Rally cry for parents on the day before school starts and the day after 2 mass shootings

DSF-ColoradoSchoolShootingHonestly, I don’t want to send them. I want to hide them in a bubble of safety and happiness. But I have no such magic powers.

I do have the King of heaven’s attention though. He hears me. I know he does. And he promises to not abandon me or my kids. So, in this violent culture, on the day before I’ll send my two sons to high school, I have a burden for the King of heaven’s armies to hear my cries for my kids and my friends’ kids.

Yesterday a group of youth were in my backyard making the most fun they could out of the heat with sprinklers, a tarp, dish soap and a nine-square frame. As they were leaving I said, “I’ll be thinking of you all this week,” and I meant it. I remember being 14, 15, 16 and 17. Those years were the curb in the road that changed the direction of the rest of my life. Those were the years I was most confused. Those were the years I lost a friend to suicide and took a bunch of pills to try and sleep away the pain. Those were the years I tried to fit in by being different. Those were the years Jesus found me and named me and made me brave. The boys and girls who walked out my door yesterday will face all kinds of hard things in the years ahead. A mass shooting could be one of them. Lord, please keep them!

Moms and dads, you and I don’t have any magic powers to keep our kids from walking into a place where a mass shooter or any other evil might show up. We don’t even have the power to keep the evil of a demeaning lash at our kids from creeping out of our own hearts onto our tongues. We desperately need a hope bigger than the control we think we have or want to have in our kids’ lives. Join me today in committing to doing these three things. Not because they are part of the formula that’s sure to produce a safe, happy and godly child. But because the God who gave his son over to death to save us, calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Death will not win when we take the road that follows Jesus through death to resurrection.

Don’t hide the Jesus that died for your sin and the sin of your children from your kids!  

I don’t know the circumstances around the writing of Psalm 78, but the writer calls the reader to remember all God has done for them despite their faithlessness. He reminds the reader that God has commanded his people not to hide the hope we have in God from the next generation.

Moms and dads, our kids are not going to hear the hope their souls long for in the world. They need us to tell them!

I think so many times we as parents fail to have frank conversations with our kids about Jesus because we are trying to create some ideal family devotion time. And for many of us, that ideal situation is never going to happen. I know in my home we don’t do family devotions. And sometimes I realize I haven’t mentioned Jesus or what he’s doing in my life, or a truth I’ve read in my Bible, to them for days! There’s something very spiritual-battle-ish about calling your kids to put down their screens, or stop for just a few minutes from whatever habits have taken over our lives, to look them in the eyes and say, “I want to talk to you about Jesus.”  I know the first time I did this I got some mocking and eye-rolling and deep sighs. Push through it. Don’t let their faces keep you from telling them the truth. Don’t hide the gospel from your kids just because they make funny faces.  They need to hear about their only hope- Jesus.

Listen to Them Tell You About Things That Seem Silly

I wonder if when Jesus picked up those kids the disciples were trying to keep away from him, they shoved some handmade toy they were playing with in Jesus’ face. I wonder if they wanted to play with his beard. I bet they did and I bet he listened and let them. I’m sure he didn’t say, “Go away kids! I’ve got important things to do.”

My sons talk about their quads and the fishing lures they’re using and the kind of reeds they need for band and the kind of stretches they’re doing for baseball and the cool car they’re driving in a video game. None of those things grab my attention. I’m thinking about bills and plans for work and school and church and groceries and relationships and concerns for friends and family. But as I read somewhere once, if I want my kids to want to listen to me, I must be willing to listen to them. They need to know I care about them where they are. That doesn’t mean I have to throw responsibility to the wind and play video games with them all day long, but it does mean listening to what has them so enthused, they’re willing to tell you about it.

Listen to learn what motivates them. Listen to learn what they’re afraid of. Listen to learn how to pray for them.

Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

If you want to draw the purposes God has for your child out, listen to them. Listen for what God is doing in them. Listen for evil thoughts they may be listening to. Thoughts like, “Nothing matters.” “No one cares.” “Nothing I do makes any difference.” The only way you’ll hear those things and sense those deep waters churning in their hearts is if you take the time to listen to the surface things that seem like no big deal.

Talk About the Hard Things

It drives my kids nuts, but when the thought crosses my mind I’ll randomly ask them, “How are things going with your friends? Are any of them doing drugs? Are you using drugs? What sins are you struggling with? How’s your relationship with God? Do any of your friends worry you? How are you feeling? What are you hoping for? What’s your goal?” I don’t pester them with one question after another. Actually I have. That doesn’t work. Don’t do that. But I don’t refrain from bringing these questions up just because my kids respond with disdain. Pray for wisdom, and ask questions.

You know what can’t grow in the light? Evil. My kids might hate it that I talk with them about sexuality, drugs, alcohol, parties, shootings, violence, sexual abuse, pride, sin and suicide, but I refuse to let the evil of those things do to them what they have done to so many in seclusion. If they face confusion about sexuality, drug use, violence and suicide in their life, I want them to face it armed with some wisdom and truth and the knowledge that none of that will scare me or Jesus away. I want them to know there is hope in Jesus, even when sin has caused so much damage. I want them to know when things seem hopeless, there is hope and if they can’t see it at the time, I’ll see it for them and stand guard until they pass through their shadows.

Parents we can’t control the circumstances our kids are going to face. But we can refuse to be passive in the face of evil. We can stand at the gates of hell with our kids and fight for them on our knees in prayer, and with the truth to their faces, and with open ears and fearless presence. Jesus can redeem anything. We must show our kids Jesus.


A mother’s prayer for her sons on the first day of high school

man in black and white polo shirt beside writing board
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s the first day of school around here. My 6’3″ firstborn walked out the door to start his sophomore year, hands in jean pockets, looking at his boots, one ear bud in, one draped over the other ear, baseball cap and t-shirt sporting his athletic cowboy look. My 5’10” freckle-faced, fair-skinned and just-as-sensitive-in-heart son walked out the door to face his first year in high school fretting about having to carry his clarinet and backpack, chosing to leave his water bottle behind because it made his backpack unbalanced.  They are two totally different young men.  And in my eyes, they look exactly like they did when their voices were high pitched and needy and one clung to my leg while the other chased a ball.

I don’t feel the same first day gitters about school that I used to.  I used to feel that nervous, butterflies in your stomach feeling when they would go to their grade school because I remember how it felt.  But now I feel a very real sense of danger and fear threatening.  At the breakfast table this morning, my sons were talking about why there are school shooters.  I didn’t bring it up.  This was their morning convo over a breakfast shake and tamales (yes, that was breakfast). I wanted to hide them.  I don’t want to talk about school shootings like it’s normal.  I don’t want them to go out into that world of sexting and drug trafficking, experimenting, and curiosity pressed by the pressure of peers.  I don’t want them to learn or believe that they’re just random, chance pieces of matter and that they don’t really matter.  The message of the world is so hopeless.  So deadly.  But I do have hope.

My hope is in the One who saw Moses placed by faith in a boat of his parents’ making, and handed over by his mother to a kingdom who’s worship and wealth would surely allure a young man’s appetites. My hope for my two sons is that they are not mine.  And they are not the world’s.  They are set apart for Christ.  God gave them to me, kowing I am his daughter.  And I have committed them to Christ.  My hope is that the One who hears my cries, sees their plight and is good and faithful.

I’m entrusting these two souls to you Jesus!  Please hear my cries.  I am the woman who stood praying for these two sons!  I wanted to be a mother and you gave me Connor and Ryland.  And I have dedicated them to you from their birth.  I have not hidden the message of the gospel from them. They have seen my weakness and heard me cry to you for strength. They have heard your word and have been embraced by your people.  Please show them your power and your faithfulness.  Please let them see the beauty of God in the face of Christ.  Please give them a sense today that they are set apart for you.


Why I support #RedForEd

636572404159256718-uscpcent02-6zdc69xu6pz10a2g4bna-originalThe day after tomorrow teachers across the state of Arizona are going to walkout of their schools in protest of the current state of the Arizona public education system. I have a mix of thoughts.  Mostly though, I support Arizona’s school teachers.

The rhetoric and commentary that surrounds this walkout is your typical jump-on-a-bandwagon or vilanize-someone fodder. I’m not going there.  I don’t think there is a perfect or harmless way to stand up for what’s right.  In the case of Arizona’s public education system, light needs to be shed on what’s wrong and the leaders and lawmakers of our state need to be held accountable for leading the way in a serious overhaul of the current system.  There are facts that can’t be avoided in regards to Arizona’s public school system.  There are people who will suffer because of this walkout, specifically single-parents who are trying hard and work a job that won’t allow them the freedom or resources to find another safe place for their kids while the schools are closed.  And there are people in the community, many of them teachers, who will be using these missed school days to offer free assistance and child care to support the needs of the community during this tumultuous time.

But one issue this whole #RedForEd movement has drawn my attention to, once again, is the vital role parents play in the education of their children.

I am not a homeschooler.  My two sons attend the public schools in our neighborhood. My oldest is a freshman in high school and my youngest is right behind him in the 8th  grade.  Besides the first couple years of school, my kids have been in the Arizona public schools. Most of the time they have had great teachers who took time to understand my kids as individuals, their learning styles, met with us when there were concerns, made accommodations where there were needs and just went the extra mile to light a flame of eagerness to learn in my kids.  And I am so grateful for them!  But before my kids started 1st grade I spent time at home intentionally learning their learning styles and teaching them to read and write and engage with curiosity their environment.  As the years have gone on I’ve continued to observe my kids and adapt to their needs and I’ve tried to provide the resources and tools to help them develop the God-given potential within them. The Arizona public school system is one of those resources.

For me, I can support these teachers as they seek the needed changes for Arizona’s students and educators because I know ultimately I am responsible for finding the resources necessary for my kids, and with or without a good public education system I will find them.  I don’t believe I am solely responsible for delivering every form of education my kids need, but I am responsible for fostering an environment that leads them in a love of learning and for providing them resources that help them learn best.

I know not all parents have the time or resources to spend hours at home with their kids, or to pay for someone they trust to do so.  I know that many depend on the great teachers in Arizona’s public school system to provide a safe environment for their kids to learn, and without them, their jobs and/or their kids’ safety is in jeopardy. But whether you’re a poor, single mom, or a mom like me who doesn’t homeschool and depends on the resources of good teachers of math, science, language arts, history, music, etc., to educate your kids, we as parents are ultimately responsible for our kids’ growth and development.

I’m praying as this crisis hits Arizona more parents will take an active role in their kids’ education and the church in Arizona will take more public role in helping parents raise their kids, especially single parents.

Parents are leaders.  They are teachers.  They are this first and primarily in their children’s lives whether they have good resources or not. Leaders do not do everything for those they lead, they delegate and set an example that inspires those following them to do what they envision them doing. Teachers are chief learners who invite their students to be like them- to love learning, be curious, engage their environment and ask good questions.  Parents are teachers and leaders and if we see ourselves this way we’ll guide our kids and find resources to help them grow. The teachers in the state of Arizona are one of our most valuable resources.  We need them, but we won’t put all of the responsibility for our kids’ education upon them.  That’s part of the reason why I refuse to be upset with teachers for walking out.  I support them because they are a highly valued resource for educating my kids.  I don’t want my resource destroyed, I want them flourishing.  Arizona’s government should see Arizona’s public education system that way. We should see it as a great service and resource worth investing in.

I have spent years thinking that passivity was the most peaceful way to avoid trouble and be “Christlike”.  In recent years my eyes have been opened to the falseness of that thinking. Standing for what’s right is especially the call of Christians.  Doing justly and loving mercy are not juxtaposed to each other, they are hand-in-hand with each other. The current state of Arizona’s public education system is wrong. It is right for teachers and parents to take a stand and call attention to the wrong.  It is also right for those same teachers and parents to spend time meeting the needs of the children and parents in their communities whether the government does what’s right or not. This is where I pray Christians in Arizona will stand out.  I pray we’ll not be blamers and shushers who complain out of one side of our mouths and passively do nothing out of the other side in a faux meekness that looks nothing like Christ. I pray we’ll call on the Arizona government to provide the needed curriculum, resources and reimbursement for educators that helps Arizona’s children flourish and succeed.  And I pray we’ll form co-ops and groups and free childcare and tutoring and services for those in our community who need resources and don’t have them.


The gospel when your kid screws up big time.

pexels-photo-256658.jpegBeing a believer in Christ means I believe the story that God sent his Son to be born as a baby, live the life I was meant to live in perfect love of God and others but don’t (can’t), and die as the only God-Man who’s death could absorb all the judgement of God against me and live.  I believe Jesus is who he said he is.  I believe the gospel. But what does believing the gospel look like in my everyday life?  What does believing the gospel do to me?  How does it effect my life? What does believing the gospel do when say, hypothetically (trying to preserve some privacy… for a friend), your child gets suspended from school?

I’ve found especially in the last 3 or 4 years raising my sons that my hope in the gospel effects how I respond to situations where they have done something wrong. Every time my kids screw up I have an opportunity to show them what Joseph showed his brothers, and what Jesus showed me: grace and truth.

Without the gospel, my parenting would only be an effort to manage their behavior.  Notice I said only.  Believing the gospel doesn’t mean I don’t manage their behavior.  But it’s not the only motive behind my parenting. Because of the gospel my aim in parenting is not to manage their behavior and raise them to be good citizens that make me proud.  Because of the gospel my authority in parenting is not from me, or the government, or even my child. It’s from Christ. I don’t think in terms of what makes me look good or bad or what my kids will do or not do that will be good or bad for them or me or society.  Not that I don’t want them to do good things that make me proud, but my thinking about parenting isn’t born from those tenants.  Because of the gospel, my aim in parenting is speaking truth into their lives, pointing them the direction of Jesus, and living a life laid down to build them up.  Because of the gospel I speak truth and grace into their lives.

So when they screw up big time, the gospel means I can say something like Joseph said to his brothers.  I can say, “What you did was wrong. And I love you.”  The exposing of what they did wrong, the handing down of a consequence, as well as the imparting of grace, forgiveness, and assurance of love and acceptance all say that.  They all say gospel. They point my kids to a hope greater than my or their ability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and “be good!”  The gospel of Christ is the greatest hope for any person, including moms and their kids who will at some point, screw up big time.

My kids see me screw up.  They hear me fly off the handle in anger without good cause or pout like a 43 year old woman because I’m not being cared for the way I want to be.  And the gospel allows me to sit on the bed next to them and tell them, “I was wrong and I’m sorry.  I need Jesus!”  And when they screw up, because of the gospel, less and less do I feel angry, offended, ashamed, embarrassed or disgusted.  Because of the gospel I feel more and more a confidence that says, “I’m accepted.  Discipline is love.  And I want to show you that acceptance and love.”

The gospel doesn’t cause me to poopoo my kids screw ups.  It doesn’t cause me to ignore their wrongs or sugar coat them.  It doesn’t cause me to enable them to keep doing what’s wrong either.  The gospel allows me to hand out firm discipline and boundaries that say, “You are my child! I love you! I want what’s best for you! And therefore you will suffer these consequences.”  The gospel enables me to expose their mess, not let them hide from it, and walk with them through the hard consequences that come.  And when I say, walk with them through hard consequences, that may mean staying home with them while their suspended from school, creating a day’s worth of studying for home and work.  It means laying down my life.

When Joseph’s brothers knew they were in for it cause they screwed up big time and their dad wasn’t there to shield them from Joseph’s rightful anger, Joseph foreshadowed the gospel by saying:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Genesis 50:20

That’s the message the gospel brings to people who find themselves having screwed up big time. It doesn’t excuse or ignore the evil done.  But it looks to God.  It looks to what he’s done and it brings hope to others.  Jesus said he came to give his life as a ransom for many.  He laid down his life to save us.  And when our kids do wrong, we get to be the messengers of Jesus who lay down our lives pointing them to Jesus.