1. Lesson to be written
2. Parents to talk to.
3. 2 calendars to plan and design.
4. A week’s worth of laziness (thanks, Thanksgiving)
5. An unclean desk.
That’s why you’re not getting a blog post today. So there.
Today is Thanksgiving. In a little while I’m going to go stuff myself with copious amounts of turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin pie. But before that, I feel like I need to tell you what I’m thankful for. I don’t do this as a holiday blog gimmick, but I realize that I can truly be an unthankful person who takes everything he has for granted. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thankful for today:
I’m thankful for my God. I’m thankful for all the times I’ve turned away but He’s been right there waiting. I’m thankful for the cross, and for Jesus. And I’m thankful that in the last year I’ve had a personal spiritual revival in my own life.
I’m thankful for my wife. She is a beautiful godsend who was made perfectly for me. She compliments me in every way and I’m so thankful that I somehow tricked her into marrying me.
I’m thankful for my kids. Isaac and Annaliese daily live up to their names “laughter” and “gift from God”. My life would not be the same, or complete, without them.
I’m thankful for a job. In a time when many can’t find one, I get to wake up every day and not only go to work, but I get to go do something I love. So, in a way, it never feels like work. I’m thankful for htat.
I’m thankful for my family, both blood and in-law. They put up with a lot of my foolishness and still love me. Thanks for putting up with me on a regular basis.
I’m thankful for my church, where we are seeing God do some amazing things. This past year has been tough, but maybe things are starting to change. I hope we stay thankful.
I’m thankful for every teenager and child that I minister to. I love you all, each and every one, and I’m glad to be a part of your life.
Happy thanksgiving everybody!!!
Marty is out of town at the Extended Adolescence Symposium. If he were here he would have added a fancy link over those words, I’m sure I could figure out how to do it but I won’t. I apologize in advance for any hanging participles or prepositional run ons or comma splices, he fixes all that for me. Such a good husband!
He questions how I made it through college, Social Work was my major, not English, we were way more concerned about doing rather than writing.
I had an English teacher in high school, I won’t name names, who was also the cheerleading coach, who let us play cards every day. I had her for 2 years. We were the Advanced Placement class I guess she thought that since we were “gifted” that we didn’t need grammar help. Well, this girl did. She was busy a lot with cheerleading, and she would give us a journaling assignment every morning and then do other things, so we were left to our own devices.
You put 12 intelligent kids in a room, and leave them alone, we’re gonna get pretty lazy, because, you see, we already knew it all. And we got really good at Spades.
I also had another teacher, the football coach, and now the principal of my alma mater, who would give us our worksheets and tell us to get into groups to do the work. It was always 2 worksheets front and back. I would always pair up with 3 others who made A’s, each of us would take a side, then share our answers, I think it’s called cooperative learning, right? I can tell you very little about Chemistry but I had an A in the class.
My senior year I had to take Marketing so that I could leave at 1:30 every day and go to work. I’d already had Accounting and Economics so this was really just a repeat. Every week on Monday he would give us our assignment for the week. Of course I would finish the work on Monday, on Friday we had a test, that’s all we had on Friday. That also left 3 days to read/sleep/do assignments for other classes, mainly sleep, it was senior year after all.
Not that I’m an idiot now because of these teachers, but looking back I wish I’d learned more. I wish I’d been pushed a little. When I got to college, I was stretched in ways I could have never imagined, and I didn’t know what to do. Everything was o.k. in elementary and high school because I liked to learn and had natural abilities to repeat back what had been given to me. Everyone was happy with my A’s though, and the fact that I appeared to be learning. But college was way different. I had no clue how to really study, everything had always been easy, I thought Union would be the same. It wasn’t. I certainly couldn’t obtain a tutor, that might make me look dumb! I was quickly humbled, lost my academic scholarships, had to move home for a year, felt like a big loser.
But that spurred me on, I needed that challenge. A year later I had my scholarships back, instead of pulling C’s I was making A’s, I was able to rent an apartment with some friends.
We all want a challenge. So challenge someone today, hold them accountable, spur them on to be the best they can be. I know I will.
I remember when I first told my parents that I thought God was calling me to be a youth pastor. In my mind, the scene I pictured was much like the scene in A Christmas Story, where Ralphie, in a daydream, visits his family after being blinded by soap poisoning from all the times his mouth was washed out with soap. His parents, greatly affected at the predicament of their boy, fall to their knees with lots of overblown wailing and crying.
That’s what I wanted, minus the wailing and crying. I expected loud prayers of thanksgiving accompanied by lots of pats on the back and encouragement. Instead, all I got was “You won’t make any money doing that!”
Deflated. Shot down like a rogue Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon that’s on a crash course with Times Square.
Of course, since then, my parents have accepted my fate and even become proud of me, showing people my card and pictures and all those things that proud parents do. But, in those early days, it was hard. I learned early that ministry is a long, hard, lonely road. I felt like I was carving a road out on my own, blazing a trail to my future like the people from Oregon Trail. If my family didn’t understand my decision, then I reasoned that other people wouldn’t either, so I felt truly alone as I started toward college and eventually decided that full time ministry was what I was called to.
I thought that as I got older that ministry might get easier. Surely, with a little bit of experience under my belt, I would know everything to do, and everyone would love me. I’ll pause here so you can stop laughing. I know. I get it. I was naive and silly, not to mention young and stupid. I walked into my first full time ministry job (which I am still at, by the way) with the kind of wide eyed wonder that a kid has the first time they go to Disneyworld. I had arrived! Accept, I hadn’t. And soon, when problems arose, people expected me to know what to do. They wanted me to take care of them. And suddenly, I realized that I had no clue how to do it. Again, I felt alone. There were times during that first year that I just went home from church and sat in a dark room with tears running down my face. Here I was, newly married, new in town, and new to the world of ministry and our church, and I felt like I was the only one who’d ever dealt with what I was dealing with. From the beginning, I felt like a failure, because I didn’t have all the answers.
And that’s exactly what Satan was telling me: You’ve failed. You’ll never last. You won’t ever get through to these kids. You don’t know enough. You’re a terrible minister. Isolation is one of Satan’s most powerful tools. It’s there that he takes every circumstance and magnifies it until it’s all we can see. Someone giving you a suggestion turns into them hating everything you’re doing. Someone giving a bit of constructive criticism becomes them stabbing you in the back. Needing to learn how to do your job becomes a study in your deficiencies. Each and every attack is brutal, and each and every one is designed to destroy your confidence as a person and as a child of God, so you turn your back on Him.
In Matthew 28, Jesus ends his time on earth by telling his disciples “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” The road of ministry is lonely, yes. It causes us to make decisions for our families and ourselves that often people don’t understand, and are even opposed to. It causes us to be far away from friends and relatives. But….that promise again: Jesus will be with us always. And though He’s not there in the flesh, though He does not speak with an audible voice, He walks with me and He talks with me. He carries me when the road is too rough. He points the way on the narrow road and asks that I not run ahead on my own. And yes, there are times that I stray off the path, but He is always there. He never fails, and on the lonely road, He is all that we can cling to at times.
So, wherever you are on the road, be it the road of ministry or your own personal journey, be assured today of one thing: Jesus is with you.
I’ve been reading, (big surprise to those of you who’ve known me for a while), but not fiction, 2 books on parenting. This has encouraged me in some ways, scared me in others, excited me overall, and caused me to evaluate how I’m doing. Let me be the first to say, I don’t have it all together. Spend an hour alone with me and the kids, and you’ll see that!
The first book we received from a parenting seminar that Marty and the other Youth Pastors from our church association put together, is called Apparent Privilege. I would highly recommend it, not that it gave a whole lot of new information, but was a great encouragement to us as parents. The main gist is that we as parents are our children’s primary spiritual influencers, either to Christ or away from Christ. This is something we’ve seen to be true in 10 years of youth ministry with very little exception.
The second book, Sticky Faith, is a follow up to the research Kara Powell and Fuller Youth Institute have conducted over the last few years. This information has challenged me, and I’m not even through with it. This book combats the fact that around 80% of teenagers in the church leave after graduating high school, meaning their faith hasn’t “stuck.” Honestly, this terrifies me, for my kids in the church (who I’ve always loved as my own), and my own natural children. Most of these kids interviewed had parents who were “doing everything right”: bringing their children to church, encouraging them to be involved in activities, etc. But their faith didn’t stick. I’ll probably write more about this as I read more about it, but today my topic is in the chapter that I’m reading right now.
The author discusses the fact that growing up, her husband knew what his family stood for; their mission so to speak. That caused me to think about what my birth family stood for and what I want for my own family. Please hear me now, we’re not perfect, we’re not getting this right currently, but we want to desperately.
My family of origin is great, I love them, all of them, and my parents, by the grace of God, produced 3 children who are in the ministry. I would have said that you described our family as one who sought to do what the Lord said to the best of our ability, where the word of God was prized. I remember in my teen years having discussions with my dad in particular about what scripture said and what was taught. Were we a little legalistic, probably, scratch that, definitely. But it was out of a heart to be holy as the Lord is Holy, or at least that’s how I saw it. My parents honestly wanted to please the Lord. They always encouraged us to do what God told us to do, and I thank them for that.
That is exactly what I want for my children, and so much more. Well, except for the legalism part.
I want our family to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and talk about that when we eat, sleep, sit, rise, walk. My desire is that the love of the Lord covers everything that we do.
Second, I want our family to be salt and light. (I’m about to address some issues that were raised from my last post.) Of course, as a follower of Christ I want to be about the great commission, and I want my children to be about the same; when they are believers. Right now they’re not, so they are under their father’s and my authority in that. It’s our job to protect them from satan, who scripture says roams like a roaring lion, and to teach them. We will most likely be part of a homeschooling cohort that, while I will be their primary teacher, we will have some interaction with on a weekly (or more) basis. There’s one in a nearby community and one in Corinth, MS that we’re looking into, and they are not church related, meaning we’ll come in contact with people who don’t believe the same things we do. We have very dear friends, who don’t believe the same things we do, we love them, and cherish their friendship. At church we have children and youth coming from a variety of backgrounds. One family practices the Hindu faith yet their son is there every Wednesday night. Annaliese takes dance lessons, and Isaac will play sports when he’s old enough. My family can be salt and light in all of those situations. My children can be salt and light, even though they currently are not salt and light, in the context of our family and our church. That’s what I pray my children see: us, their parents, their church family being faithful to live what we say we believe.
Do I realize I’m going to screw up? Every day. Do I know that my children are not going to be perfect? Yeah, they’re going to make wrong choices, hopefully not as many as I did. Is the way we’re doing things the only way? No, but it is the mission of our family.
When I was a kid, I was ALWAYS picked last.
It didn’t matter what we were playing, but I was always among the last kids kicked. Sure, I could kick a kickball from here to Japan, but my chubby little kid body couldn’t hoof it to second base in time to be safe. There’s lots of examples of this, but the fact was, I was picked last. And y’know, it wasn’t fair. The kids with the obvious talents always got picked first, and then the rest of us got divvied up based on whether or not we’d drag the team down or not. It wasn’t based on a quota, it was based on skill. Those with skill got picked first and were put in charge of the team. There was a clear winner, and a clear loser, in the situation.
Nowadays, I don’t know how much we see this. Sure, those playground games still go on, but in our culture at large, we have become a people of grate entitlement, leading us to believe that EVERYONE can, and in most cases should, win. A great example of this is what we are seeing with the NBA lockout. These men who make millions of dollars to throw a ball through a round hoop are now going to sue their bosses because they don’t make enough money. As someone who has a family, and who is struggling to get by in our broken economy, this makes absolutely no sense to me. In fact, it’s bonkers. These players feel that that need every more money in order to feel appreciated and as if they are earning their worth, like the high paying contracts that they are currently in aren’t enough.
It’s entitlement at it’s finest. People who are rich already crying to be even more rich. How ever did we get here? I believe it started when these men (and I use that term loosely) were young. Nowadays, when kids play a game, everybody wins. Have you ever noticed that? It’s much easier to say that everybody wins instead of hurting a few people’s feelings. There’s a lot of problems with this practice though. The main one is what we are seeing emerged in our world now. When we live in a society where we cushion our kids from the sting of losing, when we keep them from experiencing defeat, or failure, we are keeping them from growing into people who can accept that things will not always go their way. When I’m home playing a game with my kids, it’s much easier to say that Isaac is the first winner and Annaliese is the second winner, but everyone knows that’s not true. There’s only one winner. We as a culture have lost the teaching power that comes from celebrating the winner and allowing the loser to think about what they could’ve done better. In removing that pain, we are removing a great teacher.
Did it stink to be picked last? Absolutely! But it taught me something. It taught me that God didn’t design me for sports. So, instead of using my time trying to be something I wasn’t created to be, the pain drove me to look at other avenues for my life, and led me to where I am today. Hey, I may not be able to throw a football 50 yards down field to a wide receiver, but I can make a guy on Madden 12 for Xbox 360 do it. We need to be teaching our children that everyone can’t always win. For that sake, and for ours as our fleeting time in the sun passes and we hand over our world to them.
This post could have been a part of the last post I wrote, but I feel a long one coming on.
We have decided to homeschool. Lots of you who read this already know this, but some don’t. Like, I’m not sure Marty’s told his parents (sorry Marylin!)
My homeschooling journey began the day Isaac was born and I was sure that I would never want that baby out of my arms, much less my sight. Marty was adamantly opposed. He thought homeschool kids were weird, antisocial, and out of touch. And, let’s just be honest, some are, just as the same can be said for any child in any situation. But, it was out of the question according to him, and I let it die.
Then, our surprise gift from God, Annaliese came into the world 14 months later and I determined that I could never homeschool two kids that close together and then Isaac’s stubborn, perfectionist personality came out (hmm, wonder where he gets that?) and I knew I could never homeschool him! Honestly, I never really thought about it. Yeah, from time to time one of the teenagers would say something about school and I would reply, “And that’s why I want to homeschool!”, but I was never really serious.
A year ago Marty began an intense coaching program with one of the brightest youth ministry minds in the country and 10 other youth pastors from all over the southeast. It was the best thing that ever happened to him. At the same time Isaac started preschool 2 days a week, and absolutely loved it, loved being around other kids, loved learning, and loved playing in nasty playground rocks every day. I thought, “This is perfect, he loves school, it’s going to be no problem sending him to kindergarten.” So, as Marty begins his coaching network, we think that we have life planned out.
Then he reads a book called Teen 2.0, by Dr. Robert Epstein. I would recommend it, but honestly the sheer size of it has deterred me from reading it! But basically the author describes that teens are now radically different from the days of our parents, and in some ways this is good, but some not so great. For instance, 100 years ago adolescence lasted about 2 years, now it lasts from as young as 8 in some girls to as late as 27 in some boys. WHAT!?! Even my sleep deprived brain could see that this was a problem. The author advocated homeschooling because children’s brains need the increased responsibility and conversation with adults that this would afford. Can it be done other ways? Most definitely, I wasn’t homeschooled, and I definitely feel like I went into adulthood pretty responsible.
So we discussed it. We said we’d pray about it, I don’t think I really did, because, like I said, I was happy with the status quo. Especially when Annaliese started preschool as well, I loved my Mondays and Wednesdays free! I could have a quiet time, that was actually quiet! I could do laundry without someone “helping,” it was me time, and it was good!
But God began to put people in my path who homeschool. People at my parent’s church, a new friend whose husband is in the ministry, and who am I kidding, I love the Duggars! And then I began getting hit with scripture, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and Proverbs 22:6 in particular. And frankly I began hearing things that I didn’t like, “You have to deprogram them when they come home,” and “The school atmosphere breeds a certain attitude,” and, in the past year 2 of our teenagers have been in bullying situations. Finally I consented to pray, and I actually did. I began to talk with Marty about it, and we listed all the good things: Fridays off (Marty’s off most Friday’s so this was a definite plus!), flexibility, vacations can now be field trips, knowing what my children will be taught, teaching them things they will actually use (Algebra 2 anyone?). We want them to have a healthy view of ministry: what it looks like, ways they can minister as young children, and homeschool will afford all of that. Of course there are negatives as well…..socialization? My husband is a youth and children’s pastor we are ALWAYS around kids. Always. That wasn’t an issue. So, then it boiled down to the opinions of others.
We don’t think that the school system where we live is terrible, quite the opposite actually, some of the smartest graduates I know have come out of this system. We don’t think we’re better than anyone else, again I am confident I can’t do this alone. We don’t want to separate our children from the rest of the world, we just want to teach them our values before everyone else gets too. (Again, I know you can do this in the public school system, but how much easier will it be to not have to fight what we don’t believe is truth.) Will we have problems? Sure. Is it going to be permanent? Who knows. Is it what is best for our children? We think so.