ACCEPTED BY HIS DAD
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash
I know the headings in the Bible are not Scripture. But, every once in a while the heading brings me up short. I opened my copy of the Scriptures and turned to Matthew 1. The heading immediately following the genealogy of Jesus says, in bold, Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son.
Thankfully, my dad has always accepted me as his son. But there have been times when our relationship has been more distant than either of us would have liked. I distinctly remember a period in my life when all I wanted was to hear him say, “I’m proud of you.” When that day came it lifted my spirit and soul in a way that is difficult to explain.
When I saw that heading my mind immediately went to friends who have not been accepted by their parents. The hurt, anguish, and heartbreak of their experience is too painful for words. Some of you reading this, may have experienced similar trauma in your life. If you have, I am so sorry. To be found unacceptable by a parent is more painful than anything I could describe. My heart aches with yours.
Jesus, prior to being born could have experienced something similar. The Scriptures say,
His mother Mary was pledged to be married Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18–19)
The story continues that Joseph had a dream and the angel of the Lord appeared to him and explained everything. Most importantly he helped Joseph understand the singular importance of the life that Mary carried inside her: “he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph most likely didn’t think of that the way modern Evangelicals do. He most likely thought that this meant his son would become a great military leader and lead the Jews to victory over the Romans, bringing them out of exile.
Joseph wakes up and did what he was commanded to do. In other words, he continued to be a man who was faithful.
Ultimately, God the Father wanted to make sure that God the Son’s earthly father accepted him. What beauty is that? What great love?
One of my favorite television shows is The Resident. One of the story lines is about a doctor who was adopted and then his birth parents came back wanting a relationship. It is beautiful as they work through all the emotions and desires of the birth parents wanting what was best for their son. There is also great beauty in the relationship of the son to the adoptive parents. This was all rooted in the context of mutual love.
In some sense Joseph was Jesus’ adoptive father. He had to make a choice to accept him or not. He chose acceptance and cared for him as his own.
I think that in this story of Jesus we see our own stories reflected. We desire to be loved and accepted, particularly by those closest to us. We often fear that our parents will reject us. Or our spouses or close friends. In each of us is the innate desire to be loved for who we are, accepted.
This played out for me with a desire to hear my dad say, “I’m proud of you.” When he did, I knew that I was accepted. There was a confidence in me that he saw me for who I was and embraced me. If my story was ever written the heading of that chapter would be Mark Accepts Dan as His Son and it would it be beautiful, because it was. And the thing is, it wasn’t some big momentous occasion, it was just a comment in a phone call. Those are often when beauty shines brightest.
Do you have stories of acceptance? Or stories of not being accepted? I invite you to share them in the comments. If you need someone to embrace you and let you know you’re accepted, reach out, I’m here.
Originally published at https://danrose.substack.com.
MY FASCINATION WITH JESUS
I am fascinated by the person of Jesus. There is no other person in the history of the world that I would more like to have a beverage with. He’d probably have a few glasses of wine and I would enjoy a nice bourbon. Most likely, we’d be enjoying some hummus, pita, and a plate of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Honestly, I dream often about this.
In my imagination, he’s quick with a laugh, an ironic comment, and has a sly smile. In my mind’s eye he’s also one who moves beyond small talk to discussions of substantial things. He challenges you in all the best ways. There is little that escapes his attention. He is confident, but humble. Strong and bold, yet gentle.
Those are the images that I get from reading his story in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
These images draw me in and I want to know more.
I am pretty sure that I could read stuff on the “historical” Jesus on a never ending basis. Documentaries about Jesus are like catnip for me. I can’t turn away. Apparently, I have a never ending hunger for information about Jesus.
Perhaps it’s because there are so many theories. Maybe, it’s because the quest for a “historical” Jesus is somewhat elusive. Whatever it is, I have not found a person in history that piques my interest or curiosity more than Jesus of Nazareth.
I think one of the things that I appreciate about the story of Jesus is that it’s honest. Right from the jump, his family history is not that great. If you just hit the highlights, Abraham was a habitual liar and raped his slave at the request of his wife and got her pregnant. Rahab was a prostitute. Judah committed adultery with his daughter-in-law because he she was a prostitute and got her pregnant. King David was a rapist and a murderer. Jesus also had some good folks in his family like Ruth, Boaz, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
When I consider my family history particularly in relation to divorce and substance abuse, I used to feel shame. We often joke that our family tree is more of a family hedgerow due to divorce and remarriage. As I was moving toward marriage there was a very real sense of dread and worry that I would perpetuate that cycle. Amy and I decided that we would never use the “D” word or even joke about it.
As messed as my family history is, when I compare it to the likes of Jesus’ family history it pales in comparison. Jesus’ family was dysfunctional and yet he overcame that dysfunction. What is even more beautiful to me is that those who wrote his story down didn’t shy away from the ugly parts. They leaned into them and put them on display.
Jesus, came from a family that knew brokenness and pain. His family knew shame and dishonor. He could identify and empathize with those whose family stories were similar to his. People like me who aren’t necessarily proud of the way our family histories shook out can find, in Jesus, someone who says, “I get it.” He shows us that from that place we can redeem the family heritage and help to leverage and highlight the good and the beautiful aspects of that history, while not ignoring the hard stuff.
In the person Jesus, I can see my own story and its redemption.
There are many aspects of the Jesus story that are beautiful. But, this part of his humanity may be the most attractive and intriguing. It is in his humanity that we can see ourselves and know our own stories are never beyond redemption or reconciliation.
Originally published at https://danrose.substack.com.
ON PARENTING: RAISE ADULTS NOT CHILDREN
Part 11 of 11 on Parenting Principles
One of the most important leadership principles that I’ve learned over the years is to begin with the end in mind. When it comes to parenting this might be the most true thing. I was talking parenting one day with a friend and he said, “You know Dan, we’re not raising children, we are raising adults.” My friend put into words, so succinctly, what we had already been pursuing. I don’t think that Amy and I realized that had been the driving principle in our parenting but now that we had words for it, we have shared this with anyone who will listen.
There is a significant difference between raising children and raising adults. I’m not sure we think about this reality enough. If we are raising children then our end goal is to have children. With the rise of extended adolescence we are seeing the results of this parenting principle. We, the adults are making decisions that don’t propel children toward adulthood but seek to keep them in a state of childhood.
What do I mean? We are seeing a rise of children with an over-dependence on their parents well past the time they should be. We, parents, love feeling needed. It gives us a sense of identity. I am a mom. I am a dad. When parenthood becomes our identity, when it fills in our, I am, then we will protect that state of being. This has given rise to the now famous “helicopter parents.” They follow their children around and hover over them well into what used to be adulthood. If we, parents, are all honest with ourselves we love being needed by our children. And, if raising children is the end that we have in mind then that is where they will stay.
What I don’t mean is that we should expose children to adult themes and realities at extremely young ages. Kids growing up too fast is real thing in our day. Many kids are growing up in situations where they have to deal with adult issues at extremely young ages and this creates significant problems too. We need to intentionally give children increasing amounts of responsibility and ownership over their lives. We don’t just let a five year old fend for themselves. In some segments of our society this is the sad reality and it has disastrous consequences.
Moving children intentionally toward adulthood begins to shape our thinking about the decisions we make in our parenting. We will be on the lookout for opportunities to hand more authority over to them. This is scary for us as parents, particularly when we find our identities rooted in the children.
For example, let’s talk about letting go of dressing our children. When this process begins, most kids will put some crazy combination of clothing on their bodies. Boys, for some reason, typically end up with underwear on their head. As a result, we feel shame because their clothes don’t match. This is much of the reason why we are afraid to hand over the reins of getting dressed. We don’t want to look bad because our kids are a mess. Giving over ownership and authority to a child doesn’t mean that we disengage from their process. They are learning a new skill and that means that we need to work with them in developing that skill. So, we help them learn to make appropriate choices in their wardrobe. Some days, wearing your princess costume is appropriate and other days it’s not. They won’t know when those days are unless we help them through it.
This process of teaching new skills and then letting go is difficult for parents. It’s difficult because it’s time consuming and exhausting. It’s just easier if I dress them. Indeed it is, but it doesn’t help you move toward the goal of raising an adult. There will be lots of things in their lives that will be easier if you just do it for them. But, easier is not always better. At the same time, there will be days when you’re exhausted, when your nerves have been stretched to the end, and you just need to get them dressed and out the door. Sometimes, we need to go that route. Remember, there is grace in all of this. It is art not science.
If we start with the goal of raising adults it forces us to ask some important questions. How we answer these questions begins to shape the principles that we will embrace as parents. This is because the answers will help us to see what skills, principles, and values we want to intentionally build into their lives. This gives us a road-map toward the decisions we will make as we parent and seek to move them toward adulthood.
What do I consider a successful adult to be like?
What kinds of people do I like?
What do I wish I would have known as I was stepping out into the world?
If I’m a successful parent, what will my kids be like when they are adults?
These are a few questions to wrestle with in your parenting as you think about moving the children entrusted to you towards adulthood.
Amy and I joke that we wanted our kids to grow into adults that we want to go on vacation with. I think we’ve done that. Just as importantly, I think that our kids want to go on vacation with us. You see, vacations are something you do by choice. You choose how, where, who with, and when, you want to spend your vacation. Most of us want to spend our vacations with people we enjoy being around. As our son and daughter are moving towards being on their own, we are grateful that we want to willingly spend time with them and they with us. They are the kind of adults that we want to be around.
We must start with the end in mind. Knowing where we are going is critical to getting to the destination.
Originally published at https://danielmrose.com on March 4, 2020.
ON PARENTING: MODEL YOUR PRINCIPLES
Part 10 of 11 on Parenting Principles
Do as I say, not as I do.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that one. There is a lot of talk about just about everything. This series of articles on parenting included. It’s all talk.
Talk. Talk. Talk.
If we are going to be serious about embracing principles of parenting then we have to live them out. This really goes for anything in our lives. I have a friend that says, “Acta Non Verba.” That translates to “actions not words.” I love this because it is a reminder that if we are all talk and no action then the talk is meaningless.
All of these things I have written about are principles that Amy and I attempt to live out on a daily basis. We succeed some days more than others. But, it is not from lack of effort. Now that our kids are older we are often called (well, I am) out by them when we fail to uphold the principles that we have sought live out.
I find this to be the greatest compliment of all.
How can that be? It seems so disrespectful, you may say. It brings me joy because it means that we live out our principles consistently enough that our children are able to identify the moments when we are falling short. If we didn’t model our principles then they would know it’s all fake. But, what they see on a regular basis is that we are living out what we have preached for their whole lives.
Modeling your principles means that you are embodying them. Words without flesh are just empty statements. They mean nothing. Jesus spoke of this when he was challenging some of the religious leaders of his day. He said that they were “whitewashed tombs.” They looked good on the outside but were dead on the inside.
Life comes from action. Principles that shape our lives are bigger than just parenting principles. Our kids will watch and see if our words line up with the way we live our lives. We must live out the words we speak.
This means that we must live lives of integrity. I am finding that true integrity is found in people whose lives are not disintegrated.
What do I mean by disintegrated? What I mean is that the person with integrity is one who has a life that is consistent across all the spheres within which they live. That is, the Facebook version is the same as the Office version is the same as the Family version is the same as the Church version is the same as the Bar version is the same as the…
You get the idea.
A person with integrity is the same wherever they are. Their life is fully integrated. For good or ill. I think one of the highest compliments you can give a person is that they live with integrity. That their life is consistent.
Even if you disagree with the way they live their life.
The person of integrity is the same wherever they are. The disintegrated person changes like the chameleon. This isn’t a moral or ethical failing, it simply removes trust.You can’t trust someone who lives without integrity (disintegrated). You can’t trust them because you never know where you stand.
Children need their parents to be integrated. They need us to have these kinds of lives that allow them to trust us. As parents we cannot create environments of trust if we don’t have integrated lives. Our principles must be embodied and lived.
I am convinced that we must live integrated lives so that our children can be sure of who their parents are. When we say, “I love you,” or “I am proud of you,” we want them to believe these statements. Because life is caught not taught, they must see on a daily basis that our words are not hollow.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on March 3, 2020.
ON PARENTING: DON’T MAKE EXCUSES
Part 9 of 11 on Parenting Principles
I think the biggest trap that we fall into as parents is the trap of making excuses for our kids. My mom was a teacher for decades. During her time as a teacher she saw a shift occur from parents holding their children responsible for their actions to blaming the teacher. This shift is very damaging. Why? If we don’t hold our children responsible for their actions we are stunting their growth into adulthood.
Over the years of participating in sports I’ve made my share of excuses for my kids when they didn’t perform well.
“They were tired.”
“They were sick.”
“That official was garbage.”
I’ve used them all.
I regret it.
When you love someone you want them to succeed and you want to defend them against those who speak negatively. I’ve grown as a parent in this area. I am finding myself able to say, “He had a bad game today.” It’s really hard to do. When we look at our kids we see them through the lens of the parent.
I have written elsewhere about not tying our identity to our kids. When we make excuses for them it is rooted in our over identification with them. We feel attacked by those who are critiquing our kids, even if they are right! Why? They’re not critiquing us. Why do we feel attacked and why do we feel the need to make excuses? Because our identity is overly connected with our kids and their performances or obedience.
My rival growing up was a kid whose mom never believed her little baby ever did anything wrong. As a result he was mean and nasty whenever he felt like it. “I will call your mother,” held no sway because he knew she would believe him and not anyone else. All he had to say was, “I didn’t do it,” and that was that. It drove my own mom crazy. She held my brothers and I accountable for our actions. It didn’t matter the circumstance, “Did you know what was the right thing to do? Then why didn’t you do it?” She would often ask.
When we make excuses for the children entrusted to us we are undercutting their sense of righteousness and justice. It becomes very difficult for them to understand and know what right and wrong looks like if we do not help them learn those things. This will often come about from holding them accountable to for their actions.
Making excuses also limits their ability to reach their potential in whatever it is they are doing. I was a teacher’s pet in school. I was a “nice boy” and pretty obedient. As a result most teachers gave me a pass. I was able to skate through my education with great grades and little effort. Two teachers stand out though. The first is Mrs Kramer. I was in 5th grade and we had an assignment to edit a page of text. I was missing one of the errors and she made me stay after school until I found it. I was a “walker,” and when I didn’t arrive home at my usual time my mom came up to school. She found me angry, frustrated, and in tears hunched over a paper. Her response? She thanked Mrs Kramer. In tenth grade I received my first ever non-A, I didn’t get a B, I got a C in English. We went to parent-teacher conferences and my teacher, Ms Feldman, thought for sure my mom was about to rip her a new one. What did my mom do? She thanked Ms Feldman for holding me to a standard that fit my abilities. I credit Ms Feldman with the fact that I am a half-way decent writer today.
If we want the children entrusted to us to reach their full potential we must hold them accountable and not make excuses. Each of them will have different abilities and strengths and gifts. Our job is not to push them into something but help them pursue and accomplish the things that they have said they want to do.
Along with not making excuses for our kids, we have to avoid making excuses for ourselves. There are times when we will not be good parents. There will be times when we will just simply blow it. When those times happen we have the responsibility to own our actions and model it. Sometimes this looks like us asking for forgiveness (go check that post out, it’s a good one!). Other times it will be as a result of us being held accountable by our employer. When that happens we must own our actions and take responsibility. Remember, much of what children learn is caught not taught.
Not making excuses for our kids is the hardest thing I have had to learn as a parent. It’s a principle that I wish I had embraced earlier. I’m still learning it and still catch myself being overly defensive when it comes to my kids.
It’s all a process.
I’ll keep trying and invite you to do so too!
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on March 2, 2020.
ON PARENTING: HAVE EXPECTATIONS
Part 8 of 11 on Parenting Principles
After my parents divorce I will never forget something that my mom told us over and over: You will not be a statistic. She never let us use the fact that our parents were divorced as an excuse to do poorly in school or misbehave. My dad would often talk to us about how people knew our last name and that what we did reflected on the family business. My parents had expectations for my brothers and I. Amy’s (my wife) parents had similar expectations for her and her sisters. There was an expectation of hard work, commitment, and the pursuit of excellence.
Some people think that “expectation” is a dirty word. Sometimes “expectation” becomes an opportunity for legalism and judgment. That is a possible threat. Often when I talk about expectations people immediately jump to an image of a parent living vicariously through their children in some activity. Do we need to guard against that in our setting of expectations? Absolutely. When we make expectations about us as opposed to helping the children entrusted to us, then that is seriously problematic. How do we guard against that? I think that we do so by setting expectations at a 100,000 foot level. This means that we avoid particulars in our setting of expectations and focus on principles. There’s that word again, principle. Principles function to provide frameworks with flexibility. This means that there is room for grace, mercy, and patience. An example of overly specific expectations would be: I want my kid to be a professional baseball player. If we make that an expectation then we will experience great frustration and our child will most likely experience failure. Yes, that sets a high bar, but by being overly specific it doesn’t allow for grace and for the child to become who they were created to be.
Healthy and good expectations are broad and big picture. By being big picture, expectations allow for each child to uniquely fulfill their personal calling as a human. What we are consistently learning as parents is that whatever expectations we set for the children in our care they tend to meet. Whatever the bar is set at they tend to rise to it. Therefore, we must find and set expectations that will be challenging and hold them to a high standard but be general enough that they can uniquely rise up to them.
Even though I’ve, mostly, been successful at avoiding getting specific in this series and telling you what we do, this time I’m going share with you some of the expectations that we have for Ethan and Libby. I’m doing this because it’s easier to give examples of this than to try to give you some sort of nebulous description. In doing so, I want to remind you, take this with a grain of salt, these are things that Amy and I have chosen to embrace in our family, our setting, our circumstance, and our personal context. These are not meant to be a recipe for everyone to embrace.
One of the earliest expectations that we set is that Ethan and Libby would be friends. As all kids do they would get snippy with one another and argue. Ethan would bug Libby and she would get mad and vice versa. When those things happened we would intentionally help them figure out how to reconcile and we would remind them that we have the expectation of them being one another’s best friend. We simply expected it. There was no debate or conversation. This required us as parents to engage as “relationship counselors” on a regular basis during various seasons of life. Often, we would talk about how there is team kid and team parent. It has become a fun way to remind them they are on the same team and that they need one another. Now that they are about to move into adulthood, it appears that they are meeting that expectation. We love watching their relationship and seeing how they have one another’s backs completely. They get mad at one another and drive each other a little crazy, yet there is nobody they love more.
Another expectation that we have is that they will give 100% effort at school. We don’t worry about grades. Those will take care of themselves. What we care about is the effort. Some children are naturally gifted with the ability to succeed in school and others are not. For some, 100% effort means that they will get grades that are just good enough to graduate. For others 100% effort means that they will be placing themselves in more and more challenging environments because they can get grades with 25% effort. Do you see how a principle driven approach to expectation setting offers flexibility and room for grace?
One last example of an expectation that we have for Ethan and Libby is that they will be kind. This expectation has opened up many conversations with the kids about all kinds of things. We are able to talk about justice and loving well. It provides a context for us to challenge them to embrace those on the fringes. Kindness is broad enough that there are many avenues to enter into conversations and challenge them to continue to grow as people. Not only that, but it provides a structure for the kids to challenge us as parents too. Kindness is a clear means by which we can all sharpen one another and be vulnerable with one another.
Do not be afraid of setting expectations! They provide the paths by which we get to help children grow. The best part of having expectations? Opportunities to celebrate and affirm children’s success.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on February 28, 2020.
ON PARENTING: EXPERIENCE OVER STUFF
Part 7 of 11 on Parenting Principles
Keeping up with the Jones’ is one of the single greatest temptations that we face as parents. Someone always has the nicer car, the nicer house, or the better toys for their kids. Early on in our parenting Amy and I decided that we were going to choose experiences over stuff for our family. We have learned that this was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
How are you able to pay for travel sports on a pastor’s salary? All the travel and eating out that goes with it adds up. How do you do it? These are some of the questions that we’ve been asked over the years. It’s very simple, we have decided that providing experiences for our kids is more important than giving them things. We intentionally choose to spend on experiences because they are more significant over the long haul.
Stuff comes and goes, but experiences last a lifetime
This is absolutely true. The picture above is from the summer that we went to Budapest, Hungary. Amy was working for our denomination’s world missions organization at the time and they were holding a conference there. When we realized that we had the opportunity to get our family to another country we jumped at the chance. While Amy was working, the kids and I were able to explore a new country. The memories made will last us forever.
When you choose experience over stuff you are also choosing relationship. Just giving children stuff communicates that you would prefer them to be seen not heard. Experiences are almost always linked to engagement. Leaving town or heading out on a local adventure usually means that there are significant times where the phones are put away and we are doing something together.
My job as a pastor has always provided me with great flexibility. This means that during the summer I am a bit of a stay-at-home dad. Amy will head off to work and I will be the responsible adult at home. One summer the kids and I took off to downtown Ypsilanti for the farmer’s market. It was a really cool afternoon. We laughed a ton and had an experience together. Out of that experience came some good conversations about food and the poor. At our farmer’s market if you were on food stamps you could get tokens to use for food from the vendors. This was something that I had never seen before nor had my kids. So, as we were driving home we had a good conversation about what all that meant.
Experiences open us up to new ways of seeing the world and new people. They also help kids grow in compassion, empathy, and openness. As we explore places together the “why?” question is quick to come. As a result, we can help our kids make sense of a confusing world. It also helps them to be confident and not live in fear. I love the fact that our kids are not afraid to get in a car with their friends and check out some new place. They have learned to be aware of their surroundings and also to be curious about their world.
By choosing experience over stuff it makes it very easy to make certain decisions. When the kids come home and say they want to go out to dinner, more times than not, we say yes. Why? Because we are making the principled decision to have an experience with our kids. I don’t know why, but when you’re out at a restaurant it seems that the conversation flows easier. The phones also seem to go away, usually at the prompting of Ethan and Libby. I think it’s because there are fewer distractions. We are in a sense “trapped” together. Nobody is in the kitchen working on preparing food or thinking about cleaning up, when the fast eater finishes there’s no place for them to go. It’s almost as if our family has been trained to engage with one another when we are out and about.
This principle more than any other may point most clearly as to why we have decided to parent from a principled perspective. It helps us to make decisions in the context of our parenting. Parenting is hard enough without always having to go back to the drawing board for every single decision. By embracing a principle of experience over stuff we are able to quickly say “yes” and just as easily say “no.” The impact that this has is one that I’m not sure we will ever fully be able to know. Choosing how to spend money is something that can be so hard when you’re making those decisions in a vacuum. There are going to be times when the kids to have some “thing.” When they were little it was so nice to be able to say, “We aren’t going to buy that because it’s way more fun to go to Florida and play at the beach with your cousins.” This helps them gain perspective and see the value in people and experience over the value of stuff. Now that they are older they just get it.
When you choose experience over stuff you are creating a context where the children who are entrusted to you will begin to comprehend that the greater value is people and relationship. An adventure and a meal is so much more significant than a shiny object that will lose its luster after a few weeks.
Parents, let’s choose experience over stuff!
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on February 27, 2020.
ON PARENTING: SPEAK WITH THEM
Part 6 of 11 on Parenting Principles
There is this great video that circulates on social media every so often. It is a dad and his son sitting on the couch watching a show. The little boy is probably about a year old. The two of them are having an in depth conversation about whatever it is they are watching. It’s absolutely hilarious and adorable. The little guy is babbling and the dad is responding to him. Their conversation is absolutely brilliant.
One of the principles that we have followed over our years of parenting is that we have made the conscious decision to speak with our kids. There is an old saying that children are to “be seen, not heard.” That is absolute baloney. Kids are part of our family structure, critically important members of the household and they need to speak and be spoken to.
Over the years we have had to make some big family decisions, like any family does. When we do, our family gets around a table and talks through the decision together. We don’t speak down to our kids, we tell them like it is and invite them into the process. I am so thankful for the insight and input they have offered. Because we engage them in this way, they have always felt part of the decision making process and have owned the decisions with my wife and I.
I’m not a child psychologist, so take the following with a grain of salt. I did a bit of research on the Google Machine regarding talking to your babies. Some research shows that baby talk (you know googoo gaagaa and the like) are good. Some research shows that using real language with your baby is the best. I think that the key thing to remember is that whichever approach you use what is important is that you are engaging your child. We weren’t big “baby talk” parents. We typically spoke to our kids like we would anyone else. I think that helped them in language development and having the confidence to speak with a variety of people.
In our day and age one of the most difficult things to do is to put our mobile devices away and be present with those around us. These little handheld computers are ever present. My kids have called me out more times than I can count about my device at the dinner table. They want me to be present with them. Why? Because we have always spoken to them. For their whole lives we have been intentional to engage them in conversation. As a result, when we are disengaged it bothers them and they know that they can call us on that. It’s never fun to be challenged by your kids, but when it does we are wise to listen.
Part of the process of speaking to our children is teaching them how to have conversations. There are little things like looking people in the eyes when you meet them or turn your body to face the person you’re speaking to. We try really hard to not simply yell to one another from other rooms in our home. My wife is really good about intentionally inviting us to whatever room she is in to talk.
People have consistently been impressed by our children’s ability to converse and connect with kids and adults. When you actually talk to your kids they learn from you how to engage in conversation. Remember, much of this is caught, not taught. We cannot be afraid of having hard conversations with our kids. Whether it is religion, politics, our bodies, pop culture, or anything in between. I try to be as honest as possible with them. There are times when I’m not an open book because it’s not healthy for them. However, if I want them to be authentic with me, I need to model that.
As our kids have walked through the various difficulties of life, there have been many conversations about my own doubts and struggles. I haven’t hidden those. This creates a context where they know that we can talk about such things because Mom and Dad don’t have it all figured out, they don’t have to either.
Inherent in all of this is the absolute necessity for parents to listen. Too often we think we have it all figured out and when it comes to engaging with our kids we are simply waiting for our next opportunity to speak. If we’re really honest, that’s how most of our conversations go, even with adults. Listening to our children communicates trust, respect, and love. It’s very difficult to listen to someone you don’t trust. It’s even harder if you don’t respect them. If you don’t love them, it might be impossible. If we want to build authentic relationships with our kids then we must listen to them. They know when we are not paying attention or we are going through the motions. It’s going to happen. The 117th time they’ve talked about some tv show that we have no interest in, our eyes are going to glaze over. But, we have to be sure that we are listening intently so as to not miss what is important. They will give us clues as to why something is important to them. This is what we want to discover and then fan that into a flame.
All of this comes back to the principle of “speak with them.” When we intentionally engage our kids in conversation we begin to create the environment for so many of the other principles.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on February 26, 2020.
ON PARENTING: BE CONSISTENT
Part 5 on Parenting Principles
Shortly after Ethan was born a couple from the church we were attending invited us over to their home for lunch. The purpose was to sit around and talk parenting. They were significantly further down the road than we were. We did lunch a good handful of times and it was really helpful for Amy and I.
One of the things that we talked about was disciplining children. At this point, you may think I’m going to write about what kind of discipline that they suggested. I’m not. That is something that you need to work through on your own. Honestly, I don’t remember if they even suggested a particular type of disciplinary style to us or not. What I do remember is that they encouraged us to be consistent in whatever we did.
Over the years I’ve learned that consistency in parenting, particularly relating to discipline, is one principle that is easier talked about than done. So, how do you practice consistency?
First, realize that whatever punishment you mete out to the child entrusted to you is your punishment as well. What do I mean? There are consequences to decisions that parents make and often we don’t think about those consequences until after the fact. For instance, if you ground a child for a week, you’re grounded too. This often means that a grounding usually only lasts as long as it’s convenient for the parent. As a result, Amy and I found that identifying things of value and withholding them were far more effective measures, because they allowed us to be consistent.
Second, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Something that we did for a period of time was what I call the “counting game.” We would ask Ethan to do something and then start counting. Guess what? He never did anything on “1.” He was always pressure prompted, so to speak. After a while, especially after Libby was born, we decided to simply have the expectation that they would do something when we asked. This helped them learn to respect other people, not just mom and dad. It also brought the tension level down in our home. We would come alongside in the moment and help them accomplish what we asked. As they got older, it was just part of them to respond or to say, “I am in the middle of something. I will do it when I’m done.”
Third, make sure the punishment fits the crime. It is very difficult to be consistent if you’re all over the map in your discipline. You want to be sure that you don’t go over board on small things and have no place to go for big things.
Fourth, figure out what hills you’re going to fight for. Everything doesn’t need to be a struggle to dominance. Clearly identify your family priorities. For instance, we have focused most of our discipline in the areas of gratitude, relational connection, truth telling, and respect. As a result, there are a lot of other things we have let slide. We will talk about other stuff and raise issues with the kids as we see them, but if they aren’t in one of those key areas we rarely “discipline” for what we’ve identified are small issues.
Finally, we have learned to try and not practice discipline when we are angry. Anger gives way to over punishment and lack of grace. There are many times when I have had to remove myself for a period of time to collect myself. It is nearly impossible to be consistent when you’re mad. There is nothing wrong with letting some time pass and circling back for the conversation. Everything does not need to be done in the moment.
Consistency is crucial. It creates an environment where everyone knows where they stand. If we are inconsistent then the environment that kids find themselves in will be unstable. This instability leads to more difficulties in the long run.
Consistency isn’t just about discipline. We must be consistent in praise and encouragement too. Parents have the unique role of speaking life and love into the children entrusted to them. Do not lose sight of this! There is nothing better than holding your son or daughter close and whispering words love and affirmation to them. You can actually feel their whole body relax and even when they’re teens you can feel their head nestle just a bit closer.
I have written elsewhere about the importance of grace, truth, and time in our development of people. When we consistently speak and apply grace, truth, and time to the children entrusted to us we give them the best chances of growing into kind, loving, and gracious adults.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on February 25, 2020.
ON PARENTING: EXTEND GRACE
Part 4 of 11 on Principles of Parenting
I don’t remember the details of what happened. Ethan was probably five or six. What I do remember is that he was disobedient. Whatever it was that he did, Amy and I were angry about it. I am sure I raised my voice and sent him to his room.
While the details are foggy, what I do remember is going into his room and sitting with him on his bed. He was crying. Those deep sobs that only little kids who are fully aware of their shame and guilt can cry. The tears were gigantic. The breaths were deep and his whole body shuttered.
I looked at him and we talked about what had happened. We discussed whatever this really huge deal was. Then I pulled him in close and told him we were not going to punish him. Mom and I were going to extend to him grace. We talked about what that meant how it’s a very special gift.
One of the greatest things that we get to do as parents is extend grace. There will be times when the children who are entrusted to us will be disobedient. It is just part of the reality of being human. Many times we will need to discipline them and be consistent in doing so. Yet, there will be times that we get to live the gospel by extending grace.
When that happens, we have the responsibility to explain what is going on and what it is we are doing. It’s not just ignoring the bad behavior. No, we get to model what Jesus did for us on the cross. The grace of Christ is one that is not cheap. It cost something. In the same way, the grace that we extend to the children entruted to us is costly. Extending grace requires time and patience and often difficult conversations.
Often, it is easier to simply punish. Punishment is focused and it is something that is clean. If we are honest with ourselves, punishment often feels good because we feel like we are accomplishing something.
Grace on the other hand often feels like we are shirking responsbility. This could not be further from the truth. When we extend grace we are embodying love and truth in a way that is more powerful than any measure of discipline could ever be.
I love being able to extend grace to Ethan and Libby. As they have aged that begins to look different than it did when they were little. Now, grace looks a lot like me extending extra time for things we have asked them to do. More times than not it is us listening to them and hearing their “side of the story.” These moments of grace are significant and beyond important.
When we extend grace it creates a context for them to know that they will not be crushed by rules or legalism. Amy and I often look for ways to extend grace to our kids. This means that we limit the number of rules in our home. We want them to feel and know that they live in a context of grace, every single day.
When we create an environment of grace it provides our kids with the knowledge that they can come to us with anything. I don’t want my kids to ever feel that I am unsafe. Life comes at all of us pretty fast and we need to know who are the people that we can trust. Amy and I desperately want to be at the top of that list for Ethan and Libby. I think that we have succeeded. That success, I believe, is largely rooted in the context of grace that we have built over the last 18 years.
One last thing that I have noticed is that Ethan and Libby extend grace to one another and to their friends pretty easily. They have caught a grace centered life even though they might not be able to articulate it. Grace is in the air they breathe. It’s beautiful to watch.
Moms and Dads, extend grace! It’s fun and you won’t regret it.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on February 24, 2020.
ON PARENTING: ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Part 3 of 11 of Parenting Principles
My son, Ethan, had been driving for a while. Like modern parents do, we had put an app on his phone called Life 360 to track his whereabouts and keep an eye on his driving. One day we were hanging out at the neighborhood pool with friends. When our daughter, Libby, arrived at the pool she said she had seen Ethan with a bunch of friends in his car driving silly. That was particularly odd since Ethan was supposed to be at a girl’s home eating dinner with her family. I pulled out my handy dandy phone and saw that he was exactly where we expected him to be.
Yet, we didn’t believe our eyes. We believed our daughter’s eyes. Our minds ran with all the ways that Ethan could have gotten around the app. We did not believe the best in our son. I texted him. No response. I called him. No response. I called his friend and he said that he wasn’t with him. Of course, we believed that his friend was covering for Ethan, not that he was telling the truth. I called Ethan again. Finally, he picked up and he was really angry because he felt very rude answering the phone in the middle of dinner.
This scene played out in this particular way because I didn’t trust my son. I didn’t trust that he was the person that I had raised him to be. My own self doubt and sense of personal inadequacy shaped my perception of him. I was projecting myself onto him.
That night, we had a very long conversation. One where Amy and I had to do one of the hardest things in parenting: We asked forgiveness. We had to admit to Ethan that we were wrong. We failed as people to trust someone who was trustworthy. We owned our failure and asked for forgiveness. In that moment, we also felt compelled to put actions to our words and removed the app from his phone. We decided to trust him until he proved otherwise.
Over the years I have had to apologize and seek the forgiveness of Ethan and Libby often. Even when they were little. As a parent we often think we know everything. This is decidedly not true. There will be many times when situations arise that we don’t have the full picture or know all the details. We will make a snap judgment only to learn later that we were wrong in our assessment. When this happens we must own it and seek the forgiveness of the child entrusted to us.
Doesn’t this make us look weak? Doesn’t this give too much power to the child? Aren’t we putting ourselves in a position to no longer be able to have them respect us?
When we own our failures and mistakes we humanize ourselves. We actually become a safer place for the people in our lives. They will know that they can come and be honest with us because when we get it wrong we seek to get it right in the end. There is no sense that we are “holier than thou.”
Henri Nouwen talks about becoming a “wounded healer” not a “healed wounder.” When we embrace our own brokenness before the children entrusted to us it opens the door for them to not be perfect. When we don’t hide our sin, they won’t hide theirs either. This means that the time it takes to seek and receive reconciliation in broken relationships is shorter.
If anyone can see our hypocrisy it is the children in our home. They see us at our best and our worst. Remember, children catch more from how they see us live than they are taught by our words. “Do what I say not what I do” doesn’t work in the long run. As parents, we must seek live as honestly and authentically before our kids as possible.
This is so hard to do because it demands us to be vulnerable in front of them. As parents, we all want our kids to be vulnerable with us. Yet, they won’t know how to do that unless we model this for them. One of the key ways to do this is by asking forgiveness when we blow it.
When Ethan and Libby were young, I was working full-time and going to seminary full-time. I was pretty much always exhausted. There was very little in my emotional and relational tanks at the end of a day or week. Too many times to count I was short with them for no good reason and had to say, “Please forgive me, you didn’t deserve that. Dad is really tired. I love you!” The children entrusted to you want to be in relationship with you and they are quick with a, “I forgive you dad! I love you.” Then they will run off to play.
After years and years of building this kind of foundation you come to a place where you blow it big and break their trust. Like we did with Ethan that day. When that happens you will have a platform where your pursuit of forgiveness is understood to be genuine and authentic. That day, Ethan was angry. He spoke truth to us. Ethan also forgave us and as a result our relationship was that much stronger.
If I could encourage a young parent to do just one thing, it would be to own your mistakes with your kids and ask forgiveness.
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ON PARENTING: THEIR SIN IS NOT YOUR SIN
Part 2 of 11 of Parenting Principles
When you have your first kid, everyone, and I mean everyone, gives you advice. You get advice from the lady in the grocery store and the man behind you in line at the movie theater. Wherever you go, advice rolls in.
One day my wife, Amy, was at an office store running an errand for our ministry team at Illinois State and baby Ethan was hungry and tired. He was doing what little ones do when they get hungry and tired, crying, melting down, he was absolutely losing it. The well meaning lady behind the register looked at Amy and handed her a brochure about raising a child with autism, “You may find this helpful.”
Some advice is better than others. You have to learn quickly what advice to hold onto and what advice to let go of. I think that one of the most important pieces of advice, one that became a core principle for us, was “your child’s sin is not your sin.”
Some time later Amy and I are were at Panera trying to have a little lunch. Ethan had just found his running legs. As young parents we made the mistake of taking him out of the high chair and then began putting on our coats. In an instant he was gone! My dude was running laps around Panera. It was one of the moments that you have to decide if you’re going to chase him or try to out smart him. We attempted to use our superior intellects by trying to corner him from two different directions. He stopped, giggling, looked to the left and then to the right. Before we could grab him, he took off into the kitchen! Thankfully, one of our friends was the manager and scooped him up, “Did you lose something guys?”
Every person who parents a child has stories they could tell where they wanted to crawl up under a rock somewhere because of the ridiculous actions taken by their child. The Panera story is cute now, but in the moment we were absolutely mortified. Amy and I experienced shame.
Why? Why did we experience shame from the actions of our little boy? It’s because our identities were too deeply connected to him. Whatever Ethan did, we saw it as an extension of ourselves. I think if we are honest this is why obedience is such a significant benchmark for parents in their evaluation of their parenting. The thinking goes, “if my kids are obedient then I am a good parent.” Similarly, “If my child is a good person then I am a good person. If they are a bad person then I must be a bad person.”
This is dangerous thinking.
When we link our identities to another person, whether it’s a child entrusted to us or another adult, what happens is that we begin to lose our sense of self.
Here is the truth of the matter, we are our own and the children entrusted to us are their own.
We must teach the children entrusted to us that they are responsible for their actions. This means that when they do well, we praise them for doing well. It’s not our success, it is theirs. When they fall short and make mistakes, we help them understand that they must own those mistakes. It’s not our failure, it is theirs.
This is infinitely more difficult when children are young. Why? Because they don’t have the capacity for complex thinking. Yet, they will learn from how you respond and how you carry yourself through the ups and downs of life together. So much of this is caught by the children in your home as opposed to taught.
Two tangible ways that Amy and I have practiced this principle is to remind one another that the actions of our children are their own. We also avoid manipulative language like, “You make me feel…” As adults, we have the responsibility to be wise and measured in our responses to children’s behavior. This is easier said than done. It requires significant attention and intentionality. Caring for a child is all the time. Parenting a child never ends. The vigilance required to avoid this kind of language is exhausting but critically important.
One of the important things that comes as a result of embracing this principle is that you, as the parent, are able to truly speak truth in love and extend grace. Why? When we are able to differentiate ourselves from the children entrusted to us we can actually see them as individuals and not simply an extension of ourselves. This means that we can, with authenticity, hold the tension of truth, love, and grace. We can do so without adding shame and guilt into the equation.
As children grow older they inevitably sin, like everyone else. When they do, Amy and I, can speak grace, truth, and love. We are able to hold them accountable without experiencing shame or guilt ourselves. In some sense, we can dispassionately hold them accountable.
In the next paragraph I’m going to write briefly about the Christian perspective about why this is principle is important. If that’s not your bag, you can skip the paragraph, it’s OK. I hope you won’t, it’s of central importance in my life and I hope at the very least it will help you know me better.
For those of you reading this that are followers of Jesus this principle also lays the groundwork for the reality that you are not the savior. Our jobs as parents is not to try and take the sin of the children entrusted to us as our own. Jesus did that completely and perfectly on the cross. Our job is to point to Jesus and to remind the children and ourselves who the savior is. When we fail, when they fail, there is only one means by which the effects and consequences of sin have been done away with, the cross of Christ. Sin’s curse is the breaking of relationship with one another and God. Christ has redeemed and reconciled those relationships through his work on the cross. It is up to us to now experience that forgiveness by faith.
“Their sin is not your sin.” This principle frees us to love the children entrusted to us well. It allows us to speak truth, grace, and love with authenticity apart from guilt and shame.
Be sure to leave comments, questions, and thoughts. If you liked this article please share it or drop a clap or two. That’s how it will be found by others.
ON PARENTING: A WARNING AND AN ENCOURAGEMENT
Part 1 of 11 Parenting Principles
Any time that I ask people what they want me to write about, almost always the topic of parenting comes up. A few years ago I wrote a little article with ten principles that have shaped our parenting. So, I thought it might be helpful to flesh out some of these ideas in their own posts.
Before I begin the series I want to make sure that I share a word of warning with you. Parenting is intensely personal. What works for one set of parents may not necessarily work for another. Children are unique and different. No two settings, families, or situations are exactly the same. Everything I write here needs to be taken with a grain salt.
To that end, I am going to avoid specifics. You’re not going to see specific examples of how we worked out each of these principles. I am going to intentionally stay at the 10,000 foot level. That’s because I don’t want you to think that there is some sort of recipe for perfect parenting.
All of us are going to do the best that we can do. It’s hard. Parenting is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing that I have ever done in my life. Being entrusted with the lives of two people (in my case a son and daughter) is beyond daunting. At every turn I am just hoping that the decisions we make are not going to mess them up too bad.
There are no perfect parents. If you are a parent or want to be a parent you are engaging in art, not science. There is no way that you can predict how the children who have been entrusted to your care are going to turn out.
Yet, you can be intentional. You can try and think through a way to parent with some principles that will help you make decisions and provide a framework for your “why” when it comes to those decisions.
My encouragement to you is this: parenting can be deeply rewarding, infuriating, joyful, and painful. There will be times when you have no answers. When you come to those moments choose grace and love. I am convinced that grace and love are probably the two most important components to parenting well. If the children who are entrusted to us leave our homes and know that the people who parented them love them and are the place and people of grace for them in the midst of life’s storms, we have succeeded beyond compare.
It takes real work to embrace love and grace in your relationships with the children entrusted to your care. It will not be easy. There will be times when you will go over board one way or another. When you do, it is not the end. There will be another chance.
Parenting is like learning to ride a bike. You try and fall and try and fall and try again. Eventually, once you get your sense of balance and think you have it figured out they take your bike away.
As my son and daughter are about to leave home, I’m thankful for the years that my wife and I have had to be their parents. They have taught us about love and grace in a depth that I could not have imagine. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the time we have had with them. Their futures are their own but I believe we have built a scaffold for them to live lives of faith, love, and grace. I am excited to see what they do with their lives.
As this series progresses, please share your parenting stories and ask your questions in the comments. I look forward to journeying with you.
The Spiritual Practices of Engagement
Spiritual practice is about preparing us to . These practices include practices of abstinence and practices of engagement. We can align these ideas with Jesus telling his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross daily (Mark 8:34–38). The practices of abstinence are how we practice denying ourselves. The second kinds of practices are those of engagement, the taking up of our cross.
In the American church we have largely focused on the practices of engagement. Because these are more straightforward and more “normal” I’m going to summarize them in one post.
The first practice of engagement is study. This encompasses the study of Scripture, theology, doctrine, and apologetics. As followers of Christ our most direct way of growing in our knowledge of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit is through study, specifically the Scriptures. The Scriptures are ancient texts. They come from a variety of authors, cultures, and times. This means that as we engage in study we need to identify the genre, historical setting, and cultural context for what we are studying. This can be done relatively easily with a quick Google search.
From there, we can focus our attention on five questions: 1. What do I think is important? 2. What do I not understand? 3. What do I learn about God (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit)? 4. What do I learn about people? 5. How do I need to respond?
If we simple worked our way through the Scriptures asking these five questions we would walk away with significant insight and hopefully life change.
The second practice of engagement is prayer. By spending time in prayer we are engaging with God in a most personal way. As we pray we are able to do so in faith knowing that God the Spirit is even praying on our behalf.
How do we pray? That is a question that I get asked often. In my own practice I do a couple things. I tend to pray through what is known as the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9–15. As I work my way through each verse my mind and heart tend to be directed to where they need to go. I will also often follow a pattern known as “A.C.T.S.” This is an acronym that stands for adoration (adoring God), confession (acknowledging my sin and embracing forgiveness), thanksgiving (thanking God for all that God has provided), and supplication (praying for myself and others).
Worship is where we turn our attention to God and offer praise. This an important aspect of our spiritual practice as it forces us to move from a self-centered position to that of God-centered. Worship can be private (see adoration above) and/or corporate.
Corporate worship is significant because we are explicitly commanded in Hebrews to not forsake meeting together. If you are a follower of Jesus you have a responsibility to connect in community on a regular basis. Typically this is centered around the Lord’s table and the preaching of the Scriptures. Sadly, the people of God have split over these two things. Protestants tend to emphasize preaching over the Supper and Catholics/Orthodox tend to emphasize the Supper over preaching. What we see in the Scriptures is a dual emphasis of Supper and preaching.
Tied to worship is celebration. The Scriptures are full of feasts. The people of God have historically been a feast people. Celebrations are used to remember the works and story of God. In other words, a significant part of following and growing in Christ is learning to party!
Too often we don’t think about how important service is to our spiritual lives. When we serve another we are practicing a self-sacrificial love. It is critically important. When was the last time you served? This should be an easy answer. Yet, too often in our American Christianity we have come to think that the church exists to serve us. This is why we have seen the proliferation of programs within the context of church. We are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. This is the core of service.
Fellowship in the Christian faith is not simply getting together. There is an intent to meeting together for fellowship. The easiest way to think about this may be in the context of a small group of people meeting together to talk through their spiritual lives. Fellowship is an intentional meeting of people to press one another to a deeper place of spiritual growth.
Confession we touched on under prayer. This practice of engagement is where we engage with our own stories. Paul talks about taking off the old and putting on the new. This is the practice of confession. We actively take off the old sinful nature and put on our new nature as a follower of Christ. This act is ongoing and never ending. We are imperfect and this side of eternity we won’t ever be perfect. Therefore, we must recognize those imperfections and embrace the forgiveness and grace that is ours in Christ.
Finally, there is the practice of submission. This is where we submit to one another and to Christ. This is so very hard to do. It requires us set aside ourselves and come under someone else. We look to another and say, “I hear what you’re saying and I submit to you.” This is the critical practice that maintains unity in the body of Christ.
When we “take up” our “cross” it prepares us to handle life when it comes at us. These practices of engagement help us to build the spiritual, emotional, and relational muscle to enter the world as gospel bearers. When we face the darkness we will be able to bear the light and shine grace.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on February 5, 2020.
CHASTITY, SECRECY, AND SACRIFICE…
The disciplines and practices of abstinence are designed to help us grow in our ability to know contentment and trust. They press us toward self-sacrifice. These practices are what we use to “deny ourselves.” They are counter-cultural and difficult to practice because they go against everything that is within us.
Chastity has become synonymous with “virginity.” There has been a fascination within the evangelical subculture with remaining “chaste.” Yet, in reality it is something a bit different. The practice of chastity is the decision of someone to abstain from sexual pleasure for a period of time. These periods of time can and should happen even within the context of marriage. This is of course a decision made in conjunction with your spouse. It is never to be used as a punishment or as something to control your spouse. When we enter into this time of chastity it functions to help us be content in our relationship beyond the physical. We learn that intimacy is not simply rooted in sexual pleasure but in relational, emotional, and spiritual connection too.
Secrecy is the practice of denying ourselves public adulation. This is a particularly difficult practice in our world of social media. Most of us document every aspect of our lives. We post the stories and pictures of everything that we do. When we practice secrecy it makes us uncomfortable. We take such great pleasure in others knowing the good we have done. When we practice secrecy, we are forced to learn humility and the joy of altruism.
The final practice of abstinence that we need to highlight is that of sacrifice. This is, arguably, the most difficult practice for the American Christian. To practice sacrifice is to set aside our “rights.” For those of us who are American to defense of our rights is at the center of our national identity. To practice sacrifice is to cut to the heart of who we are. This is no small challenge. We have to ask ourselves if the practice of sacrifice is something that we are even willing to engage in. Sacrifice teaches us to abandon the posture of getting what we want, when we want it. When in combination with the practice of frugality it brings us to the place where we can give sacrificially. This does not mean putting yourself into debt or putting yourself in a position that doesn’t allow you to care for or provide for your family.
Originally published at [danielmrose.com](https://danielmrose.com) on January 31, 2020.
Amy and I were raising support to join the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) and living in Mount Pleasant, MI. I had just graduated from Central Michigan University and we were excited about our future. But, we had to raise some serious cash. When you’re a missionary with Cru you have to develop all of the financial support to provide for yourself and your family. So, we decided to do what any good evangelical would, we committed to fasting for a time.
We secretly believed that God would see our fasting and he would move because we were fasting. Granted, we would never had said it that way. We would have said we were seeking to develop a dependence on God for our physical needs, or something. But, in reality we (or at least I) pretty much thought that fasting had some sort of power to move God.
During this time I was working at Wendy’s to provide for my young wife (she as working at a bank and was the real bread winner, but don’t tell 21 year old Dan that he was pretty proud). Surrounded by french fries, nuggets, and burgers made for a very difficult time of fasting. It’s OK, I decided that Frosty was a beverage.
I look back at those kids and smile. So much faith and hope. So little understanding and wisdom.
As we continue to consider the practices of abstinence there are two more that are related to one another: fasting and frugality. Remember, the practices of abstinence are rooted in our active choice to deny the self. Our culture is rooted in indulgence of the self. As we practice these disciplines we will be pushing against our culture and it will feel hard.
Fasting in its most basic form is the forgoing of food for a period of time. Just about every great religious tradition includes periods of fasting as a component of spiritual practice.
Before continuing I need to clearly state this: do not fast from food apart from the oversight of your physician.
When we fast from food we feel something physical in us. Our stomach growls, we may feel sluggish, and we become aware of our desire for food. Fasting from food opens our eyes to how frail we really are.
A food fast is not the only to practice fasting. I have found over the years that fasting from anything that dominates my mind or time has been very significant. For instance, I will regularly fast from social media. I have fasted from radio or music when driving. There have been times where fasting from little things like alcohol, sweets, or snacking has been helpful.
The important thing with fasting is identifying something in your life that you think has some form of control over you and actively choosing to forgo it. As we let it go, we then pursue additional time with God through prayer, meditation, reflection, or community.
Related to fasting is the practice of frugality. Frugality is where we actively choose to not spend money on anything beyond fundamental needs. This doesn’t mean that you should stop paying your mortgage. It means that you choose not to eat out, engage in paid entertainment, or you wait for a period to buy something that is not a need.
If fasting is a practice that helps us learn dependence, frugality helps us learn contentment. If you’re anything like me you’re always looking for the next cool thing. The next movie, the next device, the next…Frugality as a practice challenges this heart attitude. When we are practicing frugality we seek to embrace what God has already provided and choose contentment. The other frugality does is that it puts us in position to be generous. We can be generous with our time and our finances because we have chosen contentment for a season.
Have you ever practiced fasting or frugality? How has it played out in your life? What was it like? I’d love to hear your story!
Originally published at https://danielmrose.com on January 29, 2020.
DENY YOURSELF…WAIT, WHAT?
When was the last time you denied yourself something? If you’re anything like me that’s a hard question to answer. I am not in the business of denying myself much of anything. I am able to figure out a reason to get just about anything that I want, when I want it. It doesn’t really matter what it is. How about you?
Some of you may be thinking about times when you didn’t have the resources to get something that you wanted. We’ve all been there, right? What I want you to think about is a time when you had the resources, the ability, and the time to get what you wanted in a particular moment but you decided to deny yourself.
That’s a much more difficult question for most of us.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34–38, NRSV)
This is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. When I think about spiritual disciplines this is the one that comes to mind. In particular the first verse: If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
That one verse hits on both avenues of spiritual practice abstinence and engagement. In my experience there has been a significant focus on the “take up your cross” aspect of this and a glossing over of “deny themselves.”
Because the “take up your cross” speaks so easily to the brokenness that we experience in our world and lives. Hard stuff happens all the time and so we christen “buck up” with “take up your cross.” I’m not sure that is really what Jesus was getting at, but that’s another post. “Deny yourself,” is not something that we want to talk about much. It doesn’t really bring in the crowds. Who wants to be the preacher talking about denying yourself? Our culture is one of immediate gratification. I have a feeling if there was an inner monologue translator on me one of the phrases that would come out loud and clear is, “gimme gimme gimme now!”
I mean who doesn’t readily identify with Varuca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
Over the last few months as I have revisited the spiritual disciplines I’ve become deeply challenged by the practices of abstinence. These practices help us to practice self-denial. Not in the sense of denying reality, but in the sense of denying our wants and desires in the immediate moment.
As a result of our culture setting aside the value of self-denial, rooted in self-control, we have seen this impact the local church. Many churches are given over to the whims and wishes of the masses. They are constantly wrestling with how to make their programs and projects meet the felt needs of their crowd to grow the crowd. People whose demands and wishes are not met, head to the next building down the street until they find the place that will placate their wants and desires.
Dan White Jr says it well in this tweet: “In a consumer-oriented time it becomes utterly normal for people to demand the benefits of community without the inconvenience of commitment.”[embed]https://twitter.com/danwhitejr/status/1222148292852822018?s=20[/embed]
This is the reality that we must within ourselves as we come face to face with the disciplines or practices of abstinence. We will naturally chafe at the suggestion of self-denial. After all, if it’s good to have in the future then it must be good to have right now.
Solitude is the practice of getting away and being alone. This may be one of the most subversive of all practices in our day and age. We are always connected and even when we are not in the presence of another human being, we are very rarely alone.
Jesus would regularly get lost in the wilderness. He would intentionally go get by himself and be alone. This was his practice. I’m an extrovert and the idea of solitude completely freaks me out. It is very uncomfortable. As I have intentionally tried to practice this some, I have found that being alone with my own thoughts is awful. I get bored and quickly avoid the solitude by napping.
Perhaps I’m just exhausted and need the rest. Unlikely.
I am convinced that sleep in solitude is a means of avoidance. I don’t have to face the solitude if I’m unconscious. When I’ve been able to really enter into the solitude and stay present in it, it has been some of the sweetest times of fellowship with God that I have experienced. I have discovered much about myself and entered into a depth of self-awareness that has helped to open my eyes to many of the ego driven issues that are always present.
Even as I write this, I realize that I have been neglecting this practice recently and I feel it. The self-centeredness that is ever present in me is right at the surface and is causing issues.
Hand in hand with solitude is the practice of silence. We live in a noisy world. Inundated with constant notifications from our phones and the ever present social media. Not to mention 24 hour news and sports and entertainment cycles, we can’t hardly escape the noise.
When I first began the practice of solitude, I would often be listening to music. This felt safe.
Adding silence to the mix, that was the game changer. To find silence demands me to be intentional. I have to find a place or space to be silent. Noise is everywhere. It’s so very difficult to find a silent space.
One way that I’ve begun engaging in silence is using noise-canceling ear buds at the gym. I will work out in silence. While it is not in conjunction with solitude it allows me to focus on the sound of my heart and breathing. Soon, my thoughts begin to echo and be loud. I have to actively suppress the inner dialogue to simply be silent.
When I engage in solitude and silence together, I am finding that walks outside are the best way to practice these.
I’d love to hear from you about how you practice solitude and silence. Or why you avoid them. Shoot me a comment wherever you read this (Facebook, Twitter, Medium, or connect with me on Telegram, https://t.me/danielmrose)
Originally published at https://danielmrose.com on January 28, 2020.