Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
You've probably heard of Gabrielle "Gabby" Reece, a former Women's Beach Volleyball League star. But you may not be aware that her marriage was headed for divorce, when, as she calls it, “an old fashioned dynamic” mended the relationship. According to this volleyball star’s critics, the dynamic that saved her marriage set back women’s causes 50 years.
What could she have possibly said to provoke such a strong reaction?
All it took was one line from her newest book: “To be truly feminine means being soft, receptive, and – look out, here it comes – submissive.”
After sharing this perspective on national TV in April, Reece swiftly came under fire.
She told the Wall Street Journal that the overwhelming negative reaction was almost enough to keep her hiding in her hotel room the next day. One friend told her she may as well have said she worships the devil.
In today’s culture, gender roles in marriage is a controversial subject and one that’s easily misunderstood. And, regrettably, some men have used the Bible to demean and control their wives in an unbiblical manner. While this is the exception, the perception is damaging to those of us who uphold biblical womanhood.
But I still find the reaction to Reece’s conviction fascinating. She’s a strong, extremely accomplished athlete and businesswoman. When she describes her marriage, it’s clear there’s mutual respect between her and her husband – I don’t see how anyone could conclude she’s a “doormat.”
She says she’s found a lot of strength and happiness in her role. But even the suggestion that a wife should submit to her husband gets her branded an enemy of women’s rights.
Just last week on the Focus on the Family daily broadcast, we interviewed clinical psychologist Dr. Debbie Cherry about biblical submission. It was a great conversation, and she dispelled a number of common myths about the subject. I’d encourage you to listen to it.
What do you think? If you’re a wife who believes strongly in practicing what Reece calls “an old fashioned dynamic” – what many Christians would call a biblical principle – how would you convince a female friend that God’s design is actually best?
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Recently, Christianity Today and World Magazine both ran pieces on the growing trend of “radical Christianity.”
What’s it all about?
The “radical Christianity” movement encourages believers to eschew the relative comfort of our middle-class American lives in favor of walking out our faith with abandon.
I agree wholeheartedly that God is more interested in our character than our comfort. I also agree that sometimes God’s call on our life requires moving out of the suburbs and into the inner city to serve among the vulnerable, while others are called to leave the U.S. for a mission field in a developing nation.
However, I’d like to point out that there are other ways to becoming a radical Christian. Here are three additional things you can do to chip away at your sense of comfort and go against the tide of culture.
1. Get Married Young.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with marrying later in life – but neither should young people feel they “have to” postpone marriage until they’re through with their post-graduate degrees and can purchase a move-in-ready house with a pool.
One of the reasons the age of first marriage for both men and women continues to creep upward is that young people are encouraged at every turn to finish school, get a good job and make something of themselves before they get married. Well, accomplishing all those goals takes a long time. It also sends the message that marriage isn’t something to aspire to – or, at least, that it takes a backseat to life’s “real” objectives.
As Christians, we know God holds marriage in high esteem. He created it, and He uses it to mold our character and teach us how to love sacrificially. This is why at Focus we advise young people who are strong in their faith to go ahead and prayerfully enter into marriage if they believe they’ve met the spouse God has for them. After all, there’s nothing wrong with moving into a small apartment and using secondhand furniture for a few years while you get on your feet – together.
2. Have Many Children.
More and more, childless marriages and small families are in vogue. I understand why some would want to take that route. Parenting is hard. There are sleepless nights with the baby and temper tantrums. Children can hamper a couple’s earning power (someone has to take care of those kids) and cause their parents to lay down their own lives in countless ways.
However, children also teach you to prioritize what’s really important. They can teach you more about the love God the Father has for you than a thousand sermons. They help us see the world with wonder and awe, and give us a heart of compassion.
In short, children are a gift.
3. Raise Your Kids to Love the Lord.
The culture isn’t friendly to Christianity. It increasingly relegates faith to something that should be practiced within the confines of a church because it’s “offensive” when it's boldly practiced in the public square. In today’s “me” culture, Christianity’s call to serve others in humility isn't going to be immediately attractive.
This is why raising children who love the Lord and live out what they believe in school and when they’re out with their friends is such a radical act. It’s also an act that can help change the world. So go ahead – give your kids a Christian worldview. Model to them what it looks like to discern God’s will in everyday situations by applying the principles of Scripture. Help them speak up for truth, care for the vulnerable and love the unlovable. What a powerful witness godly children are to a watching world!
By all means – if God calls you to sell your home and give it all to the poor, do it. Just know that for some, living radically means getting married at 22, having five kids and buying a home in the suburbs. The same God who sends missionaries far from home plants families in Middle America who can be salt and light to their neighbors, colleagues and friends who need Jesus.
According to the National Weather Service, the deadly tornado outside of Oklahoma City touched down just before 3:00 p.m. Central Time this afternoon. The mile-wide twister traveled on the ground for over an hour and covered nearly 20 miles, flattening homes, tossing cars high into the sky - and killing scores of people in the process.
The video and pictures are devastating. Our hearts break at the sight of such tragedy, especially the images of the grieving and those trying to cope with such suffering and loss.
My mind thinks about the mothers and fathers whose children never came home from school this afternoon. I think of the empty beds and the broken dreams and all the questions that have no suitable answers this side of eternity.
Tonight in Moore, Oklahoma there are individuals who lost spouses and children who lost parents. Scores of people lost friends and loved ones.
Focus on the Family would count it a privilege to help you and your loved ones find your way through this tragedy. Our trained and licensed counselors are available to help. Please just contact us.
From where I sit, the very best way to deal with grief is to grab hold of the Gospel and to remember the cross. Of all the religions in the world, ours is the only one which claims a Savior who is intimately familiar with suffering.
"He was despised and forsaken of men," wrote the prophet Isaiah, "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (53:3).
He knows. He cares. He understands.
Please join me in praying for those in Oklahoma and support the groups that are delivering help. And if you or a loved one are struggling to process the tremendous impact and suffering left in the wake of this disaster, I would ask that you listen to an interview I had with Randy Alcorn in September of last year entitled, “Where’s God in the Midst of Suffering?”, that addresses this very difficult subject. Though this program surrounds the national tragedy of 9-11, many of the themes and questions discussed are relevant to this devastating tragedy in Oklahoma.
Christianity says that the trouble with men and women is in their heart, in their ultimate power of vision and understanding. It is not that they are partially wrong, they are all wrong; they are looking in the wrong direction, they are blinded at the most vital point. The organ that keeps them going is itself in trouble—the heart. So our Lord puts this great emphasis upon “first,” and “heart,” and “eye” and this is just a pictorial way of saying that what the human race needs is not just to be improved a little bit here and there … they need to be radically changed.
- Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God
Kyle Idleman is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and the author of Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. His words strike right at the heart of this issue:
We have all kinds of funny ways to measure our relationship with God and have things that we point to as evidence, like the fact that there is a fish on our bumper or people will talk about the fact that their grandparents went to church or that they have four Bibles in their house … Jesus doesn’t want fans; he wants completely committed followers.
I strongly resonate with Pastor Idleman’s perspective. He is addressing the very thing I was confronted with in college when I finally took a serious look at my spiritual convictions.
How authentic was my faith?
When I was twenty-two, just prior to graduation, I decided to spend a year studying abroad at Waseda University in Japan. It was another eye-opener for me, especially related to my growing love for Jesus, as I learned about some of Japan’s main religions—Shintoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. For example, Shintoism teaches that you have to pay money for a good name so that when you die, you get closer to the Creator. It saddened me that poor people pooled their money to buy a name for their deceased loved ones. And it struck me as suspicious that you actually had to pay the priest to get the name. Again, the exposure to these religions caused me to dig deeper into Christianity.
For me, the contrast between the faiths was startling and instructive.
It can be valuable to have a person or culture challenge core beliefs. During my college years I finally read my Bible from cover to cover to make sure I really did believe what I claimed to believe. My time in Japan gave me an entirely new perspective on the doctrine of grace. It helped me better understand how deep God’s love is for us and caused me to rejoice that unlike other major religions of the world, we don’t have to pay any institution in order to draw closer to Him.
We all can remember studying for our final exams. After all the hours sitting in class, after all the homework and pop quizzes and papers, the entire academic year comes down to a few last tests. Ace them and a carefree summer awaits. Choke and you could be facing the prospect of summer school.
Times may change, but the discipline of studying remains constant. It’s all about preparation and focus. I once heard about a teacher in a Christian school who led her classes in the same prayer before every final: “Lord,” she would say, “please help these kids remember what they studied. But more importantly, may what they studied and remember be on the test!”
According to experts (and backed up by common sense) the ability to remember what you study often comes down to avoiding distractions. Back when I was a kid, the distractions ranged from television to music to wanting to play ball with my friends. Those still exist, of course, but technology is threatening to further distract our kids. Consider this observation from Slate.com:
Researchers recently observed 263 students (from middle school, high school and college) as they were studying: Within two minutes, many were texting, tweeting, surfing the Web, watching TV or updating their Facebook page. After 15 minutes, the scientists found that students had spent just 65% of their time, on average, actually studying.
Research also indicates that multi-taskers generally remember less of what they study. And the stuff they do remember, they have more difficulty understanding. "There's nothing magical about the brains of so-called 'digital natives' that keeps them from suffering the inefficiencies of multitasking," says David Meyer, a professor of psychology from the University of Michigan. "They may like to do it, they may even be addicted to it, but there's no getting around the fact that it's far better to focus on one task from start to finish."
So moms and dad, if you want to help your kids finish the school year strong, you might urge them to turn off their phones and stay off Facebook and Twitter for a few hours at a time. Not only will they increase their quality of study time, but they may also be surprised (and relieved) to discover the Earth will continue to spin on its axis without their texts, tweets or status updates.
Have you heard about “thigh gap” yet? If not, it’s likely your teenage daughter or granddaughter has.
Thigh gap is a troubling – and potentially dangerous – new trend. It’s causing some girls to starve themselves in hopes of achieving a gap between their thighs when they stand with their knees together. Other girls exercise obsessively or resort to other self-destructive behavior, so they can become thin enough to accomplish the thigh gap and post pictures of their success on social networking sites like Tumblr.
When trends like these emerge, I’m grateful for the team of counselors we have at Focus. They can shed light on the root causes of body image disorders like thigh gap – and can help parents successfully walk with their children through what can be a scary and confusing time.
Christina works as one of our ministry’s counselors, and she recently shared some advice about this new obsession. She talked about warning signs, what’s normal and what’s not, and pointed out some resources that will help parents learn more about body image issues so often prevalent among young women. She also gives great advice on how to get difficult conversations started with the young person in your life.
What’s at the root of trends like thigh gap? Why do some girls fixate on things like that?
The issue around thigh gap is, at its core, a body image issue. Like any other body image disorder, it’s part of an identity crisis that reveals where the young lady is getting her sense of worth from. In this case, the teenage girl is getting her identity from what she looks like, instead of who she is in Christ.
When someone becomes so focused on body image or things like thigh gap, the danger is that the disordered thinking leads to disordered actions. It also impacts eating and living, and the teenage girl is at risk to develop eating disorders like anorexia.
It’s also worth noting that we’re seeing a huge rise in male teens with body image issues and eating disorders.What causes body image issues?
A lot of it is caused by comparing ourselves to other people. We look to our peers for a measure of who we should be, or what we should look like – and this tendency is now facilitated by social media. When a person becomes very competitive in wanting to be like everyone else, or to be liked, you’ll soon start to see a competitive edge that insists on wanting to do X, Y or Z no matter what. For example, your teen may insist on running outside for an hour despite the freezing blizzard and weather warnings.
What are some red flags parents can watch out for in their children?
There are a few warning signs that can indicate to parents that there may be trouble lurking. First, parents can watch for changes to a teen’s sleeping, eating and exercise habits.
You may also notice complete emotional meltdowns in reaction to body changes. We’re not talking about normal disappointments to gaining five pounds or to a pair of jeans not fitting well at the store fitting room – I mean an unwarranted emotional reaction to what seems like a small trigger.
Another thing parents will notice is a personality change. If their daughter was outgoing and carefree, she’ll become isolated. She may not talk with you. She may not socialize with the same peers, or go from a large social group to a few friends. Conversely a daughter who is usually quiet and introverted may suddenly try to fit in with large groups and may be working towards popularity.
The teenage and young adult years can be a confusing time. I’ve heard from parents of teens that it seems their son or daughter changes every five minutes. How can a mom and dad distinguish between what’s part of normal teenage development and what’s not?
You’re right – teenagers are trying to find themselves. They’re trying to figure out who they are, and they tend to ‘try on’ new roles for themselves. They’re trying out new things. It’s also normal for teenagers – and for all of us, actually – to struggle in some way with our body image.
I encourage parents to listen to and choose relationship with teens. This puts parents in a better place to notice when their son or daughter becomes stuck with disordered thinking, and when that thinking leads to a disordered lifestyle.
When I’m talking about behavioral changes, I’m talking about things that go way beyond what’s expected. Generally you don’t have to look for these changes, because they won’t be temporary or too subtle. You’ll see changes in your teen and wonder, ‘Where did my child go?’
The prospect of talking about such a sensitive issue with their teenage girl can be intimidating to some parents. I can imagine moms and dads might feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to how approach a conversation like this. Can you give any pointers?
Oftentimes, when you ask your teen how they feel about something, they’ll respond with an ‘I don’t know.’ That can be very frustrating for a parent to hear. One way around this is to remember that most teenagers are very friend-oriented, and to use that to help draw information out of your son or daughter. Instead of asking your teen directly about how they feel, ask, ‘What do you and your friends think about this? What are they saying in school about that?’ Oftentimes, that will help a teen open up. They’ll talk about what people are saying or thinking. This technique could be the key to opening the door. From here you’ll learn about the expectations they are feeling from their friends, what they think about things, and so on. Spending time doing an activity that your teen chooses and enjoys doing can also open up conversation and insight into their world.
At that point, it’s easier for parents to enter the situation with advice and perspective on what God has to say about our bodies.
Is there a way to help prevent these issues in our children?
We make a big deal about talking about the “birds and the bees.” In my view, the conversation about body image should go hand-in-hand with sex education because it’s all connected. It’s all part of who we are, who God created us to be and how to honor God with our bodies.
So as you have your talks with your kids as they grow up, connect it all to the larger issues. The earlier parents start connecting God’s design for our bodies the easier it is to feel secure in the body God gave you. That will help build a foundation you can continue to build on.
Obviously, issues as complicated as body image disorders aren’t something that can fully be dealt with in a blog post. If you want more information on the topic, you can visit the parenting area on Focus’ website which features a section on Eating Disorders and Kids.
If you feel your child has an eating disorder, I encourage you to contact us at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) to arrange to speak with one of our licensed professional counselors. For more information, please visit our Counseling Services and Referrals page.
The trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell came to a conclusion today when the Philadelphia doctor was found guilty of first-degree murder. It took the seven-woman and five-man jury ten days to reach its verdict. The proceedings were filled with gruesome and horrific details, including charges that Mr. Gosnell murdered children born alive. The more I learned of what happened inside that clinic, the more my heart was rubbed raw.
To be clear, the guilty verdict elicits no glee. But what we saw inside the courtroom was an exposé of evil, and it always benefits society to bring wickedness and evil to light. The victims of Gosnell's crimes join the sad and long roll of more than 50 million children aborted in America since 1973. The United States is an infinitely poorer nation without these precious lives, each person unique and loved by the God who made them.
It should be the prayer of all people that the Gosnell trial will ultimately serve as a turning point in the ongoing effort to promote the beauty and protection of all life. The innocents must not die in vain. “Justice,” as Thomas Jefferson once put it, “cannot sleep forever.”
I believe that for too long, too many have viewed abortion as a clinically sterile procedure. It is anything but. For too long, too many have been so obsessed with the “right” to abortion that they’ve thought very little about the pain to the people involved, and chosen to ignore what actually goes on before, during and after the abortion itself.
As a Christian, I process heartbreak and evilness through the long lens of the Bible, believing that man often means to inflict evil upon others, yet somehow, someway, someday, the Lord will bring good out of the very worst of all things (Genesis 50:20). We know that God identifies with human suffering, especially the suffering of children. If abortion breaks my heart, I cannot even fathom how it touches His.
And as a Christian, I not only turn to my Bible to understand and process the evil of this fallen world, including the evil inside Gosnell’s clinic and countless others like it around the world - but just as importantly, I also cling to the cross. Jesus willingly carried His cross to Calvary because He so hated evil that He was willing to die for you and for me – and yes, for Kermit Gosnell, to save us from an eternity separated from God.
“I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” (John Wesley)
"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." (Abraham Lincoln)
"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." (Washington Irving)
"When I was a child my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk, you'll be the pope.' Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso." (Pablo Picasso)
My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. (George Washington)
"The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom." (Henry Ward Beecher)
"Mother - that was the bank where we deposited all our hurts and worries." (T. DeWitt Talmage)
Happy Mother's Day!
It’s a question we get often from parents – and for good reason.
For many adults, going online and visiting social media sites is simply about checking in with our relatives a few states away, sharing some cute pictures of our own children or connecting with a childhood friend.
The impact of social media on our young people can be far greater, however. For many tweens and teens, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram bring the stresses of school and peer pressure right to their smartphones and home computers. The virtual world makes it easy for them to compare themselves with their peers, leading some to wrestle with body image issues and even eating disorders.
Social media sites are also a place where some young people endure cruel comments and bullying from classmates.
What’s a parent to do?
For starters, our counselors here at Focus always encourage parents to work at forging a close relationship with their child. A loving bond will survive the ups and downs that accompany the teenage years.
Secondly, we advise parents to be involved with their child’s social media use. Yes, that definitely means monitoring. However, it also includes asking questions that will help you engage your tween or teen – “Could you help me understand Tumblr?” or “What do your friends think about Facebook?”
Questions can also prompt them to connect the dots to how their online use impacts their faith: “How does this help you with your walk with Christ?” or “Is this something that helps you be who God wants you to be?”
In addition to keeping open conversation about social media use, a third tip is to involve your teen in creating the do’s and don’ts that ultimately must be put in place. By including them in this process, you are teaching your child how to make good decisions. And yes, I understand that this process might seem more cumbersome. However, we’ve found that working now with your teen on creating sensible guidelines will help you avoid power struggles later – it teaches children that their parents are partners in processing through issues.
As with all things, there is no foolproof way to guarantee your child will make wise decisions at every turn. This is why we turn to our Dad – our Heavenly Father – and pray for His grace to cover and protect our kids.
Our website has more advice on staying on top of your teen’s technology. If you want to speak with one of our family-help specialists, you can contact us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
So those are some general guidelines. I’m interested to hear from you. How have you navigated your child’s social media use? I’d love to hear your story – the good, the bad or the ugly!
Within Christian circles, Max Lucado is a household name, beloved for his gentle and inspiring books. The San Antonio-based pastor is a publishing icon. More than twenty million of his titles are in circulation, and his throngs of readers eagerly await each year’s new release. Now at about this point you’d probably expect me to share a story of Lucado’s humility, to tell you that even with his bestseller status, he doesn’t struggle with pride or ego.
But the fact is, he does, which is why Lucado is winning the battle we all fight, one way or the other.
Looking back to his early writing days he reflects:
“I really think God said, ‘I can’t trust Lucado with too much, but I’m going to give him this ability and see how he handles it … OK, he didn’t mess that up. OK, here’s another idea,’” he says. “I try to be faithful. I try to get my manuscripts in on time. I try not to let it go to my head, but sometimes I think too highly of myself.”
As minister of preaching to a congregation of three thousand, Lucado is refreshingly candid when he discusses the battle he endures with his ego.
“I confessed it to the church,” he stated. “I was sick of always wanting to know if our church was as big as the others. A man gave me some great advice. He reminded me that when another church does well, we all do well. After he said that, I suddenly saw Oak Hills as one tiny corpuscle in the body of Christ.” And despite having sold millions of books, he acknowledges he always hopes to sell more. “I take too much pride in that. I ideally want to be able to say that I can be content if 500 people read my books rather than 500,000. But I can’t … I know competitiveness can be healthy and good, unless it is pride driven. It’s a struggle for me.”
Max Lucado’s candidness should serve as a good model, and though most of us are not faced with balancing our gifts with widespread fame and even fortune, the premise is instructive. It’s easy to justify our own out-of-control pride and ego. Lucado could easily suggest he’s interested in selling more books because he wants to reach more souls for the Lord. But he knows better—and he’s honest about it!
A person obsessed with their physical image may claim they’re simply concerned with good grooming. A workaholic tells their spouse they’re providing for the family, but the truth is, they’re finding their identity at the workplace, not in the person and divinity of Jesus. On and on it goes.
Of pride and its pull, Puritan writer William Jenkyn puts it well. “It is only a Christian of strong grace,” he said, “that can bear the strong wine of his commendations without the spiritual intoxication of pride.”
Have you noticed that most adults share a curious trait?
We can turn almost anything into something gravely serious. It’s no wonder stress-related illnesses have become so prevalent. That’s why it’s good to remind ourselves regularly to take a deep breath, relax, and laugh at ourselves.
Well-known pastor Bill Hybels can teach us a little something about that. He’s passionate about his work and calling, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He even proves it from time to time by inviting others to laugh along with him. Take, for example, his humorous, tongue-in-cheek account of cooking his first Thanksgiving turkey.
A few years back, his wife decided she’d rather not cook the Thanksgiving meal, so Bill stepped up. After all, he said, this situation called for a leader, and he was the senior pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States and the founder of the Global Leadership Summit. How hard could this be?
To really impress his family, he elected to cook the holiday bird outside on his new grill, a fancy built-in connected to the house’s gas line, with enough BTUs to power a small city. He spent weeks planning the meal and declared this turkey would be the greatest his family had ever eaten. The big day arrived and – true to his promise – the turkey was a hit.
Weeks slipped by. Christmas came and went, and the New Year was underway. Then, one chilly Saturday morning, a landscaper finishing up some work around the house asked Bill what he’d cooked the night before.
Bill looked back with a confused frown. “Nothing,” he responded.
Now the landscaper seemed puzzled. He motioned toward the grill. “I think you left a burner on. Your grill is hot.”
Bill investigated and noticed the burners were roaring full-blast. It was at that moment he realized he’d never turned off the grill after using it nearly six weeks before. He now jokes it was the most expensive Thanksgiving turkey in history … and he was the biggest turkey of them all.
Listen, there are plenty of things in life that require us to be serious.
Why drum up (no pun intended) extra problems to add to that list? Sometimes we need to give ourselves a break. Relax. And laugh at ourselves and our silly mistakes.