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SLAP Your Parents

Earl Middleton No Comments

slap your parentsSLAP = See.Love.Appreciate.Pray4 (all of this is implied by HONOR).

I present a workshop to teens entitled How to SLAP Your Parents (and Why). It’s pretty popular. Here’s why.

See your parents. This means to acknowledge them AND to enable others to acknowledge them by promoting them and making them famous; to announce them; to glorify them (as Jesus glorified his father). One of the principle things a child is called and commanded by God to do is to glorify his/her parents, because this prepares us for the same. We can’t make ourselves famous. Promotion comes from the Lord. So, to position ourselves to be glorified we need to do the same for someone else first (Eph 6:8). This begins at home and the first people we are called to promote are our parents because they gave us life. Announce them to the world the way Jesus announced his father.

Love your parents. This means to agape them; do what is in their best interest regardless of how you feel about them. This is decision-based, not feelings-based, and driven by truth, not circumstances. Even if they have been horrible to you, you are called to love them in order to imitate our Heavenly Father who causes His sun to shine on the good and bad, and His rain to fall on the just and the unjust. So, we love even our enemies, bless them that curse us, and do good unto them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. When we step into a place of love for even our enemies we become impervious to evil. Nothing can hurt us.

Appreciate your parents. This means to place a value on them that is higher than their behavior, no matter how good or bad it is or has been. Esteem them as a prize that continues to appreciate in value because they are the soil of your blessing. They are the ground you sow into that will produce blessing and benefit in your life.

Pray4 your parents. This means to go to God on their behalf, even if they despitefully (thought less of you when they) used you and persecuted (pursued) you, because in so doing you create an environment in which God can reach them to change them. Use and persecution are learned, responsive behaviors. People treat their children that way when they have been treated that way as children themselves. When you decide to respond differently to the behavior than they did themselves, it gets their attention and provides an avenue for God to show up in their conscience and experience; but most of all it rescues you from visiting the same behavior on your children. Prayer can change the person you pray for, but the biggest change it effects is in YOU.

So, when I say “SLAP your parents” what I really mean is “see, love, appreciate, and pray for your parents!” Now, why on earth would you do that if your parents have not been good parents, model parents, caring parents, nice parents? Why do good for people who have been bad? Why bless those who curse you? Why do good for them who have hated you? Because there is a built in blessing that comes with it that you can’t get any other way; and one of the reasons people who have had bad parents end up with such screwed up lives is because they have not mastered slapping their parents and all that is available to them is the curse of hate transferred by their parents. You can send the hate away and bless your life by slapping them.

Kobe Bryant’s battle with parental rejection – heading into overtime?

Earl Middleton No Comments

Kobe Bean Bryant is basketball’s equivalent of an assassin. At least 41 times a year, on a well light corner of Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles, you can find the self-proclaimed black mamba poised to strike with speed and precision at game’s end, sending visiting teams out of Staples Center snakebitten and twice shy. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard for Mr. Bryant to get the benefit of the doubt in the national media afforded to his countepart atop the basketball tell, Lebron James. It’s pretty hard to write something nice about a black snake.

But if ever there was a moment when Mr. Bryant deserved our sympathy it was in the shower at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia a decade ago, holding the repeat NBA championship trophy with tears streaming down in his elfin face. Crying not because of what he’d just won, but because of what he’d lost: his father. No, Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant had not passed away, but it sure must have felt like it to Mr. Bryant.

It’s no secret that Mr. Bryant’s parents rejected him, and his timing and choice of a bride, a short ten years ago. Given the nature of humans, as we watched Mr. Bryant’s parents sit courtside for the first time at a Staples Center playoff game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, one had to wonder if full forgiveness and reconciliation had taken place after the infliction of such a deep wound. Bullies don’t like to be bullied, ergo snakes don’t like to be bitten; and in this case the mamba was bitten badly. His parents were no shows at his wedding, his new house, the birth of his first child, and his greatest professional achievement to date, a back-to-back championship practically right down the street from their five bedroom Lower Merion home.

Examining the lives of public figures can be such voodoo science, because there’s often so much withheld from view. But in this case Mr Bryant’s celebrity, and to a lesser extent that of his dad, helped to place in plain view for a global audience a silent, invisible and overlooked problem: prejection. Parental rejection is more common than one might think. And in this case common doesn’t mean less significant. There are some 100 million people battling the problem in the United States, and as many as 1 billion globally.

Whether the courtside playoff photo op was authentic, or just shrewdly engineered ‘branding’ for a rehabbed icon on the corporate endorsement comeback trail may only be known later, through the lives of Mr. Bryant’s daughters, Natalia & Gianna, because children are windows into the spiritual, relational, and emotional dynamic of a household. And what we don’t forgive we pass on. If Mr. Bryant hasn’t fully forgiven, it will be evident in his own rejection of his kids.

We are a society that spends increasingly more of our leisure and entertainment dollars on the escape from and management of pain. Psychic pain. The pain of prejection. And like Grimaldi the clown, who had no one to cheer him up when he was down, to whom do supreme entertainers like Mr. Bryant turn to help manage their pain and nurse their wounds? One can only hope, for the sake of his family, that Mr. Bryant has fully sealed the deal, as befits his legend; that this battle is over, with no chance for overtime.

Was Jesus a Functional Preject?

Earl Middleton one comments

My mother-in-law dies on President’s Day. Ten days later a coven of somber faced morticians seal her platinum colored coffin and lower her remains into oddly chilled Florida dirt. Later, my wife and I are trying to get some sleep…on my mother-in-law’s bed (I know she’s gone, but the bed still feels like it belongs to her); but sleep is as elusive as the right words to say. The only thing that comes to mind, that stays on my mind, is…was Jesus a functional preject? Yeah, I know. It’s weird what will come to mind when we’re trying to sleep on dead people’s beds.

You’re probably asking yourself right now, “what the heck is a functional preject?” And you probably realize that I’m about to answer. A functional preject is someone who has been rejected by one or both parents, yet still seems to be in control of his/her life and in no need of being ‘taken up!’ (Psalm 27:10) Sort of like an alcoholic or drug abuser who still functions at work or home. You see, it took death, close to home death, to get me thinking about Jesus’ experience with parental rejection.

The Temptation of JesusDeath is a lot like being in a wilderness. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But you get my point. It’s all about loss. Things (and people) are supposed to die in wildernesses. And like everything else in life, wildernesses have stages. The ending of the whole experience is also its deepest, lowest point, where you feel completely separated from God, seemingly unable to reach Him or hear His voice. That’s when you have to depend on His word & the memory of His love. And that’s what happened to Jesus both in the beginning and ending wildernesses of his ministry (the trial in the desert after his baptism, and the passion on the cross after his Palm Sunday coronation). In both settings the severity of the separation intensified at the end (forcing him to defend himself with the word at the end of the 40 days of temptation; and leading him to cry out to the Father, ‘why have you forsaken me?!’ just before he gave up the ghost–which is what actually, finally killed him!).

Jesus was fully human, with feelings just like yours and mine. Given the closeness of His relationship with his heavenly Father up to that time, he must’ve felt abandoned at the beginning of his ministry as he was left all alone to deal with the devil (‘if you are the son of God…’ – a Satanic test of his conviction about his identity & call) and forsaken at the end of it (a Godly test of his willingness to execute the plan, stick to the script and run the play called by the coach even when all seemed lost). Imagine ministering for three years with the thought in the back of your mind, ‘when I really needed Dad, He left me out there all by myself!’ Given the circumstances it would’ve been understable. But did Jesus function throughout his entire ministry feeling rejected by his father? Hardly!

Prejection only becomes limiting and destructive when we allow it to rob us of 1) parental honor,  and 2) identity & purpose! Only God and His word can restore those to us when they go missing via prejection. Jesus, however, never let any possible feelings of abandonment get him to the place of parental dishonor. Nor did he lose his vision of his identity and purpose. In fact, his wilderness experience confirmed and affirmed his sense of self and mission.

How much of your life difficulties are connected to the ‘dishonor’ of mother & father? We’re called to honor them even in and after their death, and when we do the Deuteronomy 5:16 blessing rests upon us. Jesus perfectly demonstrated how to do this, as he honored his Father even after two seasons of wilderness abandonments, and walked on this earth manifesting the blessing, prospering in his ministry. Through the ultimate expression of parental honor he gained eternal life and all power in heaven and on earth.