Posts Tagged ‘ Christianity ’

Santa Claus and Other White Lies We Tell Our Kids

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

One year.

With good reason, I’ve never been able to legitimately process the double standard of leading a child to believe in Santa Claus while at the same time teaching them not to lie.

It’s interesting how far we have had to stretch the lies, just like with any outrageous falsehood, in order to keep kids believing.

“How does Santa fit down the chimney? How does he fit all the toys in his sleigh? How does he travel the whole world overnight?”

(Insert ridiculous answers here.)

Yes, the legend of Santa Claus was born of Christian folklore, so as a predominately Christian nation, we can rest assured knowing that jolly ole St. Nick has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He has been confirmed, baptized, and even has a tattoo of John 3:16 on his arm.

Yet we can’t deny that in the way John Lennon once infamously claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, the fame of Santa arguably is greater than the actual reason Christmas came to be celebrated in the first place: the birth of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament.

But can we really get caught up in this particular double standard? Aren’t there other white lies we tell our kids to either A) comfort them or B) entertain them? Yup.

A very traditional white lie I’ve heard parents tell their kids is that when a loved one dies, in particular a grandparent, that person becomes an angel who watches over them in Heaven.

Sorry, the Bible doesn’t say that. I don’t know of any popular religion that actually does.

Besides, what does that even mean? How does Grandpa Murphy “watch over” your kid? Does he part the clouds, look down and see little Jaxon about to run over a stick while riding his bike, so Grandpa sends a few of his buddy angels to kick the stick out of the way just in time, saving Jaxon from crashing his bike?

Sure, the Bible says that there are guardian angels, but we don’t actually become them ourselves after entering Heaven. So it’s a white lie.

It’s a similar thing when a beloved pet dies. Yeah, all dogs go to Heaven, just like that movie that came out when I was in 2nd grade. Cats? Yeah, them too. The goldfish? That’s debatable. Now, let’s stop asking so many questions and finish eating this delicious Hamburger Helper dinner.

Don’t worry, we “helped” that cow go to Heaven quicker and meet all his cow family that were part of those burgers we grilled out last weekend.

Image: Traditional Santa Clause via Shutterstock.

Unexpected Bonus!

Want to read more on the subject? Today I am giving away a copy of the new book, Christmas is Not Your Birthday, to one lucky and curious reader. The book’s author, Mike Slaughter, is the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.

Through his church’s annual Christmas Miracle Offering, over $5 million has been raised for humanitarian relief in Darfur. If you ask me, this guy sounds like a real life Santa Claus. Not one that gives toys to kids, but instead someone who helps keep them from dying.

Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to nickshell1983@hotmail.com

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Brainwashing Versus Successfully Influencing a Child

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Ten months.

What’s the difference between a parent brainwashing their child versus successfully influencing them? After all, a child will ultimately grow up and make up their own mind when it comes to stuff like moral issues and relevance of religious faith. Yet it would be unwise to discount the impressions made on a child by an involved and encouraging parent.

Brainwashing carries a connotation of something forced and militant. That’s obviously not how I aim to influence my child. Instead, it’s a matter of making what’s normal and accepted to us as parents, normal and accepted to him.

My strategy is to simply raise my son in the way I know as right, so that when he is older, he won’t depart from it. My son Jack was born into a specifically Christian household. His exposure to our family’s religious beliefs won’t be presented as a respectable suggestion, but as reality and actual history.

But I can’t make him believe anything for the rest of his life; nor would I want to. As his dad, I can only influence him in ways that most other people will not be able.

What parts of our parental influence will really stick with him by the time he’s our age? I guess we’ll know when we’re sixty. But as for now, we’ll continue brainwashing influencing him in our quirky ways.

Unexpected Bonus!

On a related subject, I am giving away 5 copies of a brand new book called Sticky Faith, which specializes in giving parents everyday ideas to build lasting faith in their kids’ lives, specifically at key transitional stages (i.e. elementary, middle, high school, etc.).

Just be one of the first 5 people to leave a comment on this post, and within 60 minutes, send an email to nickshell1983@hotmail providing your name and address so the publisher will know where to send the books to.

UPDATE: Congrats to the winners of this free book!

J. Valentine from Pompton Lakes, NJ

S. Cruce from Fort Payne, AL

C. Williams from Cincinnati, Ohio

W. Pierson from Houston, Texas

G. Grey from Berlin, Germany

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The Gospel According to Jack

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Nine months.

If I wasn’t a devout Christian, what would I believe in instead; especially after becoming a dad? I try to imagine…

I don’t have enough faith to believe in nothing at all, so I would probably think that my life as I know it is just a figment of some big computer program in which I play a small role; unaware of how insignificant I really am; basically, I’m getting the idea from the movie The Matrix. Or maybe I would believe my life is simply a dream inside of a dream inside of a dream, like in the movie Inception.

Either way, it’s clear to see that if I didn’t take the words of Jesus Christ literally, along with all 66 books of The Bible, that I still would be led to believe that I am part of someone else’s plan; that there is some all-powerful force behind it all and for some reason I was chosen to play a part in it.

Something I hear other parents say a lot, or at least grandparents, is that when they look at a young baby, they see an innocent angelic being. I’m not knocking that concept, because I totally get it. But for me, what I see more of when I think deeply about my son Jack, is a human currently incapable of understanding right from wrong, but who nonetheless needs no instruction on how to make the most destructive decision possible.

Jack naturally would choose to crawl down the stairs if I wasn’t there to stop him. He would stick my car keys into the electrical outlets if I wasn’t already 23 steps ahead of him. He would never sleep, never get his diaper changed, and never leave the presence of his parents- using his crying power to try to sway his parents’ interception.

So the fact that Jack needs no help in being prone to make the wrong decision would definitely say something to me if I had no religious beliefs. It would clearly show me that despite man wanting to be good, on his own, he is prone to do the opposite.

That would cause me to realize that as a human, I am in need of some kind of intervention or path to lead me to be reconciled of my flawed nature- which is wired with good intentions but ultimately bugged with morality viruses.

But I wouldn’t be okay with the belief that there is simply some “higher power” who would usher me into a heavenly afterlife just because I was a “good enough” person. Because what exactly would be the standard of “good?”

What would make the most sense to me at this point is that there must be a God who not only created this whole universe but who also Himself would be willing to intervene in my morally imperfect state, helping restore flawed mankind to the state of Paradise that this world once was.

That way of thinking would ultimately cause me to be curious enough to pick up a free Bible in a hotel room somewhere and start reading The Old Testament, taking notice of the reoccurring theme of a perfect man who would eventually show up to willingly take on imperfection and sacrifice his life for all of mankind.

Then as I would move on to The New Testament, I would read about how God Himself came to Earth in the form of man; bringing to life the ancient predictions of The Old Testament.

I would ultimately become fascinated by this Jesus fellow, eventually believing that He was the answer to my state of moral depravity. I would recognize that no matter how hard I tried to be good enough on my own, I would ultimately fail and never be “good enough.”

Humbled of my pride and eager to embrace this mysterious yet somehow practical savior, I would become a solid believer in this man from Galilee.

Even if He wasn’t God, who He claimed to be, I would still be so enamored by a man who has managed to lead so many millions of people astray by his false teachings within the past 2000 years, and who could cause people who didn’t believe in Him to still at least say he was a good teacher, despite Him being dead wrong or even lying to people that He was God.

And that’s how ultimately, I would have become a follower of Christ, simply by observing the nature of my son. That is the gospel according to Jack.

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Surviving a God-Nudged Leap of Faith

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Nine months.

In case you weren’t yet reading my blog back in December of 2010, my wife and I moved to Alabama to be close to family just a few weeks after our son Jack was born. Somewhere between being brave and outrageous, we made the move with no jobs lined up.  It took four months for me to find a job, only to have to move back to Nashville four months later because we couldn’t financially make things work.

I  especially remember those first couple of months while we were living off savings and no new income, praying to God, “I trust in You to provide for my family and when You do, I’ll make it obvious to everyone that it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with You.” After all, this was what we called our “God-nudged leap of faith,” trading in financial security in Nashville to be closer to family back in my hometown.

So surely God would make it possible for us to remain there. We had uprooted our lives and started over- for a very good cause with pure intentions and for the “right reasons.”

I admit it seemed at least a little bit ironic when after labeling our move as a “God-nudged leap of faith,” that we would just ultimately end up back in Nashville, having to start back over yet again.

But this week I started reading a book that helped me grasp a much clearer understanding of what really happened; why the move was so necessary for us and despite much confusion on our end, why it was what was supposed to happen.

In Peter Buffet’s book Life is What You Make It, he tells about a guy who changed his major nearly every semester in college: from engineering, to physics, to math, to art, to architecture, then finally, he realized his calling was to be an urban planner. Finally, he had found where he needed to be- but it took several “wrong turns” to get there.  It was a graduated learning process; a concept that sounds way too familiar to me.

I love the way Buffett sums it up:

“So– was this fellow “lost” during the years of his academic wanderings? Or was he following a path that was not yet visible but that was nonetheless leading him where he was meant to go?”

It would have been nice if we could have just already known what we know now; without sacrificing our savings, our jobs, and all the effort it took to move away from and then back to, so that we could learn A) how to manage our money much better, B) be much more thankful for the jobs we had to begin with, and C) that the city of Nashville needs our gifts and abilities more than any other city in the world right now.

Taking it a step further, Parents.com picked up my blog right in the middle of all this.  I take that to mean that another reason I was destined to experience all this was to use my gift of communication in order to share the story with others who need to hear it, from the perspective of a random, yet focused, guy like me.

So did my God-nudged leap of faith pan out in the end? Or did He leave me hanging? After all, he provided a job only long enough to survive for a few more months but not long enough to logically justify us moving there.

It’s clear to me now: The only way we could have learned what we needed to know was by following a path that was not yet visible but that was nonetheless leading us where we were meant to go.

Unexpected Bonus!

I am a huge fan of Peter Buffet’s New York Times best-seller, Life is What You Make It.  In fact, it’s the kind of book that I’m almost jealous of for not having written myself.  He thinks along the same patterns as I do.  That being said, today I am proudly giving away the book to one lucky reader.

Since there is only one copy for the book giveaway this time, I’m making it a bit more challenging than usual: Be the first person to leave a comment correctly telling me which Internet fad landed my son on the desk of late night talk show host of Conan O’Brien.  You have to also give me your mailing address either in the comment or send it to me via email: nickshell1983@hotmail.com.

(Every time I do a book giveaway there is at least one person who loses their gift to the next person because they don’t actually give me their mailing address.)

As for the rest of you who don’t actually win a free copy of Life is What You Make It, it is totally worth getting your hands on.  To further entice you, I want to share the names of the chapters of the book.  Again, I’m jealous- many of them would have made really good titles for Dadabase posts had I thought of them first!

1. Normal is what you’re used to

2. No one deserves anything

3. The myth of the level playing field

4. The (mixed) blessing of choice

5. The mystery of vocation

6. Buying time

7. Don’t just find your bliss- do your bliss

8. Portals of discovery

9. Be careful what you wish for…

10. What we mean when we say “success”

11. The perils of prosperity

12. The gentle art of giving back

“Peter Buffett has given us a wise and inspiring book that should be required reading for every young person seeking to find his or her place in the world, and for every family hoping to give its daughters and sons the best possible start in life.” –President Bill Clinton

“Knowing and admiring Peter as we do, this book captures his spirit, passion and values beautifully. As parents, it’s the kind of dialogue about our life’s purpose and opportunity we’re having with our children. We will have everyone in our family read and discuss the book.” —Bill & Melinda Gates

“With home-spun, heart-felt wisdom, Peter Buffett ponders how to make a meaningful life, while making a living. Life Is What You Make It is thought-provoking, worthwhile reading.” —Ted Turner

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Where Simple Faith Meets Complicated Reality

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

Eight months.

Is The Dadabase a “Christian blog?”  That’s a good question.  The answer is yes; in the sense that I am narrating my version of fatherhood from a Christian perspective.  The answer is no; in the sense that it is not directed specifically for a Christian audience and that the majority of my posts do not contain an explicitly spiritual theme.

While I do sporadically splice in quotes from the Bible, I intentionally do not use quotation marks nor do I list the Biblical reference where they came from.  Because to me, these ancient teachings are intertwined into my thought patterns.  So I don’t see a need to separate them when I write.

love writing for Parents.com.  I am so appreciative of how much they value the realness and authenticity of all their bloggers; free of censorship.  I can truly be me without having to ask myself, “Was that too Christian of me to say that?”

Basically, if it relates to and ties in with my life as a dad and a husband, it’s fair game.  The Dadabase is simply an unfiltered reflection of what goes through my head as an unseasoned parent and an everyday guy who just happens to be of the Christian faith.

But while technically I do have complete freedom of speech here, I also believe in using my freedom to write content that is relevant to the majority of readers and not becoming consumed with promoting my own agendas to the point they become a distraction.

As a Christian, I sometimes struggle with the assumption that my viewpoint will largely be perceived by the general public as politically incorrect, representing an old-fashioned mindset that is typically unwelcome in mainstream media and entertainment.

I’m not referring to a reluctance to use the name “Jesus” instead of “God” or “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.”  Instead, it’s stuff like when I mention that my son has a soul, that I am spiritually responsible for him, that I pray for him to one day know Christ like my wife and I do, and when I matter-of-factually state that there is a heavenly kingdom awaiting us after this life.

Even more so, I am overly aware of the bumper sticker that reads, “Jesus, save me from your followers.”  I recognize that for some, the word “Christian” has a stigma connected to it, associated with words like “judgmental,” “prideful,” “arrogant,” and “bigot.”  I realize how easy it can be to determine the integrity of an entire group based on their loudest, most hypocritical examples.

I know I am not expected to be perfect, but I am expected to be different. Yet in the most basic ways, as a parent, I still represent the way many moms and dads feel; Christian or not.

A slightly reoccurring phrase I  have seen in comments that readers leave on this blog is “It’s like you’re reading my mind…”.  Despite having different preferences in our parenting techniques and styles, most of us share the same basic desires for our children.  It doesn’t take being a Christian to want to positively re-brand fatherhood or to be vulnerable enough to admit that I fell in love with my son gradually, not instantly.

Last month my wife helped teach 3rd grade at Vacation Bible School.  The theme was “Where Faith and Life Connect.”  That’s one of my themes too; as a human, as a writer, as a guy who has to go to a real job during the day just like most other people, and as a parent.

Yes, my faith is the most important thing to me.  But it’s not all I talk about. In fact, whatever the next Dadabase post is about, I’m sure it won’t mention anything about God or Christianity or any overt spiritual themes.

Just as the familiar blue skies eventually intersect with the mysterious outer space, so do my everyday life events overlap my intangible Christian faith.

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