My 29-year-old son hasn’t spoken to us in almost four years.Prodigal-Son father

The last time he communicated he made it clear he didn’t want any of us (me, his step-mom, his little sisters, his uncles/aunt or cousins) in his life. I won’t go into the bad choices he’s made nor the consequences he’s suffered. All I know is my heart is broken and I’m hurt. Both by how he’s living and how he’s treated us. 

We were once so close. Now, for some reason (maybe shame?) he refuses to give a valid reason for breaking off this relationship. So how do you pray for a child who you no longer know? When you have no idea where he is, where he works, or if he’s even alive? 

I just pray. I pray in generalities–for his health, his mental state, his relationships, and most of all I pray for his spiritual life. I ask God to steer him back to Christ. I pray dangerous prayers like, “Whatever it takes God, bring my son back to you.”

That’s the desperate prayer of a father who longs above all else to see his son walk upright. I long to see him in a deep relationship with his Creator. That’s how I raised him. 

You might have a prodigal. A son or daughter who has drifted from or refused to take part in the godly inheritance meant for them. How do you pray when you’ve run out of words–run out of energy?

Here’s a few points to jump-start your prayer for him or her:

          Dear Heavenly Father,

  • God, transform me and my attitude. Take away any bitterness and grudges against my child so I can pray with a pure heart. Give me the strength to continue in this battle. When I’m tired and just plain sick of it, give me compassion and mercy. Not to be taken advantage of, but to mirror Christ’s love. Help me remember that speaking truth might be hard, but it doesn’t have to be harsh. 
  • Lord use my son or daughter’s friends. Use even his/her questionable friends to speak truth into their life. Bring godly people into their life. Surround them with loving community. 
  • Father if you must, let my child hit rock bottom. Cause them to see their desperate need for a Savior. Prevent people from enabling them or rescuing them too early. Allow my child to feel the reality of being at the end of the rope. 

Coming back to the Lord is a process, not an event. So don’t give up. Keep on praying. Keep believing. You never know what God will do. When you pray for a loved one who seems hardened against the Lord, or against you, pray that the eyes of their heart might be opened so that the light of God can come flooding in.

Do you have a prayer that has helped you cope as you await the return of your prodigal? Please share it with me. I need it this week. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

father-walking-with-sonMany single parents were never married/divorced but for those who were, it comes with unique challenges especially for dads. Today’s post comes from a chat I had with my friend Chris Steenmeyer, Family Life Pastor at Mountain Springs Church in Colorado Springs.

TEZ: Chris thanks for being willing to talk about your life and maybe a little bit of advice for parents.

CHRIS: Thank you Tez, happy to share my story.

TEZ: I know our journeys are similar in some ways. Like me, before you remarried you were a single dad. How old were each of your kids at the time and what was it like that first year trying to parent alone?

CHRIS: Well, I was living in Hawaii at the time. The children were 5, 3, and 2 years old when my wife walked out on me. I suddenly had the kids every night and it was brutal—a mess! My ex watched them in the day while I was at work, but other than that, I was on my own.

TEZ: Assuming you were working a full-time job, how did you manage those evenings with three kids? 

CHRIS: My single brother helped from time to time. My church wasn’t very helpful because I was so new to that congregation. No one really knew me well enough to know I was alone or needed help. I really never looked for help because to be honest, I was angry at God for allowing me to go through this.

TEZ: That had to be tough. Especially when us guys are not prone to seek out help anyway…for anything.

Now, it would be presumptuous to assume everyone is called to re-marry. But for those who are, in my book, The Single Dad DetourI mention the importance of dads waiting to remarry.

A lot of guys didn’t like my advice. It’s hard for men to be alone. But you waited quite a while. Tell us, was that intentional? What are the negatives and positives of that decision?

CHRIS: Tez, I was alone 8 years before I started dating Sarah, my current wife. I didn’t trust women, so I had no desire to date or remarry. I wasn’t ready financially either. I was broke and couldn’t support a woman. And spiritually ready? No way!  I probably would have fallen into sexual sin had I tried dating any earlier. I was a Christian, but I wasn’t walking with God and pursuing him. I was too mad at him.    

I’d say wait as long as it takes to work through forgiveness and all the other issues that set you back. Anytime a marriage is broken, there are wounds that need to heal. If you get romantically involved too soon, you’re still grieving the loss, regardless of who was at fault.

We need to walk through that, and it takes time. I’d say a good rule of thumb is until you stop saying anything negative about your ex, you’re not ready. Think about how many years there was disfunction in the relationship. That time is often a good gauge for how long it will take to recover and move on. We also need to factor how long it takes our kids to recover too. 

TEZ: Great advice Chris. On another topic, how did you reconcile your faith with your sex drive? After all, for years you’d been used to intimacy as a married man. Now suddenly, nothing. 

CHRIS: Wow, it just got real! Thanks for asking tough questions—single men need to hear this. 

I struggled with being in a relationship, I didn’t want one. So I didn’t go out looking for sexual satisfaction. Sadly, I did turn toward porn so that I didn’t have to invest in a relationship.  

Because I had no desire to be close to God. I didn’t repent immediately. But I dealt with lots of guilt. After I worked thru my anger and bitterness and I my heart was softened again toward the Lord, the first thing to leave was porn.  

TEZ: Thanks for your transparent honesty. It’s important to understand how a hard heart can lead you down roads that can really destroy us. What a great piece of truth for guys reading this interview. There’s so much shame with that sin and you just lifted all that into the light to remind us all that nothing is beyond Christ’s redemptive reach. I don’t mean to minimize porn’s effects, but we tend to give different sins varying degrees of awfulness but it’s just not that way with God.  

CHRIS: Yes, once the Holy Spirit was able to convict me of my sin, I saw what needed to change.

blended-familyTEZ: Now, your new bride Sarah, had children of her own. Tell us about that. I’m sure it was no perfect Brady Bunch. What was it like blending your families and how did it affect your first few years of marriage?

CHRIS: First, we took our time dating, just to see what issues might come up. Blending families is complex. We had a ton of challenges at first. Our household cultures were different. My wife’s family had a way of doing things and certain ideals about what’s important… and so did we.  

We had a lot of tension between the kids and between us adults. I had 8 years of experience as a single dad which I unwittily expected them to embrace. That experience made me arrogant at times. 

I was also in children’s ministry, so I assumed a lot about kids in general. I forgot to look at my new step kids as individuals.  

One of the biggest adjustments was that her oldest son was younger than all my boys. So his position as oldest was gone—he was suddenly thrust into life as the baby of the tribe. 

TEZ: And now you have a beautiful little girl together and another on the way…do you find yourself parenting these younger ones differently now that you’re older?

CHRIS: Of course, my experience and age play into that. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the little moments. Chores, projects, and errands aren’t as important. I’m more patient with disobedience and with their poor choices. I don’t lose my temper as quickly and look at it as a teachable moment. 

TEZ: If you had one piece of advice or encouragement for single dads who are struggling today, what would you say? 

CHRIS: I’d say:

  • Tough it out as best you can.
  • Love your kids more than yourself.
  • Take one day at a time.
  • Biblically, don’t walk away from Jesus. Press into God more than ever.
  • Make sure you have community to help you get out of your funk.
  • Allow others to speak life into you.
  • Look for someone further along in that journey who can encourage you.
  • For society’s expectations, know your identity in Christ.
  • Focus on measuring up to God’s standards, not the world’s. 

TEZ: You obviously have a heart for families, because it’s your full-time job as a Family Pastor. Where can people reach you if they need counseling or resources to aid them in this journey of single parenting? 

CHRIS: I don’t provide formal counseling, but I’m willing to talk with someone and do short-term mentoring. They can call the church office at (719)495-6688 and ask for me.  

TEZ: Chris, thanks again for taking time to share your story. Your testimony is an encouragement and blessing to me and I’m sure many others.

CHRIS: My pleasure. To God be the glory.

steenmeyerChristopher has a blended family of ten and longs to see transformation in the lives of himself and his family. He’s spent the last 9 years investing in a young generation that is being raised up to passionately follow Jesus. More and more he desires to see the worldwide Church come alongside families in a practical way that equips them to accomplish all God has for them. In his spare time, he loves sports and outdoor activities with his family.

 

My youngest daughter was about three when she rode her first flying fox on a playground.

A flying fox is similar to a miniature zip line. It’s built on metal piping like monkey bars. Because it’s only five feet off the ground, rather than a harness, you just hang onto the handles and dangle as it glides you 20 feet from one end to the other. flying fox

I lifted Anicah up so she could grab the handles, then gave her a little push. She giggled as her body soared through the air.

My plan was to race past her and be at the other end when she arrived. But I failed to determine how fast she’d be flying on those well-greased rollers.

 Before I could catch up to her, she reached the end of the line. When she hit and the handle bar stopped, the sheer speed of her forward momentum caused her body to continue.

The handles were ripped from her tiny grip and she went flying, landing hard on her back on the ground below.

I cradled Anicah, but the impact knocked the breath out of her. All she could do was gasp for air. It seemed like an eternity, but when she finally could take a breath, she bellowed out a cry of panic, pain, and betrayal.

I stayed on the ground with her for 20 minutes, whispering how sorry I was and how I’d never let anything like that happen again.

Ten years later, she continues to suffer from back pain and visits a chiropractor regularly. That incident was one of many making it hard for me NOT to hover.

I’d be a hot mess if I knew how often and how close I’ve come to losing my babies. I can try to keep them safe, but it’s impossible for me to be everywhere.

God is, and He does a much better job.

The essence of Psalm 91:11 is God directs angels to watch over and protect us. If I could remember that, I’d rest a lot easier.

God is present and his sovereignty has prepared me perfectly for my role as Dad. Eons ahead of time, God looked down through history and planned that I would be matched with all four of my children. So when I’m overwhelmed, or mess up, this gives me hope.

Still, I tend to fall back into feeling like I’m in this alone and parenting is all up to me and my wife. So I become hyper-protective and controlling.

over protective momIt’s normal and instinctive to protect our child. Whatever protectiveness we might lack, we usually research or ask others about so we can do the job. Keeping our kids safe is for most people, a biological norm.

Sometimes a past trauma from our own childhood or even the evening news, causes us to over-protect. And for some of us, it’s hard to know where the line is between providing safety (noble) and removing inconvenience or disappointment from our child’s life (dumb).

Where is the balance? Are we setting up our emerging adults for success or failure? Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

 

I hate carpools. If I agree to share a ride to work, this means I give up control to some degree—especially if I’m not the driver.

After all, what if I want to grab a coffee at the drive-thru? What if I need to leave work early? There have been times when I decided to forgo the blessing of fellowship just so I could be the one in control.

At times I’m a control freak, or least I can be when I’m not moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. When I allow my Lord to take the wheel, things suddenly become much more organized and manageable.
Driving around town can be a lot like my life as a parent when the Lord is not in control. I encounter self-imposed stimuli like the radio, conversations with my six-year-old, the temperature in the car, the GPS chatting at me, my cup of coffee calling for my attention, and my smartphone ringing.
But there’s more. I also have outside complications. Aggressive drivers whip in and out of my lane. Traffic cones, school zones, and potholes mock me along with a million traffic signs, which I must immediately recognize by shape and color and then obey. Sometimes it’s even raining.
I have an ongoing battle with independence when parenting. Especially as a dad, I  tend to work out my problems on my own, without asking Jesus for help.
My family of origin taught me independence was a desirable trait to strive for. My childhood circumstances and most of my young-adult years reinforced this.
I learned I could not rely on people to help me in certain situations. This has at times hindered my dependence on God. I need to be deliberate in chasing after and killing my independence.
Without Christ I can do nothing. I might try to fix circumstances on my own. It might even work out okay. However, this isn’t biblical and it doesn’t reflect a heart of trust or reliance on God as I lead my family.
Taking the wheel from God is a huge mistake. Each time I try to move in my own skills—my know-how—what I’m basically saying is, “God, I don’t really believe You can help me. I can do it better.”
I finally learned that a life directed by God was the only way to succeed as a dad. This was the only way to be the man of God—the father—He wanted me to be.
Still, from time to time I want to take the wheel, or at least attempt some back-seat driving, trying to help the journey with a shortcut.
So… what triggers control issues in you in your daily parenting? In what ways have you tried to fix your family’s on your own?

WD2018-Winner SealI’m humbled to announce that this month I received an award from Writer’s Digest for an inspirational article “practicing the Habit of Forgiveness” which I wrote 10 years ago, but never published. Some readers, out of curiosity, wanted to read it. So if you’d like to see it, email me at tezwrites@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link.  

 

Parents, this week we have a guest post from my friend and parenting expert Toni Haas-Williams. Enjoy!

We all want to flyaaaaaaaaaa

… kids included. It’s long been my most wanted super-power. Whether by jet or free-falling, the sensation is amazing. More than one allure draws us to parenting with a hovering helicopter view.

On the flip side, overland travel is work. And slow.

It requires not only sweat and patience, but a map and a method. It means dirty hands and “busted” lips, but when feet make the journey, it insures both adult and child are grounded in every sense, and that each must take their steps, one at a time.

If you’re like me, despite the support of parenting books and blogs, sometimes the only blueprint we have to raise our kids is the one our parents forged with innate love, when we were the guinea pigs.

Certainly, this love is the best motivation, but not always a great guideline. Nevertheless, we all know how to hike, hand-in-hand. And parenting ground-level, side-by-side, has advantages. The tales of near-misses, even the small catastrophes, are often the best stories we bring to the campfire. 

Walking alongside our kids is extra-experiential

… because we experience sights and sounds from their perspective. Our feelings have the opportunity to be affected as our children’s are, because we deal with the same weather and navigate the same rocks.

Although the rocks will seem bigger to our kids and they might be climbing them for the first time, we do the journey’s work together—not for each other. This is unilaterally self-affirming. Better than that, it builds independence—an underrated word these days.

Eyes Really Are Windows to the Soul

The advantage of ground level parenting is that it’s eye-to-eye. When correction is needed, we are right there, reaching out and delving into the face of our young ones as they look back at us.

That’s the best key: it isn’t just about a parent’s perusal of her child. The child is just as able to look back and search out Mom or Dad—invaluable because the best correction works two ways.

And while punishment is sometimes necessary, correction is so much more than marking an “x” on the paper, isn’t it? It’s inserting the right answer plus the justification for that right answer. 

This is the only valid way to learn: the why is more important than the what.

Conversely, hovering above a child omits the “what” and “why” because it’s only about preventing Junior from experiencing any kind of inconvenience.

We’ve all been there at one time haven’t we? Times when we just prefer to do it ourselves because we’re impatient. But ‘helicoptering” simply extends our experience as parent and sadly, robs our child of theirs.

Leading side-by-side means accessibility.

It’s better for a child to cross a chasm on his own two feet with a parent within reach! This way if help is asked for or required, Mom or Dad is available.aaaa

After all, it’s okay to be ready with a hand if our fledgling is headed for a fatal fall.

However when we rush in prematurely and every time to take over the challenge, then the youngster not only can’t face-down the problem—she won’t even learn to see it coming.

The inevitable result is that the first solo blunder comes at a later age when the parent is no longer available, and worse, at an age when the world expects a seasoned problem-solver, not a socially awkward, emotional toddler in the body of an adult.

The best way to assure a child’s success is to place him in increasingly challenging situations. As a parent and teacher, my best solution was to take myself out of the equation—or more aptly—take my sons out of my equation.

When it came to summer camps, church, sports, or academic issues, what these offered was great. But even better, they created opportunities for my kids to make friends (and mistakes) without mom around, whose knee jerk instinct might be to bail them out.

Preparing our kids for life without us means we must learn to hike, not hover. To live successfully, we need to practice. And it wouldn’t be a practice without missteps. Grownup or growing, we all must take and make them. 

 

aaaToni Haas-Williams is a novelist and screenwriter. As a certified teacher, for over 30 years, she devoted her life to children. She founded and administered DreamTenders Academy for the gifted, the artistic, and the creatively curious. She also founded LENK (Ladies Élan and New Knights), a program where young adults immerse themselves in rigorous decision-making, problem-solving, business, service, and social graces. Toni’s protégés today flourish as entrepreneurs and recognized leaders everywhere. To learn more about Toni, go to tonicarrhaas.com

 

 

I love my kids. But like all of us, they are prone to wander from what’s good and right. I’m not talking about childish irresponsibility–that’s a “mistake.” I’m talking about blatant disobedience… which ticks me off!

1

Just being honest.

Sometimes it makes sense. They have wants and desires that often conflict with what they are told from us parents.

What does the Bible say about kids obeying their parents? Disobedience is gonna happen. It’s human nature, but that doesn’t make it right. And we, as parents, have to confront the issue and bring correction.

That’s hard. What battles do I choose? When do I punish and when do I give grace? But even giving grace doesn’t negate the need to discuss the issue with your child so it doesn’t happen again. How do I help them understand that obeying me will lead to blessings?

There’s a passage in God’s word that doesn’t give us all the instruction we need to cultivate obedience in our children or explain how we are to parent, but it does point to obedience as being a key component for a healthy relationship between parent and child. It’s found in Ephesians 6:1-4

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” (NLT)

So what is obedience?

One of our pastors at church said, “Obedience is setting aside our selfish agenda and submitting to someone else’s agenda.” I love that quote. In other words, disobeying means we want something more passionately than we want to love or respect others.” 

Granted, sometimes that’s a valid reason to disobey. For example, it’s not a sin for a believer in an anti-Christian country to say, ” I want to illegally smuggle a Bible home in my suitcase so I can grow in my walk with God.” Or for a child to say, “No Uncle, I will not keep your abuse toward me a secret.” There are times when disobeying is right. The book of Acts was full of disobedience toward religious leaders and the government authorities. That disobedience helped propel the early church.

But when it comes to sinful disobedience, Christians or not, all humans must learn this basic rule of society. We must submit to our school teachers, our boss, law enforcement, the courts… lots of people. We must also learn to obey laws, natural and man-made. 

It can be difficult to submit to someone else when we don’t feel they deserve it. But when we don’t, our kids see that, and then they try it out–on us. I’m not letting our kids off the hook by blaming us for their sin. No matter how perfect we are at modeling obedience, our little rascals are still going to sin by trying to disobey us.

Often they do it to find security. To find the boundaries (see #7 in the list below). One of my kids is like that. When she feels insecure, she acts up. As soon as we discipline her, she is suddenly the sweetest and most compliant child, going out of her way to show us love and gratitude. It’s crazy.

Somehow we have to teach them that obedience is always honored with a blessing. A blessing bestowed upon them by us parents, or by God.

So why is it so difficult for kids to obey? 

There are many reasons that make it hard to obey. Here’s a few:

  1. Tension in the home (fighting, sibling jealousy, divorce or remarriage).
  2. An unbiblical model they’ve observed (it’s not always us).
  3. A strong-willed kid (like a wild horse, they can be broken).
  4. Imbalance in nurture and admonition (too much discipline or too much leniency).
  5. Threatening over and over again with no follow-through (“Do that again and you’re grounded!”)
  6. Being a hypocrite. (calling in sick for work to go play golf).
  7. Withholding our expectations from them (how do they know it’s wrong if you haven’t told them?)
  8. Broken promises (don’t promise something you may not be able to deliver).

What about you? What are some things you’ve found cause your kids to disobey you? what have you done to fix that besides (or in addition to) punishment?