A few thoughts and a prayer as my heart aches for the families of Newtown, CT…

Yesterday I had the blessing of being with my family on one of our little one’s – Ella’s – fourth birthday. With the events of today in CT, I was once again reminded not to have any regrets for missing work to be with family.

My heart has been aching since I heard the news of 20 children and 8 adults whose lives were lost in a small New England town this morning. Tragic is an understatement. Everyone has been taken off guard. It was at an elementary school. An elementary school!!!

I’ve struggled through anger and tears this afternoon. I cannot imagine, as my sister-in-law articulated on Facebook, how those family members will feel tonight as they sit around their living room looking at presents under a Christmas tree (or hidden in a closet) marked for their child who did not come home today from school.

This is yet another reminder of the death present in our world and the importance of our mission as followers of Jesus to live sent with His presence. Leaders, including today, cry out again that these things happen because “they keep God out of our school.” What bologna! God won’t be out of our schools until someone removes the Holy Spirit from those who follow Him as they go there!

We are not asked by God to legislate righteousness. We are not persuading and proselytizing for an alternative religion here. We have been loved by the God who came near compelling us to go near with His love to those who have yet to believe beyond the death and selfishness of the here and now. Our mission is not so trite as only to be about moralism in school or making a better culture. It has all to do with displaying the message of resurrection life so that hope can be found and dead can be made new again.

As Peterson so eloquently and appropriately wrote:

The church is a colony of resurrection in the country of death.

Jesus. You wept over the effect of death. Thank You, as the One who made us, for having a heart of grace for us when we, as the ones who were made, chose to eat of the tree that opened our minds and hearts to all we could know about what we are so beautifully as well as horrifically capable of. Thank You for resurrection. Thank You for hope. Amen.

I am thankful for my family. What is one way you are thankful for your family?

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I am thankful for my family.

For my wife who is my best friend, whose beauty is unmatched, whose faith is unwavering, whose passion is our children’s hearts, whose affection is beyond fulfilling, and whose wisdom is so edifying.

For children who anticipate my arrival home, who are perseverant of my parental flaws, whose laughter fills up my heart, whose hugs are therapeutic, and whose imaginations take me on unforgettable adventures.

For a father who mirrored and modeled our heavenly Father’s gracious, generous love. For a brother who invited me along with him to learn and live the ways of Jesus. For in-laws who welcomed me into their family, encouraged me to take Jen’s hand in marriage, and who support our family with uplifting fellowship that we treasure beyond words.

I am thankful for my family.

How are you thankful for yours?

Parents. Have u had the “sex talk?” But when’s time for the “porn talk?” Here’s some help from @XXXChurch…

Parents. Maybe you have had the difficult “sex talk” with your kids. But when is the time for the “porn talk?” It is tough to discern.

Did you know the average age a child first looks at pornography is 11. Yep. Eleven. Wow.

As you and I pray for wisdom, here are some helpful tips from XXXChurch. And check out their PARENTS page for more tools, more info, more help.

Principle 1: You and Your Spouse Need to Talk First
Principle 2: It Is Going to Be Difficult
Principle 3:Write Things Down in Advance
Principle 4: The Earlier, the Better
Principle 5: Initiate
Principle 6: Ask Questions
Principle 7: Listen
Principle 8: Use Everyday Opportunities To Talk
Principle 9: Use Real-Life Situations to Talk About Sex
Principle 10: Talk to Your Kids Specifically and Individually
Principle 11: Have a Sense of Humor Principle
Principle 12: Talk About It Again and Again
Principle 13: Know What Your Kids Are Talking About
Principle 14: Asking Questions Doesn’t Mean They’re Doing It
Principle 15: Don’t Assume Your Kid Is Perfect
Principle 16: Patience
Principle 17: Share Your Values
Principle 18: Talk About Fighting Peer Pressure
Principle 19: Talk With Them About Reasons To Wait
Principle 20: Don’t Avoid the ‘Safe Sex’ Talk
Principle 21: Be Honest
Principle 22: Accurate Information
Principle 23: If You Don’t Know the Answer, Admit It
Principle 24: Don’t Hide Your Past
Principle 25: Grace
Principle 26: Reassure Them that Not Everyone Is Doing It
Principle 27: Remind Them that It’s Their Choice and Nobody Else’s
Principle 28: Sex Is Natural, Sex Is Fun; Sex Is Best When It’s One on One

Thanks so much to Craig and the team for all the ways you are both loving people in the Porn industry as well as helping those addicted to porn.

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: how a picture on the fridge and a letter to a stranger and a prayer from a child can love the nations.

 

So organizations like Compassion International and World Vision and others get criticized sometimes for being too big and too many admin costs and not enough local leadership and local economic stimulation around the world. But sometimes I wonder if we criticize organizations for not doing it all the way we would want to or think it should be done, when maybe we ought to be more grateful that they are doing something that includes great resources, loads of relationships, and evidence of transformed lives.

I sponsored a Compassion kid back in 1993 while I was a college student. I wasn’t quite sure how I was gonna send that $30 every month, but I sensed that I should, no matter what. That child graduated from the Compassion program to move on into adult life with an education and some skills he might not have had otherwise. Most importantly, he graduated walking with Jesus.

My wife and I continue to sponsor two kids with Compassion. The most meaningful part to us, besides that those two kids are hopefully being encouraged and fed and taught from people who love them with the selfless love of Jesus, is to watch our kids grow in their awareness of the needs of other kids around the world.

Our kids see the Compassion kids’ pictures on the fridge. Our kids write them letters and draw them pictures. Our kids even pray for them from time to time.

And they may not realize it, but their Jen and I are intentionally cultivating into their growing hearts a love for the nations. We pray it will bear much fruit.

We also pray for the fruitfulness of the lives of those two Compassion kids. And how cool would it be for our kids to actually meet them one day! For now, the letter and picture relationship will have to be enough. But hopefully, our kids will think far beyond a college diploma and a good job and a spouse and kids.

Lord, we surrender our kids to you. May they love both neighbors and nations. May they give away what has been given to them, dreaming Your dreams and loving like You love.

Grateful. Hopeful. Both for the futures of those Compassion kids as well as our own.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: be intentional with how you cultivate for healthy sibling relationships. How do you do that?

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It was a special moment captured luckily just because I had the phone out taking a different picture a few minutes before. A 10 year old brother loving his 1 year old brother. Caleb and Noah – the little brother for whom Caleb prayed, unbeknownst to us :)

But to say we are grateful would be an understatement. We can’t imagine life at the Dukes house without Noah’s smile and charm.

And Caleb can’t have imagined another female (he has 3 sisters). :)

With five kids, we actually work hard at cultivating for healthy relationship between the siblings. It is not easy. Two practices we have seen that have been impactful so far:

:: don’t allow for tattle tales unless the siblings have tried to work it out without any progress or unless one of them is in serious danger. We have to coach them at times in working it out, but this is a good thing. After all, we must raise our kids to love others enough to confront and resolve conflict. It is one essential of loving relationships. It is one component of a forgiving culture. And to not cultivate for this implies that you are okay with relationships that stifle rather than sharpen.

:: encourage siblings to pray together, especially when resolving conflict. It is a beautiful thing to listen in on their respective perspectives as they do. Coach them to keep it simple and relational inviting Jesus to grow them and help them as they learn to love each other. Coach them also not to pray for the other to be different, but instead for their own sensitivity and growth.

What about you guys? Those of you who are parents, what have you done to cultivate for healthy and growing sibling relationships? Please share in the comments that we may all grow in wisdom together.

Grateful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: Parents, how do you respond when your kids make mistakes? Check out #MichaelJordan’s perspective followed by some personal thots, too…

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Even though I am a Duke fan and have always been a Duke fan, I grew up cheering for Michael Jordan. The first Final Four game I saw on TV was the 1982 championship that took place in my home town New Orleans between Georgetown and North Carolina. As a young freshman, Jordan hit the go ahead shot in the final minute and was a key player in the TarHeel championship run that season.

Jordan went on to mega-stardom as a Chicago Bull in the NBA, winning 6 NBA Titles and catapulting the league into international influence, also paving the way for athletes to enjoy big-money endorsements and product lines beyond their own sports. Jordan definitely is considered a significant success as a basketball player and a business man.

If this is the case, then why is one of his most famous and powerful commercials about failure? See for yourself:

What a great perspective on mistakes and failure. My wife and I as parents grapple with this question all the time as we cultivate into our kids. Do you have such an understanding in dealing with the mistakes of your children as you cultivate daily into their lives?

Consider these thoughts that we ourselves are trying to learn and practice grow in more and more daily:

:: Let the prevailing culture of your family for which you cultivate consistently be one of love first rather than condemnation first (John 3:16-17).

:: Encourage humility and confession rather than just feelings of humiliation and a consequence given. (1st John 1:9)

:: When confronting and conversing about a mistake, don’t let a child’s first response be, “But he…” or “She did this…” Remind them that this conversation is about what they can learn rather than how they can blame. (Genesis 3)

:: When there is a relational issue among siblings and humility and contriteness have been quickly displayed, let the consequence be confession to one another and prayer for help the next time. (Matthew 18:15-20)

:: Encourage the joy that comes from having to be dependent upon a Savior and Restorer rather than the guilt that remains when we keep thinking we have to fix ourselves (Psalm 32).

:: Teach each child how to deal with the temptations that come in an assertive but reliant way – take each temptation thought captive then try not to deal with it alone. Rather, drag it to Jesus, surrender to Him, and ask Him for His ways to prevail rather than my own. (2nd Corinthians 10:3-5)

May we all grow in cultivating in our families for a culture that views mistakes as opportunities for maturing rather than signs of immaturity. And may we all grow in wisdom as we cultivate for culture of grace and love in our families.

For all those Jordan fans out there, maybe this is just one more way to “Be Like Mike.” :) Enjoy that classic commercial below…