experienced. We try to stay two or three steps ahead and prepare the way for them as to make sure we can keep them from all of the faults, mishaps, and challenges we had to face. This is where, when I was youth pastoring, I used to categorize some parents as “helicopter parents”. They are the ones that constantly hover over their kids and can’t let them grow up. Most parents can be uber controlling over their children as their way of protecting them from any type of pain (physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental).

Advice: It’s very hard to admit, especially when it comes to our kids, but pain is necessary. Studies have shown that in this day of so many antibacterial soaps and lotions,  we are actually destroying the immune systems of our children. Without them being able to confront bacteria, their immune systems can’t develop the strength to fight. Could that same principle be in play when we don’t allow our kids to fail or go through “painful” moments?  What we need to teach them is HOW to make decisions and then let them MAKE the decisions. If they succeed: praise the effort and celebrate with them.  If they fail: praise the effort and teach them how to grow from failure. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” We will “fall”.  But help your kids know how to get up and grow.

I’m dictating and not leading. As a dictator over the home, there is no responsibility for me to live and/or lead in any way. It’s my way or the highway. Even though there’s some truth to your rules as a parent being the rules to live by, there’s also something to be said about your example. I heard it said years ago, “What you do in moderation, your children do in excess“.  We don’t necessarily have a democracy at home, but I find if I go into dictating mode, my rules are inconsistent with my lifestyle. Why? Because I am the leader and I can do what I want. The problem: It’s confusing for the kids and teaches them to not live out what they say.

Advice: No matter what you think, you are always mentoring them. From your example, you will show them one of two things: 1. What to be like or 2. What they don’t want to be like. My father used to tell me, “Carefully watch the pastors that you work for. You will learn what the ministry is and what the ministry is not.” You’re kids will see the same thing in your family. Strive to give them the example of humanity possible.  Let them see you succeed AND fail.  For some reason, we don’t want them, out of pride, see our failures.  I’ll give you a tip: one of the greatest memories of my father was when he apologized to me for disciplining me when I didn’t deserve it.  Him asking for forgiveness and seeing his humility FOREVER marked my life. Proverbs 11:2Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

2 more that Anne and I also observe…

I want to be their best friend. I’ve notice that parents who, themselves, grew up with very tough parents are more likely to go to the opposite extreme and strive to be their kid’s best friend. It’s such a “feel good” move but in the end it’s damaging to the relationship. Why? Because when the child is in need of a parent, there’s none to be found. When they need parental discipline, it isn’t received with respect. Why?  Friends don’t/can’t discipline another friend.

Advice: I never knew my parents as my friends. Yet there wasn’t an issue I was not allowed to come to them about. Not having them as a friend didn’t keep me from going to them. In fact, it made them a safe place to go. Why? I knew they would approach it as a parent and there was such a safety in that. Your kids don’t need another friend.  They need a trusted and respected parent to be the voice of trust, strength, and Godliness in the home. Ephesians 5:1 says “Be imitators of God…” Don’t be an imitator of their friends. They don’t need it and, really, they don’t want that. Reflect The Father to your children and live out His example before them.

I live vicariously through my kids. Maybe because your parents would have never “bought you that”. Or your parents would’ve never let you “go out looking like that”.  As parents, we like to provide for what we didn’t have. My parents never bought me legos (those suckers are expensive), but what do I buy Ethan? Legos. As silly of an example as that is, there is a problem that goes far deeper.  There are parents that push their kids into sports, academics, and even relationships.  The goal seems to be to encourage the kids to be the best they can be. But for some, it’s to re-live moments. “Just to be on the field one more time.” “Just to get the grade I didn’t get.” “Just to not make the same relationship mistake I made.”  The problem: our kids end up hurt, confused, and damages, not over their lack of effort, but over a parent’s inability to let go and let them live.

Advice: Let your kids live. Set them up with wisdom, Godly counsel, prayer, and encouragement to make the decisions and paths they want to follow.  I’m a sports nut.  As much as I DESPERATELY want Ethan to play sports (specifically football), it has to be his choice. My position as father is not to reproduce me.  It’s to reproduce Christ in them.  Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Keep the Lord as the focus and foundation of your parenting. He’ll guide you and He will help you through this parenting thing.

I know it’s a lot to take in. But I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your parental frustrations. You are not the only one going through the storm of raising kids. Be of good cheer and be encouraged that this, as tough as it is, is going to be one of the greatest seasons of your lives.  You are only promised a window of 18 years to pour into them. The best thing for you to do is be the greatest encourager your child has. Proverbs 11:25 says “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Do you want to be refreshed as a parent, refresh/encourage your kids.

Set them up to live Godly lives.

Then let them go.

Thanks for letting me ramble…