Surviving the Teen Years

Don’t for a minute think that I was the ideal teen back in the day. I was anything but that. I gave my parents the kind of problems many of the day wouldn’t think of doing. I always tested the boundaries. I was as independent as a teen could be. I was always into trouble.

I think the local police department had my picture posted on their bulletin board to be on the lookout for. During one period of stupidity I was arrested and charged with four infractions of the law for which I went to court and faced the danger of being removed from my parent’s custody. In fact, the judge looked at me and said at the end of the sentencing, “If you ever appear before me again I will send you straight to reformed school for boys.” I am so glad that judge had a short memory because within a year I was back before him for a completely different violation.

Well, here I am today, completely well adjusted (maybe), with my head on straight, pursuing direction and purpose in life and in love with God with all my heart. And I have pretty much been that way since exiting my teen years.

How was that possible? What made the difference? What was it that got my head and heart straightened out and my life headed in the right direction after all the stupidity of my teen years?

There were two things for me that were indispensable to surviving those teen years. And I believe they are the two most important factors today as well.

The first one is that my parents built a solid spiritual foundation in my life. Now, there were periods of time that I just plane ignored it and did my own thing. But it was there and they never stopped building on it.

That solid spiritual foundation consists of elements like believing in and teaching the existence and priority of God. Consistent involvement in church, and I emphasize consistent. It was never an option. Valuing the authority of the Bible and the importance and practice of prayer. Establishing boundaries and expectation based on Biblical principles. Even though I tested the boundaries often they were nevertheless still there. And there were consequences when I ignored them. My parents were consistent in building a strong spiritual foundation in the life of their kids.

The second element that brought me safely through my teen years to the other side was the model of my parents. My parents were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But they were committed to the same direction and principles they taught us kids. There was never this “Do what I say, not what I do.” They loved God and believed He should have priority and it was reflected in how they lived out their everyday life.

So what my parents were doing during my preteen and teen years was building a solid spiritual foundation for me to come back to once I got all my foolishness out of my system. And come back I did. And I have continued to build my life on that foundation ever since.

So if you want your kids to survive the teen years and end up with not just a good career by a life lived for God, you better get serious about the foundation you are building for them at the current time. Without a solid spiritual foundation to come back to, hope of a life with God is pretty much left to chance. And I wouldn’t for a moment leave something so vital to chance in the kind of world we live in today.

By the way, my parents gave birth to five children in a period of six years. Do the math and you find out that all of us were teens at the same time during one point of our growing up years. And in spite of that many challenges, they built that solid foundation so well that all of us are still serving the Lord with all their hearts today. Thanks mom and dad.

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Sexual Practices of Teens

This time I want to tackle the issue of sexual activity among teens. I will be addressing the subject of “Traps Teens Face” on Sunday morning, June 1, but I was not able to include all my finding in the allotted message time. So I want to cover one of the aspects I will not be able to discuss as extensively as I would like on Sunday, teen sexual activity.

We can resort to denial and say it isn’t happening, but it is happening and with increased frequency and with new expressions. Now, this subject may be too honest and open for some, so you are free to check out at any time, but here are some of the results of secular studies in the last couple years.

* Nearly half (46%) of all 15-19-year-olds in the United States have had sex at least once.

* By age 15, only 13% of teens have ever had sex. However, by the time they reach age 19, seven in 10 teens have engaged in sexual intercourse.

* Most young people have intercourse for the first time at about age 17, but do not marry until their middle or late 20s. This means that young adults are at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for nearly a decade.

* But creative as teens are they have discovered what they believe to be a safe alternative, oral sex. A study by the national center for health reveals that more teens today are engaging in oral sex than intercourse, more than 50% of 15-19 yr olds. That includes both the giving and receiving of oral sex. There is a teenage oral sex craze in America.

The thinking of many teens though, is that oral sex is really not sex. Sex to be sex has to involve penetration. A couple article in the USATODAY, published right after one teen sexual activity study was published, described the thinking of teens on the oral sex practice. This is an easy link to the articles as appeared in the USATODAY.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-10-18-teens-sex_x.htm

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-10-19-teens-technical-virginity_x.htm

This study of teen thinking and sexual practices revealed that the feeling of teens is that oral sex is not really sex. But even more revealing is the teen belief that oral sex is an acceptable alternative to the “real thing” of intercourse. And that most of those who engage in oral sex do so to keep from going “all the way.”

But then there is this research finding that was just published by the secular Guttmacher Institute a couple weeks ago that says that isn’t true. In fact the study discovered that teens who engage in oral sex are engaging in intercourse as well. Here is a link to this study results.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/108175.php

So what exactly is sex? And is oral sex really sex? At the risk of getting too descriptive and at the risk of being too narrow in defining it, let me site the definition of sex from a book from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, called Questions Kids Ask About Sex.

“Sex occurs when one person touches another person’s genitals and causes that person to get sexually excited,” the book states. “A girl or boy who’s had oral sex doesn’t feel or think like a virgin anymore, because he or she has had a form of sex.”

This is a personal as well as a real issue facing our teens and future teens today, and all of society as well. Parents, don’t ignore this issue. Talk to your kids. Begin early and talk to them often. Preempt all of the wrong thinking they are going to be bombarded with from every imaginable source. Be proactive in the sex war. If you don’t, your child may very easily become one of the statistics of future research.

Thanks for hanging with the discussion. Why shouldn’t authentic Christ followers be some of the first to tackle and discuss the tough issues that face our teens and all of today’s society?

“Family Matters” a Common Thread

For the five Sundays of June we are addressing five different “family Matters.” Teens, couples, dads, moms and singles are all on the schedule. In all five areas there is a common thread that runs through each of them. Maybe more than one but this one for sure, SEX. So lets put this one on the table from the get go. There is no way you can honestly discuss this many family connections without getting into the sex issue. That is, if you are going to be real and address the real issues we face. The church has been accused of avoiding the tough issues so let’s tackle a tough issue, SEX.

There are so many good things happening in families that are sex related. Sex is good. But let’s be honest. There are just as many or more bad things happening in families, than good, that are connected with sex. Problems, challenges, abuses, betrayals, addictions, you name it, it’s there. So let’s not ignore it. Let talk about it.

With the danger and risk of oversimplifying, I want to offer an explanation of why I believe such sexual problems exist in our families and in our world. Why sex can be such a good thing but such a painful, abused, abusive and problem riddled thing.

Here’s what I believe. Sex is no longer seen for what it really is. We have made sex either a physical, emotional, or personal thing. We see it as two people who are physically attracted and involved with each other or emotionally connected with each other or personally satisfying to each other. And I would agree that sex is all of that and more.

But here is where I believe the problem lies. Sex is not just physical, emotional, and personal. More than anything else it is spiritual. It is a spiritual act. It was a spiritual act before it was anything else. And because we no longer see anything spiritual about sex we have a society without sexual boundaries and with boundless problems. We have a sex driven and divulgent yet dysfunctional society.

I will share some of the reasoning behind my beliefs on June 1, in our Sunday gathering. Meanwhile, what do you think about this concept? How do you view sex and why do you think we have so many sexual problems and so much sexual dysfunction in our culture?

Traps Teen Face

Let’s take a completely different direction for a few weeks. On Sundays we have been discussion the book in the New Testament called Colossians and have been discovering some of its application to life today. For the next four or five weeks let’s turn our attention to “family matters.”

In our gathering on June 1, I am going to discuss traps teens face. Traps today are exponentially different than when I was a teen, since I am such an “old” guy.

The Beetles were just coming on the scene. So this new kind of “sinful” music was taking the world by storm. Elvis was having a “little bit” of an influence as well.

Then there was “parking.” I guess several of you don’t even know what that is so you will have to ask an “older” person for some insight.

I was part of the hippie generation that ushered in drugs to the American scene and the free expression of personal ambitions. Even though not in the middle if it personally, it was a present and ever growing national wave in my younger days.

And, as always, there was the attraction to alcohol consumption and cigarette or tobacco use.

Thought teens today face some of the same traps, this is a much different world than the 60’s and 70’ of my teen and post teen years.

I want to invite you to educate me a little. If you are the parent of a teen or closely connected to one or you would be willing to invite your teen to respond to this blog I would be interested in hearing from you about the kind of traps teens face today. I want to share my insight when I address the subject on June 1, but before I do I would like to listen to what you have to say.

So what are the kinds of traps our teens are confronted with, tempted by and lured into in this world we live in today?

Has It Made Any Difference?

Has it made any difference in your life? For the past two and a half months in our Sunday gatherings we have been exploring the New Testament book of Colossians. it has been a “Get Ready” series. Life here is preparation for life in the hereafter. We will spend far more time on the other side of eternity than we will on this side. And there is only one thing we will take with us to the other side. We won’t take our money with us. We won’t take our luxuries nor our toys. The only thing we will take with us into eternity is our character.

So the entire “Get Ready” study has been designed to prepare us for eternity by growing or character. We have discussed getting ready for the big three…for smiles…to move…to grow…to live…to refocus…for the calm…to go to work. Even “where getting ready begins.”

Messages can be listened to at this quick link.
http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57

My curiosity and question is, what has this study said to you? How has it enhanced your development? How has it helped you to be more ready for the other side? How has it changed your character?

Could I hear from you? Would you share in a few words how this examination of the book of Colossians has impacted your life? I would really be interested in knowing what difference it has made or if it has made any difference at all.

Can’t Get No Respect

Since it is almost mom’s day lets talk about moms. That’s what I will be addressing this Sunday. We could talk forever on this one. But I want to zero in on one aspect of motherhood in particular, that I will discuss Sunday, and that is the issue of respect for authority. More exactly why is there such a lack of respect for authority today and what part do moms play in teaching their children respect for authority.

Let’s be right up front with this one. There is not an abundance of respect for authority in our world. And rightfully so in some cases. When we see a dozen police officers kicking the living day lights out of three men that were stopped on attempted murder suspicion, like happened in Philadelphia this week, it is hard to respect them or their actions regardless of the possible guilt of the three suspects.

When we read of teachers engaging in or taking sexual advantage of students, it’s really hard to respect them. When we learn of “respected” politicians engaging in the same crimes they have devoted their lives to cleaning up, I don’t have much respect.

But with all the extreme exceptions aside, why is there such a void when it comes to respect in our society? Where does the development of respect for authority, in whatever the setting, begin?

More specifically, what part do moms have in teaching their children respect for authority. And how do moms best instill this in their kids who will eventually determine the direction of society?

I would be interested in your insight, observations, discoveries and even opinions.

By the way I found this link to be a very good discussion of the lack of respect for authority in kids. Check it out.

http://mattsingley.typepad.com/matt_singleyquips_and_mus/2006/11/respect_authori.html

Endless problems result from lack of respect for authority, but in the final analysis I believe failure to require respect for authority from our children undermines how you want to teach a child to respond when their Heavenly Father asks them to do something, and that is our ultimate goal, isn’t it?