Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Hard Part of Parenting Teens

As a youth minister I have long observed parents as they navigate the swirling waters so typical of the teen years. Now that am the father of three teens, I can empathize more completely with the struggles of those having gone through this before me. Having studied teens for sometime, I was aware that there are two major shifts that tend to occur in the teen years. The first occurs early on in adolescence and is the shift from primarily being influenced by parents to the primary influence of friends. I thought that one would be harder than it was. I think primarily due to the fact that my kids all have had a great youth group and friends of faith, that transition was fairly smooth. There were sad days when the kids won't hold your hand in public and don't particularly want you around when they are with their friends but I got through it.
The second of those transitions is the one from dependence to independence that typically takes place the later teens. Teens typically seek to differentiate from their parents and want to make their own decisions. They no longer feel the need to seek parental guidance on things and want to renegotiate their rules and boundaries. This adjustment has been more difficult as my son is going through it. The questioning of family values and lack of interest in spending time with the family have created a natural but painful distance in our relationship. I understand it is as God has created it to be but it breaks my heart. I am still so proud of him that words are woefully inadequate to describe it. I love him dearly and I know the closeness will return but it will be different. I'll never again be able to walk with him wrapped around my leg or crawl on my hands and knees with him on my back but I am amazed at the man that little boy is becoming. I know God has big plans for him and I am thankful that his faith is one thing that he continues to embrace and allow to define him. He belongs to God and in my heart I know he always has. I know God will continue to refine him and mold him into a powerful force for good in this world and I have to back off and let him do that.
Still, letting go is tougher than I thought. There are many days when I would love to have that little boy back and see those eyes widen with excitement when I came home from being away. I love being a dad but I concur with others in saying that this adjustment is more challenging than others. I know however that God is working and what emerges from his handiwork is always a sight to behold. I look forward to seeing what God is doing.

Its Been a While

It has been too long since I put my thoughts down on my blog. I'm going to try again to write something at least once per week. Your feedback is of course welcome.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Letter to Senators and Representatives regarding the Marriage Penalty.

Dear ____________________

I am writing you regarding an issue that I believe to be of great moral and social import.  It is obvious to me that the institution of marriage in our country is being challenged on a number of different fronts.  With the social controversy around "gay marriage" and the recent trend of couples simply choosing to stay single, I am concerned that traditional marriage is being cast further and further to the cultural margins and may one day be a footnote on a page in a history text book. 

What doesn't help is the fact that individuals in low income situations (such as those in inner city neighborhoods, seniors, the disabled and the mentally handicapped) who depend on government assistance continue to be placed in a moral quagmire by the marriage penalty that resides in the legal code of the SSI program.  Couples are being forced to have to choose between living together without being married (which for many violates their faith and their conscience), giving up their home and dignity in order to afford to be married, or simply choose to stay single and not be able to experience the joys of being married.  That especially for the poor, the senior and the mentally challenged who are people of faith is an unconscionable choice to have to make.

I am asking you to be a champion of those who should never have to make that choice.  I am asking you to stand up for what is right and remove the marriage penalty from this program.  Please don't let another person have to make the choice between moral conviction and financial solvency.  Please take action now to make this happen.  I know it is hard and the choices that will have to be made to pay for this change will be difficult and perhaps unpopular but doing what is right isn't always easy.

There was a scene in the recent movie "Valkyrie" where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg stood before a firing squad for his part in an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler but he stood tall know that while he was being executed for his actions, history would remember that he stood up for what was right.  Now, no one will need to go to the firing squad for challenging the marriage penalty but there will no doubt be opposition.  Just as von Stauffenberg decided to be a light in a very dark time, you can be that light for the underprivileged and physically and mentally handicapped all over our country.  They are looking to you to do what is right.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Very Sincerely Yours,

Why Get Married? Pt. 2

    There are a couple of problems that we as a community must address in order to strategically deal with this shift in the perception of marriage.

    The first issue is a rather political one. It has to do with the marriage penalty.  In low income, senior and mentally handicapped communities where individuals are largely dependent on public assistance they are incentivised to stay single because if they choose to get married the government reduces their benefits. Their rationale of course is that when a married couple moves in together their expenses are reduced (eg. two rent payments and utilities down to one, etc...).  That would be true if everyone getting married were relatively young, on their first marriage and with no financial complications in their lives.  The fact is that is rarely the case.

     This is especially disturbing for the adult mentally handicapped population where their expenses do not go down when they are reside in assisted living facilities as many mentally challenged adults do.  In one case I know personally, two mentally retarded adults wanted to be married but due to the marriage penalty would not be able to meet their expenses if they married legally.  These two precious young people were dedicated to their faith and sincerely believed that it was wrong to have sex before they were married.  Their parents were forced to make arrangements for them to be married in a private ceremony without the legal sanction of obtaining a marriage license.  I would hope none of us would be too quick to judge what the parents did when we remember that the system especially in this case is inherently immoral.  Our government is asking two young people stricken from birth with a life-devastating defect to make the choice between compromising their morals rooted in their Christian faith, giving up their home and dignity in order to afford to be married or staying single and not experience the simple joys of godly marriage.  To be forced to make that choice is in my opinion unconscionable. 

    I understand that reversing the marriage penalty is not going to magically erase the problems with marriage in our culture but I do think it is an opportunity for people of faith and conviction to stand up and demand that the government do the right thing for the sake of marriage.  There is a letter contained in my blog that I would encourage you to copy and paste into a letter or e-mail from you to your senators and representatives.  The URL’s for my blog and for information on how to contact your representatives are below.

Tim’s blog –
Senator/Rep. Info – and

    In part three of this series we will discuss how to intentionally train young men and women to be committed to the concept of God’s design for family.   

Why Get Married? (part 1)

    A recent Cincinnati Enquirer article reported that there were fewer couples applying for marriage licenses in 2009 in the three Ohio counties making up the Cincinnati metropolitan area than in any year since the 1950’s.  They also reported that this trend is very much in line with the national trend.  The article then stated that the trend seemed to be for individuals choosing to either remain single or to live with their mate without being married.

    I believe there are several reasons people are choosing not to get married.  First of all, I believe that culturally this trend away from traditional marriage is different from and potentially more dangerous than the experiment of the “free love” generation of the 1970’s. They wanted to live as they pleased without any “establishment” telling them what to do. This trend I think reflects a more fundamental paradigm shift primarily among men regarding relationships.  Worldly men are thinking less and less of intimate relationships as a committed, long term, family building, offspring producing, legacy leaving venture and more as a temporary, fantasy embracing, almost completely selfish opportunity for sexual gratification.  Men in our culture are more sex focused and sex addicted than ever in recent memory and women are complicit thinking that occasional, unsatisfying relationships are better than none at all. 

     Entire segments of our young adult culture are beginning to look similar to certain Caribbean cultures and to low income, inner city and impoverished rural communities.  In these cultures it is common for men to seldom enter into committed relationships and when they do, they seldom stay committed long.  They take little to no responsibility for the children they produce.  Childcare is often the responsibility of the mothers and grandparents (mostly grandmother) while the men go from one illicit relationship to another. This relational paradigm is springing up from impoverished communities right into middle-class America.  From college campuses to dating websites to singles clubs this “hooking up” (a phrase often used to describe a primarily sexual relationship with little to no commitment) phenomenon threatens the concept of marriage and family to the core.  

      Even more than our current divorce epidemic this relational paradigm seems poised to force children to grow up in homes where there is no father figure dooming them to almost certainly repeat that cycle when they move into their teen/young adult years.  More about this in Why Get Married? (part 2)  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I have been watching with great interest the events that have been unfolding in Haiti. This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions. It is impossible to imagine what it is like to have 200,000 lives vanish in an instant. The loss of life and the loss of an entire way of living is just staggering. While things might one day be rebuilt even better than before (or so I hope), I think it is safe to say that things will never be the same.
One of the most difficult parts of this event has been the fact that we all feel helpless. If we could jump on a plane and go there many of us would. If we could bring people here to help them we would but we can’t. Every tear we see on TV and every person walking dazed through the street we would comfort if we only could. Yet there must be something we can do and of course there is.
1. We can pray. We are told, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Mt.21:22). When an event of this scope takes place we are reminded of just how small and fragile we are. It was a normal shifting movement of the earth yet with such devastating results. We can however see that God is big and that He is able to grasp the scope of this and he can bring hope and benefit from the tragedy and loss. Pray that God will be with the survivors of the earthquake, that He will heal the injured and meet the needs of the homeless poor there. Pray that he will be with those in authority to get aid to the needy and to begin to position themselves for meaningful recovery. Pray that God will work through the Christian missionaries and doctors and nurses that the light of Jesus will be seen in then.
2. We can contribute. Hopefully you have already considered what you can do to help the people there begin to turn their lives around. It is going to take a tremendous amount of money and resources to rebuild Port-au-Prince and it seems like our gift will make little difference but that is not true. Not only will our contributions make a difference but when channeled through organizations such as Hope for Haiti’s Children, Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team, Matthew 25 Ministries and other Christian organizations, the people there will see God reaching to them through the church. The potential for good there is literally impossible to calculate.
Ultimately I believe that the losses will be mourned, buildings will be rebuilt and scarred lives will move forward. We have the opportunity to help people remember that amidst the chaos, they saw Jesus in his church.