Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category


For the longest time I have wanted to write a book about the balance between “Christian dichotomies”, that is, Biblical principles that seem to be contradictory, like loving kids tenderly, vs. disciplining them, or doing things because you have to –out of obligation (which sounds legalistic), vs. out of love when you really feel like…. Or being spontaneous letting the Holy Spirit flow freely vs. planning and being prepared to be used by Him.

This came to mind because as I think of my life the last 40 years, I can’t help it but see awesome things happening in my life. My parents came to know Christ because some faithful small group leader kept on inviting them to church. Although they rejected the invitation several times, it wasn’t until I, as a ~6 month’s old baby, was dying in the hospital due to a respiratory illness, that my father saw no other option but to let these “Christians” pray for the baby, and a miracle happened. I was healed virtually immediately, started eating and here I am four decades later.

That was just the beginning. Since then, I have been privileged with having a fairly easy understanding of academics, especially music, math and languages. I have enjoyed pretty good friends, and even though growing up in a third world country, and in spite of living in poverty, I never knew we were poor -not that poor at least. Going into my teenage years I never had any major social problems and even when my dad walked away from the family, I always had some ‘father figure’ teaching me the basics of life such as driving, shooting, or camping. I have always enjoyed of very good jobs with very good companies and typically have gone up in the corporate ladder pretty quickly. I have traveled, enjoyed some of the finest restaurants, hotels and places. I have been privileged to meet and learn from Baptists, Presbyterians, Charismatics, and atheists, from various languages, cultures and walks in life. I had the opportunity to move to United States and today I have a house and a car and a job that the little 10-year old Luis would have never even imagined possible. I have a beautiful, hard working, godly woman as a wife, and kids that bring me joy and pride every single day.

When I was in my late teens I made a list of goals and how would I accomplish them, with dates and milestones. Not long ago I realized, I pretty much accomplished them all –or did even better.

Does it sound like I’m bragging? I kind of am. In fact, I have gotten used to friends telling me “you have a star” or “you are so lucky” and it is kind of true. My answer always is, “yes I have a ‘star’, His name is Jesus!”.

You see, anyone who has spent sometime around me knows that I am a very regular guy, not rich, not a genius, not even close to perfect in my walk at all. When I look back I can see how many times I have messed up, been lazy, dishonest and merely sinful, I have made mistakes and sometimes paid for them. Still, I see so many good things that my only explanation is: God loves me and gave me the life I live, the opportunities I find myself in, and the abilities I possess, for a reason. He, God, has been my provider, my helper, my protector and literally, the father to this fatherless. He has done it all, he deserves the glory, I am nothing but a story of God’s grace.

With that being said, coming back to the dichotomies, I would be doing a disservice to my kids if I didn’t teach them also that God, through my mother, other role figures, and experiences, has taught me that success happens when opportunity and preparation meet. Our job, no matter who we are, where we were born, and what we were born with, is to make the best of our resources and talents. Whether born in a third world country or in a country club in Manhattan, we all have limitations and abilities, that is the hand we were handed, and that’s that we have to play with, plan and use.

I’m pretty convinced that if you work hard, and seek to be best at whatever you do, success will come. Maybe not the success you thought, or success as defined by others, but success born out of knowing you did your best, and accomplished something. Choices have consequences and if I can instill this life principle in my kids, they will avoid so much pain and reap so much success.

It’s been a fun 40 years, but I still have lots of plans, dreams and goals. I don’t feel too old, this is just a springboard to greater success. Moses left his homeland at 40 and his real known actions were just starting. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho way beyond his 40’s, Saul of tarsus (Paul), also around his 40’s, went from a Christian’s killer to the influencer of the Gospel to the non-Jewish world for 2 millennia. Jean Eugene Atget, now considered one of the world’s greatest photographers, did not begin until he was 40. Renowned American folk artist Grandma Moses did not take up her craft until she was in her 70s and, Terri Tapper, at age 50, became the oldest female certified kiteboard instructor in the USA (and possibly the world). Harland Sanders was steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, farmer, and railroad fireman, but it wasn’t until his 40’s when he started cooking chicken, and becoming famous as the Kentucky Fried Chicken Mogul. Justinian’s codification of Roman Law, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mother Teresa’s humanitarian legacy, and many many more great things have been accomplished after that ‘mid-life’ time.

So, maybe I’m not writing that dichotomies book yet, however if I was to write a book about my life today, and considering all the great things that have happened and the greatest things yet to be done, my book would be called “My First Forty years”.


Sometimes Christianity is easier said than done. The ‘rubber’ is easy when we tweet the Bible verse, or propose to do this, or “from now on” not to do that, in order to please God. However the ‘meeting the road’ becomes a bit more complicated when it comes to applying those intentions to real practical daily life. Telling the truth is one of those areas I’ve been struggling with.

See, we know as Christians that we are to tell the truth always. In fact, we know that lying is an abomination and hated by God. It’s been said that there are “white lies” –mind you, this is said by people, never by God. But what to do when the hard truth can be, too hard? Too difficult to handle? Too politically incorrect?

With my kids: There are easy truthful answers to easy questions:

Q: “do you love me?; A:“yes”
Q: “does God still love me”; A: “Yes!”

But what about the questions to which answers I don’t know, or know to be completely, likely, or at least remotely, hard?:

Q: “Is it going to rain?”
Q: “will a tornado hit our neighborhood?”
Q: “will our sick pet survive the accident?
Q: “is my uncle Ben going to heaven?”

Do I give the ‘hopeful’ nice answer? (“yes, he is in heaven in spite of rejecting Christ”), or do I give the truth?: “the statistical chances of a tornado hitting our neighborhood –or our house, are so remote, that we don’t need to worry about it”. You may thing its funny or pathetic. However, this answer about the tornadoes is what I gave to my kids –perhaps in a moment of lack of judgment, and ever since, they freak out every time there is a little bit of rain in the forecast. Now I wonder if perhaps I should have said: “a tornado will never hit our neighborhood!”. And what if it does? What if the sick pet ends up dying? Will I then lose credibility in their eyes and doubt therefore that God loves them? What would the right answer be?

With adults and other believers: Let’s say that a friend of mine posts a Facebook status about a stranger making comments about how bad of a parent he is because he is feeding his kids with chips and soda and letting them run wild. He states, “Am I that bad of a parent?, I’m doing the best I can with all the stress of losing my house and all” To this, friends start commenting: “don’t listen to them, you are doing a great job”, or “you are a great parent!”, “you lost your house because we live in an unjust society”.

Do I go with the flow and say “you’re great, keep on doing what you’re doing!” or, do I address the fact that from my point of view, his overweight kids maybe at risk eating so unhealthy; that his kids are indeed out of control and need some boundaries and discipline; and that losing his house may have less to do with an unjust society and more to do with his unwise investments and decisions in the past? As a friend, I would want to help in his situation. In fact, I would hope my friends would call me up on areas they see I am failing and help me by pointing out my mistakes. It has happened, and I have and still appreciate that honesty. What would the right answer be?

With non-believers: A typical scenario would be when a very good person who happens to be a relative, a great friend, nice neighbor, involved citizen and concerned for the poor, is engaged and resolved to live a lifestyle that shows disobedience to clear Biblical principles and commands. Then they ask: “why can you accept, respect and support my lifestyle and personal decisions? Doesn’t God love me? Why not you?”. As Christians, do we do better by giving them a hug, inviting them to lunch and agreeing that God loves them (which is true) and expressing support for their lifestyles, and keeping “the relationship door open”? Or do we tell what we think to be the Biblical stand; that although God loves them, as He does anybody else, there are guidelines and consequences, and whatever else maybe appropriate to the situation? (along with the hug and lunch). Do we risk losing the relationship and being labeled as hater or judgmental or intolerant? If whatever words I utter, somehow misguide his perception and God’s view of the situation, and gives him a false confidence that ultimately can drive him to an eternal mistake –and painful consequences on earth, wouldn’t I be acting selfishly in not telling the truth? What would the right answer be?

Is telling the truth a relative subjective concept to be handled on a case-by-case basis?
Am I missing something?

 


Before we start the day with worries, doubts, fears or inadequacy; before we pray and ask God -and believe His answer to bless us, to help us with our work today, with patience while dealing with the kids,  to provide this months mortgage or for help in doing His will…

Before we start he day with bringing our ‘grocery list’ of petitions,

Let’s all remember, and believe -as a ‘done deal’, what happened at the moment we placed our faith in God and gave Him our lives. Our position before God changed immediately (Justification), right then and there:

Let’s remember and truly believe as a fact, that we went:

 

…what difference will it make?

 


And I’m not referring to the lights and the gifts and the hot chocolate, or even celebrating Jesus birthday. Although those might be great, I think there is a far more practical reason December is the happiest season of all.

its-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year-smallI think this is the season that best lends itself for us to be Christians. Throughout the year we have heard countless messages, sermons and Bible studies reminding us and encouraging us to believe in Jesus, to read and study scriptures, to pray continually, to obey His commandments, to love our neighbor, to tithe and give to the needy, to serve and help others. Throughout the year, we’ve been given practical applications to love our spouses, fellowship daily with God, manage our time wisely, surrender fruitless additions and activities, share the Good News with others, and to stand fearless against adversities.

However, acting upon our beliefs is where the rubber hits the road. Weather you believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit or gift of tongues or whether you are more in the “you’ve got all the spirit at conversion” side of the discussion, I am sure we all can agree with this quote:

Sometimes It takes more Holy Spirit to help with the dishes than to pray…

The Christian life God wants us to live; the Christian life the outsiders are going to be truly influenced by, is a life that both, understands the ‘saved by grace’ identity through a deep relationship with God on a daily basis through prayer and Bible study, and –as a result, acts.

And Christmas season is a perfect time to act because:

–          Giving is on the air. It is not too awkward to give to a waitress a high tip, pay for someone’s dinner or giving practical gifts to foster kids, instead of unnecessary expensive gifts to our own kids (or ourselves). What better season to practice the famous “random acts of kindness”.

–          People are open to kindness, which is an opportunity to, not only pray for people in secret, but pray for them and with them face to face, in the workplace, streets of anywhere else.

–          No other topic in scriptures has more resources (books, advent devotionals, movies, youtube videos etc) available as the Christmas story, which can make it a bit easier for us parents to study and teach the Bible to our kids –and learn ourselves in the process, about Jesus and salvation.

–          You can even use the “12 days of Christmas” excuse, to do special simple but profound acts of love and service to your spouse. Night talks, dates, a rose in her nightstand, back rubs, kitchen clean up, oil change….. your imagination is the limit.

–          Put all of these together, and a few more, and you have a whole set of activities and actions you can take to serve and love others and use these acts of kindness as vehicles to tell others about who Jesus is and what The Gospel means for them; the best way to witness and share our faith with others.

The greatest result, if you take these areas and ideas and come up with your own customized plan, and executed it during December, by the last day in New Years Eve, you will have a great head-start on ‘resolutions’, as you would, not only be focused on things that do matter, and have experienced them, but you would also already have some ‘habit practice’ built-in (they say that if you do something for 21 days, it is more likely to stick with it)… you will have some momentum going -which some argue decides 80% of the success for new year’s resolutions. Imagine if you could live life doing these type of acts, not only on December, but throughout all 2013?

It may not work, but it might. Only giving it a try will tell… and I think it is well worth it. You may say at the end, with a whole new meaning, that December the most wonderful time of the year!



What makes a man worthy of respect? What makes a man truly a man? Is it the physiological features alone? Or, is there more to being a man that can bring manhood to full realization? Is it having lots of women? Is it having plenty of sexual experiences? Is it reaching the top of the corporate and financial ladder? Is is having children?

Most male animals can procreate; just a few men can be good fathers.
Many mammals grow hair; only a few men can grow character.
Some guys find worth in exercising, do-it-yourself and self-improvement projects; only a few men can exercise self-control.
Some men pride themselves on muscle power but lack wisdom and strength to control such power in the midst of temptation, anger or adverse situations.
This culture seems to tell us that an accomplished man can get every and any toy, tool and gadget he wants. However, maybe full realization of manhood is found in the ability to satisfy the needs and desires of wives, children and those entrusted to that man’s care.

Maybe a man’s body and physiological features dictate manhood alone. Or maybe there are other areas that make manhood more real and transcendental than the physical. Other areas that can make a man worthy of respect.

There was once a man who, was known for being a loving warrior. Some say that he once killed thousands of enemies by Himself just to defend his own. With sacrifice, selflessness, unconditional love and courage, he gave it all up to do what no one else could. He fought and fiercely opposed his enemies to complete victory. He loved his children, he had the character and self control to wait for the appropriate time to meet His bride but did everything He could to gain her love….

Maybe every man would do well in learning more from him… He is a man worthy of respect.


I remember when I graduated from High school. we said to each other: “Keep in touch!”, “we have to hang out!”, “we’ll be friends forever!” and many other never-fulfilled promises that inundated our hearts as we said “good bye” to the past and “bring it on!” to a future as uncertain as everything else at that age.

Looking back, twenty years later, I did not keep in touch with many –or anyone really. I barely hung out with some of my friends for just a few months. Truth is, only one of my early childhood friends remains even today as my best friend –after my wife of course.

The grades didn’t matter that much -but did help to open doors. The bad moments, pains and hurts didn’t mark me forever -though I learned from them. The break ups and heartbreaks were seemingly insignificant in the big scheme of things -but I would have rather avoided the wasted time and emotions. The dreams that never came to fruition, were only shadowed by better paths laid on my way.

Only one thing I remember that was true then, has been truth ever since and is even truer today.  The more I seek to be in good fellowship with God –that God that many in my high school class made fun of, the better things seem to go; the better I feel, the better I can face circumstances in life. Likewise, the more I ignore that subtle voice in my heart and discretely do things my way – or openly and willingly rebel against what I know God wants for me, the worse I feel in living life, in facing the downs and lows… and even when facing the good stuff, being out of that fellowship with God made it almost worthless.

Some will go to ivy league schools, some may not even go on to college. Some will make great grades and great salaries, some great grades and no salaries, some no grades and better salaries –there is not one specific rule –other than the one that, time and time again, I have seen fulfilled in my life. From experience I can tell you:

seek to do the things that please God, and every other thing will be alright.

From this point on, it is up to you, it is your choice and your call. You can do things God’s way -with or without some people’s approval, but knowing with certainty that the end will be the best possible, or do things your way -even pleasing others, and risk reaping the potentially and very likely painful fruit of your unwise choice. Like that famous philosopher said:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations!!