Summer finally arrived, and it has been wonderful for our Healthy Choices program! Rachel, our program director, has been speaking near and far. Just last week she spoke at the National Lutheran Girl Pioneers Camp. She inspired with her passion for Life and encouraged the audience to be heroes for life. She also provided practical ways to create a culture of life. Following the talk, Rachel spent some quality time with the pro-life generation. One young lady is now excited to use her passion for interior design to assist pregnancy centers. Another girl received Rachel’s copy of Stand for Life, which will help her be a voice for life as she enters college in the fall.
This summer Rachel is also spending a week at each of the Lighthouse Youth Center locations. During the afternoons she is giving interactive and relevant talks about a range of issues from sexual activity to goals and relationships. It’s a joy to partner with other Christian ministries.
The Healthy Choices program is tackling tough issues and reaching teens where they are at. Consider bringing the Healthy Choices program to your school, church, or group. Rachel addresses a range of issues and the talk can be specialized for your audience.
Maybe you’ve seen one of the various YouTube videos online, called something like “The Most Epic Dad Saves,” or “Greatest Dad Wins Ever.” These videos are compilations of everyday dads hanging out with their families, and when random disaster is about to befall a child, these dads do something to save the child from calamity or injury at the last second. They’re those crazy moments that unfold when you’re simply going about your day. The children are playing or minding their own business, totally unaware they might be hurt by some immediate danger. But then, in steps Dad with a flash of awesomeness and the day is saved! (Seriously, look up one of these videos, they’re amazing!)
With Father’s Day around the corner, it’s certainly a fine time to celebrate those moments of great dad instinct or ninja-like reflexes that come from having some parental sixth sense, a protective awareness. A good father hopefully has that protectiveness hard-wired into him, and acts upon that drive to keep his family and others around him safe. Our Heavenly Father does that for us too, on a daily basis. Our daily commutes alone are certainly chock full of opportunities for destruction or injury to happen to us, but guardian angels sent by God win a great majority of the time, according to the Lord’s will.
But it’s another area of fatherly prowess that I want to highlight and advocate today: Preparation.
A good father doesn’t just save his children from things that can harm them. In fact, even the best of fathers can’t be there for their children all the time. Especially when that child grows up to become a young adult and begins spreading their wings, only the intangible influences that parenting has created inside the child can offer any protection – if remembered and heeded.
This is somewhat related to the spirit of the axiom that goes “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Raising able children isn’t found in providing the ends, but rather the means.
The same goes with the plethora of situations and circumstances in which wisdom must be applied. If children are raised with nothing but quick answers or sharp commands, but never the thought process or the path to walk to get into the source of knowledge and wisdom, they’ll be incapable of fending for themselves properly as they take their place in the world.
As a youth care worker who spends his days in a facility with residents that are at-risk youth, most of whom are traumatized in some way or who come from the state’s correctional systems, I have to witness on a daily basis the byproduct of parenting where merely the most basic physiological provisions have been given to children, and many of them with unhealthy or unbalanced home situations around them. It can be shockingly obvious when a youth has received no training by adults in addressing life situations in healthy ways.
There are so many lessons to help the children of the next generation learn. Dignity for life, and a renewed sense of protection of its sanctity, is one of those lessons. But perhaps right along with that goes the lesson that we must know where to turn when personal failures or fearful situations arise. Would it be ideal if no unwanted pregnancies ever occurred in the next generation? Absolutely, 100% yes! But we’re all aware that this is not the world in which we live, so long as sin taints our existence.
So, dads, our preparation has to be two-fold: We can prepare our kids with the right way and the right thought process and values. And we can prepare our kids for the messes that are sure to come by showing them Jesus.
Discussions matter more than lectures. Listening to your child and their heart matters more than being heard as the authority figure in the household. Doubts, and the places where God calms them in his Word, matter more than “Don’t you dare ever get caught up in XYZ because then you’ll really be in trouble!” Demonstrating by personal conduct and living in love towards others matters more than wise and churchy-sounding words. Helping fix what’s broken in life matters more than teaching how to avoid breaking things. And letting our kids know that Jesus’ love is bigger than our rights or wrongs – this matters more than anything!
Too many abortions take place because of fear. Too many abortions take place because there’s an angry or indignant man. Too many abortions take place because someone is too concerned about the wound to their pride or image that will come if an unwanted pregnancy is exposed. There are, of course, many other fear-filled reasons for choosing to terminate a pregnancy. But abortions resulting from having been chided, lectured, or shamed about morality and values as a child should not be one of the categories. Christian families must be built on a foundation that’s set in both truth (what God wants for us) and love (how God’s love changes our circumstances). And, to all my fellow dads out there, we must make it our goal to prepare our kids with this tone in their minds, rather than lazily turning them over to the world and then having to react in emotionally volatile ways when things go wrong. A youth caught up in the precarious situation of an unwanted pregnancy can, and should, be afforded the reason to be hopeful in their situation, instead of scared and cornered.
What’s next? How could I feed this child? What if my family wants to ostracize me? How can I possibly be ready for parenthood now? What if the daddy runs and I’m left to do this alone?
Children raised by strong fathers who rooted them in Jesus find their answers so much more easily than those who weren’t. Christ teaches those who stumble or lose their way that he’ll reach down and pick them up rather than cast the stone of condemnation. He taught forgiveness of any and every sin with his blood that ran red down the cross of Calvary. This message of love works its way into all the cracks and crevices of every messy situation we find ourselves in. Ultimately, problem-solving for an individual (whether alone or surrounded by a family) becomes much more possible when the fear of repercussion is removed. Only an accepting, unconditional, sacrificing love like our savior’s can drive away fear in any situation in life.
As fathers, we must root our children in this message, and in so doing, prepare them for the worst. Impart all that practical knowledge we can, sure! Teach them how to balance a checkbook, change a flat tire, and catch a fish, sure! But most of all, teach them that at the foot of the cross is their hope in even the most hopeless situations. Teach them that, as Jesus valued each and every life so much that he laid his down for them on the cross, we too can show that same courage and protective love for every human life.
Dads can have some epic saves alright. They come in all manners and instances. May the most epic saves be the preparation we instill in our kids. And may that preparation start with knowing that they were saved by their Daddy in heaven, who loves them passionately, and has a plan for them, in every situation in life.
Happy Father’s Day, and God’s blessings to all who are raising our youth!
Author: Jeff Ulrich
Jeff works as part of the Youth Care Staff at Lad Lake, a residential rehab facility in Dousman.
Nowadays the angst many Christians feel is a result of seeing our values marginalized in the world. It can even make us lash out or be a bit “preachy.” But what if the world sees Christians in a negative light too?
I’m proposing that we Christians replace negativity and anger with an approach of gentleness and evangelism. Indeed, I’m proposing that, instead of focusing on Christian hardships, we look for relationships.
I’m referring to two key relationships. There are countless crucial relationships in our lifetimes. But for the purposes of a discussion on how we can “persuade” society back to Christian values, it really boils down to two in particular.
The First Relationship
Our relationship to our Heavenly Father must become ironclad. If Christianity is the “product,” we must become the top consumers, and we must consume it like it’s going out of stock! In John 15:5 Jesus analogized by saying “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” No amount of yelling and hollering doomsday dictions from our pulpits (real or metaphorical) will convince anyone of anything but that we’re pompous. In fact, our condemning and self-righteous words and actions probably only push others away and turn them off to listening to us (and, consequently, to the Lord). We must become fruit-bearing. Let the world see what we do – what we produce. Let it come out in the ways we serve one another, lift up the weak or oppressed in our communities, and never miss an opportunity to do good. It’s not that we want self-aggrandizement; we’re just overflowing with God’s love for other people! That can only flow out of us if we are rooted in Him. We root ourselves in Him by drinking deeply of His Word, and by associating with strong brothers and sisters in our faith, who lift us up and remind us that God’s family is the strongest safety net to fall back into.
The Second Relationship
We need to - all of us – become “everyday-everywhere-missionaries.” Did you know that the number of missionaries coming to America from other countries is rapidly increasing? As our culture keeps shifting away from the moralistic “city on a hill” that America always was, foreign Christians (and practitioners of other faiths) see our country as a place where their missionaries need to be sent! For anyone older than about 40, that idea was a far cry from a likelihood when they were a child, but it’s the world we now live in.
The good news is – WE DON’T NEED THEM! Why not? Because out of the 300+ million Americans living within our borders, millions of us leave our homes every day with Christ in our hearts and interact with our fellow Americans in our businesses, while shopping at the mall, in school, or anywhere else. Everywhere we go there are chances to positively influence others with our values and faith.
The question is, Do we see each day as opportunity for just that? Do we still somehow believe that the only real missionaries are those leaving our nation to travel abroad? Do we truly believe it should be that way, when countless millions of our neighbors right here need us to show them Jesus?
Maybe what stops us from taking up that torch is that we have too narrow a view of what a missionary should be. It’s far too easy to abdicate to the “qualified.” Jesus has called some to be ordained into public ministry, to make a career of serving and ministering to people within a church congregation and to that community’s inhabitants. But the mission isn’t just for them. Most of Jesus’ first followers, who led the beginning of the Christian movement, were “Average Joe’s” like fishermen, tax collectors, or tradesmen. Whatever gifts we have, we’re meant to use them. And we all have the gift of love and sincerity to see every other person we come upon in daily life as a soul who is bound for one of two eternal destinations. God gives us “Average Joe’s” his saving mission too! Perhaps you’ve heard it said: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called! Read the end of Matthew 28 and understand that Jesus meant those words for all believers!
We aren’t all called to preach a sermon at all times. In fact, that’s often not helpful or necessary. We live in a culture where randomly turning to the person next to you on the subway and spouting Bible passages robotically won’t be received well. We need to become excellent at just making relationships – friendships – with every person we meet, and especially with anyone God positions in special places around us in life. That coworker. That person you seem to always stand at the bus stop with on the way to work. That fellow volunteer down at the American Legion. That assistant coach on your little league team. That student. That professor. That neighbor who always seems to wander over to your yard and chit chat, which sometimes leads to admissions about a hopeless or troubled life.
It doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Believe me, I’m one of them! We don’t all have an enterprising personality or the charisma of a pop star. But we all have the message, and we all can make friends! That’s how it starts.
We are all called to reach out to everyone who needs a gentle “Hello there” or a hug in the midst of calamity striking a neighborhood. We are all called to be there for one another, and to let others into our lives. The more of our fellow human beings we can become connected with, the more opportunities we have to counteract the belief that Christians are just a bunch of judgmental hypocrites.
Ask God for the courage to leave your safe personal bubble! Remember how much Christ means to you, and imagine how amazing it would be for someone else to know Him too! Jesus’ love can guide your every word, thought, and deed. Meet people where they are at, learn about their life, and be someone they want to get to know. Become a listener, not a talker. Be real. Then, and only then, will you have a door of opportunity opened to you to show what life with Christ is all about.
We can change the discussion on values. We can change the discussion on the sanctity of human life. But we’ll never do it as banging, clanging, self-pious and boisterous cymbals who look like we just want attention. We will change it when we first draw close to others, and let them see who we really are. Let them see how Jesus has changed our hearts, and how it changes our mind on things. Then the same will happen for them. One relationship at a time, all of us, as everyday-everywhere-missionaries, can restore the value of life! This is the power of Christ in us!
Who do you know that you can be like Jesus to today?
Author: Jeff Ulrich
Jeff is a husband, father, and graduate school student. He attends Hope Lutheran in Oconomowoc. Jeff’s background in ministry education and future in the counseling field reflect a heart that loves to serve others and make a difference. He shares his personal or spiritual reflections in his own time at www.missionpossiblejeffulrich.blogspot.com
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