The Land of Milk and Honey is Terrible

While I was teaching on Numbers 13 in my youth group the other night, I had the oddest realization that negativity flourishes no matter the evidence to the contrary. In Numbers 13:27-14:10 the Israelites are on the verge of entering the Promised Land after wandering the desert for 40 long years. So Moses sends in 12 spies to get a lay of the land. Ten come back and tell of all the wonders they had seen to all the people in the camp. Then they drop the other shoe. There’s giants, mean people, walls and fortresses, and they are all armed. They, say it is best we forget it and maybe even return to Egypt. It’s then that Joshua and Caleb give a great pep talk, I mean a halftime speech for the ages, a Miracle on Ice speech, a run through a brick wall speech and do you know how the people of Israel responded? They said these two men should be stoned. So lets look at a few things in this story of Israel and translate them to modern times.

  1. When we are close to success, we have a tendency to retreat.

The Israelites had wandered for 40 long years, seen God do miracle after miracle, had endured, had victories, and had finally arrived at the promised land. They were so close to the ultimate goal but they thought about giving up. Not only giving up, but going back to Egypt where they were slaves, where they were treated horribly, back to a place God had freed them, back to where they were beaten, tortured and killed. Now as we sit here today, it is easy to shake our heads at them and wonder about them. However, we live in that same state. People go back to what is comfortable. Old habits, jobs, churches, toxic relationships, and anything that is known. It is the uncertainty, the what ifs and the maybes that keep us from finding our own promised lands. We see people almost reach their dreams and goals; they are on the cusp, but then they retreat and go back to comfortable.

2. Negativity is like kudzu.

Kudzu is from Japan and was brought to Alabama in the 1900’s. Here in Alabama it has spread everywhere. If you plant some in your yard, within a year it will be overrun. The same goes for negativity. Negativity spreads like kudzu. Negativity in our workplace can kill morale, job performance, and friendships. It is the leading cause of low workplace moral. Negativity was evident in the spies report back to Moses. Negativity permeates our culture today. Look at social media, the news, Twitter, churches, or listen at the break table. Negativity is everywhere. It can and does destroy jobs, friendships, churches, and can destroy a person. It spread throughout the Israelites’ camp and then when two poor brave souls had the audacity to stand against the negative reviews of the land of milk and honey, they were almost stoned to death. No good deed goes unpunished ehh? If we stand against negativity in our lives we are going to be punished. Why? Because negativity is easy and comfortable. People not being successful are negative people. We all have at one point or another been around a negative Nellie. Remember how quickly we became negative too?

3. We forget victories.

The Israelites had seen God do so many victories and miracles. He provided water and food (aka manna). He delivered them from Egypt, He parted the Red Sea, He lead them day and night, and so many more victories. Yet, when confronted with another hurdle, they simply said, “Well, this is the one God cannot overcome.” In our lives we simply forget the victories that we have had. Sure, some time may have passed between big wins but they do not play the Super Bowl every Sunday. We have to put ourselves in position to get big victories by seeing the little victories. I am a huge Dave Ramsey guy. His plan involves “Baby Steps” which in turn are just little victories on a pathway to huge financial victories. When you pay off that little $7.50 debt in Baby Step 2, it is a little victory. However, when you pay off that mortgage in Baby Step 6, I hear that it is like a Super Bowl celebration with champagne, confetti, and a huge celebration. Okay, maybe that doesn’t happen but it should. It is a huge victory that starts with a very small victory. That is how we should look at our lives and see the little victories and celebrate the wins that get us to the Super Bowl celebrations!!

The Israelites had seen the Promised Land. The spies had been in the Promised Land, tasted it, smelt it, wandered it, and yet did not believe God would give them victory. We do that too. So take a few minutes to remember the victories God has done in your life and prepare for the Super Bowl/Promised Land victories to come in your life.

P.S. The Israelites do eventually take over the Promised Land, as promised.

Teens and Body Image

I stood there watching all these 8th grade girls take selfies from all different angles. Then they all gathered around the phone and inspected the photos. Then they deleted and started over. Finally after 10 minutes they had a set of 5 photos they liked. Then these photos were edited and filtered and touched upped and finally shared via Snapchat and Instagram. Sound familiar? That means you are around teenage girls alot. The self image and self awareness is so important to themselves. They are serious about their image and their photos. If their photos do not get enough likes on Insta, cue hip lingo, then they delete. If they are not getting enough views on TikTok, delete. So they are aware of the image and social media status. So how does this affect them? They believe you have to be camera ready all the time and what happens if they are not? Lets look at an example.

In October of 2020 a picture of Billie Eilish leaving somewhere was taken. In it she was not wearing her usual baggy oversized clothes. No, she was wearing a tank top and sweat shorts. The media storm and comments that followed honestly shocked me. Now for you parents that do not know who Billie Eilish is, let me introduce you to her. First, she’s an multi Grammy winning musician. She is 19. She has sold millions of albums. She came from out of nowhere. I am not a fan of her lyrics. She has body image issues. She is kind to her fans. She still lives at home, which along with her brother, is where she recorded her Grammy winning album. She has a issue with her body so much that she used to cut herself. Then this photo was released and all the comments really made me pay attention. She has always wore baggy clothes for a couple of reasons. First, she said that she wanted to be judged on her music and not on her looks. Second, she has stated that she hates her body so she chooses to cover it up. So the comments ranged from making fun of her body to calling her a sellout. People did not like that she was wearing a tank top and called her a sellout for using her “sexuality” to sell albums. Others made fun of her body shape, or her body color, or her breasts, or her wardrobe choice. There were so many negative comments and reactions. Of course there were thousands of positive comments supporting her but we all know that the negative comments are the ones we hear. She went on to talk about it in the March issue of Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2021/01/the-charming-billie-eilish-march-cover

So how does this affect our teenage girls? There are so many issues that our girls suffer from. They think they are too skinny, too fat, they don’t like this or that about their bodies. They all have to be filtered. They, like Billie, are also getting negative comments on their pics and post. They, like Billie, struggle with those comments and in turn struggle with their body image. So as a parent how do we deal with this issue. Here are three conversation starters.

  1. All through history women have been held to impossible standards.

This topic is one all moms know. This is a great place to start talking to your teen girls about how society tells us what women “should” look like. How they should dress, and what beauty trends they should follow.

2. You are made to be special and unique.

This is a Biblical foundation. We are all made in the image of God. In that image we are made perfect and made to fulfill a perfect role.

3. Modest is Hottest.

There is nothing wrong with modesty. Our culture will tell these young girls the opposite though. They tell 13 year old girls to be sexy and to dress sexy. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but 13 year old girls are not designed to be sexy. Talk to your daughters about modesty and what it means.

Conversations are how change begins. Lots of our teenage girls have major body issues and that leads to depression, suicidal thoughts, self harm, and suicide. Do some research parents. Have these conversations. Listen to these girls. Tell them God made them perfect!

Under Pressure

Our teenagers are under so much pressure. There you go, a gem of helpful information wrapped up for you as a parent. Now some of you are going to shake your head and act like these teens have no clue what pressure really is. Some of that is true and some of it is not. If you are thirty years old this year, you were 16 when the first iPhone came out. Facebook would not launch until its app on the iPhone until late 2008 or early 2009. Instagram wouldn’t launch until 2010 and Snapchat in 2011. Your MySpace page did not probably get a lot of likes or traffic. So as teens then you were not under the pressures these teens are today. I am 45 and way back when I was a teen we didn’t even have cell phones, yes I know that’s like ancient history. So as parents, we have to see the pressures our teenagers are under and try to talk to them about those pressures.

  1. External Pressures

There are so many external pressures our teens face on a daily bases. Parents, teachers, coaches, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, bosses, and even pastors apply pressure to these teens every single day. We all as parents have had these same pressures. These pressures are universal and generational. These are the ones that we as parents are used to and equipped to deal with. Shoot, some of us still have some of these pressures today. So we know the standard answers and advice to give. Now I am not saying that healthy external pressure is bad, quite the contrary. Teens need a lot of external pressures. Teens by nature are lazy, sleep a ton, and are not the most over the top go getters. So positive pressure is needed. We all need somebody to push us to be the best we can be. That is what coaches, parents, and teachers do. We push and prod and poke and pressure these teens to move out of their little comfortable bubbles and become successful. We all need that positive pressure in our lives as teens and into adulthood.

2. INTERNAL PRESSURES

Internal pressures are the pressures that our teenagers are under that we as parents may not have much insight into. Social, academic, athletics, relationships, hobbies, financial, extracurricular, and sexual pressures are just some of the internal pressures our teens are up against. Here is where our teens internalize pressures and respond. They have all of the aforementioned pressures. We as parents may not realize those pressures our teens are facing. Some students put a ton of pressure on themselves academically. Of my three kids, my youngest puts the most pressure academically on herself than the others. She just falls apart at the thought of not getting A’s and B”s, while the other two just are not concerned and happy to just pass. Athletically the two oldest kids are deep into baseball and track while the youngest has no athletic ability. The pressures they put on themselves is palpable. They train, diet, study, practice and work hard at their respective sports. Those are positive internal pressures. They want to perform, they want to win and succeed. Your kids have all those same internal pressures. We as parents have to wait. Wait till they succeed and celebrate those victories. We have to wait till they fail to lift them up and help them understand why they lost and encourage them to dig deeper and try harder. That helps their internal pressures become validated and helps them move forward. Your teens, my teens, and us adults all have internal pressures and learning how to mange them is a lesson we all need to learn.

3. PEER PRESSURE

The old standard. The bread and butter. The one we as parents know how to deal with, maybe, and can identify easily. A peer is defined as a person of the same rank or kind. You know, the people around us everyday. As parents we may think of peer pressure we faced in High School or in the adult world we live in. Peer pressure is defined as influence from ones peer group. As a parent you may think you have outgrown this but you have not. We have and always will face peer pressure. We did as kids and teens and we do now as parents and adults. Don’t believe me? Answer these questions:

Do I compare myself to other parents?

Do I compare my life to others around me?

Do I compare my kids to other kids?

Do I second guess my parenting decisions?

Do I try to make sure my kids have all the cool stuff?

If you answered these honestly, you found that you do indeed have peer pressures in your life. Now as we get older, find success, find purpose and mature, we care less about what our peers think. It is a sign of maturity. However, our teens are not mature and do indeed care about their peers opinions. Their peers may not share the same values and morals that your child does and therefore the pressure is different than we as parents may understand. Helping our teens learn that it is ok to be their own individual selfs is hard for them and hard for us. We as parents do not want our kids to be the odd man out. We want them to be accepted but do we want them to be accepted for the sake of just being accepted or do we want them to be accepted for the individual that they are?

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