Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Framework for Sons

We went shooting this morning. Along with us we took several young men who had never fired a weapon before. Before long they had graduated from .22 rifles to AR-15's, a .308 sniper rifle, a .45 pistol and a Glock in .40S&W. A good time -- and a safe one -- was had by all. My memory of the day is colored most by the behavior of my son as he gently and patiently taught each boy, helped them handle the many new skills they were learning, and how he never flinched when something went "boom!" I was proud of him.

Only yesterday we had reviewed the framework on which we have built our lives. I'll borrow terms from Brad Miner and briefly describe them for those who you who have young sons and who are looking for a template to use that is flexible enough for boys of all personalities and abilities yet rigid enough to create a man of honor and courage.

All men are to be made up of three parts. While we may excel in one and struggle in another, all three must be present. Those who check each part each day will remain true to themselves and to the Lord who made them.

WARRIOR -- Not all men will learn how to fight, nor will all men want to fire a gun or jump out of the back of C-130. That's fine. However, every man must understand that he was placed here by God to provide for his family and to be a place of safety for them and for anyone in his sphere of influence. He might wage war in the courtroom, or with a pencil as a developer of programs that help people out of poverty. He might wage war with a tongue depressor and a stethoscope, or with a sermon designed to help people defeat the evil one. And he might put on a uniform -- military or police -- and actively place himself in harm's way so that others might live. But all men are called to step up and serve as God's man. When you enter a room, the people in it may relax for you are there. They know you will treat them with respect, dignity, and love. Not only will you not mistreat them, you will allow no one else to do so, either.

LOVER -- All men must learn how to be kind and friendly to women in a non-sexual way; viewing them as persons and not prey. No man misuses a woman's body for his own desires; animals do that, but not men. Men take time to listen to children, to comfort someone who is crying, and to serve those around him. He loves his friends, his family, his God, and the strangers he meets on the streets or in the mall. What he does, he does for love. When he makes a covenant with a woman to be her husband, he dedicates himself to learning about her so that he might be her lover for life, saving himself only for her regardless of any changes in her body, mind, or health. He is not afraid to buy a valentine, to show up with flowers, to tackle laundry or cleaning when it means the woman he loves is given a time of rest and joy.

MONK -- Every true man must spend time alone with his God. He must be a man of prayer, of study, and of personal discipline before the Father. He is a wandering friar, a religious brother, a reflection of faith to anyone placed in his path by Providence. He wears no religious habit, but he is a man of religious habits. He enters each place with a prayer asking God to reveal His will and to bring to him anyone who might need a word from Jesus.

Dads, model these for your sons -- even when they are infants. When they are older, make a covenant with your son so that you can both hold each other accountable to these things. It makes a huge difference in the way you live your own life and in the way he learns to live his.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Duncan's Creed

Because of the number of requests, I secured Duncan's permission to print here the letter he dashed off almost a year ago and gave to his friends who asked him why he would want to go into the Marines. Please remember that these are the heartfelt words and emotions of a then 16 year old young man. Now that he is 17 and signing the Delayed Entry Program papers in a few weeks, he tells me he stands by them. If anything, were he to write it today, he says it would be a longer and stronger statement. The rest of this post consists entirely of his words.


Everyday, people ask me why I want to join the military and, everyday, I stuggle to give them an answer they can understand. And, everyday, I fail. It's not because I want to get lots of shiny medals or handshakes from the President, and it's not because I want to make anyone proud. It's a feeling that has haunted me my entire life, the feeling that it's the right thing to do, the feeling that it is there that I belong.

The fact is: I am willing to stand between you and the people who are trying to kill you. I intend to place myself in harm's way for you. So why do you look at me like I'm crazy? Why do some people despise me because of what I intend to do? Why does everyone want to talk me out of this? I know: you don't understand me. Fact is, I don't understand you, either.

Honestly, how can you watch television and watch photos of war and slavery and then go on eating your dinner like nothing's really going on? What has made you stop caring about the world around you? Are you aware, even a little bit, of the sacrifices being made every day to keep you safe and comfortable in America. The nation that forgets its defenders will, itself, be forgotten and lost one day. If you aren't able to realize and appreciate the sacrifices made for your freedom, you don't deserve to be free.

I'm not doing this for my family and, in some ways, I' not doing it for my country. In fact, I will still do it even if I don't get support from either of them. So lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way. No matter where or when, Marines have an obligation to each other, to the Corps, and to our country and those who cannot defend themselves. We take that obligation with us everywhere we go. I will protect these ideals with my life.

The reason I write this is that I want my family and friends to understand why I want to fight. Do you honestly believe I WANT to put myself in harm's way? No, but I am willing to stand in the gap if no one else will. Isaiah 6:8, "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Who shall I send? Who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me."

Semper Fi.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Leave a Hole

Warning: I can be a very blunt individual. It may indicate a lack of kindness, but I hope that isn't the case. I prefer to think of it as one individual defined diplomacy: "warfare by other means." This column about children, church, and Christians might seem harsh... but I'm writing it anyway!

A couple was furious with our church. We had gone to see what happened to them after someone noticed they'd been gone from our worship assembly for some time. "We aren't coming back," the husband said. "That is an unloving, cold church that claims to care about people but doesn't." I asked him on what basis he made that judgment and he replied, "We were gone four weeks from that church before anyone there even noticed. What kind of church doesn't even notice something like that?"

I replied, "What kind of person are you, that you could be gone for four weeks and the no one in the church could tell?" They were shocked by this 'attack' so I pressed on. "What work suffered because you stopped your ministry? What mission work ground to a halt because you withdrew your funding, prayers and support? Could it be -- just imagine with me a moment -- could it be that you never really were a part of the church? Could that be why your departure was unnoticed?"

I tell people -- and mean it -- that the Rochester Church is the warmest, friendliest, and most talented congregation I have ever worked with... but we don't make it easy to be a member here. All who come to be a part of us are called into the ministry and work of this body. They are expected to give and live as disciples, to be deeply involved in our work, and to be available to any other member who needs prayer or backup.

Kami and I built this into our children at an early age. As I have written before, we would often end the day with two questions: "Where did you see Jesus today?" and "What did you do for Jesus today?"

Let me rephrase this: make your life necessary. When you die, as we all will, you can either fill a hole or leave it. Your choice. I have no interest in filling a hole. I have a great interest in leaving one. Make you life something that gives, serves, and leads in such a way that when you are gone, it matters!!! I ask my staff and my children -- but mostly I ask myself -- "what difference did it make that you lived today? In what way did you do something that would have remained undone without you? Did your life matter today?"

Did you pray for someone fervently? Did you sacrifice some money or pleasure for another's benefit? Did you offer kindness and courtesy to someone everybody else ignored? Did you look for those who have been robbed and beaten by life and offer to them everything you had to help them as did the Samaritan?

People ask me how we raised our daughter to be such a sweet, dedicated, serving Christian and how we raised our son to be a noble, honorable, courageous man who is headed towards the officer's ranks in the Marine Corps. We challenged them to make each day an opportunity to make their life count. My son has written extensively on why he is going to serve in the uniform of the Corps. I will not quote that extensively here, but the gist of it is that everyone lives, but not everyone matters. Everyone dies, but most never lived for something bigger than themselves first.

And everybody fills a hole at death, but not everybody leaves one.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Simple Steps

Just a short blog for today; for the steps here are not difficult to understand. Carrying them out requires effort and creativity, but if you are dedicated to raising your children in the Lord, you can apply the required effort with His help.

1. Get your children to every appropriate church function. Get them to Bible class, ask them every time about their class, what they studied, who was there. Make it an event that is important enough to discuss at some length. When the children have a special program to put on, get your child involved in it. When the teens have a youth rally, get your teen there -- with their friends -- and make it worth their while by giving extra blessings to them (a stop by the ice cream shop? A run by Blockbuster? Be creative) as your thanks for their involvement in Christian things.

NOTE: I was a youth minister for one year (I was terrible at it). We had a very large youth group and I loved those kids. Now, decades later, the kids who are still faithful are those -- without exception -- whose parents made sure they got to every event and were involved in planning and execution of events. The parents who had other priorities, who let their kids roam away from church activities, find that their children are no longer in worship... and neither are their grandchildren. Tragic.

2. Say a good thing about Jesus every day. Find a way to compliment Jesus in front of your children every day, in a way they can understand the comment. It doesn't need to be big and dramatic, but it needs to be a part of your normal speech and lifestyle. Start early enough and it will become a part of their language, too.

3. Find a family mission. It could be a child you 'adopt' via one of the great agencies out there that help children in third world countries. It might be a missionary that you and your children write, prepare CARE packages, etc. for on a regular basis (allowing the kids to have input). It might be a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or a shelter for battered women. Whatever it is (and you might need to change it from time to time), it needs to be a part of your family identity. "This is who we are. This is what we do." It doesn't have to be a huge thing. For small children, letting them help make cookies and then distribute them at a nursing home is an easy way to get them caught up in the joy of doing good.

4. Remind your children that you, too, are under the command of Christ. When you have to bite your tongue, or adjust your spending, or turn off a TV show because of content, let them know that you have had to modify your behavior because of who you are in Christ. Discipline yourself or you will never be able to discipline your children.

5. As soon as they can write legibly, get them to help you pay bills. They can fill out the checks, enter the deduction in the checkbook, and do the subtractions as you go through the pile of "payment due" missives we all receive. That lets them see where the money goes and that you aren't made of money. Because we did this, our kids never asked for the hugely expensive things other kids had. They knew our money situation because they were involved in it. By the way, when you write that check to the church and to charities regardless of how poorly you are doing that month, that is an incredible lesson your kids will not soon forget.

More later. Enjoy your children. Especially the difficult ones! Remember -- they get to choose your nursing home.

Monday, May 08, 2006


[NOTE -- personal, theological, and political matters are now discussed at This address is for family and mental health matters]

We have a gas station near us that still pumps it for you. Really. No kidding. They pump everybody's gas -- no self service allowed -- at the same price as the no name brands down the street so I show up there as often as possible and let them! I want to get the fellow that pumps my gas to come to worship with me one day. It will be a long courtship between now and then, I fear. He lives with his girlfriend and her kids (his own daughter is now 24 and on her own), one of whom has just turned 13. He asked me today, "How and why does a sweet 12 year old girl turn 13 and suddenly become Sybil? I saw it in my own daughter and now I see it in my girlfriend's daughter. How does this happen? Why is every 13 year old Sybil?"

For those who don't get the reference, "Sybil" was the name of a young woman who had quite a few multiple personalities (the disorder is now called DID and not MPD). Sally Fields played her in a powerful movie a couple of decades ago.

The reason teenagers can be so difficult is that it is a manufactured stage of development. Most nations and cultures still do not have an "adolescence." They go right from child to adult, usually via a public ceremony. Even "childhood" as a distinct age of development, began to be distinguished in this country around the time of the Industrial Revolution -- the middle 1800's. Before then there were no child labor laws, no mandatory school attendance laws, and children were looked upon as part of the family/community workforce. While rare, 10 and 11 year olds did fight in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The first distinction other than infant/adult is found in a book written in the 1600's that divided the life of man into: infancy (0-7), childhood (7-14), youth (14-28), manhood (28-50), gravity (50-70), and old age (70+). It was not a popular concept at the time, but as technology progressed and the world became smaller and more complex, the concept was forced upon us by reality.

Children became adults early for several reasons. Often, the father died before the last child reached fourteen (that was the norm in the US as late as 1900). Agrarian living was the norm and every mouth that was being fed had to pitch in or the family starved. Most cultures on the earth are still like that to this day.

In the 1920's the idea of adolescence was floated for the first time as a separate stage. It was the period between puberty and adulthood. An "adult" can function independently of its parents (which makes you wonder what to call all these 30 year olds who never left home or who have moved back home). As the world got more complex, the length between puberty and the ability to function independently grew rapidly -- but our biology didn't change! We were programmed to reproduce and make our own decisions by the way God wired our brains and bodies, but we now live in a world where it is foolish in the extreme to let 15 year olds loose to live on their own!

Yes, grandmother might have gotten married when she was fourteen, but she lived within sight (usually) of several family members. They were still a community, but she was free to make decisions, have sex, make babies, and move along if she and her husband wanted to. There wasn't much she HAD to know before she got married. She learned about the facts of sexual behavior by living on a farm and by living in a house with ten other people, some of them adults, separated at best by very thin walls. Other than Cow 101 and Sewing 102, there weren't a lot of courses she needed to take before she could make a home for her family with that young man she married (who was also within sight of some of his relatives).

But now... things have changed. There can be 10-15 years between the time one's hormones and brain kicks in and the time you can successfully leave home. Every nerve ending you have is screaming to get out, live free of your parents, and establish your own place and family. Your testosterone (or estrogen) is screaming "be fruitful and multiply!" but your parents, the church, and society -- some of it, anyway -- says "not so fast, Bucko." It is a very difficult, and artificial time. It puts stress on everybody, but it is a fact we have to live with. The days of an 8th grade education being adequate are long gone in our culture. I am not quite 50 and can remember people telling us to stay in school and get that high school diploma so we'd have a good education. Many of you know that even a Bachelor's degree is not sufficient in many fields to get you in the front door, much less to help you get started in a career.

So how do we live between 13 and the time we can launch into the world? By the constant application of Christ's teaching and example. We have to sit across from each other and acknowledge the problem. "Susie, I know you want to stay out with your friends until 1AM, and I understand why. If I were you, I'd feel the same way. Problem is, both you and I are under orders from God. You are required to shine with the love and grace and purity Christ gave you. I am required to protect you -- even against yourself -- while getting you ready for the day when you can be gone and report where you are and what you are doing to no one but God. I'm going to have to give you some rope and you're going to have to be very, very careful what you do with it. I'm going to have to reel you in sometimes and you're going to hate me for it; almost as much as I hate having to do it...

"But here's a promise: I won't do what most parents do. I won't look at you as a problem. I won't treat you like a child when it suits me and then demand you act like an adult when it suits me. I'm going to remember, every day, that you are in a very stressful, artificial time of life. I'm going to try to help you through it and give you to tools to be successful at it. I'm going to listen to you first and think and pray before I decide to correct you or say 'no.' I'm going to ask you to listen to me first and think and pray before you say anything, too. I give you permission to remind me of what I've just said a dozen times a day if you want to. And I'm going to remind you of what God has said -- maybe a dozen times a day if I have to...

"Remember, Suzie, this stage of life is temporary, but your soul isn't. Don't make any mistakes that last forever. I'll try to help you with that. When you fail, I will still love you and offer you grace. I'll ask the same from you when I fail. Deal?"

More to come...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Please Make A Note

This blog is splitting in two. For family issues, child rearing info, and mental health matters stay right here at tentpegs. If you want to follow my work at Rochester and on the road, my ramblings about theology, politics, and life, please go to

Twice the blogs... and yet, no increase in price! What a bargain. Proof once again that this blog isn't run by Exxon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Discipline, part two

[note: very shortly I will be splitting this blog into two parts. This one will deal with family issues or mental health issues. The other blog will deal with things religious, personal, and political. Stay tuned]

Anytime you speak of discipline the subject of spanking gallops into the room. Remembering that discipline is not the same as punishment, let's examine the subject of spanking -- even though doing so is guaranteeing that I will upset quite a few people.

There are three key terms used in scripture: chasten, chastise, and rod. (using KJV terms here since they are so locked in and traditional)

"Chasten" means to instruct or train. It is found, among other places, in Psalm 6:1; Proverbs 94:12, Proverbs 19:18; Job 5:17; and Revelation 3:19. It can mean physical punishment, but quite often it does not. It is a broad term that refers to all forms of training and discipline.

"Chastise" is a completely unrelated word. Yes, in English it is a kissing cousin, but not in Hebrew or Greek. It clearly means physical punishment. It is sometimes translated "punish" or "scourge." We find it in Deuteronomy 22:18; 1 Kings 12:11; Luke 23:16. NOTE THIS: it is NEVER used in a discussion of children. It is always used in reference to the rebellion of adults or nations. God administers this chastisement through His law. Parents are never given permission in scripture to "chastise" their children.

But what about "Rod?" I hear you cry. Fair enough -- let's look at this. Many words are translated "rod" in our English versions but the most common is the Hebrew word "shebbete" meaning a teacher's pointer, a shepherd's crook, a king's sceptre, or the body of law (aka "canon"). Read Proverbs 22:15 and 29:15-17 and ask yourself what is being discussed -- a stick to hit someone with or law and teaching? It becomes obvious that the rod -- a symbol of law, authority, and teaching -- is not a beating stick. See also Proverbs 13:24 and ask the same questions.

Discipline is ALWAYS more a matter of example and teaching than it is punishment. Punishment can be required, but when it is the first resort, or the preferred method, that is a sign of laziness. It is easier to hit than to teach. God calls us to more difficult level of service than the animalistic "I'm mad, therefore I hit" mentality.

So is spanking always wrong? Not in the least. Some physical intervention is required when a child is in physical danger or is placing someone else in physical danger. When a child is reaching for a pot of boiling water it is no good to say "Now, Johnnie, remember our song about hot and cold?" Grab the kid! If needed, smack a hand and tell them "no!" The kid who rode their bike into traffic should be grabbed and lifted back into the yard with an urgency that impresses on their mind that something extraordinary and wrong has just occured.

But no harming the child, no marking them, and no terrorizing them. Ever. Stay very, very calm and in control. Don't over-react. Here are some examples: I was downstairs in my comfy chair when I heard my then four year old daughter talk back sharply to my wife. I left my chair, went upstairs, entered the room and told my wife that I would take it from there. I lifted my daughter, took her downstairs, and sat her on the dining table as I leaned in close to her face and said -- evenly and low -- "no one talks to my wife like that. Not my father, not the elders, not a policeman -- no one, ever, gets to talk to my wife like that. Understand me? I knew her before I knew you and one day when you are gone she will still be here. She is mine and I am hers. Got it?" Guess what? She did. I had a girl who went through her teen years without rebelling against her mother. She might disagree with her mother or even be very frustrated by her, but she knew there were strict limits in place and DAD was still roaming the house to protect his wife.

One day my son, then aged eight, got out of control. He was having one of those days when nothing was going right for him (we all have them) and I actually felt sorry for him. But when he spoke sharply to his sister and puffed himself up physically as if he was going to strike her I whacked him on the leg with my hand and told him to back off. We then went into another room and I listened to him tell me of his terrible day. I talked to him about how to handle those kind of things and we got it sorted out. No harm, no foul.

But maybe you try to discipline your kid and it doesn't work. There might be some real reasons why. We'll examine those next time.