Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I started reading the book of Philippians the other day. I’ve only gotten into the first chapter, so I can’t really comment on the material yet. But, that first chapter did stir a thought inside of me.

First, you have to realize that Philippians is a letter Paul sent to the congregation at one of his favorite church plants. He wrote the letter while under arrest in Rome for being Christian. The Philippian Church raised money for his defense. He was writing to thank them for their support and to encourage them to remain strong in their faith.

That’s all well and good, but the thought I had focused on the letter aspect of this book. In fact, several books of the Bible are letters written by Paul and other apostles to the faithful at various churches. What do I mean by “the letter aspect?” I simply mean to point out the language used in the introductional chapters.

When (considering today’s email society, it’s more IF than when) we write a letter, it usually goes something like this:
Dear Soandso,

How are you? I am fine. This is what has been going on in my life. Someone you know says to tell you hi. Hope this finds you well.


OK, that’s a very generic letter. But, to be honest, it has been so long since I wrote an actual letter to someone, and even longer since I received one, I can’t imagine there’s much more to them these days. Sure, there’s the family year-in-review letters that are jam-packed with tons of info about a family. And, it’s nice to get them and know what’s going on. But, what does it say about us – both the person and society – that we don’t write personal letters anymore? I mean email is great for its instant transmission. But, if you write the exact same thing on a piece of paper and mail it out, somehow it means more.

So, looking back at Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and reading how it starts off… Well, can you imagine how you’d feel getting a letter in the mail that starts off in such a manner:

2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
What would your reaction be if you got a letter in the mail that started half as elegantly? (Click on the comments to answer for yourself)

This was my thought. Imagine the joy we could bring to the world if we just send one letter a month to someone we know. First, who doesn't like getting a letter in the mail. Second, sending a letter means you took time out of your schedule in order to relate to another human being. Furthermore, that human being knows it. That right there speaks volumes to someone. Now, what if that person was suffering? How much could that letter mean to them? The power of feeling cared about and loved goes a long, long way.

I do not want to sit here and promise to start mailing people one a month. I know that I am human and something will happen that will prevent me from doing it (whether it be some tragedy or my own procrastination, or something else). But, I truly do hope that I can get into the habit. Let me restate that another way... I hope that I can prove to myself that I am not so shallow as not to care.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

UR not my dad

I've been waiting for it for 10 years now. And, it finally happened last night. I got the, "I don't have to listen to you. You're not my real dad." line. I am thankful that I had 10 years to prepare for that. I simply calmly responded, "Son, I might not be your 'dad' but I am one of your parents and the other parent agrees." That ended the trouble.

The kid's 14, and at that age were he knows everything, won't do anything, doesn't want his parents around, and hates the world - you know, a teenager. I was just like that (OMG... I just realized that was 20 years ago *shudder*). So, we just shrug off a lot of his angst because we know he doesn't really mean stuff like that.

Case in point. Last night, he also said, "Well, I'm just gonna leave and not come back," in anger. I just looked at him with an expression of, "Yeah... I'm not believing that." And he said, "Ok, I'm not really gonna do that." He was just angry at the situation he found himself in.

And what was that situation? Ah, well, he was grounded. And, he knew he was going to be grounded. You see, last weekend, he wanted a friend to sleep over. As is the rule of the house, he can have a friend sleep over if his room is clean. It's a rare occasion that someone sleeps over because when he is reminded of that rule, he takes the lazy way out and decides he'd rather not clean his room. I'm sure he told his friend the reason the sleepover wasn't going to happen was, "My dad said, 'no,'" and not the whole truth "...because my room's not clean."

Anyway, so later that day he asks if he and his friend can sleep over at someone else's house that same night. I don't think it's fair for him have a sleepover somewhere else when he was asking about a sleepover here. So, I said for him to get his room clean... which strangely enough he began with reckless abandon. He didn't finish, though, when it came time for them to leave. It was a good start on cleaning, but he had a long way to go, and I was holding firm on the room being clean. I'm such a horrible parent, no doubt...

So, a few minutes later, he wants to make a deal with me. My first thought is, No, because we've made numerous deals before and he hasn't lived up to his end of the deal. For example, over the summer, the opportunity to sleep over at a friend's house arose and he had to go right then. "Your room's not clean." "I'll make a deal with you." And, so he was to clean his room that weekend after the sleep over... Never got done and that's our bad for not following through with discipline. And that's something that is not going to happen again.

In the end, we strike a deal where he can sleep over that night (a Sunday with no school the next day) and he has until Friday at 9pm to clean and organize his room. If that feat was not accomplished, he was going to be grounded until his room was done, losing all TV privileges, all computer privileges, all Xbox360 privileges, all DVD watching privileges, all iPod privileges, and all going over to people's houses privileges. Yesterday was reckoning day.

Needless to say, he was grounded and none to pleased about it. But, he needs to learn the lesson of holding up his end of a deal and his responsibilities. In anger, he said what he said. And in anger, this morning, I'm sure he'll refuse to go work on him room. If he keeps that up, I will warn him that his cell phone will be confiscated after a certain time.

He needs to learn that in the real world there are consequences. He needs to learn that you can't just blow off your end of a bargain. That is what I am trying to teach him. As painful as, "You're not my dad, " can be, as difficult as being a parent to a hormonal teenager can be, I'm trying to keep two thoughts in mind:

Proverbs 19:18, "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death."

Proverbs 22:7, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old his will not turn from it."

These two Proverbs keep me strong. They help remind me that his words are said in anger, not what he really believes. They keep me focused on the results that won't come for 10 or 15 years.

He's a good kid. He's just a teenage one right now. He actually reminds me of me when I was that age. I think he'll be fine.

Update: (10:30am) This morning, he woke up and found me. He said, "Do you want to make some bacon with me?" But, the underlying tone and subtext was, "I'm sorry for what I said last night." We didn't have any bacon, though. Then, he said, "Well, I need to finish cleaning my room." I just smiled.

Update 2 (10:00pm): His room is clean. He took a long nap at one point. But, it's clean. :)