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When We Don’t Grieve

Over the last two days I’ve watched as our nation has reeled from tragedy and pain, culminating in the horrific killing of 5 police officers and the wounding of 7 others on July 7th, 2016.  I can’t fathom the pain.  I can’t begin to imagine the visceral nature of the agony that the families are experiencing, but, as part of this nation, I can unequivocally say that we, as a nation, are experiencing a form of the pain as well.

Yes, we are experiencing the pain, but notice what I did not say what so many others have said in this instance: “We, as a nation, are GRIEVING.”  I didn’t say that, because largely it isn’t true.

Pain is part of life.  Pain will happen.  It is an unfortunate and sometimes horrific reality with which we are confronted the moment we are born.  And although pain is a given, GRIEF is not.  As a society we numb our pain, we medicate our pain, we run from our pain, we wallow in our pain, and we push through our pain.  But we do not GRIEVE our pain.

I do not know what the grief will look like for the families and communities who have experienced this deep loss, but I do know what a lack of grief will look like.  It will look a lot like what we have been experiencing in our nation in recent days.  It will look like fear.  It will look like bitterness turned to anger, then turned to rage.  It will look like mistrust of another person “perceived” to be different than me.  It will look a whole lot like an “US vs THEM” mentality.  And it will look a lot like the cycle of pain will continue again.

When we don’t grieve and don’t know where to direct our grief, we are in grave danger as individuals, and as a society.  We may internalize our pain, demonizing ourselves and taking our own lives just to “end it all”.  Or we may externalize it, taking another’s life, or five.

I read this statement this morning:

“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Jeremiah 6:16
We are at a crossroads.  Which road will we take?  Will we choose the road that leads to more pain, or the one that leads to grieving, and eventually healing in the midst of that pain?
As for me, I know where I will take my pain and my grief.  I will take it to the only ONE who can heal me, the only one who can rescue me, the ONE who killed his own Son, so that we won’t have to kill each other anymore.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

Infatuated with the New

On my drive in to work this morning, I noticed a shiny new vehicle with two bikes on the roof rack driving down the freeway.  It was clean.  It was well organized.  And it was new.  It made me think and reflect about how in our culture we are infatuated with the new.  We buy new phones, new TVs, new electronics, new clothes, new cars, new houses, new everything.  This is a fact which is not in and of itself bad.  However, what can happen over time is that rather than choosing to repair the old, our first reaction is to trade it out for the new.  This happens harmlessly with tools, gadgets, and things.  The danger begins, however, when we do the same with people and relationships, marriages and friendships.
My father and I have recently thoroughly enjoyed purchasing old tools that have seen many years of work and are in need of repair.  There is something mysteriously beautiful about the repairing and restoration process, and the finished work is not just beautiful, but it has depth of meaning and love and care.  It takes time to restore old hand tools. It takes patience. It takes persistence. It takes plodding, precision, and endurance . . . words that are somewhat foreign in our american get-it-now culture.
The beauty of a marriage or friendship that has lasted the test of time – 30, 40 or even 50 years – is that it has required endurance.  It has taken persistence precision and much loving care and many mini processes of restoration and repair.  And it is a very beautiful thing.
It is not new. It is not shiny. But it has a tremendous depth that the fleeting beauty of this world will never comprehend.  That is because a marriage that lasts the test of time does not get its strength from something of this world, but rather from the Creator of it.

Five Ways to Emasculate your Husband

The other day I listened to a cheesy ad on the radio using impersonations of two former presidents to sell their product. The characters were portrayed (as most presidents in recent history are) as goofy and generally less than smart.  As I sat in my car taking it in, I had a lightbulb moment.  Respect for the OFFICE of the Presidency MUST precede respect for the individual president.  If we don’t respect the office, we won’t respect the president.  If we reduce the presidency to something we would see on Family Guy, why should we be surprised if that is the behavior that we get?  (And no, I am not taking a shot at the current president).

So how does that relate to how women treat the men in their life?  Think of the most “respectable” man that you know.  I would challenge you to consider that respect was given to him way before he ever deserved it.  Let me explain.

A famous pastor and his wife were counseling a couple with marital problems.  Throughout the course of the session, the husband said little, while the wife berated, criticized and publicly shamed her husband.  After far too much of this treatment, the pastor’s wife said, “Can’t you see that you are completely humiliating your husband?  Why can’t you respect him for who he is?”

The response was very telling, “I would respect him if he was half the man that yours is.”

The pastor’s wife retorted, “Maybe the man that my husband is today is a direct result of the respect that I have shown him.”

Women, you may not like to hear this, but how you treat your husband can largely determine what kind of man he will become.  He will rise and fall to the level of respect that you give him.

“Your husband will believe who you say he is.”

So, as promised, here are Five Ways to Emasculate Your Husband:

1)  Publicly Criticize Him – In today’s world this can happen in front of dinner guests or in the store, but most often it happens on Facebook.  Whether intentional or not, posting about how unhappy you are in life, in your marriage, or even posting one of those retro e-cards about men can seriously damage your husband’s self-image.

2)  Repeatedly Refuse Sex – Whether it is because you are tired, or irritated, or he isn’t being very romantic, constant sexual rejection from his wife can be internalized as him not being much of a man.  It leaves him confused and often angry.

3)  Remind Him of All the Things He Hasn’t Done – In my experience, men in our culture are largely insecure.  This isn’t true of every man, but it is a general truth.  When you remind him of that project that he didn’t accomplish, over and over and over . . . you get the idea, he begins to feel like he doesn’t get anything done.  Success begets success, and failure begets failure.  If he already feels like a failure, reminding him of the fact will NOT magically make him a success.

4)  Correct Him in Front of Others, Especially the Kids – I can’t think of many things that can hurt a man more than the feeling of disrespect from his wife in front of the children.  If you disagree with something, whether it is how he handled a situation with the kids, or a financial decision that he made, the time for that discussion is in private, when both parties are calm and little ears are not present.

5) Poke Fun at His Faults – All men and women have faults, imperfections.  And most men and women are keenly aware of their faults.  If your husband jokes around about his faults, that’s one thing, but be careful how you do it.  It’s ok to laugh with others as they stumble through life, as long as you put yourself right there with them.  But be very careful if you jokingly refer to his faults in front of him or in the presence of others.  The damage from this can run deep.

The bottom line is this, your husband will believe who you say he is.  If you say he is a butt-kicker who gets things done at work and loves his wife and children, then he will believe that.  Conversely, if the message he gets from you is that he is ‘less-than’, doesn’t measure up to your standards, and is generally a failure at life, then he will believe that as well.

And his actions will always reflect his beliefs.

Peace in the Midst of the Storm

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Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today is World Diabetes Day.  My daughter Zoe was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes shortly after her 2nd birthday.  I can still remember the week we spent in the hospital, watching her tiny fingers get poked over and over and over.  Feeling helpless, bewildered, and at times, angry.  I wanted to be able to pick her up, wash off the booboo, put a band-aid on, and make it all better.  But I couldn’t . . . and I can’t.  It’s one of the most helpless feelings in the world.  I’m a dad.  I’m supposed to “fix it”.  Mom understands.  Dad fixes.

Zoe is four and a half now, and full of the meaning of her name, “life”.  I have learned much from her.  I have learned that it’s ok, even needed, to not “fix it”.  I’m not saying I don’t want and desire a cure for Type 1 diabetes for my Zoe and the millions of others afflicted with the disease.  I’m also not saying, as a follower of Jesus Christ, that I don’t pray constantly for a miracle . . . I do.  But what I am saying is that the best place we as humans can be is WELL AWARE that we AREN’T in control, that we CAN’T fix it, and subsequently that we NEED to rely on Jesus Christ for everything.  It is only in that place we will truly find peace in the midst of the storm.  When we come to the end of ourselves, that’s when He takes over . . . if we allow Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9

Just a few doors down from Zoe at that hospital was another 2 year old.  She was full of life.  Her family was full of joy.  They loved each other, savoring every moment they had . . . and their little daughter had brain cancer.  She had no hair, but a huge smile.  No outer strength, but the inner strength of a lion.  Her family was full of peace, I could tell.  The husband had recently quit his business as a general contractor and had sold their house in order to spend more time with his family.  I’ll never forget my interaction with them.  Such peace in the midst of such a storm.

How about you?  When have you experienced peace in the middle of chaos?  Hope in the midst of pain?  It is one of the greatest paradoxes of life, but it IS accessible to all of us, no matter how great the obstacle or how big the storm.

Welcome to my Blog

No matter how you found me, you did, and if you are inquisitive like myself, you’re wondering the what, the why, and the how of this blog of mine.  Well, since you asked, let me tell you!

By profession and by calling, I am a Family Life Pastor.  I love families.  I constantly feel the burden of divorce, the challenge of blended families, as well as the joys of children and watching them grow.  It is to this end that I write.  My desire is to help families grow closer to Jesus Christ, by providing practical and biblical advice regarding children, communication, marriage, etc, etc.

In part, this blog is a running dialogue on my life as a husband and father as I try to lead my family.  At times I will share stories of my failures as well as my successes.  It is my goal that if you are a husband, wife, mom or dad, you will find this blog helpful to you as you navigate your role.

Let me make it clear that, while I do have several years experience as a husband, father, and pastor, I am by no means an expert on every topic of raising a family.  Some of my blogs will be from personal experience, others from guests who have more expertise than I, but all will be founded with the timeless wisdom of the Bible, my guide for life as God intended it.

So my question to you is, what would you like to hear about?  What aspects of parenting has been challenging for you in recent past?  This blog is designed to be a dialogue, not a monologue.  Leave a comment and my promise to you is that I will address it, either in the notes or in an actual blog on the subject.

Peace and God bless,

Mateo

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

For Dads: This book is a must read.  Your daughters depend on you for more than you know.

 

book

An Intro To ” The Sex Talk”

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One of the most confounding and widely discussed topic among parents is how to have “the talk” with our children. I think most of us parents would agree that we want our children to be informed on sex from a healthy perspective, rather than movies, TV, or friends at school. Gone are the days when a parent can limit a child’s exposure to sexual content. It is so pervasive in our culture that most studies will show that children are exposed to sexually explicit content and/or behavior by the age of 9 and many children are sexually active by the age of 11.

The reality is this, your children will hear about sex, period, the only question is how do we as parents inform them, rather than allow culture to do it for us?

I’ll be devoting the next several blog posts to exploring this topic. I think it’s safe to say that we know we should communicate with our children about sex, but most of us are at a loss as to how to do so.

I’ll start by dispelling one big myth. Pop culture is full of examples of parents who have “the talk” with their children to “get it out of the way” and absolve themselves of any future guilt. But, as my pastor recently quipped, it’s not about “the talk” it’s about “the talking”. We need to work hard to develop close relationships with our children, so close that they wouldn’t hesitate about asking us first. And just as important is the fact that we would not feel awkward about communicating such things with our children.

Step 1: invest in the relationship with your children. If we listen to the nonsensical, trivial stuff of everyday life now, we earn the opportunity to hear the important, deep-seated questions later.

In future posts I’ll be discussing answers to popular questions, including: When is the right time to have “the talk”?

Music

Sing Science!
What are some good guidelines for allowing your children to listen to secular music?  I guess the real question is, “what does it really mean to be in the world but not of it?”
“To keep oneself unstained by the world”  has been taken to mean quite a variety of things over the centuries.  From reclusive monks who abstain from everything “of the world”, to Christians who involve themselves in so much of the things of the world that it’s hard to distinguish them from everyone else, this phrase can go many ways.  I have a hard time believing that Jesus, should he have been an earthly Father, would have allowed His children to aimlessly become entangled with the stuff of this world without instruction and intentionality on how to interpret it.  Equally as unbelievable is the concept that He would seclude his children from any contact with the world.
What does this mean for us as parents of children who are bombarded with the stuff of this world non stop?  We are faced with the pervasive influence of culture on our children no matter how hard we try to seclude or protect them.  Heck, even if we took mark Twain’s advice and crammed them into a barrel at the age of thirteen, they would still smuggle in their iPhone.  So the question now becomes, how can we equip our children to interpret culture through Jesus colored glasses, rather than their own?  More specifically, how do we help our children to be wise with regards to their musical tastes, and to help them develop an ability to interpret music through a Christ-Centered worldview?
Below are my suggestions to do just that:
1.  Don’t allow your children to blindly listen to music without giving them some perspective on the subject.  Young children don’t need to be exposed to the overtly sensual lyrics of many popular artists.  It saddens me to see young girls singing songs about romantic, flirtatious relationships.
2.  Teach your children to develop critical thinking skills, to ask questions of what they hear and decide for themselves if their musical choice is appropriate or not.  This is particularly critical as they learn directly from the Bible.
3.  Model the musical choice you would want your children to have.  This goes without saying.  If it isn’t good for your children, why is it good for you?
4.  Research good music with your children.  Encourage them to explore an eclectic approach to musical genres.  We live in the most information rich generation the world has ever known.  There is no reason our children should follow the musical “herd mentality” of their peers.  Just because everyone listens to an artist, doesn’t make that artist the best out there.  There is more out there than Beyonce.