_ Parenting is hard.  Seriously…it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And that is saying something, because I am horrible at many things.  But I am trying to teach my kids to be good at those things.  I am trying to help them avoid my mistakes and go about things differently.  However, this creates an inherent hypocrisy in our relationship. 

While I do not express it verbally, I feel like I am constantly sending the message of “do as I say, not as I do.”  And to be honest, I am not totally okay with that.  Now, I’m not talking about me telling my son not to yell in the house while I am screaming at the basketball players on the television.  I’m talking about mistakes I have made in the past.  I’m talking about things I did before I was ready to set an example.  If I really want my children to be better than me, I have to teach them to be better.  In some circumstances, my words are all I have to influence them.

Luckily, God does not send the same mixed signals to us.  Sure, He provides direction through His Word and tells us how we should live.  But He didn’t stop there.  God came to earth wrapped in flesh to show us how to live.  He provided the perfect example, the ideal blueprint for how to overcome temptation, how to love people, how to use our resources for His glory, and how to be utterly, completely selfless. 

Instead of saying, “do as I say, not as I do,” God says “do as I say, just like this.”  He even set the perfect example for how to be a good example. 

How has God’s example impacted your life lately?
“Be careful what you wish for.”  That’s a pretty common saying, right?  When somebody really wants a job, and then they start doing it and find out it is more work than they bargained for.  A teenager begs to watch a scary movie, and then they have nightmares.  I ask for a dozen donuts, and then I get sick because I eat them all in one sitting.  I get it.  We don’t always consider all of the possible outcomes of getting something we think we want.

I rarely hear that saying applied to prayer, though.  I find that kind of odd.  I feel like we often pray for things that we wish we had.  So why aren’t we more cautious about what we pray for?  In my opinion, we should be.

I believe that prayer works.  I have seen people healed, situations resolved, and peoples’ hearts both broken and cured due to prayer.  I have personally had prayers answered in the midst of a prayer.  However, there is one request that God granted for me that I instantly regretted asking for…patience.

Some of you know what I am talking about.  If you ask God for knowledge, He will put you in a situation where you can acquire it.  If you ask God for advice, He will often surround you with Christian counsel to help guide your decisions.  And if you pray for patience, God will bless you with situations where you are forced to be more patient than you ever dreamed. 

For the vast majority of folks, being patient isn’t fun.  That’s why I wanted help with it.  I wanted to magically be able to wait at the DMV for hours without ever worrying about where I needed to be.  I wanted to be able to ride out tantrums with my kids without ever getting frustrated.  I wanted to be able to wait…and wait…and wait for whatever God has planned for me. 

So what did God do?  He made me wait for answers for many things.  He put me in frustrating situations that seemed like they would never end.  He put me in situations where I felt like I was going to go crazy if something didn’t happen soon…and of course, nothing did.  I did become more patient during those times.  There is no doubt about it.  But it was definitely not what I was hoping for.

While I appreciated the opportunities to become more patient, I have definitely learned my lesson.  I will only pray for things that I am ready to acquire through direct application.  Nowadays, any time my family is going through a troubling time that seems to never end, I find myself wondering who asked for more patience.  I may or my not be guilty for accusing my wife of doing so on occasion.  I’m telling ya, you have to be careful what you pray for.

Have you ever had a prayer answered in a way that was more than what you bargained for?

__(This is your weekly "Top 5 Tuesday" post.  These entries will always be in list form, just to mix things up a bit.  Enjoy!)

I recently had a reality check about my age.  You see, my only jobs since graduating college have been at colleges and universities.  So, in a way, I still feel like a college student.  At a recent youth event, however, one single phrase changed my entire perspective about my age.  That phrase came as a response to a simple question:  “What time is it?”.

Typical responses to such a question could range from “time to get a watch” to the actual time of day.  However, our youth pastor and I simultaneously shouted, “Game time, hoo!”  The room went completely silent as all of the teenagers looked at us as though we had been arguing about the significance of the BABIP statistic in evaluating a switch hitter at the bottom of a baseball lineup.  Yeah, that’s the same look they had.  They had no idea what we were talking about.  (Just in case you have no recognition of the mid-1990’s, that was the primary huddle cheer of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, and is a very acceptable response to the question, “What time is it?”.)

I instantly realized the age gap between myself and our youth group members.  I mean, I knew the numbers before, but that made it very real.  I then had a very intense series of epiphanies about my age, my stage in life, all the things I need to accomplish, and finally the fact that my own children will be teenagers far sooner than I care to think about.

Before I knew it, I was thinking about my daughter (about a year old at the time) starting to date.  At that point, I started to make a list.  When my daughter has her first date, sometime shortly after she finishes her Master’s degree, I want to have some questions prepared for the guy that thinks he is good enough to spend time with my little girl.  I truly hope that I will raise my daughter in such a way that she will be a great judge of character and she will be seeking a Godly man.  However, I will need a few answers for my own peace of mind.

1.  What is your schedule for the evening? – I want to know everywhere they are going, and how long they will be there.  No, I am not going to follow them (at least not detectably).  I just want to know where to find them in case of an emergency.  (Note:  Emergency is a very vague term and may be interpreted at my discretion.)

2.Where do you go to church? – Hopefully I will know the guy and I will have been able to investigate…er…inquire about him before the night of the actual date.  If not, the church he attends will tell me a lot about him.  By that, I mean it will give me some references I can call to ask about his trustworthiness.  (Question #4 covers what happens if he does not attend a local church.)

3.How are your doctoral studies going? – Since she should have finished her Master’s degree by now, he should probably have already made strides toward becoming a doctor.

4.Tell me about your relationship with Jesus Christ. – I know, that is not necessarily a question.  But it does require a response that I will be very interested to hear.  If the young man is not a Christian, I will have a hard time giving him my full support.  At that point, I may have to introduce him to the Fear of God, which is what I call my pistol.

There are so many follow-up questions to #4 for that I will spare you the details.  Let's just say I hope it looks very similar to the Courageous clip below.  However, it is very important that he knows where my family stands on our faith.  Not only is that a part of who we are; it is the basis of who we are.  He needs to know that.  This interview is just as much about informing him of that as it is about me determining if my son is bigger than he is so I can adjust my level of involvement.

Now, if you are asking, “what if your daughter has not accepted Christ as her savior?”, I really have no answer for you.  I need to chew on that possibility a little more before I write about it.  Regardless of her relationship with Christ, though, the standpoint of my household will remain the same. 

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)