Parenting Tip: The ”Big Picture” of Life

In the late 90s I learned about emotional maturity from Dr. Jim Wilder. His organization, Life Model Works, has a detail list of needs and tasks pertinent to each emotional maturity stage of life.  One of the maturity tasks for children towards the end of the Child Stage (ages 4-13) is to learn the “big picture” of life. “What does that mean?” you might ask.  “And how do I help my children learn it?” Here is one way to help a child learn what this means.

Draw (or have them draw) a road with a fork in it.  Talk about the two forks. The left fork represents that we can walk with Jesus and live as He wants us to live. The right fork represents that we can make choices that will take us away from how Jesus wants us to live. What we want to consider is a very important question—“What will my life be like in 5 years if I choose the left fork?”  Talk about how old the child will be in 5 years.  Then discuss the question using 10 years as the example.

If you have a teen who is already leaning towards the left fork, it can be helpful to them to think about what their life will be like in 5 and then 10 years if they continue the direction they are going.  Doing this exercise has to be done in a loving manner.  The most important thing we can do with our children regardless of their age is to love them unconditionally, communicate that we are glad to be with them no matter what, and remember and practice that relationships are more important than problems. Make the fork in the road part of your conversations, but not as a tool to discipline.

The lists are also in myHandbook to Joy-Filled Parenting.Left or right? stock photo

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A Slurp of Living Water

The last few years I have been on a passionate mission to help others learn to listen to Jesus during prayer as well as talking to Him, and to learn to turn to Him all day long as a lifestyle. The other day  I woke up with a mental picture of something I thought would be helpful.  So during a small group where I was sharing, I asked this question, “If you are in the desert, what is the main thing you want?”  “Water!” several people answered.  “If you are on a long hike what is the main thing you will want?”  Again, everyone answered, “Water!”

My next question was, “Have you ever seen one of those backpacks in which you can carry all of your water?” Most had and several knew the name.  From the water in the CamelBak there is a straw that comes around to your mouth from the water container.  With a big grin, I acted out my mental picture by turning my head towards my left shoulder and making a slurping sound.  The ladies laughed.

That is a picture of how easy it is to take a sip of Jesus–the Living Water.  He is always with us; He is always right here; His love and care never run out, and we can take a slurp anytime we want to.

I took the analogy a little further by saying, “Just as we know we are thirsty and want to take a drink of water, we can notice that our peace is gone and turn right to Jesus for some Living Water.”  (Head turned to the left shoulder–slurping sound.)

Can you see how easy it is?  Can you see how necessary it is?  Can you see how wonderful He is?  I left the ladies with these three things to do when turning to get a sip of Jesus:  Tap* to be sure your relational circuits are on. Ask Jesus, “Where are You right now?” And then ask Jesus, “What do You want me to know about this______?”

As easy as getting water from a CamelBak.

*(With the fingertips,  tap back and forth-1-2, 3- 4, 5-6 on each side of the sternum below the collar bone.  Say this verse as you take a deep breath–“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You, O LORD.” [Psalm 56:3])

 

 

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Musings from the book, Joy Starts Here

For some months now I’ve been musing on a section from the book Joy Starts Here, by Dr. Wilder, Ed Khouri, Chris Coursey, and Shelia Sutton.  The more I’ve mused on these paragraphs, the more interesting these points have become and the more convinced I am that they are vitally important—but little known. So in order to do these points justice, I will quote some of them here and then share my joyful musings.

“The solution of Western culture (for living a victorious Christian life) the last 400  years is that we should make better choices by thinking better thoughts.” (After emotions were brought into the picture more recently) “The new load for our thinking and choices is that if we choose our thoughts carefully, we will control the emotions that run our brain and body system. Thoughts and choices become the solution to controlling emotions. . .”  “While this sounds good, and our choices do affect us, our identities are not formed by choices but by the bonds we experience. Who we share mutual mind states with and who we love will shape our choices more than the other way around.  Attachments are at the center of our identities. . . Try to change the character of how young adults eat by telling them to think more about nutrition and make better choices. But watch what happens when they begin to fall in love and attach to someone and we will see thoughts, feelings, and choices changing in a hurry. . . The brain is much more concerned about who we love than what we think. . . The emotional control center is heavily influenced by joy and shalom that grow from attachment and relationship.”

At this time two events have been the catalyst for my musings on “who we love will shape our choices more than right thinking.” For the last year I have been helping a teenager work through some issues that arose from being in the wrong crowd of friends, and right now I am preparing for a parenting workshop.  In helping the teenager I have mostly spent time getting her and going out to dinner, talking, and doing something fun.  It seems to me that Jesus led me in this rather strange style of counseling, and I truly believe it is this relational approach of being in joy (being glad to be with her regardless of her feelings or circumstances) that has helped her the most. Yes, we went through painful feelings. Yes, we did Immanuel prayer.  Yes, we looked at truth. Yes, we talked about life and maturity. Yes, she had to work through some difficulties with her parents.  But most of the year our “sessions” were spent eating together, talking, and “shopping.” Her choices improved because of joy and love—Jesus’, mine, and her parents’.

So back to the points above from JSH: The wrong crowd my teenage friend wanted to be with was a big part of her issues. After a while, her parents and I had to wait and watch as she came to the end of “loving” that crowd and found a better way. Grounding and consequences helped.  Knowing that Jesus and others loved her helped. But until her “love” changed, her choices continued to fluctuate. I am glad to report at this time, that she has found another “love” that fits so much better with who she really is. The love of the new crowd has greatly changed her heart attitude and her choices.

So from a parenting standpoint, I have been musing about the importance of joy and shalom in the home—the importance of truly being glad to be with others even when their behavior stinks or they are upset. Teenagers are supposed to be working on their group identity in order to become their own person and believe what they believe for themselves.  It’s imperative that our children know how much Jesus loves them and that He is Real.  It’s imperative that they know we love them as they work through their struggles and failures so that eventually they will make ‘good’ choices because they love ‘good’ people.

In light of this different way to look at thoughts and choices, let’s encourage one another to spend more time working on the love angle than on the thinking and choosing angles.  And making choices based on whom we love works for adults, too.  When we truly know and love Jesus, we will want to make better choices.

For comprehensive help for the teen years, check out my parenting book, Handbook to Joy-Filled Parenting It’s on amazon.

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Helping Young Adults Evaluate Possible Mates

I was going through some old files to prepare for a workshop that is coming up and I found an old paper that I had shared a few years back at a break-out group for young people. It seemed beneficial to share it with my blog-o-sphere.  It is just a brief look at how to help young adults think about what characteristics they might want to consider in a possible marriage partner. It is by no means exhaustive, but it is thought-provoking.

CHARACTERISTICS TO CONSIDER ABOUT FUTURE MATES
By Barbara Moon

1) What should I look for in a mate? How can I evaluate their character?

It’s a given that we want to know how this person’s relationship is with God. Do they want to follow and serve Him? Do they love Him and seek to know Him better? Would we be on the same page about ministry to others? Are they teachable and willing to grow emotionally and spiritually?

Some questions to ask yourself and observe: How does this person treat waitresses/waiters? How do they treat animals? Children? Old people? Their own parents? Their siblings?
How do they act when they are driving? What are they like when they don’t get their way?
How do they manage money? How do they manage anger? Do they have addictions? What are their values about sex?

2) Decide that it is wise not to date someone I would not want to marry.

3) Before marriage, talk about how can we help each other stay sexually pure? Do we know what really satisfies?

4) What is a real man or real woman like?
Purity—indulges or practices self discipline
Pride—healthy self image or arrogant and controlling
Possessions—Stuck on what is temporal or on what is eternal
People—a real friend, kind to others, not against authority

5) Make a list of the things that you won’t budge on and the things you wouldn’t be able to stand.

6) Guys, ask yourself this question about someone you are dating—“If I meet her future husband later, will he shake my hand or hit me?”

Think about these things before your emotions get carried away. Seek God’s power to help you when it is difficult. Marriage is one of the top decisions you can make in your lifetime and these thoughts can help guide you along the way towards a good relationship with less chances of failure.

“A good name is to be more desired than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1

“He who walks in integrity walks securely”. Proverbs 10: 9

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We Can Find Our Value By What Causes Us Pain

Here is an excerpt from Chapter Nine in my new book, Re-Framing Your Hurts: Why You Don’t Have to Fear Emotional Pain. This is a very different way to view pain that I learned  from Dr. Wilder in the 1990’s. It might encourage you to check out the whole book.
Sometimes as we believe lies about pain (the previous chapter), it helps when we bring the lies into the light and talk about them with people who know God’s character. It is then easier to see the lies for what they are. As we realize they are lies, we can see that the very opposite of these lies about pain is true—the amount of our suffering shows the amount of our value. Think about that—we hurt about things that matter the most. We are valuable because we hurt. We don’t grieve over invaluable things. We don’t worry about trash that is going to the dump. We don’t worry if a scrap piece of paper gets lost. We don’t pay attention to every flower that grows by the highway. We hurt over things that are valuable. We hurt over people, pets, some of our material possessions, and relationships. Think about Jesus on the Cross—the most valuable suffering of all.

Once we realize that our ability to hurt shows us how valuable we are, our eyes are opened; our perspective is different. The more our perspective on pain changes, the more we will begin to suffer well and stay relational when painful situations come up. This is what it means to re-frame our hurts. We’ll learn more in a later chapter about how to do this, but for now, it’s enough to begin to see that not all pain and hurt are bad. In fact, sometimes it shows us what we value the most—ourselves and those we love. Valuable things are worth going through hurtful feelings and situations.

As we begin to re-frame our hurts, our lives will change, slowly but surely, when we see ourselves as valuable. We will stop saying we are bad because we hurt. We will see our hurt from God’s perspective. We will be free to allow God to heal us from the chains that bind us. We will see how loved we are to share in the afflictions of Christ. (Colossians 1:24) We will know we are valuable.

(An exercise to discover what your heart is like is left out here.)

When we get caught up in the lies that we talked about earlier, we don’t get as many opportunities to see the characteristics of our hearts because we stuff, avoid, medicate, or fear feeling the pain. This is a trap in which the enemy loves for us to be caught. The enemy wants us to believe it is wrong or bad to hurt so that we will stop doing the good things that God has made a part of our heart. When we think something we are feeling is bad, we avoid it; when we get rejected, or reject ourselves, for living from our heart, that pain causes us to avoid those actions. Now the lies we believe about pain have kept us from living from the heart Jesus gave us.

We can live from our hearts when we know what to do with our hurts and pain. Knowing the characteristics of our heart helps us have courage to turn the negatives things that hurt us into positives. As we embrace what causes us pain (again we are not talking about abuse), we can learn something positive about our heart. For example—when I am honest with someone and they get upset with me, their upset can cause me to think I’m bad even if I was careful to share my honesty in a kind and timely manner. Even if some get upset, God does not want me to reject my heart because it was painful to live from it.

When we feel hurt and are not quite sure why, sometimes that hurt can show us a characteristic of our heart. For example, if we hurt more than is usual at being left out of an event, this could tell us we have a heart that is hospitable. If feeling betrayed is a big hurt, the characteristic of our heart would be that we are loyal.

We can not only learn to see the characteristics of our heart by what causes us pain, but we can also help others see how they are valuable when they hurt. It’s difficult to hear our hearts when we are hurting, but when we look at what makes us hurt—and what we have been avoiding because it hurts, we can find out that the opposite of the hurt is what is true of our hearts.

As we learn to find the characteristics of our heart by what causes us emotional pain we will be better equipped to help others. When we see another person in pain about something they think is bad about themselves, we can help them discover a characteristic of their heart. We can help them by looking first at what causes them pain. When we see someone hurting, it helps to say something like this: “It’s like you to hurt when _________happens. It’s OK that you feel (angry, sad, etc.) when that happens. You hurt because your heart is (kind, nurturing, loving, etc.)”

It’s common for someone to be hurting, but still avoiding the “real” pain that is going on. They are likely to say something like, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” Or, “There must be something wrong with me.” When we hear statements like that, we can help them see what the real pain is they are avoiding and how valuable they are to hurt like that.
People love to be told the characteristics of their heart, even when it doesn’t feel like it’s true at first.

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From the intro to–Re-Framing Your Hurts: Why you don’t have to fear emotional pain

My newest book is almost ready-click here. Here is a short excerpt from the introduction.

Often times the feelings of hopelessness, anger, frustration, defensiveness, and acting out are symptoms of a deeper problem. Somewhere, deep inside and possibly even hidden, is older, unresolved painful wounds that are affecting our current situations. We fear facing or feeling our hurts and pain. We feel alone and without comfort. We may be looking for a quick fix to make ourselves feel better, but like putting duct tape on a broken water pipe, a quick fix will not help the real problem.

I’ve noticed over and over again that most people, even Christians, want to try “quick fixes” because they don’t know what to do with the emotional pain of past unresolved wounds. I’ve also noticed what this lack of understanding does to relationships. When we stuff pain and pretend it is non-existent, the pain of unresolved wounds and hurts impacts and can even destroy relationships. At the least, avoiding pain is a temporary fix that does nothing to solve anyone’s problems.

What if it were possible to learn a better way to deal with suffering? What if we could learn what to do with the pain and improve relationships? What if teens could learn to “suffer well” and not turn to drugs, alcohol, or sex because they were hurting inside? What if people could get deep healing for the wounds they carry and some of their pain would go away? What if getting free from past hurts led people to restore broken relationships? The answer to these questions is what this book is all about. It is possible to re-frame your hurts. If you want to learn how to re-frame your hurts and experience freedom from the fear of emotional pain you have come to a good place. Read on. . . .

Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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An Easy Way to Journal and Interact with Jesus

Last month our Joy Starts Here/Atlanta conference gave us many practical tips.  The following was one of my favorites, taken from the book Joyful Journey: Listening to Immanuel. If you want to check out the book, click on the title. I have modified the exercise a little to make it more self-explanatory. I have also used this format orally, in group, guiding the group to listen to each step. It is a great joy-builder and it doesn’t take long to memorize the steps.  Give it a try and enjoy interacting with Jesus. It’s simple enough for kids & teens.

INTERACTION WITH JESUS
(From Joy Starts Here Conference 2015)
This is an exercise that will help you learn to hear God’s voice and to learn to journal if you so desire. As you progress through the steps what you wrote at first might change. Just write what you are hearing in your mind and trust it is Jesus if it fits His character. If you are alone, read aloud to Him at the end.

“The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.’ “ Exodus 3:7-8

Write down something to Jesus for which you are grateful or something that is bothering you:

ME TO JESUS:

 

JESUS BACK TO ME:

 

I (JESUS) CAN SEE YOU (where you are, what you are wearing)

 

I (JESUS) CAN HEAR YOU (maybe your thoughts, your passions, your heart)

 

I (JESUS) UNDERSTAND HOW BIG IT IS (how it hurts, what you feel)

 
I (JESUS) CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT (might just be to trust Him, see how big He is, something for you to do)

 
READ ALOUD TO SOMEONE. After reading aloud, ask the other person to give you a word or two about how they feel. Share with each other how writing and hearing the entry helped you both.

 

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