Stop Being Mean

I am not a parent, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Therefore, I have all sorts of parental knowledge dripping out of me today.
a holiday inn express sign to indicate that I'm smarter today for staying in one last night
Actually, as a former youth & children's minister who gathered excellent parenting skills from TV sitcoms, I have some suggestions for you. And the suggestion is to listen to this excellent advice that was written by actual parents!

Specifically I want to share two parenting articles with you that I have run across. Today I'll share the first one which is not only helpful for parents, but is good advice to all of us. I encourage you to go and read the whole article by clicking the link or image below. This first article is about being mean, or rather why we should not be mean:
What to do when someone is being mean to your child by Sandy Cooper

this is the blog logo of the scoop on balance which has a great article on helping your kids deal with those who are being mean to them

Sandy is a skilled writer with great humor and insight in her post. Here are some of the highlights for you:

Her son said "…this kid imitated me and laughed at me. He just kept doing it even when I asked him to stop. I don’t understand why kids always make fun of me. Sometimes I just feel like the whole world hates me.”

She reminds us that One Mean Kid can make him feel like the whole world hates him.
Mean Kids carry a lot of power.

She then shared six key points with her son:
(I'm only providing a summary of four here - so to get the full scoop, you'll have to go to her post)
image of a fist punching through a window as a symbol of being mean
1. There will always be mean people. There will always be people who don’t like you…. You can’t change that. All you can do is equip yourself to deal with hate in a healthy, productive way.

2. That voice in your head that says, “Sometimes I feel like the whole world hates me” - That’s Satan. And that’s a lie. There are way more people who love you than people who don’t.

3. Kids are mean for a reason…. But almost NEVER is it because of you. Don’t ever define yourself based on the opinion of the Mean Kid.

4. And the most important point she makes: Then I leaned across the kitchen counter, looked him in the eyes and said, “If you hear anything I say today, hear this…It’s the most important thing I’m telling you: Don’t EVER be the Mean Kid. Ever. And when you see another kid getting picked on, for the love of all that is right and good, go rescue that kid. Go put your arm on that kid’s shoulder and tell him you are on his side. …You might be the only one who sticks up for him! Be THAT kid. Be the one who sees the hurting, downcast kid and RESCUES him.

That makes you just like Jesus.

Wow. Excellent advice. And not only for kids. I need to remember this as an adult. And I need to share this idea with other people I know. Parents, be sure to share this reminder with your children. Being mean isn't being like Jesus.

May we all be more like Jesus.

And don't ever be the mean kid.

Humanism vs. Jesus

"The danger for Christianity at present is that it should become secularized, worldly, reduced to a kind of socialist humanism.This is not what the world needs; and, if Christians were reduced to offering the world only this humanism, they would soon

da Vinci's drawing of the human form which was a symbol of humanism

da Vinci's human form drawing has often been used as a symbol for humanism

be set aside and rightly so, since there have always been socialists, teachers of morality, and organizers of society: they have rendered service, but they have never saved anyone. The world today does not need greater social organization but a Savior: man today needs someone who will answer the fundamental problems of his existence, which no social structure has ever been able to answer."

While this is an apt description of today, this quote was actually written about 50 years ago by Jean Danielou. Fifty years after it was first written, we find it perhaps more relevant than ever before.

With all of the talk of politics these last months, along with our focus on human leaders and human institutions, we definitely need to be reminded that what the world needs today is a Savior.

Who we need is Jesus.

Certainly we can have opinions on matters, but let us not allow our opinions on worldly systems, institutions, or people to somehow attempt to merge Christianity into some form of humanism. Instead, as Christians, let us keep our main focus in all of our discussions centered on the fact that Jesus is more than a teacher of morality and more than an organizer of society. He is the Savior of the world.

The Transactional Relationship – What Can You Do For Me?

a street in the suburbs to go along with the idea of life with transactional relationshipsIn his book, Death by Suburb, David Goetz indicates that American Christianity has drifted into a focus on success and prosperity and the fulfillment of the American dream. The suburbs developed as a place where those with sufficient means could escape some of the unpleasant circumstances of both city and country life (not living in the stress of the inner city, but also not living too far away from modern conveniences). Doing so provides the residents of the suburbs with a high level of comfort, and now we have allowed comfort and security to become idols for us, discouraging us from doing anything uncomfortable for God. This suburb mentality has infiltrated our Christianity and taken our focus off of radical and dangerous living for Christ and His mission.

Which brings us to the transactional relationship. One toxic mindset we've developed is: "What will this relationship do for me?” But God encourages us to build deep and meaningful friendships without looking for a better return on our investment. Goetz says:

"In suburban life, we live by the transactional relationship – we are quick to give a helping hand to the man on a ledge a little higher up – so that we can benefit from what they can give us later. Intimacy is the one thing in suburban church that everyone craves but few seem to have. You can't use transactional relationships and expect to experience in them the kind of friendship that sweetens life and takes the edge off its hard parts. In true friendship (non-transactional), I can feel the grace of God where I experience what it means to be accepted not for the value that I add but for the value I am."

Are you looking to build relationships only with those who can provide you something in return? When you think about serving someone, do you have the thought in the back of your mind, "How will this provide me with a possible benefit in the future?"

Jesus said: "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment…."

Stop investing only in Transactional Relationships and begin investing in people for the simple facts that they were also created in the image of God, that they are loved by God, and that God calls you to love them too.

God is More Powerful than Me, But I'm Not So Sure He's Wiser

drawing of three wise men with quote "wise men still seek him" - reminding me of the need to be wiser
"We are accustomed to admit freely that God is more powerful than we are, but not that He is wiser than we are. To be sure, we may say that He is; but when it comes to a showdown, we do not want to act on what we say."
--Martin Luther

Martin Luther nails me pretty hard with this statement. Certainly I can affirm that God is all-powerful. I can even say that I believe He is wiser than me. But I don't live as if it is true. When I know what God tells me to do and yet refuse to do it, then I am saying that I am wiser than God, that I know best for my life. In that moment, I'm asking Him to come off the throne because He isn't sufficiently wise to run my life. I take back control and run my life the way I think is best.

So mentally I can agree that God is wise and that He knows best, but practically I live as if I am wiser than God. I'm hoping that someday soon I can get my mental knowledge and my practical behavior to converge and line up together.

Courage to Do the Right Thing when Others Push in the Opposite Direction

Doing the right thing will cost you. This is true no matter who you are, but I especially noticed this reality with high school students where the number of people you can interact with is limited to the people in your school and/or class. Any student who is willing to leave their comfort zone to reach out to someone who has very few friends finds out that it can be social suicide. You quickly get labeled as "weird" if you try to be a friend to a person who everyone else ridicules.

Photo by lauramusikanski at Morguefile.com


Any student who is willing to do the right thing, even when everyone else is pushing them to do the wrong thing, is a hero in my book. It takes a lot of courage to do the right thing when your peers are pushing you toward the opposite direction. When I was a youth minister, I saw a few students willing to step up and reach out to others no matter the social pressure, and I was always impressed. I also saw a whole lot of students doing just the opposite - caving to the pressure to do the wrong thing.

How many of us have ever let someone push us down the wrong path, push us into doing something we knew we shouldn’t do, but we let them pressure us into doing the wrong thing anyway?

I had plenty of times where I did just that – let people push me into doing the wrong thing, even when I knew it might get me into trouble and knew for certain that God didn’t want me to do it. Why are we so weak when it comes to standing up for what is the right thing?

One of the areas where we can really mess this up is our striving to fit in. To make sure we fit in, we might find ways to make sure that those who don't fit in very well are "made fun of" even more. We pick on those who have less friends than us, less money than us, less fashionable clothing than us just so that we can feel better about ourselves. And even if we don't do it to their face, we find ourselves engaging in conversations behind their backs so that we lift ourselves up and put them down in the eyes of those around us. Why is it that just to fit in, we are willing to join in making fun of others?

Take a stand for what is right. It'll cost you some social status. But I have found out that doing the right thing often will.

Seriously? God Expects Me To Give Up My Goals For His?

God, do You really expect me to give up some of what I want for the things that You want?

The truth is that if we are serious about something, then absolutely we will give up things that we want. We see it occur every day, even with students in high school who are involved in activities such as:

kids playing baseball who had to give up some time and effort to play the game

Photo by matthew_hull at Morguefile.com

  • Football players, basketball players, baseball/softball players – Anyone involved in sports – they give up their leisure time, they give up sitting around on the couch, they give up air conditioning so that they can be yelled at by their coach, run laps, sweat buckets, bang into people, hurt their bodies, and engage in practice, practice, practice. Yeah, they give up some of their desires to reach the goals they have with their team.
  • Band members, Choir members, Drama team members – Anyone involved in artistic endeavors – they also give up their free time to be coached by a leader, learn strange body movements or marching patterns, get callouses & blisters on their fingers, hands, and feet from so much practice. Yeah, they give up some of their desires to reach the goals they have with their art.
  • Boyfriends & Girlfriends – Anyone who is in a relationship – they give up time with some of their closest friends to get to know this other person, they give up some of their money to buy things for this other person, they give up some of their own desires to meet the desires of the other person and reach the goal of a great relationship.
  • And as adults, we do this for our jobs, our marriages, and our children. Every day we give up things that we desire to reach the goals that we have in another area of life.

    What God is asking you to do, is to realize that His goals for your life are so much better than any goal that you could possibly come up with in your wildest dreams. And when we come to that realization, we will come to understand the need to give up our own desires to take hold of God’s desires for us. Yes, He wants you to give up your desires to reach the goals that He has for you – because His goals will lead to a life of peace and joy because of your relationship with Him. Not a perfect life - not one without trials or without pain – but a perfect love – the love of God toward us and our love back to Him.

    One of my favorite movie quotes is from Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own – about the women’s baseball league that was started during World War 2. He was talking to someone who was quitting the baseball team. She told him that it just got too hard. And he looked at her and said: "Too hard? It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard...is what makes it great."

    You know, giving up your desires for a greater goal is hard. Many people won't do it. Many people will never see the need to give up anything they desire for something someone else wants. And yet, that is what life with God is about. Giving up our small desires for a life with grand purpose - a life with meaning, a life with true love.

    To give up your dreams for God's is hard, but it is worth it.

    Love God With All You Are - Heart, Mind, Soul, Strength

    Jesus said that we are to love God with all that we are – with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
    Sign showing How to love God - with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength
    What does that mean exactly?

    Love Him with your Emotional Life (heart). We will not let emotions rule us. For example, we will not let anger turn into revenge or cruelty; instead we will allow our emotions (such as compassion) to lead us to do His good will.

    Love Him with your Intellectual Life (mind). We will not fill our minds with garbage, as God wants us to think on the things that are pleasing to Him. But so often we fill our minds with trash almost every day – music, movies, tv, internet – I've heard it said this way: You can't "pick up a piece of poop from the clean end" - and yet it seems we keep trying to do that with some of the stuff we are putting into our minds. (Just be glad today's picture wasn't tied to this paragraph!)

    Love Him With your Spiritual Life (soul). We will not hold onto any idols. Many want to say, "God I'll give you everything except for _______." (Simply fill in the blank with: my money, my relationship with this person or people, my desire for popularity, my dreams, my occupation.) Give God anything and everything that tries to compete with your attention toward Him.

    Love Him with your Physical Life (strength). We will not let our physical desires rule us either – not in lust, not in what we put into our bodies. Instead we will use our physical bodies in a way that promotes purity and self-control and brings glory to God.

    Make the commitment to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength today.