Parenting Millennials

I probably sound like Ward Cleaver when I remind my children how rough our lives were compared to theirs. It’s apparent that every generation has a horror story to tell their children to make them appreciate how good they have it. Ironically, we still make it a goal to want better for our kids than what we, ahem, ‘endured’. That kind of makes the infamous ‘when I was your age’ series of ‘walking to and from school, uphill, both ways’ a weak anecdote to garner their sympathies as we negotiate their comparative luxury. In the end, I think we, as parents, learn more about sacrifice than our kids do.


A psychology professor at a small midwestern university was teaching a class on ethics and during the section of the class dealing with forgiveness, showed up in class with boxes of tomatoes and little plastic bags from the grocery store. He instructed each of the students to take a bag, a marker and begin. If they had been offended in some small way by a friend or neighbor; they were to take a small cherry tomato and write the name of the person, and the offense on the skin of the tomato, and deposit it in the bag. If they had been offended in a bigger way, take a Roma tomato, and write the name of the offender, and the offense on that. Use as many tomatoes representing how often they had been hurt by others. And if they have been hurt in some huge way, take a big ol’ beefsteak tomato and write the name of the offender, and describe the offense all over the tomato and put it in the bag.

When each student had filled his/her bag, the professor then gave them this assignment:

“From now ’til the end of the semester, you are to carry this bag with you wherever you go. To class. Across campus. To the cafeteria. Even to your bed with you at night, right beside your head. If I see you without your bag of tomatoes, I will dock your grade. You must carry this bag until the end of the semester.”

Well, the first week wasn’t so bad, he docked a few students when they were caught without their bags, or forgot them in class. The second week brought more objections from the classmates – “these bags are getting heavy, and inconvenient to carry.” By week three, the students’ complaints were intensifying: “The bags are getting mushy, and starting to rot and smell.” “It’s disgusting to be seen with these rotting tomatoes.” By the fourth week, the students’ complaints were off the chart: “No one wants to be around me, ’cause this bag stinks!”

Finally, the professor asked if he’d made his point. Did they understand that carrying around a bag of unforgiveness, living with a spirit of resentment, harboring a hope for revenge will eventually begin to stink – and no one will want to be around you!”

“So, if you have received the lesson”, he said, “take your bags outside, and dump them in the flower beds around campus. In a couple weeks what will we find? Yes, the rotten tomatoes will grow some new plants.”

So too when we forgive – when we plant our hurts and resentments in the fertile soil of God’s love and grace, God will bring new life, new joy and new freedom to us.

©2013 Kermit Culver

Recipe for Saving

It’s no secret that dining out too often will help your wallet lose weight. This familiar mantra is one of the many ‘battle cries’ of Dave Ramsey, financial author, radio talk-show host and motivational speaker. If you’re one of the millions who tunes in to the Dave Ramsey Show you know all too well how often the rice and beans ‘diet’ is prescribed to financially-strapped callers as a means to a wealthier, healthier lifestyle. Dave recommends a simple, six-stage “baby steps” formula (based in part on the debt snowball method), which includes avoiding all debt (except for certain types of home mortgages) and investing conservatively —  advice he more affectionately refers to as ‘grandma’s common-sense’.

If you’re new to Dave Ramsey, or even a long-time listener of his radio show, you can attend a Dave Ramsey Show Simulcast on Saturday, October 6th. Visit this link for more details. 

Money Talks

It’s funny how people’s attitudes about wealth in this country have become skewed. One of the things that makes this country great is the freedom of choice. Every time you are faced with more than one option you have the ability to exercise the power of that freedom. When you make a decision to purchase you’re essentially voting with your dollar. It’s a simple concept, I know, but how many people look at it that way?

The price of goods and services is largely determined by the law of supply and demand. Why then do some Americans have a problem with businesses that have become wealthy? In most cases, their wealth is simply the spoils of working hard to develop and sell a product or service that the people have determined they want. The more demand, the higher the price. If you don’t want to line the pockets of (insert successful widget-seller here) then don’t buy their product (that is, assuming you have a choice).

It makes little sense in my mind to bellyache about the high price of something and then turn around and buy some of it. You’re perpetuating the law that makes it so. Granted, your vote won’t override the millions of others but if everyone truly looked at their money in this way I’m sure we’d all become more fiscally responsible. If only it were that simple.

The Talk

I knew the day was coming, but the school curriculum pretty much sealed the date. My oldest son’s class will soon be covering HIV in science and with it will come some talk about ‘changes’ they are all going through. Rather than have a bunch of squirrelly school boys educating each other, I thought I’d step in.

After having a nice lunch I thought I’d take him for a drive where we could discuss the topic with some privacy. After pulling into a parking lot and turning off the vehicle, I knew he was suspicious about why I wasn’t getting out. Nothing can prepare you for the awkwardness that this moment brings and once I started there was no turning back. I was going to have ‘the talk’ whether either of us were ready for it.

I must have gotten a little too graphic because at one point he complained of having a stomach ache and actually got out of the van to sit down in the parking lot. I thought he was going to refund his lunch. After the initial queasiness wore off I found out a little about what he knew and let him know where the boundaries were. We even shared some stories that we could both laugh about. Ultimately I wanted him to know that if he ever had questions about anything, that he could come talk to me.

Afterward he looked at me and said, “Dad, I feel more mature right now.” I told him how proud we were of the young man he was becoming but that he was still a boy and not to get carried away with his ‘maturity’. He’s a smart kid and I know he’ll learn more than what I’ve told him today, but being there to teach him the secret handshake of manhood was quite the experience. The talk with son number two will be in another three years. I should be ready.


“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Silence is Golden

I’m a habitual chapstick user, so this is something I can relate to. I don’t know that I would ever be distracted enough to actually make the mistake, but sometimes I think it would be to the benefit of others if I did. I can honestly admit that there are times when I say some things that I shouldn’t and a little glue stick to keep my mouth shut would be in order. I’m probably more guilty of not saying anything when I should be speaking up. Instead of standing up for myself I just go with the flow. Discerning when to speak up and when to stay silent is a real challenge; often times it’s a matter of putting the feelings of others first. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s an ideal I strive to work towards.