No Clogs

clogs

As promised, men of MHC, I’m back again to talk with you about relating to the Holy Spirit.  And what better way is there to start the conversation than to tell you about a dream I had last night?  Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  “Dreams aren’t normally the expertise of evangelicals.”

Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a shot.

The Bible records at least 19 instances in which God spoke to one of His people through a dream––and the book of Joel implies that as history wears thin, ordinary people like you and I will increasingly experience God through dreams.  I tell you this because it’s a good place to start.  Remember, the Holy Spirit is like the wind––He often materializes in ways unexpected, and He most assuredly will not be controlled.  He speaks regularly through the Bible.  But He also speaks through Creation, (Ps. 19), through people, (believers and unbelievers), through dreams, through circumstances, and through that “still, small voice” some refer to when they suspect God is trying to get their attention, but don’t know what to call it.  On one occasion in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit even spoke through a donkey, (Numbers 22: 21-39).  Compared to that, a dream’s not so weird, is it?

In my dream, I’m standing in an old, log cabin.  It’s an attractive cabin––warm, well-furnished, inviting––the type of place you might be attracted to, were it not for the pools of stagnant water standing everywhere.  I am up to my knees in the brown ooze, thinking to myself, “Who lives here?  And why hasn’t he done something about this mess?”

Suddenly, my foot bumps against some spongy mass beneath the surface, and––with a belch––the mass gives way, and a mighty exodus of water begins to rush down an unseen drain.  On and on it rushes, while I stand back and gawk at the receding water line, taking note of previously submerged furniture, ornate rugs, and beautiful wooden floors.  Just before I wake up, I remember thinking to myself, “This place looks pretty good for having been water-logged.  A guy could actually live here.”

When I awoke, I sat up on the side of my bed and did what I always do when I’m aware I’ve had one of “those” dreams––I asked the Holy Spirit for an interpretation.  And His “still, small voice” said…

“The cabin in your dream is an ordinary place of residence, representative of a man’s life.   The clog stands for the man’s sin.  And the water is the spiritual condition of the man’s life, putrid because of the clog.  When the clog is removed, the water can flow, and the state of the house can be restored.”

Now, this may sound like mumbo-jumbo to you, unless you understand the Holy Spirit’s ways are higher than our ways––including the ways He sometimes communicates with us.  But if you can accept this, you’re ready for the next question…

Do you have any clogs in your life, my friend?  I’m not talking about a little hair in the bottom of your shower. (If you’re my age, that’s expected.)  I’m talking about that beard-stubble-band-aids-and-bubble-gum-type of clog that’s lodged in the u-trap of your soul, and is going to take one heck of a snake to dislodge it.  What I’m trying to say here is that the common clogs of a man’s life––the ones like bad temper, lustful binges, reckless spending, selfish ambition, bitter jealousy, or good, old-fashioned pride, passivity, and procrastination––will not only make a mess of one’s life, (one’s cabin), but will also put the Holy Spirit’s voice on “mute”.  And the only thing worse than a soggy, cabin is a soggy, silent cabin.

Is your cabin soggy and silent?  Would you like that to change?  Would you like to open up the channels of communication with the God who lives inside your chest?  Then say these words with me… “No clogs!”  And mean it when you say it.  If you’re a saved man, then your heart is now the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, who deserves nothing less than a clean, comfortable, respectable cabin in which to hang His hat.  So, go after those clogs!  Identify them!  Roto-root them out through some serious confession to God, and to anyone you may have sinned against.  Soon, your ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and experience His power will begin to flow.

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to confession, check out the “common clogs” I mentioned two paragraphs ago, and you probably won’t have to look much further.

To experience the Holy Spirit, men, we have to get our houses in order.  So, say the words one more time with me…”No clogs!”

Until next time, I am as always…

Your friend,

Will

 

 

Advertisements

The Wind and Me

 

CLIMATE-IPCC/

The wind is wild, and weird, and wonderful––and I’ve been thinking about it more than usual .  Maybe it’s because I’ve driven through Limon several times in the last month.  Maybe it’s because my hair is getting thinner, and every little gust seems to whistle across my scalp.  Or maybe it’s because I’m from Oklahoma, and the wind is in my soul.

I was five when I first heard the tornado siren, and understood what it was trying to say.  Coincidentally, I had also just watched the “Wizard of Oz”.  Thus, as my father hurried us down the rickety, wooden stairs to the basement––down where the smells of clay, and mildew, and furnace dust mingled with my childhood fears––I was certain our home would soon be relocated, far away in some phantasmic world.  To my surprise, when the sickening, green clouds had come and gone, we were still living on 39th Street.

If, however, one lives in Oklahoma long enough, he eventually understands not all tornados pass by so politely.  On the afternoon of May 20, 2013, a monstrous EF5 struck Moore, Oklahoma, (a few miles east of the neighborhood in which I grew up), with peak winds estimated at 210 mph.  It killed 24 people and injured 377 others.  None of them made it to their basements.  Nothing presumed immovable was left standing.  Nobody but the weatherman saw it coming.  And he was underground when it hit.

It seems odd to me that the wind can be so destructive on one day, and so peaceful the next.  Sometimes it skips out of the Rocky Mountains and pushes the boats around Chatfield Lake for an afternoon.  Other times it rips those same boats right off their moorings, and sends them hurtling away into the whitecaps.  And occasionally, the wind is nowhere to be found.  The only sure thing one knows about the wind is that it cannot be controlled.

Men of MHC, I want to speak with you now about a different kind of wind––a kind the Bible refers to as the Holy Spirit.  “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2)  Now, in the same way the Bible refers to the other members of the Trinity with pronouns and titles we can understand, (i.e. “He”, “Him”, “Father”, “Son”, etc.), the Spirit is also meant to be understood and experienced personally.  Nevertheless, like the wind, the Holy Spirit is often taken for granted––until, that is, our lives are adrift on a dead-calm sea, and we need a little help to get somewhere.  Like the wind, the Holy Spirit does whatever He wishes, whenever He wishes it, and without our consultation.  He is the very breath in our lungs… the Comforter sent to help us… the author of the Holy Bible… the God of the universe, actually living inside believers.  Why then, I wonder, do we ignore Him?  Worse––why do we resist Him?

Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about ways a Christian man can engage with this mighty wind––particularly in the areas of work, play, creativity, and relationships.  If you’ve ever imagined there was something more to this thing we call, “Christianity”, I hope you’ll read this blog and let it enrich your life.  Or––to put it more simply––I hope your little sailboat will find itself lifted up onto the swells beneath you, and transported at such new and exhilarating speeds that your life will never be the same.

Consider this blog post as the tornado siren––and your response to it as vital.

Sincerely,

Will

 

“My Right Eye”

My right eye.  The other day, my wife noticed a blind boy struggling to cross a busy intersection.  Because of the traffic buzzing all around Cindy’s car, she was in no position to come to the boy’s aid––so she sat there looking through the windshield, cringing as he groped with his cane toward the curb and the relentless flow of traffic.  When she could stand it no longer, she resolved to go and help the boy.  But just as she opened her door, the boy stumbled off the curb, and Cindy shut her eyes in horror.  Suddenly, a woman appeared out of nowhere, snatched the boy from harm’s way, and pulled him back onto the curb.  Thump!  Thump!  Thump!  Thump!  Cindy’s heart galloped like a race horse, as she watched the boy’s apparent “sight coach” dust him off, speak a few words of encouragement, and steer him in a new direction.  Cindy watched the boy and his coach, until they were distant specks on the sidewalk, and her heart rate had grown peaceful again.  Then, she closed her door and drove on towards home…thankful for the gift of sight.

Sight.  There is nothing so wonderful––yet so taken for granted.  One seldom misses it until he is blind.

If you’ve been following my previous two posts, you’ll know I believe a different kind of blindness has plunged our world into oncoming traffic.  I am speaking of pornography, and it is so intrusive that the nonprofit organization, “Family Safe Media”, reports that every second of every day, 28,258 Internet users view pornography.  That means that in the course of 24 hours, 2.5 billion pornographic “hits” are recorded worldwide.  Sometimes, however, the less dramatic statistic makes the loudest statement.  According to FSM, 92 percent of today’s 8 to 16-year-olds have viewed porn online, many of them while doing homework.

I’ll pause to let you ponder the darkness of that last sentence.

Jesus once said, “The eye is the lamp of the body,” and the word He used for “lamp” was “luchnos”––a tiny, portable vessel, usually made of clay, and often no larger than a man’s fist.  It was the common source of light in Jew and Gentile homes alike, and it needed to be filled daily with oil in order to perform its duty.  Filled with anything else, it was useless.

The metaphor is not a hard one to understand.

We are a planet populated with blind people, who have filled our eyes with material so detrimental to our vision, it’s no wonder we lack clarity to lead ourselves out of the problems we face socially, politically, economically, and globally.  What else do you expect from a blind society?  In the two minutes it took me to write this paragraph, another 101,728,800 eyes were blinded, and the darkness keeps on thickening.

So, what’s a parent to do who discovers his son has blinded himself with porn?  Do we simply say, “Oh, well.  The damage is done.  I’ll buy him a nice, long stick, and teach him to make the best of it?”  Of course not.  Friends, there is a way out of the darkness, and it goes like this…

The first thing a parent should do upon discovering porn has blinded a member of the household is to “get an arm around the shoulder”.  Besides its blinding effect, pornography also isolates those who use it.  If you want your son to regain his sight, you must first assure him you are not going to abandon him in the dark.  Once he knows he is not alone with his porn, (and its monstrous effects), he will feel free to explore treatment with your help.  So, hear this––the fastest way to perpetuate a porn torn soul’s isolation is to SHAME him and walk away.  Don’t do it!

Secondly, resist the temptation to employ the ragged cliché––”just say no”.  Truth be known, during the time it took your son to develop his addiction,  he has said “no” many times to pornography.  The problem is not your son’s “will power”, it’s his “won’t power” that now keeps him in the dark.  He simply won’t consider that there are far better blessings he forfeits every time he uses porn.  And you can be assured he “won’t” kick his addiction until he understands the things to which he should say, “yes” are more valuable than the things to which he should say, “no”.  You see, one feels shame when he fails to say, “no”, to a thing that is destructive to himself.  But one feels sorrow when he fails to say, “yes”, to a thing that benefits himself.  And it is this sorrow that we want to tap into.  The trick is finding a thing to which one can say, “yes”, whose payoff is greater than the payoff of pornography.  A couple of biblical examples come to mind:

Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.”

The message in the Matthew passage is obvious.  When one’s heart is pure, his vision is clear!  Insight comes more readily.  Wisdom is accessible.  Direction is obvious and second nature.  All of these and more are available to the one who says, “yes”, to purity.  But the John passage is a little harder to understand.  Let me suggest that the key lies in the word, “manifest”.  In it’s latin form, the word is, “manifestus”––meaning, “joyful hand”.  Thus, our John 14 passage suggests that when a person says, “yes”, to God’s commands, God extends His hand of fellowship––and the two walk together joyfully.  Therefore, a key to recovery from porn addiction is saying “yes” to the far superior things that God offers––things like an intimate walk with the Savior, or clearer vision of God and His world.  Until an addict realizes what he has been missing out on, it will be virtually impossible for him to say “no” to his porn for very long.  The appeal of it is just too strong.

All of this amounts to a powerful reprogramming of the mind, or, to be more precise, a deliberate acquiring of new tastes.  “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!”  The Bible is filled with these tantalizing promises!  When one feeds on them regularly, the appetite for pornography decreases––and eventually it becomes no more appealing to the former user than a bowl of rotten stew.  (Think, “Esau”.)

Thirdly, you will want to encourage your son not to fall into the trap of “counting his days of purity”.  This leads only to pride, which, in the end, is a far worse sin than sexual lust.  Many is the boy, (or man), who congratulates himself on his 200th day of porn-free living, only to fall flat on his face the very next day.  Jesus once said, “Let today’s troubles be sufficient for today, for tomorrow will have trouble of its own”, (Matt. 6:34).  As your son breaks free of pornography, the best mindset he can adopt is… “one day at a time”.  And speaking of time, you should remember that addictions do not develop overnight.  It took a while for your son to get stuck in porn––and it may take an even longer time for him to get unstuck.  Be patient, and encourage your son to be patient, too.  This is the humble approach, and the most effective, as well.  Do all you can to establish it.

But what if your son’s old tastes for pornography are just too hard to overcome––and, try as he might, he keeps returning to his sin?  Here, is where I invite you to contact me at wcunningham@missionhills.org.  I have several local, Christian therapists in my resource files who do amazing work with people who are addicted to pornography, and I’d love to share their contact information with you.

That’s all for now.

Your friend,

Will

“The Dark Disneyland”

dark-disneyland Throughout my childhood, the phone stayed home when I went out to play, tethered to the wall by ten feet of curly, rubber cord. This provided my peers and me with such blessed anonymity, it’s almost impossible to describe it to younger generations. Imagine, (if you are under the age of twenty), hours of uninterrupted playtime, during which your parents had no idea where you were, no means of reaching you if they desired, and an unlimited alibi for being late to every supper.

It was a golden age.

Now, fast forward to 2017. Gone are the days of meaningful obscurity, where a boy or girl could get lost in the magic of friendships, explore worlds deemed unsafe by adults, solve problems without the help of a parent, or a mentor… or Google. By contrast, today’s kids are tangled wherever they go, wrapped in the techno-tethers that trail behind them on every expedition. When faced with a challenge, often their first defense is to phone home. When stranded without cash, they have some wired to them instantly.  In a way, today’s teen is never alone––and, strangely, this makes me very sad for them.  On the other hand, today’s teen is VERY alone, trapped by his or her technology in some of the darkest places known to man.

And this is what I want to talk with you about today. 

If you read my previous blog post, entitled, “The Not-So-Smartphone”, you know my bias against teens owning smartphones is related to the corrosive nature of online pornography, and the sharp increase in teenage porn addiction. Nevertheless, I’m fully aware that the smartphone is not the only portal into the world of porn. My own introduction to the stuff occurred at a neighbor’s house, long before the age of computers, when I stumbled across a magazine on a coffee table, and instantly began looking for reasons to go back to that neighbor’s house. So, let me reiterate, no single source of information, (such as the smartphone), deserves the blame for the filth in which our society swims. The filth oozes in at every opening, and has been doing so for centuries.

I am going to speak to you now from the voice of experience. My introduction to porn at the neighbor’s house impacted me in several ways––most them negative, but not all of them. One good thing that came from those unfortunate days is a clearer understanding of the dark “disneyland” into which many of today’s kids are wandering. A second, (and equally important thing), is that I know where all the park exits are located. The more I’ve understood the problem, the more compassionate I’ve become towards those who are overwhelmed by it, and the more I’ve been able to help many who are still trapped there. So, for the remainder of this blog post, I’d like for you to join me on a trip into “disneyland”, one that could spare your teen from a lifetime of self-imposed seclusion.

Our journey begins with conversation.

Can you imagine being all by yourself in a haunted disneyland? It is no place for a young, impressionable mind. Too often young, porn-users feel isolated and alone, as if they are the only visitor in the park. And the weight of that isolation forces them to make increasingly poor choices. So, you should look for moments to enter that isolation! Tell your kids you are well aware of what they are seeing on their devices. Bring it up at the dinner table, when you have a captive audience. Introduce the topic when you are driving down the highway, and the only way for your kids to escape is to jump out of the car. Bottom line, let them know that you care, that you don’t think they’re weird or perverted, and that you will help them find the exit.

How I wish someone would have talked to me back then, someone who was older and wiser, someone who understood that “disneyland” was not a closed system, that there were, in fact, ways out of the amusement park. We do a deep disservice to our sons and daughters when we lead them to believe certain topics are off-limits or taboo. So, I urge you again––talk with your kids, and don’t shy away from a single topic!

Secondly, (and especially if you are a Christian), consider the following passage from Matthew 5:27-30. Here, Jesus is talking to a large audience, raising the bar of obedience to God’s laws, so that every listener in the crowd will understand that he or she is a fellow traveler in the boatload of sinners.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

Understood improperly, one might think this passage means that Jesus advocates self-mutilation. However, what He was really talking about is self-limitation. As I mentioned in my last blog post, one of the ways this limitation has taken shape in my life is that I choose to carry a cheap flip phone, rather than a smartphone. It is a defensive strategy that has helped me win many a battle against temptation. I recognize, however, that this strategy may not be for everyone. The smartphone has become a symbol of autonomy, a rite of passage––a piece in the puzzle of a teen’s differentiation, almost as vital as the first “set of wheels” was to yesterday’s teenager. I have actually met high school students who could care less about getting their driver’s license, but were giddy about the prospect of their first iPhone. Thus, imposing “Will’s flip phone strategy” on today’s teen may not be the most effective solution to the problem we’re discussing.

Still… Christ’s words about “self-limitation” seem useful in helping students limit themselves without becoming completely detached from their peers. Two phenomenal resource for help in this endeavor can be found at…

fightthenewdrug.org 

…a website dedicated to raising awareness about the effects of pornography through scientific facts and personal accounts. When you and I become informed about the difficult things our kids face in today’s crazy world, we instantly become more credible and effective in our ministry to them. I highly recommend you visit this site today, and introduce your teen to it, as well. It will help your teen self-limit without feeling self-conscious around his or her peers.  It will also provide a host of other resources for making your teen’s smartphone a safer and, thus, “smarter” means of communication.

Finally, don’t panic. The fact your son or daughter has probably already seen online pornography doesn’t mean addiction is inevitable. Many a teen has wandered into “disneyland” inadvertently, and eventually wandered out the other side, dazed and confused, but still functioning normally. The parent who panics at the first sign of his teen’s porn-use usually causes needless angst. On the other hand, the calm approach sets the stage for continued dialogue. So, stay calm and keep the lines of communication open.  Remember, helping your teen to not feel alone is what we’re after here.

Now, let’s review.

Talk to your teens about online pornography.

Educate yourselves, (and your teen), through fightthenewdrug.org.

And remain calm.

This winning combination will enhance your relationship with your teen, and will help him or her to not get lost in the shadows of the “dark disneyland”. 

 

Your friend,

Will

P.S. Should you discover that your teen is truly stuck in “disneyland”, already addicted to online pornography and unable to halt his or her viewing habits, watch for my next blog post, entitled, “Set Them Free”. I think it will help immensely.  Also the software found at http://triplexchurch.com/x3watch/ may be useful in helping your teen establish immediate accountability.

 

“The Not-So-Smartphone”

boy-with-smart-phone  The other day, a dad approached me in tears, with the words…“My thirteen-year-old has been watching porn on his phone, late at night.  It was supposed to be the perfect birthday gift––the phone, that is.  Now, I think it’s the worst thing his mom and I could have given him.  What do we do now?”  As the man sobbed, I tried to console him, but he was still crying when he climbed into his truck and drove away.

Do you hear the sadness in that father’s voice?  If you’re like me, it probably causes you to remember your own first exposure to pornography–– that miserable material the Bible denounces repeatedly.  Because this topic is so deep and personal, I’m going to take the next few posts to talk about, 1.) the link between smartphones and teenage porn addiction, 2.) a possible solution for parents who are willing to go against cultural norms, and 3.) a practical plan for restoring one’s soul after it has been damaged by porn.  I believe these entries will contain some of the most useful advice I offer this year––not only for teens, but for some of their parents, as well.

Before I go any further, however, I should mention I am not “anti-technology”.  Wishing the smartphone had never been invented is like wishing God had never made apples.  The reason people abuse things is not because those things exist, but because the will to abuse them lies deep in the heart of human beings.  I’m thankful for smartphones, and have lost count of the number of times my wife’s GPS has led us effortlessly to our destination.  However… I do not own one.

Here is a picture of the phone I own.

samsung-t139-tmob-closed_angle-250

I call it the “iPhone 8”.  It has no internet capacities, no apps, no pressure-sensitive home button, no dual lens camera––in fact, it has no bells or whistles at all.  Naturally, this makes me the regular recipient of good-natured ribbing from friends and colleagues.  Funny thing is, though, when all the laughter dies away, I always detect a faint look of envy in the eyes of the one doing the ribbing–as if he were thinking to himself, “I wonder what it feels like to be free.”

Here, it is important for me to reiterate that the smartphone is not the reason for today’s enormous spike in teenage porn addiction.  (As I mentioned above, humans abuse things because the will to abuse lies at our core.)  However, my colleagues who envy my freedom would probably say there is a definite link between the two.  And if they had the research to back it up, they would say this link can be found in one word––”dopamine”––the neurotransmitter released in the body every time a new, erotic image is accessed on the internet.  Over time, this chemical is responsible for creating a sense of craving.  And it is this craving that we refer to as, “addiction”.

Speaking of time, it is vital for the reader of this post to understand that in the few minutes it will take him or her to finish reading, the average teenage porn-user can see more nude images than his father or grandfather saw in a lifetime––right on his personal smartphone.  And with each surge of dopamine, the craving grows exponentially.  That means that in today’s world of porn, addicts become addicts at a much faster rate than they did in the pre-internet days.  In fact, the thirteen-year-old boy I mentioned at the beginning of this blog is likely addicted already, and has probably seen a thousand more images since his father came to me in tears.  How sad it is when parents think they’ve solved the porn-temptation problem by placing the family desktop in the center of their living room––and all the while, their child’s “porn shop” is in a backpack or pants pocket, walking out the door.

In February of 2006, an independent web-tracking company counted some 58 million monthly U.S. visitors to adult sites.  A decade later, that number had risen to 107 million.  Pornhub, a popular, adult website, reported 2.4 million visitors per hour in 2015 alone.   Around the world, people watched a staggering 4,392,486,580 hours of porn on that same site. According to Time magazine, that number represents “twice as long as Homo sapiens has spent on earth.”  So, let me be perfectly clear––there is a causal connection between the smartphone and the porn epidemic in teens.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll be smart enough to do something about it.

 *  For a few suggestions regarding what you can do to help your teen, watch for my next post.  In the meantime, you can find more information like this at…

 http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/porn-addiction-now-threatening-entire-generation#yCwtLvqdzsgUF2LI.99

“No Kid Of Mine”

 

temper-tantrum

Here’s a question that arrived in our inbox via email this week.  And when I opened it, I could have sworn a little cloud of steam emitted from my computer screen, as if the mom who submitted the question was still fuming when she wrote it.  I shared it with Cindy, and we were instantly transported back to our own early parenthood.

Help!” the email began, “I’m losing my mind to a three-year-old!  Just yesterday, my son held an entire Walmart hostage with his epic temper tantrum.  I used to tell people, ‘No kid of mine will ever behave that way in public.’  Now, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering if this is the day I’ll be receiving a call from Family Services.  Am I going crazy?”

Here is what I told the woman:

First of all… “no”… you are not going crazy.  That temper tantrum your son threw was not an illusion, nor were the shocked expressions of your fellow shoppers.  This is all very much a part of your reality.  Take heart, though, because you are in good company.  Let me explain.

Most people don’t realize this, but the greatest, most EXEMPLARY parent who ever lived has the distinction of producing only stupid, stubborn, fearful, and perverse children. Of course, I’m using terms that describe you and me.  And the parent to which I’m referring is none other than God Almighty, whose batting average for creating good kids is 0.00!  I’m not using hyperbole here.  ALL of God’s children were once rotten to the core!

Now, the difference between  God and us human parents is that He knows His reputation is not tied to the behaviors of His children.  Thus, He wastes none of His time trying to control us, in order to make Himself look better.  When I disobey, He simply shakes His head, says, “That’s My boy!”, (as if He’s still proud of me), and then promptly lets me experience the consequences of my shenanigans.

Take a moment to look again at the photograph that heads this article, and imagine God is the parent whose child is mopping the floor with his tired, tearful self.  How do you think God would respond?  Would He wring His hands in embarrassment, begging and pleading for the child to change his ways?  Or bribe him with a piece of candy?  Or ignore him?  Or scream at him?  Or thump him on the back of the head with a thick, ring finger?

I think none of the above.

Instead, I imagine God would say something like, “My, that floor looks like a terribly uncomfortable place to fling oneself.  Are you ready to get off that hard floor and continue shopping with me, or would you prefer to disobey?”  If the child persisted, I think God would say, “Why don’t you and I take a walk.”  Then He would toss the child playfully over His shoulder like a sack of potatoes, whisk him out of the store to a private location, and have a good heart-to-heart talk.  Notice that I emphasize the privacy of this interaction.  Whenever we see Jesus confronting someone in the Bible about his or her bad behavior, it is rarely being done in public.  With the woman caught in adultery, Jesus waits until all her accusers have left the scene of her near-stoning, before admonishing her to stop sinning.  With the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus waits until His disciples have gone away to buy bread, before He exposes her serial relationships with men and exhorts her to change.  After Jesus is betrayed by Peter, He takes His friend aside, discusses the matter in private, and reinstates him to the ministry.  This approach is always best.

Finally, there is the matter of consequences.  If your child is young enough to still be throwing temper tantrums, then it’s also highly likely he is too young to learn his lessons through the power of reasoning.  Therefore, keep your words to a minimum.  Remind him that you love him, but that because you love him, he will have to experience some sort of consequence for his misbehavior.  Some parents, (and I was one of them), reserve spanking for direct disobedience.  Other parents never spank, opting instead to apply some sort of deprivation to the child––a loss of dessert, or play time, etc.  Whatever your choice, remember that actions always speak more loudly than words.

To recap… stay PROUD of your kids… confront them PRIVATELY when they throw temper tantrums… and make sure to follow through with APPROPRIATE DISCIPLINE.  Soon, your trips to the store will be tantrum-free.  And everyone will be happier for it!

Oh, yeah… and never say, “No kid of mine…” again.  Those words will always come back to haunt you.

Sincerely,

Will and Cindy Cunningham

 

 

“SubImnevergoingtokeeptheseresolutionsliminal”

subliminal-message

“SubImnevergoingtokeeptheseresolutionsliminal”

 

Hello, friends.  Recently, C and I received a question from a parent who seemed overwhelmed with the possibility of a brand new year.  Her question went like this…

“I’m a young mom with three children.  Every January, I feel obligated to set some new goals––particularly when it comes to being a better parent or wife.  But inside my head, a voice keeps reminding me they’ll all be broken by February.  So, I wind up setting no goals at all.  Is it normal to hate New Year’s resolutions?” 

When I read this question, my heart went out to this young mother.  Something in her words implied she felt all alone, stuck between her desire to improve and her fear of failure––a captive of her own subliminal messages.  In the next few paragraphs, I’m going to suggest something to this mom, (and perhaps to you, too), that may revolutionize the way you look at goals.  Here is my revolutionary suggestion…

Restrict yourself to ONE GOAL!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  If I take to heart Will’s revolutionary suggestion, what will become of multi-tasking ?  Or three-point sermons?  Or being a parent, a lover, a businessman, a friend, an entrepreneur, and a Christian… all at the same time?  If I focus on just one thing, won’t a lot of other things suffer?

Not if your one goal is a matter of character, rather than behavior.  That’s why each New Year, Cindy and I set only ONE GOAL for ourselves––and that one goal has nothing to do with what we do, and everything to do with who we are. 

Let me illustrate.

By nature, I am a “kind” man.  I can do “kindness” with my eyes closed, because it’s the way God made me.  My father possessed this same trait.  Today, his body is buried in a tiny, country cemetery in Piedmont, Oklahoma, and on his gravestone are etched the words, “He was kind”.  Thus, “kindness” is not only part of my nature, it was part of my nurturing, too.

On the other hand, “toughness” comes less easily for me.  Don’t get me wrong––I’ve done many brave things in my life, and accomplished feats that required deep resolve.  But somewhere in my DNA, there is a toughness gene that is underdeveloped.  It shows mostly in my relationships with the people who depend on me to handle life’s common pressures with tough repose.  That’s why even before 2017 begins, I’ve taped a note to my mirror that reads, “Be Strong”.  Every morning in the year to come, I will see that note while I am shaving, and it will remind me to strive toward my one important resolution.  Everything else in my life, however, will continue on exactly as it was before I set this one goal.  I will still try to eat more healthily, exercise with greater consistency, memorize God’s Word  daily, and so on.  The hope is that EVERYTHING I do will be effected positively by this one, over-arching, excellent aspiration––”Be Strong!”  And in the end, I know I will be more excellent myself because of it.  Remember…

Excellent people do one thing excellently!

So, to that mom who feels defeated before the New Year has even begun, we say… take heart!  The answer to New Year’s resolutions is not to avoid them altogether.  The answer is to set ONE goal, instead of many.  And when you find that one goal that seems to fit you perfectly, make sure it is a matter of your character, instead of an action you must accomplish.

Subwebelieveinyouliminal!

Sincerely,

Will and Cindy Cunningham

 

“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

 

 

 

“Eight Seconds to Success”

lyle-sankey-rodeo    When I was 30, I was asked by my friend, Lyle Sankey, (former National Finals Rodeo Champion), to lead a group of aspiring cowboys in a bible study at the Sankey Rodeo School.  Not knowing it was tradition for each year’s bible teacher to ride a bull before the weekend was over, I said “yes” to Lyle’s invitation.  I’ll never forget the first thing he said to us on day #1 of rodeo school…

“Men,” said Lyle, as he sat on the fence in his faded Wranglers and black and blue-striped Brushpopper, “There are only two things for certain in the world of rodeo.  The first thing is that along the way, you are all going to get hurt… and some of you will get hurt bad!  But if you listen to everything I say, and do all that I tell you… you may be alive at the end of the weekend.”  Somehow, Lyle’s words were less than encouraging.  But I took good notes.  And thankfully, I survived my ride with minimal wounds.  Later, when I asked Lyle why he chose that particular bull for me to ride, he said…

“Because I knew he was too old to kill you.”

Now, this happened long before YouTube was invented, so I can’t show you footage of my feats.  But you can watch a much younger version of the bull I rode if you follow the link I’ve provided here, and watch the first four minutes of the movie, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”.  My bull is the one at the three-minute mark that nearly kills the cowboy in the white shirt.

http://www.popcornflix.com/my-heroes-have-always-been-cowboys/818e9d79-ae96-4dcc-9a45-25bb89d10d45.

––––––––––––––––––––––––

Parenting is a lot like bull-riding––rarely is it fatal, but it can beat you up along the way.  Unfortunately, most new parents don’t realize what they’ve gotten themselves into, until they’re on the way home from the hospital with their newborn.  In spite of the fact their car is loaded to the ceiling with diapers, pacifiers, blankets, bottles, breast pumps, and more, they suspect no amount of paraphernalia can make up for their lack of education.  By the time they pull into the driveway, they’re petrified.

But what if someone could do for this couple what Lyle Sankey did for me in the hours leading up to my bull ride?  What if there were some simple tips that were not only effective and accessible, but might just help two young parents survive?  In the months ahead, Cindy and I will be sharing some advice from our years of parenting and professional counseling that could make this rodeo a lot more enjoyable.  Our blog, entitled, “Fire at Will”, will follow a Q&A format, and is designed to give readers the opportunity to send their questions directly to my work email, where C and I will answer them as our schedules permit.

Keep this in mind, though–– parenting is not for the faint of heart.  Even when good advice is heeded, there are no guarantees of a pain-free experience.  Parenting is a rodeo, not a romance novel!  A quick glance at key bible verses on the topic of parenting reveals verbs like, “train”… “discipline”… “instruct”… “teach”… and “reprove”… words that suggest a successful parent must be tough enough to stay in the saddle.

If I learned anything from my one bull-riding experience, it is this… I can do anything for eight seconds.  And so can you!  Yes, you will get hurt in the process of parenting.  But it will all be over before you know it, and your nest will be empty again.  

Here’s another certainty about parenting…

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11).

I hope you will courageously join Cindy and me in this rodeo we call, “parenting”.

Your ride may depend upon it.

Sincerely,

Will Cunningham

Family Pastor at Mission Hills Church

wcunningham@missionhills.org