Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

You have to stop and read this! Cassidy is a young member of the Body of Christ, but her voice is already powerful and the Spirit of God is strong in her.  And she tells the truth.  She is special to us for many reasons, but let’s just all give thanks for her and for all the other teens who really love God with all their heart! Their devotion and commitment encourage our hope  for tomorrow.

20130621_171423Teenager. The word teenager makes some people nervous.  Loud, strange music. Weird clothes.  Completely different vocabulary.  Teenagers have the reputation of being concerned about clothes, popularity, dating, reputation and having fun. But if you’ve spent time with teenagers at The Hills lately, I think you’ll be surprised! And I mean surprised in a good way! Most of the students I know are concerned about the world—we want to make a difference. We care about friends, family, school, making the most of our lives and even missions. We want to stand out but not for our clothes or our music or even for what we say. We want to stand out because of what we do.  We want our lives to reflect Christ and we want to make Him look good. We aren’t afraid to do big things for God and we love being at a church that encourages us to dream big!

I was born into a family that loves the church and loves international mission work.  I’m 14 years old and I’ve been to 11 countries on 5 continents to share Jesus with people who don’t know Him. My parents and my 2 younger brothers and I went on a Let’s Start Talking project to Italy this past summer where we helped people practice English using the Bible—we went with 2 of our friends who also go to The Hills. Last summer I was on a team to Rwanda with several families from The Hills. God has definitely given me lots of adventurous ways to serve Him with our church family.  And each adventure has helped me grow closer to Him.

In July of 2011, I went on a 3 week LST project with my mom, my brothers and some family friends to Natal, Brazil.  Let me confess something…I was a brat.  I had just turned 12 years old and, honestly, I had not been very kind to my family for a while.  I don’t know why but I was just always frustrated with them and my brothers were really, really annoying to me all the time.  I left the USA dreading this non-stop time with my family. I don’t know exactly what happened to me on our mission trip but I came back changed.  I returned loving our time together and being grateful for my family. I had been baptized a couple of years earlier but the Holy Spirit was really working on my heart during those 3 weeks.

I had been on several mission trips before this one but this would be my very first time to read the Bible alone with people.  There I sat, 12 years old, across from 5 different non-Christians ranging in age from a 11-year-old Brazilian boy to a 52-year-old woman who was practicing Spiritism. I didn’t know it but my mom would sit across the room praying for me, reminding herself that the Spirit in me was stronger than anything in this woman.  Maybe that’s the beauty of being young and innocent—I wasn’t intimidated at all—only the usual nervousness of meeting someone new and sharing Jesus with them.  The Bible says that God can use the weak and overlooked of this world to show His wisdom and power (1 Corinthians 1).  Who would choose a 12-year-old bratty girl to share Jesus with a Spiritist over 4 times older? God, of course!

If you want to change your child or grandchild’s life, take them to do mission work.  You don’t even have to go to another country! There are people in this city who don’t know Jesus! There are people in your neighborhood who don’t have hope! And if you can take them to another country, go! There is something life-changing about spending every day for 3 weeks focused on the Good News of Jesus. It’s hard to be unkind to your family when you’ve read the story of Jesus with people all day.  It’s tough to be a brat after you’ve shared your faith with a stranger. And when you read about how great God’s love is, you want to love people even more.

Even little brothers.

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I bet many of you have never seen Rebel Without A Cause (1955), although most have heard of it and some even know it to be a classic coming-of-age film starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo. As I have been writing about parenting/grandparenting these last few days, this film keeps popping into my head.

To tempt you a bit to rent the film or downstream it on Netflix, let me just say that the three teen idols of the 1950s all play troubled teens from good families. Jim Stark (James Dean) has a painfully weak, ineffective father and a dominating mother; Plato (Sal Mineo) is pretty much abandoned by his parents, and Judy (Natalie Wood) has the most “normal” parents, but she is the one that has haunted me the most through the years.

Let’s talk about Judy!  She is a beautiful girl, popular, fun, and successful at school—so what’s her problem?

The tell-tale scene for me is when she comes home to her good family and she tries to connect with her father, who appears to be uncomfortable around her. She practically begs him to hug her or let her sit on his lap like she did when she was a little girl, but he is so uncomfortable with her sexuality that he pushes her away—both physically and emotionally.  This refusal of affection pushes Judy into the arms of Jim Stark, and they sneak into a vacant house and, with Plato, create their own ersatz family where their needs for love and relationship are all met!

No, this is a 50s movie so they don’t sleep together, but the comfort Judy finds in her new boyfriend’s affection is not really sweet. It’s painful to me because I know her father’s rejection drove her to this point.

And this is the point I want to share with you, especially you fathers, something about raising children that I believe to be true and that we certainly practiced in our home. To be physically affectionate with your children will help them remain pure and holy until they leave father and mother and are physically loved by their marriage partner.

For some parents, showing physical affection is the most natural of all acts they do as parents—but not for all parents—especially some dads—especially those dads whose fathers never touched them except to punish them.  Even if this is you, your children need for you to change the channel, to learn to show them your love in ways they can feel.

(We are so highly sensitized to abusive touching and fears of child molestation that I find myself wondering if we can even talk about this; nevertheless,  I’m asking you to read this article within a framework of healthy relationships that would result in healthy and wholesome physical loving.)

Most of what I know about anything female, I learned from my wife Sherrylee. She was the one who  taught me how important physically touching our children was, beginning with changing their diapers and rocking them to sleep, then reading to them in your lap and wrestling with them on the floor.

How a parent expresses affection changes as the children change—but it should never cease! When our older son was just starting school, we would always send him out the front door with a hug, but when he started second grade, he thought he had outgrown that. The game was to let him get out the door, then run after him, catch him, and give him a hug before he went one step further.  The game was fun for both of us for a while. He’s 37 now, happily married with three of his own children, so he usually gets the hug when he comes in, but the grandkids get the hugs as they leave!

When your girls become teenagers and ever so self-conscious about their bodies, the uninhibited expressions of physical affection between fathers and daughters can disappear—as they did for Natalie Wood’s character—and too often with the same results!  I don’t think I can tell you exactly what works and what doesn’t work for you and your daughters, but I do believe that you can continue to show each other love and affection physically. Maybe your kisses move from her cheek to just the top of her head. Maybe sitting in your lap becomes just a snuggle-up on the couch. Like I said, physical expressions of affection are given their meaning by the people who do them, so how you have defined your early relationship to your children will dictate how your later relationship can be expressed.

Children, then teens who are not hugged by their mothers and/or fathers seem almost driven to look for someone else to touch them! One of the best and most wonderful things you can do to make it easier for your teenager to be pure and holy is to hug them a lot! Show them as much affection as you and they are comfortable with.

Solomon the Wise once reminded his readers in his blog that there is absolutely a right time to embrace someone (Ecclesiastes 3:5)!  Without plagiarizing Solomon, that’s what I want to say too! Hug your children, and love on them a lot!

And don’t be afraid!


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