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Interactive Discovery Book Devotional And Journal
By Josh McDowell, Ed Stewart
Thomas Nelson Copyright © 2000 Josh McDowell and Ed Stewart
All rights reserved.
When his dad walked into his room, fifteen-year-old Ken Meyers knew what he would say. This conversation happened at least once a week during the school year, sometimes twice.
"I thought you had homework to do," Dad said, lifting the headphones from Ken's ears and placing them on the bedside table. Ken bristled inside. He felt like a little kid when his dad just took things away from him like that.
Ken, who had been lying on his bed listening to music, sat up. "I do have homework," Ken said, displaying the language-arts worksheet in his hand, "and I'm doing it." He was about halfway through an exercise of diagramming sentences and identifying parts of speech.
"You know you will concentrate better without that noise rattling your brain." Dad motioned toward the headphones, which were jacked into Ken's portable CD player. The music was still playing, but it was faint and tinny coming from the tiny headphone speakers on the table.
"It's not noise, Dad, it's music—Christian music," Ken said respectfully. He hated the frequent lectures, but it only got worse if he let his attitude get the best of him.
Dad's hands went to his hips, his classic lecture pose. "That is not music, Kenneth. It sounds like a bunch of spoons caught in the garbage disposal. And there is no way ruckus like that can be called Christian. Just because a group says it is Christian doesn't mean its message is coming from God."
Ken wanted to argue the point. Listen to the words, Dad. They are just as biblical as any of those cassettes of hymns you and Mom play. As for the music, it's a "joyful sound." You're so paranoid that I may be listening to satanic music. But he had tried that approach before, and the lecture had only lasted longer. So Ken kept his thoughts to himself.
"Besides, I could never do homework with the TV or radio on," his dad continued. "It ruins your concentration."
It may ruin your concentration, Dad, but it doesn't ruin mine. The music actually keeps me relaxed and helps me concentrate. Can't you accept that my study habits may be different from yours? Ken felt the anger steaming up inside him, but he kept silent.
"You can't afford to waste study time, Kenneth. Your grades are slipping. You're barely pulling Bs and Cs. This is not middle school, Son. You have to bear down if you want to achieve the grades that will get you into State University."
I've tried to tell you that I don't want to go to State, Dad, Ken argued silently. In fact, I don't think I want to go to any college right after high school. I want to take at least a year off to travel with a Christian band or take a short-term missions trip. Maybe then I'll know what I want to do with my life. If you would only listen to me sometimes, you might understand what's going on in my life. But all you can think about are my grades.
"And what about these?" his dad pressed. The man's hand left his hip long enough to point to the shoe box on the bed next to Ken.
"Those are my baseball cards."
"I can see that they are baseball cards, Kenneth," his dad snapped. "I mean, what are they doing here beside you while you are studying?"
"I don't study every single minute, Dad," Ken snapped back. "I keep them here so I can look at them when I need a break."
"It's just another temptation to waste time," his dad said firmly. Then he reached out as if to take the box away.
Ken grabbed the box, ready to pull it back. "It's my hobby, Dad," he argued. "Don't worry, I'm not going to fail English because I look at a few cards now and then." Ken had allowed his sarcasm to come out a little too strongly, and he wished he could take it back. He never won when he fought with his dad.
For a moment Ken and his father eyed each other without speaking, each with a hand on the box of baseball cards. "I'm going to put these cards away so they won't distract you," Dad said, starting to pull from his end of the box.
Common sense told Ken to let go of the box and drop the argument. But he was too mad to listen to his better judgment. "They're not distracting me, Dad. I can study just as well with—"
Ken's end of the box tore open in the subtle tug-of-war and more than 300 baseball cards spilled onto the bed and the floor. His dad was left holding the torn and suddenly empty shoe box. Ken wished he hadn't been so bullheaded, but he was tired of caving in when his parents tried to mold him into their idea of a student. He had never resisted his father like this before, and he was a little afraid of the possible consequences.
Dad studied the mess of cards for a moment, then glared at his son. Ken was afraid that his collection of baseball cards was history. Instead, Dad dropped the box to the floor and scooped up the CD player and carry-case of CDs from the bedside table. "I don't want to see these again, Kenneth," he announced, shaking his finger at the mess of cards, "and you won't be listening to this so-called music until your GPA comes up a full point." Then he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Ken was so angry he almost cried. If it wasn't his grades or music Dad and Mom disapproved of, it was his clothes or his hairstyle or his friends. His baseball card collection was "frivolous," they said. (He should get into biking or rock climbing, something that gave him exercise.) When Ken tried to explain his preferences, they didn't seem to listen. And when he wanted to show off his latest card or Christian CD, his mom and dad were not interested. Ken didn't know which bothered him more: their active disapproval or their passive disinterest.
Losing his CD player and "tunes" was pretty bad. But Ken was relieved that his dad had not also confiscated the baseball card collection. Nor had Dad ordered him to get rid of them; he'd only said that he didn't want to see them again. Pulling another sturdy athletic shoe box from his closet, he began gathering his cards and angrily stacking them inside. He would keep his cards hidden when Dad was at home and pull them out only when he was away. It made him feel like a hunted spy in his own home. And the fact that his father had ripped off his music made him feel like a prisoner.
Just before 10:00 P.M., Ken climbed into bed for the night. He had not finished his homework. Tonight's clash with his dad had sapped him of the little motivation he'd had. He knew another incomplete assignment would pull down his grades even further. But what difference did it make? Even if he notched a 4.0 for the semester, his parents would continue to chip away at his other differences and failures. For all his trying, he couldn't seem to win with them. So why try?
Dad and Mom were in the family room watching TV as usual, so Ken knew they would not notice that his light was out. They seldom talked to him at bedtime anymore. No way did Ken want to return to his younger years when Dad or Mom tucked him in each night, read stories, said prayers, and smothered him with kisses. That was OK for his younger sister, Hillary, but way too much for him. Yet no contact at bedtime didn't feel right either. It seemed that the only time his parents spoke to him was to criticize him or correct him, and the only time they touched him was to push his feet off the sofa.
Lying in the darkness, Ken lifted a silent prayer. God, I know You love me, but I'm not so sure Dad and Mom do. Why do they seem to be against everything I do? Why don't they care about my life, my feelings, my ideas, and my interests? I know some things I do really tick them off. But they seem to disapprove of everything. It's like they're tired of being my parents and wish I would just grow up and move out. Why can't I get along with them, God?
As he prayed, it occurred to Ken that home wasn't the only place where his relationships were wearing thin. The face of Todd Wallace, his friend at church, suddenly popped into his mind. Yeah, some friend, Ken thought cynically. Todd is great to be around when we're doing what he wants to do. But when I ask him to go the sports card shop with me, or if I need his help on a youth group outreach event, he is suddenly "too busy." It's like he's my friend when I fit in with his plans or when he needs something. Otherwise he could care less.
Ken quickly added a postscript to his prayer. And, God, why can't Todd and I be real friends?
Just before drifting off to sleep, Ken thought about Doug Shaw. Doug and his wife, Jenny, were volunteer youth leaders at the church his family attended. A couple of years earlier, Doug had helped Ken make the transition from getting by on his parents' faith to trusting Christ personally for himself. Ken loved the youth group at church, and he considered Doug his spiritual big brother. Doug Shaw frequently told kids in the group that he and Jenny were available to talk with them about anything. For the first time since he had met Doug, Ken realized he had something he really wanted to talk about.
After school the next day, Ken walked to the small downtown quick-print shop Doug and Jenny owned and operated. The shop was not exactly on Ken's way home, but he walked the extra six blocks anyway, hoping Doug was there and hoping he'd have a minute to talk.
Walking into the shop, Ken felt a little odd. He had never done this before. Should he have made an appointment? What was he supposed to say? "Hey Doug, I have a problem. Will you stop working and solve it for me?" didn't sound too good. As it turned out, Ken didn't have to worry about it. Doug, who was doing layout on one of the shop's computers, saw him come in the door.
"Hi, Ken," he said cheerfully. "What a nice surprise to have you drop in."
Jenny, who was waiting on a customer at the counter, also waved and smiled. Ken waved back. "Give me a couple of minutes, Ken," Doug called over the counter, "and I'll take a break. There's something I want to tell you. We can get something to drink."
"Sure," Ken said, nodding. Doug made him feel like a welcomed guest instead of an interruption in his schedule. It was a feeling he had been missing at home, where he sometimes felt like an intruder or a pest.
Five minutes later Doug and Ken left the shop in Jenny's care and headed down the sidewalk toward a place called The Blender. As they walked, Doug grabbed Ken by the shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I want to thank you for helping out with the sound during our youth outreach event last weekend," Doug said. "I saw you toting mike cords and speakers all over the place, and I appreciate your help."
Ken enjoyed getting caught doing something good for a change. He had worked hard with the sound crew during the big event, and he didn't think anybody had noticed.
"I enjoyed it," he said. "I'd like to work with sound again sometime."
They each bought a cold fruit smoothie then sat down together in a booth. They talked about the great music and dynamic speaker at the youth outreach event and the number of students who had trusted Christ as their Savior that night. Ken knew Doug had to get back to the shop soon. It would have been easy to skip the real reason he had come to see Doug. But he was afraid things would get much worse at home if he didn't talk to someone soon.
"I have kind of a prayer request to talk to you about, if you don't mind," Ken said, fiddling with the straw in his drink.
"I don't mind at all, Ken," Doug assured. "What can I pray with you about?"
Ken had told no one but God what he was about to reveal to Doug. The thought of actually telling another person about the anger and hurt he felt toward his parents and his friend Todd made him pause to swallow a surprising lump of emotion that had suddenly crept into his throat. "I'm ... I'm having trouble with my parents. We're not getting along very well right now." He briefly described the latest clash with his dad over the baseball cards. "It seems that everything I do is stupid or wrong. They're always ragging on me about my clothes or my music or my grades. They don't seem to care about who I am and what I like. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in the house alone. I don't know if they really love me." When he finished his explanation, Ken had tears in his eyes.
Doug's face clouded with sorrow. "Ken, I can see that this really hurts you. I'm sorry you are experiencing doubt about your parents' love. Seeing you in pain makes my heart hurt for you."
Ken felt some of the weight lift from him. Just knowing that Doug understood where he was coming from and hurt for him was a measure of relief he had not expected. Feeling his confidence swell, Ken went on to tell Doug about his recent difficulties in getting along with Todd Wallace.
After a few respectful moments, Doug said, "Tell me more about your relationship with your parents."
"What do you want to know?"
"How would you describe your relationship with your dad?"
Ken pulled the straw out of his drink and watched the juice drip into the glass. "If we're not talking about me—like what's wrong with what I'm doing and stuff—we usually don't talk. He's busy with his work and his hobbies."
"Does your dad ever have time for you?"
Ken shook his head slowly. "No."
"Do you feel like nothing you do is good enough for him?"
"Nothing I do is ever good enough for him," Ken emphasized, rubbing the hint of a small tear from his eye.
Doug asked several more questions about Ken's relationship with his parents. Then he gently probed into Ken's friendship with Todd. Each sad answer was accompanied by a shadow of sorrow on his face.
Finally Doug said, "I have to get back to the shop. But maybe we can get together again soon so we can talk more about the conflicts in your relationships and pray together. Would that be OK?"
"Yeah, that would be OK."
Since they both attended the 9:30 A.M. worship service on Sundays, they decided to meet at church during the 11:00 service. Doug said he knew about an empty Sunday school classroom they could use then. Ken eagerly agreed.
"Until then," Doug said, "I want you to know that I care about you, Ken. I know it hurts to feel that your parents don't understand you and that Todd is so self-centered in his friendship toward you. I want to stay with you through this. I'll be praying for you. In fact, let me say a prayer for you right now." Ken fought back another tear as Doug quietly asked God to share His comfort with Ken.
When Doug said good-bye and returned to the shop, Ken was not eager to go home. He knew he would probably be quizzed and criticized for getting home late. And he sure couldn't tell Todd about his talk with Doug. But he felt a spark of comfort and encouragement knowing that he was not alone in his pain. Doug knew and Doug cared, and that meant a lot to Ken. It gave him a glimmer of hope that someday his relationships with three important people in his life might get better.
TIME OUT TO CONSIDER
Is your relationship with your parents anything like Ken's? Do you seem to be at odds with them about practically everything? Do you hear far more criticisms at home than compliments? Do your mom and/or dad give you grief about your appearance, your manners (or lack of them), your room, your music, your friends, your grades, or your activities? Do they easily catch you doing things wrong and hardly ever notice when you do things right? Do many of your conversations end up as arguments or shouting matches? Does it seem that they are more interested in your brothers or sisters than in you? Do you sometimes wonder if your parents really love you?
In some families, parent-child conflicts may be so severe that they can be described as abusive. Some parents neglect their children's basic needs for shelter, food, clothing, medical attention, education, and so on. Arguments deteriorate into physical attacks or vicious name calling. Children in these kinds of homes should report physical, sexual, or emotional abuse to the proper authorities because of imminent danger to their life and health.
Excerpted from Resolving Conflicts by Josh McDowell, Ed Stewart. Copyright © 2000 Josh McDowell and Ed Stewart. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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