Black Friday Should Be Renamed “Ungrateful Friday”

A few years ago, my son, Micah, made an astute observation after watching news of Black Friday near riots and crime.  He said, “That’s ironic and sad. On Thursday we thank God for all that we have. We’re content. And then the next day we act like we NEED something so bad we’d trample other people.”

I think Black Friday should be renamed, “Ungrateful Friday.”

If you missed it…here’s one Walmart…from a few years ago.

Pray With Your Bible Open

I probably don’t pray enough.  OK, I know I don’t pray enough.  But my favorite way to pray is with the Bible open.  I get weary praying mostly for myself so I pray for others.  What I love most is when I hear from God.  Why?

I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.   Psalm 85:8

4 Qualities of Scripture make it valuable for prayer:

  1. The Bible is holy; it provides preparation for prayer.  By reading the Psalms for example, it helps me focus on the character and nature of God in relationship to His people.  It brings holiness into my thinking.
  2. The Bible is trustworthy; it provides guidance.  It guides us to be the people God wants us to be when we apply it.
  3. The Bible is enlightening; it provides wisdom. It gives insight into problems we have.
  4. The Bible is true; it provides subjects for prayer.  In other words there are lots of prayers in the Bible we can appropriate for our own use and to further teach us how to pray.

We Need to be Broken before we’re Made Whole

Sincere spiritual leadership can produce only the appearance of revival, never its reality.  Stirring music and passionate preaching, though good, have no power in themselves to change what is wrong in people.  Only death destroys evil.  Only death opens the door to resurrection, to a new way to live.  Without the Holy Spirit’s work, our “exciting” religious gatherings (and the boring ones too) do little that excites the heart of God.  He wants us to see beneath appearances to the problem that only the Son can solve.

Surface change is often mistaken for deep change.  When the medication of exciting worship and inspiring preaching relieves the symptoms of sin, the need for the surgery of brokenness is no longer recognized.

If we “follow Jesus,” believing that instruction, discipline, and inspiration are enough to keep us on track, we will see Jesus as merely our “religious cheerleader,” and not the holy Savior we so desperately need.

Do You Need…I AM?

In John’s gospel, Jesus gives himself seven names.

  1. I am the bread of life (6:25-58).
  2. I am the light of the world (8:12).
  3. I am the door for the sheep (10:1-10).
  4. I am the good shepherd (10:11-18).
  5. I am the resurrection and the life (11:17-44).
  6. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:5-14).
  7. I am the true vine.  (15:1-17).

The many names of Jesus indicate a variety of human needs he can meet.

Do you need guidance? Go to the Good Shepherd. Do you need spiritual resources to bear much fruit? Talk to the True Vine. Do you need comfort for your grieving heart?  Ask the Resurrection and the Life for a shoulder to lean on.

6 Tips for Building Resilience in Kids

1. Be present in your kid’s life. How?

  • Show your love. When your kid gets home from school or you get home from work, put down your phone or whatever you’re doing and let them see the joy their presence brings. We need to know we matter to each other.
  • Take an interest in them. Take an interest in their interests, ideas, experiences, and concerns. I’ve learned more about hockey from my sons because they are bigger fans than me of the game. I’ve learned more about marine biology from my son than any book can teach me. My daughter’s passion for justice is contagious. I’m just glad I took the time to listen to them.
  • Show them you care. Hardships are a great time to demonstrate your unconditional love. Sit with them. Say that you can see that it hurts. Help them think through ways they can achieve a different outcome next time. Tell them a story about when you had a setback. Don’t try to take matters into your own hands but reassure them that you love them.

2. Also, back off. If we’re right there with them as they do everything, we’re undermining their confidence by indirectly sending the message, “I don’t think you can do this without me.”

  • Let them make choices and decide how to do things such as what to wear (as long as it’s appropriate!). Don’t micromanage them. It’s only through actual experience that kids develop skills and learn to trust their judgments.
  • Let them take risks and make mistakes. Unless your kid’s health or safety is truly at stake, risks taken and mistakes made when they’ve done something that was initially scary or hard will provide a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

3. Help them grow from experience. You’re not meant to do nothing for them; you’re just not meant to do everything.

  • After the experience, decision, or choice has been made, engage in a questioning dialogue to unpack what your kid learned from the experience. You can offer advice but you must not do it for them.
  • Continue to set the bar higher. As your child demonstrates trustworthiness and good judgment, you can give her more responsibility, opportunity, challenge, and freedom. This builds competence, which builds confidence, both of which build resilience.
  • Combat perfectionism. I’m not always good at this with my children who display perfectionist tendencies. Saying, “Just do your best,” isn’t helpful because to them that means doing excellent because that’s their best. What I’m now saying is something more like “do the best you can in that moment” or “try to give your best effort.” These phrases acknowledge that in any moment a number of factors could weight against our ability to do our actual best and it’s the effort that matters.

4. Build their character. Too often parents focus on academic and athletic outcomes instead of on who they are as human beings. We subconsciously teach that a human’s worth is based on on their GPA or ACT scores when it’s really more about our character, our degree of kindness, generosity, and willingness to work hard, among other things.

  • Notice them being good. I’m not talking about “Wow! You’re amazing!” but more like “It was very kind of you to help that woman.” All you need to convey is: I saw you. I noticed. When you do things like that it makes me proud.
  • Help them develop perspective. Getting them to serve others gives them awareness that there are others who are worse off than they are. That allows your kids to recognize what they’re grateful for.

5. Give specific, authentic feedback. Don’t overpraise or fail to critique or discipline.

  • How to praise. Offer praise that is specific to the task. “I like how you used all kinds of colors in that picture.” “Your essay made such detailed references. You clearly understood the topic.” Specific praise builds confidence because it shows we’ve paused for a moment to pay attention to the details.
  • How to criticize. We want our kids to learn and grow, to better themselves, and to develop. The only way they can do that is by having a realistic assessment of their current performance. As with praise, make sure to target the actions or efforts, not the person. “You left your toys outside and now they may be ruined because their wet. Please bring them in and dry them off now before it gets worse,” is much more effective at correcting behavior than saying, “Why don’t you listen to me? I told you not to do that. Now your toys are ruined.” And if we sweep in to bring the toys in and dry them off, we’ve taught them nothing. We want to criticize the action (which can be corrected) as opposed to saying or implying that our kid is a bad person (which can’t be changed).

6. Model it. One of the best ways to normalize struggle and build resilience is to let our kids know when we have, or have had, a setback and that it got us down for a bit. Let them hear you say that you did some things wrong, or could have done differently, and you’ve learned for the next time. Let them hear you reflect, and see you smile and move on.

Do You Trust God? Then Act Like It

Check out James 2:17-24.  Here’s what I learned:

1) Faith without action is dead.  PERIOD.  You trust God?  …then act like it.  Help those in need.  Obey His commands.   But don’t simply rely on your church attendance or your Christian heritage.

2) Demons even know who God is.  I hate it when I hear people say, “Well, I believe in God.”  Yeah?  So does the devil!  But do you trust in God?  Do you obey God?

3) A person is justified by FAITH…working outwards (i.e. obedience, compassion, love).  We don’t work, serve, obey to please God.  We do that out of God’s approval and love.