The yellow linoleum and dark paneled cupboards bore testament to the age of the kitchen and its want for a remodel. I sat, gangly frame perched on a wooden stool as my brother broke the news. He would be enlisting in the military–the Marine Corps, to be specific. As he explained his plans to family member after family member, they each, in turn tried to persuade him away from his choice. He was determined to go and would not be swayed. I was twenty-one when Patrick left for Parris Island and as I watched him promise to support and defend the Constitution, my own son swirled in my belly. I cried as a sister for her only brother, with no comprehension of how my mother must have felt.
A month or so later, as most mothers do, I held my wee son in my arms and in that moment I cried not only for my brother, but as a mother knowing that I could never let this little boy go. And yet every day, across the world, mothers give their sons, wives give their husbands and sisters give their brothers so we can be free. Every soldier that has shouldered the mantel of protecting the US from the War for Independence in the eighteenth century until today has been someone’s child. My blond-haired, light-eyed boy looks at me and all I can think about this Independence Day is that Avery Brown entered the Civil war at the age of eight years and eleven months. He was only accepted because he lied about his age and said he was twelve.
I know we don’t allow eight and twelve year olds to enter the military, but the only difference between twelve and eighteen is six years and my goodness, don’t tell a mother sending her boy away that he is old enough, because there are not enough years in all of the millenia combined to justify sending our sons and daughters to war and yet we know in our hearts the same ardent love for freedom burns in their breasts as did in Patrick Henry’s as he exclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
The fortitude, the determination that brought our patriots to the door of death and the fervor that stanchions them against the buffets of the enemy is not born overnight. No, it is cultivated in the heart of a young boy, by moms just like you. No one births their son or daughter and hopes that one day they will pay the ultimate sacrifice, but I humbly thank and acknowledge each and every mother whose life is now divided into a before and after narrative. Thank you for raising such a loyal, determined man or woman, that they would embody the truth of John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
This Independence Day we here at The MOB Society say a resounding, “Thank You” to all the members of the armed forces and emergency services who daily sacrifice their lives for our freedom and safety. And to the mothers and fathers who have raised them, we say “Well done and thank you.”
We’d love to acknowledge your family member if they have served in the military or emergency services. Please leave a comment on this post with their name and branch. Thank you and God Bless America.
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She’s beautiful, and precious, and precocious, and she comes from a background my boys find very difficult to understand.
For some reason, she latched on to my boys. Maybe it was because they’re so handsome (at least mama thinks so), or maybe it’s because they just listened to her story. Regardless, they were her safe place. In the midst of her struggles and trials, they loved her, and wanted her to know Jesus, and this blessed my mama’s heart like nothing else could.
But I slowly began to realize that their tactics for sharing the gospel needed some finesse.
Several times, as I watched them play through my front window, I noticed them huddled together, talking deeply about this or that. And like a flash of lightening, she would get up and run away. After some prodding, I realized my boys were cornering her on her faith. Pressing her for details to prove she was a Christian.
Over the breakfast table, we dissected their approach (this is a slightly abbreviated version of the conversation, but you’ll get the main points).
Boys: “Mom, we just wanted to talk to her about Jesus. We asked her if she was sure she was a Christian, and she just said, ‘leave me alone!’ and ran away! We wanted to tell her about how Jesus can change her life.”
Mom: “I’m so glad you want her to know Jesus so badly! I do, too…But boys, tell me about the way you behave when you’re playing together with her. Do you fight, argue, and bicker with each other?” (Of course, mama already knew the answer…).
Boys (hanging heads in shame): “Yes.”
As we continued, it became clear that a lot of time was spent arguing over who was right, who got to go first, who got their own way, and who was best. And as I listened to them defend themselves around the table, blaming each other for not playing fair, being selfish, or showing off, a light went off in my heart, and I knew what was happening.
Mom: “Boys, what I’m hearing you say is that your friend looks at you, the way you interact with and love each other, and sees absolutely no difference between how you treat each other and how the rest of the world treats her.”
In light of Friday’s Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, we felt like you might be trying to figure out how in the world to begin having these conversations with your children. As my friend Amanda said, this seems to be THE issue of our generation, and friends, my boys are old enough now that I have to begin having these conversations with them. They notice the two men holding hands at the mall. They read billboards. They see the news.
We can’t hide under a blanket, wishing things were different. We have to find ways to live in the world we live in, being the hands and feet of Christ the whole time.
But how do we do that as it concerns this issue? Any issue that differs from our beliefs? How do we love in a broken world?
Let me start by saying that my boys got it wrong. While their friend wasn’t gay, and didn’t (as far as I know) come from a gay family (really, her story has nothing to do with the gay marriage issue), the way they interacted with her is a perfect illustration of everything we’re doing wrong as a culture, and a call to do it right.
I want to focus on two main verses and four main points to help us change our focus as we interact with the world around us:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
1. We must love others more than we love ourselves.
Woven into the conversations on social media about yesterday’s rulings is a thread of, “well, what about me?” Christians are starting to talk about their right to have their own opinion, and how the world is increasingly doing to us what we’re no longer allowed to do to others. They’re hushing us, taking away our rights in favor of giving rights to others. We can barely say the word “gay” and “God” in the same sentence without being accused of hate. It’s frustrating, but I don’t see it as a problem. We’ve been broken from the beginning…we’ve just been very sheltered from it in America.
As my friend Bryan put it, “for far too long American Christians have been coasting on the cruise ship known as Christendom…ahh it was comfortable…we had our day of ease with an insulated and isolated faith.”
The freedom we’ve experienced as American Christians has been wonderful, but it isn’t what God promised. Quite the opposite. Jesus promised us that “in this world we will have trouble…” He promised us trials and tribulations, and challenged us to “count them all joy” because it meant we were getting to sacrifice our lives for the one who sacrificed his for us.
American Christians are getting a taste of what Christians in the rest of the world have been experiencing for years. Our season of comfort is coming to a close, and it’s OK because Jesus said it would happen. We have to stop worrying about our rights, our privileges, our comforts, and truly begin loving others into the Kingdom.
2. I knew what yesterday’s ruling would be before it ever happened, but that’s not the point.
Legislation has turned away from the favor of Christians. Maybe a different government would’ve prevented it, I don’t know. I’m not an expert on government proceedings. But I knew what was going to happen yesterday, and as much as I wish our country did a better job of honoring God in every way, I don’t think the ruling was the main point.
The main point is this: God has called us to make disciples of all people, and the way we do that is by being true disciples ourselves.
We can have all the knowledge of the Gospel, and know 100 different ways to share it, but unless we are living it no one will believe us. Yesterday’s ruling, more than anything else, is a call to embrace Christ, live Christ, and love like Christ.
3. There must be something different about Christians.
No matter who we’re trying to reach, we have to do it through our lives. I’m afraid we’ve fully entered into a time when words won’t matter, because we’ve used words, God’s words, to shame, and try to justify our prejudices and judgements. We’ve used them to hurt, and not heal, and how we treat people is more important than what we say.
What my boys did wrong, as they tried to reach their friend for Christ, was act just like the rest of the world. Their bickering, and arguing, and fighting amongst themselves showed her they were no different from anyone else. They professed to be Christians, but when pressed, acted like the world.
Now is the time for us to decide whose side we’re on, and I’m not talking about whether you believe homesexual marriage is ok, or not. I’m talking about radical, sold out loving Jesus. Moment-by-moment pursuit of him. Sacrifice for the sake of others, living so that others see we have something they don’t…hope.
We have the only true hope.
4. You might be wondering what all of this has to do with talking to your children about what has happened in our country.
In my opinion, everything.
I’m not going to rush into deep theological, political conversations with my children because of what happened yesterday. Those conversations will come naturally, as they arise, and we won’t shrink away from them when they do. The Bible will stand in our home, and lead these conversations because we believe it’s true no matter how we feel about what it says.
Until that time, I’m asking God to give me and my husband strength to love others more than we love ourselves, to live as Christ, and be willing to sacrifice ourselves so that others can know. My prayer (God help us) is for the world to see we have something they desperately need because there’s something different about us.
My children are watching everything I do. Yours are watching you. If they’re going to learn how to live like Christ in a world of darkness, they’ll look to us to teach them how. Actions speak louder than words. Live what you want your children to believe. As St. Francis of Assisi is credited as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.
My son Bradley was tucked away in the corner, Bible open, laptop out, typing feverishly—at least as feverishly as a nine-year-old can. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was writing his own prayer.
He was taking passages he liked from the Psalms and weaving them together into a prayer all his own.
My son got the idea from watching my husband. When Luke prays with the kids, he often pulls out his Bible and personalizes the words of Scripture into a prayer which inspired my son to do the same.
A lot of parents pray with their kids, but how do we get our kids to really take ownership of their prayer habits?
It should go without saying we need to model prayer for our kids, but assuming we have made private prayer a priority for ourselves, and assuming we pray regularly with our kids, how do we help them put feet to their own prayers?
1. Set Up a Prayer Corner
Set aside an area of your home you designate as your son’s special prayer “corner.” Tell him this will be his special place to pray, where he can pray without interruption. This is wise for a number of reasons:
Kids are concrete, and it is easy for prayer to feel “abstract.” Giving them a physical location will help them make prayer a priority.
The corner will be a constant physical reminder of the importance your family places on prayer.
Finding an out-of-the-way place to pray will help our easily-distracted sons to focus.
We are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17), but for our boys to learn to pray all of the time everywhere, they must first learn to pray some of the time somewhere.
2. Allow Him to Personalize His Prayer Corner
Suggest items he can put in in his prayer corner and then work with him to make it a special place. Give him some concrete ideas, but allow him to decide how it “looks”—you want him to own this project as much as possible. Take him shopping at the store or online to pick out the stuff he wants in his prayer corner you don’t own yet.
His own Bible.
A bulletin board for him to tack up things he’s praying for or Bible verses he is learning.
A CD player for him to play Christian music he likes.
An age-appropriate devotional.
Pictures your son draws or colors that remind him of God.
Photos of his friends and family he wants to pray for.
Maps of the world to remind him to pray for other countries.
A journal he can write in.
Allow him to choose how the prayer corner is laid out. Does he want a beanbag chair on the floor? Great. Does he want decorate the wall with Christian artwork of his making? Give him some sticky tack. Don’t take the fun out of it by being too restrictive. Just help him to create an undistracting environment: it should not be a place where his toys are within reach.
3. Teach Them to Follow Jesus’ Example
Jesus gave His disciples what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer” to teach them to pray (Matt. 6:9-13). While many kids have been taught to recite it, it just as important they understand what it means.
There are six petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, and we should take time to teach our kids about each one. The six petitions can be remembered using the acronym P.R.A.Y.E.R.
Praise – “Hallowed by thy name.” Praise God for who He is, and ask Him to make His name holy in the world.
Remake – “Thy kingdom come.” Ask God to remake this world into a place where people He is honored as the king.
Attitude – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Ask God to change people’s attitudes so they obey Him.
Yummy – “Give us this day our daily bread.” Ask God to give you and your family the things you need and enjoy.
Expose Sin – “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Ask God to expose and forgive your sin.
Rescue – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Ask God to rescue you from your sinful tendencies.
It was dark when they appeared on our front porch, tired and hungry. Evidence of their life or death, epic adventure flaked off from their hiking boots. Inside, the four young men filled their plates and began to unload a tale told only by those who tackle mountaintops. They took turns unfolding the events of the stormy night, the heavy fog, the desperate hiker, the run through the darkness, and their lonely attempts to keep a stranger warm enough to live until the helicopter arrived. My chest tightened as I imagined four fellow moms in other states who had no idea of what had happened on the distant veiled mountain. Their college sons had just leapt further forward into manhood.
Motherhood takes courage. I thought I had reached deep for my Greatest Brave when I felt contractions, brought my infant son home, stared down the neighborhood bully, and let our boy drive off in the family car. How much more brave must a mom be?
A mom has to be brave enough to let her boy grow up and climb mountaintops. The Greatest Brave allows a son (helps a son) to plan and attack adventures born in his heart. It’s a mother’s instinct to keep her son from harm, to protect him, to be close to him. While there’s a time to hover and supervise, we raise our sons to release them. That means when our boys emerge into young manhood and yearn to do brave things of their own, we dig deep for our Greatest Brave. Without the opportunity to be brave, our boys will remain weak, unsure, and reluctant. They will stay boys. By releasing our grip enough to step back, we give our boys the blessing of learning the Greatest Brave.
“Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” (2 Samuel 10:12)
The bravery of a boy rises in the courage of his mom. But it’s not easy to let go, because the certainty of our son’s presence and well-being gives us a kind of security that sometimes masquerades as bravery. It isn’t bravery if it comes out in a need to control. I know, because my son is about to follow the four young men on the mountain, and a great part of my heart wants to stop it. I want to protect him. I want to keep him. But more than my greatest fears, I want him to be brave.
Brave moms allow sons to learn lessons essential to brave men.
When he feels alone in the world, and he will, God is with him.
When he finds himself in darkness, and he will, God will move.
When he feels weak, and he will, God will give him strength.
When he needs courage, and he will, God will make him bold.
When he longs for purpose, and he will, God will use him to change lives.
The four young men who came off the mountain and into my kitchen encountered God when courage was called for. It shone on their faces, in the stance, and in their gaze. Their moms were far away, probably praying through that stormy night, without even knowing the needs. I believe God prompts moms that way to do prayer-battle on behalf of their children. Sons discover the bravery of men when their mamas practice the Greatest Brave.
My boy has been with me 18 years. I am about to release him as a man. If I give in to my own fears, I will stifle his courage. It’s time to allow him to go, to help him go. It’s time for me to cheer him on and believe in him. It won’t be easy, but I know he was never meant to stay a boy. He was always meant to be a man. It’s time for my Greatest Brave.
Are you raising your son to release him? Maybe it’s time for your Greatest Brave.
My 3 boys are 5,4 and 1 and I am in the trenches of the exhausting and overwhelming little years. When 9 o’clock rolls around my head is ready to hit the pillow, though I never make it to bed that early.
You know what is really exhausting? Giving these little men chores and making sure they follow through. It takes more time and energy to make sure they follow through than it would take for me to just do it myself. But you know why we do it? Because now is the time to teach them responsibility. Our boys excluding the 1 year old, each have age appropriate chores.
Each morning they have to make their bed and get ready for the day before they can eat breakfast. Once they come down then it’s time for them to empty the dishwasher. After eating their meals they ask to be excused and take their plates to the sink. Sometimes they even help with the laundry and take out the trash.
My boys don’t always want to do their chores, but we teach them that doing their chores is making a choice to serve your family above your own immediate desires. There is always something else they would rather be doing. Being responsible is sometimes sacrificial.
Giving your children chores in the little years or at any age will help teach them to become responsible adults. It also teaches them to serve others.
What are some ways you can teach your little ones responsibility through giving them chores?
Give your children age appropriate chores. Check out the post earlier this week where our organizational guru, Becky Barnfather, showcased several lists of chores for boys categorized by age!
Make sure your little ones follow through with their chores.
Teach your children that every job they do, do it as to the Lord and not for man.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Colossians 3:23
Chores make up a very small portion of my boys’ day. Most of our day is spent playing and spending time together. You do not need to be dogmatic with your children’s chores for this to be effective, instead treat them as you would want to be treated at your job and the ability to use chores as a learning tool will go far.
Here at The MOB Society we are committed to equipping and encouraging parents to raise godly men. And as a community of BoyMoms, we’re learning to delight in the chaos of raising boys along the way! Click here to read more about our story and the heart behind our ministry. And to meet our co-founders Brooke and Erin and the rest of the team, click here.
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