Tips for Parents in the Digital Age

By Andrew Calabrese

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According to recent research, children ages 8-18 are spending more than 7 hours a day in front of an electronic device of some sort—whether it be a computer, iPad, smartphone, television, video game system, or anything else. According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, “The average kid sponges in 2.5 hours of music every day, almost 5 hours of TV and movies, 3 hours of Internet and video games, and just 38 minutes of old-fashioned reading.”

Yes, we live in a tech-saturated world. Most kids cannot even imagine a world at home, school, or anywhere else without some sort of device within arms reach, and it’s having some incredibly negative effects on their emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being.

Do you remember when we were kids? We would come home from school and play in the back yard or ride bikes with our friends. Nowadays, kids want to plop on the couch and transform into a media garbage disposal for hours at a time. Is this really the best outlet for our kids?

Whatever happened to kids being instructed to go outside and use their imagination to have fun? What ever happened to our boys playing with sticks and homemade slingshots, and our girls playing with dolls and fixing each other’s hair? Whatever happened to kids sitting down and enjoying reading a good book?

If you ever fear that your kids are spending too much time in front of their gadgets and wish that you could motivate them to do something else, here are some ideas.

1. Pay them to do something more productive.

Yes, that’s right. Pay them to do something more productive with their lives rather than binge-watching Youtube or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. For example, you could pay them to read a book. Why not choose what books you want your kids to read, and then tell them once they’re finished, you’ll pay them $10 (or whatever amount you choose). There are some great books out there that this generation may never even know existed. What better way to motivate your kids to read than to pay them to do it?

It doesn’t have to be reading. Pay them to do anything that would be more productive than sitting in front of a screen. You could pay them for learning to ride their bike, learning to fix the car with dad, or cleaning around the house—the list could go on!

2. Show them how much fun you can have doing other things.

Sadly, one of the biggest reasons our kids have become device junkies is because they have some amazing examples to follow—mom and dad. If your family time consists of everyone sitting around the living room doing their own separate things on their own devices, including mom and dad, then who’s to blame?

More than our kid’s desire to spend time on their devices, they are craving to spend time with us. Your kids want to have fun with you, but the problem is that we often don’t want to have fun. Let’s be honest in admitting that there are nights we would rather sit on the couch and sit in front of a screen ourselves than go outside and play catch with our son, or take a walk with our daughter, or build a fort with the kids to protect ourselves from “the bad guys.” I believe that if our kids saw how much fun they could have doing other things, then they would be more motivated to do them, and nothing is more motivating than when mom and dad participate in the fun.

3. Just remember, you are the parents.

We are the ones God has chosen to lead our families. We have the right to tell our kids what they can and cannot do. We can set time limits on their device usage. We can lead them to do what we think is best for their well-being. We can even enforce consequences when our expectations are not met. We can parent them in doing more productive things with their time. When parents provide even minimal media guidelines for their kids, it decreases their media consumption by as much as three hours a day! Unfortunately, only one third of kids say that their parents put any limits at all on their media usage.

Author Paul David Tripp points out, “You are God’s agent of change in your child’s life.” God gave you to them to shape and mold them into the people He wants them to be, and God gave them to you because He considers you trustworthy of such a task. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the devices that our family owns as much as anyone else, but as the parents, we always have to be the ones in control of our devices—not the other way around.

The Gift of Gratitude

By Pastor Dorrell

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The Bible tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe this verse speaks of the amazing complexity and intricacy with which God created us. As a former student of anatomy and physiology, I have always seen the creation and creature as evidence of a Creator, and our wonderful Creator has bestowed upon us, not just life, but through our physical bodies, an amazing capacity and ability to enjoy life and the creation He has made.

Consider the five physical senses God has given us. Sight is the sense God has given us that allows us to see the world and the beauty of creation. With our eyes, we gather information, appreciate the colors of sunsets and rainbows, wonder at the flowers around us, and are in awe of the mountains and stars above. Vision is a gift that adds so much to our world.

Consider for a moment the gift of hearing. Through this sense, we can distinguish auditory vibrations in the world that allow us to hear what is going on around us. Through hearing, we can enjoy music and the sounds of laughter, communicate with others, and are able to distinguish a million sounds that fill our world each day. 

Of course, there is also the sense of touch. There is no replacement for the wonder of the gift of touch, the tactile ability to feel and perceive the world around us and the warmth and sensation it provides. Through touch, we can distinguish hot from cold, sharp from dull, textured surfaces from smooth. What a gift it is to play with a puppy, hold someone’s hand, or to kiss the cheek of a baby. 

One of the sensory gifts we take for granted is the one we call our olfactory sense, or the sense of smell. Smell adds to our world just as much as our vision does. Of all our senses, smell is the one that is often the most deeply embedded in our memories. The fragrance of perfume, the aroma of chocolate chip cookies, and the smell of grandma’s baking are things we often remember forever. 

Finally, there is the gift of taste. Of all the senses, this is the one that is probably the purest gift of them all. By gift, I mean it is the one that is perhaps the least necessary but is given just to increase the pleasure, joy, and wonder of our world. We do not depend on the sense of taste the same way we do those of sight and hearing. We are acquainted with the tragedy of losing sight or being deaf. But, we don’t think about people losing their sense of taste and how that might affect their world. However, if taste were lost, how much more bland and dull our world would be. 

All of these senses are truly amazing gifts and things we should never take for granted. But, the purpose of this article is not to give a biology lesson but a spiritual one instead. You see, our senses were given to us out of necessity. We need them to fully live and appreciate the world around us. Without them, our experiences and daily lives would be diminished.

But, there is another gift that, if lost, can also greatly subtract from our world, and that is the gift of gratitude, the ability to appreciate and express thankfulness for all we can see, smell, touch, hear, taste and experience in this amazing world. We may not think of it this way often, but gratitude is not just a response of appreciation but a gift we can utilize to get greater joy out of all of life’s experiences. Our senses give us an awareness of the world, but gratitude can allow us to appreciate and enjoy the world and everything in it. 

Simply put, gratitude brings a greater joy and prosperity to our world. A plethora of research has proven that grateful people tend to be physically healthier, achieve more goals, have better relationships, have more positive attitudes about their jobs, and experience a greater degree of happiness in life. It is not so much that a good life makes one grateful, but that gratefulness makes a happy and good life. 

Lou Gehrig was one of baseball’s greatest stars. He was the New York Yankees star first baseman who had a fabulous career but who also was suffering from a life-crippling disease. Just months before he passed away, on a day when the Yankees were honoring him for his baseball accomplishments, Lou Gehrig did something very remarkable. He expressed gratitude. 

He took the microphone before him and began to express appreciation to the vendors who sold the hot dogs in the stadium, the ticket takers, the maintenance crew, and the stadium workers whose contributions made his illustrious career and salary possible. He understood they played a role in the success of his life. He then went on to say that he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. At a time when many people would have found a reason to be bitter, Lou Gehrig chose to recognize what had been given to him and be thankful for it. It is amazing that a man whose body was failing him still found happiness when many today who have so much more and earn 10 times his salary cannot. Gratitude is the gift that helps us appreciate what we do have and enriches our lives even if we are poor. It is the gift that brings so much good. Consider being more grateful, and it will change your world.

 

What If Everyone Did That?

Joe Monds

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As a child, I recall having a book read to me that still influences my life today. The book begins with a little boy disregarding a “Please, Do NOT Feed The Bears” sign at the zoo. The zoo keeper approaches the boy and asks, “what if everybody did that?”. The illustration on the next page of the book shows a bunch of sick overweight bears surrounded by more food than they can possibly eat. Another page demonstrates the same idea but with littering. The boy dropped one soda can on the ground, but the next page shows a meadow covered in garbage. 

The main idea behind the book is simple yet deep. We ought not to be selfish in our actions and feel like we are entitled to do as we please. The effects go beyond our individual lives. What a convicting children’s book!

However, the idea of selflessness and not feeling entitled has its roots in biblical principles. Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

Paul challenged the Philippians to humble themselves and strive to esteem others over self. Would the world be a better or worse place if everybody had your mindset and did what you did? Before you choose to lie about your work productivity, or cheat on a test, or take advantage of people, or are tempted to slack off at work ask yourself this question, “what if everybody did that?”. It will alter many of the decisions we make. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” What is best for you may not always be what is best for everyone else in any given life situation.

 

Change Your Life by Journaling

By Andrew Calabrese

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For most of my life, it seems like I have heard or read about great people of influence practice this discipline of journaling. I always thought it would be something I would get to as I travelled further down life’s road, but the more I have travelled, the more I have realized this was something that would benefit me greatly right now.

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy said, “Journaling is a powerful therapeutic and healing tool.” From my experience, that statement is a fact. Here are some ways consistently journaling has helped me, and if you choose to make it a part of your life, these are also ways it could be a help to you too:

1. Journaling provides greater self-awareness.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, has proposed a popular definition of self-awareness in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.” Thus self-awareness is the ability one possesses to monitor their inner world, as well as their thoughts and emotions as they arise. 

Self-awareness has been labeled as the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are, and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

I’m not really sure how to articulate this, but the more I journal the more self-aware I become. It helps me monitor the condition of my heart like nothing else. Solomon instructs us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” It’s hard to guard your heart when you lose touch with it. 

Writing would help anyone disentangle their thoughts, but journaling takes it to a whole new level. It allows you to really wrestle through issues you are facing, feelings you are experiencing, and thoughts you are thinking.

In addition to that, journaling would help one understand the context of what is going on in their world. Life happens so quickly, and we may be tempted to think we don’t have time to stop and reflect on where we are in the bigger story. Journaling has a way of helping you discern the difference between the trees and the forest. 

2. Journaling causes you to process the past and cherish memories.

One of my mentors has said, “What happens to me is not as important as the meaning I assign to what happens to me.” Journaling will help you sort through what you have experienced and intentionally interpret it the way you would like to.

When I journal, I like to record things about my wife and children that I will cherish forever. I can reflect on those happy memories for years to come. Oftentimes, when I have had a “bad day,” I find myself scrolling through my journal entries, reflecting on happy memories, and it lifts my spirit. Having a journal as a resource is invaluable to me. It can shift my mood from negative to positive in a matter of moments.

3. Journaling fills the heart with gratitude.

Part of my journaling exercise is listing three things I am grateful for as well as three things I am thankful for specifically regarding my spouse. This has helped me in astronomical ways! If you write down a list of three things you are grateful for, your brain will be forced to scan the past 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought laughs, feelings of accomplishment, a strengthened connection, or a glimmer of hope for the future. The more opportunities for positivity we recognize, the more grateful we will become. Journaling in this way will unequivocally fill your heart with gratitude, and as a result you will be happier and healthier.

4. Journaling allows you to record significant lessons.

In general, humans are pretty unskilled at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never re-read what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.

Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged as opposed to when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from non-important information. However, writing creates spatial regions between important and non-important pieces of information — allowing your memory to target and ingrain the important information you want to remember.

Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.

Journaling is one of the most important things to do in your life. If done effectively and consistently, it will change your life for the better. You’ll become the person you want to be. You’ll design the life you want to live. Your relationships will be healthier and happier. You’ll be more productive and powerful. I hope you choose to make this important, powerful practice a part of your daily routine.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

By Joe Monds

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Early in geometry we learned, “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” But sometimes, as we look at what God is doing in our lives, we wonder if He doesn’t think that the shortest distance between two points is a zigzag. God sometimes takes us on a zigzag path to the good plans He has for us. We may see these situations as an unnecessary detour, but they are necessary diversions for your good and God’s purposes. 

In Exodus 13, God purposefully takes Israel from Goshen to Canaan by an indirect route. The reason for the zigzag path is because of some obstacle on the straight-line path would keep them from reaching their goal. The straight path that would have lead the Israelites to the promised land geographically, would have also led them to a war between the Philistine and Egyptians that they were underwhelmingly unequipped for at the time. God had to first take them to the desert to convince them of His faithfulness and commitment before taking them into Canaan. 

The reason for the zigzag path that we are on in life is because of some obstacle on the straight-line path would prevent us from reaching our goal. Our career advancement might be delayed until a difficult person is removed, or a necessary skill is learned. Ministry opportunities might wait until pride is less of a danger. The list could go on. God in His goodness leads us on an alternate path to get to a promised destination. Along the way He gives us reminders of His good intentions and a tangible sense of His presence. Follow Him without fear down the zigzag path called life.

 

Rescued From Boredom

by Joe Monds

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When you hear the word “summer”, what do you think about? Sunshine? Vacations? Summer house projects? Getting into a hobby? Exploring new things? The overall vibe of summer is fun! Yet, so often during the summer months we find ourselves shockingly bored. Why is that? With so much extra time on our hands, so many fun-filled advertisements passing by our faces, and so much entertainment at our fingertips, why do we find ourselves bored so frequently? We are bored at work, bored at church, bored on vacation, bored everywhere!

What makes something boring?  Why do we feel bored? 

Boredom does not require an absence of activity; it requires a lack of fulfillment and excitement about the activity. We may have our schedules packed with “fun”, yet if we aren’t doing something that provides us true life fulfillment, then eventually we will find ourselves in a state of boredom. 

Some people may think that boredom is just an occasional part of life.  I would like to submit to you today that boredom, for the Christian, is an indication of something much deeper. Boredom is the subliminal recognition of the gap between the life you live and the life God wants you to live. I’m not suggesting you fix your boredom by just conjuring up new things to do. That will only temporarily remedy your boredom. We try to take time to plan ways for our lives to feel fulfilled. Lasting joy and fulfillment comes from above. God already has a plan for you to have a more abundant life.  You just need to claim it! 

So how do we get rid of boredom?  Where Jesus is in control of a life, there is not just life, there is life more abundantly.  No room for boredom. John 10:10b, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

God doesn’t delight in His children living in monotony. He wants life to be fun and full of joy! Are you experiencing true joy everyday? Remember that God wants you to have an abundant (full) life and rescue you from boredom.

Father: A Man’s Greatest Title

by Pastor Dorrell

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There are a myriad of titles that men can have, but perhaps the greatest of them all is that of Father. Being a dad is an incredible thing, and the position brings with it great joy and responsibility.

The author of the book of Proverbs understood this responsibility when he said to one of his children (in 23:26), “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” That is an amazing request made by a dad to his son. Yet, it is what every dad signed up for when he made the decision to bring another life into this world.

Above and beyond all other people, a dad and mom are supposed to be the ultimate examples. The request by the proverbial father was to be the chief influence in his son’s life. Above and beyond his peers, the culture, the media, and any other influence, this dad was asking for his son’s heart. I believe that is exactly what God intends.

A child is a product of a father, biologically, and he is supposed to be a product who reflects his father’s character, passions, and heart as well. So, in essence, a dad is saying to his children, “I want you to live as I live, do as I do, and be what I am. One day, my son, I want you to love your wife the same way that I love your mother. I want you to give, serve, be faithful, and go to church like I have done before your eyes.”

When you consider that request, it should make all of us dads seriously consider the grave responsibility of being a dad. It sounds like a lot to ask, and all of us realize we are not perfect; however, imperfections aside, if we can’t be examples to our children, then who can?

There have been many times that I have not been the best example to my children, but when I became aware of it, I was quick to apologize and commit myself to doing better.

Part of being an example is being authentic, humble, and showing our children that failure is a part of life, but it can and should be overcome. Demonstrating growth and the willingness to change and do better, over the course of time that we are raising our children, will speak volumes to them.

Our children don’t need a perfect father. They just need a humble and good one. The greatest gift we can give our children is to show them how to live and navigate life. If we can show them how to love, to get along with others, to share, give, and make God the priority of our lives, then we will have fulfilled our tasks as fathers, and then we can enjoy watching them give the same gift to their children one day.

 

Invest in Your Kids This Summer

by Andrew Calabrese

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Summer is just around the corner, and it presents us parents with an incredible opportunity to invest more in our children. Because they are out of school, we can spend entire days with them! Here are some helpful thoughts as you endeavor to spend more time with your children this summer:

1. DISCONNECT FROM YOUR PHONE

In our highly digital and socially connected generation, parents are inadvertently ignoring their children more than ever. When you ignore your children, it communicates that you don’t love and value them. A June study by AVG Technologies surveyed more than 6,000 children, ages 8 to 13, from the United States, the Untied Kingdom, and several other countries. The survey discovered that fifty-four percent of the kids think their parents spend too much time on their phones. Fifty-two percent of moms and dads agreed with their children and worried that they were setting a bad example for their kids. 

It can be hard to navigate this crazy connected world we find ourselves in, and remember that the digital universe can wait while we interact with those most important to us in the present moment. We as parents need to put down our cell phones and focus more on our kids. They are more important than the latest work email or what’s trending on Instagram or Facebook. Let’s make sure they know it.

2. SEIZE THE TEACHABLE MOMENTS

You don’t have to wait until your kids are teens to teach them life skills. Get a jump start on teaching practical lessons to your children right now— how to clean the house, how to manage their time and money, how to cook—the list could go on! The point is, nobody has more influence on your children than you. So, make time to seize the “teachable moments.”

3.REMEMBER, YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE TO RAISE THEM

I have two children, and I marvel at how fast they are growing. Time really flies! The truth is, you don’t really know how much time you will get to spend with your children. So, make the most of every opportunity you get and create happy memories with them. Your kids will never forget the spaghetti fights at the table, the trips to the zoo, the countless hours you played with them at the park, or any one-on-one time they had with you! This will create a bond that will last a lifetime. The more time you spend with your children the more opportunities there will be for happy memories to be created and cherished.

Again, this summer allows you more time to spend with them, and I hope you’ll make this summer the best it has ever been for your kids!

Activity Ideas to Do with Your Kids this Summer:

  • Go to the park
  • Play catch outside
  • Go to the zoo / aquarium 
  • Go swimming
  • Take a hike
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Make a craft
  • “Camp out” (in the living room)
  • Fly a kite
  • Take them to a Vacation Bible School

Patriotism

By Pastor Dorrell

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1 Peter 2:17

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the King.

As Christians, we are called upon to demonstrate love and honor to all men. That honor is to be extended to those who serve in government and are placed in that position by God Himself.

Part of the way we demonstrate honor is by supporting our elected officials and those who serve us within the governmental framework of God’s institutional design. Beyond that, I believe we are to pray our country and ask the Lord to bless it so that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives.

I believe the support we offer and the prayers we extend on our nation’s behalf are part of what it means to be truly patriotic. Patriotism is defined as support for one’s country. Certainly, it only makes sense to be patriotic, because no one wants to tear down the house in which they live. However, supporting our country does not mean we are in favor of every policy or decision made, rather support simply implies we will do what strengthens and helps our country.

We can find scriptural advice here from the book of Second Chronicles chapter 7 and verse 14, which says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” If we truly want to support our country and seek its best, then the best form of patriotism is found in this scriptural formula.

Being good Christians is the best way to do good for our country. There is nothing wrong with displaying flags, having celebrations, and supporting our military. I believe these are good and necessary things and demonstrate that we understand the sacrifices others have made for our freedom. However, to truly strengthen and support our country, we need to understand that this country is held in the hands of God. His blessings flow from the hearts of those citizens who live there and from the relationship they have with Him. As we humble ourselves and turn from unrighteousness, as we seek God’s face and plead with him in prayer to protect and prosper our country, we are engaging in a kind of patriotism that is truly difference making. These conditions of heart and practices of discipline truly support and strengthen our nation and will preserve the United States in the future.

The difficulty here is these things require real devotion and a genuine heart of concern. It can be so much easier to make our patriotism external and superficial only. It is easier to have a special service than it is to have a repentant heart. It is more convenient to say some words than it is to engage in serious, heartfelt prayer. True patriotism is not lip service and decoration but contrition and humility. If patriotism is defined as showing support for one’s country, then let’s support our great nation by continuing its legacy of having a people who inhabit it who love the Lord with all their hearts.

The next time a sermon is preached, and you find yourself in need of change and repentance, then go forward and ask for God’s forgiveness and grace. You will have not only helped yourself and honored God, but will have secured a measure of God’s blessing for our nation. When you are tempted to sin and engage in evil, turn from that wicked way and ask the Lord for strength to truly live for him. You will save yourself from the consequences of sin and will have played a part in God healing our land. The health of our nation and the health of the heart of God’s people are inseparably tied, and we can see that played out in the Old Testament over and over again.

So, let’s follow the command of the prophet Micah when he said, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8) Those who follow this advice secure a better future both for themselves and the land they love and allow patriotism and a good heart to truly meet.

Industrious Insects

by Joe Monds

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It’s interesting how God uses seemingly insignificant things to teach us significant truth. With a bit of humility, we can learn life lessons from anywhere, even from an insect. Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise”.  At times ants make us look bad.  They show us up regularly because unlike many of us, they are always persistent workers that labor diligently to build their homes. They spend all their waking hours finding food and taking care of their dwellings. They have a job to do, and rather than sit around talking about it, they go out and do it. Ants don’t complain about work. They don’t sneak off to hide so they can get out of work. Ants know their jobs and do their jobs. 

The persistence of the ant has always amazed and challenged men to work hard. The practical implications from this verse in Proverbs should motivate us to be consistently hard workers at our place of employment, which is a testimony that honors God and leaves us satisfied with a job well done.  The spiritual implications have an even greater impact in our lives, for the discipline to habitually walk with the Lord is an area in which we can sometimes be more like a sluggard than like an ant.  Ants don’t put off until tomorrow the things that need to be done today. Do we? It’s hard work to cultivate a consistently good relationship with God, and if we don’t have the work ethic of the ant, then perhaps we are more like the sluggard, lacking in the wisdom that can only be attained by seeking the omniscient God. 

There’s not a magic formula for becoming closer to God; it is a choice that we intentionally make to be like the industrious ant to avoid being like the sluggard. The hard work we put in today will lead to great blessings tomorrow