Be There For Them

Ellen’s first post was on A Rewarding Perspective. In it she wrote, “Feelings of exhaustion can fog your perspective.” This week a teacher reminded me that feelings of frustration could fog our perspective too.

This Friday morning my youngest daughter Abby, now 14, called me from the bus. “Dad” she said “I was running to the bus and dropped my purse on the sidewalk. I realized it when the bus was pulling away. Can you go get it for me?” After getting the important information such as where it was and that she had no money in it, I told her I would go.

I was not happy though! It meant missing the first half of our 3rd through 5th grade chapel. On my way out I passed a teacher at the copy machine. I mumbled, “Do you want my daughter Abby? You can have her because I am going to kill her!” We both laughed and out I went. In my 20 minutes alone in the car I began to realize how insensitive that comment was. The teacher I spoke those words to lost her youngest daughter, a young adult, just last year. Her loss was deepened by the fact that she and her husband had instantly become “empty nesters”.

I found the purse just where Abby said it would be. When I returned to school I decided to miss the second half of chapel and go and talk to this teacher. She was very gracious and stated the words did not offend her. Then she gave me some words of perspective.

Her words went something like this: Some day you will long for the opportunity to bless your children. You will be at a place where you wish there was something you could do for them. Just remember, the frustrations and pressures will come and go, but make sure your children will always remember that you were there for them when they needed you.

She has a good point.

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

A New Strategy For Porn Websites

Page views. Its all about page views. Some junk e-mails really only want you to go and “unsubscribe” so the advertisers listed on the side pay them a few pennies each page view. I hear this is the new way web site owners are getting paid. Some just for getting page views, and others for getting visitors to “click” on the adds. This is much like newspapers getting paid by advertisers for circulation. The higher the circulation the more expensive the advertisement. It is shocking but now just visiting a site reaps cash for the website owners.

I recently attended a seminar given by Robin Raskins (http://www.robinraskin.com/) where she explained that pornographers no longer want credit cards. They want page views. And she says they will stoop to nearly anything to get them. Even at a few pennies a view they can make thousands so they are out to aggressively lure your children, usually boys to their web sites. They don’t care about ages – 9 and 10 are fine. They don’t care about the personal devastation or development of your child or the future relational problems that are well documented side effects of pornography. All they care about is getting their few pennies for each page view.

According to Robin these sites don’t have a “brown wrapper” covering the naked parts because they are not asking you for a credit card to “come inside and get a look”. They start off with the hard-core pornography right from the front page and continue all through the site. Because it’s all about page views.

Robin stated that there are three ways to protect our children. First – the “low tech” way. She suggests we look in the web browser history and see where our children go. Also she suggests your computer be in a public place or where you can see the screen when you walk by. There are also the “medium tech” strategies. Using web browser settings and internet services where you can set up profiles that restrict certain content. (Unfortunately tech savvy children can circumvent both of the medium tech strategies). Her “high tech” method is to install a special program onto the computer that stops selected content and cannot be changed without a password. Such programs include NetNanny, Cyber Patrol, Cyber Sitter, Cyber Sentinel, etc. These programs are password protected and will shut down internet connections if closed through task manager. They are very difficult to outsmart.

One such program that I have used in my household for more than a year is BSafe Online. This program has been wonderful and we can set it up on 3 computers in our house! Now that I am aware of the aggressive pursuit of our children’s eyes I urge every parent to do the responsible thing and make sure you have a “high tech” way of protecting your child!

If you are interested in trying BSafe Online you can go to the site through this link. (If you were to sign up for the service in the next month our ministry gets a portion of your purchase price.) Click here to check out: BSAFEONLINE

Parents please – do something! I seriously believe this is too important to depend on the low or medium tech strategies.

Please let other parents know of these dangers. Feel free to recommend this blog entry to as many friends and family as you believe could benefit from this warning.

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

A Rewarding Perspective

When my children were very small, more experienced mothers I knew would tell me that the early years pass quickly and that I would miss them when they’re gone. How could this be true? We had 4 children in 7 years. Every day seemed like a week. They were so beautiful but so exhausting. I could hardly imagine the day when they’d all be in school.

Feelings of exhaustion can fog your perspective and make you wish your days away. There were times that I couldn’t wait for my husband to come home, for them to get in bed, for Friday, for vacation, for school to start, for summer vacation. But there were golden days as well, when a little blessing like my child’s prayer would make the day shine.

Looking back, those ladies were right, the years have flown by. My children are almost adults now. The memories of those days of being stretched to my absolute physical and emotional limits have faded but the joy of the little blessings has not. Those memories are precious jewels that were formed during the times of intense pressure and fatigue, during the early years. Those times still glow in my heart, a treasure stored.

Be assured, you’ll have golden days too, precious treasures if you keep your perspective.

Ellen

What will they have longer, their trophies or their injuries?

Excerpts from an article from Yale New Haven Hospital web site. (link to full article below)

Increase in adult-type injuries among children and adolescents

Unfortunately, increasing numbers of young children are becoming sports-specific and training year-round to compete at a competitive level of play, which puts them at risk for overuse injuries. In some cases, the damage is permanent, increasing the risk that the athletes – some of them as young as 9 – will suffer crippling arthritis or require extensive surgery as they get older.

Children should be encouraged to participate in sports at a level consistent with their abilities and interests. Pushing children beyond these limits is discouraged as is specialization in a single sport before adolescence.

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons launched a public service campaign in March to educate young athletes, parents, coaches and the media on how to prevent, treat and rehabilitate overuse injuries.

To read the whole article click here:
http://www.ynhh.org/healthlink/pediatrics/pediatrics_8_05.html

More evidence for the need to live a balanced life!

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

A Silly Sorrow

I write to you with a silly sorrow. OK, sorrow is not silly, but our reason for sorrow can sometimes be “silly”. I am very, very sad. But when weighing the reason for my sorrow against all of life, I know deep down that it is silly.

This summer God saw fit to bless my office with a beautiful wood conference table. Slowly, inch by inch I have been on a mission to “clean up” the school office where I work. A mishmash of desks, filing cabinets and counters have been replaced with nice matching office furniture. Some of you can relate to this “desire” to have nice looking surroundings.

But something happened. That beautiful conference table now has been marred by a piece of equipment that was placed on it. I was very sorrowful. Even writing about it now makes me sad.

I know in life we strive to better our surroundings. Where we live, what we drive, what we wear and so on. Sometimes at great sacrifice. Can I make a confession here? I like nice things. I rarely have them, but I like them. I love beautiful photographs so at work and home I surround myself with them. It is a great joy for me to be outdoors in a beautiful setting. I love the ocean, the forest, a great looking tree, a nicely decorated property, the simple beauty of a child smiling, even a nice looking conference table. These visual things are important to me.

For some the impact of visual things are not as strong. You know the type, you see a breathtaking countryside scene and want to take it in, but they look once and say “how nice.” This posting is not for them. But to those of you who really enjoy beauty, even long for objects that are beautiful then are filled with sorrow when they are taken away, scratched, get old, or when moth and rust corrupts – to you and me I offer some perspective. (Trust me I am speaking to myself as well!)

Aim to remember the two most important commandments found in Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10. Love God with all your heart and love others as yourself. Lasting joy will never come from “beautiful temporal” objects. I love flowers and plant them around my house. Funny thing though, they always die. They never last more than a season. I believe they are God’s yearly reminder of both the beauty He has given us and the temporal nature of earthly beauty. True lasting joy can never come from inanimate objects – not any item no matter how beautiful it is. But loving God with all our hearts and loving others as ourselves, this will bring long-term joy.

This love for one another drives me on. It has led me to pay for missions trips for my son to the slums of Miami rather than replace my ugly, dying car. It has led me to forgo new furniture and invest in my children’s Christian school education. In coming to PA we moved into a “fixer upper” so we could do as much as possible to get our children into Christian colleges. It sure is not for financial gain (read – get beautiful stuff!) that I work for a Christian school and Ellen works for a philanthropy organization.

Of course we need to teach our children how to take care of things! They should respect what we have been able to provide. But alongside teaching them to respect objects, always remind them that people are more important than “stuff”! Remind them that all items from the car in the driveway to the house overhead will give way to the decay of this world. (Matthew 6:19-20) Only by investing in our walk with God, our family, friendships, and acquaintances do we lay up “treasures” in heaven that will never be destroyed.

Trust me, I am not telling you to buy old junky items. I will still work on “cleaning up” our office. But when the scratches come – they are a reminder to us that it is not about beautiful conference tables – it is about people. The first two chapters of Ecclesiastes make it clear that “all is vanity”. I know one day in heaven, I will be able to take in all the beauty there is to behold! I just hope I keep my perspective down here on earth and remind myself to care much more about people than a conference table.

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

We Should Not Be Child-pleasers

The love that saturates our soul at the birth of our child is beyond words. For many this “love” is the beginning of a desire to please this precious little gift. We want our child to be happy, healthy and wise.

For years I have taught seminars where I make the point that we must die to ourselves and do what is right for our child. While fielding questions I will occasionally hear a parent interpret that as meaning we should create a total “child centered” world and meet every one of our child’s desires. I then try to explain that what is “best” is not always what is “desired” by the child, we should not be a child-pleaser.

The problem with being a man-pleaser, spouse-pleaser, boss-pleaser or child-pleaser is that we keep our focus in the wrong place. We should be God-pleasers. Our focus should be on Jesus Christ and His Word. That is not to say that we never end up pleasing our child or for that matter our spouse, boss, etc. But our primary focus should be on pleasing God.

If our aim is to please God, then even when we have tough choices to make, when the loving action will mean our child’s displeasure, we will not be swayed. If our aim is to please God, then the lure of the culture, the pull of “everyone will be there”, “my friends get to watch it”, etc. will not pull us off course. If our aim is to please God, then we will be focused on the genuine needs of our children rather than their “pleasure” or “happiness”.

Galatians 1:10
Ephesians 6:6

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

Purity Is Not A Cultural Value

“Let’s face it, purity is not a cultural value. Neither is modesty. While adultery is still frowned upon in most quarters, the impropriety that leads to adultery is actually encouraged, even celebrated. Similarly, teenage pregnancy is still considered a social evil. But again, the activities, fashion, and music that drive adolescents in that direction are not generally frowned upon. Parents fund the very activities that create the context for the act they consider so abhorrent. As long as we take our cues from the culture, purity and modesty will always be in the rearview mirror. Those lines will be crossed without a second thought. And once those lines are crossed, sexual misconduct is one easy decision away.” (The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley)

I know a few weeks ago I wrote on the Early Lure Of the Culture. However, this morning while reading the above quote, its power and clarity inspired me to re-visit the topic.

I have been thinking of the “little” battles we face in those early years. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to teach young children, even preschoolers, the importance of not following the common culture. Earlier this week I was talking to a teacher who was saddened that a previous student she had in her fifth grade class already had fallen into the trap of dressing and looking “fashionable” according to our common culture. This teacher mentioned that while a flat chested 11 year old was not drawing looks with her lower, loose neckline and bare belly, but what was this going to lead to next? In the sixth grade she got to wear makeup and wear it she did! The question I ask again – what is next? When, or more frightening where does it stop?

My prayer for you is to win the “little” battles well before they become the “big” battles. While sitting at the chiropractor yesterday I was thumbing through an investment magazine. In an upcoming products article they showed a Barbie style doll that looked like a hooker! Who would buy this doll for their little girl? I pray that the “activities, fashion and music” in your home, from a young age on will be acceptable to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And please – PLEASE, don’t feel like you have to fund inappropriate “activities, fashion and music”! When you have to say “no”, be loving but firm. As they grow older teach and train them why the culture’s ways lead to trouble. Remember “As long as we take our cues from the culture, purity and modesty will always be in the rearview mirror.”

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

Positively Polite

Philippians 2:3,4

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

“Mind your manners” my grandma would say. “Yes, remember to be polite” mom would add. These phrases seemed to have disappeared from conversations between adults and children. The results of their absence are evident.

Because of my position as the principal of an elementary school I call homes where children live. I continue to be shocked how rude children are when answering the phone. I am not talking about untrained 3 year olds, but 10 year olds who are curt, uncooperative and do not offer to take a message. I get the feeling that once they find out I am not one of their friends they want nothing to do with me!

Again, my position is such that I have conversations with parents often when their children are present. Simple manners, or politeness would be in order during these conversations. Unfortunately it is the rare child who waits patiently or says, “Excuse me.” Restaurants now routinely place families in special areas assuming the children will not behave well.

Obviously children can’t be expected to be little adults. I have listened to countless stories from people who recount with bitterness memories of harsh “rules” to protect the reputation of their parents. But somewhere in the move to create “child friendly” childhoods some have inadvertently created selfish and often rude children.

Parents, it is ok to expect your children to be polite. It is ok to teach them basic manners. Not sure where to start? Go ahead and ask your parents or someone their age. You can also find a family that has children who are polite. Ask them how they do it. Ask what their rules and routines are that help their children behave that way.

Then your children can follow Ephesians 4:32 and will “Be kind to one another. . .”

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

The Early Lure Of The Culture

While attending a conference for teachers, the speaker, Jeff Myers (excellent speaker if you ever get a chance, http://www.myersinstitute.com/) talked about the cultural battle going on for the minds, hearts and beliefs of our high school and college children. While he was speaking I could not help but think of the mini cultural battles being fought for the minds, hearts and beliefs of younger children. Those battles are fought through cartoons, movies (even with a G rating), and clothing decisions, to name a few.

I have heard some parents state something to the effect that one day their child woke up and he or she turned away from the Lord in rebellion. I am not saying abruptly turning from the Lord cannot happen, but my guess is that the “mini” battles attempting to buck the culture were lost well before the child woke up listening to songs that cursed out God and authority. Before the body piercings there was a lost battle over which shorts to buy. Before the cursing there was a lost battle over tone of voice while speaking to parents.

Remember those “little” battles are not as little as you think. It is true we should major on the majors and minor on the minors, but don’t misinterpret that saying to mean: major on the obvious sins but minor on the less obvious sins. One of the blessings of younger children is the truth that the effects of their unwise choices are minor. Yet we can be lulled to inaction by the “minor effects” of poor choices. Just like a small weed in the sidewalk will cause little damage, left to grow it will wreak havoc. The heart of your child is far more valuable than a sidewalk! Keep your child’s heart protected from the cultural weeds of our time. Love them enough to say “no” and teach them why while they are still young.

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

I John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.

Three Powerful Words

As a parent we have within our grasp a wonderful gift. Three powerful words. Unfortunately their power is matched by the difficulty in being able to verbalize them. If you are like me, these words are very hard to say. Why do we find it so difficult to speak words that are so powerful and a wonderful gift? Because it takes a large dose of humility to speak them.

These words? “I was wrong.”

Together with another powerful trio – “Please forgive me” one receives freedom and joy within ourselves and a renued, fresh relationship with our children.

Let me encourage you (and myself!) to utilize the power of these three words!

Psalm 147:6
The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.

Matthew 18:4
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

I Peter 5:5
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

May God’s grace and peace be with you,
Mark Strohm, Jr.