Conflict

1Oct

9 Resources for Parents: Navigating the Digital Age

I’ve had several conversations with parents over the last few weeks about frustrations, concerns, and questions about how to lead and their love their kids well in the digital age.

These parents are caring, loving, and simply want some help in tackling the ever-changing frontier of cell phones, social media, sexting and pornography. See: You Can’t #EndIt and Keep Porn

As a childless pastor I do not yet have personal experience in this area. But that’s no excuse to punt. Just like it’s no excuse to bypass having these tough conversations with your kids. New studies show that the average age of exposure to pornography is now eleven. ELEVEN. That means if you’re waiting to have these conversations until then you’re too late. But even late is better than never.

Even if I had personal experience as a parent, I have no reason to think it would be particularly helpful. Pastors don’t necessarily make great parents. But I would love to pass along a wealth of practical resources from a source I know well and trust tremendously. These are not my work – but they are the first place I would turn for help if I were in many of the situations you find yourself as a parent of a kid with a cell phone, iPod, etc. etc.

The 9 resources from the link below include:

  • Trend Alerts: ask.fm and the Bang with Friends app (can’t make this stuff up)
  • Parents’ Guides to Internet Pornography, Sexting, & Cyberbullying
  • Primers on Electronic Addiction, Social Networking
  • Family Digital Covenant of Conduct (If you don’t use this exact one, you need to be using something)

Find these resources and much more at the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding’s Digital Kids Initiative.

25Sep

7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor & a Therapist

It’s Friday morning and I’m already excited for date night! I hope you are planning for a date night with your spouse as well.

This is the companion article to our first post. If you missed that one you can read it here: 7 Questions to Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor & a Therapist. If dating your spouse is a new concept for you, our hope is that these two articles give you a great starting point to pursue the one person that matters most in your life.

Once again I’ve teamed up with my friend and licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Feero, to help me come up with some practical advice for date night newbies. If you’re in the River Valley area you can schedule a counseling appointment with Carrie by clicking here and/or follow her blog here.

Just like there are questions that are great to ask on date night, there are just as many you should never ask. Date night is about connecting with your spouse while pushing pause on your incredibly busy lives. Some questions/conversations allow aspects of that busyness to creep into date night and can ruin the evening.

7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night

  • How do you think ________ and _________’s marriage is doing?

Date night is about your marriage, not anybody else’s. Many of you know what it’s like to walk with friends through an unhealthy marriage, maybe even one that ends in divorce. As painful as it can be to watch your friends fail to honor their commitment to one another, their marriage is not fodder for your date night conversation. Those conversations are important to have, especially if you are genuinely trying to plan how to help, and not just gossiping.

P.S. Celebrity marriages (no matter how comically brief they may be) are also off the table for date night discussion.

  • How can we improve on our budget for next month?

Have a set time to discuss finances and other household responsibilities. While budgeting can definitely impact your marriage, date night is not the time to focus on finances. It’s about each other.

Read about how getting on a budget helped our (Steven & Hayley’s) marriage here: The 1 Thing We Fight About.

  • What did our daughter’s dance teacher say after her lesson?

Date night isn’t about the kids either. It can be hard to separate your marriage from the rest of the family, but research shows that healthy families require healthy marriages. Your kids learn from you; give them a good example. Often the best way for you to love your kids well is to model for them a healthy marriage, one where spouses see and treat each other as more than co-parents.

  • What are we supposed to bring to the tailgate on Saturday?

This is not the time to catch up on errands, to-do lists, and social responsibilities. You have plenty of time to do that stuff, like during the sermon at your church, on your way home from work, or after the kids go to bed.

  • What’s the score to the game?

Your date night should be focused on your spouse. If you’re on a date night, keep focused on each other, not the TV’s on the wall or music playing from the speakers. If that becomes too much of a distraction for you, find a place where you can have these types of conversations without all of the distractions. It may take some creativity.

When our date night takes us to a place with sports on the TV’s, I (Steven) try and make a point to sit on the side of the booth where I can’t see the game(s). With that said, we can never have date night at Buffalo Wild Wings, where there are no less than 83 TV’s in the main dining area.

  • When are we going to have kids?

Or insert any question that sparks debate or conflict here. Old wounds, hot topics, and points of contention are off limits for date nights. While there are absolutely times and places to have these discussions, date night is focused on being a positive, bonding experience where you can connect with each other, not start a heated or hurtful conversation.

  • Wanna swing by Wal-Mart on our way home? We’re out of __________.

In Arkansas, our love for Wal-Mart runs deep. But date night is for date night, not grocery shopping. If you’re out of bug spray, order from Amazon. They’ll ship to your door in 2 days for free! Nothing kills the mood on the way home from a great dinner quite like restocking on orange juice and toilet paper.

Click here to catch up on the first post in this series, “7 Questions to Ask on Date Night”

Feedback: What question(s) would you consider adding to this list?

19Sep

The NFL Needs a True Leader. So Does the World.

I’m sick of hearing about all the domestic abuse issues swirling around the NFL, and maybe that’s part of the problem. 

Today NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stood up and gave somewhat of an apology for the league’s inept handling of the Ray Rice situation.

However, it failed miserably as an apology.

It seemed forced, disingenuous, and scripted. Goodell’s purposeful misdirection and failed transparency has put himself and the NFL in a terrible light.

New details emerged tonight from an ESPN Outside the Line’s report that were conveniently absent from the commissioner’s address earlier today:

  • Ravens executives were made aware of the Ray Rice assault HOURS after it happened instead of what they originally claimed, that they simply had the testimony of Ray and Janay Rice.
  • A police lieutenant gave Ravens security director a detailed account of the assault while watching the first video, which was later released by TMZ.
  • The Ravens’ owner, president, and GM all petitioned Roger Goodell and the judicial system to have leniency on Ray Rice, which they did, initially.

The only decent man in this whole fiasco, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, requested the immediate release of his STAR running back and the FACE of his FRANCHISE (not an easy guy to cut) upon seeing the video footage. His request was denied by the Ravens owner and GM, a report the Ravens are currently denying – what a surprise. And it was that man, Coach Harbaugh, who the day after the incident was made public was shoved out there to deal with the press when that same owner, president, and GM refused to speak for their actions, or unbelievably lack thereof.

There aren’t enough words in the world to describe the failures of the NFL in general and Roger Goodell in particular over the last several months. But I’m not sure they would be all that helpful even if they could be found.

What the NFL needs is exactly what they don’t have. A leader who is motivated to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing.

Yet the need is not exclusive to the NFL. Around every corner the world is crying out for true leaders.

When Roger Goodell has chosen to act, it has only been at the prompting of public outcry, or letters written by sponsors threatening to leave a league they will never actually leave since it’s a cash cow.

True leaders lead when it’s necessary, not just when it appears to be beneficial.

True leaders refuse to cover up mistakes in their own leadership or the leadership of others in their organization.

True leaders make the right decisions even when it exposes their own wrong behavior.

The NFL needs real leaders. But so does the world.

How can you be the type of leader the NFL, and more importantly the world, needs?

11Sep

When the Cool Kids Grow Up

There are not many universally binding truths, but I think I’ve discovered one:

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY wants to go back to junior high.

Some people sincerely wish they could go back to high school. Those years were genuinely the best of their life. That is not true for me but I understand how it can be for some. Others would say the college years were the best of their life. The tremendous amount of freedom as a newly minted “adult” mixed with the incredibly small amount of responsibility when compared to the real world has been able to produce a high level of satisfaction for many who have walked across the college campus.

But nobody ever says, “You know what year I really miss?!? 7th grade. Life has been crashing downhill since that majestic year.”

But why is it that some enjoy junior high? What happens to the “cool” kids in 7th grade when they grow up? Child Development, an academic journal, has the answers. They just published their findings from a 10-year study where they followed hundreds of students from ages 13-23. Their data shows that one can easily predict who will be a successful adult based on how they act when they’re just 13.

The study found that the 13-year old students found “cool” among their peers were the ones who acted much like older teenagers. They frequently made out with other students, regularly changing partners. They snuck into R-rated movies and wore excessive makeup in an attempt to look older than they were. In interviews with the research team it was actually the “cool” kids who expressed much deeper insecurities and concerns with being perceived as cool than the ones exalting them as such.

But why 13? The research team discovered that most teenagers they followed were participating in some version of these behaviors by the time they were 16-17 years old but the behaviors of the 13-year old “cool kids” had to keep escalating as they grew older in order to remain in the “cool” zone.

So what happened when they turned 22? 23? Most of them failed to graduate college. Virtually none of them had cultivated deep friendships with anyone and a large amount of them had serious substance abuse problems.

Conclusion? The “cool kids” in 7th grade might not be that cool when they grow up. In fact, more often than not they fail to grow into successful, stable adults who contribute to society and future generations, at least initially.

But there’s a deeper lesson here for all of us, not just 7th graders and 23 year olds:

Are you desperately trying to fit in at school? at work? Are you constantly seeking the approval of people you know you shouldn’t?

Do you find yourself deeply concerned with the opinions of people you know aren’t deeply concerned with you?

Today’s the day to make a change. The cool kids usually don’t stay cool so don’t worry about what they think. Be the you God made you to be. The world doesn’t need another “cool kid” or God would have made one. He made YOU. That’s what the world needs.

18May

How to Fight

A few weeks ago I wrote about what my wife and I fight about.

This sparked some good conversations about how married couples should respond to each other in times of conflict. In our marriage it has proven helpful to prepare before these times arrive and not just assume they never will.

Truth: married people fight. Hopefully not all the time. Hopefully not about the same thing. And hopefully not for just any reason.

So why do we fight? Why can marriage lead to more conflict than any other relationship while also leading to more joy than any other relationship? I think it’s because our spouses see us at our worst. You can fake it for a long time at work. And you can definitely fake it at church. But you can’t fake it in marriage, at least not for long. Even when couples split up because one person cheats, the other person is usually not completely fooled into thinking they were living in a healthy, thriving marriage.

So if conflict is inevitable, what are the rules? How can married couples fight well and fight less?

Here are 3 things that have helped us in times of conflict:

1. Remember that people fight over/for what they care about.

We’ve all heard the story. A marriage crumbles and the friends can’t figure out why. “They never fought about anything!” a relative might exclaim. Well maybe that’s the problem. The deeper relationships get, the more prone to conflict they can become. Maybe the couple that never fights does not have a relationship fighting for. In the midst of conflict, it is important to remember that if your spouse didn’t care about your marriage, they wouldn’t care enough to fight.

2. Remember who/what you’re fighting against.

Have you ever had a fight so long you forgot what started it? Maybe you both had bad days and one comment started to build on another until you have no idea how you got to this point. In that moment, you end up fighting for no reason because you’re both fighting against your own selfishness. More often than not, conflict in marriage can be traced back to one problem we all share: sin. We mess up in marriage when we try and hide the sin in our own lives by pointing out the sins in our spouse’s life.

“12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Remember, nobody owes you happiness so do the hard work of realizing what’s at stake.

3. Give and receive forgiveness.

This might be the key. If at least some level of conflict is unavoidable in marriage, the true difference between a healthy, thriving marriage and a dying one very well be in how, and if, resolution is produced.

Giving forgiveness can seem almost impossible. Usually you have to choose to forgive before you receive an apology. Receiving forgiveness can be even more difficult than giving it.

In healthy marriages, spouses don’t keep score. Forgotten dishes one day can’t become fight fodder the next. A misunderstanding today doesn’t turn into a lack of love tomorrow. Give and receive forgiveness by refusing to keep score.

Question: What tips do you have for navigating conflict in marriage?

28Feb

You Can’t #EndIt & Keep Porn

Today is Shine a Light on Slavery Day, a national campaign by the End It Movement. Their goal is stated simply:

“Join us and other Freedom Fighters from around the world as we SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY. Draw a RED X on your hand. Tell your world that slavery still exists and YOU WON’T STAND FOR IT. Just use your influence any way you can to help us carry the message of FREEDOM.” – http://enditmovement.com/

I’m really thankful for the work of the men and women at the End It Movement. We live in a time when it seems more popular to criticize those who are working to bring about real change instead of actually doing something to create the necessary change. While one could easily point out the flaws of a campaign based almost solely on awareness, the End It Movement has educated thousands of people on the horrors of sex trafficking, especially young people.

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When teenagers, college students, and adults alike hear that there are 27 million men, women, and children trapped in modern-day slavery, something begins to stir within them to seek out change.   Many have tried to explain away sex-trafficking as a lesser problem but several United Nations-sanctioned studies and sociologists all over the world keep coming up with estimates around 27 million people. Last year alone, red X’s were drawn and tweeted out to the world by US Senators, NBA/NFL/NHL/MLB players, Grammy-winning musicians, and world-renown pastors.

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While the End It Movement is great, specifically because of its high impact on younger generations, it’s also foolish. It’s not intrinsically foolish, only functionally foolish, and it’s not their fault. Their failure to succeed is tragic because…

The connection between pornography and sex trafficking  has been explored in depth by many people smarter than me. All the findings are conclusive and align with a simple supply-demand formula.

There is an enormous demand for pornography, specifically in our country.

Porn Usage Facts:

  • Porn sites get more visitors every month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter…combined.
  • 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet pornography before the age of 18.
  • The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11.
  • The 12-17 year-old age-group is the largest consumer of Internet pornography.

These stats clearly display that our nation is infatuated with porn. Demand has never been higher and porn (supply) has never been more accessible.

Pornography has become easier to produce and demand has risen to unheard of levels. The bad news – sex traffickers have gotten in on the action. They’ve realized that the more porn they produce, the more porn will be consumed and thus, the more money they make.

Sex traffickers are now targeting and exploiting young women for the explicit purpose of forcing them to produce pornography. So the next time you want to log on to that website or click on that seemingly harmless picture, remember that. Remember that that girl might not be enjoying what’s happening to her, and that what’s happening is nothing less than rape on tape, not consensual sex between two partners. One husband even sold his own wife into sex slavery where she was forced to produce pornographic videos.

The connection between porn usage and sex slavery is clear. Now, it’s time to really #EndIt.

You see, the two are far too closely intertwined. So, if you put a Red “X” on your hand today, I’m cheering you on! Now it’s time to be consistent. No more porn. End THAT too. It’s the only way to #EndIt at all.

Are you trapped in the cycle of porn? Are you a parent and need resources to talk to your kids about porn? If they’re 11, they’ve most likely already been exposed to porn but it’s never too late!Get started early! Check out the resources below and share this post with friends.

Related Articles:

  1. Even GQ Knows Porn is Bad
  2. Snapchat: Child Porn & Sex Predators
  3. 9 Resources for Parents: Navigating the Digital Age
  4. Who Has Better Sex?

Online Porn Resources

  • Covenant Eyes – A great website filtering system that monitors all aspects of Internet usage including mobile devices and emails a content report to an accountability partner every week.
  • XXX Church – A great website for porn recovery. It’s chock-full of resources and also offers a website-filtering/monitoring system that includes mobile devices as well.
  • Fight the New Drug Started on a college campus, Fight the New Drug is an organization of college students with absolutely zero political or religious allegiances. They present the proven, unbiased, scientific facts on how porn harms our brains, our relationships, and our society.
  • Free iPhone Porn Filter
  • A Parents’ Primer on Internet Pornography

 

Helpful Books

 

Ultimately, the Gospel is what sets porn addicts and all sinners, including you and me, free. For more on the power of the Gospel, watch the video below.

 

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