Teachers: Powerful Forces for Good or Bad

Some of my teachers played a big role in my life. A great ancient Hebrew named James had this to say about teaching…

“Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.”

Here are some good and not so good teachers in my life.

  • My Kindergarten teachers were outstanding, kind, compassionate and made me feel welcome. I remember crying on my first day of school, but after that I couldn’t wait to get there. I wish I could remember their names.
  • My second grade teacher was Mrs. Everitt. She took me on as a project and cared for me and my family. She taught me and loved me.
  • My fourth grade class was overcrowded, so they moved several of us students into the 5th grade class. Ms. Gandy held us to high standards academically and behaviorally. She is in her 70s and STILL making a difference in the world.
  • I did not like my first fifth grade teacher. She seemed to hate children. That was probably not the case, but it sure felt like it to me. Fortunately I moved away after two months of fifth grade and ended up with the most wonderful fifth grade teacher.
  • In seventh grade, I had another of those teachers who seemed to hate kids. We would often mis-pronounce her name on purpose and made it sound like it Miss Screwed Up.
  • My first band teacher was awesome, Mr. Derrio. He and my elementary music teacher helped to develop the love of music that has given me a successful three decade career.
  • My wife and sister had a teacher in high school who seemed to enjoy giving students failing grades. I never could understand that. When I have a student fail, I feel like I have failed somehow and I adapt my teaching.
  • My wife had a fourth grade teacher who told her she would never amount to anything.
  • Mr. Trammel taught me about integrity. Even though he had a large number of sick days, he took a day off without pay rather than fake sickness.
  • My best teacher was Steve Ambrose. Students will typically have a greater connection with the teacher who teaches the subject they are passionate about. Steve was passionate about music, still is, and passed that passion and excitement on to me. He really made you think!

Teachers, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility. You can make or break your students’ day.

***James is a Title 1 middle school teacher and author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption in which he shares how important teachers were to his life. He is also available to share to groups of teachers his story and why they are important. Reach him here. 

Get his free training 7 Tips To Save 5 Hours This Week and Every Week. Find out more about James at www.jamesdivine.net.

The brother I never knew

The Brother I Never Knew

I have a wonderful sister. We went through a lot together as kids and are great friends today as adults. But we were robbed. Mom was pregnant at least 5 times. Her third child she gave up for adoption. He was taken in by a loving family. Babies 4 and 5 were aborted.

When I was 5 years old, we had to flee from an abusive marriage my mom was in (my father). He died just a few years later. Over a period of two years, mom lived with two other men. With one of them she conceived her third child. He abandoned her at that point, accused her of sleeping around, saying he was not the father of her child. He left. Mom had no education, no real job prospects, and no money. At the time she was best friends with a couple who could not conceive. She gave the baby up to them for adoption. They raised him as their own.

After mom’s relationship with “baby daddy” failed, she quickly became involved with another man and ended up marrying him. Mom did not have much confidence or esteem. She “settled” for someone who wasn’t the greatest. Although he was not physically abusive to her, he was emotionally abusive and was a playboy who enjoyed having lots of women. I remember as a 9 year old, he even brought a woman to our house to live with us who was pregnant by him. I am not sure why mom put up with that!

For obvious reasons, the marriage began to flounder – and mom was pregnant with her 4th child. She had no desire to mother a child by this man she began to hate. Others in her life encouraged her to abort, saying, “it’s just a piece of tissue.” So she did.

Mom was always too slow at cutting off toxic relationships, so this guy was around for several more years. Sexual intimacy had become non-existent in their relationship. One day, he demanded his “rights” as husband and raped mom. Mom became pregnant again and decided to abort a second time. Eventually she divorced this man and moved on to another toxic relationship.

I didn’t find out about her story until many years later, when mom was well into her 60s. She suffered with the guilt of killing her own babies. She suffered with the regret of having made a decision that could not be reversed. She grieved and wailed over these babies. I can remember as a child her wailing and sobbing late into the night in our tiny apartment.

Mom loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we talked about these things, I constantly reminded her she was forgiven by God – He can and will forgive anything if we seek Him with all our being. She never seemed to be able to accept His forgiveness. When I hear of other women who have had an abortion, my first thought is compassion and mercy towards them. Yes, abortion is murder. But there can be healing and redemption through that. All of us are guilty of some sin in our lives and need God’s forgiveness.

Here I stand today, pro-life. But I feel like I have been robbed. Robbed of the brothers or sisters I could have had. Robbed of a mom who lived the last 20 years of her life in regret instead of enjoying her golden years. But I also stand here today blessed! My fourth child was adopted. His mom chose life, and I’m so glad she did because I can’t imagine life without any of my four kids.

I’m pro-life because a voiceless baby deserves to live. I’m pro-life because God tells us to watch over and help those who are oppressed. Those who have no voice. Those who are abused. 

I know I will get to see my brother/sister in heaven someday. Mom is there now getting to know them, and now she knows all about God’s forgiveness.

*** James Divine is the blessed father of 4 kids and 8 grandkids, with number 9 on the way! He has been married to his HS sweetheart since 1986. Find out more about his life story in his book, Forgive: One man’s story of being molested… James often shares his life story. Find out more HERE.

Teachers – Your Dedication Makes a Difference. You Matter!

As we approach the end of the year, we are all feeling tired and drained – which I think we all know and expect – at least physically.

But remember, we are also drained emotionally. It can cause our emotions to trick us. We may think…

“Does what I do matter?”

“Would a career besides teaching be better?”

“Why do I even bother?”

This is a trick! We know our bodies are tired, but we don’t always recognize our emotions are tired. Throw this lie into the dumpster because YOU MATTER.

I have a friend who is an engineer. He once could not understand why teachers were so tired in May. As we talked about it, in his job he has 25-30 projects going at any given moment…BUT…only 1 has a deadline coming up soon. The others are in progress with deadlines months and even years away. I told him teaching is like having 150 projects with a due date coming up, but they are ALL due May 24. He voted for the bond issue in the following election!

We have a few weeks to go, and then we can rest physically AND emotionally.

Go and make a difference because YOU MATTER!

***James is a 24 year teacher and knows he is doing what he was called to do. At least 2-3x a month he does have his doubts, but realizes now that it’s just tiredness talking. Get his free training 7 Tips To Save 5 Hours This Week and Every Week.

James is available for professional development sessions, specializing in a motivational speech called “Teachers Saved My Life.” Reach him HERE to find out more

8 Ways To Mix Up the Method Book

By James Divine
As we approach the end of the school year and the weather is warming up outside – especially after our spring concert – it can sometimes be a challenge to get students to maintain focus. Sometimes mixing up the method book a bit can make band class more interesting. Here are 8 Ways to Mix Up The Method Book.

Mini-ensembles – Give students a short masterclass on how to practice duets and trios (they often think individual run throughs will improve their performance when they need to work together). Some tips include: a) Play all parts together in unison b) Have one person play while the other listens c) Practice the duet together but then stop as soon as something doesn’t sound right. Give the students ten minutes to go and practice their ensembles. Have them return to the class and perform. Give out small awards for successful performances.

Flashback Friday (or Thursday, or Monday, or whatever) – Students get to choose the exercises. It’s a great way to review without you having to pick. Works great on a day when many students are gone on a field trip and your original lesson plan is not going to work. Also is effective right after a concert or on state testing day when their brains are fried. You may need to set a few parameters – for example “pick anything from 1-120 in the book” – or you could literally have them pick even the most difficult exercises. I always have the sample from the demo CD available and if a student chooses something deep in the book we haven’t performed yet, I will play the sample for them. 

Change up the articulation – Go back and review exercises that are easier for them, but have them slur everything, or tongue everything, or “bop” the entire exercise as staccato, including whole notes (this particular one will expose who isn’t counting 4 beats). You’ll be surprised how difficult this one can sometimes be.

Divide music into groups – Split the class into 2 groups. It could be brass vs woodwinds, or saxes vs everyone else, or whatever – be creative. One group will play odd measures – the other group will play even measures – but with no pause in the music! Many groups will struggle at first but will get better at it. It forces the students to count, listen, and anticipate. Once they get good at measures, try dividing it by beats. Another variation – pick an easy song like Twinkle Twinkle. Have the class perform the song note by note – i.e the first person plays the first note, then the second person plays the next note, all the way through the melody. Everybody has to be engaged for it to work. Basically they are performing the entire piece in their mind as they prepare for when it will be their turn.

Play backwards – Have students face the wall behind you – just kidding, not that backwards – play the song in complete reverse, starting on the last note and moving to the first note.

Have Students Conduct – You might have everyone start off mimicking your four beat pattern – I always describe it to them as floor, wall, wall, ceiling. Then have individuals come up to the podium to conduct. It opens up many opportunities to talk about prep beats and what to look for in the conducting.

Change up the seating – Have those who sit in the back move to the front and vice versa. Maybe even allow open seating. Caution! For some reason when you change one thing in a classroom, some middle school brains think that all the rules go out the window. I have had success and fun with this technique, but on occasion students who never talk out of turn and students who never have their cell phones out suddenly think those rules no longer apply. I can’t explain it, but who can explain middle school brains. I usually preface this with a clear explanation that no rules have changed and there will be consequences for broken rules.

Marching Band – Work on memorizing an easy song like Twinkle Twinkle – most students have it memorized but just don’t realize it. Have them turn their stands around. Once it is mostly memorized, have students stand and march in place. If you are really brave, you might take them outside and give them an introduction to marching techniques – first without playing, then add the memorized piece back in.

I hope these tips help you to keep the end of year more interesting while continuing to work on musicality!

* James Divine has been teaching band and orchestra for 24 years. He is currently at a Title 1 middle school in Colorado Springs.  Get his free training 7 Tips To Save 5 Hours This Week and Every Week.  Find out more about James at www.jamesdivine.net

I Wasn’t Always This Way – And I Get Better With Age

James Divine

People look at me – 55, getting better looking each year, married to my high school sweetheart, parent of four, grandparent of 8, successful band & orchestra teacher, author, speaker, musician – and they think “Wow, James is so confident and sure of himself. Life has been good to him. I wish my life was like that.”

I wasn’t always this way!

I struggled, really struggled with self-esteem for many years. I know it was related to having an abusive father, being molested and all the damage that did to my psyche. I ALWAYS felt like I had to be dating someone, and my self-esteem plummeted when a girl would break up with me. I would beg her to come back, to give me another chance, to tell me where I failed. By the way, this is the worst thing to do. I should have said, “OK…I was thinking the same thing.”

My friend Amy – after hearing about the umpteenth time of a girl breaking up with me and how sad and lonely I was – she was one of those people who got to the point quickly – confronted me about why I felt like I needed to be dating someone all the time. I don’t think she even realized the impact of her words. It caused me to think. It caused me to change my behavior. I decided to stop being worried about finding the right person. Maybe I needed to focus on me, on becoming a better person! Becoming more Christ-like.

The interesting thing is that when I did that, that’s when I found my soul mate, my life-long lover, my best friend. I started dating Susan soon after that talk with Amy. I knew in about a week that Susan was probably the one. (By the way guys, after a week is not the time to mention this, even if you know deep in your soul).

Even after I started my adult life, got married, joined the Army band and was a successful husband, dad and musician, my self-esteem was still rock bottom.

I wasn’t always this way!

You see, I am a recovering people pleaser. At first glance, a people pleaser seems to be a really nice person. Everyone can count on them. Need cookies baked, call a people pleaser. Need someone on a committee, call a people pleaser. People pleasers can’t say no. Ultimately for me, this desire to please grew out of a fear of rejection, which had its roots in not being close to my father due to his abuse of my mom. I felt that those close to me might reject me if I didn’t do everything they wanted.

Although I started killing off the roots of what caused me to be a people pleaser, I didn’t totally sever the roots until I went to LifePlan in 2015. LifePlan is basically two intense days of physical, emotional and spiritual counseling. In the course of the two days, you uncover your roots – patterns and behaviors that have contributed to how you act or react to things – and sever a lot of those roots (the bad roots). I learned to leave those people pleasing tendencies behind.

I wasn’t always this way!

So when you see me – successful, self-assured, confident, willing to disagree, making sure I have my priorities straight – I want you to realize it wasn’t always like this. It is a journey, a process, sometimes hard work that takes you from one point to another. I had the same doubts you have. I had the same struggles you have. I had the same lack of self-esteem as you have.

I overcame and

Now I am this way (but I wasn’t always this way)

And I like that I’m this way…the only one I truly have to please is God

And He’s pleased with me because He is making me into His image

By taking care of me first, it has given me more time

By focusing on my mission and calling, it has made me a better person

And believe it or not, I love others more than I ever have

So don’t look at me and say, “I wish”

But look at me and say, “If he could do it, with God’s help I can too.”

I love you.

I’m proud of you.

You make my life rich.

***James is a Title 1 middle school teacher and author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption in which he shares how important teachers were to his life. He is also available to share to groups of teachers his story and why they are important. Reach him here. 

Find out more about LifePlan at www.chrislocurto.com

The Beatles Had It Right – All You Need is Love

“All you need is Love. Love is all you need”

So true, and advice so needed as a teacher.

When they don’t meet your expectations…love them anyway.

When they disrespect you…love them anyway.

When they don’t work hard…love them anyway.

It’s not hard to love the students who are excited about your class, who work diligently and exceed your expectations. It’s the others that are hard.

Love goes a long way. It won’t solve every problem, but you don’t know what the long term effect will be.

…Love Them Anyway

***James is a Title 1 middle school teacher and author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption in which he shares how important teachers were to his life. He is also available to share to groups of teachers his story and why they are important. Reach him here. 

I Said To Her, “You could never disappoint me!”

After I discussed our first playing test of all 12 scales in one of my high school classes, a student of mine came to speak to me a few days later…

“Mr. Divine…I’ve been working hard on the 12 scales and wanted to let you know that it’s possible I might not pass them on this first try.” (I allow multiple retakes). “I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me.”

I felt like my heart was about to break. Here’s an outstanding student doing her best and her worry was that she would disappoint me.

I said, “You not passing your scales would NEVER disappoint me. I only have grades and give playing tests because I want everyone to improve and I know you are going to improve.”

She left class with a smile, came back the next week and aced her 12 scales.

As teachers – our words have tremendous impact! I know we can get caught up in the 5-10% of students who give us a hard time, but most are hard working and want to please.

What message are your words sending to your students?

For an example of how words from my teachers affected me, click HERE.

***James is a Title 1 middle school teacher and author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption in which he shares how important teachers were to his life. He is also available to share to groups of teachers his story and why they are important. Reach him here. 

11 Ways To Lose (and Keep) A Band Student

Nobody wants to lose a band student. Sometimes it’s inevitable – you get a student who doesn’t want to work at all for example. Other times it may be our own fault.

Here are 11 ways to lose a band student for sure (and 11 ways to keep them).

1. Have Roving Eyes

Instead of focusing on the here and now and what students you do have, always look for the next Miles Davis. Never be content with who you have.

Make the best of who and what you have. Develop them to their fullest ability. Miles Davis could be weird at times anyway.

2. Don’t Answer Calls and Emails

Answering these takes time, time away from preparing the music. Just delete/erase these before they clutter up your inbox.

If a student takes the time to call or email you, it is generally because he wants to do well and improve. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, you are showing lack of concern for them. Many times students have told me I’m the only teacher who responds to their emails.

3. Don’t listen to feedback

Some of my directors growing up were “My way or the highway” types who really were not interested in becoming better people. Ignoring the feedback from your students means you won’t have as great of an opportunity to improve.

Listen to student feedback, even if you disagree. Maybe there is a compromise in there somewhere. Listen carefully if it’s coming from your leaders.

4. Don’t Get To Know Your Students

After all, music is the most important thing, so why would we ever ask them about their families, future plans or other activities. (Caveat…I DO make sure my students understand that our short rehearsal together is going to be focused on music).

Before, after and during breaks in rehearsal, get to know about your students’ families, jobs, dreams, interests and hobbies.

5. Focus only on your wants and needs

Who cares what songs the students want to play. It’s all about winning the competition and making me look good.

Isn’t it ok to play a Disney song once in awhile? Let the students pick some of the repertoire. I usually ask them to send me a www.jwpepper.com link so I can review it. If it’s not suited to our group, I tell them why.

6. Argue over little things

After all, what type of tread is on the bottom of the marching shoe has won and lost championships, right?

After 16 years of teaching, I quit being so strict about footwear at concerts. Do I want the kids to look nice? You bet. Does a percussionist wearing black sneakers instead of black dress shoes affect anyone’s enjoyment of the music? Not really.

7. Ignore The Little Things

I know Sally doesn’t have music yet, but there’s just no time for such trivial things. I’ll update the grades at the end of the semester. I know Brian took a retest weeks ago, but I don’t think he will mind having a D as long as I change it before the end of the semester.

The little things add up to big things. I am not perfect in this, so I write EVERYTHING down. I don’t want to forget the small details. 

8. Don’t show appreciation

The students have the privilege of being in my class.

The students have the option not to be in your class. It’s your privilege to get to teach the best and brightest in the school.

9. Don’t Apologize

Rule #1: The director is always right.

Rule #2: When the director is wrong, refer to rule #1.

Saying “sorry” when called for is one of the best things you can do. I’ve lost my temper at a kid. I’ve said something that humiliated them or done something I shouldn’t have. I ALWAYS apologize. It makes an impact on the students.

10. Poor care of facilities

Hey, the music is the most important thing, so why do the room and instruments need to be taken care of.

Put away piles of stuff. Organize. Throw away. Make the facility look the best you can with what you have.

11. Don’t care

Look at the players as people who fill a need for an instrument rather than as people.

Show concern. Call when a student is away for extended illness. When they return, tell them how much you missed them. A student doesn’t care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE.

***James Divine has taught band and orchestra for over 24 years. He currently teaches at a Title I middle school. He is the host of The Music Ed Podcast. He is also the author of The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and Tips from my 30+ years in music. Get in touch with James HERE.

Why I Love Colorado

Susan and I moved here – reluctantly – in 1992 with the Army, thinking that as soon as I got out of the Army, we would be moving to Virginia. We never left! Two of our kids were born here. We love Colorado and hope to never move away, but if God ever has something for us somewhere else, we will move. There are so many obvious reasons why Colorado is great – the mountains, the climate, the outdoors – but I’m going to talk about some of the reasons that aren’t as obvious.

  1. There are no alligators!

I have a niece who lives in Naples, Florida. We went to see her last year and had a wonderful time getting to know her family. She took us on a hike through a nature preserve. Fortunately it was elevated because there were alligators! It was nice to see them in their habitat knowing we were safe, but she told us about how they sometimes show up in people’s yards! Come to think of it – we didn’t see many children there and half the adults only have one leg. Susan asked her if they ever move around in drainage ditches – for example at the side of the road or near major shopping malls. Jane answered that you occasionally will see that…we saw one in the very next drainage ditch we looked at!

There actually is an alligator farm in Colorado near The Great Sand Dunes, but that doesn’t count – they are behind fences and if they ever got out, the cold in winter would probably kill them.

2. There’s very little humidity

What you see above is an actual picture of humidity. It’s like a black hole in space. It sucks all the coolness right off your body and makes you hot. Sure, we have to apply moisturizer to our hands, and our feet, and our arms, and our legs 24x a day, but at least when we put a shirt on, it doesn’t get stuck to our bodies.

3. We have mountains

Every place else has hills – we have mountains. You get to experience the grandeur of God’s creation. It makes for some interesting situations, like looking DOWN on a flying plane. And when we have a wet winter, it’s cool to see the mountains topped with snow for over half the year. Occasionally it will even turn white in the summer, but it quickly melts away. I’ve ridden my bike all over our beautiful city. There has not been any neighborhood that didn’t have a good view somewhere in its midst.

Turn your device sideways to make this comparison work…

Our mountains

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What other people call mountains

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4. Our water is delicious (see #3 above)

I think it has something to do with much of our water supply being snow runoff, but it tastes delicious to me, right from the tap. In America we pretty much can’t complain about our water – we are fortunate – but if you want your water to also taste good, come here. I love the bubbly springs that pour from the ground in Manitou Springs, but some people – including my wife – think that water is nasty.

5. The weather is always a surprise

I have been biking in the winter and have needed winter clothes in the summer. The joke here is that if you don’t like the weather, just wait half an hour. It can change so quickly! One school year, I had a snow delay the third week of May. Several districts were closed. But I have also worn shorts and a t-shirt in January.

This makes life more interesting. You can’t say “We’re going hiking this weekend,” it’s more like “We’re going hiking OR we may be staying home and watching a movie.”

Although the constantly changing weather can be fun, sometimes it’s nice to get some consistency. We get that in September, which is probably our most stable weather month and my favorite. It’s hot in the middle of the day – but not too hot, and it’s chilly enough at night to need a jacket (great sleeping weather).

I hope you come for a visit to our beautiful state, but don’t stay – housing prices in my town are already 3x higher than what they were when we moved here in 1992!

***James is a speaker, musician, author and middle school teacher. You can often find him hiking trails with his beautiful wife, mountain biking all over the place for some solitude, or in the summer on a stand up paddleboard. He and his wife have four kids and eight grandkids. Now you know why he loves Colorado. Find out why he loves being Italian in his book I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life.

Contact James HERE

Keeping Up With The Times – a no win scenario?

By Guest Writer Brooke Pierson

Keeping up with the times – a no win scenario?

Over the years I am constantly hearing about how we need to “reach more kids”…

Teach rock band!
Teach computer music!
Teach hip-hop!
Teach what the kids are interested in.

To be fair, this post isn’t about those things entirely – those are great things to teach and can be a great addition in an elective nature of our schools – I wish we could offer all  those things. I also recognize that each situation is different and just as there are only 3 or 4 major types of sciences that students study in school, we are also limited in what we can offer effectively. 

What I do find interesting, however, is that in an effort to “be with the times” we never really do hit that mark – because the times and what kids are interested in changes so drastically and fast. Ten years ago there was a huge push to incorporate rock bands in schools – and it made sense – rock bands were everywhere and had been for a while. But then all of a sudden there was a shift and now it’s all about loops, electronic music, and sound engineering/production. Rock band is “old”, guitar sales are down, etc. And you bet there will be something else soon.

Meanwhile, millions of students have been learning music embedded into our country as one of our unique traditions: concert band. We often look to other countries and think about their cultures with such awe and positivism and then we sometimes overly critique what we do for the purpose of what? Meeting the whims of generations? The taste they have that changes each generation? There is nothing wrong with tradition and culture so long as we’re meeting the needs of our students but we also have to be the curators and stewards of that need.

We have a *unique* and wonderful musical culture in the US – it has a ton of variety from jazz to classical to popular, rock, country – endless! But one thing we also have is a tradition that include band/choir/orchestra at the core in our educational system. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, it is a beautiful thing. This cultural element (and I’m going to keep saying that because it IS our unique cultural element) is integral in the way we shape students and it is a pathway to more specialized musical forms. Rather than trying to put efforts on educating students in whatever fad there is (and changing curriculum to do it) we rather should be continuing our efforts to enrich, strengthen, and grow this unique tradition – whether it be advancing literature, empowering students of all backgrounds, gender, ethnicity, etc, growing our scope.

This doesn’t mean getting rid of those other things. Do them, teach them, enrich our students lives. But don’t overlook the power that our musical culture can have on students and rest assured that cultures thrive on tradition – and concert band is one tradition that is deeply embedded in our society.

Brooke is a teacher and composer. Find out more about him and order his music at https://www.brookepierson.com

James Divine is a Title 1 middle school music teacher. Reach him HERE.

Peeing on Trees and Other Early Childhood Memories

Earliest Memories

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

-Sigmund Freud

This is a picture of my grandfather, my mom’s father. He passed away before I had a chance to meet him. My mom speaks very highly of him.

Most children don’t remember much from their earliest years. My oldest son Josh surprised me once by telling me something he remembers when he was under three years old. I had been gone for three months for Army training. When I returned, we all went out to Taco Bell to celebrate. He remembers that.

Most of my early memories are good. I played outside a lot. I peed on the trees in our backyard despite my mom’s insistence not to. Hey, little boys play, and they don’t think about peeing until they have to go REALLY bad, and the trees were so convenient. At least I didn’t pee in the heating vent like at least one of my sons did!

I remember watching Bob Barker on The Price is Right (and then watching him three decades later…it hasn’t seemed right since he retired). I had a best friend next door named Manny. I got my first bike.

There was a neighborhood convenience store that my friends and I walked to often. The proprietor was a very friendly man. If we sang a song for him, he would give us each a piece of small, football-shaped chocolate. It seems like such a small thing, but he is one of the many people in my life who was a positive influence, just by his kindness and character.

I remember being fearful of my father. I sometimes witnessed the abuse he delivered to my mom, and I was afraid of him. As far as I remember, he never laid a hand on me. I can only remember two interactions with him. I asked him how the turn signal turned off in the car. He had my sister and I convinced that he was magic. On another occasion, we went fishing with my older brother. It was cold and my feet hurt terribly, but I was too afraid to tell my father. I tried fishing later in life but just never grew to love it like many men I know. I know there must have been other interactions, but these are the only two I remember.

My mom tells the story of when my father sat me on his lap and asked me if I loved him, and I answered “No, because you hurt Mommy.” My father said that Santa Claus wouldn’t bring me anything and I answered that I was fine with that. Then he sat my sister on his lap and asked the same thing. She answered the same as me until he told her Santa wouldn’t bring her anything, and then sis said, “I love you, Daddy.”

I always thought she should have been an actress.

***James Divine is a middle school band teacher and author. This post is an excerpt from his book “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested.” Get it on Amazon. James loves to share his story of forgiveness. Contact him to check for availability. 

Wait Until You See What His Mom Gave Him for Breakfast

Jill was cleaning her son Billy’s room, putting ALL the clothes in the hamper because – if you’ve had a boy, you know their clean and dirty clothes co-mingle. They know what to wear after giving it the sniff test. She tossed the pizza boxes from under the bed into the trash. She found the five missing forks and two plates from her grandmother’s china collection there too, as well as a dead banana and some dried up mud. But what she found next appalled her.

Hadn’t she and Dan raised Billy with good morals? Didn’t they go to church each week? Dan made sure to spend quality and quantity time each week with all three of his kids. Dan and Billy even took a church camping trip in the mountains of Colorado where the dads led the sons through what it meant to be a man of God and how to remain sexually pure. The trip included fishing and hunting. Both Dan and Billy described it as the most impressionable week of their life. So when Jill found the girlie magazines, she was shocked, embarrassed and surprised. What would she do?

Jill threw the magazines in the trash, but didn’t mention anything to Billy. Billy noticed they were missing and wondered what would happen to him. Was his dad waiting for the right moment to wring his neck? Would he face years of restriction? Would his car be taken away? He didn’t want that to happen. He had a date with his girlfriend.

That weekend, Jill called everyone to dinner. The house had smelled of fried chicken for the last hour or so. Jill knew how to make fried chicken. She got the recipe from her grandmother, who used real bacon drippings for the frying. Billy came to supper with anticipation. Jill brought everyone their plate and set it down lovingly in front of them. She had made a special plate for Billy. Instead of getting ready to devour his food, Billy almost barfed.

Where was the delicious fried chicken? Why had his mom, who SUPPOSEDLY loved him, placed a nice heaping platter of egg shells, bacon drippings, carrot peel, potato peel, the dead banana from his room and the sweepings from the kitchen floor, in front of his face.

“Mom, why are you giving me trash to eat?” He asked.

“I figured since you were feeding your mind that sort of garbage, you would also want to feed it to your body.” She replied.

When you put pornography, gossip, and impure thoughts into your brain, it’s like eating egg shells for breakfast. What kind of gross things are going into your mind? What can you replace it with now?

(Although this story is fictional, it is based off a real mom I read about who did this with her son. It cured him of his desire to view pornography).

James is available to share his story of abuse, but most importantly overcoming that abuse. Find out more HERE. Check out his book about growing up Italian, I Cannoli Imagine.

4 Tips to Being a Better Band Director Using the Acronym BAND

4 Tips To Be A Better Band Director using the acronym BAND

There are four key areas that – if you focus on these and make them a priority – they can help you be a better band director. None of them have anything to do with music, but the word “BAND” does fall nicely into place to help you remember them.

B-Bread

Watch what you eat! When life gets busy, it can be very easy to grab something to go. I once was 30 pounds heavier than I am right now, all due to poor eating choices and failure to plan. Plan ahead what you are going to eat. Buy some healthy snacks. Keep them in a fridge at work, in your glove compartment, wherever. Pack a healthy lunch. Watch the pizza. I once ate 8 slices at a football game and regretted it for the next day and a half. I could do that when I was 18, but not now.

A-Activity

Move your body. Exercise is important, not only to your physical self, but to your emotional and mental health too. Pick something you like. Jogging, hiking, swimming, biking, walking. Put more ing in your life. You should strive for a minimum of 20-30 minutes 4-5x a week. It will lengthen your career and leave you feeling like you have more energy. Warning: When I was 30 pounds heavier and first embarked on exercising and eating better, I initially felt worse. This is normal.

N-Night

Get plenty of sleep. The amount is different for each person. I need 7 hours a night, so I try to make sure I get that at least 6 nights a week. Try napping. The floor of my office often became a 10 minute nap area when I taught marching band. Students have posted hundreds of pictures of me sleeping on the bus on a trip.

D-Diversion

Have a life outside of band. I heard of a band director who does not allow himself to read anything unless it is something that will help his band. I think this is unhealthy. Take up a hobby. It might even be music related, but not be something you need to do for a living. I had to quit giving lessons for the most part because I felt like my teaching day was never ending, but I perform, record and compose simply because I like to and it’s an outlet for me. I also hike, bike and meet with friends (and spend time with my family of course).

When life gets off track and you’re not sure what to do, think B.A.N.D.

***James currently teaches middle school band at a Title 1 school. He is available for professional development sessions. Contact him HERE. Check out his 30 minute training, “Save 5 Hours This Week – and Every Week.”

With one proclamation, the President would have my unending support

If the President would simply issue the following proclamation, I would support him forever…

“Let it be known that from this day forward, all marching band competitions shall be held on Fridays. All students involved in the competition shall be exempt from homework given or due that day. In addition, students not involved shall remain at school and complete any standardized testing required. Marching band students shall be exempt.”

“Let it also be known that each school district shall provide the competing band with a charter bus – complete with DVR and satellite – and shall provide catered meals for the marching band members and staff for the duration of the contest.”

“Let is also be known that the day following such competitions, practice by any of the bands participating shall be forbidden. If a band ignores this provision, it shall be required to take the standardized tests it missed. Band directors and staff shall be provided with a $500 honorarium to enable them to enjoy this day with their family and friends.”

Hereby signed by the President in the Oval (isn’t a whole note an oval) Office this day of __________ in the year of our Lord ________.

***James currently teaches middle school band and is no longer subject to the long hours and separation from family required by marching band. He did thoroughly enjoy his 13 years teaching marching band, and would happily do it again if that was his only job (just marching band, no classes during the day). He is the author of 5 books, including The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and Tips from my 30+ years in music, and is available for training and speaking engagements. Find out more here. 
Sign-up for my free mini-course “7 Tips To Save 5 Hours This Week and Every Week.” It’s a $20 value but yours free.

I’m Glad My Marching Band Didn’t Make it to State

The 2016 marching band season was the best to date. Our scores were some of the highest we had ever achieved. Our show was the most difficult we had ever attempted. My students were the most committed they had ever been (with lots of room for improvement).

As my students attained higher and higher scores, we all thought for sure we would make it to state. When we competed at regionals and beat a few bands that normally beat us, we thought it was in the bag!

But we didn’t make it.

And we were disappointed.

And I’m glad.

When I told my students I was glad we didn’t make state, they looked at me like I was crazy. Some responses were…

“Don’t you care about us?”

“Why are you glad?”

“Don’t you have confidence in us?”

I DO care for my students. They are like my family.

I DO have confidence in them. They had achieved higher than they ever have.

But I was glad we didn’t make it.

We missed making it to state by one band. One band! You could say we almost made it to state. With being that close, the students were determined to work harder, smarter and achieve more next season. Their talk afterwards included “if we had done this a little better”, and “if we had been a little more focused at rehearsal we might have made it.” Their ideas for how to make the band better started to pour forth.

If we had made state…and if it had been barely, by only one band…you could have said we almost didn’t make state. The students may have gotten cocky,

“We made state, we made state, now we don’t have to work as hard next year.”

Oh, they wouldn’t have said this out loud, but it would have come across in their actions. 

I was proud of that group! The loss caused them to start the next season with more dedication and more commitment.

And if the increased commitment helped them make it to state, great… if not, they could take pride in having done their best. Ultimately that’s all any of us can do.

*** James no longer teaches marching band; he is currently at a middle school. He taught marching band for thirteen years and enjoyed the chance to instill team spirit and leadership into students. He did not enjoy the 20+ hours each week it took. James is the author of The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music, as well as 4 other books. Invite James to speak to your students or teachers.
Sign-up for my free mini-course “7 Tips To Save 5 Hours This Week and Every Week.” It’s a $20 value but yours free. 

Don’t Waste Your Time On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time! Most of the resolutions don’t last beyond the end of January. They are bound to fail. Resolutions are often not thought out, have no action steps and are rarely written down. They often lack specificity. Here are just a few examples of how to make goals better…

I want to lose 20 pounds by summer
NOT I want to lose weight

I want to earn $12,000 more each year by December
NOT I want to earn more

I will spend every Friday on a date night with my wife
NOT I want to spend more time with my wife

Did you know many gyms sell about 30% more memberships than the capacity of the gym? They know many people are not going to follow through on their desire for fitness.

There is – however – a way to achieve and exceed your goals.

Write them down

When I was young, I had goals and dreams like everybody else, but I didn’t write them down. For some reason, when we write our goals and take actionable steps, we are more likely to achieve them. I have goals in seven areas of my life:

Spiritual

Physical

Financial

Intellectual

Work/Career

Family

Social

Goals give you a starting point and destination. They are going to change as you grow and as you figure out what’s important in your life.

John Acuff, in his book Start, talks about how he has been able to write several books and also help build two schools in Vietnam. He didn’t write that down on a whiteboard several years ago, but as he progressed through his goals those opportunities became available.

Ten years ago, I would have never believed would write five books!

What are some of your goals? Would you like to schedule 20 gigs in the next year? Would you like to finish your master’s degree in the next three years? Do you want to find a spouse and be married with kids in a couple of years? Do you want to move to a better job that fits your skills and talents? These are attainable and will be different for everyone.

EVERYTHING you’ve done – even things you didn’t like – have made you who you are today. For me, the military band was a great experience. It is where I developed my chops. It was my music education. Being self-employed was difficult, but it helped make me who I am today. I learned a lot about marketing, about pricing, about what my audience needs and wants…all things that help me even in teaching.

There are many good books about setting goals. One of my favorite is Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love. My seven goals are adapted from his book. Get a copy of Dan’s book and work through the goal-setting process. Also read anything you can find by Zig Ziglar on goals.

In November, I create my goals for the following year. These big but specific and measurable goals are then translated into action items. I create a to-do list and prioritize the items – always remembering to leave margin in my life.

EVEN WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, I begin to tackle items on my list. Sometimes just starting a task is the hardest part. 

JUST START!

Put away all distractions. Turn off your email notification. Turn off your phone so you are not distracted by every text message that comes in.

Multi-Tasking

Did you know that multi-tasking is a myth? We work at only 80% of capacity or less when trying to multi-task. When it’s time to book some gigs, write some music, practice, prepare my lessons or another important task, I turn off my cell phone, close my internet browser, shut down my email, get off of social media and get some focused work in. My rhythm – maybe because I am a public school teacher – seems to be about 45 minutes; then I need to take a short break and stretch or get some water. Others find that two-hour blocks work for them. Others prefer to work in intense 20-minute bursts. Find your rhythm.

Think of the short and long term goals as being a plan for your life. For example, if you want to lose 6 pounds in six months, that’s the big goal. The to-do list becomes the action steps necessary to meet that goal. In this example, you might get up thirty minutes earlier to exercise, prepare your lunch before you go to work so you’re not tempted to eat out, and buy some exercise shoes. Those are your action steps.

The goals that work best are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

If you can’t reach the goal, you will only become discouraged. If you are 200 pounds overweight, to lose that much weight in one year is probably not attainable. If you had zero gigs this year, deciding you want 300 in the next year is probably not attainable. If you have no college education at all, setting a goal of finishing your master’s in 18 months is probably not attainable. Here are some examples of good goals:

  • I want to lose five pounds in the next six months.
  • I will call five venues this week and every week.
  • I will book five events this summer paying $200 each.
  • I will save $2,000 this year by saving $200 per month.
  • I will save $50 a month to purchase that new instrument in 20 months.

Sometimes I have accomplished 10% or more of my goals before the New Year even begins.

James is a middle school teacher, speaker, performer, and author. Check out his book The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music. Or CONTACT JAMES to find out more about scheduling a speaking event.

Just Say No! (So You Can Say Yes). It’s Life-Changing!

Remember Nancy Reagan’s theme from the 1980s to Just Say No to drugs? She was made fun of, but it is an effective strategy. You may not struggle with drugs, but I bet you do struggle with saying no!

Many people miss out on the great things in life because they are doing so many good things. They are not in tune with what the Creator has made them to do. I have been guilty of this many times. Sometimes it’s a matter of learning how to say “No” to all those good things. Believe me, it’s not easy…

People want to put you on a guilt trip when you say no. My own mom has a master’s degree in the guilt trip. She’s a cruise director! My sister and I toured the world several times, and it didn’t cost us a thing (except for damage to our psyche, but that’s such a small price to pay for travel).

My mom in her younger days

Don’t let others put you on these kinds of trips! Decide in advance what’s important to you and stick to that. Will life circumstances and what’s important change over time? Of course it will.

Practice with me for a moment… “No.” Try it again… “No.” Several times now, louder each time… “no…No…NO!”

It feels good, doesn’t it! This is not a rebellious “No” like a toddler might say. Remember, this is a no so you can say yes. Repeat daily.

Say NO so you can say YES
Say NO to overtime so you can say YES to your family
Say NO to overeating so you can say YES to a better quality life
Say NO to going out to eat so you can say YES to your retirement account

Here are some real NOs I have said…

I said NO to helping in the school musical so I could say YES to conducting a community orchestra.
I said NO to playing at coffee houses so I could say YES to spending time at home.
I say NO everyday to the candy bars so I can say YES to size 32 pants.
I said NO to teaching lessons so I can say YES to writing and practicing music.
I said NO to the snooze button so I could say YES to reading my Bible.
I said NO to Starbucks so I could say YES to a cruise with my honey.

Say NO today so you can say YES!

*** James Divine is a middle school teacher and youth speaker. This article first appeared in The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music. Order it on Amazon. Also check out Why Don’t They Teach THAT in school.

Teens Today Get a Bad Rap – One They Don’t Deserve

Teens Today Get a Bad Rap

Teens today get a bad rap, one that they don’t deserve. They are accused of many things and often all lumped into the same category rather than looked at as individuals. I work with teens daily. I have faith in teens!

Three Myths About Teens

1. Teens are lazy

Lots of teens ARE lazy. Lots of adults are lazy too. But if you get the right motivational structure in place, the majority of teens will impress you.

In my classes, I have structured my grading system where kids earn points for achieving certain standards. Students have a minimum goal each month that they are required to reach to get an A. Here are some stats from a class of 40 students a few years back:

– 2 did not meet a minimum goal (they have a grade of C or D)

– 16 met their minimum goal (grade of A)

– 17 exceeded their minimum goal by more than 100%, some by as much as 400%

That means half of the class went above and beyond what was needed to earn an A!

2. Teens don’t understand leadership

http://www.jazzysaxman.com/img/leadership.jpg

Simply not true.

A few years ago, my marching band leaders called me to task…

They didn’t have a problem with my high standards.

They didn’t have a problem with me.

They didn’t have a problem with the music or the choice of marching band show.

The problem…I was taking charge too much and not giving them a chance to be leaders, to fail a little, to learn from their mistakes. It was a great lesson for me, and to be honest a little hard at first.

I delegated much more to them. They rose to the challenge. They were full of great ideas and were ready and willing to implement them. Sometimes my three decades of experience come into play and I am able to share with them why a specific idea won’t work.

3. Teens have no morals

http://www.jazzysaxman.com/img/no-morals.jpg

Ain’t true for all teens.

The adults in their lives have not exactly been the top role models in this area. We have top executives who steal, parents who cheat on a spouse, leaders with no backbone who take the easy way, and then we expect a teenager to choose a different direction?

Teens do have morals. Many are committing to sexual purity until their wedding day. Many abhor cheating. 

Four things I do know about teens

1)   Give them guidance. They sometimes seem to not listen, but they are. Especially if your life models bravery and purity.

2)   Don’t put all teens in the same category. I wouldn’t like it if you assumed all Italians were part of the mafia. New Yorkers – most of whom are kind, considerate people – don’t like it when you say New Yorkers are rude (probably 10% are, and in a city of 10 million+, that’s 1 million rude people walking around.

3)   Respect their ideas, even if you are not able to implement them. Ninety percent of the great things we do in my bands started as an idea or thought from a student!

4)   The best advice I received for my book came from a teen. I published my first book in June 2013. Since then hundreds have bought a copy and dozens have given me feedback on my book, including other authors.

Their feedback was along the lines of:

“This story needs to get out…

I couldn’t put it down…

Great story…

People need to hear this…etc.

All advice that I appreciate! However, the best advice came from a teen! 

Her advice: The whole book doesn’t seem to fit your theme of forgiveness…I didn’t feel you opened up enough, that you were holding something back…If I didn’t already know you, it wouldn’t have really moved me.

Tough me for me to hear….Yes

Did I pick up some great tips for improving the book?…Yes!

God bless teens!

*James has been working with teens as a parent and teacher for many decades. He was once even a teen himself! Remarkable that he made it through that phase of life. He is the creator of the course “Adulting 101: Why Don’t They Teach That in School.” Invite him to share his story of forgiveness, redemption, and purpose with your teen group. He can be reached HERE.

Are You a Man or a Boy?

When I turned 18 – way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and brontosaurus burgers were just 25 cents – aka 1984 – I proudly proclaimed to anyone who would listen – and most didn’t – “I’m a man now.” (By the way, that sentence is a homage to my 12th grade English teacher, who hated run on sentences, and who often encouraged us to split those sentences into smaller – what he claimed was easier to read – sentences that didn’t ramble or anything…I guess I didn’t learn much…but then again, my counselor said I would never have a successful career in music, and here I am 37 years later! If I retire from this field, maybe I have a chance to be an English teacher).

Turning a certain age does NOT make you a man! It is often hard to pinpoint exactly when a boy becomes a man. I think it is actually a process. Just like I am becoming a better saxophone player each day, a better Christian each day, a better husband/dad/grandad each day, I am becoming a better man each day. And if I’m not, then I’m becoming more boy-like. There’s nothing wrong with being boy-like when it is intentional and for fun, but not when it means we shirk our responsibilities. I know of a lady who lives with three “boys”, and they are all over 21.

Here are some ways to tell whether you are a man or a boy…

Boys Play House…Men Build Homes

Boys Shack Up…Men Get Married

Boys Make Babies…Men Raise Children

Boys Invent Excuses…Men Put In The Hard Work

Boys Want a Hand Out…Men Offer a Hand Up

Boys Want Popularity…Men Earn Respect

Boys Quit…Men Commit

***James is STILL in the process of becoming the man of God that he is meant to be. It takes courage, faithfulness, and being disciplined in seeking the Lord. Check out James’ books or invite him to speak at your event, www.jamesdivine.net

5 Ways To Teach Kids About Gender

By Summer Stevens

Reprinted with permission from GES. Link to the article online HERE.

From Tolerance to Forced Approval

There is an intentional attempt to indoctrinate your children to the LGBTQ lifestyle, and your church is likely doing nothing about it.

This indoctrination is evident in obvious ways, such as in the mandatory teaching of LGBTQ history in many states across the country and a push for LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. Last year England made LGBTQ-inclusive sex education mandatory in public schools. A Psychology Today article reported that 81% of elementary and 88% of secondary teachers approved of LGBTQ-inclusive education, and 45% of kindergarten teachers felt comfortable addressing the topic with students.

The indoctrination shows up subtly, too, in the quick embrace of a same-sex couple in a TV commercial, on rainbow-colored kids’ cereal boxes during Pride month, and in the quiet introduction of gay characters in almost every Netflix series or Disney movie. Mere tolerance is not acceptable any longer. People must embrace and celebrate LGBTQ practices or be threatened with labels such as homophobe or bigot and risk losing friends and jobs. And in fact, many people are embracing it. In 2001, 53% of Americans thought homosexuality was wrong; by 2021, that number had dropped to 32%.

“Young people today are more accepting of LGBTQ people than ever before. And as acceptance has grown in this country, so too has the number of young people who describe themselves as LGBTQ,” said the 2017 GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance study. That is a fascinating quote by GLAAD. The church should pay attention to it because cultural acceptance equals higher numbers of people embracing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles. Homosexuals used to comprise a relatively small percentage of Americans, but this number is rising fast. A Gallup Poll revealed that in 2012, 3.5% of the population identified as LGBT; that number climbed to 5.6% in 2020, and the youth of America are leading the charge with LGBTQ identification by almost 10% of teens aged 13-17 and a whopping 20% of millennials according to a GLAAD study.

Mental Health

Let’s put Biblical morality aside for a moment and focus just on the mental health of LGBTQ youth. Every other year the CDC conducts a large Youth Risk Behavior Study that monitors six categories of health-related behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among young people. In 2015, the study began collecting data for those students who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Several surprising facts began to emerge—namely, the drastic mental health concerns for LGB youth specifically. For the 2019 data, those in this group had experienced daily sadness or hopelessness for two straight weeks or more (66.3%), seriously considered suicide (46.8%), attempted suicide (23.4%), and had been forced to have sex against their will (19.4%) at much higher rates than their peers who identified as heterosexual (32.2, 14.5, 6.4, and 5.5%, respectively).

Transgender teens are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

For a lifestyle that is so prone to hopelessness and suicide, it is a wonder that our culture continues to recommend it to our youth.

Watching the Storm

Sadly, the church has sat back and watched the storm, out of touch with the real struggles youth face, and has done little to affirm God-given gender identity in children. Elementary and middle school children are asking these questions and making sexual identity determinations.

A high school youth group series on waiting for marriage is too little, too late. Satan seeks to steal, kill, and destroy children with precision and calculation (John 10:10). How much more should the church seek to preserve, protect, and guard children against the lies and devastation barreling through our world in the realm of sexual identity.

Christians are not exempt from these statistics. At one of my previous churches, about half of the youth group struggled with sexual identity. Many of these were kids who had grown up in the church. The answer, then, is to start early in affirming biological gender and sexual identity. Because, as the statistics clearly reveal, teens are embracing homosexuality at drastically higher rates than ever before. Sexual preferences are being offered like a smorgasbord, with very young children encouraged to sample whatever looks appealing. Naturally, more and more children are trying out homosexuality and transgenderism with devastating results like depression, anxiety, and suicide. We are told that this is because of a lack of acceptance for these youth, and the answer is simply to celebrate the lifestyle even more, but God’s Word reveals that when we break from God’s design and pursue our own will, we will experience heartache and grief (Rom 1:28-32; 8:6).

The church must lead the charge. We cannot look to another organization. Each week the church has a unique opportunity to teach God’s truth to children and equip youth with firm confidence in their sexuality and gender identity. If you have any influence in your church as a pastor, pastor’s wife, elder, children’s volunteer, or even a parent or grandparent who is willing to schedule a meeting with the leaders, I cannot urge you strongly enough to seriously consider this issue and come up with a plan. Please prayerfully consider what you can do in your home or your church to prepare children to live confident, honorable lives for God.

Action Items

Here are five ideas to get you started.

1 Incorporate sexual identity-affirming statements into Sunday school classes on a regular basis. If you have teachers or administrators who attend your church, enlist them to help create short, age-appropriate lessons beginning with toddlers. That may sound very young, but if your children are watching Disney, then you need to begin these conversations.

These can be very simple for preschool children, like, “Raise your hand if you’re a boy. Who made you a boy? Yes, God! Does God ever make mistakes? No! God meant for you to be a boy, and it’s good to be a boy! If you are a boy, can you ever not be a boy? Nope. You will always, forever, 100% be a boy because that’s how God made you. God made you a boy because the world needs brave, kind boys like you!” And repeat a similar statement for girls.

Elementary students can understand Biblical teaching on God’s creation of Adam and Eve and His design for marriage between men and women, and questions like, “So did God design men to marry other men? Or women to marry other women? No, He didn’t. God calls that sin.”

Many public elementary school teachers read picture books about homosexual families to indoctrinate students to the LGBTQ agenda; the church must indoctrinate students to God’s plan.

2 Affirm the authority of Scripture to young people. I’ve been surprised in recent years how adult Christians whom I considered mature could willfully embrace a lifestyle of sexual sin. I’ve concluded that these are Christians with a low view of Scripture.

As Free Grace proponents, we hold that someone can live a homosexual lifestyle and still be a Christian because our salvation does not depend on our sin; it depends on our belief in Jesus’ promise of eternal life. Homosexuality is not a special sin, though Paul does say sexual sin in general is of the category that is “against their own body” (1 Cor 6:18), and therefore more central to our identity and can be more damaging to ourselves than other types of sin. If a homosexual has believed in Jesus for eternal life, his salvation is secure, just like it is for anyone else.

However, a sinning Christian will miss out on fellowship with Jesus, experience earthly consequences of his or her sin, and suffer a loss of rewards.

This is where the authority of Scripture comes in. A very firm foundation in, and reverence for, God’s Word protects us from sin. Parents and church leaders must model obedience to the Scriptures and do everything possible to extol its value and relevance to speak into our lives. We must not only be hearers of the word but doers (Jas 1:22). Therefore, when youth come across passages of Scripture where God commands abstinence from sexual sin, they will respect and obey it, even if their feelings are confused for a time.

3 Address rebellion, pride, and arrogance in children through parenting classes. I believe there are two primary reasons children and teens veer toward homosexuality or transgenderism.

The first is trauma due to loss, abuse, or neglect, causing the child to fail to make appropriate and healthy connections with parents or peers. This child needs love, compassion, and counseling.

The second is a product of our smorgasbord culture that encourages children to sample sexual identities and choose what feels good at the time.

Today’s philosophy governing the education system is that the child’s unhindered self-expression is the purest and greatest path to self-realization and ultimate happiness. Parents must reject that philosophy and instead promote God’s standards as the path to joy and satisfaction. When Christian parents fail to set Biblical standards for their child in all areas of life, that child learns that her or she has no actual standards. This inevitably crosses over into the child’s sexual preference. “I can be attracted to anyone I want. It’s my choice. I set the rules.”

Parents must teach their children, “You cannot have what you want all the time. Some things are off-limits to you.” When children understand that they must stay within God’s standards, they
will better comprehend this principle as they get older and remain within their sexual parameters, including heterosexual preferences or celibacy. An indulged child is more likely to gravitate toward believing that she is the author of her own morality, rather than God.

4 Affirming Biblical gender and sexual identity is not the same as affirming stereotypes. Certainly, boys can like football and girls can like tea parties and that’s fine. Still, those are cultural expressions of masculinity or femininity that are unhelpful when teaching about sexual identity. God created some men to be bakers and poets and some women to be athletes and electricians. Boys can like pink and girls can like blue; however, do not celebrate a boy wearing nail polish or a girl wearing boy’s clothes. Celebrate the correct type of distinctions.

In our family, we take an annual boys’ camping trip with cousins and uncles. Though we sometimes camp as a family, the boys’ trip is special, and the only requirement is that you be a boy.

This fall, my girls will be old enough to take them out for a special girls’ weekend, and we are already planning our trip.

The church should plan activities and events that intentionally promote friendships and bonding within one’s God-given gender. The goal is not to steer youth toward stereotypes. The goal is to firmly root them with confidence and joy in their identity as a biological male or female whom God created. And if they choose to marry, teach them that God has created men for women, and women for men.

5 Create a positive environment for single people. Singles often feel like the third wheel at church gatherings, and “singles groups” tend to be focused on finding someone to marry. With an increasing number of young people identifying as LGBTQ and with the mental health struggles that accompany that, the church needs to offer genuine community for people who have chosen not to embrace the lifestyle. That situation can be very lonely and often shameful, but it shouldn’t be. The church should be the safest place for those struggling with homosexual thoughts and feelings—a place where they can find friendship, love, and people committed to helping them live a purposeful life that is pleasing to God.

It is honorable for a Christian man or woman with same-sex attraction to choose celibacy, but that shouldn’t mean a life of isolation from the Christian community.

Single heterosexual Christian adults must choose celibacy as well. The church must create an environment where being single for any reason and at any age is acceptable and not deemed socially inferior. The Apostle Paul considered singleness the preferable status (1 Cor 7:7-8), and the church should also affirm this. It is also essential for the teens in your church who may struggle with homosexuality or gender confusion to see a thriving church community where they can find friendship so they are less tempted to pursue a lifestyle of sexual sin motivated by loneliness.

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Summer Stevens is married to Nathanael and they have five children. She has a Master’s in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.

3 Time-Saving Tips for Teens – How To Be More Productive & Accomplish Your Goals

  1. Make Use of “Sponge Time

I’m not talking about Sponge Bob, but about time you already have but maybe don’t know you have. Just like a sponge easily absorbs extra water, if you really look, you will see “extra time” all around you. We all get the same 24 hours in a day. Many teens waste a lot of that time. Soak up the extra time around you.  When I was a senior in high school, I almost never took work home! I used some of these tips for teens to get ALL MY HOMEWORK done at school.

  • Use time riding in a car to study, write, text, email, or even practice an instrument like guitar (I wouldn’t try practicing a wind instrument in a vehicle).
  • When you arrive early to school, use that time to study rather than just “hanging out.” It’s ok to hang out, just be more deliberate with doing that.
  • If you get 40 minutes for lunch, you can eat lunch and socialize for 20 minutes and spend 20 minutes studying or practicing.
  • In most classes, you have a few minutes at the start and end of class. Use that time to get some homework done, make an outline or something.

2. Be more aware of time spent watching Television & Movies

TV is a big time waster.  Am I saying TV is completely bad? No, I watch some TV. It is just easy for TV to distract you from your goals. Record (or stream) and watch a few shows or movies, but beware of filling your days with mindless media consumption. Some stats say the average young person today spends 30 or more hours a week consuming media. That’s too much! How about ten hours or less? That would be better.

3. Don’t give in to the myth of multi-tasking

Studies have shown that when you switch from one task to another, it takes you 20 minutes or more to get back on task. Multi-tasking is a myth. Set aside time – maybe 45-60 minutes – to get work done. Turn off the TV, the phone, log out of Facebook/Tic Toc and spend that time wisely. Then, take a break and text, Facebook, etc. After your break, turn those apps off again.  Not only will you get more done, but when you are texting or talking, you will be more focused on the person you’re talking to, which will improve your relationships.

James Divine is a music teacher who has been a student of leadership, productivity and timesaving strategies since he was a teenager. With God’s help, he teaches full time, makes his family a priority, exercises, reads a book a week, performs, records and writes.  It’s not about how much time you have, but about how you use the time God has given you. Find out more about James at  www.jamesdivine.net. Also check out his course “Why Don’t They Teach That in School.”

What Would You Do If You Saw This Guy in Walgreens

It is SO easy to pre-judge people and make assumptions about them. I have had that happen to me dozens of times, and I know others have as well.

Once I was in Walgreens – the only one there – dressed like this – which is how I dress when I go out for a run on a winter morning. I heard a manager speak over the intercom and I immediately knew she was talking about me!

View more motivational videos at my Youtube Channel. I’d love to come and share stories with your group live and in person. Contact me HERE.

You Will Be Found Saxophone Cover

I absolutely love this song from the musical Dear Evan Hansen! It makes me cry when I hear it and when I play it. I hope you like this rendition of it.

Many of us go through life lost, lonely, confused, wondering what our purpose is. You DO have a purpose. You DO have meaning. There is Someone looking for you, and if you look for Him, You Will Be Found!

Listen to more of my music HERE. Find out more about me at www.jamesdivine.net.

How To Make An Easy – And Cheap – Cup of Coffee

Do you just absolutely have to have that delicious cup of Joe from one of your local chains? I need coffee to jump start my morning, but I don’t pay my local chain $5 for a cup when I can make my own for less than 25 cents. What could you do with that extra money? In just a year, you could save enough to go on a cruise. Yes, a cruise! Save $5/day x 365, that’s over $1500 in a year – more than enough for a Caribbean cruise. Speaking of cruises, once you save enough, head over to www.shiptrip.com and check out the offers my good friends there have available.

This is just one lesson from my Adulting 101 course. Get more below… Have you ever thought “Why don’t they teach THAT in school?” As a teacher of 23 years myself, I noticed that students had less and less of some of the basic skills they need for every day life. Thus Adulting 101 was born. Get the entire course at Udemy. It comes with a 30 day money back guarantee: https://www.udemy.com/course/adulting… Other mini-lessons include…

How To Write a Thank You Note (and how often) How To Make a Phone Call How to Apologize How to Accept an Apology How To Take a Phone Message How To Write a Check and Balance Your Account How to Decide Between Two Options How To Sew on a Button How to Iron How to Clean the Bathroom How to Vacuum How To Do Laundry How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher How To Boil Water How To Make Easy Peanut Butter Cookies How to Cook Bacon AND MORE! Get the full course at Udemy. There’s a 30 day money back guarantee. https://www.udemy.com/course/adulting101/