A Meditation on Easter

Brittle
Broken
Hardened to mercy
Shards of self-righteousness
Stab and wound

Weeping I cry out
I’m enveloped in the Father’s love

My father
A bruised reed he does not break.
He cleans me up
Does not excuse the sin but loves me, the sinner
His adopted daughter

Would that my hair could drip with the perfume of the love and gratitude I feel
Would that I could touch the feet of my Savior

While a sinner
Such an insignificant phrase to carry so much weight
He did not wait for me to mend my ways
He knew I couldn’t
Not ever
He died for me
While a sinner
No other religion dares to make such an extravagant claim
While a sinner

God of the ages
Not old, but eternal
Present at the birth of planets
Of solar systems
Of my own tiny beating heart
The first time it beat its rhythm inside my mother’s womb
The first time I drew breath

Present when I finally admitted defeat
My need of Him

Present when the angels sang
The night of his birth
And the moment of my rebirth

Too infinite for my finite mind to grasp
Yahweh
I am who I am
God of the ages
Abba Father

Like a child in a parking lot grasps her father’s hand
Tenaciously I cling to you
Trusting you can see the way ahead
Knowing I am safe in your presence
In your presence is fullness of joy
In you alone are life and peace

Take off the old self
People pleasing, arrogant, slow to listen, quick to act
Put on the new
God pleasing, humble, slow to speak, quick to show mercy
A robe of righteousness not my own
Slipped over my shoulders

I see him there
The God-man
On the cross he chose to endure
For me
And by his wounds I am healed

Behold the grave is empty.
He is risen
He is risen indeed.

Would that I could stand there
Early in the morning
Where has he gone?
He is not here.
For death has been conquered.
The God-man has paid the price.

Mary sees him there
The risen Lord
He is alive.  Alive!
And in that moment the second Adam has made a new way

Yahweh
I am who I am
The God who made galaxies
And fashioned the curve of my daughter’s smile
He is alive
And death is conquered
I am undone in his presence
I am His.

dad and daughter

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This is Where I Belong

This week’s post is a guest post by Arborbrook parent, Tracy Alexander.  She has two sons at Arborbrook, a son in the junior high, and another at the high school.  She also has two younger children.  Tracy attended the seminar by PureHope that was mentioned in the weekly news a few weeks ago, and I thought her commentary was well worth passing on to you.  When I heard the speaker from PureHope, I was reminded that this isn’t a “one time” conversation with our children, but a continuing conversation, that should happen in age-appropriate ways and gets more in-depth as they get older and are prepared to hear more.  I would encourage all parents to read this, not just those who have teenagers already. 

As my son is listening to the song “This is Not Where I Belong” and playing the Wii, I am realizing that while this song resonates with me, I can, in fact, live here joyfully. You see joy comes from a deeper place within, from knowing that your Maker has you in the center of His hands, “in His grip” as we say in Christian language.  And that’s just where I felt I was the other evening as I attended the PureHope meeting at Charlotte Christian.

I walked in to find about 75 parents chatting and quietly laughing, truly enjoying one another’s company.  Our speaker introduced himself as Dan from Texas with PureHope.  He shared the mission statement of the organization as a place that provides Christian Solutions in a Sexualized Culture.  He listed a few helpful websites and began to explain that at the very core of their mission is 1 John 3:3  “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.”  As I was thinking that over, it was his next statement that really hit me.   “The pursuit of purity is the pursuit of Christ.”  He explained how PureHope offers support in three main areas: Pure Parenting, Pure Justice (fighting sex trafficking), and Pure Recovery (help with sexual addictions).  The word pure Dan used as an acronym: Pray, Understand, Resolve, Engage.  

As Dan began to talk about God’s design and purpose for sex, we were reminded that when we or our teens have temptation on the Internet, that is really just a symptom of the heart issue. Sounds simple enough, but how do we get to the root of the heart issue?

The problem is that the word purity is defined in the majority of our churches as either abstinence or virginity.  The speaker talked about how we should be calling our kids to something much higher than that definition. Teaching our kids to wait until their wedding night is a major injustice to them.  Purity is something to pursue for the rest of their lives and is something my son’s wife is going to hope he values as he stays up late completing work assignments for his company.  It is something my daughter already values at age 8, as Dan reminded me to tell the kids the reason I change the channel or delete the DVR recording (because I don’t want to be exposed to these words).  Dan reminds us that as Christians we need to be talking about sex with our kids because the world is, and the louder storyteller wins. We have the better story, as God is the author, designer, and creator.  So what is our story to our teens?  Dan listed several resources and continued to state the need to continue the conversation.  Taking a long drive together and reviewing CDs or taking a weekend away is a good start; however, that’s only the beginning.  Our kids need to know we are their “go to person.” Dan graciously shared a story of his then 9-year-old coming to him asking him what a very foul word meant.  Dan first told his son he needed a minute and began to pray. After he prayed, the first words he uttered were, “Thank you, thank you for coming to me son.” What a great reminder that our kids are going to find the answer to their questions, either with the older brother next door, or the Internet, and who better to talk to than their own mother or father?  So get the conversation started and keep it going.

Dan went into a breakdown of 4 P’s as God’s Design and Purpose for Sex but what really caught my attention was the reminder that to share with our teens that if they choose to give this away, they are giving away not just a physical part of themselves, but an emotional part, and a spiritual part of themselves that God intended to be shared only with their spouse.  Mark Lasser put it well, “Sex is a selfless expression of the deepest level of spiritual and emotional intimacy.” We need to share this with our teens.  Here’s some helpful ammo shared for coming alongside our teens in three teaching points:

1)   Our eyes: Job 31:1 “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully upon another person.” We need to guard our eyes, and remember the song? “There’s a Father up above and He’s looking down with love, so be careful little eyes what you see.”

2)   Our thoughts: Take every thought captive to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Dan reminded us that even if one thinks upon a woman with lust, they have committed adultery.  We should talk to our daughters and sons about what they are reading, consuming.  What are our kids dwelling on?

3)   Our bodies: We are to steward our bodies.  God’s purpose for sex is a self-giving nature to our spouse.  God’s word says it is for them, not for us.  Have this difficult talk with your kids when they are ready for it.

Dan reminded us of the promises that God always gives us if we are willing to follow Him.  So as we become our kids’ “go to person,” what tools can we engage with in this tech-savvy world?  Four Elements were shared:

1)   Educate Yourself

  • PureHOPE.net-a blog with some helpful resources
  • Covenant Eyes- WE JUST INSTALLED THIS AND LOVE IT!  This organization is faith-based.  Our family had previously used K-9 Filtering Software for the past 6 months but since our son started high school, filtering can be difficult when trying to access sites for homework.  Consider switching from strictly filtering free sites to a site like Covenant Eyes that uses Monitoring (and e-mails you account activity).   Please note that for Mac Users, the filtering version is in beta right now, so you may want to use the monitoring version only until they get the kinks worked out (later this month possibly).  You can set up the account to e-mail you once a week so that you can come alongside your teen while they are dealing with Internet temptation and having conversations with you.  Dan mentioned he has his Account Log with details of sites he visited set to go to a couple of his work partners to hold him accountable and our Youth pastor has his set to go to his wife.  I didn’t want to pay the $10/month so we are trying it for a trial basis as a month or two free.  Guarding my eyes, my husbands’ and my four children from the traps the enemy tries to set is a top priority in our home.  We share scripture such as this one…

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

  • Try looking up Temptation on biblegateway.com for additional references to share. Post sticky notes to help your teen.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)

  • Center for Parent Youth-this helps parent understand what is trending- take a look
  • Common Sense Media-while it is not faith-based, it offers app reviews for middle school and younger apps and movie reviews. (Personally we like +pluggedinonline.com)
  • Epicparent.tv

2)    Protect What You Can

  • Use Parental Controls on both iPad, iPod, and your Router level.  For iPads and iPods, go to Settings/General/Restrictions, and set a password that only you know, Change “Deleting Apps” to “Off,” and periodically check what apps your child has installed. He did not mention changing the Allowed Content and I have seen it barely makes a difference; you need actual monitoring software for older kids or filtering software for younger kids. Covenant Eyes has both.  For router protection consider using “Open DNS Family Shield.”
  • Block content or websites as you see appropriate. You can opt out of the swimsuit addition of Sports Illustrated in the mail, but online you may choose to block the site.
  • Again switch to mostly monitoring software for teens.

3)    Manage Screen Time

  • Encourage face-to-face interaction.
  • Enter into our teens’ world.

4)    Schedule Rest

  • Dan talked about bullying from our day and how that the kids getting bullied would have rest after school let out.  However, with today’s cyber bullying, a child may be getting bullied into the hours of the night.
  • MY FAVORITE IDEA: Place all tech gadgets into basket at night and give them a curfew. At 10 pm the gadgets are turned off and are placed into a basket or drawer. This is good for your own spouse too!
  • Take a Sabbath from technology, a picnic away, a vacation with no technology and fun board games or other activity in replace of technology. (One weekend at the beach we brought a picture viewer and a bunch of memory sticks-at least no iPods/iPads!)

In summary, Dan said to equip your kids to thrive in a digital world.

  1. Teach your kids to use technology.
  2. Equip your kids for a LIFELONG pursuit of purity.
  3. Allow them to make mistakes while they are under your umbrella.
  4. Model a Pursuit of Purity (tell them why you are changing the channel).

Questions were asked about what Resources- here are some suggestions that were given and that we recommend:

  1. Focus on the Family website
  2. The Daddy Daughter Project
  3. Every Young Man’s Battle
  4. Every Young Woman’s Battle
  5. We also like Passport2Purity
  6. We also highly recommend you go on the “Passage to Manhood Journey” with the Hughes’ (Jim Hughes is our Campus Pastor) at Arborbrook for 7th-12 graders, offered once per year for young men and their fathers, and the “Father-Daughter Journey” offered once per year for young women and their dads (in a different month, usually in the winter).

So you can see, while I left with a few action items in my notebook, I was also hopeful, hopeful that we can combat this thing and win, since the fight has ALREADY BEEN WON by Jesus.  Is this easy?  No.  However, the victory is His.  We just have to pick up our armor, journey together, and stand firm.

In him was the life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (1 John 1:4, 5)

At my church, our teens are studying a book together called Revolutionary Purity.  Honestly I wasn’t keen on one vocabulary word my son mentioned me when he came home.  I had to remind myself that we already started the conversation at our house (hadn’t gotten to that specific topic yet) and it would be better for our youth pastor to address questions that were raised in the group of teens rather than wait for the world to answer.  So I thank you for those who are already engaged in helping their teens in this journey.  And for those who don’t know where to begin, I hope this summary of the PureHope meeting may serve as encouragement to you in getting started.  Of course you will know when the best time to do this is, but we must begin pursuing biblical purity with Jesus as our focus before our culture sells our children a lie.  Here are two scriptures from my quiet time about the benefits of pursuing biblical purity: Psalm 19 and Psalm 24.  Thank you, dear Arborbrook Family.  – Tracy Alexander