GrowingKids.org

Commentary/Analysis


I had a email exchange with Mrs. Ezzo a while back regarding a blog post idea for this site. I mentioned that I was considering a blog series on my implementation of The Father’s Mandate from chapter four of Growing Kids God’s Way. Here’s what I said in my email to Mrs. Ezzo:

“I am thinking of starting a series of posts on the Father’s Mandate.  This would serve as a good refresher for me and provide other dads with some encouragement to keep focus on these priceless duties as a father during stressful times.”

Mrs. Ezzo was very encouraging in her response to this idea. This email exchange took place over two years ago, one thing led to another, life happened, and I did not post the blog series here on GrowingKids.org as planned. In 2011 I launched the DaddyLife.net web site with a podcast and blog. The site is intended to educate parents on technology safety in addition to encouraging, equipping, and challenging men to rise above mediocrity in their marriage and parenting. Rising Above Mediocrity is one of my favorite titles from Mom’s Notes by our good friends and mentors Joey and Carla Link. The title to that particular teaching expresses the result that I hope and pray for as I continue to share with parents through the DaddyLife.net blog and podcast.

I did eventually follow through with my idea to complete a series on The Father’s Mandate. I even stepped it up a notch. In addition to creating blog notes, I also shared my implementation of the Father’s Mandate in an eight part audio podcast series. These eight episodes are available for download for free directly from DaddyLife.net or you can subscribe to the free podcast via iTunes.  Episodes 12-19 include the Father’s Mandate series. Episode 20 of the DaddyLife.net Podcast provides a followup to The Father’s Mandate series. That episode also includes direct links to each of the eight parts from the series as well as a cute interview with my nine year-old son Riley as he shares his favorite holiday traditions.

I would love to hear your feedback about The Father’s Mandate series or the web site in general. You can say hello in the comments section of the DaddyLife.net blog.

The following post is a bit out of the ordinary from some of our regular genre. First of all, it is written by one of our ‘children’, Callie M. We met Callie, when she was just a baby, her parents took Prep for Parenting, well it had to have been the late 80’s as Callie will soon be a college graduated. You can read more about Callie and her family on her blog site Callie’s Perspective. My purpose in sharing Callie’s Perspective and Reflection on College is in part for those of you just beginning your parenting journey and other’s further down the road with college years rapidly approaching; to be encouraged knowing the foundation you are laying now in the life of each child will carry him or her well into the future. A future that as parents, you can only prepare and equip your child for but a future you cannot control. Life is a journey for each one of us and God has lessons for us to learn along the way … Callie shares some of her life lessons with us, hope you enjoy it.

Blessings on your journey in parenting and life,

Anne Marie

I’ve been studying Flannery O’Connor quite a lot lately for school. I taught a class on four of her short stories this last Monday. I chose her as the author for my teaching day because the first time I read her, I didn’t know what to do with her. Her stories are all stunningly beautiful and interesting and –– as any writer knows –– brilliant. But they are sad and violent and strange. They made me think.

Maybe what makes them so good is that they’re so . . . real. Christians often don’t like to look at the ugliness of the world. We don’t like to see the sin and pain or anything too jarring.

I’ve been like that most of my life. I would toss away any story with a slightly unhappy ending, completely frustrated by it. I would fall apart at the first sign of struggle, tension or heartbreak in my life. I was that girl that believed in prince charming and sunny days and a life that was like a movie –– a happy one with good music, of course.

But then, I got a little bit older. There were fights. There was bad heartbreak. There was rejection. There was failure. There was disappointment. There was stress and money problems. I don’t exactly think I’d been stupid before –– I just hadn’t come up against this all at once before. I couldn’t understand why my optimistic, romantic view of life wasn’t panning out. What if I let people down? What if I fail at this job? Why doesn’t he love me back? What happens if I can’t make my rent payment? How do I deal with missing my sisters so much that I ache? I didn’t like it.

Not that my life was ever bad –– no, on the contrary it’s been extraordinarily blessed. But I think I just came into a fuller realization of the pain in the world. Not just mine, but everyone’s. And my little heart was heavy. I wondered if I was just getting wiser, or was I losing my optimism?

Yes, I was a die-hard romantic, but over these last few years, I found myself asking: Is it bad if I’m not anymore?

I think Flannery answered that question for me. She brought together a lot of the truths I’ve been learning over these years of college. Torrey’s mantra is that we want to pursue the good, the true and the beautiful. And it’s been hard work. These last four years haven’t been a walk in the park . . . yet, in some ways they have. What I mean is: I didn’t always find the good, the true or the beautiful, but the route was scenic. Maybe just the act of looking for them is optimistic — because that means you believe the good is out there. God is out there.

As Flannery’s stories showed me so poignantly, the good and beautiful in life are sometimes still painful. And the pain isn’t something to shun. One of my favorite Flannery quotes is “Grace is change, and change is painful.” That’s hopeful, isn’t it? Hard, but hopeful. Maybe the definition of optimism is seeing that pain is grace. It too can be beautiful.

I thought maybe I lost my optimism in a slew of real life — work, tuition checks, conflict and boy drama. But then, I think of sitting in the sun on my deck, eating Panda Express with Lizzie, re-reading “Blue Castle,” laughing at the antics of my two-year-olds in my Sunday School class, cooking, sleeping, chatting, giggling…

These are both part of reality and I can’t ignore the good that comes along with pain. And I can see the good in the pain that comes from pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful –– God. He’s hard to find here on earth sometimes. Yet, He’s magnificently everywhere.

“Grace is change, and change is pain.”

Maybe I’m more of a realist now. Maybe like Flannery, I can see the jarring and the ugly in life, and I hope I won’t run the other way. Knowing that grace and beauty are at the end –– and in between times too –– I think that makes me an optimist.

While many countries celebrate their Independence Day marking the date that the particular country became “independent” of whatever ruler had previously been in control, July 4th is the date that the United States of America will celebrate it’s 234 year of “independence”. It all began, “In Congress, July 4, 1776″ The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America was signed by 56 men representing the individual states. The closing paragraph of the document read:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

As we diligently teach our children the ‘apologetics’ of our faith, it is important that we take the time to learn the ‘history’ of our country and pass that on to our children and grandchildren. People gave and continue to give all they have so that we the people, may continue to live in this country that still permits us freedoms that others only dream about … The following is a portion of an article written by David Barton of Wallbuilders, we would also encourage a visit to “The Charters of Freedom”.

Blessings,
Gary & Anne Marie
1 Timothy 2:1-2

Written by David Barton – see www.wallbuilders.com ‘4th of July Article’ for complete work.
This year marks 234 years since our Founding Fathers gave us our National Birth Certificate. We continue to be the longest on-going Constitutional Republic in the history of the world. Blessings such as these are not by chance or accidental. They are blessings of God.

On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to approve a complete separation from Great Britain. Two days afterwards – July 4th – the early draft of the Declaration of Independence was signed, albeit by only two individuals at that time: John Hancock, President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress. Four days later, on July 8, members of Congress took that document and read it aloud from the steps of Independence Hall, proclaiming it to the city of Philadelphia, after which the Liberty Bell was rung. The inscription around the top of that bell, Leviticus 25:10, was most appropriate for the occasion: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof.”

To see the turmoil in other nations, their struggles and multiple revolutions, and yet to see the stability and blessings that we have here in America, we may ask how has this been achieved? What was the basis of American Independence? John Adams said “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.” Perhaps the clearest identification of the spirit of the American Revolution was given by John Adams in a letter to Abigail the day after Congress approved the Declaration. He wrote her two letters on that day; the first was short and concise, jubilant that the Declaration had been approved. The second was much longer and more pensive, giving serious consideration to what had been done that day. Adams cautiously noted: “This day will be the most memorable epic in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

It is amazing that on the very day they approved the Declaration, Adams was already foreseeing that their actions would be celebrated by future generations. Adams contemplated whether it would be proper to hold such celebrations, but then concluded that the day should be commemorated – but in a particular manner and with a specific spirit. As he told Abigail: “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

John Adams believed that the Fourth of July should become a religious holiday – a day when we remembered God’s hand in deliverance and a day of religious activities when we committed ourselves to Him in “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

Related: 233 Independence Day.

There is more to life than what I see. I see only what is near me. My family, my job, my church. My focus has been on what is near me. My focus has been on making sure those things that I look at are all they can be. I want to be the best husband I can be. I want to be the best father I can be. I want to be the best employee I can so I can be the best provider for my family that I can be. I want to serve and be in relationship in the church so that I can grow and be the man, the husband and the father I should be. When I think about it that way, it is pretty clear how selfish I really am.

I don’t think God called me to just be a good husband or a good father or a good employee. He didn’t even call me to be excellent at any of those things. He called me (and you) to something much bigger than the little world we live in. He called us to preach the Gospel to all nations. He called us to disciple the world. He called us to be lights.

But what light can I be? Are we all called to be missionaries to a distant land? No. We are all called to affect the world around us. Many have said to others or themselves that their means of responding to “the call” is to provide funding. I think that is valid, but I also think it is a cop out. Funding is required and many of us are required to contribute to make it possible for others to do their work. But, when I send money and then look back at my own little world and its issues and don’t look outside my short focus, I’m copping out. There is something I should be doing to affect the world around me and it should be more than just raising “good” or even Christian children.

Jesus changed the culture around Him. The disciples changed the culture around them wherever they took the Gospel. If the Gospel is here in America, or at least our portion of it, are we driving the culture? Or is the culture driving us? Are we letting the secular thinkers, secular politicians, secular artists and musicians shape the culture around us? I believe we have. As a nation of Christians we have. It has come to the point that our President has stated that the United States of America is not a Christian nation. “One of the great strengths of the United States,” the President said, “is … we have a very large Christian population — we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.” (1) What I hear is a disrespect and disowning of the source of our culture and the root of our ethics. There is a desire to further separate who we are now from what we were and redefine who we will be in the future. Is that acceptable to us?

This statement by President Obama is a statement that effectively demonstrates that we have not discipled our nation.

Mat 28:18-20 “And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, ‘All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’”

We have not influenced who we are as a nation. We, the Body of Christ, have not properly influenced our nation for many decades. We have allowed others to present their opinions and beliefs without challenge. The US constitution allows everyone to state their own opinion, but that doesn’t mean it should be unchallenged by the Church.

So, how does this relate to me being more than just a good father, husband and employee? I think I have failed to recognize and accept the role of being a culture shaper. I have let the different opinions, and forces behind those opinions, go unchecked and even unchallenged. Perhaps I have succeeded in teaching my family what is right and wrong for themselves, but have I taught them to fight the culture around them for what is right? Have I taught them to take on the challenges against our Judeo-Christian ethic system or put blinders on like I have and hope that it won’t get too bad before Jesus comes back?

I challenge us each to pick a cause. It could be an individual cause or a familial cause. Whether it is feeding the homeless, reaching those in Asia who don’t know the Gospel, caring for those with HIV/AIDS in Algeria, standing against the homosexual agenda against traditional marriage or taking back the entertainment industry. Pick a cause beyond your own little world, train your children to affect the culture they live in and not be passive against the forces that are working to erase the Judeo-Christian culture we live in. Don’t just fight for you and yours; fight for our culture to fulfill the call to make disciples.

References: (1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/06/obama-us-not-a-christian_n_183772.html

Permission granted by Tim and Ami Loper of Miracle Books.  The original version of this article can be found in the Summer 2009 edition of “Oh Yeah”.

233 years ago, on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, voted to approve the “Declaration of Independence; declaring the 13 original colonies separation from Great Britain. Those Patriots were willing to take a stand against what they and others considered Parliament’s encroachments on colonial rights – the original idea in 1774 was to attempt to define America’s rights, place limits on Parliaments’ power and a few other things. Actually, to gain a better understanding of what was taking place and to make more sense out of what’s happening in 2009, I would encourage you to visit www.history.com click on Topics and then click on Fourth of July under Holidays. It will be well worth the time it takes to read about ‘how and why’ the United States of America actually started. And for those with school age children, reviewing a little history will provide wonderful opportunities for discussion and teaching some very valuable lessons.

For now I’d like us to ponder the following:

From John Adams to his wife Abigail “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” [ref. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, Adams Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society. Wikipedia]

While John Adams did include events that seem to have taken priority in our day of celebrating ‘Independence Day’ – we as a Nation and peoples have drifted from his first acknowledgment, God Almighty. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children have an understanding of our past and to see how important it is that we keep our focus on the only One Who is the source of true freedom. Also, to see what happens to a Nation when as a people, they begin to ignore the truth God has left us in His Word. Yes, we have the nation of Israel, but that was such a long time ago and so far away – in sharing the history of their country, we can help them see that the results are always the same for people who chose to ignore God. And we can help them see that God always has a ‘remnant’ that He uses to make sure His truth is proclaimed. Your family is part of that remnant to serve as Ambassador’s for His Kingdom.

Another site worth visiting is www.heritage.org, using the ‘search’ to find The Founder’s Almanac and then “A note on the signers of the Declaration of Independence… “…. we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Well you can find it :-) or for that child who enjoys ‘searching’ the Internet, this could be a fun family event for him or her.

While these thoughts are geared to the U.S. holiday, I know that each country represented through the Growing Families ministry has it’s own story and history to pass on for parents to pass on to their children and we all have God’s truth to share.

Blessings as you continue the journey of life,
Anne Marie

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