True Religion

James 1:27

Every year when we drive up to the hope center the kids are in the front porch clapping and cheering smiling and so happy to see us, and we are equally as happy to see them.

This year there was a noticeable difference. Many of the older kids have grown significantly in the last year. They are so beautiful and respectful and treat us like family.

Every year as they greet us and sing songs and introduce themselves, I think to myself where would they be if they didn’t have the hope center. Would some of them be dead. Died of disease or malnutrition, or lack of food? Would some of them be forever stuck in the cycle of poverty, having no education, or decent clothing or medical attention, and never be able to break out. Continuing the cycle into the next generation.

Would some be the victims of a heartless trafficker who thinks children are a commodity to be bought and sold for work or sexual perversion?

The truth is now they are safe, they are covered. They may not have parents who are alive but they have family in this hope center.

Thank God for Pastor Meng Hong and Vat dei for having the courage and strength to do this. It is our pleasure to help support them. It is our honor to come each year and have a party for the kids and distribute 3 new sets of clothes for each of them, to get them all of their school supplies, to bring them new toiletries. To get them bicycles to ride to school, to do upkeep and new projects around the home, and so much more like a washer and dryer, the installation of indoor bathrooms, an overhang so the kids can play in the shade, painting and reprinting the home, landscaping, sewing machine, to make clothes and to teach the kids.

Over these years we have supported them in a significant way by all of this and much more including money to help with ongoing expenses throughout the year.

The most fun thing though is what will happen tonight. Tonight we will throw our annual party for them. Something they don’t normally get. We eat together, we dance, we play games, we give them all their new stuff as presents. It’s truly like Christmas to them, and it’s such a joy to us.

Thank you! From the bottom of my heart Thank You! If you have supported a missionary if you have given towards projects if you have prayed for us. If you have sent a family member to come. Thank you.

We could not do this without you.

This is true religion, this is the heart of God. This is pleasing to the father.

The most important thing is that if these kids were not able to be placed in this home they would probably not know Jesus or have heard of him in any clear way.

This is great if it was just changing the life of one child but the truth is it is changing the life of generations.

This is true religion!

Parenting Requires Promise

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Promise: something that has the effect of an express assurance; indication of what may be expected.

The thing we must understand about parenting is that certain promises and assurances are assumed and expected by the child in the relationship.

When a child is born, by virtue of their birth to the person who birthed them they expect and depend on certain things to happen. They expect care. They expect love. They expect food, and teaching and training on how to talk, walk and behave. Basically, protection, and provision.

All of this is understood in this relationship. If you have children, if your a mother or father then you must be willing to promise all of this.

However effective parenting requires promise at a whole other level.

Making these promises that assure a great development for your children requires integrity.

The very idea of making a promise implies honesty. Meaning, I will keep my word. I am assuring you that what is expected will happen, my word is my bond.

So integrity is key to good parenting. It means you chase hypocrisy out of your life, and you keep your word.

We know the understood promises that we talked about earlier but to be honest those are the basics. Sadly in our culture more and more parents are failing even in these basic parent promises and kids are truly suffering as a result. In society it feels as if more and more children are raising themselves. The promise in their lives has been broken.

Beyond that though, what are the promises, parents who desire to be effective, should make?

1. Continual participation.

This is a promise that seems
To be understood but surprisingly it’s not. You can protect and provide for a child and not really participate in their lives. Some parents parent like they are observing their child’s life from outside of it. You can do things for them but not really be doing life with them. Especially as they get older.

Participation is keeping the promises that are not understood. Going beyond “doing our duty” as a parent.

I see parents all the time especially dads who have a disconnect. They are there but not really there.

It’s fine to use technology and tv and different tools at your disposal to help with your child’s development, but not in place of you. Don’t let your kids grow up knowing their favorite Disney character better than they know you.

How?

1. When your kids are small get down on the floor with them and play.

2. Be focused on your kids not other distractions. Observing your kids playing and watching tv at the same time is not participating.

3. Get involved. Start when they’re young and guide them towards things that are good for them and that they have a bent towards than get involved with them. Don’t watch them play ball only, practice with them at home. don’t just send them for music lessons go hang out with them at the music store. Have them play and sing for the family.

Understand effective parents promise participation and they keep their promises.

2. Training in spiritual things.

One of the biggest hypocrisies I see today are parents who say I send my kids to church because I want them to know what’s right but I’m not much of a church person myself.

That is not raising them right and you are sending mixed messages.

For the spiritual development of your children you need to have a relationship with Jesus yourself. You need to be connected to his church, and you need to lead your children into that relationship. Reading the bible should be a regular part of your life and praying should be your first resort. Then practice what you preach. This model creates such stability, love and positive development in your children. It has to be real however not just a behavior development plan, it has to be a true relationship with Jesus.

3. Total communication

Biggest mistake in this area is to think it doesn’t matter until they are old enough to truly talk about serious issues. Much of what your doing as a parent when your children are small is training and teaching them the proper parameters to know right from wrong with an attitude that gives them the right to be creative and live life to the fullest. A lot of parents wait until their kids are adolescent to truly start parenting. Big mistake!

You want them to be moving towards making their own decisions and taking responsibility when they are adolescent but how will they do that if there has been no real communication to that point. They must be thinking, “you haven’t placed any demands on me for 12 years but now all of a sudden I’m in chains.”

You want them at adolescence to know they can talk to you about anything, but if you haven’t really listened to or talked with them for 12 yrs why would you be their first option? Having conversation is not necessarily communication.

Communication starts immediately be a listener to your children. When that little 4 yr old is babbling non-stop remember to listen. It’s not about what she is saying its about her access to you. Remember when that pre-teen is asking questions non-stop take it seriously and don’t be impatient. Don’t ever send the message that you don’t have time. Because later when they need to talk to you they are going to assume you don’t have time.

There are so many promises we as parents should make to our children if we want to be effective. Most importantly we must keep the promises we make.

Integrity, honesty, and love are tools of the trade for parents. Make sure they are in your tool bag.

If we learn this, I promise you, your kids will follow.

Remember they do what you do more than what you say.

This blog is becoming a book, so I’ll stop here. Just remember effective parenting requires promise. Your word is your bond.

Parenting With Purpose

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Far to many of us live life in a reactionary way. Merely surviving, change that, merely existing.

Life is much more effective and meaningful when it’s lived on purpose. Parenting, like life, is much less impacting when it’s done in a reactionary way as opposed to a proactive way.

Just because we can’t control everything in life doesn’t mean we can’t control some thing’s. We can control our choices. We can control our decision making. We can control the way we approach parenting.

Having a great family doesn’t just happen. It’s intentional. Having great kids doesn’t just happen its intentional.

You might say sometimes people are intentional about parenting and their kids don’t do well. Maybe so, however you have a lot better chance of things working out better if you’re intentional about it.

Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Ephesians 6:4 MSG)

The first part of this verse tells us how not to parent. If you’ll notice the implication is that these are reactive behaviors. The second part of the verse tells us how to parent effectively, notice these are intentional purposeful behaviors. “take them by the hand and lead them.”

Don’t just have kids and hang out with them and expect everything will be fine. Decide what you expect from yourself as a parent, and what the expectations for your family are. What is your purpose? Then make choices that will accomplish that goal.

Ask yourself…

1. Do I have expectations for myself, my kids, and my family?

2. Am I letting life act on me or am I acting on life?

3. Am I taking time to think about and work out our expectations for our kids and family or are we just going along to get along?

I’m challenging myself to make daily decisions to parent with purpose and know the results will be fruitful.

How?

1. Prayer. Pray for my kids, their future, our relationship, and their purpose daily.

2. Communication. Talking to and listening to each other until we come to mutual understanding.

3. Give clear, concise, guidance and direction. In order to be purposeful, your kids must know where you stand. Hypocrisy is a parents enemy.

4. Lead to the goal. Ask yourself an honest question: if my kids follow me where will they end up?

Parent on purpose. It will release the potential in your children.

Parenting Can Be Problematic

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Problematic

1. Of the nature of a problem; doubtful; uncertain; questionable.

2. The uncertainties or difficulties inherent in a situation or plan.

If you’ve never had a major fear, or been uncertain about anything become a parent, that will change overnight.

Unfortunately because of the inherent issues that come with parenting many parents approach it like the Elephant to the mouse with utter terror.

Parenting can be problematic there is no doubt. As a parent there have been many times I’ve felt I’ll equipped. Numerous times I’ve been uncertain as to what my next move was. Countless times I’ve been just plain fearful because I can’t control circumstances where my children are away from me.

However problematic parenting is though, if we are to be effective parents we can’t approach it in fear.

Now let me say even if we approach parenting in the right way it will not change the problematic nature of parenting, but approaching it the right way will make us better parents.

Luke 2:42-52 tells the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus going with their family to Jerusalem for the census and on their way home Joseph and Mary realize Jesus is not with them. Jesus was 12 years old and He was not with them. They had gone 1 1/2 days journey and their son was gone.

Have you ever lost a child? One of the most terrifying moments in parenting is if your child gets detached from you and you have no idea where they are.

It happened to Janae and I when Taylor was only 4 years old. We were in a local mall. We had taken a couple of our friends kids with us. Janae had the little girl in the store and I had her brother and Taylor outside the store on a bench. We were just talking.

Taylor got bored sitting there with us and ask if she could go to mommy. I could see mommy right inside the store, I pointed to her and made sure Taylor could see her. Then I said, go to mommy.

She began to walk in the store, her mother couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from us. As she begin to walk to her mommy I went back to my conversation.

At least 20 minutes later Janae is through with that store and comes out where we were. She asked me, where’s Taylor? To which I replied with the same question. Then it immediately dawned on us she was gone. We started trying to figure out where she could have gone. As the realization becomes more clear i start hearing this thought in my head that you hear when children are missing. “The longer they’re gone the less chance you will find them.”

Needless to say panic gripped us. To make matters worse we were in Norman Oklahoma and the college football game just let out and the mall was filling up with people.

It’s amazing how all decorum and polite behavior goes out the window when your kids in danger. We started yelling, and asking every person we saw if they had seen her. I was turning racks over in stores, Janae was bawling and grabbing people to help. People all over the mall stopped what they were doing saw our desperation and started looking for Taylor. After what seemed an eternity the mall police walked up to us and had Taylor with them. Somehow she turned and instead of going in the store she went to the complete other end of the mall. She was headed outside when a clerk saw her and ask where her parents were she said, “I think their lost.” Although I can laugh about it now there was no humor in it then. It truly scared us.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to really lose your child and my heart sincerely goes out to those who have lost children to death or abduction. It’s like your heart is being ripped from your chest.

Can you imagine Joseph and Mary’s shear panic when they realized they had gone a day and a half’s journey and their son was not with them. When they returned they found him in the temple, debating with the religious scholars. When they asked what every parent asks, “why did you scare us like that?” his answer was clear and concise. “did you not know I must be about my fathers business?”

The bible said Mary did not fully understand what he meant but she pondered these things in her heart.

The truth is parenting is problematic. It can be so uncertain. When your kids are sick and there is nothing you can do. When you need to make a decision on behalf of your kids and you truly don’t know the best move to make. When you see the pitfalls and you’ve trained and disciplined, and encouraged and taught them but they have to make the decision and it’s beyond your control. When you go through the seasons and have to let it happen. They grow up right in front of your eyes and you make sure you participate in everything they do but it went so fast that you feel like you missed something anyway. When they mature and become independent and prepare to leave your house and it feels like they are being stolen. These are the problematic times of parenting along with so many more.

Parenting can be problematic but it is also immeasurably wonderful.

When Mary found Jesus, she realized she couldn’t control everything, but that this boy had purpose.

The wrong approach to parenting is to try to do it by fear. It will stymie your children’s life and force them into an unhealthy relationship with you.

I remember constantly saying they are growing up to fast and in prayer God rebuked me and said if you spend all this time regretting their growing up you are going to miss the beauty of it.

Don’t let fear cripple you as a parent or make you a manipulator trying to control. But let your love for God and your love for your kids rule your approach to parenting them. Train them, teach them, discipline them and most importantly believe in them and the purpose given to them by God.

How?

Pray, enjoy, participate, love and believe in them

Don’t let the problematic nature of parenting make it a nightmare, but allow the purpose and plan of God to have its complete work and let parenting be the sweet dream it can be.

Parenting is a Process

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Parenting is not about perfection, but about understanding the process of maturation. Not only for the child but for the parent.

Process is…

1. a systematic series of actions directed to some end.

2. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner:

I think it’s interesting how the first child relationship works. You have the experience of your parents to go by, or even the books you read, and lord on that first one we read every book out there. Some of which were good and others which were garbage.

Even though you have those
Experiences and the books when that first child is born its as off all that goes out the window and your begging your parents to please stay and don’t leave this baby in your feeble care as to endanger it because you have no clue as to what to do.

Any parent who have not had that fear I truly worry about. It’s at
That moment the process of parenting begins. You quickly find out how imperfect you are and realize that you’ve begun a process that’s as much about you systematically changing as it is about your baby growing.

Life is seasonal, it’s incremental and if you desire to become a great parent you’ll be patient with the process.

Baby stage-you’re getting use to the fact the you are solely responsible for the life of this little one. You can’t get
them to sleep right, they are messy, and they can do nothing for themselves.

They have the ability to reveal your weaknesses. How easily frustrated you are. How impatient and how fast you can turn on your spouse.

This season can be funny but in a very real sense terrifying.

Toddler stage-this is a fun season, they learn so many things, how to crawl, walk, talk, and completely play the angles. Yes they learn to manipulate. You find out again how imperfect you are realizing you can be yanked around by your emotions by a little 20 lb twerp.

Believe it or not I think it’s at this stage I most parents forget the process all together and make some of our biggest parenting mistakes.

Pre-school stage-this stage is fantastic and fun as well as a full on Frenzy. Many times it’s at this stage parents will have another child and deal with school preparation and releasing their child into the real world. The process for the child is becoming a bit independent from mom and dad and the process for parents is the ability to let that happen without becoming a control freak.

Elementary stage-this is the stage where you realize the baby’s gone and they are a little boy or girl. This season goes fast and crashes right into the next with a bang. The process for the child is massive cognitive development, seemingly at the speed of light, and for parents it is the process of learning how to help navigate friendships, hurt feelings, school stresses and pre-adolescent challenges. While going through a process of change theirselves trying to know how to be a parent, coach, counselor, and doctor all at once.

Adolescent stage-this stage is what I call elongated rapid change. This season is a long time of change but seems things are changing quickly day to day. For the child it’s fun, confusing, emotional, terrifying, and plain old weird. What’s interesting about this stage is that the process for the child and parent is exactly the same. Fun, confusing, emotional, terrifying, and plain old weird.

Young adult phase-seems this stage would be easier than the rest , simply because you’ve had this time to figure it all out. Truth be told it has been one of the hardest stages for me. Letting go is hard to do. Incredibly hard.

As I said before all of this doesn’t take perfection as a parent it takes understanding times and seasons. Understanding the process. The process the kids are going through growing up and the process the parent is going through helping to manage that process, while managing their own process of change.

My advice is to treat parenting not as much as a teaching experience from you but a learning experience for you. Then use what you learn to walk your children through the process of life.

So stop the madness of trying to be the perfect parent. It’s not going to happen anyway, but be patient with the process and treat each stage with the importance it deserves.

Process points:

Baby stage provide love, security and care. In your actions and tone. When you feel like a failure suck it up they are depending on you

Toddler stage-don’t make the mistake of “letting anything go.” This is such a huge development time. Now is the time to start drawing parameters, while empowering potential.

Pre-school stage-be ready to walk through the first stage of release. Be very encouraging and use positive reinforcement to guide positive behavior while not being afraid to confront wrong behaviors. Instilling the ability in them to learn how to be interdependent.

Elementary stage-listen, listen, listen

Adolescence stage– don’t believe the negative lies, be patient, be honest, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Young adult-take on role of guidance counselor. Relationship changes a lot and you have to let it.

This process of parenting is very deceitful. At times it seems like life is moving at a snails pace then before you know it the stages are over and you’re being forced to let go. So be a part of the process.

Bad parenting can be defined as observing, good parenting can be defined as participating. Get involved in the process and forget about perfection.

Coming Soon…blog series on parenting

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For the next few days I thought I would blog on parenting. Maybe some things I’ve learned will help you. Here are some topics…

Parenting is a process

Parenting can be problematic

Parenting with purpose

Parenting purposefully is powerful

Parenting requires prayer

Parenting requires promise

Parenting requires the right pace

Parenting requires planning

Parenting requires playing

Parenting requires proficiency

Parenting requires practical communication

Be watching for these hope they help. No expert, just a parent who has great kids. I’m blessed.

Did We Do Enough?

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She’s smart, beautiful, mature, socially adept, and purpose driven. I have no doubt in her as a person, no doubt she will move forward with rapid progress and purpose. I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments and future potential.

As a parent however, I keep asking myself, “have I done enough?” have my wife and I taught her all the life lessons we could have? Have we given her the full benefit of our experience.

I realize our job is not over but in large part in a way we have crossed a line that none of us will return from. Enter adulthood.

The conclusion I’ve come to is we’ve done the best we could. We haven’t been perfect, we have made mistakes, but we can honestly say we gave her our best effort as parents and as much love as we could muster. We can’t take credit for how well she’s turned out, the glory for that goes to God, but we are so proud of how she has submitted her life to Jesus and His purpose for it.

She is a world changer and although I still wonder if we’ve done enough, I can release her to the next phase of her life without fear or inhibition.

I don’t normally write about family things in this way and not sure if there is much to learn from this blog, but I’m sure there are many parents this time of year who are feeling the same way.

I love Taylor Janae Gadberry and I can’t wait to watch her change her world.