Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Have You Hugged Your Pastor Lately? (How to show appreciation to your pastor.)

Have you ever stopped to think about all your pastor does for your church? 

When I was growing up, my parents would often invite our pastor and his family over for dinner. I remember as a kid how nervous I would be before the family would come. I thought I had to behave perfectly and say all the right things. However, I was surprised to see how ‘normal’ their kids were and how much fun I could have with them. It helped me to see that my pastor was a real person and could laugh and enjoy himself, along with his family. 

What can you do to let your pastors know how much you appreciate them? Your continued attendance at church is one thing, but that’s not enough. Consider all your pastor does for the church: 
1)Delivering life affirming sermons every week
2)Visiting people in the hospital
3)Performing funerals
4)Counseling members through their life issues 
5)Praying for and encouraging members through problems
6)Helping members remove the flood damaged walls of their house (I have pictures to prove that our pastor was in the midst of the cleanup after the Lafayette flooding!)
7)Tending to business needs of the church. 

I’m sure there are more, but you get my point. Pastoring is hard work.
Here are things you can do to let your pastors know how much they mean to you:

1. Invite their family over for dinner. If you are uncomfortable having them over to your house, then offer to take them out to a restaurant. Be sure you pay the cost of the meal. Make sure your kids are with you so they get to know their pastor, too.

2. Write encouraging notes/letters to them. And have your children draw pictures for them. As I was reading my Bible one day a few months ago, a scripture passage popped up that reminded me of my pastor. In the Old Testament, when Solomon became king and sent a message to Hiram, king of Tyre, for lumber and supplies, Hiram replied to Solomon: "Because the Lord loves His people, He has made you king."  My immediate thought was of my pastor. I sent him my version of the verse: "Because the Lord loves His people, He has made you their pastor." I let him know how much I appreciated him. He said it made his day. 

3. Pray for them. When my pastor is preaching, I will often pray for him as I sit in church listening. I pray for the congregation to hear what God is saying through him. When your children say their bedtime prayers, remind them to pray for their pastor.

4. Get involved in your church. If you have children, volunteer in the children’s ministry. Often that is a once-a-month commitment and you will be blessed to get to know the other children in the church. Or join a small group or other ministry in your church. You will be blessed much more than you know. 

5. Give your time and your money. Tithing is giving back to God what God has blessed you with. It enables the church to continue helping those in need. I’ve always heard “You can’t outgive God” and as long as I have lived, that statement has always held true in my life.

6. Don’t grumble about your church. No church is perfect and of course the people who attend aren’t perfect. Always speak well of your church and the members. Be a blessing to others with your positive attitude.

When I became a widow back in 2008, it was my church that came to my aid. They helped me financially, with meals, and with their love and support. As we observed the tragedy in Lafayette with all the local flooding recently, it was the churches that stepped up to help. The church is only as strong as its members. Join a church, love your pastors, get involved, and be blessed.

Train Up A Child

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV), or “Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.” Proverbs 22:6 (TLB)

   Many of us have heard this scripture before. Back when I was growing up, everyone I knew believed in God and went to church. We didn’t have policemen at our schools to monitor drug problems, we didn’t have kids sneaking into the bathrooms to have sex, we didn’t see same sex couples, pregnant students, or hear about suicide. The worst thing I did in school was chew gum. It was a very different world back then. I could play outside all day long and never report back to my parents until it got dark outside. My neighborhood was a safe place. In fact, my world was a safe place.  

   Not so today. We have alarms on our cars, alarms on our houses, outside cameras, guard dogs, and guns in our homes to keep us safe. Our children cannot play outside unless it’s within our eye sight. Many kids are growing up with only one parent in the home. Our kids cannot even go to a public restroom alone without being at risk. We are becoming suspicious of strangers. Stress levels and anxiety are at an all time high. What are we to do? Is God even aware of what’s going on and does He care?

   The answer is yes, absolutely! God is unchanging and is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is not God Who has changed, but it’s us. We have allowed fear to creep into our lives. Fear is the opposite of faith. As parents, when we become fearful, our kids naturally develop anxiety and fear as a result of what they see us doing. What can we do to help our children grow up to have a strong faith in God?

1. Get involved in a local church. If you are not accustomed to going to church, ask God to help you find one. Tell the greeter as you arrive that you are new and hopefully they will make you feel welcome there. Bring your family with you and get your kids involved in the children’s ministry. Remember, churches are not a shrine for saints, but a hospital for sinners. It is where you go to find rest, get help, and increase your faith.

2. Study your Bible. Don’t just read it, but get involved in a Bible study. So many Christian people never join a Bible study and therefore don’t understand the ways of God. When you study the Bible, you find that God is always in control, He knows what is going on, He cares deeply about you, and He will always be by your side. He gives you strength to withstand anything you face, but you must first believe and have faith in Him. And, as a result, you will find incredible peace.

3. Teach your kids about God. Many parents do not take their children to church, or they do take their children to church, but that’s where their Christian education ends. Do not depend on churches to train up your children. That’s your job. Talk about God and His blessings all the time to your children, pray with them at night, read them Bible stories. Let them hear how God has blessed you.

4. Pray. All the time. For your kids, for your family, for your city, for your country, for your pastors and church workers, for everybody. And pray with your kids - out loud!

5. Finally, get involved in your world. Write to your congressmen or representatives about issues that are important to you. Campaign for your favorite candidate and if you cannot find one, then consider running for office yourself. Do not bury your head in the sand and wish that things were different. Find out about the candidates who are running for office. Believe it or not, there are ethical people running for office. Show your children that even if you do not agree with every politician’s platform, it is still your responsibility to get out and vote. We CAN change our world for the better.

Know God - Know Peace; No God - No Peace: Helping Your Child Find Faith and Peace

I not only work with very young children, I also work with teenagers and young adults. These older kids who are devoted to living a Godly life have told me that its difficult in academic settings to maintain their stance on the Christian faith. They are like fish swimming upstream when everyone else is swimming downstream. Everywhere they look, kids are breaking rules, being disrespectful, lying and cheating, and even making fun of them. What is surprising is that some of these kids attend private schools, where the behavior (though better) is still not ideal. Our world is quickly becoming a dangerous place for Christians who want to live the way that Christ did.

What is also sad for me to hear is that many of these older kids have little to no knowledge of the great Bible stories that help build our faith. Stories about Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 6:11-17) who was given sight to see the army of God encamped around his enemies; or David’s great sin and God’s great forgiveness (2 Samuel 11 & 12). For a better listing of the great people of faith, look at the Who’s Who listing in Hebrews 11 and read about all of these regular people who did great things because of their faith in God.

What God can do with one heart turned over to Him is amazing. But just making a commitment to follow God is not enough. These kids need to be strengthened in their faith and held up by our prayers for them. The parents that I meet with have a desire to help their kids, but many of them admit that they do not go to church regularly nor do they read their Bibles. I tell them it’s like flying on an airplane that is running low on oxygen. When the masks come down, they will give the oxygen to their kids, while they don’t get the oxygen they need to help their kids. 

Teenagers are very confused with our world today. Parents need to be able to answer their questions with truth. But what I am seeing is that the parents can be just as confused as their children are. I’ve even heard some parents say that they want their kids to find their own way spiritually - so the best thing they can do is to let them figure it out on their own. 

The one thing that is certain: God loves us and is still working miracles today. The devil is doing his best to gain control of our world. All the hatred and killing is not the work of God, but the devil. If we don’t educate our kids to know the difference, they will end up “going their own way” and never learn the truth about God’s tremendous love for them. Every child is born with certain gifts that God can use. When kids come to me with serious depression or suicidal thoughts, I remind them of this fact. This encourages them because it’s something they don’t often hear. 

If you feel that you are struggling as a parent, please know that you are not alone. Raising kids in today’s world is extremely difficult. But know that God wants to help you by equipping you to stand firm against the evil winds that blow your way. Go to church, pray continually for help, read your Bible (and get one that you understand). Or go to a counselor who can help you (and your children). In spite of all we see in our world today, God still gives us peace. 

A Mother Thanks A Father

As we celebrate Father’s Day each year, I want to write about the importance of fathers. I looked through a few books I have on fathering. I thought of advice I could give to fathers. I thought about my own father and the example he set for me. But then I thought about my kids and how well they have turned out (ages 25 & 22). I realized I could not take credit for who they are today - because I was not the only one who raised them. So I decided to write a thank-you letter to the man who was a father to my children. I hope you get a blessing from this.

Thank you, first and foremost, for wanting to be a father from the start.
Thank you for loving our kids and letting them know you loved them.
Thank you for spending time with them often, and enjoying it.
Thank you for your endless patience with them when they made mistakes.
Thank you for taking them to the park to fly kites or their remote control plane, instead of going to the golf course.
Thank you for spending countless hours with them helping with homework (especially math).
Thank you for cooking dinner for them when I worked late.
Thank you for teaching them how to cook.
Thank you for working so hard to provide for our family.
Thank you for all your early morning calls from the office because you wanted to hear the sounds of breakfast at home.
Thank you for taking the kids out for donuts on the weekends.
Thank you for coaching soccer, basketball & baseball - and being a great example of what a coach should be.
Thank you for attending countless school & theatre events with enthusiasm.
Thank you for instilling in the kids a love for animals (especially dogs!).
Thank you for being the kids’ best cheerleader no matter what they attempted to do.
Thank you for loving their mother (me)!
Thank you for teaching the kids about God and setting such a great example of what a father is.

My children had the best dad in the world. Unfortunately, they lost their dad too early (to cancer). Yet their dad still took the time to bless them and encourage them before he died. I know they would give anything to have him back in their lives right now.

To all you dads out there, hug your children. Let them know how much you love and adore them, no matter what they do (or don’t do). Be their example of what a father should be. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Take them to church and teach them about our Heavenly Father. If you do these things, your children will be blessed.

                                              Adam, Courtney, John (Dad), and Sprite

What Am I Supposed To Say? (How to Understand Your Young Child's Questions)

Kids are inquisitive and ask many questions. This is important, because it’s one of the ways they learn. But should all of a child’s questions be answered every time? 

Many parents come to me for advice on this issue. Trying to be good role models, they attempt to be truthful with their children at all times. However, some information is not meant for little minds and therefore needs to be delayed a few years. So what do you tell a small child when he/she asks an important question?  Here is some helpful advice:

Listen for what the child is really saying. When a child asks a question, he/she is basically communicating something to you. Listen for the emotion behind the question. Recently, a mother of a 4 year old contacted me because the child’s father had been put in jail. The father had been absent most of the child’s life and there wasn’t much of a bond there.  However, the child would occasionally ask where daddy was. The mother didn’t want to lie, but she knew the child would not understand the entire truth. When I asked her what she thought the child was really saying, she said she thought her child missed daddy. One response to “Where is daddy?” for this particular child would be, “You are really missing your daddy right now.”

Wait for the child’s response. Once you identify the feeling and what the child is really saying and you have communicated this to the child, wait for the child’s response. In some cases you will be dead wrong. The child says, “No, I want to go to Chad’s party this weekend instead of going with daddy.” In most cases, the child will feel relieved that the parent understands what they are feeling and the questions will stop. Or the child might say, “Yes, because he promised to take me to the park” - or something that further clarifies what they are feeling. Children don’t often mean what you think they are asking. 

Choose your next words carefully. If identifying your child’s feelings seem to do the trick, you’re pretty much good to go. However, some children continue to ask their questions until they get the response they want. In the example above, the child might respond, “Yes, but where IS daddy?” It is important to continue finding out what your child is really saying by digging a bit. You might say, “You’re REALLY wanting to know where your daddy is.”  Then wait again. If the line of questions continues, you will eventually have to give them a truthful answer. But sometimes the child may further clarify why they are asking, “Yes, because I drew him a picture and I want to give it to him.” When you dig a bit more and learn more of the emotion behind the question, you can give the proper response: “Well, why don’t we put it in an envelope and mail it to him? I’ll bet he will love to get a surprise from you in the mail!”

Only answer the questions your child is asking. By taking the time to find out exactly what your child is asking, many times you will feel relieved to know that you did not have to divulge information that was too advanced for your child. The child will feel relief because the simple question they were asking was actually answered for them. 

When I work with children, I never answer their questions without digging for more information. I often get, “Do other kids come to play in here?” To which I respond, “You’re curious about that.” If the line of questions continues, I understand that the child really wants to know if others come in my playroom. Then my response is “Yes, other kids come to play in here.”

Take the time to fully listen to your children so you can give an appropriate response.
“The wise heart will know the proper time and procedure...for every matter.” Eccl. 8:5-6 NIV

Precious In His Sight

Does God really care about all of us? Does my life have meaning? Many of us wonder about this from time to time. I have helped many people over the years find meaning in their lives. But I want to share a part of my God story.

After I graduated from LSU, I worked in Lafayette briefly, then moved to San Jose, California. Far from home and the people who loved me, I quickly got into bad habits that were not good for me. I was hanging around with the wrong people who never went to church. Because I had asked God into my heart while a student at LSU, I tried to find a church, but would often sit in the back and would never fill out the visitor information because I didn’t want anyone to contact me. It was a downhill spiral. But one day as I was driving to work, I saw a billboard that Billy Graham was coming to San Jose. I knew of Billy Graham because my dad used to always watch his crusades on TV as I was growing up. I felt that God sent him just for me. I asked my boyfriend to drive me there and his reply, was “Ok, but who is Billy Graham?”

I remember the topic of the sermon that Billy Graham preached.  His message was something like  “You have no idea how long you have to live, so why wait? Come to Jesus today!” I felt so convicted that I quickly walked the aisle and rededicated my life to Christ. While walking down the aisle, I heard God say to me: “Get out!” I realized that I had been running from God for a long time. That was the beginning of my Christian walk. I obeyed God by getting out of California and moving back down south, but I went to Texas instead of back home to Lafayette. I got involved in a church and started going to Bible studies.  

The best Bible study I’ve ever attended was Bible Study Fellowship (www.bsfinternational.org) (I’m currently attending a BSF class here in Lafayette now!) I learned of God’s amazing love for me, and also that He had a purpose for me. It was God who told me that my purpose was to be a Christian counselor. I had to go to graduate school and go through all the steps to become licensed, but once I did, I knew that this was my calling.  

I absolutely love what I do. I love hearing people’s stories and I love helping them make sense of their world and find their way back to God. Everyone has a purpose and everyone is precious to God.  

Do you believe that you are running from God because of mistakes that you have made? Then do yourself a favor and go back to church. Get involved in a Bible study to find out Who God is and how much He loves you. Then buckle up your seat belt, because you will find that God will take you on the most joyous ride of your life and do amazing things through you.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What To Do After What You've Done - Repairing Your Parenting Mistakes

One of the best things I learned years ago when I began working with children was: “The important thing is what you do after what you’ve done.”  Face it; there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We can try as hard as we like, but eventually we will say or do something that puts us way below our imaginary pedestal. We think we’ve got it down pat, but eventually our kids wear us down and we blow up. The hardest time in my life was parenting my kids in their early years. They had the energy of a litter of 6-month-old puppies; they talked non-stop, had a million questions, and seemed to always be either hungry or bored. And I wanted to be the best mom on the planet. But I have to admit; there were days that I just wanted to stay in bed and sleep. Here are some helpful things I learned along the way.

  1. Pray for help! When my daughter had left her lunch in the carpooler’s car one morning in kindergarten (after many reminders by me to not forget it), she called to let me know. I was so frustrated by this that I told her she would have to go without her lunch that day. Then (of course), I felt horrible after I hung up. I cried out to God in prayer, “Lord, help me, because I don’t think I can raise this child!” Then, in a very small, quiet voice, I heard, “You’re right. You can’t, but I can.” That was the beginning of my resolve to pray every morning for me to be a better parent to both my kids. (And the Mom driving the carpool got home, saw her lunch in the backseat, and brought it up to the school for her.)
  2. Get help! I’ve heard it said and come to believe, that the child who is the most like you is the one you have the most difficulty with. This was true about my daughter. We could be clones because we both wanted the last word and could talk anyone’s ear off. So when we had a disagreement, she knew how to punch my buttons like no other. Sometimes I would lose my cool, but I always knew to ask my husband (Mr. Level-headed) if he would go talk to her and comfort her until I calmed down. This was what helped to bond them to each other. Then, after I was calm, I would usually apologize and we would talk things out. The advice above was always implemented here – I always apologized for whatever I had done to upset her and I always let her know how much I loved her. No matter what your children do to upset you, never leave them alone or send them to bed to wonder if they are loved or not. Always end up showing love to them.
  3. Come up with a plan! I have taught parents for years to have a plan of action when it comes to kids and discipline. If you just shoot from the hip, you won’t have the consistency needed to teach them life lessons. Kids have to be taught to share toys, to save their money, to wait for things they want, to behave in public, etc. I give behavior charts to parents and many times I’ve heard, “We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.” This is where I show them how to use it in a way that works. It teaches children to work on problems in their behavior, to learn how to do chores, to feel proud when they see what their work has earned them, and to save up their money to spend on things they want. It was such help for our children. They both learned the value of money and of saving and tithing. And it made them both more conscientious when it came to helping to keep the house clean by picking up their toys. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Don't Lie to Me - How to Get Your Teens to be Truthful With You

“Parents teach their children to lie by the way they react to the truth.”

   When parents complain to me that their children often lie to them, I say it’s probably because they’ve taught them to lie. These parents look at me like I’m crazy when I say that. But it’s true. Children are taught to lie by the way some parents react to the truth.

   It starts when they are little. Your toddler comes into the room with chocolate stains on his mouth. You ask him if he ate a cookie (that he wasn’t supposed to eat). He tells the truth and says “yes”. Then you over react and punish him, instead of calmly explaining that he disobeyed and won’t get a cookie after dinner (or some gentler consequence).  Your over reaction leads him to think, “That wasn’t the correct answer. Next time, I’ll say ‘no’.”

   Children are constantly looking to their parents for guidance, so when they initially are honest yet still get in major trouble, they learn that honesty doesn’t work. Parents need to remember to model good behavior and reasonable consequences for their kids. When parents start responding calmer to truth when their kids are small, eventually those kids grow up to trust their parents with hard things and to be more honest as teenagers. When there is no trust, teens turn to their friends instead for guidance.

     When asked a difficult question that kids would normally lie about, I teach them to say to their parents (instead of lying): “I don’t want to tell you”, or “I’m afraid to tell you.” This is a huge signal to their parents that they want to stop lying and be truthful . I also ask kids to come to their parents initially with: “There’s something I need to tell you that you’re not going to like.” The tough part now rests on the parents. As parents, you have to let your child know that no matter what they say next, you will remain calm and not over react. (If you have to go to another room to calm down, then do so. It’s better than yelling at your child.) 

   Next, parents need to let their child talk and explain what happened. Do not interrupt them, but show a genuine interest in what they are saying. The important part comes with two crucial questions that every parent wants to know:

               1.  What did you learn from this? 
               2.  Are you going to do this again? 

   Usually your child will answer these two questions truthfully and will have learned a valuable lesson from whatever happened. However, if they are flippant and don’t seem to have learned anything, a consequence might need to be implemented to teach them not to do this again.

   Truth doesn’t always need to result in punishment. If your child makes a mistake that results in a negative consequence, chances are your child has already learned his lesson. So to come behind this lesson with a harsh punishment will only cause your child to resent you for being ‘mean’. A good example of this is the classroom. When kids get in trouble at school, they have already had their punishment by the time they get home. If it’s a one-time incident, you probably do not need to re-punish; however, if it is a repeated behavior that constantly gets your child in trouble, you have a deeper issue that may need to be addressed in counseling.

   As a parent, a good rule of thumb is “Remain Unshockable”. Remember, the teenage years are a test run for adulthood. Prepare for the worst when they come to you as teens with their problems, but respond with love and understanding. This will build their trust in you and they will be more likely to come to you again in the future.