Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tech Wisdom for Parents (and everyone else too)

by Andrew Cromwell

If you’re anything like me, there are days when you feel like the world is moving faster than you are. From what I hear on the news, it feels like I should be tweeting on Twitter, posting clever photos on Instagram, making funny short videos on Vine, and posting reviews on Yelp. Oh, and I probably should be sending inappropriate photos of myself on Snapchat and looking for “no strings attached” hookups on Tinder.

And while I’m definitely not doing most any of these things, I also get the sense that my kids either are doing it right now or they will be soon. And that’s a little scary because I’ve read some of the statistics:
  • 22% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys have sent/posted nude or seminude photos of themselves.
  • 1 in 3 teens have experienced online harassment.
  • 44% of tweens have watched something online that their parents wouldn’t approve of.
  • At least 25% of 10-17 year olds were exposed to porn they weren’t looking for last year.
As a parent, I can either throw up my hands and just give up or I can boldly enter into the fray. My wife and I have picked the second strategy. We have decided we are not going to allow the media and our culture to determine what our kids are exposed to. Our goal is not to control and restrict but rather to proactively protect and teach our kids how to deal with this amazing tool called the Internet.

Our philosophy is that we know better than our kids. Sure our kids can fix the computer, set up the TV and generally run circles around us with technology, but we KNOW better about what is good for them. We have experience. We have more experience and have a better perspective on what they should see and when.

This is why we make our kids eat their vegetables. It is why we don’t let our kids—who are all under 13—watch scary movies before bed (or at all). It is why we don’t let our kids go on the Internet unsupervised. It is why we have talked to our kids about the types of things that are on the Internet and discussed what they should do when they see something they know is not right. BECAUSE THEY’RE KIDS.

So let me encourage you parents out there who care about protecting your kids’ innocence and preserving their ability to communicate with other human beings in person, to put restrictions on your kids’ electronic devices. This is a tough thing to do, but it is worth it.

God gave you your kids and He knows best how to help you raise them. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014


by Tim Howard

Jesus taught His disciples to ask for forgiveness. He said: “When you pray…. say Forgive us our sins as we also forgive everyone who sins against us”

 I have discovered many truths about God over the years that go far beyond the fact that He is truly alive, active and involved in the lives of people. God loves people, God is all-powerful, God is just, God is faithful even when we are faithless and God never gives up on us – just to name a few.

One of life’s great truths about God is tremendously liberating and life altering. He is forgiving!

If it weren’t for His forgiveness, none of us could have a relationship with Him. For that matter, you couldn’t have any long-term relationship with anyone. My marriage would never have survived had my wife chosen to not forgive me for the hurt I caused her. My family relationships with my sons would have been destroyed had we not offered mutual forgiveness at various times.

Un-forgiveness is the tether that holds you prisoner to your past hurts. It will keep you from soaring above and beyond adversity and challenges. At times it may feel right to choose un-forgiveness rather than forgiveness because the pain of the hurt goes so deep but the ramifications are negative and long lasting.

Maybe you hurt someone and they won’t forgive you. Your relationship is over! Possibly someone has injured you emotionally or relationally and you won’t forgive them. The result is the same – separation and devastation.

Forgiveness brings healing to hurts and we all get hurt now and again. There are physical hurts but there are emotional hurts as well. Beyond that, I believe relational hurts cause the deepest pain.

Hurts happen because of what people say to us and think about us. That old adage “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” is simply untrue. Words hurt and can be conveyed in non-verbal ways as well. Words can kill your spirit, wound your emotions and divide good friends.

Hurts happen because of what people do to us. The Bible is full of stories and you have many examples of times when people did something to you that brought much pain. Maybe they betrayed you or cheated you or lied to you. Whatever it was, it hurt.

One of the worst ways of dealing with hurt is to repress it. Minimize it. Ignore it. A man by the name of Absalom did just that when a family member was taken advantage of – you can read about it in 2 Samuel 13 –He kept it inside – repressed it for two years and finally exploded by him killing the person who did the offense.

It’s best to talk about the hurt. Talk to God first! Then find a trusted friend to talk with. If you don’t talk it out, you will take it out. You will take it out on your family, your co-workers, your wife or husband because hurt kept inside grows resentment and bitterness. You will not find any closure on past hurts without disclosure.

Communicating with God about your hurts allows Him to bring healing and enables you to forgive. It was refreshing this week to hear of a family who forgave a woman who caused tragedy by drinking and driving. Their daughter was killed needlessly but they dealt with hurt by forgiving.  Hurt people – hurt people but forgiving people bring help and hope to people. Choose to be forgiving!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Summer Parenting

by Andrew Cromwell

Summer is upon us yet again. Kids are counting down the days until school is out. Last season’s swim trunks and pool towels are seeing use once again. In our house, even the parents are excited about the break from the routine of homework, lunch preparation and daily school drop-offs and pickups. But I remember how this goes. 

A few weeks into the break, the initial excitement will wear off and the words “I’m bored” combined with long stares at any parent within line of sight will be uttered, not once but over and over again. Parents, who were initially thrilled for the break, will suddenly long for the structure of school and homework and routine and will begin counting down the days until school is back in!

Now, I don’t believe it is a parent’s responsibility to keep their kids entertained every moment of the summer. Actually, a healthy dose of boredom is good for every kid, especially if they can’t fill the boredom with video games or iPads or TV. Who knows, they might actually have to use their imaginations and creativity and get outside and get dirty.

But summer does provide us with an opportunity to spend time with our kids, create memories, and even implant some important things inside of them. There is much to be said for unscheduled time, and I am not suggesting that you need to turn into a summer camp coordinator and schedule every moment with games and crafts carefully culled from your favorite Pinterest boards. I do suggest that you be intentional about this summer.

Being intentional means that you have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, the summer will be gone before you know it. Here are three ways you can plan for a great summer:

First, plan to spend time together. For some families, that means actually going somewhere on a vacation. For others, that simply means doing things together at home. Wherever you are, swim together, play board games together, go on walks down to get ice cream or a cold drink, stay up late and watch movies, and on and on. As a parent, resist the urge to let the kids always go off and be on there own, do what you can to be together.

Second, plan to do something new. Don’t let the summer go by without having at least one new experience with the family. Go somewhere different and do something different, don’t just do the same old thing. This doesn’t even have to cost money. Learn how to make hats out of newspaper, make one for everyone in the family and make them wear them for dinner one night. Go on a hike together. Walk through a new neighborhood with the family. Cook a meal together. Just make it something new.

Third, plan to talk about real life. There are so many important things to talk to your kids about — money, sex, love, God, dating, and how to treat people are just a few. Your kids need your guidance on these issues, even if they’re not asking you. And talking with them about these things doesn’t generally work very well if it means sitting them down and announcing, “We need to talk about SEX!” (or whatever topic). This is not something you can force, but if you think about two or three things that you want to communicate to your kids this summer and then look for opportunities—opportunities not to lecture but to share—then you will see them. 

So what’s your plan for this summer? Ephesians 5:16 says, “make the most of every opportunity…” Don’t miss the opportunity this summer presents to you and your family. God wants to draw your family closer, use you to guide them and most of all, He wants you to have fun!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Surprise Ending

by Tim Howard

Have you ever read a verse from the Bible only to have the words jump off the page and prick your heart? Well that’s what happened to me on April 21 – the day after Easter celebration– as I read Acts 1:3. It says: “After the suffering and death of Jesus, he presented himself to the people and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

The people witnessing the passion week of Christ – including the 12 disciples and close friends – felt the crucifixion was the demise of Jesus. But they were in for a surprise! Just when they thought it was all over – just when they concluded there was no hope – just when the words “The End” shouted loudly in their ears and minds – Jesus revealed himself! In other passages of scripture we are told He revealed Himself to not only a few but to over 500 people during a 40-day period.

Imagine Moses who was one of the greatest leaders in history. He led his nation to freedom but along the way, he confronted a sea. With the Red Sea in front of him, enemy soldiers behind him and two mountain ranges on each side – there was no place to run. Surely the words “The End’ came to his mind.

Think about Abraham and Sarah who desperately wanted a child and were promised they would have one. In their old age they surely thought it would never happen. They too, must have heard the words “The End”.

When I was sixteen years old my mother became very ill.  A year later she had passed on. That was a difficult season for the whole family and especially hard for a teenager like myself.  Even though the doctors did everything within their power, they confronted a battle that they would eventually lose in the physical realm. She died in the year of 1969 at the age of 53 years.
When death happens, a myriad of emotions make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster.  At times you experience deep pain because of the loss but then, out of nowhere, a sense of great joy may arise because you realize how special that person has been to you personally.

Even in death God has a surprise. For those who believe in Him, physical death is not the end but THE BEGINNING of a new season with God. Death is a fact of life but there can be a surprise ending!

Maybe that’s why Jesus said in John 14:1-3, “Don’t be troubled (afraid).  You trust God, now trust in me.  There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you.  If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

Simply stated, you don’t need to be troubled or ruled by fear when everything around you screams it’s ‘The End.’  Why?  Jesus has prepared a surprise ending. God has a plan for you and it is a good plan.  From God’s perspective, the end is really an opportunity for a new beginning.

Maybe you are at a point in life where everything looks dark and the future is bleak. Possibly you have felt this could be the end for you. If I could be so bold – may I suggest there might be a Surprise ending in store for you?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Privilege or Responsibility?

by Andrew Cromwell

Do you remember those days when you couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license and drive a car? I do. I felt like I had waited all my life to finally get behind the wheel and drive legally. I was happy to drive anytime and to any place. Need a lift? Just call me, I’ll be there (of course it helped that gas was a little cheaper than it is today).

But after a few years, that bright penny had dulled somewhat. And then I had kids (need I say more?). The shine on that penny is plum worn off. Where once the copper gleaned in the sun, now it is green with age. Between the trips to and from school, to and from sports practices, to and from youth groups, and to and from friends’ houses it is fair to say, the thrill is gone baby. Driving is now a bore.

One day a privilege and the next a chore. And there are many things in life that seem to follow that same pattern: work, marriage, home ownership, and on and on. We start fully engaged and loving it, and then little by little, the joy slides into drudgery. And that’s sad.

But what is most sad, I believe, is that this happens with our spiritual life too. God invites us into a relationship with Him. He opens the door for us to have continual conversation with Him at any time and any place (prayer), He welcomes us into the family and invites us to a weekly party (church), and He gives us a roadmap to life (the Bible). 

They are wonderful privileges and most people find great joy when they first discover these gifts and start to use them. But little by little, somehow these privileges are transformed into duties. We stop talking to God because we want to and now only do it because we have to. We stop reading our Bible simply because of the life flow that it gives to us, and instead read it because we are supposed to. And when we fail, we feel guilty.

I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to talk to Him just because we have to! Can you imagine if the only reason your kids talked to you was just because they felt an obligation? No good dad would desire that kind of relationship with his kids and our Father in Heaven is certainly no different (since He is the best Father anyway).

So the next time you find yourself approaching God only out of duty, pause and ask yourself why. Perhaps you have bought into a false perception of God that paints Him as someone who demands you to perform so that He will be happy with you. Or maybe it is because you have stopped enjoying your time with Him. 

Whatever the reason, I know from personal experience that sometimes all it takes is a different perspective in order to get back into the place of joy and leave duty behind (or a new set of wheels!).