Excellence and Honor

Help your children apply principles of excellence in their everyday life by highlighting examples from their technological life.

Expansive Vista from the Mogollon Rim in Northern AZ represents freedom

Image Updated 7/15/2020

As I sat down to continue developing this site, a precursory prayer led me to quietly (and self-consciously) mutter-sing Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Since God seemed to bring it up, I figured He had something to teach me about it.

“As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free.” Those words resonated with me after the malicious destruction of anguished American cities this past week because of the death of George Floyd.

Mr. Floyd’s truly disturbing death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer was the catalyst for our country’s current paroxysm. It is no doubt affecting your family in some way–some more intensely than others.

Freedom in God

At this time, can we remember that as believers we sit at the right hand of God this very moment? To help share the freedom that is found in Him? God supplies the power that we can use to help bring peace. We can help our children understand what their faith in Christ means at this time. Are we accepting the responsibility that faith entails? Are we teaching our family how faith in God can assuage the fear, heartbreak, violence and retribution they may be seeing online right now?

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Until today I hadn’t been aware that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” had seemingly become an anthem for every cause. But I guess I was an example of the case.  I was also reminded it was originally an anti-slavery anthem.  So although these lyrics are referring to personal freedom from slavery, I can’t help but feel like so many people are exhibiting behaviors that show they (rightly or wrongly) don’t feel free. They don’t feel a personal power derived from God but are being deceived by a spirit of chaotic, desperate, false power. The greatest freedom we can seek is the freedom we experience through Christ. And with that freedom we can do what the Lord requires of us: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV).

Free to Live Well and Love

We are blessed to live in America as free men and women and in a Christian tradition. Our institutions are imperfect, however, and more work is to be done. Do your children hear from you about the responsibility that comes with our civil and religious freedom and tradition? Responsibility to love and serve others–which includes performing our jobs above reproach. To treat others as we would want to be treated. Stand boldly for Godly causes. Be properly subject to government authorities.  Avoid seeking retribution

History is in the making. Are we using it to help our children see the broader context of applying God’s truths to our world?

For more ideas, return to the main blog page.

Using Online Experiences to Teach Biblical Lessons

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Remind Teens to Use the Bible as Their Compass When Online.

A teen who spends a significant amount of time online has direct knowledge of the “sins” of the web. Whether playing a game or using a forum to better learn Adobe Photoshop, he witnesses common transgressions such as pride, deceitfulness, and people who stir up conflict in the community. Is he prepared to discern those sins? Respond to them?

Here’s an exercise that may be useful to help your teen recognize and respond to the list of sins described by Proverbs 6:16-19.

Ask him to think about the biggest problem, sin, or negative issue he experiences online. [You may want to have him read Proverbs first, maybe even in various versions, to help something come to mind.] You don’t need to necessarily extract the example from him; let him stew on it if he prefers (unless he wants to share, which is great).

With his example of online negativity in mind, ask him to skim his Bible’s Concordance or Glossary to find keywords relating to that issue or sin. For example, perhaps he remembers noticing a troll online who causes trouble. He might come across the word “Overcome” (as I just did). He particularly notices the reference to Romans 12:21. He turns to it (as part of the exercise). Upon reading it he is reminded: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In this example, he may more clearly see this online negativity as a form of “evilness” (badness of character in this case). And, as importantly, he is being reminded of a biblical response, which is being “good.” The Holy Spirit may help him discern that the behavior is sinful, that he can overcome it, and that his approach must involve his own goodness (versus responding to evil with evil).

Children’s Bibles [such as the Hands on Bible, Tyndale Group (NLT)] are good for this process because they often have a simplified dictionary/concordance, use common keywords, and exclude name/place references which are less helpful for this exercise.

An online corollary to a proud look referenced in Proverbs 6 could be someone who brags about YouTube ‘subs’ (the number of subscribers someone has on their YouTube channel).

A lying tongue shows up in online gossip.

One teen compares hands that kill the innocent to a large online following that sets out to destroy a smaller one out of spite.

Some online gamers have a heart that devises wicked schemes or feet quick to do evil. This is like players who quickly attack other players who interfere with them, even innocently.

A witness who tells lies has a modern online version too: telling lies to start drama between fanbases.

Some online communities begin to feel like extended family. Causing discord in family can be equated with hackers who post as the owner of a channel.

Many teens quietly struggle with online strife and insecurity because of the complexity and variety of the online “sins” they experience. Strengthen your teen for the onslaught by helping him connect his online experience to God’s message. Forearm him with a contemporary response based on eternal wisdom. Not only will it strengthen him, it will remind him who he is in Christ and support his developing spiritual identity.

For more ideas, go to the main blog page.

Photo by cc - Using Online Experiences to Teach Biblical Lessons Sammis Reachers via Compfight

Cast Out Fear

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Fear Feels Cold…Like A Minnesota Winter

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7) 

Although we may think of this verse when we contemplate witnessing about the power of Christ in our lives, we might do well to remember it when we think of our responsibilities for managing our child’s technology habits.  If, as parents, we fear technology’s impact on our homes, we are more likely to make a mistake in managing it. Yet we would be wise to be strong and do the work. (1 Chron 28:10b).

We can begin casting out fear by opening our eyes and ears to the unknown.  If you don’t know what Steam is, who Gaben is, or why your son wants to use game content to practice coding or animating, a starting place is to ask the question and wait with your ears while he tells you. You may discover that he doesn’t love videogames as much as he loves animating the 3D characters he finds there using SFM (Steam’s Source Filmmaker software). Animators practice software skills to collaborate on multi-media projects, whether it be in television, in video game studios or in the broader software industry. What is to fear about his self-initiative and independent learning on software that is in high demand?

If you worry about what he may see on YouTube while he is researching a video topic of which you approve, remind him to ask: What Would Jesus Do?  Or, introduce the acronym PUMA—“personally unsettling material”—a term the Harding family uses and describes in their homeschooling book “The Brainy Bunch” (Gallery Books).  Help your child practice from a young age turning away from personally unsettling material.  This skill is transferable beyond the internet—to television, magazine ads, storefronts, and billboards throughout Missouri.

Because our child’s eyes and ears are going to be opened (ready or not, here it comes!) as he gains more access to the internet, we want our own eyes open even wider to prepare him for what will require his discernment.

Our child’s foray into technology requires a Proverbs 1:8-10 approach: provide instruction and teaching and warn against enticement.

 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.

If your child seems to be moving faster—technologically speaking—than you, slow him down, listen to where he is at, consider how you might direct his path, and offer ideas for practicing discernment.  Most simply of all, just be there to “be strong and do the work.”

There are lots of examples of that “work” throughout the blog.


He Said, He Said

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Misinterpreted Messages Can Create an Angry Storm in the Headset

The modern version of the playground fight is happening all across America in TV rooms and bedrooms harboring players of action/adventure games.

Jimmy:  (bluntly) “Oh, you jerk! Why’d you kill me! Now I’m going to go into the building and get more ammo!” (Now absorbed again into the game and away from any conscious understanding of the social consequences coming his way).

Johnny: (offended) Jerk? You think I’m a jerk? I thought we were friends!

Jimmy:  (still distracted) “What do you mean ‘jerk’? I never called you a jerk!

Johnny:  (with righteous indignation) You liar! Yes, you did!

He said, he said.  Distracted communication during video game play leads to misunderstanding and name calling, anger and confusion, and loss of civility and friendliness. “Headset friendships” are prone to such miscommunication.

On the playground an adult may notice the brewing problem and step in to mediate.  If you have designed the game play area in your home so that you may remain actively parenting during that time, you also have a chance to mediate. Unpleasant exchanges often rear suddenly. Corral them firmly in your hands. Turn them into real teaching moments.  Help your child turn an obtuse communication style into one that is more aware.  Or a sense of righteous indignation into a more forgiving stance. Share with them the words to say to diffuse a situation in a grace-filled manner.

You may have originally planned on a “better” use of your time just then. But, really, there isn’t a better use of your time–unless it is saving the family kitty from being drowned in the toilet by your 2-year old.  When communication conflicts start like Jimmy and Johnny’s did, you have the perfect opportunity to train in civility and Christ-like behavior.  Granted, the blustery situation  may abate of its own accord in short order, maybe even without serious injury between friends on that occasion, but the child will miss your valuable training and a compass for improved communication.

Consider these steps you can take; you may have found yourself taking them already.

(1) Sit near the action and listen. Notice areas where your child needs correction. Since All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), draw upon Scripture for the best admonition for the moment.

(2) Coach your child as the conflict ensues. He can mute his headphone while you instruct him to change his tone of voice, word choice or argument angle.  Proverbs 15:1-2 tells us

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

I once spent thirty minutes working through a complicated he said, he said, and it ended well because I took the time to listen, talk, and train.  I offered my son questions that impelled him to consider the answers–answers that would lead him forward to a conciliatory or cooperative outcome.  Through this process he began integrating the skill of asking himself questions–Is it possible I misunderstood? Is it possible I didn’t hear him correctly? Is it possible I am reading into what was said? Is it possible I’m overreacting? Is it possible my friend is hurting about something else and I need to be patient? The list is nearly endless.

(3) Be willing to listen to your child’s argument justification and the solution he brings to the moment.  Push him gently toward biblical behavioral choices.  Your concordance will lead you to verses useful in these moments, such as those under ANGER, ANXIOUS, and AVOID.  And those are just the A’s.

(4) If your child won’t attempt to understand or address the problem of his own accord, calmly tell him he must stop playing if he can’t be friendly, reasonable, and forgiving.

(5) If the mix-up occurred through a flurry of Sent messages instead of through headphones, read his Sent messages with him.  You can learn a lot about his style of problem resolution and counsel him accordingly. You may also want to read with him his Received messages and help him interpret them. He may be misunderstanding them or reading too much into them.  Help him recognize the point at which a misunderstanding can’t possibly be relived and/or undone and that forgiveness is needed. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14).  Help him grasp the humility required to forgive and move on.  

When you stand beside your child, helping him resolve his online interpersonal conflicts, you teach him biblical principles of humility, forgiveness and love, and in the process you are also training the child up so that he can learn a Godly style of communicating.

Now that that’s done, it might be a good time to check on the cat.

Or check out more blog posts.

Photo by Niccolò Ubalducci via Compfight