Friday, May 1, 2009

Eye 2 Eye: Homesick

By Bishop Charles Scott
In the words of Snoopy, “It was a dark and stormy night.” At least it was dark and a storm was going on inside the emotions of a 9-year-old boy who was desperately homesick. Every summer this lad was toted off to a camp in the Boston Mountains in Northwest Arkansas for a week of adventure, fun and learning. The days were filled with canoeing the creeks and streams, hiking in the Boston Mountains (some of the most beautiful views in the world!), swimming in Lake Fort Smith and fishing the tributaries. The activities made the camp some of the greatest times in the life of this boy. That is, until night came. Night brought shadows of creeping things and sounds that went bump in the dark, and the separation from home became more than a youngster could bear.

Perhaps you have also suffered from the malady of homesickness. The symptoms are severe:
  • A fear you will never see loved ones again;
  • An intense longing to be in your bed, under your roof with your
  • A trepidation that something dramatically perverse is about to
  • A sensation in the heart you cannot explain, but which will not go
  • A feeling causing tears that will not stop, panic that will not be
    assuaged, and terror beyond any known phobia of man.
Many youth in America have never suffered from homesickness. They have never felt the loneliness of being away from Mom and Dad because Mom or Dad does not live at home, or else they do not even have the privilege of knowing Mom or Dad. They have never felt the pangs of anxiety grip their emotions, perhaps because they never had the privilege to attend a youth camp or enjoy a weekend retreat away from home. They have never felt stinging tears stream down their cheeks as they cried to be held by their loving parents, because no one has ever wrapped their arms around them and kissed their brow into the presence of sweet dreams. These youth are not advantaged; they are not fortunate; they are not blessed; rather, they are deprived, disadvantaged and denied.

The sad truth is that the lack of health in the home is poisoning the entire society in which we live. The dysfunction in the home has eroded the foundation of Christian values, leaving a mudslide of immorality to place the next generation on the slippery slope of seduction. The home must provide a God-ordained structure based on the biblical definitions for the roles of father, mother and children. Holy order is the result of holy structure; disorder is the result of disobedience.

The order starts with the father. Fathers must provide the spiritual covering for the home. A father cannot be replaced by a video game, a gang or an older sibling. A father has been given divine authority to protect his home, guard his marriage and educate his children in the ways of the Lord. Christian fathers belong to a sacred sect with the privilege of leaving a godly heritage for future generations. It is the role of the father to bring his home into its divine purpose. The first home in Genesis reveals that God ordained the man to take dominion over everything, exercise authority over every outside entity and function within his divine purpose. A man who does not know his own divine purpose cannot pass divine purpose to his children. The biblical truth is that a man should not marry until he is certain of his divine purpose. The role of a father is to connect his family to the purpose of God. While it is a crude saying (and please forgive its crassness), the truth is, “Any dog can have puppies; it takes a man to be a father.”

Nadya Suleman has become a household name. Perhaps you know her better as “Octomom,” the mother of 14 children, who recently conceived octuplets via in-vitro fertilization. Suleman is unmarried, unemployed and unchurched. She is the mother of 14 children by a biological father who is absent from the home. She confessed to a passion for children but no desire for marriage. With all due respect to this individual, her actions reveal a plague in modern society—the thought process of “I can get what I want, when I want, and how I want without accepting responsibility for my actions.” Her actions reveal how insolence toward divine order breeds an atmosphere for perpetual immaturity.

Long ago, as a pastor I learned a lesson that remains true today: the Church cannot resurrect what the home puts to death.

Nighttime has fallen for the American home, but hope can come with the arrival of a new day—a day that can remove the pains of the night and cause one to forget the bitter tears and fears of loneliness. Night can slip away and a day can arise that will restore reverence for God, respect for each other and revival to the House of God—a day so bright we will all see eye to eye.

Rediscovering Your Family

By Vernell Ingle
“And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” Malachi 4:6 (NKJV).

Relax, take a deep breath, close your eyes, clear your mind (don’t nod off) and go back in time. Now recall one of the happiest memories of your childhood with your family. Usually there are two common features when recalling such a warm experience. First, it probably took place outdoors; and secondly, it was simple. More than likely, it was not an elaborate or expensive event, but nonetheless, it was fun.

Four days in the summer of ’58, when I was 9, our family went camping for the first time, and I’ve never forgotten the experience. Near the coast of California, in the redwoods, playing on the beach, hiking, simple but tasty meals around the campfire, exploring, and just enjoying the great outdoors made a huge impact on my life. When I grew up and had a family of my own, guess what was our favorite thing to do? Some of our most memorable family experiences have been our annual camping trips.

Obviously, not everyone enjoys camping, but there are all kinds of simple pleasures in life that families can enjoy together. Whether it’s a camping trip, playing catch in the yard or a family game night, the important thing is that healthy families spend time together. Healthy families not only take time for each other, but they enjoy their time together. This doesn’t just happen; they make it happen. Such families are just as busy as any other family, but their family is top priority.

A young boy with destructive behavior was asked by the family counselor, “If you could have anything you wanted, what kind of reward would you be willing to work for?” The boy responded without hesitation, “Most of all I would like to go on a fishing trip with my dad.” Making family top priority requires a mindset. This means that we will do whatever is necessary to provide adequate time for our family. What time we do spend together should entail both quality and quantity of time.

Imagine paying good money for a steak dinner, and then the waiter brings you a one-inch-square steak. You obviously protest, but the water responds by saying, “It’s not the quantity but the quality that counts.” No pun intended, but you are not going to buy that. In fact, when it’s all over, the waiter might be wearing a beef eye patch! Meaningful family relationships require both quality and quantity of time.

In February 2006 Family News from James Dobson reported that Americans are the most overworked and vacation-starved people in the industrialized world, and that we are working ourselves to death. Obviously, this is a major contributor in the breakdown of the family. The home ends up being a boarding house where family members just eat and sleep.

Dobson quoted George Barna in regards to this trend, “…The lives of each family member are usually so jam-packed that the opportunity to spend time together doing unique activities—talking about life, visiting special places, playing games and sharing spiritual explorations—has to be scheduled in advance. Few do so.” In our fast-paced, high-tech, harried lifestyle, spending quality time together as a family may seem like a monumental task. The fact is, it is doable. The question is how bad do we want it? If your family is top priority, you’ll take the time.

Here are five practical suggestions for rediscovering and enjoying time with your family:

1. Initiate activities that promote communication. This may mean that we need to curb our use of the TV, video games, iPods, computers, text-messaging, and whatever else promotes isolation. This does not mean that all these new technologies are inherently evil—they just need to be controlled. We want to make sure we are not sacrificing interpersonal family relationships. In place of these activities we might enjoy more table games, or even the new interactive Wii games in which a family can participate together.

A great place to start would be to take meals together whenever possible. In our home Sunday afternoon meals were taken around the table. That was our special time together. The TV remained off, the answering machine was turned on, and it communicated loudly and clearly that our family time was important. This continued after our children married; it simply turned into a tribal meal rather than just a family meal!

Go for family walks or take trips to the park. Look for creative ways to provide times and places where you can talk. Have family councils where you involve the whole family. Take time for discussion and questions and answers. Deal with areas of strengths and weaknesses in the family and what each member can do to improve family life. You might be surprised at what you’ll discover.

2. Build each other up. It’s easy to criticize, put down, and nail someone to the floor whenever anyone does something wrong. But we also need to be quick to praise and note when someone does something right. We can look for ways to express our appreciation and encourage one another rather than take each other for granted.

As a boy, when our family was visiting my aunt and uncle, I was doing some homework. My uncle just walked up, looked over my shoulder and simply said, “You’ve got great penmanship.” That’s all he said, and then he walked away. It was a simple comment, a brief moment—but it stayed with me and I never forgot it. It encouraged me to do even better, and I did.

Someone once said, “Impression without expression leads to depression.” There are all kinds of things we can do to encourage and build each other up. You can use sticky notes, text messages, or even old-fashioned snail mail! Celebrate your lives together. Make special days, such as birthdays, a big deal. We used a special plate that was given to us from Josh McDowell that read, “You are special and loved,” with a Scripture engraved on it. At different times each family member was given that plate to use for special occasions in their lives.

This past Christmas most of our family was with us, and we didn’t have enough holiday plates to go around. So, I lovingly got the plate down and used it for myself—I don’t understand why the family reacted the way they did?

Be involved in the lives of your children. If possible, both parents should attend parent-teacher conferences and the school’s open-house. This sends a message to your children that they are important. As parents we can build a complex or create confidence.

3. Promote family roots and identity. It is important to stay in touch with extended family. There is a sense of family rootlessness and disconnection today like never before. Families are busy and more mobile than ever. Such rootlessness, disconnection and mobility can contribute to insecurity and instability in one’s life.

Make time for grandparents and great-grandparents, and allow them to relay their stories. Go through the old photo albums together and update them. Visit the places from your past. Learn the history of your family and create a heritage corner with photos of previous generations.

Years ago our family took a day, packed a picnic lunch and visited all the places where we, our parents and our grandparents lived. We actually came across the house where my grandparents (my children’s great-grandparents) lived. I couldn’t believe it was still standing! I got out of the car (the house was vacant), but there was a city truck there. An elderly gentleman met me and, after I explained why I was there, he excitedly claimed that he knew my grandpa and the Ingle family. Amazingly, he told us that within three days the city was going to raze the house. I was glad we took that day to share with our kids some of their family history. This gave our children a sense of identity and connection.

4. Do out-of-the-ordinary things. Don’t be afraid to get down and crazy with your kids at times. Take a family skip day; keep a kid out of school and go do something special (I have to say that this should not be common practice, since I’m married to a teacher). Get the sleeping bags out and have everyone sleep in the family room or pitch the tent in the backyard. Have an all-night video or game night.

There were times when our boys would invite their friends over and they would all bring their Risk games (military strategy game to conquer the world). On the Friday nights we would have a risk tournament that would last most of the night. At the beginning, there might be four games going at once in different rooms of the house. Even after our sons were gone, their friends would still come over to play games at our house. The important thing to remember here is to break up the routine; make room for surprises and just have fun.

5. Build life-long memories. Chuck Swindoll once said that we are to build a “museum of memories.” Such memories instill a sense of well-being in our hearts.

Take those vacations—make each one a family affair and plan ahead with the whole gang. Be involved with your children in their extra-curricular activities. I had the joy of coaching all four sons their first couple of years in little league. Establish a weekly family time and protect it!

Establish meaningful traditions, especially during the holidays. Our annual Christmas treks to Santa Rosa, CA from Joplin, MO remain one of our most memorable family experiences. We would drive straight through (the record was just over 31 hours!). The kids would see who could stay up the longest with dad. On one such occasion two of the boys were still awake about 1 a.m. as we were crossing the panhandle of Texas. I had classical music playing softly while the rest of the family was asleep. Off in the distance there were flashes of lightning streaking across the sky. The lightning flashes seemed to be in perfect synchronization with the classical music. It was as if God was putting on a music video just for us. It was an awesome experience and we will never forget that heavenly light show.

But a tradition can also be something as simple as “waffle Saturdays.” Do establish traditions, for they are important to family health and individual well-being.

Years ago the late Senator Paul Tsongas, after learning that he had cancer, reevaluated his time with his wife and kids. After a rare meaningful evening with his family and realizing there may not be many more evenings like it, he famously said, “Nobody on his deathbed ever regretted saying ‘I wish I had spent more time on the job.’” Time with family is the most precious gift we can give. It is precious because you cannot get it back once it is gone.

My wife and I now live a great distance from our immediate and extended family. The walls of our house are plastered with family pictures we’ve accumulated through the years. There are many times when I sit at our dining room table and ruminate as I look at these pictures and think, as we older types do, “Where has the time gone?”

Today families are being torn apart by all kinds of external pressures. That is why we must be proactive in guarding our time with family. The choice is ours.
Through wisdom a house is built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches
Proverbs 24:3, 4 (NKJV).
John Dreschas was quoted in Delores Curran’s book, Traits of a Healthy Family:
Now is the time to love. Tomorrow the baby won’t be rocked, the toddler won’t be asking why, the school boy won’t need help with his lesson, nor will he bring his school friends home for some fun. Tomorrow the teenager will have made his major decision. Love today!

Harvest Impact: What Do We Tell Our Kids?

By Wayman Ming Jr.
A few years ago my sons and I were catching up on the sports highlights when ESPN shared the breaking news that Kobe Bryant, the star basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, was facing pending charges for sexual assault. Of course my sons began asking, “How come Kobe was arrested? Why is he in trouble?” And perhaps the more difficult question, “What did he do?” At that specific moment I was confronted by the question, “What do I tell my kids?”

The world we live in today is different than it was a generation ago. Today, music groups shout obscenities in crowded concert halls, pornography is shown in movie halls, condoms are distributed in high school halls, and nuclear holocaust is discussed in congressional halls. It’s a perilous time.

Today, we can turn our televisions on at just about any time of day and select from a menu of programs sensationalizing all kinds of distorted perceptions of marriage and family. From such messages as “sex outside of marriage is just fine” or “it’s okay to be gay,” our children are being inundated with non-biblical values. So how is it possible to confront these challenges?

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
One of the greatest needs of our children is for us to establish an atmosphere of open communication—so our kids can talk to us about ANYTHING, ANYTIME! If we somehow communicate the idea that “we’ll talk about it later,” or “we’ll talk about it when your dad or mom gets home” and then it’s forgotten, we communicate the wrong message.

The message we end up sending our kids is that the lines of communication are closed, and in the final analysis we allow them to decipher what they’re hearing through the grid of our culture and come up with their own values system and moral code of do’s and don’ts.

When my sons asked their questions concerning Kobe Bryant, I was afforded an opportunity to teach them the godly value of honoring women and the importance of living as a biblical role model to others.

Use Your Children’s Questions To Instill Core Values
Our children are a continuous classroom of learning. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we are teaching our children daily concerning beliefs, values, attitudes and actions. Consequently, the question that bears asking is, “What are we teaching them?” Are we teaching them about the greatness of God? Are we teaching them about the importance of marriage and family? Are we teaching them that they can make a difference in the world?

Looking for “teaching moments” becomes an excellent way to instill spiritual values in their lives, such as keeping your marriage commitment to your spouse or forgiving someone who has hurt you.

Teach the Purpose of Marriage and Family
In Genesis 1:27 we read, “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (NKJV).

According to Genesis 1:27, the mark of God is upon each of us. Everywhere we go—driving down the street, boarding an airplane, walking in the mall—someone should be able to say, “Look; there is the image of God.” In the next verse the Bible says, “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Genesis 1:28, NKJV).

Think about it! Having children was to be a blessing, and those children would become the reflected image of God! The very reason God created marriage and family was to reflect Himself! What a powerful thing to tell our kids—that everywhere they go, they are reflecting the image of God.

So . . . WHAT DO WE TELL OUR KIDS? That God is loving and gracious! That God created marriage as a special relationship between a man and woman! That our children have the wonderful opportunity to spread His image across the earth! And that, because of it, they can make a difference in this world!

The great theologian Sydney Bristow, from the television series Alias, made the following statement: “Vaughn, I didn’t need rational answers from you; I needed faith.” That’s what many of our children need today. They don’t need all of our answers to life; they simply need us to have a little bit of faith in them.

In an age where sports heroes like Kobe Bryant and others are disappointing them, they need some moms and dads and uncles and aunts to come along side of them and believe in them—to keep the lines of communication open, instill core values in them, and teach them the purpose of marriage and family.