A question I could have used 10 years ago…but at least I have today

pexels-photo-298018Some questions are clearly rhetorical, right?

Some, however, are not. So let me share one I heard in an interview of Bob Goff.

When asked about growth and personal development, here is what Bob said he asks himself

What does the next humblest version of me look like?

In other words, I’m this level of humble now. What would the next level of humble look like? What would change? How would I treat people differently? What are things I wouldn’t say any more? What are things I would begin to say or say more often? What habits would I need to form to reach that next level of humble?

Some questions are meant to be answered.

And in order to answer them, you have to accost yourself, your preferences, opinions, defaults, self-perception. After all, there is no growth without struggle.

What does the next humblest version of you look like?

Stop doing these 8 things for your Teen this School Year

The following is a great starter list for raising an adult. Read. Cry. Laugh. Feel judged. But for the love, make necessary changes.

Source: Stop doing these 8 things for your Teen this School Year

Stop doing these 8 things for your Teen this School Year

September 19, 2016 by Amy Carney 388 Comments

Don’t judge me if you happen to see my kids eating packaged Ritz crackers for school lunch.

Don’t judge me if they’re on the sidelines of PE because they forgot their uniform.

Don’t judge me if they didn’t turn in their homework because it’s still sitting home on their desk.

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What some may view as a lack of parenting, is what I deem parenting on purpose, as we work to build necessary life skills in our kids.

I stopped making daily breakfasts and packing school lunches long ago.

I don’t feel obligated to deliver forgotten items left behind at home.

School projects and homework are not any part of my existence.

How do we raise competent adults if we’re always doing everything for our kids?

Let’s parent our kids to be capable adults! I love this Ann Landers quote!

Walk away from doing these 8 things for your teen this school year

1. Waking them up in the morning

If you are still waking little Johnny up in the mornings, it’s time to let an alarm clock do it’s job. My foursome have been expected to get themselves up on early school mornings since they started middle school. There are days one will come racing out with only a few minutes to spare before they have to be out the door. The snooze button no longer feels luxurious when it’s caused you to miss breakfast.

I heard a Mom actually voice out loud that her teen sons were just so cute still, that she loved going in and waking them up every morning. Please stop. I find my sons just as adorable as you do, but our goal is to raise well functioning adults here.

2. Making their breakfast and packing their lunch

My morning alarm is the sound of the kids clanging cereal bowls. My job is to make sure there is food in the house so that they can eat breakfast and pack a lunch.

One friend asked, yeah but how do you know what they’re bringing for school lunch? I don’t. I know what food I have in my pantry and it’s on them to pack up what they feel is a good lunch. It will only be a few short years and I will have no idea what they are eating for any of their meals away at college. Free yourself away from the PB and J station now.

3. Filling out their paperwork

Have kids fill out and sign all school paperwork and put on clipboard before you sign

I have a lot of kids, which equates to a lot of beginning of the school year paperwork. I used to dread this stack, until the kids became of age to fill all of it out themselves. Our teens are expected to fill out all of their own paperwork, to the best of their ability. They put the papers to be signed on a clipboard and leave it for me on the kitchen island. I sign them and put them back on their desks.

Hold your teens accountable. They will need to fill out job and college applications soon and they need to know how to do that without your intervention.

4. Delivering their forgotten items

Monday morning we pulled out of the driveway and screeched around the corner of the house when daughter dear realized she forgot her phone. “We have to go back, Mom!” Another exclaimed that he forgot his freshly washed PE uniform folded in the laundry room. I braked in hesitation as I contemplated turning around. Nope. Off we go, as the vision surfaced of both of them playing around on their phones before it was time to leave.

Parents don’t miss opportunities to provide natural consequences for your teens. Forget something? Feel the pain of that. Kids also get to see, that you can make it through the day without a mistake consuming you.

We also have a rule that Mom and Dad are not to get pleading texts from school asking for forgotten items. It still happens, but we have the right to just shoot back “that’s a bummer.”

text message

5. Making their failure to plan your emergency

School projects do not get assigned the night before they are due. Therefore, I do not run out and pick up materials at the last minute to get a project finished. I do always keep poster boards and general materials on hand for the procrastinating child. But, other needed items, you may have to wait for. Do not race to Michaels for your kid who hasn’t taken time to plan.

This is a good topic to talk about in weekly family meetings. Does anyone have projects coming up that they’re going to need supplies for so that I can pick them up at my convenience this week?

6. Doing all of their laundry

laundry time

“What? YOU didn’t get my shorts washed? This response always backfires on the kid who may lose their mind thinking that I’m the only one who can do laundry around here. Every once in awhile a child needs a healthy reminder that I do not work for them. The minute they assume that this is my main role in life, is the minute that I gladly hand over the laundry task to them.

Most days I do the washing and the kids fold and put their clothes away, but they are capable of tackling the entire process when need be.

7. Emailing and calling their teachers and coaches

If our child has a problem with a teacher or coach, he is going to have to take it to the one in charge. There is no way that we, as parents, are going to question a coach or email a teacher about something that should be between the authority figure and our child.

Don’t be that over involved parent. Teach your child that if something is important enough to him, then he needs to learn how to handle the issue himself or at least ask you to help them.

8. Meddling in their academics

National Junior Honor Society middle school induction ceremony Cocopah Middle School

Put the pencil down parents. Most of the time, I honestly couldn’t tell you what my kids are doing for school work. We talk about projects and papers over dinner, but we’ve always had the expectation for our kids to own their work and grades. At times, they’ve earned Principals Lists, Honor Rolls and National Junior Honor Society honors on their own accord. At other times, they’ve missed the mark.

These apps and websites, where parents can go in and see every detail of children’s school grades and homework, are not helping our overparenting epidemic.

Every blue moon I will ask the kids to pull up their student account and show me their grades, because I want them to know I do care. I did notice our daughter slacking off at the end of last year and my acknowledgement helped her catch up, but I’m not taking it on as one of my regular responsibilities and you shouldn’t be either.

What is your parenting goal?

Is it to raise competent and capable adults?

If so, then lets work on backing off in areas where our teens can stand on their own two feet. I know they’re our babies and it feels good to hover over them once in awhile, but in all seriousness, it’s up to us to raise them to be capable people.

I want to feel confident when I launch my kids into the real world that they are going to be just fine because I stepped back and let them navigate failure and real life stuff on their own.

So please don’t judge me if my kids scramble around, shoving pre-packaged items into that brown paper lunch bag, before racing to catch the bus.

It’s all on purpose my friends.

A prayer for the year

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I’ve had verses of the year before–theme verses, if you will. And the intention is good. I have that verse in mind for a few weeks. But it isn’t long before I’ve moved on in the busyness of life and ministry–both at church and school–that I lose sight of the verse.

I had never really thought of a prayer for the year. There was the whole Prayer of Jabez craze several years ago, which there’s nothing wrong with Jabez’s prayer . God did answer it after all. But there are other prayers I’m more drawn to.

There are, of course, Jesus’ prayers. One could spend a lifetime devoted to His prayer in John 17. Maybe it’s just because I’ve lived in the ministry world for some time, but Paul’s prayers for the various churches have pulled me in for as long as I can remember.

And his prayer for the Ephesians has struck me in a particular manner early in this new year.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. Ephesians 1:17-19

This is my prayer for 2017:

  • a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God
  • that the perception of my mind (eyes of my heart) would be enlightened
  • to know the hope of His calling
  • to know the glorious riches of His inheritance in the saints (God’s inheritance is the body of Christ!)
  • to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power to those who believe
  • all of this according to the working of His vast strength

I’m coming back to this as much as I can. I’m praying over it, meditating on it–chewing and gnawing as a dog with its favorite bone.

Do you have a prayer for the year? I look forward to the end of 2017, Lord willing, and reminiscing over how God has been faithful in answering this prayer.

Is your life absurd?

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The word gets thrown around quite a bit. I probably use it in reference to my kids more than anything. Because, well, they’re absurd. They are foolish, illogical, and unreasonable. And I love the mess out of them.

But to use absurd appropriately, it most literally means “out of tune,” stemming from the Latin root surdus, which means deaf or dull. It’s that root I want to linger on for a moment.

Henri Nouwen made the spiritual connection for us all, writing that absurd living–illogical, out of tune living–is living deaf to the still small voice in which God makes His presence known.

[If you’re a Christian blogger, you’re require to include”still small voice” in at least one post per year.] QUOTA MET

This deaf or absurd living, Nouwen continues, is evinced in 

“being filled yet unfulfilled, being busy yet bored, being involved yet lonely, these are symptoms of the absurd life.” (read more in The Dance of Life

If there’s a more apt description of American’s lives I don’t know what it is. And what an indictment that it’s as much  descriptor of life in the church as well. Which leads me to believe that the bulk of evangelicals don’t spend much time listening for the still small voice. One more podcast. Another conference. Oh a livestream? There are endless diversions to make certain we remain deaf. 

Perhaps, like Elijah, God will drive us into a cave for some reason and then we will pay attention to what matters most. 

What space do you create to listen? When are your antenna attuned to the still small voice? 

Haven’t we lived absurd lives for long enough? 

My Top 5 Blog Posts of 2016

According to the number of views, even if it was my dad viewing the same posts multiple times (thanks, pops), here are the top 5 most viewed blog posts from 2016.

  1. REPOST from Dec 2011: Why We Don’t Wait to Share the Good News of a New Baby
  2. Happy Birthday to My Beloved
  3. “Get to the Chopper!” -Helicopter Parent
  4. Weary Mama, Jesus has been there

And rounding out the top 5. Real Life is (often) a Better Education than Seminary

Thanks to everyone who stops by and takes the time to read and the chosen few who comment, like, and/or share.

I most verily wish you a happy 2017 and would ask you what Ray Ortlund asked his Nashville church January 1, 2017–

What will you do in 2017 that outlasts 2017?

You can get smart alecky in answering. But seriously, what will you do that will outlast this year and any subsequent ones?

Grace and peace

Healthy things do grow, but perhaps differently than expected

Monday’s post was about the prevalent church growth mantra “healthy things grow.”

After seeing firsthand and hearing other eyewitness stories of church growth, I decided to maintain a shred of suspicion towards anyone who says that.

My somewhat over the top response is, cancer grows–is it healthy? Moreover,  Poison Ivy. Wildfires. Discord. Rumors. Bitterness. These  things, generally agreed upon as bad, grow. And usually at a rapid pace!

The first post was to suggest that perhaps growth (numerically) isn’t the best indicator of a church’s health. It can be. But not necessarily.

So to follow up, let’s ask another question , namely, what kind of growth are we talking about?

Those who employ the healthy things grow rhetoric have in mind quantitative growth. In other words, that which is measured via tangible metrics such as nickels and noses.

  • How much money is coming in?
  • What’s our budget this year?
  • How many people showed up Sunday?
  • What was our count for Easter?

So to flesh it out more honestly, “healthy things grow” could better read “healthy things increase in number.” More people will attend and more will be given. If more people aren’t attending, then what you have, dear friend, is not healthy. Nobody ever tells you how many people have to attend and at what pace that number must grow in order to remain healthy.

I’m a bivocational pastor of a church that rests in a rural town with a population less than that of a suburban Wal-Mart at 5pm. There is no reason to suspect that our city or church will experience an influx of people any time soon. That isn’t to say our church cannot experience quantitative growth, but if I measure my success or effectiveness by sheer numbers, depression is the only logical destination.

In order to continue in ministry and not be eeyorethe  Eeyore of east Tennessee, I’ve been pondering more deeply qualitative growth—quantitative’s lesser known and somewhat marginalized third cousin twice removed.

A dear friend and mentor (we’ll call him Mike because that’s his name) advised me how to answer the inevitable pastor question, ‘What are you runnin’?

  • So you know, how a pastor answers that question  tells the questioner nearly everything they need to know about you.
  • Pastors young and old feel the need to explain why the numbers are lagging or aren’t as high as others; this I know from experience. Some even lie.

So should I be ashamed to answer 100? 110? 120?
Because that would be my answer every week.

Mike suggested I give them a real number (not the preacher count) and then nuance it like this: “We have 130 who call our church home, but we have 10 people who really get it.”

      Say what?

In other words, there are 10 disciples of Jesus who truly believe that Jesus demands all and are willing to give all. So however many that may be in your particular context, that’s more of a qualitative measure.

–> Now you can go about figuring that out in different ways. Perhaps you measure a combination of how many folks serve on Sunday and in their community, how many are in a community/small/life group, and so forth, charting those percentages over a specified time. 

Somehow you’re trying to ascertain whether people are becoming more rooted and built up in their faith. And is that rootedness bearing fruit–such as a life of gratitude (Colossians 2:6-7).

Whatever measures we use, let’s fight viciously against the long-standing notion that more equals better and therefore healthier.

There are very sick churches with lots of people coming on Sunday.

-conversely-

There are very healthy churches with few people coming on Sunday.

Numbers are not gospel. It’s nearly impossible to quantify soul-growth. That growth is only proven over the long haul and becomes difficult to boast of. It also makes it harder to decide who should speak at all those conferences (too snide?).

“You’re just bitter because you have a small church!”

That could be a fair retort.

But, as the apostle Paul said, God will look at our labors, not our results. Only He gives growth that matters (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

Unlike some, I do not think that a small church has somehow been more faithful to the gospel and the Bible thus resulting in their smallness. In the same way, I don’t think that because a church is large it is healthy or more faithful.

With all of these things in mind, one thing I’ve resolved to do this year is to be far more FOR churches of various flavors (provided they aren’t heretical). So churches I wouldn’t necessarily attend or pastors I wouldn’t gel with on all matters…I still want to maintain a posture of support and cheer them on in gospel-true faithfulness and fruitfulness. Join me?

 

The whole “if it’s healthy it grows” thing….

 

A recently established church growth consulting business is fired up about getting you fired up to get your people fired up about growing your church.

One of the recurring phrases on the website is healthy things grow or healthy organisms grow. To this guy’s credit he at least takes the next step in qualifying that tagline by talking about “healthy growth.” 

Upon reading this, I was transported back to my days on staff at megachurches. Full disclosure: I have nothing against megachurches. Love them…when they’re healthy from the top down. Same is true for church at any size. 

I recall sitting in multiple staff meetings and hearing the mantra, “Healthy things grow. Healthy things grow. Healthy things grow.” Now you say it…

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this tree grew

Also, cancer grows–is it healthy?

(That borders on making too little of those suffering under the oppressive hand of cancer.)

Righteous indignation. That’s what I felt in those moments. I say righteous so as to distract from the fact that, more often than not, I harbored a sinful spirit towards those espousing this half-truth.

Two questions I have that come to mind.

1. What constitutes healthy?

2. Should we assume that if a church grows it’s because of health?

When healthy is used to describe a church that should grow are we talking she barely passed her physical or she is an Olympic hopeful?

There are certainly various levels of healthy when speaking of the human body, so what about the church body? What markers are we mapping to determine the condition of the church?

I would submit that in a majority of cases, the primary diagnostic factor is whether the church is and has been growing. A simple syllogism for this:

Premise 1: If a church grows, then that church is healthy

Premise 2Church X has grown

Conclusion: Church X is healthy. (Classical education rules!)

This isn’t to disregard other factors such as community outreach, missions involvement, care for the poor, etc. Primarily, though, the aforementioned formulation is adopted.

Let’s move on to question 2. Is all church growth healthy? After all, unhealthy things–flesh-eating organisms, rumors, diseases, mold–grow. In similar fashion, unhealthy churches can grow.

For instance:

  • Church staffs can experience significant internal discord while the overall numbers of the church increase.
  • The primary leaders can be unhealthy in any number of ways and the overall church numbers increase.
  • The church body, though more rare, can be unhealthy and numbers increase, at least for a while.
  • A church that teaches false doctrine and embraces heresy can grow.

Did you know that a church that gives out ipads, ipods,  cars, sporting event tickets, guns, houses can grow, too?

Why bother writing this post?

Therapy, perhaps. But also to encourage church staff or others who hear the growth mantra and are either frustrated or unfazed. I’d encourage you to respectfully (privately) press against this prevalent proposition. Do it without talking to other staff or church members first. These are mistakes I made. I let my suspicion breed disrespect. It grew.

I’ll do a follow-up post with a working response to how we can talk about growth, numbers, and health. 

Happy New Year!