Filling the “Love Tanks”

What is the one thing we can do for our children that will make them most likely to steer clear of unhealthy relationships and treat others with love, honor and respect? Open the Door of the Skin to loving, healing affection.

 

In an over-sexualized society, there seems to be a tendency to neglect shows of affection out of a fear that they’ll be misunderstood as inappropriate. Yes, we need to be responsible about how and why we touch, but in the meantime, people need love and affection to survive.

 

Maybe you’re aware of an event that took place where infants were deprived of touch and actually died. That story alone should make us more concerned about showing affection than being so careful that our families don’t get what they need.

 

I didn’t grow up in a family that hugged or regularly expressed love and affection openly. As we got older, touch waned and hunger for affection grew. That “skin hunger” drove me into indiscretions that arose simply from feeling empty. My “love tank” was dry, and I was willing to fill it up with most anything. It’s like shopping for food on an empty stomach.

 

Our families desperately need consistent doses of affection. If you grew up as I did, you may need to give and receive it like medicine, with a splash of humor to make it easier to swallow (don’t worry, it will come more naturally soon enough). Without it, we starve. We die emotionally. We disconnect. And we look for ways to medicate the pain, through relationships, drugs, alcohol, binge shopping, you name it.

 

People all around us are dying from a lack of love. Don’t let it happen to your family. Put your arms around them, tell them you love them, and show them daily. Your touch may accomplish more than words can ever say.

 

Purity Booster:

 

With the holidays coming up, challenge your family to accompany every gift given in person with a hug. When you open presents, encourage each person to hug the giver of each gift (if Santa isn’t present, Mom and Dad can take hugs for him). Let giving affection be a major part of your Christmas celebration.

 

 

 

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The Door of the Skin: Touching Well

When I think of physically guarding the Door of the Skin, I think of an oven mitt. Touching a hot stove is a basic no-no of childhood, and personalities are determined by a child’s insistence upon doing it! But guarding the door as a pathway to the heart involves more subtle cues, like when to touch and when not to.

 

Instead of focusing on every “bad touch” that can happen, let’s look at all the “good touch” we need for a moment. If we or our kids are starved for natural affection and the love of family and friends, they will hunger for any touch at all, good or bad. So we can focus on making our families healthy and well-fed. There are a few ways to do that.

 

First and foremost, where two parents are involved, Mom and Dad need to be openly (appropriately) affectionate with each other, and care for their intimate lives intentionally. Problems in the bedroom fester into issues that affect our kids. It can be painful to seek help for a marriage, but more tragic for everyone to ignore problems altogether. Parents must love each other well and act like they do.

 

Secondly, our children need our physical attention. Holding hands, cuddling, little kisses, wrestling, fist-bumps, praying, high-fives, bear hugs … Yes, as they grow older, our way of touching may need to evolve, but it must not disappear.

 

People need about 8 hugs a day to do well, and I know I don’t always get my quota. The way for me to overcome that is to give a hug and get one in return. Making the appropriate show of affection a constant pursuit would have many people doing better in very little time.

 

Guarding the Door of the Skin is a vital pursuit. Use the skin you’re in to give instead of take, to share instead of hoard, to love instead of manipulate. Be wise, and be generous. A touch and a smile could make the difference in your life or others’ if you can stifle the urge to go on to the next task.

 

Purity Booster:

 

With the holidays straight ahead, your family should have plenty of opportunities for healthy touch. Take the initiative to offer hugs first, and be the “point man” for your children—if you hug, they can too. At the end of the day, compare notes to see if you got/gave the eight hugs you needed, and make up for the ones anyone didn’t get!

 

 

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Little Mouths, Big Power

From the time our kids are little, they recognize the power of their mouths. If they scream, heads turn. If they tug a pantleg with repeated “Mom, mom, mom, mom, MOOOOOM” they will eventually get an answer. How can we teach them to use their mouths productively?

 

Of course, the best teacher is our example. If we yell or nag at others in the house, they’ll pick up the same habits. And if we yell right back out of exasperation, we perpetuate the problem and breed disrespect.

 

A mom I know with a strong personality overcame this by answering her children (when they were behaving inappropriately) with a short, firm, “No, THANK you.” Her response was respectful and polite, but spoken in such a way as to make it clear that no more nonsense would be tolerated.

 

It may seem old-fashioned, but common courtesy is a powerful tool in helping kids guard their mouths to keep their hearts pure. “Please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “excuse me” are not options, ESPECIALLY at home, not when we’re out. We should be at our best when we speak with family members in preparation to be courteous outside the home.

 

The mother who helps post these blogs for me insists on “thank you, mommy” as the answer when she responds to her children’s requests. Her children recognize the value of their mother’s service to them and also are learning to say “thank you” to others.

 

The mouth must also be managed by practicing silence as well as speech. Children who master this by having regular quiet times (without technology) learn self-control and patience. A child who can sit quietly is a joy, as is a child who uses his or her voice in a respectful way. Who would you more likely respond to—a child who says “gimme” or a child who says, “May I?” Personally my heart flutters when any child says “Yes, ma’am.” I instantly want to respect that child in the same way. Teaching our children such courtesies will give them a huge advantage in a discourteous world, by learning to use the door of the mouth for good.

 

Purity Booster:

 

Play a Word Power game with your child. Let them pick words to say, and respond with your face. For example, if they say, “I don’t like you,” look sad and hurt. If they say, “You’re pretty,” look radiantly happy. Overact the responses so they can clearly see the impact of their words on another person. If you take a turn and use words and phrases like “please” and “excuse me,” you’ll also be giving them some manners lessons. Do this anytime and often. Then, on a daily basis, if an unkind word is used, do the same to make your point.

 

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The Door of the Mouth: Speaking into Existence

When I start a talk about the mouth, I use one of those football mouth guards that boys wear (yuk) to show what we might do to physically guard the mouth from outside harm. Unfortunately, a lot more harm comes from what goes out of the mouth and hurts others.

 

Do we understand that we actually speak things into existence? Many of us as Christians believe that God spoke, and the world came into being. If we’re made in his image, then we actually reflect that creative trait. We speak, and it comes into existence. A physical mountain may not appear, but a hurt that’s as hard as a mountain to remove may appear in someone’s life.

 

When I was 12, I sat in a “circle of affirmation” where each of us took a turn in the center. Those in the circle were supposed to say a word that described the person in the center, to affirm them.

 

Unfortunately, I stumped the people in the circle. We were all growing up in a farm town, and I admittedly did not fit in very well. I always wore different clothes, spoke up when other were silent, and made a social nuisance of myself (I’m smiling as I write this). So it was a few moments before someone piped up with the first word: Odd. Then the person next to them agreed, and before long the entire circle was nodding. That’s the only word I remember from that day.

 

Now, I made the best of this as an eternal optimist and became the very best “odd” I could be. I had always majored in originality anyhow. But it wasn’t until many years later that I recognized I was having trouble feeling like I belonged anywhere. I still felt odd.

 

I’ve now embraced “unique” as a gift and asset, given so that I could stand out with the message I give. But think of the power of three letters given voice. Amazing.

 

Maybe you have a word like that. I encourage you to overcome that word and replace it. I also encourage us all to daily think of the power of words we’re using in conversation, especially at home. Outside the home we’re often on our best behavior, but our guard is down sometimes with our families and we slip terribly. One of the greatest lessons I’m still learning is that it’s often best to keep my mouth CLOSED.

 

We speak things into existence. Our words are powerful. Let’s use them to create strong, healthy, whole people, at home and all around us every day.

 

Purity Booster:

 

What is one word that you have heard yourself use lately that may have built a mountain in someone’s life? Maybe it’s a word you use often. Make a conscious effort to come up with a replacement word, and speak it to the same person (especially a child or spouse) this week, more than once if you can. Ask forgiveness for the first word you spoke. Now, consciously choose this new word in days to come, with this person and others. Put a sticky note with the new word on it in a place you can see it every day, to remind yourself.

 

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The Importance of Being Earnest

I own an ancient novel of my grandmother’s that features a family with young children who solemnly hold funeral service for worms drowned by the rain, calling them “poor innocents.” It may seem to be foolishness to some, but this youthful respect for life delights me.

 

Much of a child’s sensitivity and compassion can be formed in simple interactions with living things and pets, but so many parents make light of this. Catching a dragonfly in a jar to release it instead of swatting it says a lot to a child. Arranging a funeral for a goldfish is a great opportunity to prepare a child for the death of loved ones. Rescuing a hurt bird or a baby animal (even if they die) is an act of compassion that equips a child with a powerful memory—that life is not to be trifled with, and pain is not to be ignored.

 

Children have earnest feelings and sensibilities that can so easily be hammered out of them as they grow. But not all this “growing up” is good or necessary. Part of preserving innocence at any age involves guarding this tender door of the breath that views living things with wonder and recoils at acts of harm.

 

Enter into your child’s world of the living things that delight him. Let him be delighted by plants, animals, babies, old folks and everyone in between. Introduce him to those who are disabled and those who are different from him. Let him grow into the kind of man that delights in life and nobly protects his family and community.

 

Purity Booster:

 

Next time anything happens where a living thing is involved, take special note of the opportunity. Make the death of a pet extra meaningful and set aside time to talk about it later. Bug in the house? Have a jar ready for an unscheduled catch-and-release (so much more fun than swatting anyhow). Grow a tree from a seedling. Be extra sensitive with babies, the elderly, and those who are hurting in day-to-day life. Take the time to notice and respectfully walk through life and death in small things with your child.

 

 

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Guarding the Door of the Breath

We used to live on two acres outside of a small town in Michigan. Mowing that lawn was quite a job, even for kids who grew up in the country.

 

In caring for the lawn, I found my most necessary piece of gear was not the lawnmower, but a mask that kept me from breathing too many allergens. Otherwise, I came in the house sneezing, red-eyed and miserable.

 

In guarding the breath as a door of the heart, we focus on how we’ll value life—ours and others’ around us. We SEE others, and acknowledge them. We see needs, and respond to them. We value the miracle of life that even our best scientists can’t completely explain.

 

Life, when guarding the door of the heart, is seen as an incredible gift, to be protected at all costs. The life of a baby. The life of a mother. The life of someone older. Someone crippled. Someone marginalized. Someone simply ignored. A cashier. A waitress. A prostitute. An ordinary guy. Every last one is invaluable.

 

The concept of “random acts of kindness” is good, but guarding the heart is an intentional and daily practice of such acts. Maybe a simple smile or compliment is the order of one day, while on another hours may be sacrificed in (happy) service. Life is not a scheduled event.

 

Do our children see us place value on others, or are we simply consumers, consuming not only products but the time and energy of others, avoiding their personal lives out of convenience?

 

Do we care about the environment that supports us all, and the fierce, teeming life of the animals and plants that fill it and make it complete? Or do we snuff out that life around us without a thought except our own modern convenience and comfort?

 

It’s all part of guarding the door of the breath, and keeping the heart pure.

 

Purity Booster:

 

Intentionally practice some kindnesses this week. Compliment a cashier on her nails or hair. Pay for the person behind you in line at a toll booth or leave some cash to go towards the next person’s check-out at the grocery. Choose a family or individual (anytime) to provide a meal or treat for as a family. Do something that requires an inconvenience to you for another to benefit.

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Hear Your Kids

Stay aware of your children’s listening choices as they grow. It’s so easy to check out as a parent because styles are changing and you just aren’t interested anymore. But these lyrics are informing and teaching your child, and many pop lyrics are extremely explicit. Don’t let your child marinate in messages that negate the values you’ve worked so hard to instill.

 

But also, keep in mind—music will be a roadblock between you and your child emotionally if you don’t intentionally choose to make it a bridge. Don’t allow wars over preferred styles place you and your child at odds. Too many families have lost touch with each other over music just as churches have divided over pews vs. chairs!

 

So much of guarding the doors of the eyes and ears is overlooked just because we’re so saturated with noise and screens and become numbed or jaded to all the sight and sound. But is this normal? Research shows that screen time is directly related to depression and to ability to learn, not to mention a degradation of character. We need to get out more, and unplug more often!

 

Unfortunately, our passive listening and viewing lulls us into being satisfied with the ease of clicking a remote or a button. And mediums that engage the eyes and ears make great babysitters! It is a sort of brainwashing that happens with us, a kind of pacifier that eventually causes a tantrum when removed.

 

When you listen, listen well, and loudly! If a song is positive, don’t be afraid of cranking it up for fun or listening to it more than once (irritating as it may seem). Sing like a banshee with your children, and play air guitar with your teens. Teach by example to walk away or turn off lyrics that reek, and always make listening a joy.

 

Guard the heart by guarding input to the ears. Have more fun with the music that is good. And take time to listen to natural sounds—of the voices of friends and family, of the wind or the sea, and sometimes (so hard for Americans) the sounds of silence. Don’t let your child miss the beautiful soundscapes that are so often drowned out by simple noise.

 

Purity Booster:

 

During “tech breaks” (your family gets to choose how long and from what), list every sound you hear. In a minute or an hour, write down every single sound you hear. Which ones do you like best? How can you spend more time listening as a family to things other than prerecorded music or entertainment?

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