Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

impress.

final words.

We’re trying to teach our kids about Jesus.  To go beyond teaching them “Jesus is your ticket to heaven”, and actually connecting their lives with the story of God bringing redemption and healing to a broken world.  Consistently pointing out, and calling forth the Love He is giving them, which is meant to transform the world.  The world of which He is already Lord.

But every once in a while, it seems a bit larger than we know how to talk about.  buskids

Enter, the helpful illustrations of Paul.  As he was writing to his “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), and trying to encourage him to live for Christ.  Even from prison, Paul was desperate to encourage Timothy to live out the good news that was found in and through Jesus.  Limited on time, and probably paper, he packed as much as he could into every message.  The outcome, is a bit of a scattered bag of metaphors, as in 2 Timothy 2:3-6:

“Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops.”

It almost seems like Paul is playing some really important game of “Catch Phrase”.  He can’t quite get the complete Truth of what he’s trying to say to Timothy into words, so he’s moving from element to element of that important Truth.  Instead of simplifying it into something really easy for Timothy to swallow and move on, safely in his pocket; with every phrase he breaks the chains of expectation and makes this Jesus-thing a whole lot bigger than in the previous sentence.

Imagine what our letters might be like, trying to communicate to our children through one final letter.  Knowing this will probably be the last thing we’re able to write before we die.  Given limited time/space/resources, trying to scrawl by candle light, one last effort to give them the Hope we have in Jesus Christ.  The book of 2 Timothy is an amazingly emotional letter, packed with encouragement and life for Timothy and the rest of us, as we peek in on what someone dying for Christ might say to their followers/children.

The good news is this:  You’re not waiting to die in a roman jail-cell.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Take a deep breath, and be thankful.

Now realize, you’re not limited to bouncing around between metaphors.  YOU are the living illustration.  Telling our kids about God’s love in their heart is awesome and needed.  But what is even more likely to transform their lives and connect them to God’s story, are parents & grandparents and extended family and close older friends who are living examples of the Words of God becoming flesh.  As we live out the prayer “Thy Kingdom Come”, and invite our children to follow us.  Not to “get their ticket to heaven” with us.  But to actually join us in the Kingdom and Lordship of Jesus Christ breaking through into our world by moments of genuine love, forgiveness, justice, and living sourced by His Spirit; denying the ways of a world of self-centeredness, and living together in Christian community…

May our days be filled with living out our “final words”…and may those who walk in our footsteps be blessed in receiving them…

different kids.

“He’s part of the smart and popular group.”  I heard a 5th grader describe his friend this past week.  Holy Smokes.  I don’t remember thinking about “popularity” in elementary school, although I’m sure it was there somewhere.  I remember coming to school and getting incredibly good at the art of twisting my hair so that it stood up without using any gel.  Throw a cape on my back, because I was super.

I remember some mornings, waiting out by the road for the bus to pick us up.  We’d easily get bored, and want to do something more fun.  I remember putting frogs in the mailbox for our postal worker to be surprised by.  (She wasn’t happy when she found baked frogs in the mailbox.  Ooops. Hot fall days.)  I remember playing Ninja Turtles. (I preferred Michaelangelo.)  I remember squatting down, pulling my coat down over my knees, while hobbling along the road trying to scare the cars driving by into thinking I was some sort of troll.  (Probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done along a highway.)

Looking back on who I was growing up, I think is part of the reason I was totally okay when we began our homeschooling journey.  Sure, a lot of homeschool kids can grow up a bit weird.  But look at me…public school kids can grow up pretty odd themselves.  My kids are certainly going to be unique in this world, scripture pretty much demands it.  But their uniqueness is not about simply wearing the moniker “Different”.  It’s so much bigger than that.

In fact, it’s too big to fit into an awesome sentence that I can make into bold text, and you can quote me on in some place that gets more internet traffic.  I want my kids to live authentic lives of experiencing all that God has created them for.  I fiveironfrenzypray over them daily that they would be filled with so much love, the world will be changed.  I believe it’s possible with all that I am (and the even more that I am not), and parent them that way.  Whether they go on to become missionaries in foreign lands, moms who raise the next generation to know the love of God, or a female-fronted version of Five Iron Frenzy.  In fact, if they could go on to become a female version of Five Iron Frenzy, at least for a little while, I’d be pretty excited.  One thing is for sure – they will be unique.  I pray they are unique even in the face of consumer-driven Christianity.  That they would ask questions, and push the envelope for how God’s Love can be shown, and how the Holiness of God can be lived.

So for now, we’ll continue to build the foundations of a life lived uniquely toward responding to God.  We aim to exercise those spiritual muscles on a regular basis.  To invite our children to respond to God with us on a regular basis.  To train them to listen to His voice.  To point out where some things in our world are broken, or don’t make sense.  To help their first reflex and knee-jerk reaction to be Love for God & others.  And above all of that, because we cannot guarantee what path they’ll take…..we pray.  God, use our family to make things different, as you are Different.  Amen.

hard sell?

I’m a pretty good salesman.  I’m also a horrible salesman.  It depends on what you’re measuring, I suppose.  When we first followed God’s call & relocated closer to family, I took a couple different sales jobs.  I volunteered at a small church in town, and learned what it was like working 9-5 (or 8-6, as it often was).  A few months was spent in Radio Advertising, and almost a year was with Pitney Bowes, selling “postage meters/folding machines/etc”.  I was pretty good at connecting relationally with my customers.  I even closed deals.  I could talk excitedly about what I had to offer them, and honestly believed I could help them out.  But when they asked me for the best deal – I’d usually give it to them.  So even though I made sales, I wasn’t the profit-generating machine that was celebrated in the sales realm.

Because of working on the world of advertising/ROI and the like, my radar picks up on sales-pitchy things much more than legosit used to.  I shrink back quickly from anything that smells like being a “salesman for Jesus/Heaven/Youth Group/Church”.  Unfortunately, that’s a large percentage of what’s out there for people seeking Christ to consume.  Bible studies, self-help books, and small group curriculum all geared toward convincing/reminding humanity that to come to Christ is to come to the end to all of your problems.  To arrive at the doors of the church is to arrive at an oasis of plenty.  To believe in Jesus Christ is to have all your prayers answered, every day is a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.

In a broken world, that sounds awesome.  We’re in debt, and even credit is running out fast.  We realize that something better than what we’re experiencing must be out there.  So when the man with the Bible, the nice smile and smooth words tells us that coming to church (and perhaps buying his book) will help fill the void we’ve got, and open doors of potential we previously thought were closed….we’re quick to follow.  The problem comes after some time of believing.  Time of offering our devout faith to a God/Genie, and becoming frustrated when nothing we ask for happens.

You might be nodding while reading this, agreeing that yes – we need to be honest about our expectations.  We need to remember that a call to follow Christ, is a call to the cross.  That we’re not promised what we want will work out the way we plan, by simply “trusting really really hard”.  But at the same time, I want my children to know the Hope we have in Christ.  I want them to experience putting their faith in Him, and having a life transformed.  I suppose it all depends on what we emphasize:

1 – We could emphasize the wrong things to our 5 year old.  Tell her that God wants everything to go perfect for her, and if she invites Jesus into her heart, it will enable all her dreams to come true (Jeremiah 29:11, right?).  Or, we could take the threatening route and tell her that someday she’ll either spend forever in flames or in golden streets and whipped cream.  If she asks Jesus into her heart, she won’t have to burn.  Sure, these spiritual things are bigger/different, but it’s important to speak in a language they simply understand, right?

2 – We could be honest with our 5 year old from the very start.  Tell her that people have made some really bad choices, that make this world a hard place to live sometimes.  But tell her how God has moved in our family already, and how He’s calling & enabling us to be different.  That we can choose to love/forgive, even when it’s hard.  We can be humble, and look for ways to serve others & love our neighbors globally.  We can pray, and know that spending time in God’s presence changes us.  We ask him to fill us with His love, so that in the simple ways we live, God is changing the world.

Sometimes that will lead us down paths where people know our name and smile or applaud.  Other times it may lead us down paths where people know our name and angrily yell.   Still many more times it may mean know one knows our name, but God is with us.

We are never alone, and that seems to be a pretty big point to a savior who was called

“Immanuel – which means ‘God with us’. “

But in a culture where more and more churches and youth ministries are selling the fun/loud/exciting/blessing/health/prosperity/nice teeth/etc…it may become increasingly difficult to be heard.  Still…this is what we speak.

are you part of a faith web?

When I was almost 11, because of brokenness in our world, we ended up going from part of a large, faith-centered extended family….to becoming an island.  A mother and her 5 children, disconnected from all of the aunts, uncles, and grandparents we’d grown up connected to.  My mom did a great job handling so much of it, and one of the most important ways she did that, was by not trying to do it all herself.

One of the biggest things I remember about growing up from pre-teen to college student, were how many “surrogate” family members we had.  I believe it was part of God’s redemptive plan, to surround us with other adults and older, faithful witnesses who became aunts, uncles, and grandparents to us in the faith.  People who shared stories with us, celebrated life’s big moments, and simply allowed us to see how they were following God from day to day.  Those people spoke Hope into our lives, and prayed for us regularly.spider web in sunlight

The authors of many different books for parents of children and of teenagers, have written about the research done on what sort of things lead to a life-long faith.  It’s not an incredible youth group, huge concerts, or an amazing preacher.   It’s not buying them a great study Bible, or after-school Jesus clubs, or even having really really Jesus-like friends.  It’s having several close relationships with older, God-seeking adults.

It’s a beautiful thing if those adults can be actual family members.  To be able to sit in the same pew as grandma and grandpa, and sing songs together.  To clean up streets, or serve the homeless with their aunts.  To climb on their uncles lap during the message, and give a picture they colored in Sunday School.  To travel somewhere with those they share life with, and serve the “Least of These” who live there.  To have lunch together, talking about the stories of faith – including the current stories God is writing through their life as a family.

But – to encourage you no matter your family situation…the blood of Jesus is more powerfully connective than any other.  As sons and daughters of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), we are connected to a larger web of family than we’ll ever realize in this life.  No matter what your age or life situation, you can (and are called to!) reach out to the children of your congregation and connect.  This is also a great regular reminder of accountability – younger people are looking up to you!   If you’re a parent, you can (and are called to!) reach out to other generations of those seeking God, and connect your children in meaningful relationships.

It may even be worth taking out a sheet of paper, drawing a spider web, and putting the names of all the people your children are in meaningful relationships with who are living out the faith you’re wanting to pass on to them.  Are there many names, besides yours and their Sunday School teachers?  Is it a diverse group of names, coming from different generations, and different walks of life?  Doing this may make you want to reach out purposefully, and invite someone to be a more active part of your child’s faith web.  Heck, you may even want to start with sending them a link to this blog-post…I’m okay being an ice-breaker for such an important conversation/invitation. 🙂

I also just realized this post could be a bit of a “Debbie-Downer” to any family members who are long-distance from relatives they’d love to be in their “faith-web”.  I want to remind you that distance does not negate such a thing happening.  Writing letters, chatting online, and being sure that when you are near – you share in experiences that point to Jesus.  These, and so many more ways exist to help overcome any physical distance in a faith web connecting life-long relationships in meaningful and important ways.

May God be with us, as we humbly accept His calling for us to pass all of this on to the generations following us…(Deuteronomy 6)

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