Passing on an excellent blog post…parents “beware”!

Beware This blog post is simply stunning.  I've been attempting to say to parents for years (especially when I had the privilege of writing and speaking for Jim Burn's organization, Homeword) that when it come to "raising kids who love God" it begins with the parent's values, their faith and their ability to choose the right battles in the kids lives.  This article states it clearly and precisely…I don't know this guy but believe me I will try to find out more about him soon.  A friend of mine, Dr. Kara Powell of the Fuller Institute for Family and Youth Ministry, pointed it out to "us" on her blog today.  I"m going to post it here for your "enjoyment".  If you are a parent, "beware": 

Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.
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The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

    Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

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From Anticipation to Busy-ness to Complicated…life moves on

Life_getting_complicated Do you remember what you felt like when you were younger (maybe you are still young and you are wondering what the heck I'm referring to)?  I mean, when you were about 18 to 20 years old…life was full of anticipation, wasn't it?  In my case, I was in college working on my degree…I was in Youth for Christ and moving toward my first youth ministry position in a local church.  I was always "looking forward"…anticipating how I would feel when I got to realize my ultimate goal in life – completing grad school/seminary and actually serve in a local church as a spiritual leader.  Then life transitioned into the years of having a young life as an "upwardly mobile professional"…trying to make a difference, attempting to set a reputation for yourself, juggling a young family and all the demands of children, marriage, family and work.  I remember those days and wondered how I came up for breath…but I had no idea of what this season of life would put on my emotional and "life's plate."  I've been trying to think of one word that would capture much of what is going on now that I am in my 50's (yes friends, I've had to get over that hump too).  Besides the self-focused issues of taking care of myself, eating right, exercising, getting rest, etc…the joy of getting close to celebrating some milestone years in an incredibly blessed relationship with my wife/best pal Vicky, there are the complications of dealing with the issues of loving and supporting adult children and caring for an aging parent and relative.  One day I'm tacking relationship and life maturing questions with our kids, helping with ideas on how to raise our grandgirls in a complex, ever-changing world…the next day I'm helping my dad as he deals with acute depression and my great aunt (who is 92 years young) with memory lapses, fading health, and financial demands.  Yes life is busy…but it feels more complicated.  You might know what I mean…if you don't, trust me, you will.  That's why I am so incredibly blessed with powerful support and love by my wife, my children, my friends…but the most powerful support is from an experience of the "peace that passes understanding"…you know the only place/person that comes from, don't you?

Following…trusting…it is never easy to discern

IMG_4267"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face
to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have
been fully known.So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."  1 Corinthians 13:12ff

I don't think it is ever easy to follow Jesus.  I've never had a "crystal clear" sense of what the Spirit is up to.  "Dim mirrors?"  Those I have had in spades!  When you get the sense that the pillar of cloud and fire is moving, you come to that threshold of choice – either follow it or opt out for the status quo.  Can you be blessed in the status quo?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, in that you most likely followed the leading of the Spirit into what became the status quo in the first place…so it is not a bad or completely unfaithful place. It is not that God just changed His mind or that God can't fill the status quo (old wineskins) with "new wine".  Jesus was a pro at taking what is ordinary and transforming it into the extraordinary.  Water into Wine?  Jesus says, "been there, done that."  Bring the familiar and let Him fill it with something that astounds.  When faced with a choice of following and trusting it isn't a choice of "good or bad", It is rather simply the decision to embracing that which is new on the horizon…it is following the voice of Jesus, that familiar voice, to a new sense of adventure. 

Not following the "winds of the Spirit" isn't damning anyone to a worthless, lifeless, pain-filled existence…what it most likely is doing is only robbing you from experiencing the delight of a new "country"…an experience of God's presence and anointing in ways you hadn't dreamed of before.  So (to return to the question, "can you be blessed in the status quo?") in this manner, the answer is "no"…for you might not be blessed in this type of "new way" by staying with the status quo.  But follow me here – the only thing you are missing out on by staying in the familiar is that which you haven't yet experienced…so what you are missing out on you really aren't missing out on because you never allow yourself to really know that new place, that new "country", that step out of the boat and into the water.  You can be content "in the boat" or you can experience the thrill of following Jesus in a new and different way.  Each has its own rewards…each has its own risks…each its own delights. 

There was a time that I really believed in a place called "God's perfect will."  People told me I would only find joy when I was living in God's perfect will.  That made me a bit paranoid…I over-analyzed, became obsessed with wondering where that "place" might be…and, truthfully, it robbed me of finding the joy and delight of knowing and growing in Jesus where I was.  Here's what I've discovered – there isn't such a place as God's "perfect will"…it is not that God withholds His joy, peace, the richness of His presence or the fullness of His kingdom because we are not exactly where He wants us.  God's "perfect will" is for me to share in His divine life…for me to embody the fullness of the living Christ through His Spirt in me wherever I might be, live and breathe.  You see, God isn't confined to a space…a place…God can be just as present for us where we are now as He would be in someplace new.  It is not that there is some "spirtual bull's eye" in life that we must hit or not discover all that God has in store for us as His followers.  At least in my mind, the issue has more to do with growth, potentiality, and what we may be missing in that "new" place as we follow the every changing, never predictable, always life-giving winds of the Spirit.  There is life where Jesus dwells..and that isn't in any one place except the human heart.  What there is in a new place, a new country, a step "out of the boat" is growth…freshness…an increased passion and trust in knowing the fullness of God in a new way.  It isn't that the status quo is bad or evil – the issue has more to do with what we would be missing if we didn't take the steps of faithfulness that Jesus calls us to take.  

Maybe you can see what I've noticed as I paroused what I just wrote…this issue can be a bit confusing.  But to damn ourselves to speculation that we have in some ways "missed it" and not experienced the promises of God because we didn't land in that place of God's "perfect will", can be more confusing and downright defeating.  "God's perfect will" is for us to know Him…love Him…obey Him…follow Him…respond to His voice…and allow Him to give us eyes to see the fullness of a Kingdom journey wherever we may be.  If we choose to follow a pillar of cloud and fire into a new country, we'll discover He's there too! 

What? The pinnacle of oxymorons…

I-said-what I was driving back to my office when someone on a radio news report was commenting about an individual known in the public square.  This person apparrently is a Christ-follower but the reporter made a statement qualifying that particular identification.  I've have heard this said many many many (did I say "many") times before about many many many people – "he (or she) has a very strong Christian faith that is important in his private life…he just doesn't wear his faith on his sleeves."  I hear things like that and it drives me crazy.  Why?  Because, frankly, this is such a lie…I don't say this much because I take these things very seriously but a statement like that above is straight from the pit of hell.  Following Jesus isn't a private matter…you can't look at the scriptures and say that it can be something that you don't "wear on your sleeves"…you see, the implication of that phrase is that you can have God "in your corner" but only use your faith as some sort of private fire insurance or some sort of quasi-therapuetic pill of sorts to make you feel better or even pull it out to impress people with your spiritual stature that doesn't really mean enough to you to share it or live it.  Following Jesus is purely this – "a tree is known by its fruit"…or as John says in one of his letters, "as Jesus is so are we in the world."  This "private/doesn't wear his/her faith on their sleeves" stuff is what is demonstrating to the culture how totally irrelevant a faith journey in Christ really is for most people.  Use God when you need Him…don't be the light of the world or the salt of the earth…hide that light under a bushel…you gotta wonder what the world would have been like if the original followers of Jesus centuries ago had followed this type of cultural standard?  "Hey, my name is Peter…I have a strong personal faith but I never wear it on my sleeve."  Like I said, talk about oxymoronic! 

I thought I “lost” it…but alas, it’s back!

LostLogo_ Trust me…there are times that I wish I had NEVER started this blog.  I've had "guilt" issues for not posting…I've had people draw HUGE conclusions about me based upon some of the things I've posted on it…I've had some "disagreements" with friends over discussions we've engaged in through this blog. No, it's not read by tons of people…I have a relatively small "audience"…but each person who visits is a part of the circle of my life that I appreciate and love to be in virtual community with…so it distressed me over the last few days when I couldn't "log" on…fact is, I thought I lost my blog for good.  Well, thanks to the people at Typepad, we are back.  So, more posts to come including a big announcement about our lives (that would be Vicky's and my life) coming in the next several days.  Aren't you just dying to know…

Suffering? Yep, we all have “responses”…but what is the most faithful?

Wilted-flowersNakedpastor.com put the cartoon together…he admits IN HIS OWN WORDS (click here to read them if you want) that these are "silly generalizations"…but in many respects, they are not.  The point is, everyone deals with times of suffering differently and religious traditions have put forth their "answers" to how to handle suffering in life.  The amazing thing about being a follower of Jesus is that we serve a God is victorious over suffering…who brings something out of suffering that can build a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives….God never wastes a moment of suffering in our lives.  In other words, it is not that He brings suffering but actually uses the experiences of pain and doubt and fear to further our dependance upon Him, demonstrate His ultimate victory over pain, and bring meaning and depth to our life journey.  I know, most of us want to ask, "why me?" when suffering occurs…but the point of faith and trust in God is that we have the God of the Universe walking with us in and through the suffering.  I have a friend now who is in the midst of a deadly cancer battle.  The cancer will take his life…no doubt.  His heart is full of peace…his mind, not always full of confidence…but the hope he has in God is, well, frankly miraculous.  Is he suffering?  Yes…does he know who ultimately will have the final say in his health?  Yes…that brings him hope…that brings even the cancer some perspective.  I remember when he told me in his own words, "Robin, I'm terminal"…I told him, "Bob, we all are terminal…all we can do as people is live one day at a time with hope in our hearts, love to share that comes from Jesus, and a passion for all things related to God's Kingdom"…you see, we're all on the same page, one way or another!

Here are some things that I've concluded in my experience with suffering as well as trying to make sense of what the bible says about it – in other words, try these on for size:

  • God does not directly cause suffering
  • God sometimes overcomes evil not by directly removing it but by accomplishing His purposes through it
  • He frustrates suffering and turns it into good.
  • Suffering will one day pass away – God's ultimate purpose in restoring the Kingdom of God.
  • We do not want to approach suffering passively but seek to do as Jesus did and instructs us to do
  • The Reality of a broken world with evil and alive and well in the world brings suffering upon people

Distressing – Maddening – but what can we do? Our house goes “upside down”

Upside-down-house3 We had a talk with our friend the realtor last night.  He informed us, based up some 'comps' of houses in our neighborhood that we are now 'officially' upside down in our house.  You know the deal – where you owe more than your house is worth.  Now, I must tell you the story – we put down 25% on our home when we bought it 5 years ago and NEVER thought that we would face that situation.  But guess what?  It happened.  I want to thank our economy for this wonderful news.  I want to thank the leaders of our country for the outstanding leadership that enabled the housing market to not only tank but implode.  For all those loans that were given with no docs…for all those with 100% financing who walked away from the homes…for the unemployment in our country that is causing financial hardship leading to people going through forclosures…for the leaders of our nation that thought it is a basic "human right" to own a home even though you can't afford it and because of that philosophy loaded up the market with trash paper…I could go on and on.  I'm not necessarily someone I would call a "political animal"…I'm interested in it but usually don't go off "political" in blog posts.  I'm trying to have some perspective on this…but it is difficult when you get that type of news when you have prayed, saved, and attempted to be a responsible and faithful steward with the gifts of God in personal finances.  You counsel people to do finances in a God-honoring, right way and when you do it and it still kills you because of factors that are simply out-of-control, it is maddening.  So there…I got it off my chest…now on to more important things…

This is a week where THIS is important…

6a00d8341c555153ef0134800e1280970c-800wi He said: "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence—and then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here Elijah?"—I Kings: 19:11-13

“O that my people would listen to me”—Psalm 81:13

"People who are followers of Christ are continually growing as we learn to heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus in our individual lives.   But we also must strive towards unity in the body of Christ as we seek the will of God in a corporate manner.  Just as God led his people Israel by a pillar of fire by day and cloud by night through the wilderness, he longs to guide us now, not only as individuals, but also as a body. How is the voice that gives true sense to your life to be distinguished?  Jesus makes himself felt in silence and prayer.  In this climate of intimacy with Him you will be able to perceive the invitation sweet but also firm, of the good shepherd who says, “Follow me” Pope John Paul 2

Being quiet before the Lord allows for a precious space in time for a meeting between God, the Lover, and we, the beloved.  We can meet with God in ever-growing familiarity and intimacy not because of any of our special abilities, but simply because we come willing to enter into a listening silence.  It is a creation of space, emotionally and spiritually, in our often hectic and hurried world, allowing the Creator of the universe to meet with us as he met Moses, face to face, as a friend.

The focus of the week – Listening to God…

It is time to move beyond frustration to action…

Ist2_1744503-frustrationMany of you know me…I'm not really what anyone would call a "bad-tempered" person.  I am generally speaking a pretty pleasant guy.  I am positive, optimistic, upbeat and always try to look for good in the midst of even the blackest of situations. I've grown over the years though…sometimes you just have to call it as it is…NOT as you see it, but you have to deal with reality…not your perception of reality which, at times, can be shaded by worldview, mood, avoidance, or any other issue going on in your life.

Well..today the hospital where my dad is staying is telling us that he needs to be released.  Why?  Wait for it…you know it is coming…you guessed it…the insurance company says they are not going to cover any more treatment.  NOW, if you have been following my blog and have been joining me in prayer regarding my father's recovery/healing, you know what journey we have been on.  But let me tell you – he is NOT ready to enter the real world yet.  He's about 20% of what we expect him to be…as a family and a medical staff, we had a treatment plan ready to go. He had, as I've mentioned in previous posts, leveled off…and leveled off NOT in a good place.  SO – though the frustration is growing and has been growing now for several weeks, it is time to move to action.  The reality is – he needs the treatment otherwise he will not only be back in the hospital sometime soon, the possibility exists he could do harm to himself once he's out.  So, the issues are clear…many of you have fought this fight.  I've fought it before…you can't trust the medical "establishment" (hey, that's a crazy 60's term) anymore…every patient needs an advocate from their family to fight for their treatment and oversee their healing.  I've been around the block before on hospital stuff…I have visited hundreds of people in hospitals over the years and I have witnessed firsthand the transformation of the medical system in our culture.  Now, instead of being patient as someone heals, you have to be in the trenches swinging for the people you love…frustrating but motivating all at the same time.  Keep praying…thanks!