Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: We thought we raised our two boys to be responsible and then one of them just got a ticket for texting and driving. Both the boys are in college and we pay their expenses including cellphone bills because we’re on a family plan. We’re concerned in a major way because we realize the dangers of texting and driving, so we took his cellphone away, but his girlfriend gave him another one.

We’re at a loss of how to deal with him and welcome any suggestions.
~ Struggling Parents


Dear Struggling Parents,
Let me begin to address your concern by stating the obvious: Your son is an adult now and you probably did what all of us parents have done – the best you could in raising your children. Because he makes mistakes (and this won’t be his last one) doesn’t mean you didn’t raise him to be responsible. Life will give him many opportunities to test the values you’ve instilled in him. Proverbs 22:6 in The Message translation states: “Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.” At this stage in your sons’ lives the most important thing you can do is to continue to have an open relationship with them. Be honest and supportive, but make sure you let them experience the consequences of their decisions – that’s they only way they will be able to learn from them. And remember that unconditional love is there for others even when they don’t deserve it.

As they continue to mature, the best parenting tool you will have from now on is the ability to speak into their lives. When you lose that level of relationship you won’t be able to help shape their future. But if you maintain openness with them, they will come to you and seek out your help and guidance.

Your sons are blessed to have you as their parents!

Pastor Randy Foster


Dear Struggling Parents,
First, I want to assure you that you did raise your boys to be responsible. The fact behind young adults, whose brains are not completely developed to understand most consequences, is just that: they don’t. This is why we teach the best we can. And when they make a mistake, we use that incident to remind them, build on our former lessons, teach again, reiterate the consequences of such behavior, then use the incident to build more insight by adding further details as to what “could have” occurred. In this way, parents scaffold on the developing young adult brain. This is how true lessons and changes in behavior and decision-making are integrated into our young adult lives.

Now to address the cellphone. I understand you took it away. You might not like the following advice; I’ll back it with having worked with teens, young adults and parents for over 25 years as a pastor and a licensed psychotherapist.

Young adults do not learn this way. Adults at college are able to do many things parents do not have control over. It does not surprise me that his girlfriend gave him another cellphone. Honestly, they are necessary to get around in today’s society. 
A good way to have a lesson learned (not just punished) is to “teach it.” Discuss with your child a true story of someone who was injured or killed by a texting driver. Tell them that, while they can keep the phone, if this ever occurs again, which you are sure it won’t, that you will limit his ability to actually drive for a few months. This can be followed through by taking the car away (unless he paid for it), telling him you will cease financial assistance, buying him a bus pass or other public transportation, or providing him with an Uber card with limited funds so he has to budget getting around. Make your son feel the consequence that society would give him. And most likely the law will give him a consequence. I call these “real life consequences” lessons.

I hope this helps. Thank God no one was injured. Teach a profound lesson. Don’t punish in a way young people can find a way to get around.

Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian


QUESTION: We have a sister who is very secretive and when something happens to her she only tells a couple of our siblings. Inevitably, we find out anyway. It’s not that we’re nosey; we’re all Christians and, if one of us is in trouble or has problems, we want to support and pray for that sibling. There are six of us – four girls and two boys. We’re all married and have families.

What can we say to her that will help her drop this shroud of secrecy?
~ Bewildered Siblings


Dear Bewildered Siblings,
Every family is different and every individual is different. Some are very open and sharing. They have no problem with others seeing their proverbial “dirty laundry.” Others are more private and reserved. They may struggle with sharing personal information.

My wife is very much like the former. She is willing to share with anyone – the clerk at the store, the stranger she met on the airplane or her third cousin, twice removed. I’m just the opposite. It’s often difficult and sometimes painful for me to share. Fortunately for me, she knows that and respects that about me.

So, from someone who is somewhat private, here’s my advice. First of all, respect your sister’s privacy. For whatever reason, she’s apparently not as open as the rest of your family. Trying to get us to open up can be like trying to get a turtle out of its shell. The more you try, the more we pull in.

Secondly, if and when we share with you, respect our privacy. If you post (metaphorically or actually) what we share in private on the internet, we won’t open up again for a long time (if ever).

Third, if you’re unsure whether the information was shared in confidence or not, ask: “Is this confidential or can I share this with others?”

Fourth, realize that for us to share with you it requires a great deal of trust – and trust will take time to develop. And one betrayal of a confidence can destroy that trust.

Fifth, let us know that you are available and want to be there for us, but that it’s okay if we’re not yet willing or able to let you in. Generally, if you’re patient with us, don’t push, are available, we will eventually take the risk. In meantime, let us be our reserved, private selves.

I hope this advice from a somewhat private person will help you to understand your sister better and to appreciate her uniqueness.

Pastor Bill Flanders


Dear Bewildered Siblings,
There are many stories of siblings in the Bible. In the Old Testament we hear of Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. The New Testament brings us stories of Mary and Martha, James and John, and the two brothers in the Prodigal Son story. All of these stories have twists and turns, jealousies and frustrations, but eventually forgiveness and mercy. The siblings argue over birthright, over who is the best, and who is the closest to Jesus. But eventually, even after many years, they all realize that God is with each one of them, and God’s love and grace extends to each person.

My hope is for you and your siblings to understand that sometimes your sister may need some privacy. Other times she may need you to help guide her through whatever is happening in her life at that moment. Reassure her that you are there for her through it all, and you will hold her in prayer always. Let her know that you will be praying for her and, when she needs to talk, you will be available. And know that God is with each of you, loving you, extending grace and mercy, and encouraging each of you to be the best siblings you can be.

Trust that God knows what is happening with each one of you, and rely on God’s goodness and guidance.

Life and relationships are not always easy, but remember that love, God’s love, overcomes all! So may the Holy Spirit fill your lives with an amazing love for one another and your families!

Pastor Karin Ellis