The Gates Are Open

April 2015

Are We Harming our Children or Arming Them?

Posted on April 28, 2015

Kevin Swanson is a very conservative Christian teacher and preacher. In recent years, he has devoted himself and his ministry team (at Generations Radio) to engage and understand the Millennial Generation and their unique beliefs and needs.

In this sermon audio, he explains a disturbing trend among the children who grew up in Evangelical churches and are now exercising and practicing their faith as grown Millennials:

In this audio, he references two additional studies furnished by Time Magazine and the Public Religion Research Institute. I encourage you to read my summary below and then return to these links if you want to wrestle with the conclusions.

First, he mentions that 43% of the children of evangelicals now support Gay Marriage. This figure is more than double what it was in 2003. This should concern anyone who believes that Gay Marriage goes against the clear teaching of Scripture.

Second, all the studies come to the conclusion that the more a child is isolated from the primary culture the more likely they are in their 20s to support Gay Marriage, practice premarital sex and experiment with drugs and alcohol.  This isolation can happen through schooling options–such as Christian Schools and homeschooling–or through strict rules about what a child can read, watch or interact with outside of school.

Speaking as a parent that had strict guidelines about what my children could read, watch and play with, these studies are talking about me. I just wanted to make that clear. Also, all of my children attended Christian schools at one time or another and one of them was homeschooled for a period. I mention this lest anyone think I am against Christian schools or homeschooling.

In addition, I believe that all parents–Christian or otherwise–should be a filter for their children, warding off the worst of the dominant culture, especially in their early years. Let no one mistake that.

What is even more disturbing is that Christian parents who exercised less supervision over their children have the opposite results.  Swanson says that children from more lenient households do not show as much support for Gay marriage or drug and alcohol use..  Remember, these studies are only measuring the children of evangelicals. They do not canvas or study children of mainline church members, secular children or children of other faiths.

About seven years ago, another study was done to determine how effective the “True Love Waits” campaign was. This was a campaign to encourage students to devote themselves to sexual purity before marriage. The study concluded that teens who participated in “True Love Waits” had sex before marriage at a higher rate than church teens who didn’t take the pledge. (To be fair, the founders of this movement dispute the findings and challenge a larger study to be done. At the very least they admit though not enough students really did “wait” the movement was a success in that some percentage of teens abstained because of their pledge. I don’t think they are correct).

I have explained some of this in my upcoming book “The Spiritwalk”, but allow me to summarize what I believe is happening. Let’s start with the simplest explanation. All children rebel; this has been true since the beginning with Adam and Eve. Rebellion is simply a declaration of “no one tells me what to do…I make my own decisions.” Every child believes this at some point, regardless of how well we parent. In his book Parents in Pain, Dr. John White observed that God was the perfect parent and all his children have gone astray.

Rebellion gets more pronounced with more rules. Paul makes this point clearly in Romans 7:7-11.

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

The more rules a society has, the more rebellious its people. Those who live in Singapore, one of the most rule-oriented societies in the history of the world, say that its people are constantly looking for ways to act out in rebellion; in sexual, emotional, financial and substance abuse activities.

So what is the answer to this: have no rules? That would simply foment chaos. For those of us who have raised our children, we often remember the biggest mistakes we made as teens. When we see our own teens marching down the road toward those same mistakes, we want to jump in and squash those problems before they start. This can be a mistake if we try and prevent some things from happening too soon. The more we mention how bad some mistakes are, the more curious their rebellion gets.

Or, when they do make mistakes, we often (out of love) jump in to rescue them too early. This gives our children the impression that they are not responsible for figuring these things out on their own. When they truly are “on their own” they have not had to exercise their own judgment. We may be setting them up for failing by rescuing them too early.

The other mistake is made when we rush in to create even more rules to control them.  Doing this virtually guarantees they will kick against it. Some will do this openly, but many will wait until after they leave home to do it.

The key to balancing the approach to potential mistakes is always boundaries and consequences. Let them know how you would like them to act while they live in your house. At the same time, give them options in life. As they get older, give them choices; even choices that you might disapprove of. The more choices a child has in their life, the better they will get in handling their own ability to choose. A parent should never take all choices away from their children. This is a recipe for disaster. you cannot make a child believe what  you believe, no matter how much you isolate them.

I think of the Father of the Prodigal Son. He didn’t force his child to stay home. He knew the child would destroy the peace of his life by going away with the inheritance, but he did not stop him.

The longer you hold onto all the choices in a child’s life, the more intensely they will rebel when they are no longer under your authority.

But, if  you live your life with integrity, if you bring in life options consistent with  your beliefs and explain why you believe what you do, and then give your child the options to agree or disagree, then though they will certainly rebel at some point, they will do so with much less intensity than if you tried to control their choices.

In the next article, I want to show what a good example and a bad example would look like in this discussion.

Saving Money on Your Wedding

Posted on April 27, 2015

Last time, we wrote about why an expensive wedding can be harmful to your marriage and is really unnecessary. I’m going to assume if you are reading this article it is because you at least see some of the advantages to simplifying your wedding. Though you may have “drunk the kool-aid” of this culture which says you are substandard if you don’t go all out for your nuptials, resist the Dark Side and see that this can be an amazing opportunity to start further ahead than most of your friends.

Here are ideas that  have worked for couples I have married.

1. Choose a church as your venue. By far, and by a long shot, churches are less expensive than other venues. Of course, someone’s back yard is cheaper still, but a church has some advantages. First, you often have people in the church who can help you with wedding planning for next to nothing. Second, they usually have all the equipment you might want to jazz up the look. Third, there may be someone who is a pastor at that church who could officiate. There, you have solved three other problems. If you do it in a back yard, all those things have to be rented or brought in. Also, many churches have halls that could be used for the reception, killing another expensive bird.

2. Buy simple plain wedding bands. As you no doubt have read many times lately on Facebook and other sites, diamonds used to be worthless until DeBeers started a massive advertising campaign in the 1930s. Before then, people didn’t have diamonds in their rings. The expensive stones were rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Now, you could get a ring with those stones for a quarter of the price of a diamond ring. I prefer white or yellow gold with no stone. A nice ring with no diamond costs about $200.

3. Have  your friends and family plan the reception and bring the food. Every time I have seen couples do this, it works out so well. If you have no family or friends who are coming, then why are you bothering to have a large meal? One of my kids went to a club that he helped to manage and we had food brought in. It did not cost very much and we all enjoyed it.

4. Skip the wedding dresses, tuxedos. Buy wedding clothes you will wear again…like a nice suit and a beautiful dress. Don’t bother with matching bridesmaid dresses. Let them pick out the ones they want and give them a color pallette to work from. That way, they also will be able to wear their dresses afterward.

5. Ask for cash instead of gifts if you have been single for a longer time. When you get married after age 30,  you don’t need most of the stuff they give you, but the money will be well appreciated.

6. If you have a friend who is halfway decent at photography, ask them to do it. It will be incredibly cheaper. But, if you do that, also give out disposable digital cameras to all the guests and ask them to fill them up with pictures. You may find some of these are the most memorable moments.

7. Engage the services of a pastor instead of a wedding coordinator. They have usually done enough weddings to know all the variations that can be done and they are not very expensive.

8. Have big tables at the reception. With more people at the same table, they can sit beside someone they want to be with. Assign their tables, not their seats for that reason. This way, with bigger tables, you need less centerpieces and save money that way.

9. Have it earlier in the day rather than at night. The earlier the reception, the cheaper the cost of food and entertainment. Plus if you have a midday reception, you will be more rested for your honeymoon.

10. Stay away from roses. Go to wholesale florists and pick out daisies, peonies and mums. They are so much cheaper than roses.



Advocating a Cheaper Wedding

Posted on April 22, 2015

weddingThis may step all over the ideals of the wedding shows and the whispers of your friends, but I believe there is something wrong–bordering on lunacy–with having an expensive wedding. I speak as one who has officiated at 378 weddings (yes, I have kept track) and because I notice patterns, I have seen the real nature of an expensive wedding.

To give perspective, I can declare that the most expensive wedding I was ever part of was also in the top three greatest wedding disasters I know. This wedding took place in 1984 and cost $70,000. This woman, who had been planning the wedding since she was a little girl, had live swans, trumpeters, silk aisle runners, a rented church which was an historical landmark, three limos, 18 bridesmaids, 12 flower girls, 4 candle lighters, a $10,000 wedding dress (in today’s money it would be $30,000) designed exclusively for her. I could go on, but you get the picture.

The ceremony had over 50 parts to it and the rehearsal took us 4.5 hours. None of us had any idea that the smallest detail would derail the entire thing. But it did.

At one point, one of the groomsmen was supposed to signal the first limo to bring the bridesmaids up to the door. He forgot to do this, but all of us assumed he had done it. So the limo sat there, thus delaying the start of the ceremony–for 3/4s of an hour. Because the finely honed details of the wedding ceremony could not proceed until the bridesmaids arrived, we were stuck–in an old church with no air conditioning. It was over 100 degrees inside. At one point, the groom passed out, the bride broke down in tears–twice–and all was chaos at the end when four of the flower girls got into a fight.

From that day, I began formulating some ideas and reasons why elaborate “royal” weddings are both unhealthy and unnecessary. During the 1990s, I actually convinced a number of couples to jettison their plans and go simple. But the advent of wedding shows on television has buried my good advice.

So I turn once again to my blog in order to put a monkey wrench into the Wedding Industry. And it is a lucrative business. According to the International Business Times, Americans spend 55 BILLION DOLLARS every year on weddings. This is a ceremony to commemorate wedding vows. And it is the third largest industry in America after computers and cars.

Here are five reasons why couples are better off not spending much on a wedding:

1. Stress Level:  Almost every couple who spends inordinate amounts of money and time getting ready for a wedding ceremony is so stressed out that the first few months of their marriage they are emotionally worn out. At the same time, this is actually one of the hardest seasons of a newly married couple’s life, even if they did have the energy to care. I believe that the greatest contributor to early divorces (under three years of marriage) is the elaborate wedding ceremony.

2. Taking Focus Away from the Vows: The more elements you have to plan and execute in a wedding, the less important the vows become. And to be fair, there are only two critical elements in a wedding ceremony: The presence of friends and loved ones, and the vows. Couples who spend their time planning their vows instead of calling photographers and venues, say they can remember every idea they expressed to each other. I just talked to a couple I married last Fall and they cannot remember one element about their vows. They spent their emotional load on the planning and not enough on the real meaning of the wedding.

3. Venues: The more elaborate and larger the wedding the less options you have. Therefore, instead of planning a wedding when most of the people can come, it is often at times when many important people are not available or have to juggle many things to make the time. And the more you spend on the ceremony, the less likely you are to adjust it to realities like illness, job changes and last minute decisions. Which leads to #4…

4. Second Thoughts: The more  you spend on a wedding, the more committed  you are to going through with it. Maybe to some of you this sounds like a great reason to spend more. It is not. There are many couples who have had second thoughts leading up to the wedding who would have pulled out except for the $30,000 they have spent. And don’t believe this silly idea that everyone has second thoughts. Most couples don’t. But the ones who do reconsider getting married, really ought to put it off until they’re sure. I believe the marriage vows are to be taken seriously, and if you aren’t entirely sure this relationship will last, don’t go through with it. A simple, inexpensive wedding affords that opportunity.

5. Big Weddings Lack Real Intimacy. The more you spend on a wedding, the less that individual guests participate in it. The more elaborate the reception, the less time the bride and groom really spend relaxing with friends. By contrast,  in most older cultures, a wedding was hosted and planned by the family and friends. The bride and groom didn’t have to do much (think of the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” minus the part where the Russian soldiers came in). When you have a wedding that focuses on simple things, the guests are close friends and family. Everyone pitches in. I remember one wedding where we decorated the hall between the wedding and the reception. And everyone pitched in. I used to go to wedding receptions all the time which were potlucks. Better that a couple spend very little for the wedding and more on the honeymoon and first year of marriage. Better that parents give them a check for $10,000 to help them through the first year than spend that much on a venue. Better you buy a gorgeous dress that  you can wear many times than a fortune on a dress you will wear once. Why is it that brides who do it for the second or third time never bother buying a wedding dress? Because they saw that silly dress hanging there every day after the first wedding like a mocker saying “you will never wear me again”. And let’s not even get started with engagement rings. A simple gold band or an understated diamond that costs $200 is fine. It will last just as long. It is a symbol after all, not proof of anything.

Next article, I will give several ideas about how to make a great wedding much more affordable.

Why I Have NOT Posted Lately

Posted on April 22, 2015

new-writerEvery blogger has those moments when they do not post anything. We are told in the blogging community that this is death to your reader base, for when you stop, there are a 100 other blogs that do post things every day.

But since I don’t really care how many people read this blog–and I haven’t cared since I started it in 2004–that point of view doesn’t interest or motivate me.

But here is why I stopped writing. I was becoming hyper-critical about everything. I saw the entire world as a problem that needed to be corrected. As I told a friend, there is a big difference between having a critical mind and a critical spirit. You have a critical mind when you take few things at face value and instead look at all things from fresh perspective. You have a critical spirit when you go looking to criticize everything and only give grudging acknowledgement to those things which pass your “test.”

I was failing at life by crossing the invisible boundary between the Critical mind and the Critical spirit. In taking a short break I have seen the error of my ways–again. I did this a dozen years ago and had to stop writing for an entire year.

It also helped this time that two close friends helped guide me back on the better path.

But, in this time of not writing, I have done much more reading on a great variety of subjects. Because of this, I am prompted to write many things. Let’s see what kind of writing speed I can employ to get all my ideas out there.

Thanks for being patient with me.

Here, Not Facebook

Posted on April 1, 2015

Dear Readers of this Blog:

A number of my readers wait until my blog entries are posted on Facebook to see what I’m writing. This will be the last one. From now on, if you want to know when something comes on my blog, you’ll have to subscribe to find out. Otherwise, you won’t know.

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