5 Lessons from David on how not to raise your kids

The Bible is full of positive examples of how to live, love and work while we go through life. It is also full of the real mistakes made by real people, even the heroes of the faith. No one has his successes and failures listed more publicly than David. A great warrior king, a man of faith and boldness, tenderness and courage, David was not a great father. His shortcomings can become our wisdom, if we are willing to learn. Here are five things David missed as a parent.

1. David fails to discipline Amnon 2 Samuel 13:21
After Tamar is raped by Amnon, David is furious but he does nothing. His oldest son Absalom took note of David’s lack of discipline toward Amnon. He waited 2 years before he did anything, plenty of time to see if his dad would do anything, then he took matters into his own hands.
Perhaps David thought, “Amnon knows I’m furious at him and he knows what he did is wrong.  He’ll never cross that line again or next time I’ll let him have it.”
Lesson #1: Discipline is not anger, but action directed at saving the life of the child.
It is not enough to be angry, or maybe not even helpful at times though righteous anger properly directed is appropriate. What Amnon needed, and the rest of the children needed to see, was proper disciplinary action that showed the value of all the children and upheld a standard of righteousness. David’s relationship with Amnon was not hidden from the rest of the family as the cry for justice was answered by Absalom.

2. Absalom returns but is not reconciled 2 Samuel 14:24, 28-30
Absalom flees Jerusalem after the murder of Amnon. Joab, a real friend to David, devised a plan to convince David to allow Absalom back into Jerusalem, but David still refused to see Absalom face to face.  For 2 years Absalom lived in Jerusalem but was not allowed to see his father.  He pleaded with Joab to gain an audience with David but he was rebuffed each time.  Finally he set fire to Joab’s field to get the attention of his father.  When David finally allows Absalom into his presence it appears there is reconciliation.
Lesson #2: Always resolve the issue, do not keep your presence from the child.
David has “sent Absalom to his room for a timeout” that never comes to an end. Some infractions require time apart from the child, but this should never be too long and should always end with the parent going to the child to bring about reconciliation. Reconciliation means there is an admittance of guilt, request for forgiveness and a path to a restored relationship established. None of this happened between David and Absalom.

3. David equates apology with repentance 2 Samuel 14:32-33
When you see the words of Absalom in v. 32 you get a clear picture of his mindset. “I’d be better off if I were still there.” His concern is only for his own well being with no concern for the wrong he committed against his own brother. “If I am guilty, let him kill me.” Clearly Absalom doubts his own guilt, and is directly challenging the verdict of his father, who also happens to be the king appointed by God. Eventually David allows Absalom to come to him, but even then there is no conversation or restoration, only the outward ritual of apology with no repentance.  We know this because of what happens next.
Lesson #3: When there is a direct challenge, deal with it quickly, lovingly,and fairly.
Obviously David failed to deal with the challenge by Absalom in a timely matter, allowing him to live in Geshur for a time and then in Jerusalem for another two years before seeing him. Direct challenges to the authority of the parent cannot be tolerated. Don’t allow your pride to take over here, you are the parent and have a role and the child will challenge you because that is what children do. Be firm without losing your temper. Be fair with them, but also be clear about who makes the rules. Younger children don’t need an explanation for the reason behind the rule, they need assurance about who enforces the rules. It is a waste of time trying to explain to a 2 year old the details of electrical current, a quick slap on the hand is much more efficient and communicates better. (Note: there is a difference between a slap on the hand and beating a child.  Those with common sense should understand this.)

4. David mistakes quiet for peace 2 Samuel 15:1-6
Every parent learns that the most disturbing sound in your home might be eerie quiet of a 2 year old alone in a back room. “It’s a little too quiet back there.” For the next four years Absalom quietly goes about the business of building a following among the Israelites, undermining King David while stealing the hearts of the men of Israel. It seems hard to believe that he could do this everyday for 4 years and David would never get wind of it from his sources in the kingdom. Perhaps he thought that Absalom would grow out of his rebellious stage,. The reality was that quiet did not mean peace.
Lesson #4: The old saying, “They’ll grow out of it” may not be true.
Sometimes it is a stage and our kids will grow out of it. There are dangers in hoping for growth without requiring something from the child. 1)They may step into mortal danger before they grow out of rebellion. 2)They may cause someone else great grief before their rebellious stage is complete. 3)They may fall into life altering consequences before they realize the futility of rebellion. 4)They may not grow out of rebellion. Do not fall into the trap of just trying to survive the teenage years or merely hoping that maturity will magically appear.  Do all that you can, use every thing at your disposal and pray all along the way. Never give up hope and never give up trying. Be the parent, not the best friend.

5. David loses another son 2 Samuel 18:5, 9-15
Absalom’s rebellion reaches critical mass as he proclaims his own rule over Israel attempting to usurp David. Even as he sends his troops to war David pleads for mercy for Absalom. He is always the dad. But Absalom’s coup does not end well as Joab ends the battle by viciously killing him. Perhaps he was tired of seeing this son of David treat the King of Israel with such disdain. David wept at the news of the loss of his son as only a father could, but it makes us wonder if this is how it had to happen. Would things have turned out differently if David would have dealt with Absalom and Amnon more directly?
Lesson #5:If you do not adequately deal with rebellion you may lose your child.
What we do know is how this story ended and we know that there was no joy for anyone. David lost another son. Absalom’s family lost a father and husband. Israel lost a charismatic leader. Perhaps this was a path Absalom was going to take, but it seems clear that David did not do enough to alter that path. His anger turned to grieving, David missed so many opportunities to set Absalom on a different path. No doubt he cared for and loved his son, but this has to show itself in strong disciplinary actions. We tend to choose the path of least resistance. If a parent chooses that path he/she puts the life of the child at risk. Make your child’s path of least resistance one that includes righteousness, honor, integrity and love. This isn’t the easy way to parent, but it gives your child the best chance to live on their own as a mature adult (and that is the point of parenting after all).

5 Things the First Day of February 2014

1. We are leaving for Vermont in just a couple of days. My Weather.com app says that the high temperature will not rise above 30 while we are there. There is no prediction of snow at this time, though it is supposed to snow the day before we get there. So yesterday Julie and I went to look for some warm clothes on sale. Our biggest problem, we live in Spring, TX. Even if the clothes are warm for south Texas, I’m not sure how much good they will do us in Vermont. Thankfully I’m pretty warm blooded anyway, I don’t mind the cold, but my poor wife may freeze to death :)_

2. I read an article this week that said that we should never put two spaces after a period when we are typing.
This may be the hardest thing I have ever done. I learned to type on a manual typewriter when I was in ninth grade and we were taught to put two spaces after the period. Now I have learned that that is no longer correct, and probably wasn’t when I was taught. (My teacher probably just taught how she learned it and didn’t google the rule to find that it had evolved) So what do you do? I’m trying to change but this is hard. It is a natural, unthought move for me to hit the space bar twice at the end of a sentence.

3. I just finished reading Charles Krauthammer’s best seller, “Things that Matter,” and it was great. He is a terrific writer who uses language in a wonderful way to communicate. The book is a collection of his essays over the past 30 years not all of which are political. I think I enjoyed the ones about his brother or his family the most, though his political thoughts are challenging in their depth.  He closes the book with three essays on American power after the Cold War.  Each is written in a different time frame, the nineties, early 2000’s and 2009 and he gives a sound synopsis of the challenges facing us and the divergent philosophies that are put forth and implemented. If you are a political junkie you will love this book.  If you hate politics but like to read good essays, borrow the book and pick and choose some sections to read.  You will enjoy it. One more thing: as Krauthammer says early on, politics are necessary to allow us the freedom and space to pursue non-political ends.

4. Our oldest turned 22 this week. Wow! She graduates from UNT in a few months and then the next phase of life begins. I am in awe of the beautiful young woman she has become. College is often, as is true in her case, a time of great growth intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually. Holley has matured in multiple areas of life and it has been a joy to watch as a parent. It is often difficult to see how your child will become what you have wanted and worked for during the first 18 years of life. There are glimpses early on and you hope that those those moments become patterns.  We have seen those things in Holley. As hard as that has been at times and as radical as some of those changes have become, I also know that the next four to five years hold more growth, maturing and stretching. I look forward to all that God has in store for her as she continues to amaze us by the beauty of her life.

5. I’m picking the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Not because of intense scrutiny of the teams and a belief in the better systems and strategies of guys from Denver, but for two specific reasons. 1) Peyton Manning was my fantasy league quarterback who led my team to my third straight league championship (see how  worked that in there).  I owe him my support. 2) While Earl Thomas, a Longhorn, has become a perennial Pro Bowler playing for Seattle, there are two Longhorns playing for Denver, Quentin Jammer and Michael Huff.  It is worth noting that all of these are DB’s who played for Duane Akina.  I hope Charlie Strong didn’t mess up when he decided not to retain Akina as a coach.

Summer is Over

The first day of September. I know it’s not official, but for me, summer is over. Kids are in school, high school football has started, college and pro football are around the corner, life is back in a rhythm of sorts.

It’s time to get back down to the business of writing a little. So let’s catch up.

End of May: Holley graduated. All the family came in town and we had a great time of celebration. It was emotional, but really only the beginning of emotional.

June: Like a whirlwind – Youth trips, ETC Student Camp, Camp Creek – there really wasn’t much time to catch a breath. But it was a great month. For those who don’t know, I’m the director of ETC Ministries, a non-profit organization that runs a camp one week in the summer. We also promote missions for students and student ministries. It really grew out of my leadership of our local association camp.

July: 220 Camp, mission trip to Premont, here comes the ORHS band camp. I had a great time at 220, it’s run by a good friend, John Sherrill, and he allowed me to come as a bible study leader. I taught on the life of Peter and the spiritual markers in his life, both the good and the bad.

August: A great trip to the UK (featuring a wonderful side trip to Scotland to play golf at St. Andrews), and school gets rolling. Julie started school early in August, Courtney actually began her summer band in July, and then we took Holley to UNT in Denton, and the next day Courtney started her senior year.

Of course, in the midst of all this was preaching most Sundays (though I admit I had some great guys fill-in for several weeks).

So now you probably see why I’m glad to see the summer come to a close. Our world has changed over the summer. With one gone and another visiting colleges it’s clear that the changes are going to continue. It makes me glad to have a solid home and a firm church home. We like to have some stability amidst all the change. And I will admit to being a lover of change, but it’s easier to embrace change when you know some things will stay the same.

We’re starting to work on a new series from the book of Genesis that will begin in October. It’s going to go through the lives of Isaac and Jacob. Should be interesting to examine how God works in this highly dysfunctional family.

My Daughter is Graduating

(I haven’t updated in a while so I thought I’d copy over the article I wrote for our church newsletter this month)

This month I will watch my firstborn child walk across the graduation stage. (Insert tears here). With so many things going on at this time of year and as we begin preparing for the summer it’s important to take some time to be still and consider life. And for us, our life has often centered around our kids. So please allow me to brag a little.

Holley celebrated her first birthday not long after we came to Spring Creek, and her time in the house as an only child lasted only another 40 days. Holley has always been an achiever. When she puts her mind to a task she does it well, whether it was Accelerated Reading in first grade or leading the band in twelfth grade. She is funny, sarcastic, and very smart. I’m glad to say she is a thinker. She thinks about life and considers her place in it. She is independent. I remember that night as Bill Gravell gave the invitation at our revival (I’ve always thought Bill did a great job offering an invitation) and Holley stood up first, alone for a moment. I had no idea that God was working in her life in that way at that time, but when we talked after the service it was clear she had been thinking about it for a while and the Lord was at work in her life. I’ll never forget the emotions I had as I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter.

Now she hasn’t been perfect as a child and I haven’t been a perfect dad, but through everything I have always wanted her to know how much I love her and how valuable she is. The experiences we have had together as a family have made us who we are. I’ll always treasure the trips together, standing on the Great Wall of China with her, the conversations about life and the days on the lake. I can’t wait to see all that God will do in her life as she gets ready to go to college. God has blessed Julie and I greatly with two wonderful daughters. May He continue to bless our family and our church.

See you Sunday and God Bless, Dr. Steve

Humble Beginnings

I really appreciate those who prayed for my family this past week after the passing of my uncle. J.O. Willis, or “Uncle Red” as I knew him, was a great godly man who enjoyed life to the fullest and served as a great example of life to everyone who met him.

While I was in Louisiana for the funeral and celebration of life service we stopped by an old house that has become an historical monument in Louisiana. It’s a “Dog-Trot House” built in 1848 without the use of a single nail. And it’s one of the many places my dad called home while he was growing up in North Louisiana. He lived there while he was 9-10 years old.

Built in 1848, the house has been repaired and renovated, though mostly like it was when my dad lived there in the late 1940's.

Now that’s a house! It had four rooms, two on each side including the kitchen. The kids would sleep in the middle in the heat of the summer to take advantage of the breeze that might blow through. There was a black church across the street. On Sunday evenings they would sit on the front porch and enjoy the music from the church. The youngest of nine kids, my dad and one older brother and one older sister were the only kids living at home when they lived here. But during the war (WWII) several of the wives came to stay here with their kids while their husbands fought.

It was a simpler time. I don’t know if it was better (outhouses, no a/c, real struggle), but folks survived and came out strong. Today we think people are living in poverty if they only have one car and one TV in the house. You can’t miss what you never had.

Review: Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers

Just finished “Forbidden Fruit” by Mark Regnerus. Regnerus is a sociologist at The University of Texas at Austin and in this book he chronicles his research with teenagers on the subject of sex and the impact their religion has had on their decisions about sex. I found the book to be very interesting, though at times too academic for my simple tastes. His honest appraisal of the myriad of studies done over the years as well as those done very recently helps us understand some truths about the influences, motivations and subsequent actions of teens. At the end he lists twelve conclusions. I’ll chronicle a few of them here with my own comments. For more you’ll have to buy the book.

1. Religiosity almost always makes a difference. Most popular media stories will report how the incidence of sexual activity among those attending church is not different that those not attending church. However, for those students who see religion as very important and who are in religious families and have like minded friends the incidence of sexual activity is much lower than other students and especially lower than non-religious students.

2. More devoutly religious parents tend to talk less often to their adolescent children about sex and birth control and most often about sexual morality. Probably not a surprise to you, but you may be surprised to find out that those parents who think talking about birth control may contribute to a more sexually active child tend to be correct. With that said, parents and the church need to be able to voice a biblically based sexual ethic that upholds moral boundaries while also addressing the beauty of sexual intimacy within marriage.

3. Religion affects adolescents’ sexual attitudes and motivations more than their actions. While religious teenagers most often know what the religious teachings are, wait until marriage, these teachings do not always affect the choices they make.

4. The success of abstinence pledging is mixed. While the majority of abstinence pledgers will break their pledge before marriage, they tend to wait longer to engage in sexual activity and have fewer partners. Fully 45% of those in his study who had made abstinence pledges were still unmarried and still virgins at the end of the study several years later.

5. The depiction of sexual promiscuity seen among teenagers in mass media productions is not close to reality. Most teenagers have not had sex, though many will before the leave their teenage years. Multiple partners and outlandish sexual exploits are not common in the life of the typical teenager.

Regnerus articulates these conclusions and more based on extensive studies. One of his postscript conclusions, not based on research but his summary of thoughts on the research, is that the idea of removing morality from discussions of sex in public schools is foolish. As he says, “There is no value-free perspective on sex.” Changing the language to describe “healthy” and “unhealthy” sex does not change the reality that we conceive as some acts as “good” and others as “bad.” He states;

Sex is far from a simple pleasure. The emotional pain that lingers after poor sexual decision making, at any age, is evidence of the complex morality inherent to human sexuality. The sexual human begs for something better and more lasting than hooking up or satiating a partner’s will.

It is imperative that the church enter into this conversation with more than a moral prohibition and a “because God said so” answer. We must be prepared to articulate more than, “you should make good decisions for your future” as a reason to abstain. Strengthening the family, encouraging parental conversations with boys and girls, building strong peer relationships among our students, and helping our students fall in love with God and not merely in line with His law; all these are needed to build a strong, safe, stand up generation.

Your comments are welcome!

Holley is 18!

Wow, it does go so fast.  It was just yesterday that we headed to the hospital to induce labor so that we could finally see our beautiful child.  We had no idea, boy or girl, what we were getting into at that moment.  To be honest, it didn’t matter, whatever would come would be worth it.  We had been in love with her for nine months and a few days already.

Through the years it has become clear how blessed we are to have such a beautiful daughter.  She is smart, funny, inquisitive, thoughtful, opinionated, and wonderful.  We are amazed at how much she has meant to us, we can’t imagine life without her.

And now we get ready to enter a new phase.  High school graduation is in a few months and a trip to Denton will come quickly.  She’ll load up the most vital of her possessions, move them into a new room, a new home, and then we’ll say good-bye.  How quiet that ride home will be.

Until then, we’ll make more memories and prepare for the future.  Remember, “you’re just one phone call from your knees.”  Treasure the days, live to the fullest, tell them you love them.  And for now, enjoy the video.  😉

Hello world!

Okay, so this is my youngest daughter, Courtney.  Been a while since she shaved.  🙂  Actually she is dressed up to play a part, I have no recollection who, at our VBS this past summer.  While the face may not show it, she really does get into this kind of stuff.

I pastor a great church on the north side of Houston in Spring.  We live in a township called Oak Ridge North.  My wife teaches Kindergarten at The Woodlands Christian Academy.  My two kids, Holley, 17, and Courtney, 16, go to Oak Ridge High School, play in the band, and provide endless entertainment for their parents.  They are great kids who work hard, get good grades, love the Lord and drive like maniacs (not really ORN police, I’m just kidding).  But if you see a red Dodge Durango or a white and blue Jeep CJ-7 I would advise you keep your distance.

I’m starting to write this wondering if I’ll keep it up.  I’m really not much of a writer, more of a talker, but I would like to put a few things down in cyberspace so we’ll see how it goes.