Saturday, April 14, 2012

How I Parent - Honestly - People have asked me this

Several people (Seriously, ten people) have asked me THIS WEEK how I parent my children and I have to be honest, I have no idea why. 

My first response is always “Wrong, I do most of it wrong”.  I then follow it up with comments about my kids pertaining to locked closets, abandoning them for “survival skill training” and telling my children about their older siblings they never met because “They didn’t quite work out like we had hoped, but hopefully things will be different this time around.”  I have gotten my daughter to play along in this game now with the younger two.  It’s fantastic.

Yes, I do a lot wrong.  Mostly, I pass my humor to my children.  People hate to love my humor.  My daughter Katie has it mostly.  And I love to hate her.

My son Collin appears to be raised by feral cats while we aren’t around.  He gives the best hugs and he means it when he says he loves you.  He just doesn’t have an off switch.  I’d settle for a pause on this kid.

         Brandon?  He is the sweetest kid in the world.  But he is also the only 8 year old with washboard abs.  I am not telling him about his genetic good luck, because honestly, I am not sure where that came from.  Luckily, he looks like me in the facial feature area; otherwise some questions would have to be addressed.  Such as “Craig, When will your wife, Marianne, come back from vacation in Mexico?  She’s been gone for what, 14 years now?”

There are a few things I adhere to when being a parent to my kids.

Let’s do what the cool kids say and “Break it down…G”

#1  I am my kid’s best friend.  No one will be a better friend than I am.  People say “You can’t be their friend and parent at the same time.”  I say “Why not?”  A friend loves at all times, is honest at all times, will do anything for you, should never lie to you, be firm with you and if you step out of line how they know they should act, the friendship allows for correction to occur.  Listen, I am a parent in relationship to my children, but friendship is what binds us as a family.  I hold the authority position, but I am not an overbearing idiot.  I want my kids to come visit on Christmas after they move out, ya know?

Also, point number 1 gives me advantages.  By being not only their father, as a friend I can usurp the idiotic influence of their peer group friends they find.  Since I am a better friend that has proven over the course of their young lives that I do care for them when I tell them that the moron they just met is a bad influence I can say so and they believe me.  They then avoid the moron.  Simple?  Yes.  Biblical principle?  Yes.  Am I going to tell you which one?  No. 

#2  I teach my kids to apply biblical principles.  I don’t read verses to them and ask them to recite them back to me.  If I wanted memorization there are funnier movies we could do as a family and reenact skits or maybe musicals…Like Cats.  I never saw Cats, but I bet I would love it.  Space Balls would be a good one too.

No, I spend time explaining to them the reasoning behind the words.  It’s amazing, there are verses where God tries to explain to his people (He calls them his children)  he would just love to gather them, or reason with them.  Honestly, the Creator of the Universe who knows everything wants to explain and talk out things with us.  Figured as a Dad I should do the same with my kids.

The last thing I want to do is create kids, raise them as Christians and have their only explanation to things when asked intelligent questions that actually have answers to be “Because God said so!”  You know these people I am talking about.  

I avoid these people I am talking about.

#3  I realize I have few answers.  It’s OK to not know everything.  It’s fantastic to say to your children “I don’t know, let’s find out together.”  They see how you think, and they learn to think like you and to learn and understand like you.  This helps if you aren’t an arrogant moron. 

I am still working on this one.

#4  I adapt my parenting.  My daughter Katie is 11.  Sometimes, she elevates her thinking to that of a 14 year old or a 30 year old.  If I am not careful I miss the chance to broaden her viewpoint and give her a better understanding of something at the very critical moment her mind is THINKING that way.  Every moment parenting is a teaching moment.

Stop blowing it.

#5  Have fun.  Honestly.  I have heard people say when they get home form work they are to tired for their family or their kids.  I get the rut you can get in.  But I don’t want to be a horrible parent.  If I can’t pass my faith, my viewpoint and have my children know they were loved while doing so I failed as a parent.

Each one of my kids gets their own special time with me.  I take them out individually.  I ask questions, they ask me questions, or sometimes we just go and grab a toy.  You force this time.  You have it in your schedule; you just need to understand where to find it.

Katie and I, we’ll have tea, listen to music, ride bikes or go for a drive.

Brandon and I, we do experiments that he finds in science books from the library, play catch or head to Grandpa’s house.  He asks questions about what it was like when I was a kid.

Collin…Well.  I am Collin’s limo service.  He makes me drive him to the McD’s play land then ditches me.  Afterwards I get a hug and a kiss, but eh.  It’s all good.
In the end, my desire is to see my children THINK.  To think for themselves means they weren’t programmed.  They were taught.  Does that happen at age 6?  No.  But the older they get the more I need to understand that an adult is forming and not a child in an adult body.  God doesn’t wish for an obedient robot and neither do I.

I work from the understanding that at 18 years of age in the United States they could find themselves either by choice or potential draft on a battle field getting shot at or potentially killed in a foreign country.  At 18, my child needs to be an adult.  If I didn’t get the groundwork laid for that now, I failed.

And shame on me for that.

I hope that helps the few people that asked me my feedback.  For the other 200 of you that read this, I will write next time about the free telescope I got.

Free stuff is cool.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Truth Deserves An Audience

“Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Recently someone asked me one of the toughest questions that any Christian can be asked.  “Do Christians believe that because someone doesn’t believe the way they believe that they end up in Hell?  Do you believe that?”  Most of the time I am asked this question because the person asking the question ran into an abrasive, thoughtless and uncaring Christian who was more interested in “being Right” than “being Loving”.

I am not saying I am not abrasive and thoughtless, I just decide to handle this question differently. 

The fact is Truth deserves an audience.  It doesn’t demand one, and it shouldn’t.  It does not force a will upon people and it does not proclaim its case in self righteous statements of uncaring abandon to the listener.  Truth in essence is humble, it asks nothing, and it just is.  If I tell my kids that water is wet, whether my children understand my statement or not matters little.  Water is still wet.  It’s a simple application of a topic most can comprehend.  If we can associate to truth being water, sometimes water being wet is not a sufficient explanation to an individual hearing truth for the first time.  Sometimes, truth is an ocean.  It’s not just wet; it’s unfathomable and impossible to navigate without help.  It’s a tsunami and a destructive force when confronted alone.  And no one likes feeling alone.

We all are different.  We all come into this life with genetic imprints and then socially develop opinions and cognitive biases over the course of our lives that when challenged make us reflect on how we believe. 

“You never find yourself until you face the truth”~ Pearl Bailey

The question about Heaven and Hell is in essence “Is what you believe in, is it true?”  This is where I as a Christian arrive at the ocean.  It’s an isolating question.  It carries its own stigma.  What someone is asking for is a burden of proof.  Christianity, to me, isn’t only about a destination at the end of this life.  It isn’t only about a way of life.  It isn’t only about how I raise my kids, how I present myself to others or any disappointment that is generated should I do something wrong.  It isn’t about the petty judgments that some Christians pass on those that live a life they think is less than perfect.  It spans more than that. 

But every focal point of understanding of what I can grasp in my finite mind comes to this:

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

The conversation needs to be shifted and the destination corrected.  We don’t focus on a destination. It’s a person. A person who had a most peculiar life, and after his time on this earth was finished, cast a reputation that changed the outcome of billions of lives.
Some of us had someone, an individual, which made such a profound impact on our lives, for good or for harm, that we never forget them and what they taught us by their actions.  I know very few people though, who would be willing to continue till death for that one person. 

We selfishly want to live.

Do people today die for what they believe in?  Yes.  But these men, they had a chance to flee, a chance to return to a normal life without persecution.  If the man they followed was killed, and at the very least what was viewed as a religious or political rebellion was put down I could understand a percentage of them, you know, the crazies, continuing on in the leaders absence.  Not all 11. 
And more importantly, would never suspect a murderer like Paul, a persecutor of them, to actually join them.

If I critically look at the 11 men that followed this one man, this Jesus, something clicked in them that according to historical tradition sent them to their deaths in their later lives for something they continued to believe in after the Jesus they knew was gone.

That deserves an audience.  It requires us to examine evidence and forces a conclusion.  What if what they saw was true that it affected them to push through the natural instincts of self preservation?

Or was it just a collection of made up stories?  Stories gathered from many different religions of the time, taking their themes and beliefs and amassing them into a large collection which some point to inconsistencies in to force a social means of control over a large populace to obtain power?

Or is the truth stating something else. 

Is there really a God?
Is what Jesus said and what he did the truth?

It’s a personal question.  Not meant for a crowd.  Not meant for a congregation.  It’s meant for an individual.

And each of us comes to that ocean.  It deserves an audience.  It deserves our attention.