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March for life

Today, teenagers and some of their parents marched all across America in the March for Life. They are demanding that the government enact stricter gun control laws. We want common sense gun reform. We are tired of our children being the victims of senseless gun violence. Signs were held high telling our legislators to stop being afraid of the NRA. It will be interesting to see how the legislators respond in Washington and state capitols across our nation. I agree that there needs to be reform but it needs to target a broken criminal justice system. It needs to target the failing MHMR system. It needs to target low income neighborhoods that are filled with fatherless youth who have no direction and join gangs to feel a part of something. For some reason no one wants to address those issues. Instead the solution remains the same. More restrictive gun laws. How are more restrictive gun laws going to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people? I have not heard an answer to that one either. How about freeing up enough funds in our state budgets to put a camera system and resource officers in our schools who can respond to people who would do harm to our most valuable resource, our kids? We protect judges, legislators, air ports, court rooms but not our schools. It makes me think that those who are in charge of the fiscal budget place little to no importance on protecting our children and educators. So, the answer is more involvement by big government to solve the problem. How about we come together as a community and talk about the real issues that facilitate so called gun violence?

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Love of money , root of all evil?

It seems that no one likes this particular topic but I know it is near and dear to our hearts. This particular thing is one of three things that can destroy a marriage. This thing I speak of is money. We have all heard that money makes the world go round. We certainly understand how it affects us when money is in short supply. The bible states that the love of money is the root of all evil.

As I sit here and contemplate that biblical principle I wonder if the love of things is the root of all evil.  Money, in and of itself, is fairly worthless until you leverage it to purchase things or services.  Money certainly does not purchase love or peace of mind.  I have never been out of the U.S. as an adult, but I have spoken to several folks who have made mission trips to third world countries.  They have shared with me how they have to pray and ask God to soften their hearts when they come back.  After you spend time with people who have nothing it is difficult to not see the differences between the “haves” and “have not’s”.  Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having things or financial resources.  Having things or resources is not bad.  What we chose to do with those things or resources can create imbalance in life.

In a third world country you may find entire families that live in card board boxes or crudely built shacks made out of cardboard.  Most of the houses have dirt floors and there is no such thing as clean running water or plumbing. Clothing, food and medical services are things that are not readily available.  It is hard to believe that people live that way.

As I look around my home I realize that we have all our needs and everything else should be considered a want. Do we need a flat screen TV and cable television service or high speed Internet to survive?  Do we need leather furniture to survive?  Do we have to have closets that are full of clothes that we hardly ever wear in order to survive? Do we have to have ….. You fill in the blanks.  I think that we all have more than we need.  We live in a “get rich quick” and “instant gratification” society.  How do we get sucked into this mess and more importantly how do we get out of it?

In order to find balance and sanity in the midst of this materialistic madness maybe we need to take inventory of our hearts. What is driving us to want more stuff that is better and faster than before?  Are we allowing ourselves to get hooked by all of the marketing that we see, that is telling us that in order to be successful we must be better than the Jones’s down the street?  I think that once we look around and take an honest inventory of where we are at, we will realize how blessed we are.

Maybe we can find contentment in where we are, and figure out how to bless others with our extra stuff.  At what point do we become hoarders and get entrapped by our own desires for stuff?  The Bible tells us that when we covet things that we put those things on a throne and we worship those things more than God. That turns into idolatry which is a sin.

As parents what are we teaching our children about money?  When they grow up and get out on their own will you cringe to think that their financial success may hinge upon what you lived out in front of them?  Our children are sponges and they learn about life from what we do and not so much from what we say.  Sure, you can tell your children one thing and do something exactly the opposite but what is that teaching them?  It is teaching them that you are not following your own advice. Making mistakes is all part of life and even though some financial mistakes can take a life time to unravel it is an awesome platform from which to teach.

As a parent I have sat down with my adult children and I have said this.  I may not be able to tell you how to become a millionaire or a successful money manager, but I can tell you what not to do.  I believe that part of our legacy as parents is to help our children to learn how to not make the same mistakes that we do.  You tell them, I did this and this is what happened.  These are the consequences of my/our financial mistakes.

I realize that perhaps there are people who are reading this that may be successful money managers and they received good foundational teaching about finances from their parents and this is not an issue.  I also realize that my wife and I are not alone in that there are going to be people out there that need to hear this.  Yes, financial mistakes can be painful.  Making a bad financial decision or mismanaging your resources does not make you a bad person.  It just means you made a mistake and you need to learn from it.

The good news is that there is still hope.  You can learn from your mistakes and you can ask God to give you the wisdom and knowledge you need in order to make better decisions.  Over time you can overcome those bad decisions and build a better future for you and your family.

No one is born with all knowledge.  It is up to us to find those folks who do know how to make the right decisions and learn from them.  Maybe it will be your parents or grandparents.  Another resource could be an older couple at church, or one of the folks in church leadership.  Maybe Dave Ramsey would be an excellent starting point.  The important thing is to stop making the bad decisions and to put a plan into action that will make your financial future a brighter tomorrow to look forward to.

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Watching , waiting, hoping and praying

Watching, waiting, hoping and praying.  You do a lot of that as you watch young adults stretch their legs and head down the road of life. As a parent I found myself with a preconceived notion of what might happen as I watch my young adults go from being teenagers and morph into the next stage of life.

It seems that the older the kids get, the less influence we have on them.  Looking back at when I was their age I can remember how I felt about my parents and their warnings about life.  I thought they were idiots and way out of touch with life.  Now I sit here experiencing dejavu as I watch my kids making questionable life choices.

For the most part, Katy and I have imparted what we could with regards to them having a good foundation.  We taught them the difference between right and wrong.  We taught them to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbors as themselves.  We attempted to be living examples instead of saying “do as I say not as I do”.  Sure, we screwed up from time to time ,but I believe that over all we were consistent in what we said and did in our home.

Nothing pains the heart of a parent more than to see their children making bad decisions and then having to live through the consequences.  Our hope is that our children will not make the same mistakes we did.  We hope that because we want the best for them.  We want them to be happy, fulfilled and successful.  We want them to be a contributing member of society.  Eventually we want them to be able to stand on their own two feet and take care of themselves.

We have two adult children who still live at home and as they headed towards their 18th birthday I had an unreasonable expectation.  I expected them to be mature, make good decisions and follow the life path that I had preconceived for them.  You know the drill.  I expected them to finish high school and possibly go to college.  Katy and I both believe that education is a critical need that will give them more than a fighting chance in society.  Studies have shown that the more education a person has the chances of landing a better paying job goes up exponentially.

Much to our dislike and disdain we have discovered that our kids do not agree with the age old rules of society that says if you want to eat and have your own things you have to earn a pay check.  That principle is also a biblical principle.  The bible is very clear about the importance of working and earning your way in life.  All we can do is patiently wait as nature takes its course.   We have remained a refuge in this world so they always know they have a place to come to.  Our home is their home but at the same time there are rules that have to be followed.  Those rules have been in place for a long time and are designed to provide tranquility and harmony and peace.

As long as we are alive our love for our family will never falter.  We will always welcome our family in our home and will do whatever we can to facilitate the growing and maturing process.  Looking back at my earlier forages into life as a young adult I remember how many struggles I experienced.  Most of those trials and tribulations were brought upon me because of ignorance and pride.  I believed that I knew more than my out of touch parents.  I guess when I was around 23 or 24 I came to the realization that life is bigger than I am.  I realized that I was not as smart as I thought I was.  Life began to teach me some tough lessons.

As I watch my kids start to make mistakes and make missteps in life I realize the importance of grace and mercy.  I want to be the type of father that is always willing to extend grace and mercy when it is needed.  I want to be the type of father that extends love and encouragement when the time is right.  I want to be patient and to allow my kids to make those mistakes because it is those mistakes that will make up the fabric of growth and maturity.  Just as my father in heaven extends his grace, mercy and forgiveness to me when I falter, I feel the need to do that for my family as well.

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Living on the edge of America

The horrible tragedy in Newton CT has been broadcast to the world non-stop. One of the drawbacks of instant access to news all across the globe is that it can be overwhelming. I find myself wanting to turn it off. I find it disturbing that I am constantly reminded of the evil in this world. I find it disturbing that someone has once again disturbed the peace and calm of humanity by a senseless act of violence.  

This morning I had to smile as I watched a video from channel 2 in West Tennessee. One unemployed father who is a marine dusted off his uniform and decided to stand guard outside of his daughter’s school. He decided to do this because his daughter has been affected by the senseless violence in Newton. His daughter told her daddy that she was afraid to go back to school. Her sense of peace, calm and safety had been damaged.

In the wake of another senseless school shooting the Americans have become polarized in their attempt to identify the cause and affect of what has happened. I suppose we are all trying to make sense of what has happened and why. Gun control activists are asking for more gun control laws. The logic in this is that if there were no guns then people would stop using them to kill people. I understand that logic but I do not agree with it.

I believe that guns are not evil. People who use guns to hurt and kill other people are evil. I personally own several weapons and I have them for the purpose of self-defense and the defense of my family and loved ones. I have obtained these weapons legally by purchasing them and taking the appropriate concealed weapons permit class in South Carolina. I chose to not be a victim. I chose to be the sheep dog or guardian of my family. Having weapons is only one of many tools in my personal self-defense plan.

In the wake of the latest incident it appears that the young man who killed his mother and father had a history of mental illness. I wonder if the mom and dad were unaware of this or if they were why did they not have better control over their weapons? If there were danger signs present why didn’t the young man receive the proper mental health treatments he needed? While our leaders are working on more gun control laws I hope that they focus their attention on the severely lacking mental health issues that are being swept under the rug.  

I also hope that our lawmakers focus on stricter criminal control laws as well. If someone uses a firearm in the commission of a crime then the laws should be severe enough to make people think twice about doing it. I realize that other countries have laws that are nothing short of Draconian. In other words if you commit a crime the punishment for that crime is severe enough to actually lower crime statistics.   If people know that the punishment is swift and severe they will think twice about doing it.

Of course, that only applies to sane people who know the difference from right and wrong. People who have jumped off the cliff of insanity and feel that they have nothing to lose will not care about this.

I also hope that our lawmakers will focus on providing our schools with adequate security. I believe that every school should have trained security personnel that will help to prevent this type of violence from happening again. I believe that if teachers chose to get a concealed weapons permit, and carry a concealed weapon in his or her classroom, then that could be an option. I also believe that teachers should not have to be focused on providing security for their children. Teachers should be focused on educating our children and molding them into the future leaders of tomorrow.

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Letting go

The hardest part of parenting is letting go. Katy and I are entering into a new stage of life as empty nesters. In so many ways I have looked forward to this stage of life. I especially looked forward to this during the difficult times, when our young people were fighting so hard to be their own individual person, and testing boundaries at every turn. All in all, Katy and I have been very fortunate to have very good children. I believe that all children test boundaries and do what they can to be different.  

Our youngest daughter Kristina has been on her own now for 6 weeks. When Kristina moved out we realized how much noise that she had contributed to the household. It was not just Kristina but also all of her friends that would come over to visit. When she moved out all of that went with her. I especially do not miss being awakened at 3 am when she would come back from concerts.  

For the most part Katy and I are homebodies. We go to work, go to church and have an occasional date night. I think that one of the things that attracted our children’s friends is that there is no drama here. Katy and I cherish peace and quiet and we have a zero tolerance for things that would disturb that.

Now that we are entering into the empty nester stage of life we realize how much time and energy has been invested in our young adults. Our son Justin will be 18 very soon and he has been spending a lot of time on the weekends with his girlfriend and her family. He is savoring the moment that he can save up enough money to get a moped and move out on his own as well.

Katy and Kristina were doing their thing yesterday running errands so I came home and asked Justin if he was hungry. Asking a teenaged boy if he is hungry is really sort of rhetorical.   Teenagers are always hungry. I can always get Justin to hang out with me if food is involved.

After we ate lunch at Subway’s I asked Justin if he felt brave enough to do some driving. He looked at me and told me that you do not have to be brave to drive. In that instance I realized that I was the one that needed to be brave. I have to let go of the control of the vehicle and let him behind the wheel. It is all part of that letting go that I am not so good at. The trip to the DMV on Leeds Avenue was uneventful, and Justin spent some time practicing his three point turns and parallel parking. Once he was done with that he drove us over to Money Man Pawn on Savannah highway. Justin is really big into musical instruments and amplifiers. He is my rock star musician in the making.

I realize that for the most part our job as teachers and mentors will take on a different meaning in the life of our young adults. Hopefully by now we have instilled our beliefs and the difference between right and wrong. We have attempted to teach them good life skills and how to make good decisions. We have taught them to think about what they are about to do and what the consequences are going to be before they do it.

I also realize that our children will always be our children no matter how old they become. I know that they will make choices and decisions that I may not agree with. Despite that we will always love them and be here for them. I can only hope that they will know they are loved and will feel comfortable enough to come to us for advice or just have someone to listen to them. I did not have that in my parents and I have sorely missed it over the years.  

Katy and I will also have to make some adjustments now that we have more time to focus on one another. We find ourselves looking at one another and saying “now what?” Now we move on to the next stage of life and learn how to enjoy life together as a couple. I am looking forward to what the future holds and see how our young adults make lives of their own.

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A new chapter for princess

There are moments in life that remind you that you are getting older. I had one of those moments yesterday. Earlier this week my daughter announced to her mother and I that she would be moving out at the end of the week. I knew that it was coming so the announcement was not a big surprise.

What did surprise me were the mixed emotions that I am still experiencing. For the last 20 years we have watched our “princess” grow from one stage of life to the next. We knew that this day was coming and like most parents we are hoping that we did a good enough job with raising her, that she will be successful in life.

A co worker and friend, said it best on one of my Facebook posts last night in a question.   “Parenting is a tough gig, isn’t it?” My friend can relate to what Katy and I are going through, because she has adult children of her own. Another one of my friends at work said something else earlier this week. “Sometimes you have to show your children tough love”.

We love our children and we want the very best for them. Even still , we do not want our kids to face the same consequences we did , because of stupid decisions we made when we were younger. Living life on your own is the best teacher. You make decisions and you live through the consequences. As parents, our goal is to instill some common sense and wisdom into our young people.

How transparent should we be with our young people? I believe that a certain degree of honesty and transparency is necessary when we are talking to our kids. We do not have to share all of our deep and dark secrets with them. What we should do is be honest enough to admit that we do not know it all. We should be able to say “when I was this age I made this mistake and this is what I learned the hard way.”

All in all, Katy and I are very blessed to have good children. I know that our kids could have made things much harder on themselves and us had they chosen to. I believe the fact that they did not do some of the things you hear about from others, is a testament to the fact that they are good people.

One of the things I will not miss is the house full of teenagers at all hours of the night and early mornings. Yes, we love the fact that the teenagers and young adults like to come over and hang out with our kids. Being awakened at 3 am after the young people get back from a concert has gotten a bit irritating. Katy and I both work and we need our sleep.

One of the things I suppose I will miss is the weekly change that our daughter likes to make with the body piercings, tattoos and multi colored hair.   Just last week she dyed her hair bright red in honor of Halloween.   One of my previous pastors keeps reminding me that my young people are going through the period of “individualization”. That stage I life where they are defining who they are and where they want to go in life.

Kristina Halloween 2012.jpeg

Now that the room is empty and cleaned for the most part, we will have to move forward with our plans. We are planning on painting the walls a different color other than pink. The bedroom is pink and so is the bathroom.   While we are at it we are going to repaint the bathroom too.   I think we are going to make an office out of the room. A place of quiet and solitude where Katy or I can study, write or just be alone.

No matter how many changes we make to the bedroom it will always be remembered as our daughters bedroom. I am happy that our princess moved out on her own and that there were no bridges burned in the process. No matter what happens in her life we will always love her and be there for her as much as we can.

I am looking forward to watching our princess bloom as she begins to write new chapters of her life, as she learns how to navigate through the following days and years.

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Katy and I went to see the movie Courageous last week.  This movie is very powerful and thought provoking.  I am hoping that every father or husband that is able to see this movie, will go to see it.  Yes, this is a faith based film.  I know that might turn some folks off.  Even if you are not someone who subscribes to a faith in Jesus Christ, I still believe that this movie is powerful enough to speak to your heart. 

I believe that a family is made up of a man, woman and children.  I believe that a marriage is made up of a man and woman.  I believe that God ordained this into existence and despite the efforts of some, it is still the truth.  I believe that children need both a father and a mother in that family.  I believe that both roles are equally important.  I believe that fathers and mothers are uniquely equipped to fulfill the role they are in.  I believe that children need both fathers and mothers in that family actively engaged in their specific parenting role. 

This movie points out some startling statistics.  These statistics illuminate the fact that children who grow up in fatherless homes or absentee fathers are more likely to make poor life choices, and wind up in trouble when they become adults.   The movie points out the fact that it is much easer to have children, than it is to be a real man, who engages his responsibilities as a father. That means that men need to be the spiritual leaders in their homes.  So many of us guys have been taught, that once we provide a place to live and provide food for the family that our jobs are done. 

It takes courage for a man to realize the need, his wife and children have of him, and to be responsible enough to provide that type of leadership in the home.  I have been a father to four children and I can attest to the fact that it is not an easy job.  Parenting requires courage, stamina and prayer.  Parenting is not for the feint of heart.  Parenting is a huge responsibility that can not, and should not be taken lightly.  Parenting requires a life time commitment.  Despite what some of us dad’s may think, parenting does not end when the children turn 18 and strike it out on their own.  In this economy, more and more children that are 18 to 25 are staying home because they can not afford to be on their own. 

Depending on the type of earthly father that you have had in your formative years, you may, or may not be, better equipped to be the type of father and husband your family desperately needs.  As I look back on my childhood I realize that while my father always provided for our physical needs he was absent spiritually and emotionally.  I was not raised in a faith based home, nor did I receive the kind of solid foundation that would provide.  As a father to my children, I have had to ignore how my father raised me, and I had to look for my own spiritual leaders and mentors from which to learn parenting skills from.  James Dobson has been one of the resources that I have listened to over the years. The bible also speaks to the role of a father and mother in the home.

No matter our situation, or how bad our childhoods might have been, there is hope.  Our hope rests in our faith in who Christ is in our lives.  Our hope rests in the fact that we can undo the chains of sin in our lives, and we can look to a heavenly father that will forgive us of our sins, wash us off and give us a new purpose.  Before we can be courageous as fathers and husbands in our homes, we need to quit playing games with God, and get down to business.  Our vertical relationship with our creator needs some repair, before we can ever hope to get our horizontal relationships with others where they need to be. 

I can hear some of you men reacting to this, as I write it.  OH COME ON NOW MAN, who do you think you are talking to anyway?  I do the best I can with what I have been given.  I know you are thinking these thoughts, because I too have those thoughts.  I do believe that most of us love our families, and want the very best for them.  I also believe that we can be better fathers and husbands.  I  believe that our families NEED for us to be better than mediocre husbands and fathers, who are just sliding by.  They need for us to love them, like Christ loves the church.  They need for us to serve them selflessly and to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them. 

This is a challenge to YOU, fathers and husbands.  Please join me and many other men who want to know how to be courageous.  Watch the movie and let it speak to your heart.  Use this movie as a tool in which to retool the most important relationships of your life.  Your relationship with God, wife and children are the most important relationships you will ever have.  I believe that you will find that your family will respond to you, in a positive way, as you renew your commitments to them to be the best husband and father that you can be. 

Will you join me?  How can we help each other?  Tell me what you are doing today to be more courageous in your homes men. 


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Raising young adults

Living in a house with 2 teenagers, who have 2 dozen friends the same age, is like herding cats.  Raising young adults is not for the feint of heart either.  I keep saying “raising teenagers” and someone much older and wiser than me reminded me of the fact that they are becoming young adults.  I have been suffering from a slight case of WPOR as the parent of said young adults.  WPOR stands for Warped Perception of Reality.   In my day dreams I imagined my young adults turning 18 years old, graduating from high school, going to college and moving out of my house.  That would leave Katy and I with peace and tranquility that we treasure.

I do not get to spend much time in my WPOR induced stupor.  Every day seems to be an adventure.  There are times that we attempt to look into the future and determine which child is more likely to be successful than the other.  They say that as parents we are not supposed to have favorites.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and to this day all my predictions have been blown out of the water.

Approximately one year ago we moved from Johns Island to West Ashley.  When we moved to Johns Island it was to be in a better neighborhood and for me to be much closer to Kiawah.  The 90 minute commute each day was getting old and costing me a fortune in gas.  What I did not realize is that the schools in Charleston county, especially on Johns Island suck.  We wound up having to enroll our teenagers in online curriculum through the state and that did not work out very well.  I suppose that the older the child gets the more they require socialization with other teenagers.  My teenagers let me know this in many different ways.

Recently I have decided that Katy and I have missed our calling as Foster parents.  We typically have 4 to 15 teenagers at our house.  I guess you could say that the socialization of our teenagers has improved quite a bit.  The only problem with that socialization is that their choices for friends sometimes leaves things to be desired.  I do not believe that any of these kids are bad. I believe that all of them, including my kids, are good kids at heart.  What we have learned is that most of these teenagers come from broken homes.  My son told Katy the other day that we are the exception to the rule.  He said that most of his friends live in homes where the mom and dad are either divorced or getting divorced.

Just recently we wound up dealing with a teenager whose parents keep kicking her out of the house.  This young person is 16 years of age and is in a very ugly situation.  I attempted to be a responsible parent and reached out to the mother of this teenager.  We had long talks and I made suggestions to her in which way she could go with dealing with their issues in their home with their daughter.  Whether or not those suggestions fell on deaf ears or not remains to be seen.  At first the parents of this young person were ok with their daughter living with us and did not say a word.  They knew our address and phone number and at any time they could have driven over here to retrieve their child.

For the life of me I do not understand how any parent could “disown” their child.  That is what my adoptive parents did to me and my sister at different stages of our life.  These parents have no problems with slamming the door on the young person’s face and tell them they are not welcome and they are filth.  On several occasions the mother dropped the young person off at a gas station and left her standing there with the clothes on her back.  I never knew that this was an option for parents.  I thought that parents were responsible for the well being of their offspring no matter what.  I also thought that parents were supposed to love and support their children no matter how many bad decisions the young person makes.  I thought that is what parenting is all about.  Helping the young person to learn from their mistakes and make better life decisions.

Yesterday the step father gets on the phone with me and proceeds to give me the riot act for being disrespectful to his wife and for sticking my nose into their business.  What gave us the right to give his daughter a place to stay.  We allowed his daughter to stay with us because she is a friend of our daughters and we did not want her to be living on the streets of Charleston.  The parents knew where she was the entire time and knew they could come get her.  At no time did they lift a finger to come get her.  After my brief encounter with the angry step father I advised him to come get his daughter and I had her pack her stuff and go outside to wait for him to arrive.

As of today the young adult has gone back home and her grand mother is coming down from North Carolina to take her back with her.  Hopefully things will settle down for this young lady and she will be able to go to school there and get life back on track. We want her to be in a safe place that is devoid of hateful and angry remarks.  We want her to be in a safe place where she does not have to worry about her step father provoking physical confrontations between the wife and daughter in the front yard.  With this obstacles out of the way maybe she can start to make the appropriate adjustments with some of her life choices and make better decisions as to whom she should spend time with.

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