A NEW Way of Doing Things

David Hallsted’s summary presentation of our congregation’s first “Dreamer’s Meeting” was encouraging and enlightening.

I wrote last Sunday about the irony that every time a church dies, another group takes their place (neighborhood) with high hopes about the opportunities that remain! They invest money, do focus groups or neighborhood research—all to find the way things should be done in the neighborhood they have entered.

The main difference between a dying church and a living, hopeful congregation is the mindset of the people attending that congregation. New plants enter a community with the assumption that things will have to change if the result is not to be repeated! If what “they” were doing was working, “they” wouldn’t have died.

“Shouldn’t we stick with Biblical ways to do things?” That question reveals a sad reality. Dying churches begin to equate God’s blessing with using the methods that were used decades before. It worked before; if it doesn’t work now, something must be wrong. How could God be accused of being happy with the lost being condemned? Wouldn’t He want us to adjust our methods?

Jesus got in trouble when His religion didn’t match the expectations of the leaders. The people loved Jesus; the Jewish leaders saw their support as another sign that the crowds were lost. Jesus made everyone realize the purpose for His actions. When something didn’t seem normal, he connected a solution with His mission. He healed on the Sabbath because, “The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath.”

We are going to have to try new methods for reaching the lost. We have the same Gospel; there is no question that the Gospel saves. But if people aren’t being saved, it is the fault of the method, not the seed.

Digital Danger

It used to be Q-bert on the Atari 2600. We played King’s Quest on a Tandy computer using floppy disks. Now there is Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Concerned parents, teachers and care-givers are asking whether we should be concerned about how digital play has changed our children. Is it ruining their eyesight? Is their ability to talk and play with others forever damaged? Are they carrying more weight because they aren’t playing ball outside with the neighborhood children?

I begin my day with a digital device. That was supposed to be a confession. I’m writing these words using a laptop while sipping on coffee. Sitting in a recliner rather than at my desk at the office, digital devices keep me connected with people I have known for decades in four other states and several foreign countries. The time zones don’t matter because their words and pictures are on my screen when I open it.
The great philosopher Socrates didn’t believe “anything certain or clear could come from what was written down.” He believed that once a writer or painter recorded their experience on paper or canvas, it died. It became static and fixed. There was nothing to probe, no room for empathy. Separated from the living artist or thinker, it was no longer interactive. Since you can never ask the artist what they were thinking when they painted, their expression was frozen in time and always just said the same…one…thing.
Will cell phones, video games and the digital devices of our age be the end of us?  Should there be rules, guidelines, or even a ban on these dangerous devices?
You won’t want to miss our session on Wednesday, July 24th about Digital Danger. Neither will your friends. This will not be a list of the dangers without a guide for navigating these troubled waters. Concrete, practical suggestions and tools will be offered to help parents, grandparents and friends who are concerned about the devices that seem to be attached to our children’s hands.

Gender Confusion

Our culture continues to throw out the baby with the bath water. For years the church has echoed the Bible’s clear teaching that men should lead with a servant’s heart and a tender hand. Because some men have relied on power and control or abused those under their leadership, the culture now decrees that all male leadership is the enemy. Instead of just correcting what is wrong with the offending party, some insist that being male itself is the problem. Why would you amputate your arm because you developed a sore on it somewhere?  

God Created Male and Female. We experience His wisdom on a deep emotional level in the presence of others. The physical reactions God created are meant to be respected and controlled. Just because we have an emotional reaction to someone else doesn’t mean every impulse should be carried out or that the impulse itself is impure. It does mean that we should honor His creation and obey His directions for relationships.  

Leadership is Complex. Most of our time together is spent in fellowship and worship. These contexts allow for two completely different styles of leadership. We believe God ordained male leadership during worship. But God clearly allows broad freedom for males and females in other settings. Just because men pray in public doesn’t mean women shouldn’t pray! As we will learned in the auditorium this morning, the qualifications for elders make it clear that there is a joint role for shepherds and their wives. Otherwise, elders could be single.  

One Another. The most important principle in scripture is the exercise of love. As our current sermon series demands, “Do everything in love.” Paul taught that each part of the body should have the same care for others. Jesus taught that our leadership shouldn’t look like the culture; it should look like Him with a towel draped around his waist. We give everyone respect, consideration, love and forgiveness. Doing anything less is not acceptable to the Lord who will judge our actions.  

Don’t be confused by the culture; heed the teaching and example of the Master!

All Mothers Live Forever

It’s Mother’s Day again; time for all the accolades and loving feelings to warm our hearts because of the love our mother imbedded into our souls. We celebrate our mother because of the undying love she gave to us. When we were hungry, she gave of herself to fill our tummy. When we were tired, she nestled us next to her heart where we could remember the journey we traveled to arrive here. Everything turned out because she took care of herself and then she took care of us.
You can listen to these words here:  2019MothersDay
Every year some of us lose our mothers and face our first “Mother’s Day” without the luxury of a hug or a smile from her. We even mistakenly think that remembering her causes pain. I would suggest that it’s not the memory that hurts because mothers live forever.
Mom always said. Who doesn’t remember those quick little truisms that she rattled off her tongue when we thought we had a problem? From “I’ll give you something to cry about,” to “Let me kiss it and make it better,” mom always had a word for our situation. Those words live well beyond her time among us. We even pass them on to our children who find similar situations where her words live in their children’s lives. Like I said, forever.  
Mom always did. We still use her decorating and cooking and cleaning habits whether they work or not. Like cutting off the end of the ham because her mother didn’t have a pan big enough, sometimes we repeat her actions as if they are gospel. It is comforting to do it the way we saw it done for our entire lives. If it doesn’t work, it should. Mom did it that way.
Mom believed in an Eternal Lord. If you were fortunate enough to have a mom who brought you to gathering places like this and sat you down next to her while she sang and prayed and listened to the most important words ever spoken, you know what I mean. Her Lord promised, “I will be with you always.” She believed those words. Her presence is equally powerful through her words, actions and the undying love she expressed.  
Don’t let anyone tell you that you must “move on” from grief; we move forward with those who loved us so dearly because they will always be present with us. These words are from Nora McInerny’s inspiring TED Talk on grief.

How Scouting Changed My Life

I thought I was going somewhere very cool when we descended the stairway into that old Department Store basement In Southwest Tulsa near where the Stove Hospital stands today. No one was around upstairs but there was a beehive of activity downstairs. I had just discovered the world of Scouting through Troop 28, sponsored in those days by the Red Fork Lions Club. I was eleven years old. 

We met, we learned, we camped out together in all kinds of weather. We had fun, we met new people and we enjoyed the strong leadership of a great group of parents and community leaders. These relationships helped form my character and widen my horizons in the Great Outdoors. 

We learned how to build fires in the rain, cook over a hot bed of coals from a campfire we built. We tied all kinds of knots to build all kinds of things. As we advanced through the ranks and added merit badges to our sashes, we began to learn how to lead others in Patrols we named ourselves. 

Scouting celebrates almost 110 years of this kind of youth development today. We will be led in a Presentation of the Colors before our Kids On Fire group this morning and enjoy the presence of a new generation of Scouts who are eager to have the same experiences I enjoyed. 

I am grateful to my parents for taking me to that Scout Meeting that night. I am also grateful for my mother who pinned every pin for each new rank on her dress. I am blessed that my father loved to camp out and cook and drink coffee with the men. My leaders pointed me in the right direction and encouraged me to learn and grow and advance. They taught me about things I had never heard of and helped me find resources to learn for myself. I am proud to be an Eagle Scout. 

 I am a different man today because of these experiences. We have every reason to believe these boys (and girls) will be different as they grow and mature. Let’s do everything we can to help them grow.

Come Alongside

After writing last week about how we often overlook teaching basic skills to our children, I thought about the missed opportunities created by single parent homes. I’m not against single parents; I just feel that we need to speak honestly about these missed opportunities instead of arguing that two people aren’t required in order to raise a child.


Hear me out. This is a plea for friends, coworkers and grandparents to come alongside any young family to support the learning curve that exists. I just want to say clearly that single parents need this support as well.


Usually, two heads are better than one. Unless one partner is a complete zero and never lifts a finger to think, speak or help, having the life experience of two adults increases the number of skills available to share with a child. It should double the possible experiences but no two people are alike so I’ll just leave that one there.


Our assumptions and prejudices can get in the way. My daughter reminds me of this every time she goes to the auto parts store to fix her car. Suddenly there are male helpers coming from all sides to help the incompetent, ignorant female, she says. Wrong again; she knows enough to take the part off and which replacement she needs to put it back on. To assume that someone of another gender lacks any particular skill set is just foolish.


Most two parent homes divide the tasks on the list and each one becomes the “go to” person for certain tasks. One might do the budget while the other keeps the yard mowed. One takes out the trash while the other fixes the car. Now remember, you need to watch making assumptions.


Other tasks might need to be shared by two parents in a household. One might prepare a meal and allow the other one to clean up after eating. One might put the wash in the dryer while the other one folds the dry clothes. Single parents don’t get this luxury because they are responsible for the meals and the laundry and until the children are old enough to help, there’s no one to share.


I’m saying that young families—especially single parents–often need a grandparent, friend or coworker to come alongside to help with the things no one has time to do. Because the meals and laundry require more time for the single parent, the teaching time might suffer. Who has the energy to play catch and hone the throwing skills of the budding athlete? Who fixes the car when the laundry still needs to be folded? Who demonstrates the skills a single parent lacks so that the child has a well-rounded upbringing?


Young parents and single parents deserve the independence of being consulted and the opportunity to refuse any help from the outside. Unless you are just mowing a little more of their front lawn when you mow your own, you should probably get permission before diving in to help. That being said, find a task that increases the time available for a parent to spend time with her children. Try asking if she needs something at WalMart before you make your trip there. Saving a trip for a stray item or two could give an hour to a single mom who would have to prepare children, load the car, manage the children through a large store and drive home to unload. Sometimes the energy saved is just as important as the time saved.


Come alongside and help. Get permission, but help where you can. We need one another’s support.

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.

Show Me How!

I had the pleasure of demonstrating a woodworking skill to a young National Guardsman this week and it got me thinking about how much we take such skills for granted as parents.


The young man was home on leave after a training assignment somewhere overseas. He was obviously very capable and a fast learner. We were helping install flooring in his home and he kept watching us carefully, as if taking in every detail.


When we got to his room, I asked if he had ever used a chop saw. He said no and I replied, “Would you like to?” I briefly described four or five steps to cutting a board off while keeping all your fingers. He quickly mastered about 80 percent of the steps on his first try and returned after a few minutes with the next board. A couple of hours later, his room had a finished floor.


Showing someone else how to do something we know how to do will lengthen how long it takes to get the job done. That’s probably the main reason we continue to do it ourselves.


How will our children function in life if we don’t take time over the years to allow them to try their own hand at the things of everyday life? They don’t learn skills by watching us; although that helps. They won’t do it right the first time they try. Only after some practice will they feel capable of doing what we have taught them, assuming we are willing to step back and help them learn.


Try these three basic steps. Notice their interest in something you are doing. Ask if them want to try it. Give them a manageable portion to learn and step back to give them room to practice. Another way to view the process is to show them, explain it to them and then allow them to try.


Children are not likely to enjoy learning things that do not interest them. Giving them some room to learn and grow will likely increase the number of things they are willing to try. Think of it as developing their curiosity rather than teaching them life skills. If we encourage their curiosity, they will be willing to tackle lots of new things. Asking if they are interested only confirms that interest before starting to issue instructions.


Selecting a bite-sized portion to learn is critical to their success. We don’t start with house building or playing a symphony on the piano; we must choose something within their ability to learn that contains a few simple steps they can practice.


Of course, practice is the key. Installing 100 square feet of flooring would require dozens of cuts on the saw. Perfect! The challenge of a power tool with the safety of a stationary base and a good guard on the blade made this task well within reach. Much less dangerous tasks await our toddlers and elementary school children. But don’t wait until they are grown to start teaching.


What could you allow your child to stir in the kitchen or move in the carport? Why not encourage our children to corral the leaves in the yard rather than paying someone to come and remove them? Are you allowing them to order their own food at the restaurant counter? Have you encouraged them to ask for their own refills?


Give your child the gift of skills. They can do lots of things on their own. Show, tell and allow. You can do it!

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.

Teach Them Later

Your child forgot her backpack again. The school is calling to ask if you will be bringing it to your child. You know that the only way she will learn responsibility is to suffer the consequence of being at school without her backpack. But it will hurt her grades so you make a different decision this time. You’ll teach her about responsibility…later. You decide to take the back pack to school. Just this once.


You are trying to get out of the house to your evening activity. Your son just won’t eat his vegetables. He is sitting at the table playing with his food, refusing to finish eating so he can get ready. You insist that he clean up his plate, but the clock is ticking. Rather than take his plate and dump it in the trash with a one liner about it not being too long until breakfast in the morning, you carefully wrap the plate and place it in the refrigerator. It’s not a good time to teach responsibility. Not right now. Maybe when you have more time and you don’t have to be somewhere. You can teach this later.


Any parent of a teenager knows how fast the early years fly right by. It seems like just yesterday that their giant-sized teen was in a high chair playing airplane. Grandparents know how quickly a couple of decades can go by. Other parents understand how important these opportunities are to the development of their children. It is just so tempting to decide that today is not the day for lessons on responsibility. We can teach these lessons tomorrow.


Love and Logic parents understand that there is no time like the present. When irresponsibility calls, we need to make sure the answer is, “nobody’s home.” Our child is growing and developing daily; we can’t postpone the important lessons of life until we are comfortable or wait for a convenient time.


Please think of each opportunity to parent your child as a golden moment that turns their heart one way or their other. When we wait to teach responsibility, we allow another dose of irresponsibility to replace the good in our children. The more water we allow in the boat, the longer it takes to scoop it out and get back to rowing.

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday Newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families Ministry.

Don’t Argue

One of the most dreaded parts of parenting is the argument that comes when you ask your child to do something. “Do I have to?” they say. “I don’t want to,” they object. You find yourself feeling like a fool standing there arguing with a child, no matter what their age.


Put simply, don’t argue. I realize that children are experts at drawing out the worst in us. We enter the room as confident, capable parents and by the time they get through arguing with us we have to leave the room as a bucket of drivel. We either feel guilty because they coaxed us into engaging them or we leave feeling like a failure because they won.

How do you avoid arguing? Keep that confident air you brought into the room with you. Don’t allow yourself to feel threatened because they aren’t going to win this one. How do I know? Because you have a few Love and Logic Parenting skills up your sleeve.


First, remember that it doesn’t matter whether they do what you want right now. Sometimes we get attached to the timing rather than the end result. If we want their room clean, does it really matter if they do it immediately or the next day? When we see that they aren’t moving, it is easy to mistake their defiance as failure on our part and get angry. Don’t get into a power struggle. Leave the problem where it began. With them.


Second, remember that it is okay for them to think they have won this one. They won’t argue if you move on and continue what you were doing before the request. Just make sure to say something like, “No problem; I’ll take care of it.” They will probably look confused the first time they hear this but will never forget by the time this round is complete!


Third, take care of it however you wish. One option is to clean the room and take the payment for your time out of their allowance. Another is to clean the room and take the payment out of a set of toys that magically disappear for a while. You can also leave the room dirty and find that the energy drain of seeing that filthy room is so great you won’t be available to take them to their friends house or practice or anywhere they want to go for a while. However you do it, you take care of it. They may forget to clean their room but they will remember how you took care of their problem. They will also remember that they don’t like your solution very much!


When you realize that you can take care of their room in a way that encourages them to stop arguing and get busy the next time, you will realize that there is absolutely no reason to argue with them! So don’t argue!! Stay calm and just take care of it. You may be the only one smiling at the end of the day.
Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.

Earrings Like Momma?

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden made headlines all the way to Europe last week as he was quoted as saying his players wore earrings “because they wanted to be like their momma.” In the firestorm of controversy since, the true words Bowden spoke before his earring comments are hardly quoted.


Bowden’s first observation was, “My last years at Florida State, 65 or 70% of my boys did not have a daddy at home.” For nearly 20 years, I’ve been quoting absent father homes at 24 million. While that’s a long way from 2/3 of the boys, the number does vary greatly among the races. Male coaches and scout leaders are noticing a heavy increase in absent father homes among those they coach and mentor. It is epidemic.


Bowden continued, “They were raised by mommas, sweet ol’ mommas. Thank god for them mommas.” Right again. Sweet mommas have been taking up the slack and making ends meet for a generation in the wake of absent fathers. However, many dads have been shut out of the custody and visitation options when a mother or grandmother decides to keep him away from his own children. Courts have been historically one sided, assuming the mother makes the best custodial parent. States with shared custody arrangements report a greater father-involvement than those with one-sided bias squarely in place.


Coach Bowden continued, “Or grandmomma. Many times it was grandmomma, or big sister, or aunt.” He’s right; there are almost as many grandparents raising their grandchildren as single fathers raising children. Thank God for grandparents who step in when neither parent is able to continue as needed. Most grandparents didn’t sign up for 40 years of childrearing. But they step into the void and put their own lives on hold while they make the world a better place for these precious children.


His real point wasn’t about earrings at all. His next observations were the meat of the comments, which apparently don’t attract much headline power; “But where’s the man? A boy needs a male figure. And the girls do too. Somebody to discipline them and make them be a man.” A retired coach in his 80’s gets the real issue dead to rights. Despite reporters and celebrities who wondered aloud a decade ago as to whether fathers were even necessary, children need a male and a female role model to thrive in the world. Can they make it without one or the other? Sure, the same way they could make it without one eye or one hand or one foot. But why? Who just gives up half of their possible influence because children can survive on 50% of their available parenting needs? It just doesn’t make any sense at all.


“I used to kid about this, you know, they grow and wanna be like their momma.” Coach Bowden’s unfortunate comment about earrings overshadowed every good thing he said before. Alums are commenting about the story, saying he did nothing for his legacy. The real legacy that our children need will be supplied by parents who work hard to give their children every advantage. Parents who realize their own relationship supply the role model for a child’s future relationships. Parents who invest in their child’s future by spending time as well as money on their children.


As you continue to watch a media bent on the sensational rather than the truth, filter out the noise and remember that our children need a father and a mother and everything these two parents can give them for more than two decades. Stay engaged and provide for those needs. Advocate for counseling when you know parents who struggle with their own relationship. Support single parents with mentoring and rides and childcare when they need it. Our children deserve our best.
Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly to encourage parents and communities to keep Fathers connected to their Families.