Raising Up Daniels in a Babylonian World

As my husband’s been speaking on Daniel the last couple of weekends, I’ve been reminded how relevant Daniel still is in 2018. Mark’s tag line the first week was: “When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”

Automatically my thoughts went to our sons who are just entering their teen years and becoming men. Men who hopefully will become Daniels in a increasingly Babylonian world.

There’s so little tolerance for men or Christians today that I feel like our boys begin with three strikes against them. As a parent it concerns me, but I remind myself it’s not any different than Daniel’s experience. He was a Jew, and a slave, held captive by the Babylonian Empire. An alien in an alien world. Those are some pretty big strikes against him!

 

 

But Daniel was doing some things right. He obviously had some charisma that went along with a winsome attitude, as Mark mentioned yesterday. Because of his favourable attitude and respect for those in authority, Daniel found favour with those in charge over him.

But what really made Daniel a stand out? He never let his eyes stray from his God. I’m sure there was lots to look at in Babylon. Idols, women, riches and so much more. It was a heathen heaven so to speak. Daniel however, kept focused on who he believed in and chose to follow the only one true God when it would have been so much easier to choose a different path.

It is my prayer that as our boys grow up, they will do the same. That they will keep their focus on the one true God. Because there will be lots to look at; idols, women, riches and so much more. But if they keep their eyes on God and truly live out what they believe and know is truth, the rest falls into place.

Does it mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns? That would be a resounding no. Being a Daniel in a Babylonian world means you’re going to have some major trouble. You can count on it. (Lions den anyone?) And when that trouble comes barrelling down, God is going to help them stand up against it. You can count on that too.

What does being a Daniel look like? Love when it’s easier to hate. Generosity when it’s easier to keep it all for self. Not having the last word. Admitting being wrong. Being bold. Standing up for what is true. Self-control. Being a Daniel can only be done with the help of God. The good news is he’s given us a helper, the Holy Spirit and He’s there for the asking.

He’s ready to help everyone. Including me. It’s far too easy as an adult to hide away and think it’s a lesson only for my kids. I need to raise myself up as a Daniel too.
If I want my boys to be Daniels, as parents we need to lead the way. Disciple them in Daniel 101.

We need to keep our focus on God and not look to the right and get caught up in circumstances or to the left and get sucked into the lies of Babylon. More stuff will not make it better. Only Jesus will.

I need to be willing to put myself out there, what about you? Ah, but there’s the rub. It means engaging with people. I like my glass castle that keeps me isolated. Most days, I avoid as much human contact as possible. Because life’s just easier that way isn’t it? If we don’t engage we can’t say or do the wrong thing.

That kind of living makes up impotent. We were created to have relationships. Daniel was a slave in a foreign land, but God didn’t let him off the hook. We’re not excused either. I can’t really model Daniel to my four walls. I can’t expect from my boys what I am not willing to do myself.

“When we stand firm, we will stand out; and God will help us stand up!”  Mark Willcock

(Friends I am preaching this message to myself first and foremost!)

Why Good Manners Matter

This morning as I went to enter a coffee establishment, a young teen was just a couple of steps ahead of me. He surprised me by holding the door open for me and letting me pass through first. He wasn’t much more than fifteen. I thanked him and walked in. He left a positive impression on me. He had good manners. Some may not agree but in my books, he did. That simple act of kindness made me feel seen and that I mattered. It made me want to pass it on, that kindness, to someone else.

Good manners aren’t in vogue these days but they really never go out of style. Most people don’t complain about someone being polite or grateful. Why? Because good manners speak to so much more than being polite. Good manners generally signify that the person using them, respects others, thinks about someone other than themselves and has some character. “Please” and “thank you” show respect and acknowledges that the other person has value.

We are teaching our boys to have good manners. We aren’t perfect in this. It’s easy to let it slide because it’s such a forgotten art these days. However we keep trying and hopefully we will eventually have to remind less and enjoy the fruits of our labour more.

The other day, Mark reminded one of the boy to let me enter the house first rather than rush in ahead of me. And while some people will scream this is wrong, it’s interesting to me that when girls become of marrying age, these are the men who are considered the “good ones.” The ones who have been taught to respect a woman instead of looking at her like a piece of meat or a possession. The ones who have been taught to think of others first, who will put their wives and their kids ahead of themselves. Good family men. The ones who will care for people in their spheres of influence and take responsibility for their actions. The men, who have good manners and character, are the ones sought after. Isn’t it ironic?

As a mother of boys, I realize that teaching good manners is the first step in teaching them how to lead effectively, both in their families and in their lives. A true leader exhibits care, respect, and kindness to others. The first basic lessons in good manners. A leader who is all “Me, Me and Mine” isn’t a good leader.

A true leader is a servant to others. We don’t like to hear that. But it’s true. Take a look into history and have a good long look at those who were excellent, effective leaders. Take a look into your own lives, who do you respect the most? The ones who have your best interests at heart. Your children’s. The people who put a lot of thought into a decision that may or may not be one we want to follow, but is made with care, consideration and input from you and other parties involved. When one of our kids complain, “It’s not fair!” we tell them that fairness is not about equality. It’s about what’s best for them and what they need. It might not be the same for your brother. Leadership is a lot like that.

A strong leader will make the hard decisions and then help you through them. A strong leader empowers others to discover their strengths and skills instead of being threatened by another’s abilities.

A strong leader will not always agree with you but they will give you their respect and kindness.

Strong leadership is built on character, integrity and love. I want my boys to grow up to be that kind of person. That kind of leader.

Friends, I believe that one of the first steps to moulding them into that kind of man (or woman, if you have daughters) starts with teaching them good manners.

Raising BRAVE Boys

My home is a battlefield.  If the boys are home, you will hear sounds of battle as Lego robots and mini-figs fight it out in their ships and cars.  My youngest son has mastered the sounds of rapid gunfire and other explosions.  Just the other day, a playmate was over and as they had a battle in the hallway outside their rooms, all I could hear were the sounds of imaginary war along with strategy being planned out.  This is typical, right?

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One of many battle scenes set up for shooting a lego movie.

I believe there are many factors that make up a healthy individual.  For boys, I believe good male role models affect their lives in ways we can’t even comprehend.  Dads, grandfathers, coaches, Sunday school teachers, teachers.  Whoever.  A couple of good men in their lives can make a huge difference.

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King of the Castle is a staple in the winter at our house.

I believe that kids but especially boys, need to learn that they have a purpose here in this world and it’s about living out God’s purpose for them and serving others.  It’s not about them.  This sounds harsh in today’s world.  It’s extremely hard to live this out.  It’s worth it though.  I believe there is more freedom in living out God’s will than in following a self-centred worldview.  Which leads us back to the imaginary fights of boyhood.

It’s important for boys to learn to be brave, to be warriors.  I hear the buts already.  Yes, girls are brave too.  Don’t get me wrong.  However, I’m raising boys, so today that’s who we are discussing.  For boys, courage, bravery, it’s part of them.  Like breathing.  They need to learn to develop it so they can live out their purpose and then encourage others to follow suit.

If you look at all the wonderful male heroes both in the literary and real world you will see men who are brave.  In being brave, men stand for truth, for justice and for good.  They learn to be protectors of faith, family, and good.  If you don’t let a boy learn to be brave, to stand up for what he believes in, you are doing him and society a huge injustice.  We need a few good men in this world.  This world where they are being emasculated.  Where children’s TV makes dads look like the biggest dolts in the world.  Where evil and cruelty seem to be able to walk through cities and countries, carrying away whomever and whatever they want.  No one stops them.  We need a few brave men.

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Light sabre fights and foam swords. Worth every penny. Hours spent in play.

Even though I said this wasn’t about girls, I want to add that to raise brave boys, it takes brave parents.  Because you will be going up against the status quo.  People don’t like that.  They will question your parenting.  They will question your ethics. They will question whether you are sane.  Especially for the mom.  As a teen we’re warned about peer pressure.  They forgot to add that the peer pressure from a group of moms on a mission, is ten times more pressure than a group of teens!  Because we don’t want the label of Bad Parent.  Moms, we have to stand firm.  There will be times we just don’t get it because we don’t have that male mind.  That’s okay.  Stand firm sister!

As a very little boy, our oldest was a climber.  I let him climb on the monkey bars at the park.  I did not hover.  I stood close but I let him climb on his own.  I knew he could do this.  He had incredible balance.  As I let him go, I’d hear other parents gasp.  Interpretation: How can she let him do that?  She’s a bad parent.  She’ll be sorry when he falls.  I was tempted to smother and hover because that meant I was a good parent right?  It’s a lie.

Much older here but still loves to climb!
Much older here but still loves to climb!

As my husband and I struggle through this thing called parenting, we try to give the boys freedom within boundaries.  We have not always done this well.  We have failed as many times as we’ve succeeded.  It’s been very hard at times to let them out of the nest to fly on their own.  Sometimes I’ve closed my eyes, literally, or looked in another direction.  I couldn’t stand to watch.

It’s taken on a different look, this bravery thing, as they’ve gotten older.  No longer about monkey bars, although with boys there is always the dare devil tricks that their minds can dream up, but it’s more about letting them go and make mistakes so they can learn from them.  Because bravery isn’t just about fighting.  It’s about the courage to forge friendships and trust. Being brave means learning how to navigate in this world but not be of it.  It’s about learning to do your best even when you want to quit.  It’s about learning what is important and what can be let go.  Running from temptation.  Being brave is about living.  Not just getting by.

I want more than the world offers for my boys.  I want them to care about what happens not just here at home but around the globe.  I want them to be able to love with abandon and fight with zealousness.  I want them to be honest, kind and just.  I want them to be fulfilled in following the call on their lives.  I want them to be brave.

At the ROM in Toronto, ON.  They loved putting on the armour.
At the ROM in Toronto, ON. They loved putting on the armour.

Is this just a parent’s fanciful dream?  Perhaps.  But my husband and I are willing to fight for them.  To wage war for them until they can take up the battle themselves.  It’s like everything else in parenting.  Kids learn by watching, especially boys.  Brave men are raised by brave parents.