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July 2019

Do Kids Come with an Owner's Manual?

Do Kids Come with an Owner’s Manual?

Excuse me for being old fashioned.  My great new idea is actually one of the oldest ideas around.  How do we change the world?  I believe that if we build the home, then we can do just that.

One January long ago, I was in Chicago attending Saint Xavier University and playing baseball.  Everyone on the team hated January because it was all about athletic conditioning.  Especially me.  I was a catcher who wasn’t a big fan of aerobics, the fad at the time.

As we got ready to head into the gym, I told my buddies, “I can’t go in there.”

They were all like, “Yeah, right!  Nobody likes conditioning!”

“Guys, I can’t go in there,” I told them.  “I am going to be a dad.”  To this day, I can still see the looks on all their faces.  Earlier in the day, I had received a phone call from my girlfriend telling me the news.

Up to that point in my life, I had been a very self-centered person.  My life had revolved around me and baseball.  In an instant, I felt like I was a different person.  Instead of going to conditioning, I went to McDonalds, bought six cheeseburgers and started my journey to Decatur to confront my situation.

I have recently had a book of mine published by WestBow Press entitled Just Call Me Dad: 13 Principles for Better Dads, Better Kids and a Better World.  In my book, I talk about this journey I took of becoming a dad.  It was a shocker at the time, receiving that news, but thirty-three years later, I love my life with James Walter Minton, Jr., my life as a dad.

Who is responsible for the next generation?  Today we seem to be focused on trying to fix society without ever really fixing the individuals who make up society.  When I learned I was going to be a dad, somehow I instantly knew that it was my responsibility to take care of this child I created.  Do people understand this personal responsibility?  While I might have got the responsibility part right, I had to admit:  I had no clue how I was going to pull off this whole fatherhood thing.

As I mentioned, I believe that if we build the home, we can change the world, but how do we do that?  Is there an owner’s manual or a set of instructions for that?  Are the nine months of pregnancy there to give the baby time to grow or to give the parents time to read the manual?

I believe there is Heaven and hell, and Earth with a little bit of both.  Parenting is no different.  The toughest hood you will ever go through is parenthood.

I was and am far from the perfect parent.  I remember when J. J. lost his first tooth–I probably shouldn’t have hit him that hard. I am joking, of course, but I did make my share of mistakes.

What happens if we stop having kids?  A lot of people think that way these days, that we should just stop having children altogether.  I disagree.  Times have changed, and they continue to do so.  Women, for instance, have made tremendous advancements in the world outside the home, but is that at the expense of the family?  It’s not easy raising children, building the home so we can change the world.  Parenting is hard . . . but necessary.

What happens if we stop having good kids?  It seems to me that today a lot of us are completely focused on having our best lives NOW! We want Heaven here on Earth.  As we go about our everyday lives, it is hard to focus on the big picture, but sometimes, I think, it is important that we stop and consider the grand scheme of things.  As Jase Robertson pointed out, we have to ask ourselves these three questions:  How did we get here?  What are we doing here?  How are we leaving?1

We used to be a nation with a motto of “In God we trust,” but today it seems we want to get Him out of the public square.  These people who want to keep God out of the public square have a few problems, however.  What year is it?  It’s 2019 A.D.  What does A.D. stand for? According to according to Merriam-Webster, it stands for “anno Domini,” in the year of our Lord.  In other words, as Phil Robertson2 points out, we count time by Jesus.

How fast does the sun move?  The sun seems like it rises in the east and sets in the west, but in reality it is sitting still.  The sun is ninety-three million miles away, and the trip around it is 584 million miles3.  Does anyone have 584 million miles on their car?  No, but your car travels that far every year as the Earth revolves around the sun.  If the sun were any closer, we would burn up.  If it were any further away, we would freeze.  That ninety-three million miles is just the perfect distance.  I could go on and on about this, bringing up points about how finely tuned our world is.  To me, this speaks of a Designer.

Give yourself a thumbs up.  Now take the time to really look at your thumbs.  What is unique about them?  There are six billion people in the world, and we all have a different thumb print, even identical twins4.  You know why, of course.  It’s so we can have all these different crime dramas on tv—just kidding again!

I believe that science is the process of figuring out what God already knows.  I look around the world, and I see no way that this could have happened just by chance.  There are basically two schools of the thought on this:  One school of thought holds that there is a Designer, while the other school of thought, subscribed to by the atheists, is big on evolution and the idea that the universe came into existence by chance and that we evolved and adapted from there.  If evolution really were true, wouldn’t mothers have more than two hands, and if this world has a Designer, shouldn’t we look to Him for the owner’s manual for our kids as well?

Today there is a lot of talk about toleration.  However we want to live our lives, we are told, it’s okay.  There are lots of other ways for people to live their lives, of course, and we are told that all those ways are equally valid.  As a consequence, society has to beat down on things like Christianity and a Bible-based worldview in order to raise up all the other lifestyles and religions of today to the same level.  If you believe in traditional marriage, for instance, you are labeled a hater.  Many people today have adopted the approach of:  You have your truth, and I have mine.  As Frank Turek points out, “Is that true?  Is it true that there is no truth?  Because if it’s true that there is no truth, the claim ‘There is no truth’ can’t be true, but it claims to be true. “5

I look at this like not brushing your teeth.  Maybe you can get away with it for years, but at some point, it is going to catch up to you.  You are going to suffer some serious pain and probably lose your teeth if you don’t take care of them.  Can we teach our kids to be good without God?  Read up on humanism; it is basically what we teach in our public schools.  How is that working out for society?

In the end, I believe there is an owner’s manual and that owner’s manual is the Bible.  I have always been a big fan of famous UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.  He was considered the greatest coach of all time, but he was not just about teaching his players how to win a game; he was great at teaching these young people how to be winners in life as well.  When my kids were growing up, we kept lots of Wooden’s sayings on our refrigerator, which is a great place to get teenagers’ attention:  They make frequent visits to the ice box.  I posted things like Wooden’s Two Sets of Threes:

Don’t cheat!  Don’t lie!  Don’t steal!
Don’t whine! Don’t complain!  Don’t make excuses!6

I put Wooden’s Seven Point Creed up on the refrigerator, a creed that included such sage advice as:

Make each day your masterpiece!  Make friendship a fine art!  Read deeply from good books, especially the Bible!7

I posted this pearl of wisdom:

Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.8

And let us not forget the family favorite:

Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good becomes better, and your better becomes best!9

Where did John Wooden learn all of this?  From his father Josh.  By todays standards, Josh was not a success.  He lost the family farm during the Depression.  He spent most of his life doing odd jobs just to get by.  Still, he was able to influence untold generations by what he instilled in his kids.  One of his secrets was reading good books to his kids at night, especially the Bible.

I have to believe that a big part of the big picture is responsibility for the next generation.  We are stronger, faster and have more knowledge.  If you ask me a question, I can google to find the answer, but doesn’t it feel like we are dropping the baton with our kids, like we are not passing on American Christian Family Values?

Princeton Professor Robert George, who is part of the Heritage Foundation, states, “Adults have a duty to prioritize the needs of children over their own desires.  Have we forgotten that?   From abortion to the border to the porn culture to the divorce culture to the failure to protect childhood innocence, adults seem to be saying ‘me before you.’”10  From video games, to movies and tv shows, to hip hop music, we put so much garbage into our kids, how can we not expect to get garbage out?

TV used to help us in raising our kids.  There is an Andy Griffith video you can find that is entitled “Opie and the Spoiled Kid.”  The child doesn’t follow the rules.  He gets punished and instead of respecting authority, he goes and gets his dad to take his side.  It seems to be a popular theme today to demand your rights.  Everybody deserves to be the center of the universe.  That is a great way to end up with a bunch of spoiled brats.  Andy has a great line where he says, “If we don't teach kids to live in society today, what is going to happen when they grow up?” 11

I believe the God of the Bible is the Designer of life and His most important creation is us.  Therefore, if we want to raise good kids, we need to consult His owner’s manual.  One of the passages in this owner’s manual is Romans 8:5-8.  To paraphrase, it says that if we live according to the flesh, we die.  We get eighty years or so here on Earth if we are lucky.  A few of us will win, but most of us will lead pretty ordinary lives filled with a lot of ups and downs.  However, if we live according to the spirit, we have life and peace.

How do you deal with the death of a three-year-old or a high schooler?  I don’t know how you get through those things without a sense that God has a plan.  My extensive research has led me to the conclusions that Christianity is true and Jesus is the answer.  Christianity has the most plausible explanation as to how the world came into existence, what we are supposed to be doing here, and how we are going to leave.  Christianity is the only religion where God reaches down to us.  It is not about how good we are, but how good God is.

A man was within weeks of dying.  He wanted to take his video games and other toys with him, so he gathered up his things and put them into a couple of suitcases.  He told his wife to put them in the attic, so that when he was getting swept up into Heaven, he could grab them.  After he died, his wife went to check if the suitcases were still there or not.  They were, to which she replied, “I knew I should have put them in the basement.”

I think it is so important that our kids know that when life is over, it all goes back in the box.  We can’t take our toys to Heaven, but we can take our kids and our loved ones by ensuring that they, too, have a place prepared for them there.  Warren Buffett was once asked what success was.  He responded that at the end of your life the people who should love you, do love you.12  Not a bad answer for a man with a lot of money, but I would take that one step further:  Will your loved ones join you in Heaven?

I believe our biggest job today is, as it always has been, to raise good kids.  How do we do that?  We need to get the L out of our kids. By that I mean, we need to take them from a WORLD-view to a WORD-view.  From W-O-R-L-D to W-O-R-D, just remove the L, and we can build the home and change the world.  But that doesn’t just apply to kids.  We could all use some Christian character development.  We all need to be focused on building the home.  To paraphrase Arthur Guiterman’s poem, “Education”13:  No written word no spoken plea can teach our youth what they should be; not all the books on all the shelves, it is what we, as teachers and parents, are ourselves.

If we want to get the L out of our kids, we need to get the L out of us.  Often kids don’t listen to what we say, but they are always watching.  We need to make sure they learn Bible-based principles from our actions.  J. J. is thirty-three today, and now he is raising two boys of his own.  I also have a twenty-three- and a twenty-two-year-old.  I am so thankful that with help from a lot of places, including my church, I was able to build my home and through that, through raising good kids, I was able to change the world for the better.

Footnotes:

  1. Burton, Natalie. “Jase Robertson - How'd you get to the Earth, Why are you here, How are you leavin'”.  Filmed [December 2012].  YouTube video, 4:43.  Posted [December 2012].  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpj7CyzxJN4.  (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  2. Centennial Institute. “Phil Robertson - Western Conservative Summit 2016”.  Filmed [July 2016].
    YouTube video, 48:34.  Posted [July 2016].  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIq1XmnG4-U.
    (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  3. Northwestern University. “Space Environment:  How Do Objects in Space Travel?  What Are the Oribital Lengths and Distances of Objects in Our Solar System?”  Northwestern.edu.  http://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/space-environment/3-orbital-lengths-distances.html.  (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  4. Washington State Twin Registry. “Do Identical Twins Have Identical Fingerprints?”  WSTwinRegistry.org.  https://wstwinregistry.org/2015/10/01/do-identical-twins-have-identical-fingerprints/.  (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  5. Matty John 14:6. “4 Questions that Show Christianity is True”.  Filmed [February 2017].  YouTube video, 27:48. Posted [February 2017].  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3qtyzpaAgY.  (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  6. Rosenbloom, Steve. “John Wooden.”  Chicago Tribunehttp://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2005-03-06-0503060569-story.html.  (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  7. Wooden, John, and Steve Jamison. Wooden:  A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.  Lincolnwood:  Contemporary Books, 1997.
  8. Wooden, John and Jack Tobin. They Call Me Coach.  New York:  Bantam Books, 1973.
  9. Johnson, Ken. Journey to Excellence.  n.d. Helping Hands Group, Inc., Compact disc.
  10. George, Robert P. Twitter Post.  June 16, 2018, 8:24 PM.  https://twitter.com/mccormickprof/status/1008188510363422720?lang=en
  11. The Andy Griffith Show. “Opie and the Spoiled Kid.”  Directed by Bob Sweeney.  Written by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum.  CBS, February 18 1963.
  12. Schwantes, Marcel. “Warren Buffett Says the Greatest Measure of Success at the End of Your Life Comes Down to 1 Word:  More Profound Wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha.”  Inchttps://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/warren-buffett-says-it-doesnt-matter-how-rich-you-are-without-this-1-thing-your-life-is-a-disaster.html.  (Accessed July 18, 2019).
  13. Guiterman, Arthur. “Education.”  Garfield News, December 11, 1925.  Accessed July 18, 2019.  https://4.files.edl.io/614d/05/04/18/162029-75f8d559-754e-4ead-bc23-be70ea1ba01a.pdf.