Indulgence

Have you read Salt, Sugar, Fat – How the food giants hooked us? It changed the way I look at food. Heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and chronic pain have increased due to our consumption of processed foods – foods that have been “…cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways” (eatright.org). Our parents and grandparents were raised on scratch cooking. That was when women stayed home. In the 50’s, when women started to join the workforce, time was scarce and convenience was a commodity. That’s when food started showing up in boxes and cans. Salt, sugar and fat was added to improve the taste and the aforementioned health concerns entered stage left, right, front and back.

I am currently reading Growing Up Social by Gary Chapman (the Five Love Languages author) and Arlene Pellicane. Kids used to play outside. Now they’re in front of screens (TV, video games, computers, phones, etc.). ADD and ADHD were rare until about three decades ago, and due to the rise of technology, they’ve become more and more prevalent. Additionally, kids are struggling with social problems, relational problems, and companies are having to train young college graduates how to focus on tasks and do them well. In one study, “researchers found that workers distracted by email and phone calls suffered a fall in IQ more than twice of that found in marijuana smokers” (Christine Rosen, “The Myth of Multitasking”). “The attention a child brings to a video game is unlike the concentration they need to succeed in regular life… a child can pay attention to a game fueled by frequent changes, constant rewards, new levels, points being racked up, and boosts of dopamine to the brain. When a child’s brain grows accustomed to that fast pace, no wonder the real world becomes underwhelming and boring” (Growing Up Social, page 102).

As I learn these things, I can’t help but think of Exodus 16 when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, tired and hungry. God provided manna, a white food that tasted like honey. They were to gather only what their family needed for that day, with the exception of the Sabbath, when they could gather two day’s worth beforehand. If they got greedy and gathered more than directed by God, the food rotted.

This is the conclusion I’ve come to – indulgence is our problem. There’s nothing wrong with salt, sugar, fat, wheat, eggs, beef, TVs or computers in moderation, but problems arise when we indulge. The Bible says we can drink, but we can’t get drunk. Canaan was the promised land of milk and honey, but if we indulge in either, we’ll gain weight, and our triglycerides and cholesterol (and most likely, other things about which this Children’s Minister isn’t knowledgeable) increase. There’s nothing wrong with TV, computers, video games, smart phones or the like, but if we indulge, our relationships, finances, health, and physical fitness, to name just a few, will suffer.

Parents, I want to stress that I am not suggesting you cut out any of these things, but your children are young and immature. They won’t make responsible choices on their own. You have to establish those boundaries for them. I’ve heard some parents say that for every hour of homework or reading, their child gets an hour of video games, but the older they get, the more homework they’ll have. Instead, teach your child to spend time in rewarding activity – homework, reading, exercise, time with friends and family, etc. I also want to stress that you and your spouse must set the example. You can’t tell your child to go outside while sitting in front of the TV yourself. Readers are leaders, but if you don’t lead by example, your kids won’t follow.

How to set and actually achieve your New Year’s Resolutions

Today’s focus at my Weight Watchers meeting was “Look Back to Look Ahead: Take stock of the past months or years. Then, set your course for 2017!” As I listened to what our leader had to say and thought about my past year in Weight Watchers, I became aware of several things: 1) When I first started Weight Watchers, almost a year ago, I couldn’t sit in the chair with my legs crossed. It hurt too much. Today, I sat through the entire meeting with my legs crossed. 2) I set a goal to lose two pounds/month by December. As of today, I lost four pounds this month! 3) About six months ago, I had blood work that revealed high cholesterol and triglycerides. Two weeks ago, both were in the normal range.

I’ve achieved a lot this year, but it took intention to make it happen.

In my 51 years, I’ve made and failed many New Year’s Resolutions. The mistake I made, however, was deciding on my destination without ever planning my trip. Let’s say your family decides they’re going to Disneyland for vacation this year. Why do you want to take a vacation? You need a break from work? You need to spend some uninterrupted time with your family? You’ve always dreamed of going to Disneyland? Grandparents are paying? Lol! Obviously, you’ll need to decide the dates, the mode of transportation, finances, lodging, etc. The To Do List is endless. The planning process automatic, natural, and assumed.

Typically, however, when we make New Year’s Resolutions, we set a goal – I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year. That’s your destination, but for most, that’s as far as it gets. According to statisticbrain.com, only 8% successfully achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.

Here’s how to actually achieve your New Year’s Resolutions, or any goals for that matter. BTW, notice that I posted this after New Year’s Day. That was intentional. There is no Resolution Nazi. You can make resolutions or goals any day of the year. Make a March 27 Resolution.

Anyhoo, FIRST, start with the end goal in mind. It needs to be measurable, so assign a number to it if you can. This year, one of my goals is to read 24 books by December 31. What is my goal? I will read 24 books. What is my deadline? December 31.

SECOND, break it down, working backwards from your goal. If I’m going to read 24 books by December 31, 2017, what will my year look like? Well, 24 books divided by 12 months comes out to two books/month. Now think about your year. Do you have seasons that are busier than others? I have a friend who sells insurance, and from about August – December, she’s working night and day. More often than not, when asked if she wants to get together, her answer is no during those months because she’s just too busy. If she had a goal of reading 24 books in 2017, that might not be realistic for her, unless she could read the majority of them between January – July. I’m a Children’s Minister, and January – June is Vacation Bible School season for me. I still have a little margin in my schedule in January and February, but by March, life is getting pretty stressful. I need to keep this in mind when planning my goal. Is it realistic for me? If not, I need to adjust my goal to something that’s actually reachable. Actually, two books each month is still attainable for me, but when I read non-fiction, I’m making notes, highlighting, and journaling about what I read. Therefore, during VBS season, I have more short books and fiction planned.

THIRD, write it down. Research shows that we are 42% more likely to do something if we write it down. Be specific: “I will read 24 books between January 1 and December 31.” Why? “I love to read, I want to increase my vocabulary and knowledge, and I want to spend more time stimulating my brain rather than watching TV.” Write it down. I decided to choose my books ahead of time because I love to plan and I want to make sure I’m reading a variety of books to achieve the reasons I’ve set this goal in the first place. I color-coded my list to ensure I’m reading a good mixture of general learning, spiritual training, ministerial training, biographies, and some relaxing fiction to give my brain a break. If you just want to relax and read fiction, you wouldn’t need to go to this extent of planning. You might just want to choose your books as you go. As long as your goal is measurable, specific, and written down, you don’t need to go to the anal-retentive extent that I have. wink

FOURTH, put it in a visible location. I have a Control Journal with various things in it. I put my book list in there. Typically, this is not visible enough, but since I’ll have to keep going to my list to see what I chose to read next, I will see it often. My favorite place to display goals, reminders and memory verses I’m working on is my bathroom mirror. I’m in front of it every day, so I’m reminded of it daily. Another place I like is my car rear-view mirror. I often make door hangers out of cardstock and hang them from my rear-view mirror. In my office, I have a dry-erase board where I write down upcoming events I need to keep in mind, and my 2016 goals are posted below it.

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One last comment I want to make about setting goals is that they need to be compelling. Life happens. This past year, my father-in-law passed away. Our family went to Texas for two weeks to help out my mother-in-law. I suffer from chronic pain, so some days are worse than others. I had the flu for about a week in December. Stress comes and goes. If your goal doesn’t excite you, it won’t motivate you to stick it out when the going gets tough. Going back to the book goal, my Mom is an avid reader. She probably reads one book/week, if not more. My goal of reading 24 books in 2017 wouldn’t compel her, but a goal of reading 70 books might. Your goal needs to be out of your comfort zone but remain realistic.

What do you want to accomplish this year? Leave a comment below about it. If you need help making your goal measurable and compelling, let me know. I’d love to support you in being the best parent you can be for your and your child’s spiritual and mental growth.

A Prayer for You

Last week, the Student Pastor and I had what we call a Parent Huddle. It’s a time when we come together with parents, share resources and tips with them, and give them time to share their experiences with each other. I mentioned twice that, above all, we want to be here for them to help them be the best parents they can be as they train their children “in the way they should go.” Having said that, I feel led to simply pray for you today.

Father God, I thank you for the blessings of our children, Your children. You’ve created them fearfully and wonderfully. You are loving, kind, our Rock! May we reach toward Heaven as we take your children and do our very best to train them according to Your Word and please You in everything we think, say, and do. May we model You in our day-to-day, reflecting everything You are to us.

I lift up all parents to you right now. Whether they are rejoicing, weeping, scared, peaceful or content, let them know You are there. If they don’t know You as their Savior, speak to them and let them see that they need You and they’re lost without You. Convict them into submission to Your will and Your plan for their lives. Let them bask in the glory of knowing You as their Heavenly Father!

For those who are rejoicing, surround them with others who will share in this time of joy. Ingrain this into their memories so that they never forget this moment and how you are blessing them right now. Remind them Who this joy came from and give them opportunities to share that Truth with the world! I thank You for Your love and providence!

For those who are weeping, let them cry out to you. Make them so aware of Your presence that they cannot deny from Whom it came. Comfort them with Your love. Remind them that You loved their children first, before they themselves were even conceived! You know all things, and You hear all things! Remind them that You have not left them or turned Your back on them. You are going before them and leading the way. You are the God of righteousness and You show us the Way, the Truth and the Life. Wrap these parents in Your arms and as they fall into your embrace, let them feel You all around them.

For those who are peaceful and content, I thank You. May they recognize that this joy comes from You, the peace that passes all understanding. I pray that these families guard this peace and cherish it. I pray that they protect it as great treasure and share it with others – that their message will be of You because You are the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings!

You are our Helper, and You will give us what You require of us as the parents You’ve blessed us to be. When we feel inadequate, remind us that we are, but when we grasp onto Your strength, You move our mountains! May we share this with our children so that they become trusting of You and follow You all the days of their lives. May generations upon generations fall at Your feet, proclaiming You as Lord!

I offer all of this up to You, our King of Kings and Sovereign Lord! Your promises are infinite. We love You and trust You!

Amen.

God is STILL in control

As I watched the results of the presidential election, anticipated for so long and the topic of so many discussions, t-shirts and bumper stickers, I wondered what the faith-based community was saying to their children about the results.

I remember when Obama was elected. I’ll confess, I didn’t vote for him. As the results became more and more evident, I kept telling myself that God was still in control and I prayed for our country.

When I worked at Texas Instruments, a co-worker had a poster with a cat hanging on to a branch that read, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to.” Theologically, I don’t agree with that sentiment, but I do believe that faith is easier to cling to when you feel like it’s all you have.

When my oldest was in utero, he had a lot of issues. He had cysts all over his kidneys, and my doctor told me that we would have to pray that he made it to delivery. To say I was a mess is a huge understatement. Each month, his condition worsened, but I kept telling myself, “God is in control.” Faith was all I had, and it was easy to cling to.

When God brought my family to Arizona when I was hired on as the Children’s Minister at our church, we left everything we knew – our family, friends and our jobs. My husband resigned from his job, not knowing what God’s plan was for another job. I had a job, but what if the church decided they didn’t want me? We had uprooted our kids from their schools, friends, and neighborhood. It would not be an easy decision to reverse. We prayed a lot and kept reminding ourselves “God is in control.” Faith was all we had, and it was easy to cling to.

If you voted for Hillary Clinton, and you’re a believer in the power of Jesus Christ, you’re probably telling yourself, and reminding your children, that God is in control. You may feel your faith is all you have.

The first verse of Romans 13 reads, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

If you voted for Trump, I’d like to encourage you to be very careful about how you talk about this to your child. If Obama Care is replaced, the glory goes to God. If taxes are lowered, the glory goes to God. If America is indeed “great again,” the glory goes to God. Don’t forget to thank Him.

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'” Revelation 5:13

I Don’t Want To

Water or Starbucks? Starbucks. Cook or go out? Go out. ALWAYS go out! Read or watch TV? Watch TV. Facebook or exercise? Facebook. Cheesecake or fruit? Duh. Church or sleep in? Read my Bible or anything else? Spend time learning about God so I can share Him with my kids?

We avoid the things we don’t want to do. We justify our choices with arguments – “I don’t have time.” “I don’t feel comfortable.” “The kids have too much homework.” What we’re really saying, though, is “I don’t want to.” We make time for the things we want to do and are important to us. Everthing else gets pushed to the back burner.

“I don’t want to.” These words plague my life, and they plague yours too. “I don’t want to” puts me in danger of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. “I don’t want to” means my house is always a mess. “I don’t want to” means we eat out too much. “I don’t want to” keeps your kids from learning to serve in the church. “I don’t want to” keeps Christians from studying the Word they should study, and “I don’t want to” means generations of kids are being raised more confident in the periodic table than they are the Ten Commandments.

I’ve seen countless families neglect the time God has given them, and the words God spoke to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6 – “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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” These words mean that God and His Word (the Bible) should be so much a part of our lives that we can’t help but talk about Him… all the time!

Something my parents exelled at was teaching me a fearful and wonderful respect and love for God. Much to my mother’s dismay and embarrassment, my Dad has been heard by the neighborhood multitudes singing How Great Thou Art at the top of his lungs… outside. I can still hear my mother saying, “Tiffany, please!!!” Yes, my Dad’s name is Tiffany. Don’t judge. He taught me to adore God. My Mom’s message was always clear — God brought you in to this world, and He can take you out. She didn’t use those exact words, but the reminder was the same. My parents did an awesme job of teaching me a Biblical example of Who God is and what my obligations were in serving Him.

About 86% of high school graduates are leaving the church, but there’s hope! Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, says, “When teenagers see an active, practiced faith in their parents and other positive examples at church, they will stop being dropouts (from church) and start being disciples.” He states three things that parents and the church can do to help protect kids from leaving the church: 1) Discipleship (i.e. teaching their kids about God and their relationship to Him); 2) provide a home with parents committed to discipleship; 3) Include other adults in the discipleship process. (Stetzer, A. [May 14, 2014]. Dropouts and Disciples: How many students are really leaving the church? [Blog] Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com).

Identify what it is that keeps you from teaching your child about the Bible. By the way, teaching your children to know about God is not enough. The Bible says Satan and his demons know God. Teach them to know Him as the leader of their lives. Teach them to spend their time in a way that honors God. Teach them to go to Him first by reading their Bible and praying when making decisions. Teach them. Lead by example.

How? Go to a Christian bookstore in your neighborhood and ask for family devotional books. HomeLife Magazine is awesome! You can find it at www.lifeway.com. Focus on the Family Magazine is also exceptional and can be found at http://www.focusonthefamily.com/magazine. Many churches offer some kind of family devotion that works to reinforce the lessons taught in the church. Truckloads of children’s Bible storybooks can be found in bookstores, on Amazon, even Walmart! If all else fails, simply open a Bible and read it as a family. The book of Genesis is a great place to begin.

…and when you say to yourself, “I don’t want to,” think about the rewards, avoid the regrets,  and do it anyway. Facebook and Starbucks can wait. Yours and your child’s spiritual future depend on it.