I couldn’t have said it better myself…

Source: etsy.com via Vicki on Pinterest

 

I found this quote while surfing around on Pinterest and thought it was worthy of sharing. I pinned it to my Pinterest board with the caption, “Should be posted in every home with kids.” (Sorry to the non-Pintys who are struggling w/ the Pinterest lingo!) In a culture where so many parents appear to be more concerned with being their child’s friend than their parent, I found it refreshing. :)

The dangers of emotional porn

If you have ever attended one of my You & Your Girl events, you’ve probably heard me warn girls from the platform about the dangers of buying into the lie that Prince Charming = Happily Ever After. I build my case by showing a montage of clips from some of the most popular chick flicks of all times — ranging from Cinderella to High School Musical to Sweet Home Alabama. The titles may vary, but they all contain the same key ingredients: A perfect Prince; a perfectly adorable princess (whose life is drab and incomplete); and a resulting a chase, or as I like to call it, a “rescue mission.” This is the part where the perfect Prince comes to the rescue of his maiden in distress and promises to make her life complete. (Translation: He will spend the remainder of his days devoted to worshiping and adoring her every waking moment of his day. And of course, dreaming about her at night.). He seals the deal with a kiss and voila, happily ever after officially begins.

By the time the credits roll, we’ve bought the lie (again) and exit the theater wishing our husbands/boyfriends/princes-we’ve-yet-to-meet would take a few cues from Prince Charming, Shrek, Troy Bolton, Edward Cullen, or my all-time favorite, Mr. Darcy, and get this perfect prince thing figured out. Imagine our disappointment when we return home from the theater to a messy kitchen and a husband who is laid out on the sofa more mesmerized with the football game on the TV than our cute selves. Or a boyfriend who would rather play video games with his buds than take us out for fro-yo and tell us how wonderful we are…again…for the third time this week. Or a high school filled with boys who don’t even know who Mr. Darcy is (shame on them!) and appear clueless that their fellow female classmates are patiently waiting for them to learn their lines and rescue them from the doldrums of life.

My oldest son, Ryan, has never been shy about expressing his opinions about the chick flicks and has for years, referred to them as “emotional porn.” The quest for Mr. Right has been replaced with the quest for Mr. Perfect and alas, no guy on this earth can measure up. Of course, you and I know that there is only one perfect Prince who can deliver the brand of unfailing love our hearts crave. But do our daughters know that? And in all honesty, are we faithful in remembering this truth? I remember when I watched Pride and Prejudice for the first time and saw the scene from the clip above. I clicked rewind at least a half dozen times to hear Mr. Darcy say over and over again what most every woman on this earth wishes to hear just once: “You have bewitched me body and soul. And I love–I love–I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” Gulp. Keith, are you reading this? Ah, but I digress…

I recently stumbled upon an article on The Gospel Coalition blog entitled, “Beware Romantic Pornography” that addresses the lies being peddled in many of the chick flicks and romance novels. I couldn’t wait to forward it on to my son and I want to pass it along to you, as well. Below is an excerpt from this wonderful and thought-provoking article. If you have a daughter, I encourage you to read the article in full and discuss it with your daughters (if they are old enough to be subjected to the Prince Charming = Happily Ever After lie). And yeah, even if you don’t have a daughter, you might also benefit from reading it!

Beware Romantic Pornography

By: Betsy Hart

When you’ve seen one romantic comedy you’ve of course seen them all. There is some level of confusion involving a wonderful woman and an idiotic man. He doesn’t know how romantic he really is until the wonderful woman shows him the way and reveals his fabulous, sensitive, romantic side that was aching to get out all along we find. He so wants to talk about his feelings, just like her best girlfriends! Who knew? Romantic man finally realizes he cannot live without said woman, and pursues her in an ever-so-sensitive if bumbling way. There seems to typically be a fountain involved at some point.

If it’s all not quite “magic,” it sure is fantasy.

That’s where the pornography comes in. Just as sexual pornography twists an understanding for men about real women’s bodies and sexual appetites, so romantic pornography twists the perception for women about real men and how they “ought” to behave toward women, which tends to amount to, well, behaving like a woman. I have a dear friend who once didn’t like a fellow I was dating. Among other shortcomings, he didn’t arrange spa treatments for me, she explained. Seriously. No more chick flicks for that girl. (To read the article in full, click here.)

What are your thoughts on the topic? Is this a legitimate concern or harmless? Better yet, how do you plan to address this topic with your daughter(s)? I don’t personally see any harm in watching romantic chick flicks (assuming they are age-appropriate for our girls), as long as we are aware of the lies being peddled on the screen and mindful of the truth that there is only one perfect Prince in this world. My Prince came to my rescue in the summer of 1985 and He is the only one who can complete me. (Tom Cruise, aka: Jerry Maguire, take note!) Not even the dear Mr. Darcy can hold a candle to my Prince.

The RX for preventing a downfall: STOP/THINK/PRAY (Part 1)

Mel Gibson. Tiger Woods. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And the latest casualty to be inducted into the bad boy hall of shame, New York State Representative, Anthony Weiner. True to many other public downfalls, this scandal du jour displayed the standard timeline of events: An initial jaw-dropping accusation followed by an adamant denial by the accused. Indisputable evidence was eventually presented to the public, which prompted the accused to fess up and offer a PR-friendly apology (bonus points for real tears and/or a shell-shocked yet supportive wife standing by the side of said accused). And of course, at the caboose of the timeline was the ever-predictable voluntary (ahem, cough, cough) decision to enter a treatment facility in an effort to  save face and continue drawing a paycheck get professional help. Yep, not a good week to be in Weiner’s shoes. Or even worse, his wife’s shoes who reportedly, is expecting their first child.

With the latest breaking news of yet another downfall, I couldn’t help but think of Conversation #2 in my new book, 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son: “What you don’t learn to conquer, may become your master.” All of the men mentioned above will now be defined by their very public downfalls. However, it’s important to note that their downfalls didn’t begin at the moment they were caught and the scandals became public. A downfall, if traced back to its original origin, is many years in the making. Somewhere along the way, each of these men faced a temptation to cross a moral line and each one ultimately, chose to cross that line. Not one time or two times, but over and over again. What began as a hesitation when standing at the crossroads of right and wrong, eventually became second nature and a pattern of behavior developed. Their sin bred a habit and as we all know, habits can be hard to break. I’m sure each one of the men above knew that what they were doing was wrong on some basic level, but like a drug addict in search of the next buzz, they chose to risk it all. In the end, their decision would come with a high price. Their actions would cause untold amounts of damage to themselves, their family members, and their high-profile reputations. The downfall would change the course of their lives forever. I bet if each one of these men could go back to the original point of where their downfall began (or that moment when they first stood at the crossroads of temptation), they’d slam on the brakes and rethink their decision to “go for it.” What they didn’t learn to conquer at the crossroads of temptation, in the end, became their master.

The truth is, we are all one step shy of a humiliating downfall. The sooner we realize that truth, the better equipped we will be when temptations come our way. And they surely will. Some of us are engaged in a downfall at this very moment, but so far, we’ve managed to keep it tucked away in the shadows and out of the light. For now, at least. As we all know, there are no secrets with God and all things will eventually be brought into the light. While the general public seems satisfied with a prescribed dose of rehab to “cure” the problem, those of us who claim to be Christ-followers know that behavior modification tactics won’t “cure” the real problem. Even so, Christians are famous for focusing on the “outside of the cup” while neglecting the condition of their hearts and souls in the process. And as parents, we often attempt to “pretty our kids up” in an effort to maintain our own good images. In other words, we emphasize goodness over godliness. Which is exactly why I came clean in this post about my son and daughter-in-law and their unexpected pregnancy during their engagement, rather than attempt to sweep it under the rug and pretend it hadn’t happened. I want you to know my kids are not perfect. Nor am I. Most importantly, I want you to know we serve a loving God who is ready and willing at any point along the way to step in and redeem our broken lives.

We can point fingers at the line-up of public figures who suffer moral downfalls with an attitude that says, “Wow, what an idiot!” Or we can reflect on the fact that we can easily become that idiot if we don’t recognize our own propensity to be mastered by sin. The best RX for a downfall is to pursue godliness over goodness. And godliness is only possible with the help of a perfect God. In Conversation #2 of 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son, I outline a three step exercise (Stop, Think, Pray) as a possible tool to help our boys learn the godly discipline of self-control. In this post and two more to follow in the weeks to come, I will include an excerpt from the book that details each of the three steps. In fact, this formula a good tool for us all: Sons, daughters, parents, public figures, pro-athletes, politicians, church leaders, and the list goes on. Here is the first excerpt:

Teaching self control: Stop/Think/Pray

Step 1: STOP

Whether your son is four years or 14 years, it’s hard for them to “stop” and consider an action and the possible consequences related to the action. Some boys, by nature, are more impulsive than others and the exercise of “stopping” to consider an action will prove to be a difficult exercise for them. In fact, a recent study that examined risk-taking behaviors in boys and men ranging in age from 9-35 found that teenagers took the most risks compared with the other groups. The most risky behavior was seen in 14-year olds. The lead author of the study went on to say that the study is a first step in determining why teenagers engage in extremely risky behaviors such as drug use and unsafe sex.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the study reveals what auto insurance companies have known for quite some time: Boys don’t always stop to think things through, and therefore, are at higher risk than others (thus, the higher insurance premiums on teenage male drivers!). Just because they are naturally more impulsive at this age doesn’t mean we sit back and excuse it. It’s up to us to help them make wise choices by giving them the tools to build their self-control muscles. The first step will be to help them learn to simply “stop,” pause, or take a breath before jumping into something that can in turn, produce a whirlwind of devastating consequences.

If our sons are to exercise their self-control muscles, they must learn to “stop” and regroup, by bringing the scenario before God. This is a first step to training our sons to “self-monitor” —  by cultivating the daily discipline of laying their hearts bare before God. In Psalm 139:23-24, David sets the example:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
And lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

David speaks firsthand to the pain that can result from making impulsive decisions. If only he had asked God to “point out anything in me that offends you” in the moments that followed after he witnessed Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop outside his window. Whether our boys are faced with the temptation to rudely rush to the front of the line at the church potluck and fill up their plates with food, play a video game for four straight hours, succumb to peer pressure at a party and play a game of beer pong, view porn on the computer, or have sex with their girlfriend, we need to help them learn to “stop” and take pause by running it before God. Sure, they won’t always do this (nor will we), but the key is to build the self-control muscles by moving toward the goal of cultivating a habit. Every time we exercise self-control, we prove to ourselves that it can be done. Most importantly, as we look to God for guidance in making decisions, we are one step further along the “path of everlasting life.” Self-control produces freedom by teaching true mastery over temptations that come. We need to help them understand that without self-control, they will be prime candidates to becoming a slave to temptations that cross their path. Learning to “stop” and pause before reacting will be essential to developing self-control.

Next week, I will follow up with Part Two to this post and offer an excerpt detailing the second step in the formula for teaching self-control: THINK. The following week, I will end with an excerpt detailing the third step in the formula: PRAY. As a reminder, I’ll be hosting a 5 Conversations in 5 Weeks online book club beginning on July 12th. If you want to take part, grab a copy of the book and start reading. Every Tuesday beginning on July 12th, I will post a brief video-cast highlighting the conversation for the week and offer a forum for your feedback and questions. In addition, my sons will be answering some of the questions you have submitted. You don’t have to read each “conversation” on the prescribed week, so the relaxed pace should fit into your busy summer. Spread the word to your friends with sons and let’s start a movement to raise a generation of godly men!

Running for the prize…one false start at a time

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I headed to San Antonio (about an hour and half drive from Austin) to watch our youngest son, Hayden, compete in the district track meet for the 100 meter race. Wow, what a difference a year can make. You see, last year in this very same stadium in San Antonio, Hayden had a false start on the 100 meter race and was disqualified. The way it works in track is that the top four times in each race progress to the regional meet. The top four times at the regional meet progress to the state meet. And if you make it that far, regardless of whether you win or lose, you get to tell your children and grandchildren that you made it to state for the rest of your life. It’s a big deal to a teenage boy who loves sports. Like my boy. Needless to say, Hayden was crushed when he had a false start and lost his chance to progress on to the state meet in 2010.

Shortly after the unexpected disqualification last year, Hayden boldly declared to Keith and me that the false start made him even more determined to make it to state in his senior year. His last shot. As you can see in the clip above, Hayden (white sleeveless tank; black biking shorts) is one step closer to state. No false start this time. And last weekend, he placed 3rd in Houston at the regional track meet, so this Saturday, he will compete in the state track meet being held in Waco, Texas. Can he win? Mom says “yes!” Dad (and Hayden) say, “Um, probably not!” But that’s not what matters in this story. In my book, Hayden has already won. After a false start, he came back and gave it another try. He recognized that the race wasn’t over and he kept on running.

It reminds me of Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” See, here’s the thing: We all will experience false starts from time to time that will leave us with doubt and discouragement. I think of a friend of mine who suffered the pain of her husband walking out on her. Is she disqualified from “the race” or winning “a prize” on down the road? Absolutely not! Or what about a sweet woman from my home church whose husband has been without a job for a couple of years and they are literally down to their last red cent? Her husband has made the final cut for some of the jobs he’s interviewed for, but so far, they’ve all been false starts. She’s weary from the race. Or how about my older son and his fiancé who let their guard down and as a result, have a baby on the way? After sharing about the pregnancy in this post, I was heartbroken over some of the comments that came in from Christians who had faced the same challenge and as a result, were left feeling “disqualified” from the race in the aftermath.

Life will be full of false starts…some that result from circumstances outside of our control and others, that may result after a sin or misstep. Recently, I was contacted through an email to my assistant by a woman named LaNora. Here is an excerpt of her email:

I’m writing you because I would like to thank Mrs. Courtney for her study “Get A Life”. This is the bible study God used to completely change my life. I had never read a bible before nor was I a religious/churchy person. However, when I cried out to God to please take my last breath from me….I no longer could stand to live in this world because my life had only been about abuse, heartache and pain, He let me live and led me to a Church where I met a lady on my third time there that said…”God has told me 3 times now to come and talk to you, I’m not sure why but I will be starting a bible study this week and if you would to attend you are more than welcome.”

Long story short……I gave my life to God on November 1, 2009 and in April 2010 I started HARRC (Heaven’s Army of Resources & Recreation Center) without one red cent. On June 12, 2010 we had our grand opening. ALL I had and ALL I needed was GOD and FAITH. HARRC ministries has now helped over 300 families and has given to numerous churches and ministries and we are not even a year old yet. We have already out grown our 2100 sq ft building and are seeking a larger one. Just a few weeks ago the Lord told me it was time to teach this study in our center…I searched and searched for someone to teach it. I did not feel I was a teacher, then God told me I WAS TO TEACH! (OMGosh….me God?….NO!!!!) Well of course you know you can’t say “NO” to God, so now I’m teaching this study to 2 different classes.

Oh LaNora, I beg to differ. You can say “no” to God. But you didn’t. After more false starts than a person should be allowed in one lifetime (sexual abuse, depression, addictions, divorce, DWI’s, etc…), LaNora showed up to the starting blocks and got back in the race. And what a beautiful race she is running! God bless the woman at the church LaNora visited, who was obedient when God nudged her to invite LaNora to the study. May we all have that kind of sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives. And God bless LaNora for saying “yes” to God and getting back in the race. God bless the woman from my home church who, in spite of the numerous false starts she and her husband have experienced over his job loss and dwindling savings, she and her husband continue to show up on Sunday mornings and literally limp to the finish line. And God bless my son and his fiancé for refusing to retire from the race and wear a badge of secret shame over their sin. They are back in the race and come November, will be pushing a baby jogger to the finish!

What about you? Have you experienced a false start that’s left you feeling disqualified as of late? The great thing about the race God has given us is that there are no limits to the number of false starts we can have. As long as we are willing to return to the starting blocks, we will never be turned away or disqualified from the race. Ever. A prize awaits for those who have the guts to get back in the race, in spite of setbacks and false starts. Are you running for the prize? Do you see Him at the finish? He’s the One with the bullhorn yelling your name and pumping His fist in the air with a grin so big it needs its own zip code. And P.S., He could care less if you come in first or even place. He just wants you to finish and finish well. But in order to finish, you have to stay in the race! I don’t know about you, but I look forward to that day when I cross the finish and claim the prize. I want to hear Him say, “You did it. You finished the race. You kept the faith.”(1 Timothy 4:7) So, what do you say? It’s time to put that false start in its place and get back in the starting blocks.

Runners to your mark. Get set…

(Please feel free to comment with your own false start testimonies. Who knows, maybe God is planning to use your story to encourage someone else in your same running shoes. Also, you can click here for a link to LaNora’s wonderful ministry and her amazing story. I dare you to read it without shedding a tear!)

Let’s talk about…Facebook Depression


A few weeks ago, FoxNews.com ran an article about a new trend (dubbed “Facebook Depression”) that an influential group of doctors say may affect troubled teens who obsess over Facebook. Here is a short excerpt from the article:

There are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines.

With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.

It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.

The guidelines urge pediatricians to encourage parents to talk with their kids about online use and to be aware of Facebook depression, cyberbullying, sexting and other online risks. (Click here to read the article in full.)

I am not a bit surprised that the medical community has jumped on board to emphasize the importance of parents being tuned into what their children are doing in the digital world. Let’s face it, the emotional well-being of our children is every bit as important as their physical well-being. We wouldn’t dream of missing an annual well-check at the pediatrician’s office to ensure that our children are healthy. Why then, would we neglect their emotional health that can be at stake with an increased use of technology.

Just last week, I spoke with a mother who was mighty proud of the fact that she had not jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and basically shrugged off her teenage daughter’s use on the social networking platform with an attitude of “what I don’t know, won’t hurt me.” I would argue that what she doesn’t know, could in fact, hurt her daughter. While it’s unreasonable to monitor each and every text message, wall post, chat conversation, picture and video sent or received, there is great value in occasionally spot-checking their use. (A parent doesn’t have to engage in Facebook, but they should at the very least, require their child’s log-in information to spot-check during the first couple of years their child uses the site.)

In addition, we would be wise to teach our sons and daughters to know their limits when it comes to their around the clock engagement in technology. While we can’t protect them from every hurtful comment, bullying episode or stressful interaction that can result from their increased use of technology, we can teach them to set reasonable limits and withdraw or take a break when their use begins to bring them down. We can take steps to limit their use when it becomes excessive, but ultimately, they will need to learn to self-monitor and know when it’s time to unplug, especially when it impacts their emotional health.

Today’s generation of young people will grow up with around the clock access to technology. Texting, gaming, Facebook, chat, and other forms of technology can easily gain a position of mastery in our children’s lives, if not brought under proper control. What are you doing in your home to ensure that your child is not engaging in an excessive manner to the technology surrounds them on a daily basis? Please comment below with your suggestions and/or experiences related to the our children’s wired worlds and let’s take the opportunity to learn from one another!

Preventing the sexualization of girls

A few weeks ago, I received a Focus on the Family e-letter in my inbox highlighting an article on the sexualization of girls in our culture today, and more importantly, what parents can do to prevent it. Intrigued, I clicked through on the link to see if it would be a good article to blog about, and to my surprise, I discovered that the author of the article was yours truly! It was a six-part series of articles that were excerpts from Conversation 1 of my book, 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter, so that was also a nice surprise.

That said, I wanted to pass along the information as my deepest desire is to see parents rise up and say “enough is enough” to the rampant objectification and sexualization of girls in our culture today. Below is the first article in the Focus on the Family series and a link to the remaining articles. Please feel free to click on one of the “share” buttons below this post and spread the word…for the sake of our daughters.

Prevent the Sexualization of Your Daughter

Chances are you remember the rumblings in the news about the American Psychological Association and their groundbreaking discovery that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls’ self-image and healthy development.1 When I heard it on the news, I stared at my TV in total disbelief and mumbled, “Nah! Ya think?” The study took aim at everything from sexually salacious ads to the tarted-up Bratz dolls popular with young girls. Every forum of media was fair game, including video games, song lyrics, magazines, and the round-the-clock bombardment of sexual images found on television and the Internet.

Sexualization was defined by the task force as occurring when a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, i.e., made into a thing for another’s sexual use. While the overall finding of the study may not come as a surprise, it should serve as a wake-up call for parents who have somehow rationalized that it’s a battle not worth fighting. Take a look at some of the fallout the study confirmed:

  • Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems such as shame and anxiety.
  • Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women — eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
  • Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.2

Parents: Problem or Solution?

According to the task force report, parents can play a major role in contributing to the sexualization of their daughters, or they can play a protective and educative role. The study acknowledges that parents may actually contribute to the sexualization of their daughters in a number of ways. One way is to convey the message that maintaining an attractive physical appearance is the most important goal for girls. As abhorrent as it is, we have all heard rumblings about parents who even go so far as to pay for plastic surgery for their daughters, whether it’s a nose job at sixteen or a boob job for graduation. It certainly leaves their daughters clear on where mom and dad stand on the importance of vanity.

Before we look at ways to protect our daughters from sexualizing messages from the media, we must first examine ourselves to see if perhaps we have propagated this damaging message. If outer appearance is important to you and out of balance, chances are you have passed the same mind-set onto your daughter. Hopefully, after reading this section you will have a better grasp on why God tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and further wants us to “know that full well” (Ps. 139:14). It may even be necessary to go to your daughter and apologize for the part you may have played in emphasizing outer appearance to an unhealthy degree. I have certainly had to own up to this in the past with my own daughter.

Next we need to put our daughters on a media diet. While it would be impossible to shield them from every damaging influence, we can certainly draw a line in the sand when it comes to the worst offenders. Below, you will find a list of the worst offenders and tips on how to limit your daughters’ consumption and exposure to the damaging lies they generate. (Click here to read the next article in the Focus on the Family series.)

What are some examples you have come across recently that sexualize and objectify little girls? (Example: My sister-in-law ran into a problem last year when my niece’s dance teacher wanted the parents to apply false eyelashes on the girls for the upcoming recital! The girls were in kindergarten!) If you have a daughter, have you faced a similar challenge? This is your chance to sound-off!

You are who you’ve been becoming

Last week, I was saddened to read news of Miley Cyrus’ latest ahem, award. If they were to hand out a trophy, I think it’s safe to say Miley won’t be displaying this one on her mantle anytime soon. Here is a snippet from the NYDailyNews.com:

Even though “Miley Cyrus” didn’t go to jail, check into rehab or become a teen mom last year, the controversial pop star has been voted the worst celebrity influence of 2010.

Voted by the very people who made her a megastar, the 18-year-old took in a whopping 58% of the 99,000 votes in the poll for JSYK.com (Just So You Know) website, which has a target audience of 9-15 year olds.

This is the second year in a row that Cyrus has taken home the undesirable honor. In 2009, the pop star’s antics pushed Britney Spears and rapper Kanye West into second and third places, respectively, in the poll’s same category. (Click here to read the article)

Anyway, it got me thinking about something I had written 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter pertaining to the value of a good reputation. Below, is an excerpt from the book:

Often when speaking to teen girls, I will challenge the girls with the question, “Are you the type of girl who has a reputation?” The question makes some of the girls fidget a bit in their seats. If you looked up the word “reputation” in the dictionary, you might find this definition: The generally accepted estimation of somebody; character, standing, name. The truth is, each of us has a reputation. A “generally accepted estimation” as determined by others. And that estimation can be overall good or bad.

In order to illustrate the power of this “estimation” factor when determining a person’s reputation, I tell the girls that I’m going to announce several well-known celebrity personalities and when I do, to think of 1-2 words to describe the person (to themselves, of course). I toss out names like Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Carrie Underwood, and Miley Cyrus. I think you can imagine some of the words that the girls come up with to describe the above personalities (in no particular order): Crazy, cute, psycho, pervert, adorable, innocent, talented, sleaze, and the list goes on.

I then tell the girls that they just branded each person with a designated reputation based on the public’s “generally accepted estimation.” I point out that even though they are not famous and in the public eye, they still are being “estimated” by others on a daily basis. I then challenge them to think of what 1-2 words others who know them might use to describe their character if asked. Certainly, it’s an unsettling thought for some. I imagine I would have been among the “unsettled” had I been challenged by that thought at their age.

I once heard a speaker say, “You are who you’ve been becoming.” Wow—what a powerful statement. Our girls need to know that you are judged by your actions. In my years of working with teen and college girls, I have had a fair share cry on my shoulder over actions that have left them with tainted reputations. As we have discussed in Conversation #3, it is fairly common for children and teens to have a cognitive disconnect when it comes to making choices. In other words, it is difficult for them to mentally walk a decision down its logical path and weigh the possible consequences of the action in question.

Most of us likely can relate to that challenge during our adolescent and teen years and have our own fair share of negative consequences we tallied up as a result. However, this is where we must be faithful in helping our daughters see that actions determine character and character, in turn, determines reputation. In addition, we must also help them see the value that comes from the pursuit of virtue.

Proverbs 22:1 reminds us that, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Socrates, the Greek philosopher from 4th century BC, once said, “Regard your good name as the richest jewel that can possibly be possessed. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” We must be faithful in sharing the key to obtaining a good reputation with our daughters. What is the key, you may wonder? It can be found in Proverbs 3:1-4: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

In order to remember God’s teaching, our daughters must first know God’s teaching. Upon knowing it, they must tuck it away in their hearts and pull from that reserve when the need arises. This is the point of impact when God’s standard goes beyond a simple head knowledge and takes root in the heart. We can do our part to provide them with adequate teaching over the years, but we cannot make them treasure that teaching in their hearts. Furthermore, we cannot make them draw upon those truths and apply them to their daily lives. We can, however, pray like crazy from the sidelines.

If we were to step into a time machine and take a little journey back to your high school years, what sort of girl would we find? Better yet, what if we asked your classmates to describe that girl? I’m not talking about the outside. How do they remember the girl in the Jordache jeans with the spiral perm? Was she nice, fun, funny, or kind? Was she a devoted Christian who walked her talk? Or was she a gossipy, mean girl with loose morals? In other words, what was your reputation? How has the “generally accepted estimation” of you changed over the years? I would guess that most of us have changed for the better and all but for the grace of God—Amen?

While it’s extremely sad to witness Miley’s continued “fall from grace,” let’s remember that she, like us, can never fall too far from the grace of God. I for one, will be praying that God nudges her heart non-stop with reminders of His unfailing love in the days to come. While it’s true that “you are who you’ve been becoming,” it’s also true that “it’s never too late to begin again.”

(Photo credit: Sykes/AP obtained fromNYDailyNews.com)

Dying to text

If your son or daughter is 14 or older, I implore you to sit down with them and show them this short documentary on texting and driving. Don’t wait until they are 16 — if they are old enough to be a passenger in a car driven by a teen driver, they need to see this. After watching it, please go an extra step and help them come up with an action plan of what they will say when they find themselves in the uncomfortable position of riding with a texting driver. And it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” My daughter’s action plan is simple. She screams “stop texting!” and claims it has worked every time.

Even if you have younger children in the home, help spread the word and pass this along to anyone you know who has a teenager. Let’s band together and help save lives.

The warped worldview of Charlie Sheen: Has your son bought in?

I don’t know much about Charlie Sheen, the actor. If you asked me to name the movies or TV shows he’s best known for, I wouldn’t be able to do it. In fact, up until a few days ago, I thought the guy was in Breakfast Club. Turns out he wasn’t (according to Wikipedia), but his brother Emilio Estevez was. Really? They’re brothers? Didn’t know that either. I do however, know a bit about Charlie Sheen, the man. I’m a bit hesitant to use the word “man” because it implies that the passage from boyhood to manhood has occurred and in Charlie’s case, it’s safe to say it has not. Here’s what little I do know about Mr. Sheen based on recent media accounts: This guy is the poster child for a worldview that is rooted in the pursuit of every selfish, narcissistic pleasure imaginable. His Wikipedia page reads like an ad for hell-on-earth.

In case you’ve managed to escape the endless media accounts about his latest antics, Charlie Sheen is in trouble yet again. This time, he was arrested for trashing his suite at the high-dollar Plaza Hotel while a frightened, paid escort locked herself in the bathroom in a desperate attempt to escape his rage. Even worse, he was staying in the same hotel as his ex-wife and young daughters (who were on another floor) after they had spent the a day together on a “family vacation.” Yikes. This vacation makes the Griswold family’s cross-country drive to Wally World look like a blast.

While most people appear to be disgusted with his self-centered, thoughtless, and even dangerous antics, you might be surprised to know he actually has supporters. Not only are they supporters, but they actually go as far as to say that Charlie Sheen is a god who is living the dream. Wow, with dreams like this one, who needs nightmares?! Consider the unedited comments below that showed up on a popular Internet celebrity gossip site shortly after the story broke about Sheen’s latest arrest. (The alleged “paid escort” has surfaced to say she is offended at being labeled an “escort” or “prostitute” and clarified she is in fact, a “porn star.” Whew. I’m glad we cleared that important detail up.)

Yep, Charlie rocks. She’s yummy…and no cellulite in site!
Posted at 3:26 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

way to go charlie!!!tap that a few times for me.
Posted at 3:25 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

Sweeeeeet…..This dude is living the life, your a freaking god Charlie Sheen
Posted at 3:24 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

A hot porn star, an even hotter ex-wife, coke, all night drinking and parties, TONS OF DOUGH, ETC.
CR*P, I WANT THIS GUYS LIFE!!!!
Posted at 3:08 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

Way to go Charlie!!! He’s my idol
Posted at 3:00 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

1.8 Million an episode for sitcom television, dodges trouble like an outlaw, parties like a rock star, seduces smokin hot porn stars and film credits that include wall street and platoon. If it has not been said before, it needs to be said again: “Charles Sheen is THE MAN!!!” God Bless Him and the crazy pills he rode in on.
Posted at 2:39 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

the man is a god! more power to him! go, charlie, go!
Posted at 4:21 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

Charlie… u da man!!!
Posted at 4:22 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

well done Charlie…i’ve seen her work..she is great at what she does.!
Posted at 4:33 PM on Oct 27, 2010 by ………

Someone please pass me a barf bag. Are these guys delusional? Does Charlie Sheen look like he’s having fun? Let’s do a quick inventory: He’s facing an arrest charge (again) and probable lawsuit from the escort prostitute porn star. He has to pay for sex with women who wouldn’t give him the time of day unless he could pay the asking price for their services. He is facing criminal charges. He’s in and out of rehab on a regular basis. He has an addiction (drugs/alcohol/or both) that if not treated, could send him to an early grave. His future will be filled with a multitude of court appearances stemming from yet another divorce, haggling over child support, and another nasty custody battle. He’s a horrible example of a father (the escort and his older daughter are around the same age — talk about CREEPY). He’s divorced three times and has tenuous relationships with the mothers of his children. He likely has (or will have) limited custody of his children due to his past offenses and will miss the joys of having a regular and consistent part in his children’s lives. Not to mention, they will probably loathe him once they are old enough to google his name and figure out what he deemed as more important than having a relationship with them. He’s incapable of having loving and intimate relationships whether it be with a wife or his children. Saddest of all, he lacks a personal relationship with Christ, the one true God and the only one who can rescue this man from the slimy pit his life has become.

I’m sad for Charlie Sheen and the pathetic life he leads. I’m sad for the women who’ve chosen to be involved with him, whether it be the result of low self-esteem or materialistic gain. Most of all, I’m sad for his children, who are left with a father who amounts to little more than a sperm-donor. And I’m sad for the men who envy the life of Charlie Sheen and in doing so, speak volumes about their own sad lives.

As I read the comments above from men, it dawned on me that many of our young men have been lied to about what it looks like for a guy to “have it all.” Charlie Sheen’s worldview is peddled to them through beer commercials, moral-less reality shows, video games, song lyrics (especially rap), and porn. Our sons are bombarded with messages that link many of Charlie Sheen’s self-seeking pleasures to the key to happiness and fulfillment. Money: Check. Beautiful women: Check. Fame: Check. Sex on demand: Check. Drugs and alcohol: Check. Partying like a rockstar ’round the clock: Check. Little accountability: Check. Never having to grow up and be a real man: Check. Has your son bought into the narcissistic, pleasure-seeking worldview of Charlie Sheen?

Our sons need to know that hopping from one worldly pleasure to another isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At the end of the day, temporary pleasures wear off and they will be left with a void that can only be filled with the unfailing love of God. (Prov. 19:22a). God has set eternity on the hearts of men (Eccl. 3:11) and unless we fill that hunger with the only One who satisfies, we will spend our lives chasing after temporary pleasures that won’t deliver in the end. Truth be told, we all have a tendency to chase after temporary pleasures. For those who have never experienced the unfailing love of Christ, the worldview of Charlie Sheen may look attractive. On the contrary, for those who have experienced the unfailing love of Christ, the worldview of Charlie Sheen looks like hell on earth. Where does your son line up?

When it comes to teachable moments with our teens, it’s important that we take the time to point out the lies associated with Charlie Sheen’s warped worldview. We should never assume that our children are exempt from believing the world’s lies just because we bought them a Bible and raised them in the church. The world’s voice is loud and persuasive, but a parent’s voice is even louder. One thing is for certain: Every one of the men who commented with support for Charlie Sheen’s pleasure-seeking worldview is someone’s son. I can’t help but wonder how many of these men may have been exposed to the good news of the gospel when growing up, but failed to really hear it.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)