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Lent 2013, Entry 13

This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Occasionally, I’m reading and praying in Proverbs with “parenting eyes” and blogging whatever comes to mind. That’s the plan, for good or bad. Today, I read Proverbs 23

We’d taken them to the art museums. We gave them the city tour via tourist boat on the canals. The requisite lunch at the Hard Rock Café had met their felt needs of ice in the sodas and logoed t-shirts with “Amsterdam” on them for bragging rights. We were giving our students a much deserved afternoon to explore the city after 10 days (the halfway point) of our mission trip.

Some were headed to the Anne Frank house. Others off for serious shopping as the dollar had serious buying power before Holland joined the Euro. One was an architecture student with a sketch pad. I was looking forward to some leisurely time away from my students just hanging out at a café & reading…

…until…

“Brent, can you take us to a (*ahem*) coffee shop? We really just want to see what they’re like.”

For the uninitiated, at that time, coffee shops were also dispensaries of a number of drugs that were illegal in the U.S. The curiosity factor of these senior high school guys was obvious. My logic, rightly or wrongly, was that if I said “no” they’d find one anyway so I may as well make sure the impromptu field trip was accompanied by an adult. As an added bonus, our pastor’s wife agreed to come along for grins.

The pastor’s wife and I really had no idea of how to find a “coffee house” but on the busy main street of Amsterdam she looked over and said, “I bet those two know where one is.” “What makes you think so?” I asked. “Look at them. They definitely know.” I looked at them and they looked like they were in college & maybe shopped at thrift stores but nonetheless I wasn’t seeing it. Interestingly, she was correct…in fact, those two said they’d take us to a really good one as they were on their way there at that very moment. Weird how intuitive she was.

Anyway, a few blocks later we were there and the guys took a look around. It was the middle of the day and outside of the two thrift store shoppers everybody there looked a lot older and kind of ragged…just taking hits off a hookah loaded with pot and reading or listening to music. After they goofed around asking the overwhelmingly helpful clerk about all the different types of pot on the menu and the effects they created (apparently, if you’re going to study you might get one type, but going to shoot hoops might require another, or listening to music or whatever. Who knew?) they got their souvenir menus and I asked them about what they noticed about the people that were in the shop.

“Well, nobody really looked happy, that’s for sure.”
“People looked really beat down.”
“I think if you do that a lot you look a lot older than you really are.”
“What kind of jobs do those people have where they can hang out in the middle of the day just smokin’ weed?”

Field trip = well worth it. Points taken. We were then off to various other destination points including an outdoor chess set where the pieces were as tall or taller than us. Along the way we had a discussion about the unseen payments and/or consequences of choices like that. You know, the idea that when you go down to the Crossroads and sell your soul to the devil, the fine print always comes back to bite you. It’s like a beer commercial in that it shows hot/sexy people playing volleyball on the beach at night with a great fire and lots of laughs…but not the beer guts or guy falling into the fire after having too much to drink or the cat fight started due to loose lips and all.

Reading Proverbs 23, well, that’s kind of what ran across my mind as we teach our kids. I mean, we should be showing them the longer view over the shorter pleasure. So, for example, in verses 1-3 we are given the example of sitting down to a fancy meal with someone in power. The dinner may be of top quality. But we should be curious as to what, if any, ulterior motives that leader may have in wining and dining us.

In verses 4-5 we see that chasing after riches has it’s own built in payment in that they can be fleeting and they can lead us to become exhausted trying to catch them.

In 6-9, we should watch out for the stingy person, too. They act like they’re interested in one thing but really his heart isn’t with you, and then you wasted your time and energy.

In verses 10-11 we shouldn’t take advantage of the oppressed…because God is protecting them and any short term gains of property will have long-term consequences even if they aren’t in this life.

Verses 17-19 we shouldn’t envy sinners. I mean, I did this in my fraternity house in college. Here I was trying to follow God and I was a part of a group of guys who prayed for each other and held each other accountable and all that. Yet, I would watch the big laughs and crazy times my brothers had with alcohol and wish that I was doing that, too (full disclosure, there were times when, well, let’s just say that I followed through on those wishes and leave it at that, shall we?). I’d see the girls they were having sex with and be jealous. Once we graduated I noticed their good jobs and cars and golf clubs and kind of wish I’d chosen that route. It’s easy to do, right? But we’re warned against it.
Verses 20-35 show us the short term of, basically, wine, women & song. Spend too much time eating and you’ll wind up fat & lazy. I saw that myself when I was going through a tough time in life and ministry and literally didn’t exercise for a year and stayed on a youth ministry inherently high-carb diet. Between that lack of exercise and comfort eating I put on 40 pounds in about 18 months. I felt horrible and it affected all sorts of stuff in my life.

It talks about the payments the drunkard makes with drowsiness and homelessness.

It talks about what a life with prostitutes does…she zaps your life, man. All you have to do is grocery list the recent senator or athlete or movie star or business person or teacher or student or whoever else is in the headline of the day about how some type of sexual encounter cost them everything…EVERY SINGLE THING…they’d spent a lifetime to achieve.

And again with the payment wine demands. It bites like a snake. Stings like a viper. Makes you see and say strange things.

All those temporary pleasures. And make no mistake, they feel good for a time. But there’s that making a deal with the devil payments that you never see coming.

So, how do we instruct our children? To me, the key is found in the heart of the chapter. Right there in the middle: Discipline.

Now, it’s easy to reduce this to a discussion of “to spank” or “not to spank” but that truly is a reduction. The issue is discipline. That military-like instruction. Over and over and over. The diligence of a drill sergeant. Teaching them to think for themselves…and on their feet in the moment. When they lie down. When they rise up. Everything in-between. The idea is that we’ll be instructing them all along the way.

When my girls were in middle school and we were in line and there was a magazine in the rack with all sorts of women’s issues on the front, we’d play “spot the lie.” We’d do that on any TV show…just hit pause and have a discussion about what that character did/should’ve done. We’d see behavior we didn’t like in public and then instruct them on how it could’ve been handled better. At the ball game. Any time we could, we asked questions about what they were seeing and if it was good to do it that way. Yes, we annoyed them. And yes, before I make it sound like we got it all perfect, there were plenty of times when our daughters would catch our behavior and fire off the old…

…”But YOU SAID…”

The key is to be honest. Let our kids know that yes, some things are fun and enjoyable for a season, but all of our actions have consequences…and to ask them to start thinking through what those might be and then kind of risk/reward, especially factoring in what they know God says about something.

Because that’s when you know your kids can take their real-life field trip into the big world and generally make good decisions when you aren’t around…like at a coffee-shop in Amsterdam. Sure, they’ll blow a few along the way, too. But when they do, teach. Instruct, with great patience. Then the glad hearts and happy souls of verses 15-16 will be the reality for them when they walk in His righteousness…even if those hearts had to be toughened up through some tough experiences.