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The following piece is "author unknown" but came to me via American Family Association. It will be especially meaningful to those of you who are parents of teenagers:

"I just realized that while children are dogs -- loyal and affectionate -- teenagers are cats. It's so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It puts its head on your knees and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.

"Then around age 13 your adorable little puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to come inside it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor. Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears. You won't see it again until it gets hungry -- then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen to turn up its nose up at whatever you're serving.

"When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare as if trying to remember where it has seen you before. You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. It won't go on family outings.

"Since you're the one who raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave. Only now you're dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desired result. Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps the counter. The more you go toward it wringing your hands, the more it moves away.

"Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you have to learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you. But remember that a cat needs your help and affection too. Sit still and it will come, seeking the warm, comfortable lap it has not entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it. One day, your grown up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say, "You've been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you."

"Then you will realize your cat is a dog again."   [author unknown]

Parenting is a tremendous challenge and can especially be difficult during the teenage years. In my more exasperating moments as a parent, I was tempted to believe that Mark Twain's philosophy was the one to follow. He said when a kid turns thirteen, stick him in a barrel, nail the lid on top, and feed him through the knot hole. When he turns sixteen -- plug up the knot hole!

Then I remember the patience that my heavenly Father has with me. As frustrated as I have gotten with my children at times, I know that God must become even more frustrated with me ("How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?" "You're old enough to know better!"). And yet he refuses to give up on me. His loving patience continually draws me back to him.

"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4)

Father (what a privilege it is to call you that!), thank you for being the perfect parent. Help me, as a parent, to follow your example as I seek to bring my children to a faith in you. What a tremendous responsibility you have given me! Please grant me the strength and the wisdom necessary to fulfill this task. In Jesus' name, amen.

Alan Smith