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Four Letter Words Christian Teens should NOT say

Do you know some teenagers or young adults who use dirty language? Words that are inappropriate, rude, and offensive?

Recently, I wrote about four letter words teenagers and young adults should be encouraged to use more often. I want to suggest two four letter words they should stop using immediately… though not because they are usually classified as being bad words or filthy language.

  • L-O-V-E

You don’t know what it means… so don’t use it.

Please understand, I am NOT saying you are stupid! (In fact, I believe you are quite intelligent). Unfortunately, you have so seldom been shown real, accurate, love. So when you say the word, you have no idea what it means. So don’t say it.

You don’t love something. You might “like” it… like you do a friends’ post on facebook. Like the cool selfie of you with Justin Trudeau or your favorite music star. But you don’t love it. You can only l-o-v-e people.

Many adults don’t know how to truly love another person, so don’t feel like you are the only segment of the population I suggest not use this four letter word anymore. I think most of us would be wise to use this word very sparingly. Because if we are going to say we love someone, we better show real love.

Love that gives. Love that serves. Love that goes the extra mile (or ten). Love that forgives. Love that sacrifices. Love that costs… time, money, physical and emotional energy. Love that is there with a person when all H-E-L-L breaks loose! That’s love!

  • F-E-A-Rheart dove graphic

I know you are afraid. How could you not be? We live in a terrible world full of danger. Don’t tell me you don’t know what’s happening in the world. You do… and that’s why you don’t access the traditional news channels. Because they are downright depressing and rage-insighting. In many respects, the world does seem hopeless.

Its okay to be afraid. And to admit it… to your friends, your parents. It doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it makes you strong. And admitting you have are afraid will also help you to gain courage and find others who can help you find strategies for dealing with fear that are healthy and productive, rather than simply ignoring or suppressing your fear.

Nonetheless, for the Christian teenager or young adult, we cannot have f-e-a-r and faith. Throughout Scripture, a frequent command in all sorts of unexpected situations is “Do not fear!”

  • For Mary when the angel appears to tell her the child she will give is pregnant with Jesus.
  • For Joseph also when he hears the news Mary is pregnant with Jesus, but its from God’s Holy Spirit.
  • To the disciples in the middle of a storm when Jesus is walking on the water.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

Christians of all ages have lost their faith… and as a result live in fear! And we need to repent of living that way and regain our trust in God. A trust that will dispel and cast out fear!

(un)Fortunately, John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, knew and spoke/wrote these two words… and he used them carefully. Near the end of 1 John he says,

“God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him/her. Love is made complete (perfect) among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The man who fears is not made perfect in love.”
(1 John 4:16-18 New International Version)

So, if you know real l-o-v-e you will not have f-e-a-r.

Only when you understand these words in the way described by John should “love” and “fear” be part of your vocabulary!

 

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Book Review – A Disruptive Generosity by Mac Pier

Mac Pier sets out his purpose for A Disruptive Generosity clearly: “to tell how Jesus is using the disruptive generosity of ordinary men and women to tell the story of the Great Disruption. Jesus is the ultimate disruptor.” (p. 19). In describing the generous philanthropic stories of individuals from every inhabited continent on earth, Pier shows how there is a global movement of interconnected relationships accomplishing God’s purposes at the dawn of the 21st century. In this overarching general purpose, Pier succeeds.

Meanwhile, Pier tries to accomplish other goals which this reader judges less successful. While there is a general sense of connection between the generous individuals, the chapters seems to jump from one to another with no apparent connection, either sequentially, thematically (ie the types of causes to which individuals give) or relationally (ie this donor suggested I consider the donor we meet in the next chapter). All the individuals connect in some way to either the the New York City Movement, Movement Day, or the Cape Town Congress 2010, often to more than one of these significant global Christian events. While sometimes a chapter will refer back to an individual from another chapters, they are not clearly connected.

More troublesome was Pier’s attempt to start each chapter with a verse from Isaiah. While I think it was an attempt to show how God is doing a new thing globally, even as He called His people to action through the prophet, the verses chosen for each chapter seem random and disconnected. There does not seem to be a thematic connection between the individuals in each chapter and the chosen verse at the start of each chapter. Furthermore, even the most “generous” interpretation or application of a chosen verse does not usually fit with the story illustrated in the chapter. What may have seemed like a good idea at the beginning – to connect a key verse to each individual story of generosity – became distracting and frustrating for the reader… and actually began to call into question Pier`s reliability as a reporter.

A Disruptive Generosity is an interesting book with challenging examples of how various individual are using their wealth to invest in Kingdom purposes.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review as part of the Baker Book Bloggers program.

Did you forget, Dad?

A few months ago, as we were putting our children to bed, the following conversation took place:

“Daddy, are you coming?” he called.

“Yes, son. Just a minute. I’m tucking in your sisters,” I replied.

A couple minutes later with two girls sound asleep, I returned to my son’s room. “I told you I was coming, son. You just had to wait a couple more minutes while I helped the girls get settled. You’re the big brother. You can wait,” I said with a bit of frustration in my voice that I knew he could fully hear.

“I know dad. I was just worried you’d forget,” he replied a bit sheepishly.

“Really? Have I ever forgotten? Have I ever not returned to tuck you in?” I asked.

“Yes. I think once or twice,” my son responded somewhat hopeful, somewhat skeptical of my perfection.

“I don’t think so, son. Even if you have fallen asleep, I still come back to check on you. You just might not know it or remember it because you fell asleep.”

“No, I think you forgot at least one time, dad,” he tries to defend himself.

I quit arguing, knowing my perfection is not the issue at stake. I pray with him and stay with him until he falls asleep moments later.

The short conversation causes me to ask how many times my Heavenly Father feels like having the same discussion with me.  “Really, my child. Did you think I had forgotten you?” While I know there is no reason to answer affirmatively, my suspicion, bordering on accusation, is embarassing to admit.

Do we really trust that our Heavenly Father is watching over us and attentive to every detail of our lives, caring for us even when we don’t see His Hand or hear His voice?

It might be a sudden job loss situation. It may be an unexpected medical diagnosis. Or it may be some other surprise that catches us off guard. And we are tempted to ask our heavenly Father, “Did you forget me, dad?”

As you look back over your life, you can likely identify multiple crossroads experiences. Points of time when you felt frustrated, confused, or at-a-loss for what to do next. At the time, you were asking this question. Yet now as you look back, you can see God answered and God provided. God brought you through the experience and you look back at that time as a turning point in your work, relationships, finances, etc.

We not only have cognitive agreement of God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and attentiveness to our needs, we also have experiential knowledge of God’s past care and goodness. Whatever challenge you are facing today, reflect on God’s goodness, both from the truth of God’s Word and His faithfulness as you have experienced in your life.

He is a Good, Good, Father.

PS. Remember: sometimes God’s blessings come in different ways than we expect.

Check out some of my other blog posts about being a father living with a disability:

Water Wings & Parenting

Do you go to the swimming pool with young children? Children who cannot swim or are just learning to swim? How wonderful are water wings or flotation devices!

waterwingsHowever, as I watch my own children, I think there is also something to be said for NOT using water wings. (To be clear, I am talking about using flotation devices in a swimming pool or very shallow lake, not on a boat trip or swimming in a full body of water like an ocean).

When children use water wings, they are fearless… because they will quickly pop back up to the surface, no matter what they do. Walk alongside a two year old in the shallow end and they smile nicely as they bob up and down with you in the pool. Toss the same two year old in the deep end and after a momentary surprise, they are again floating along with you. There is no real danger, no matter what they do, because they have water wings.

Yet water can be dangerous. If a child does not know how to swim and jumps into the deep end, they can encounter real problems. Again, in the context of a swimming pool there are lifeguards watching (and probably other onlookers) who would come to the rescue before a child was in a life-threatening situation. Yet for a child to learn the limits of their skills and when they are beyond those boundaries is actually healthy.

Even more than swimming, this applies to parenting. A new generation is now entering post-secondary education and the workforce… still wearing their “water wings.” They begin in a new educational context but they still have their water wings on from primary school. When the water wings come off – and we’ve probably all heard shocking stories of how parents argue for grades with college professors or attend a job interview with their 20-something “child” – they are left flailing in the pool, gasping for air and a side rail to hold on to.

So when my child is in the metaphorical “swimming pool” of school, a sports team, or other group event, I want them to enter without water wings, without me as a parent hovering over them or coming with them. There are trusted and reliable teachers to solve dangerous situations. There are coaches and referees to manage arguments or rule-breakers. And for my child’s good (and mine!), I need to NOT be present in these “swimming pools.” Otherwise, when they get into the big kids pool, they will splash around hopelessly, and maybe even “drown.”

They may come back to me as a parent and report some misfortune or a poor decision by another child or even adult supervisor that disadvantaged them. Without bailing the child out, I can hear his/her frustration, sympathetically listen, and if appropriate, point out a life skills for dealing with future similar situations. Most of the time, I do not necessarily need to phone the parent or coach and give them a piece of my mind on behalf of my child. While intervening would be easier – to “save” my child from the immediate hardship -it actually would hurt my child more in the long-term, if I did so.

I confess I struggle with this as a parent. Yet I have to stop myself from putting on my child’s water wings…or else s/he will never learn to swim!

A great online resource for ideas to help you take off the water wings is Dr Tim Elmore’s Growing Leaders.

A good book on this topic, I recommend George Barna & Jimmy Myers book Fearless Parenting (Baker, 2017).

 

Book Review – The Way of Hope by Melissa Fisher

This book should be required reading for any pastor/church leader who claims to be “concerned” about LGBTQ-related issues.

Melissa Fisher invites readers to travel with her on the way of hope, even though the road is much more difficult than alternate paths. In sharing her journey, she recounts turning away from her childhood “faith,” struggles with perfectionism and work-a-holism, her same-sex attraction and marriage, and hitting rock bottom before beholding Jesus afresh and gradually saying “yes” to each obstacle she was asked to confront. She is incredibly vulnerable and brutally honest, and as a result her story is both heart-breaking and a powerful testimony to God’s grace and faithfulness.

 

I want to share the book with those I know who, like Fisher, know what the Bible teaches, yet are struggling with same-sex attraction. In a couple places, the book seems to gets a bit “preachy” (esp considering she is still far away from God at those points in the journey), but it is so raw and genuine from deep in her heart, I hope my friends will appreciate she is simply bearing her soul. Her self-analysis and thoughtful reflection also provide insight for the pastor/counselor looking to help someone at various points along the way of hope.

I cannot recommend the book highly enough, especially for a pastor/church leader who is seeking to help a congregation understand LGBQT issues, but also for someone who knows a loved one questioning his/her sexuality.

The above paragraph was going to be the conclusion to the review… until I encountered the epilogue. The epilogue includes three short Q&As between Fisher and her mother, her father, and former same-sex partner, Kristi. As powerful as the book is, the epilogue is incredible. To read of God’s progressive healing of each relationship is amazing! The book went from excellent to GREAT!

Note: This book was provided to the reader by Graf-Martin CommunicationsBaker Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

Does Technology Change how we Communicate with our Children?

I’ve heard all the nay-sayers and doomsayers too!

  • “Technology changes how we communicate.”
  • “We are destroying our children.”
  • “My teenager never talks to me anymore.”

And while I realize there is some truth to the first statement, I have my doubts too about how the legitimacy of blaming technology – whether smartphones or otherwise – for failure of people to communicate.

The contention “parents are not talking to their teens about important life issues” has been a parental angst long before the current smartphone generation. Its one of the issues parents and teens have faced throughout history. Maybe the major life issues are changing in the range and variety of options available. But technology has not really “changed” the truth that parents need to talk with their teens about significant life decisions.

land on rotary phoneHowever, a recent experience re-visiting my wife’s first home, complete with a middle-of-the-kitchen-wall rotary phone jack (if you don’t know what a phone jack is, have a 40+ person tell you about the “olden days”) helped me realize that technology has changed at least one facet of how we communicate.

You see, when the over 40 crowd was growing up and they still had phones that plugged into the wall (aka phone jack), and then had a long cord so you could still talk on the phone while walking into various rooms, whoever was around could hear at least one half of the conversation.

On more than one occasion I can remember either asking my mom, “What was that (call) about, mom?” because I picked up enough from the half of the conversation I could hear to know that something interesting, or sad, or troublesome, or exciting was happening. Then, mom would fill me in on the other half of the conversation, if it was appropriate for a young boy to know.

Fast forward to 2017 when many adults have these quick “information” discussions via text. And in a series of 4-8 texts each, adults can discuss a variety of topics from “Did you remember to pick up [grocery list] at the store?” to “Did you hear about what happened at [place]?” But only the sender and receiver are part of the discussion. There are no nearby listeners to hear any side of a conversation because it is all done via text.

While many of the half-conversations I heard and discussed with my mother were about everyday life details, the odd conversation was significant. Moreso, the fact that as a child I was a regular part of a communication process was beneficial to building a regular habit of talking to my parents about whatever topic, mundane or significant.

Today’s parents who have so many conversations on the phone but not using their (audio) voice, need to be even more intentional to have generic, casual, mundane conversations with their children. Because teenagers and young adults will not likely communicate with parents on the big issues of life, if they have not been in the habit of talking with you about anything, everything, and nothing-in-particular.

Technology may not change the way we communicate, it may just change how often we communicate. And the frequency of communication between children and parents will affect the quantity and quality of their communication as teenagers and young adults. So parents, be very intentional when they are young in talking about everyday life – their day at school, their joys & triumphs with friends, the challenges & accomplishments in out-of-school activities (eg. sports, music).

Or you could go out and buy a vintage phone!

Note: The above photo is not my mother. (Thank you Shutterstock)
Note 2: The phone in the above picture has a pathetically short cord.
I never saw one that short in any household!

Book Review – One by One by Gina Dalfonzo

Gina Dalfonzo states her purpose clearly: to help local churches serve and support single adults well. She contends that in so many aspects of church life, singles adults, men and women, are treated as second-class citizens, excluded often unintentionally by thoughtless individuals and structures that sideline singles from growing spiritually and from serving in meaningful ways in the life of a congregation.

After sharing some horror stories and discussing some ways churches communicate to singles they are either pariahs or projects rather than people, Dalfonzo attempts to identify and explain some of the unbiblical thinking the church expresses by action, and sometimes in words. While she does address some legitimate concerns, this reader found it difficult to track with the critiques. A few chapters seemed to be an extended rant about Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. As with most of the chapters in this middle portion of the book, she identifies a few legitimate criticisms but then seems to ramble on. In the final section of the book, Dalfonzo again identifies some positive ways of connecting singles to church life, though there is nothing exceptionally creative (ie. The reader thinks, “Wow, I never thought of that idea as a great way to help singles connect!”).

Admittedly, my expectations were erroneous. In the critique section, I was hoping for clearer theological explanation “defending” singleness and biblical discussions on sexuality, identity, meaning of life/purpose, etc., factors I believe are central to the church’s poor understanding of singles and thus poor ministry with/for singles. She touched on some of the areas, but not nearly with the depth or clarity desired. I think the various stories she shared on the troubles singles encounter in the church demonstrate solid biblical teaching of these areas is weak.

Here are a couple examples of the kind of discussion I thought Dalfonzo would analyze and address:

Its an interesting enough read, and I will gladly share the book with a pastor or other friend interested in the topic, but I cannot say I will recommend it.

Note: This book was provided to the reviewer at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review by Baker Books.

 

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