Parents, students and singles must read…

My oldest daughter who is just a freshman in college, but whom God has given lots of wisdom, recently wrote something in her blog that, if you are single, a college student or a teenager OR ESPECIALLY if you are a parent of one of these, you should read HERE.

PARENTS, are you pushing or allowing your teenager to date too soon? Are you encouraging them to get into relationships that they should never even be considering at this point in their lives? I have seen too much of it over the years. It almost always leads to heartache, temptation, and failure…not to mention the money thrown away! 🙂 You have more wisdom than they do and we should teach them early what God’s standards are. It’s not too early to teach when they are young.

Einstein said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  I believe we in the church have encouraged insanity when it comes to dating. Here’s how: we try to attract one another and date (and encourage our kids to date) the way the world does, but because we are Christians, we expect the results to somehow be different. Doesn’t usually happen.

Listen to some wisdom from God’s Word in Song Of Solomon, a word which is repeated three times in this book:

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. (Song of Solomon 8:4)

I think too many times we as parents are encouraging (or at least allowing) our children to do just that and we unwittingly are leading them down a road that isn’t God’s plan.

I have always said something I heard Tommy Nelson teach once, “Dating is like the onramp to the Interstate. The Interstate is marriage. If you don’t intend to get on the Interstate, you better not go up that onramp” Too many kids are accelerating up an onramp that is designed to lead them somewhere they aren’t ready nor wanting to go. Thus they are crashing and burning as they go full speed up a ramp that leads them nowhere. There needs to be a change and the church should be leading the way, not buying in to the World’s methods of dating and attraction and expect we can get different results.

After reading the above verse, read some wisdom from one who is living that right now…one of whom I am particularly proud, because I see what God is doing in her life.

Jon and Kate, Not So Great

Last night I watched the end of Jon & Kate’s marriage on national TV. What a mess! It was sad to watch two people who, by all appearances, totally can’t see the forest for the trees. I was amazed that they can’t seem to get a grasp on what some of the roots of their problems have been. I am no expert counselor, but as my wife and I talked about it, we were both saddened at the lack of perspective they had. Has anyone been counseling these people about anything other than money and ratings? I don’t know. I don’t condemn them and I would never put myself above them, but I think there are some lessons for all of us in this saga. I hurt for this family who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here are a couple of thoughts and observations we had:

  • Repeatedly they both said, “I don’t really know what happened.” Really? You’re kidding, right? Kate said that she didn’t think the TV show had anything to do with their break-up. Really?! The $$ and the fame and the invasion into their lives had nothing to do with it?
  • Jon said that he had become passive and let her rule the roost. Perfect observation, just a little too late. They let their personality strengths become their weaknesses. This can be true in any relationship. It can be true in family, ministry, leadership, work relationships. Those unique personality traits that God built into us by His design, when not understood by oneself and one’s spouse and other relationships, can become a great weakness. We can easily fall into our natural default and the negative aspects of that trait will rule. Key to that in a marriage is communication, understanding, and SELFLESSNESS. We can let pride rule our lives and consequently our relationships or we can let Christ rule. Pride is most easily identified in the strong personality as arrogance or doing things in our own strength, but it is really anything that focuses on me. Shyness and passivity can be manifestations of Pride, because they are self-focused. Anything that is self-focused is pride and is sin. It’s a constant battle for me. Both Jon and Kate appear to have been struggling with pride. It just looks different in each of them.
  • The seeming antithesis of this however, is in the statements that they both made repeatedly saying that “It’s all about the kids. I love my kids. Everything is for them. This show is for them. This new house and this land is for them. Everything we’ve done is for them. We love them more than anything.” That sounds like a pretty selfless attitude right? Well, that is a problem in most marriages and its a cultural phenomenon that has had a negative impact on more families and, I believe, on our culture…and even the church. It’s a philosophy that says, “Put the kids first. Its all about them. They are our future.”  Sounds logical. The problem is it isn’t biblical and it isn’t healthy for families and marriages. The first relationship God established was between Adam and Eve. At that point, they were a family. (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:22-25) The problem we have that I believe the Enemy has used for too long is that of what some call “child-centered parenting.” What this looks like is the children become the center of everything in the family.
  • Imagine this picture: a husband and wife holding hands forming a small circle, a family. Then the first child comes along. A child centered philosophy places the child in the center of this circle. Sounds fine and for the first couple of months with only on child, it might work out okay. But as the child begins to understand (or even demand) being in the center of the circle, he/she realizes that they are the driving force. Self-centeredness (which we all are naturally bent toward) begins to take hold. The expectations rise. Everything becomes about them and their happiness. This is what seems to have happened to Jon & Kate. We call it spoiled, but it isn’t really something that is intentional most of the time. What happens as the child grows and more children come into the marriage is the most potentially devastating part of the picture in a marriage.
  • Imagine the picture again of the mom and dad holding hands now with several kids in the middle of the circle who have all gotten bigger. It gets crowded. Mom and dad get pushed farther apart. Notice I referred to them as “mom & dad” not “husband & wife” any longer. You see child centered parenting pushes the original, most important relationship in the family farther and farther apart. The identity of those two individuals becomes all about the kids. Now the kids are important, but they are not the most important relationship in the family.
  • Now imagine this picture: the mom and dad holding hands in a small circle. Along comes a child and instead of being placed in the center of that circle, he/she is held with one hand in mom’s and the other in dads, allowing the husband and wife to still stay connected. This makes the circle extend and everyone stays connected…especially the husband and wife. That relationship never changes. Children thus become an extension of the family, not the center of it. The only thing that needs to be in the center of this ever expanding circle is Jesus Christ. The most important relationship in any family, after each individual’s relationship with Christ, is the relationship of the husband and wife. Someone once said, “The greatest security any child can have is knowing that mom and dad love each other“, without question. Child centered parenting…”its all about them”…points the focus in a different direction, and pushes the parents apart ultimately, because the focus on their own relationship with one another becomes secondary.
  • Those kids don’t need any of the things that they’ve been given. The more stuff we give our kids, the less content they will be. They need a mom and dad who love each other and will fight for their marriage.
  • Finally, child-centered parenting is ultimately a pride issue, because it usually becomes about US. It can become, if we’re honest, about how we think other people see US and what they think about US and how OUR kids turned out. My focus needs to be on how people see Christ in my marriage, because it is a picture of His relationship with his bride, the church. My focus needs to be on the mandate of Deuteronomy 6 and the challenge of Psalm 78:1-8. My passion should be about raising up a generation that will impact another generation, not about their temporary “happiness” as seen in the world, right now.

Just a couple of observations that we made as we looked at a very sad situation. I pray for Jon & Kate. I pray that God might miraculously intervene and heal and restore their marriage. I pray that they would recognize that He loves them unconditionally and that He loves their family more than they do. I pray that we as parents might have a Christ-centered perspective on our family. I pray that each of us will focus on keeping that first relationship in the family a priority, second only to our own individual relationships with Jesus. Date your spouse as regularly as possible. Let your kids see how important that relationship is. That will give them GREAT security…and much happiness and contentment.

Momentous Birthdays

Last weekend, my youngest turned TWO. We just had a little family party…well I guess with us there is no such thing as a “little” family party! 🙂 I mean when you have 8 kids in the house, that’s more than most kids have andies-2nd-birthday-007at a birthday party anyway. So, we were having this party and as I was sitting there watching Andie open her presents, I was suddenly struck by something. This has been a momentous year of birthdays at the Whipple house. Honestly, it caught me somewhat off-guard. I had realized it with each individual, but hadn’t put together how many of our 8 children were hitting somewhat momentous, milestone birthdays…all at once!

It started in January with Aisley turning 5…no longer a preschooler, starting Kindergarten this year.

Then in March, my oldest, Aly, turned 18…no longer a kid, an adult, graduating High School and going to college this fall. (I have a blog pending on this…kinda tough to write about, if you know what I mean)

Then in April, we celebrated my #2 daughter, Aubrey’s 16th birthday …we all know how momentous that is!

This past weekend, the aforementioned Andie turned 2 (See my wife’s blog about that too)…momentous because that means there is technically no more baby in the house. Could “no more diapers” be far away? I hope so!

Next week we’ll celebrate my son Aaron’s 13th birthday…no longer a child, but “officially” a teenager.

In June, we’ll celebrate my # 4 daughter, Anna Beth’s 11th birthday…momentous because she is finishing 5th grade…no longer an elementary kid, but moving on up to Middle School this fall.

Along with these, Abby (#5) turned 9 and Aidan (#6 and the only one born in the fall) will turn 8 in October. While not some of the traditional “milestone” years, very significant nonetheless as it is just a reminder that they are quickly growing up too.

I gotta tell you, it was kind of emotional to think about. In some ways it is sad to see them growing up, but in other ways it is exciting to see them becoming who God intends them to be. Parenting is tiring, tough, frustrating, stressful at times. However, the other side of the coin is if we will do the hard work, parenting can be joyful, exciting, rewarding, teen years can be fun, relationships can grow, we get to see God mold and shape His creation for His purposes (and somehow he trusts us with part of that!). My prayer and hope and goal is the same as John’s in 3 John 1:4:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

We have been talking about Leaving A Lasting Legacy @ The Ridge this month. As I have reflected in recent weeks on the momentous milestones we are experiencing in our family, I can’t help but think of how awesome a privilege and responsibility it is to shape the next generation. It makes me want to be more diligent and intentional in my own walk as I seek to pass it along to these that God has entrusted to me for what is really a VERY SHORT TIME.

For what it’s worth, from an old guy who should not still be changing diapers, let me tell ALL of you young parents and parents to be out there… who are struggling with sleepless nights, nasty diapers, endless laundry, spit up on the carpet, Cheerios in the back seat of your car, muddy footprints in the house, bikes and balls all over the yard and garage, and a bunch of other things that may drive you crazy and tire you out… something my mom told me 18 years ago when my first one was born. It is something many have said, but few understand until the time is gone: Enjoy the years. Take the time to invest in these precious blessings. Don’t put it off a day longer. The time really does go by FAST!

1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deut. 6:1-9)