Family Values, and Valuing Family

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First, let me explain. I used a colorful question mark as my photo last week. My daughter graciously alerted me to the fact that it was NOT formed from beads, but from pills. It was really too late to do anything about that, so, in case any of you are confused, it was just a silly error on my part. Now, on to the good stuff:

A couple of good friends asked me to write about marriage and parenting, so I started a long list of thoughts and challenges last week. As I continue, I think you’ll find that, in almost every case, what works in marriage works in parenting as well. Calm kindness carries the day.

  • Love the other person more than yourself.
  • Beware those time-sucking, attitude altering screens we now have all over our homes and in our pockets. Discover better ways to rest and play together.
  • Believe the best of one another always. Never assume the worst.
  • Take walks together often; they open up special opportunities for communication.
  • Say “yes” and “I love you” many times every day.
  • Follow all of God’s rules, but don’t put much stock in the ones man makes up.
  • Tithe, and spend less than you make. Teach your kids to do the same.
  • Be generous to one another. (And generosity doesn’t have to be expensive.)
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Because You Asked

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A couple of good friends asked me to write about marriage and parenting. As you will see, some of this may be familiar to those of you who know me well. In that case, consider this a refresher course. Some of you may be neither married nor parents. If so, consider this a course in how to be a good friend, exuding kindness, patience and compassion. In most cases, you’ll discover the same words that apply to a good marriage usually apply to good parenting.

My favorite sermons, podcasts, and advice books are filled with clear instructions, sentences I can turn into actions. So, I’m going to offer clear, actionable advice here, and I’m going to do it in bullet form—way, way too many bullets for anyone to tackle in a week or a month. I’m hoping you’ll go through this list and prayerfully choose areas where you think you ought to improve. Focus on those until you’ve mastered them well enough to move on to a few more. If this list leaves you wanting to ask a question or get more details, let me know.

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Rope of Hope by Beth Smith

You’ve heard it said, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” I have a better idea. When you come to the end of your rope, let go and grab on to God’s rope of hope.

Years ago, our youngest daughter gave birth to a nine pound boy. He was whisked away to the neo-natal intensive care unit before his parents even got to hold him. The doctors put him on oxygen, IV antibiotics, and four monitors of various types. This was scary for parents and grandparents alike.

But, praise God, we have a strong rope of hope, a lifeline made up of five strands.

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Contentious Conversations Continued

Here’s the question: “The edict to not talk about “sex, religion or politics” with family or at family gatherings is a common refrain. I think we Americans MUST find means / methods to discuss these topics with those we love. If we can’t, our national debates will not be as productive or successful in my opinion. How do you (or does Scripture) recommend having civil discourse on contentious topics?”

Last week I gave you an answer based on the writings by Scott Rae and Tim Muehloff of Biola University. This week I’ll give you my thoughts and those of my husband, Steve. I’ll go first:

Quoting writer Stephen Covey, I think we have to “Begin with the end in mind.” Why do you want to talk about a particular topic? My reader explained that “If we can’t, our national debates will not be as productive or successful.” Fair point. But if we begin a “conversation” when all we really want to do is deliver a lecture, we have begun from a point of deception. If we mean only to use some cheerful family gathering as an opportunity to defend a position or proselytize those who disagree with us, then we must tread carefully.

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Contentious Conversations

Above: What NOT to do!

Here’s another question asked by a reader who kindly took the time to give me writing suggestions. (Thanks, Joe!) How do we handle the unwritten rule to cease from talking about sex, religion, or politics with family and friends? How do we have civil discourse on contentions topics?

Since, right or wrong, I’ve nearly always avoided contentions conversations, let me begin by recommending an article by Scott Rae and Tim Muehloff, How to Disagree Without Dividing – Biola Magazine – Biola University. (Biola is the alma mater of three of my four kids.) The whole article is worth your time, but here are the highlights.

  • Our aim should be respectful disagreement, communicating in ways that preserve one another’s dignity, even when we disagree.
  • When the relational aspect of a conversation is broken, no one cares about the content. If I don’t feel respected by you, if I feel like you don’t acknowledge my position, then I don’t care about your argument.
  • Paul told us to speak the truth in love. We love our friends. We love our enemies. We ought to be able to convey those things in our conversations, even the contentious ones.
  • We live in an argument-prone culture where we tend to demonize each other. Finding common ground with those “on the other side” is seen as compromise and weakness. This is wrong. If we value relationships, why not start our conversations with common ground, then move toward areas of disagreement, keeping our convictions while still valuing our relationships?
  • For example, we might start a conversation with, “I know we disagree about this issue, but I’m not sure I understand all of the reasons why you feel that way. Could you talk to me a bit about your conviction on this issue?” Aim to understand both what another person is thinking, and the reasons behind that stance.
  • When the conversation begins to heat up too much, try saying something like, “Hey, we’re not having a good conversation right now. What could we do to make it just a little bit better?”

A letter to the editor in a recent issue of Christianity Today summarized those same points by saying, in essence, “Keep your focus on explaining your position and listening to why the other person or people believe and act as they do. The conversation will always go bad if the focus is on why I am right and why you are wrong.”

Now that I’ve shared the wisdom of some very learned men with you, I’ll give you my take on the matter next week…

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Looking Loopy

Evan Almighty may not have been perfect in its theology, but it sure got one thing right. Noah looked like a hair-brained fool for building that boat. (‘Good thing he did it anyway.) Plenty of Bible heroes had to take on courageous challenges that didn’t make any sense at the time. Abraham (take a hike with your son and a knife) and Joshua (take a lot of hikes with torches and clay jars) come to mind first off. But were there any “little guys” who found themselves facing a crisis of obedience? I think so. Look at this passage from Mark 14. Jesus’ disciples have just asked where they should prepare what we’ve come to call The Last Supper.

“Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

That homeowner had already prepared his room. Then he went for water at just the right time, and it mattered very much that he did.

Then there’s this passage from Luke 5. While Simon Peter became a hero of our faith, at the time of this story, he’s just a regular guy, a tired fisherman facing a failure. “When he (Jesus) had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.”

Simon had already started cleaning and repairing his empty nets. How did it look to the guys in the other boats when he headed back out?

These people looked loopy because God had a plan, and they trusted him even when they didn’t know what that plan was.

In today’s conflicted world, perhaps the nuttiest think you can do is look peaceful and happy. But, really, why not? As Charles Stanley said, “Christians ought to be the happiest people in the world, because we’ve got more to be grateful for.” We’ve also got More to trust.

So this week I’m asking you to not only embrace the peace and joy God offers you, but also to let it show! When you’re stuck in a conversation of doom and gloom, be the voice of hope. Let people hear of your trust in God’s plan. So what if it make you look a little loopy?

And for more of Dr. Charles Stanley, check out this link: “How to Stay Young and Useful All Your Life.”

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