When I was young, I enjoyed listening to hard rock music. Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, you name it. As I grew older and matured in my Christian walk I became aware of the lyrics these musicians were actually singing. The Holy Spirit tugged on my heart and I could no longer enjoy listening to that kind of music. It was too bad in one sense because I have always like modal melodies, searing voices and strong driving beats. Nowadays, however, the nihilistic message gets in the way of the sound.
In the past ten years I've primarily listened to Christian and Classical music. Compared to songs that praise God, secular music strikes me as particularly dark and empty. I used to love listening to Jimi Hendrix, then I started listening to what he was saying.
“Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?”
“I'm going to shoot my old lady, 'cause I caught her with another man.”
Or how about:
“I've got you under my thumb.'” by the Rolling Stones?
Not particularly uplifting, is it?
A few years back, when my son, Derek was on the brink of adolescence I attended a revival at my church. One night the guest preacher addressed the youth of the church. He said something that struck me. He told the young people, that there is no style of music they could like in the secular world that doesn't have a Christian music equivalent.
Since that time Derek has developed a taste in music that fairly parallels my own but instead of listening to Jethro Tull, ACDC and Ozzy Osbourne, Derek enjoys TobyMac, Lecrea, Canton Jones
It was the harsh, throaty cries of Skillet that was emanating from our CD player as we drove our car around Loop 281. I enjoy Skillet probably as much as Derek does. The only difference is that I sing along while he just quietly listens, bobbing his head to the beat. It was a great day, zooming down the highway, Derek telling me about his day at school, Skillet blaring away from the speakers, me singing along. As I sang, I thought how nice it was that Derek, in addition to all his other wonderful qualities as a son, never minded the fact that I like the same music as him or sang along with the songs.
Then another thought occurred to me. My son is a nice guy. A very nice guy. A sweet, nice, non-confrontational kind of a guy. So I asked a question:
“Does it bother you when I sing along with your music?”
“Well, I just remember my sister telling me how much it annoyed her when I sang along with songs she liked. Do you feel that way?”
“Well, uh, it's not that I mind, but you sing louder than the guys on the CD and well, you know, I'd really kind of like to hear them.”
“Oh. I didn't realize I was singing louder than the CD.”
“You're not even singing the same melody they are.”
“Actually, I was singing in harmony to their melody.”
“Oh. Well, I don't think the harmony should be louder than the melody.”
At this point I started laughing. I had a mental picture of Derek and I driving down the highway with “thought” bubbles over our heads, like in the comics. My bubble says, “Wow! Isn't it great that Derek doesn't mind me singing along with his music!” And Derek's bubble says, “Man! I wish she'd shut up!”
Still laughing I told Derek about my thought. He laughed too, then said, “Shut up's kind of a harsh word.”
I love my son.
There's some great books out there that can help you through those turbulent years of childhood. For myself, I read Bringing Up Boys
by James Dobson. This books starts with the early years and continues for the rest of the time you have a relationship with your son (hopefully until you die of old age). Different chapters include, the wonderful difference between boys and girls; fathers and sons; mothers and sons, single parents and grandparents. There's an excellent chapter called, "the Essential Father" that discusses that crucial role men play in raising their sons and how our boys are in crisis today because so many fathers have dropped the ball. There's also a great section for the single parent, how to be both a mom and a dad, whether to date and remarry or not. Another chapter deals with the origins of homosexuality that I found particulary informative and, unfortunately, relative in today's culture.
I gave the female equivalent, Bringing Up Girls
to a friend of mine who's a single dad with a thirteen year old daughter.
Since it looks like his thirteen year old daughter may become my thirteen year old stepdaughter, I should probably read that one too.
Another really good book by Dobson is called, Hide or Seek.
This book discusses the insane pressure our youth have to base their self- worth on how others view them. Dobson goes into detail how this differs for both girls and boys (girls must look pretty; boys must be smart and successful) and he gives tools based on Biblical precepts on how to counter these cultural attacks on our children.
Another good book is called, Preparing Your Son for Every Man's Battle
by Stephan Arterburn. This book's purpose is to bring parents to an awareness of all the challenges our sons are going to face when they discover the opposite sex. It is supposed to be a tool that will help you and your son learn how to arm against the relentless onslaught-the sexual assault I call it- of a sex-saturated society. Be advised that some of the material is graphic. I started this book when Derek was around eleven but stopped because it started delving into some things that my son, at least, wasn't ready for. Stopping wasn't my decision it was Derek's. I'm sure there are boys that age who are ready to hear about the more disturbing aspects of teen dating, going too far, etc.. you'll need to use your own discernment. Don't push anything on your son that he's not ready for. The book itself states that “doing book” is supposed to be an enjoyable time where the two of you become close through reading together.
This book also has a female version, Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman's Battle
A good book to read together during book time (as suggested by the previous author) is, I Kissed Dating Goodbye
by Joshua Harris. I think your average teenager will oppose the idea of not dating but this book will plant some powerful ideas into their head. Derek, for instance, has already decided the first woman he's going to kiss is his wife (yeah, I know, very radical) and he's already informed more than one eager young lady out there who would have liked to have been that first kiss of this (have I mentioned that I love my son?).
Joshua has twin brothers who wrote another great book that has nothing to do with dating but everything to do with rising above the mediocrity that is considered normal teenage behavior. Do Hard Things
byAlex and Brett Harris is a battle cry to every teenager that their age is no excuse against accomplishing huge things. Their examples of real life super acheivers tend to lean towards accomplishing things in the political arena, probably because that's where their field of interests lie but they do have some good example of teenagers that have gone beyond the norm in fund raising for good causes or needy people as well as other accomplishments. The Harris boys keep your interest by writing about actual kids from all over the world and what they've done that makes them other than the average teenager suffering from angst.
In fact, the thing that struck me the most about this book is how they boldly state there shouldn't even be such a thing as adolescence. That it is a relatively new concept. Young men and women not a hundred years ago were using their teen years to prepare for adulthood not sitting around, glued to the computer playing games. They give many real life examples of young men and women who went out on a limb and showed that their age was in no way a hindrance in accomplishing things normally expected of much older people.
Finally, a book for fun: The Dangerous Book for Boys
is a book that has everything that the authors Conn and Hal Iggulden think a boy should know about. From how to's to famous historical battles to how to deal with girls (humorous!) to every book in existence that a boy should read. How to make batteries, a treehouse, timers and tripwires, not to mention the world's greatest airplane. Then there's famous battles, like Waterloo, Caesar's Invasions of Britain, the Spartan Battle of Three Hundred. Lot's of how to's on first aid, marbling paper, Navajo code talkers' dictionary, survival skills.. heck, it's just a great book!!