The Short Rope

The Short Rope

Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura

One afternoon, as I drove to pick up my kids from school, I listened to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio program. Her shock-jock manner felt caustic, though her counsel was often spot on.

I tuned in out of curiosity.

Boy confronts his mother


That particular day, a frantic mom called in because her 13-year-old son faked being sick so he could stay home from school and surf porn sites. Horrified, the parents “grounded him for life” and made him memorize countless Bible verses.

I winced. Here it comes…I thought.

Father Talking To SonDr. Laura, known for haranguing parents, spoke in a surprisingly calm but solemn voice. Essentially she said…Continue reading



Do you know this feeling?

“When (you, as a teenager) took a problem to (an adult) as we all remember, (the adult) was very likely to explain what you understood already, to add a great deal of information which you didn’t want, and say nothing at all about the thing that was puzzling you. I have watched this from both sides of the net; for when, as a teacher myself, I have tried to answer questions brought me by pupils, I have sometimes, after a minute seen that expression settle down on their faces which assured me that they were suffering exactly the same frustration which I had suffered from my own teachers.”

—C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

women said, woman listening to gossipAs a teenager, did you feel heard by adults when your heart was churning with questions? Did you only get a few words out before an adult springboarded off your simple wonderings to launch a monologue? Did you feel free to pose ideas contrary to church speak? Or would you face a diatribe of “correct theology”?

Albert Schweitzer wrote, “The teenage years are sometimes a process of unpleasant fermentation working itself off and leaving the wine clear. My religious instruction came through Pastor W. Although I respected him, I kept myself closed up. The good man never suspected what was stirring in my heart. His instruction was in itself excellent, but it gave no answer to a great deal of what my inner self was concerned with. How many questions I would have gladly asked him, but that was not allowed us. He believed that in submission to faith, all reasoning must be silenced.”

—Albert Schweitzer, Memoirs of Childhood and Youth

African-American single-parent familyBecause of this experience, Schweitzer believed that much goes on in the heart of a youth that most adults don’t realize. The problem is—kids don’t have a safe place to sort it out.

As parents, teachers, or adult friends of teens we can offer that context—an open atmosphere where kids are free to air their questions, struggles, and doubts. Spiritual wrestling is a normal part of adolescence. After all, this process is precisely what leads us to a stronger faith.

Christianity can stand up to the test.

two woman talkingWhen was the last time someone—anyone—sat down and pursued your heart, asked only a few questions to get things started, and then listened, really listened to you?Continue reading

A Pancake Education

A Pancake Education

In case you haven’t noticed, a spiritual battle over adolescents is raging. It’s widely discussed—everything from teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, eating disorders, gang participation, and suicide rates.

Young woman in classroom.Few people, however, seem to realize that Christian kids are at risk in all the same categories. Even fewer worry about kids who go to Christian schools and live in Christian homes. After all, those kids are covered on all fronts, right?

Dead wrong.

Barna research indicates that, although most teens have a relationship with Christianity, it’s usually superficial. Other sources show that an average Christian kid’s belief system is no different from non-churched kids. For example “85% of Christian teens are likely to reason just because it’s wrong for you doesn’t mean it’s wrong for me, and 57% could not even say that an objective standard of truth exists.”

David Kinnaman’s recent book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Their Faith, states that nearly 60% of kids raised in Christian homes walk away from their faith. These statistics should cause great alarm.

Three high school boys I know sounded the alarm for me one morning over breakfast years ago. They came on Saturday mornings for pancakes. Our discussions were engaging, because their thoughts were unedited.

One such morning, we talked about Christian education. Laying academic comparisons aside, we asked them about the spiritual pros and cons of public school, homeschool and Christian schools. To my astonishment, all three were decidedly negative about Christian education.

mother scolding sonThey confided that many of their friends who’d gone exclusively to Christian schools became serious drug addicts. One said that Christian schools were in danger of producing some of the worst atheists. Most kids felt the environment was like a restrictive playpen with a “can’t do this—can’t do that,” mentality. Too many persnickety rules. Continue reading