Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Awkward Questions about Jesus

So funny. Isn't it sad that adults no nothing of their faith that they stammer over questions like this?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

When It's NOT OK to laugh as a Mommy

All Moms know that there are times when your children make you smile warmly and there are times when they make you giggle with joy. But there are times when they do funny things and you are not allowed to laugh. It's in the Mommy Rule Book. It's easy to spot some of

these "unlaughable moments" like when your pre-adolesent falls down over his own feet. Or your large dog knocks your toddler over. The rule book clearly states that Moms are not supposed to laugh at their children's pain. We are supposed to give comfort and sympathy, not share in their humiliation. That's the easy part. But then, there are the harder moments...

These moments seem to lurk on the edge of our total frustration. In other words, they occur when we should be at our angriest. I believe that we have a built in release valve that kicks in once our children have sent us over the edge. My theory is that our children have the capability to make us so angry we will literally explode. So God caused Moms to have a laughter reaction that releases some of the pent up negative energy that leads to physical explosion. OK, it's just a theory. There is no other way to account for the need to laugh when I should be at my "Mom's on the War Path" best.

Recently, my two youngest children were told to clean their room and put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket. They are 3 and 4 years old. This should not have been too difficult for them. Pull a comforter over their wrinkled sheets and put dirty PJs into a football shaped clothes hamper. I was pretty sure they could do the job, but was expecting the worst. Or so I thought.... My idea of the worst was blankets on the floor and PJs under the pillows. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a room that had no clothes on the floor and blankets pulled up on the beds. Then imagine my confusion when I realized there were no pillows on the beds, no pillows under the beds, no pillows in the closet, in fact no pillows at all. I walked over to the clothes hamper to view their dirty jammies neatly piled into the football. Again, I was surprised to see no pillows in the hamper, and no jammies either. In fact, the football hamper was completely empty. I gave my two little men a very stern look and said, "Where are the dirty clothes boys?" Chase gave me a sweet little smile and said, "I show you Mommy." Then he took my hand and led me to the front yard. There, piled in the bushes under their bedroom window, lay the missing pillows, dirty clothes, odd assortment of toys and stuffed animals and books. Oh, did I mention it was raining at the time?

Silly me! I was wondering if they had the capability to make their beds and put their clothes away. I should have known that removing a screen from the window, tossing every loose article out the 2nd story window, replacing the screen and making their bed was well within their ability. I should have know this since they had already shown a remarkable ability to sneak into their big brother's rooms and come out with a large assortment of lego men stuffed neatly into their pockets, all without seemingly being anywhere near their brother's bedrooms.

As I tried to come up with a punishment that seemed fitting for this latest behavior problem, I started to think about what would happen if they had leaned too far out the window and fallen. That was all it took! Anger and fear seemed to rise from the base of my feet and threatened to completely engulf me. That's when I developed my exploding theory. I have no other excuse for what happened next. I was standing in the rain, in the middle of my front yard, with my two youngest sons at my side and when I should have been developing my "Mommy Look" and devising terrible consequences for them, I felt the overwhelming need to laugh. I don't have to explain this feeling to any Mom; we have all been there at least once. I ran into the house with a shouted "Get this stuff back in the house this minute young man!" and hid in my room until I was once again under control. Luckily, my abrupt departure was interpreted as overwhelming anger by my sons and they immediately started to correct the situation. Luckily, my husband arrived home just about the time they finished bringing wet clothes, toys, pillows and books into the house. It seems he did not possess the anger release laughter valve. He was not only able, but willing to give them the discipline they needed and do it all without laughter.

I'll have to find his secret for non-laughter soon, since I just told my 3 year old to "get your tail up to your room this minute" and he turned to me and said very sweetly "Mommy, only dinosaurs have tails."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I have read George Barna’s Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, Larry Fowler’s Rock Solid Kids, Post Modern Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith, Raising Kids to Love Jesus by H Norman Wright, Mark Holmen’s Building Faith at Home, The Last Christian Generation by Josh McDowell and a bunch of other related books. More significantly I have been a children’s and family pastor since 1992 and have watched a whole lot of kids turn into teens and then young adults.

I am fully aware that we in North America are losing another generation of kids. As a pastor, father, uncle and as a Christian this is alarming and very sad to me. I have spent lots of time talking, praying, strategizing, agonizing and thinking on this one issue. It has gripped my heart. It is my holy discontent that we turn this tide. Through the last few months I have really thought why is that the North American church is losing this battle when the Christian faith is so dramatically growing in the Asian, African, Hispanic, Eastern European and even Muslim countries.

I think the problem is of course a spiritual one but also a practical one. Issues stemming from the church, the family and the culture are all playing a part. So I want to express my thoughts on some of the major causes that somewhere between 60-90 percent of young adults have rejected Jesus (not wanting to mince words here).

1. Abdication of spiritual development – the church and parents have teamed up on this one, buying into the lie that the spiritual development of children and teens is best left to the experts at church. Completely unbiblical.
2. Spectator churches – too many pew sitters. Not only are there not enough people in the church not willing to invest time love and energy into young people, but the whole concept of church as a social hour or a stadium event isnt appealing to young adults
3. Lack of spiritual warfare – simply put we are not praying and fasting enough for this generation.
4. Disconnected generations – Grandparents in too many cases are either not involved due to location or family disposition. In many other situations grandparents have become the new parents, who are MIA.
5. Media saturated kids + uninvolved parents = an undiscerning generation. Do you know what your kids are watching, playing and listening too?
6. Parents still in high school. I’m not talking age here but mindset. Children are not fashion accessories, church is not a place to show off your new outfit and sometimes your kids need you to sacrifice your social time for them.
7. Death of the family meal – people have their kids in way too many things and when they do eat together it is too often in front of the TV. As the series Parental Guidance puts it, we are making our kids experience rich and relationally poor, primarily with us. And another little sidebar here drop and run activities for kids should really end. If you are going to get your kids involved in an activity, you get involved too.
8. Not enough plain talk – our kids need us as parents to be honest, open, un-embarassable and nosey.
9. Church leaders unaware – the senior leadership in churches too often see this issue as one of many issues facing the church or fail to even see the problem at all. This is the defining issue of the next 10-15 years for the North American Church. We win this battle or loose the war.
10. Denominational garbage – nothing turns off a young person (or me for that matter) than silly denom. superiority complexes. No one is totally right anyway. It has hampered effective ministry for too long.
11. Tradition is more important to us than effective ministry. Enough said.
12. Our kids are not being taught a Biblical world view or what sets Christianity apart from other world religions. If it is not the one and only way then who cares if they walk away? But if it is more than a religion but God’s hand of forgiveness and salvation stretched out to mankind than nothing matters more.
13. The Magic prayer – We have at times reduced the conversion process to raising a hand or “saying a prayer after me”. Becoming a Christian is about humbling yourself, realizing you can’t save yourself and then submitting to the lordship of Christ. A hand raised in a crusade or children’s church many times gives a child a blurred vision of what it means to become a Christian, reduces the process to a one time act and often a person grows up in the church and has said the prayer (multiple times even!) but has never had a genuine surrender to Christ.

Of course these are entirely my thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the views of any church I am or ever have been affiliated with. Nor am I saying that these churches have huge problems, but rather this is a North American problem.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Life in Canada so far

Two weeks and change in Canada so far at our new church and new home and new church home. Life during a move is crazy and leaves little room for time to blog! But for my own sake and the sake of posterity I am making myself sit down and share some random thoughts on moving our of the US and into another nation.

  • Still getting used to milk in a bag, two dollar coins, gas by the liter and front page hockey news

  • hundreds of words that are a bit different here, not just pop and soda

  • life on the farm has been great - so peaceful
  • Forward is such a friendly church, so very welcoming

  • I sense a greater peace in my life and less stress than I have in probably a decade

  • Back to Chicago style driving

  • My role is shifting (and needed to shift) from being Marty the pastor to the kids to Marty the pastor to the parents and volunteers. This means some letting go for and some embracing some change I have longed for. I think this would have been too much a move for me, the kids, the volunteers and parents in Roanoke.

  • Patsy gets to be involved in worship and children's ministry here! She has such a beautiful voice if you have ever heard her sing (sorry Parkway folks but you missed out!). She chose kids over the glory of sanctuary praise for the last six years and I will always admire her for that - her example of choosing the humble things to confound the wise.

  • So far not having TV has been amazing! Not sure if we will do it forever. Patsy and I have tons of black and white movies and we have watched some of them and the boys have some DVDs they have watched. We take more walks, play more family games and now have a garden! But there will come a time when the Bears start playing. Honestly I have not missed seeing the Cubs. I do listen to an ESPN station out of Buffalo in the car though.

  • I think I may have a queen now?

  • There are some great passionate, committed people at Foward involved in Chidlren's Ministries.

  • The farm we rent has like eight horses and a llama named Bob.

  • Blake and Tanner are slowly meeting friends. There are some neighbor boys who invited them over to swim! Tanner won suckers for his age group in church so he was a big hit.

  • I got a really nice portable computer for work and a Blackberry for my new phone.

  • David and Chase are doig wonderful and love the big yard and big house to run around in.

  • Still trying to sell our house. The sale fell through the second time. Still have peace.

Well that's good for now! We miss all our friends and the kids at PWC! God bless.