Pastor Karen Helsel
I recently attended a conference led by Dr. Tony Compolo, professor of Sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. His topic was Love, Marriage, and Kids in the 21st Century. Dr. Compolo entertains, but often afflicts the comfortable.
Compolo reminded us that PARENTS are RESPONSIBLE to RAISE THEIR CHILDREN with PURPOSE and DIRECTION. Everyone else is telling our children what to do: TV, teachers, their friends, the internet. But many parents today don't want to tell children what to believe or how to act.
Most parents don't want to be the bad guys, the "heavies". Many have said, "I don't care what you do for a living, if you go to college, if you get connected to a church or not, I just want you to be happy."
Happiness is fleeting, dependent on circumstances. Our children are facing a world full of challenges: AIDS, war, violence, pain and disappointment. They are going to need to be DYNAMIC, POWERFUL individuals to be able to survive and thrive, and make a positive difference! We must be willing to teach values and strength of character, an interest in and care for the rest of the human race, not just "us four and no more." Parents must intervene with training, discipline and lessons to help kids become caring, contributing members of society.
The holidays provide great opportunities for character-building activities. It won't be easy - for adults or kids - but when it's over, talk about the experience and resulting lessons:
Fast on Thanksgiving and give the full amount of a family Thanksgiving dinner to a homeless shelter, a food bank, or some other place who helps the needy. Spend the time you would be preparing food, watching football, and otherwise pampering each other and yourself, reaching out to someone who is lonely or needy - TOGETHER.
Invite some elderly folks over for an afternoon of games and family interaction, with a simple soup and sandwich meal - with everyone participating in the preparations and activities.
Find someone from another country or culture with whom you can share as a family...perhaps providing a long-distance call to their homeland, helping them put together a care package for their families, or providing some other need.
Talk together about how your family wants to make Christmas more about sharing Christ with others than about receiving presents for yourselves. Decide on action steps to make this happen, and have family meetings weekly to check the progress.
Brainstorm together to come up with unique ways your family can make a difference in the community, the state, and the world this year.
The truth is focusing on self will never make us or our children happy. Finding fulfillment in life comes from doing what God intended for us to do when He put us here.
We can step up to the plate, be leaders, teachers, and parents who invest energy and effort to help our families and our children become strong, good, and righteous!
- Karen Helsel is the pastor of the Church of Christ on North Avenue in Sunnyside.