A milestone question…

This morning at breakfast, my 10 year old daughter asked us if she could have her own email address. To really appreciate the significance of such a question, you need to understand and appreciate the process known as “individuation”. As the name implies, this is the process nearly every human pre-adolescent and adolescent goes through in order to establish their own identity. This process is marked with more need for privacy, and other things that seem to come awfully close to shunning the rest of the family. Parents who don’t understand this end up with their feelings hurt, resentful, and pouty; wondering where their child went. I’ve been a youth pastor for nearly 15 years, and one of the luxuries of such a life is to see this very thing happen hundreds of times before in other people’s kids. But now its our turn.

It’s not easy, even with the experience the ministry affords me. But it is thrilling.

Now, the trick is to not wish away the moments; longing for the days gone by of greater dependence, but to relish each moment over the coming years and watch as this girl slowly and surely becomes a woman of God.

This morning she went to Leadership Camp. On the drive there, I affirmed my belief in her in very clear terms. I told her just how powerful an influence I truly believe this is and can be. I shared with her my conviction that the world has plenty of followers–too many, in fact. What we need is many more leaders. We need more people who will point, compel, and lead others in the direction of right, good, and Godly ways.

And by God, and with God, and for God, I pray that she’ll do it.

I’m gonna go set up her new email.

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No More Prayer

This might fall under the category of “slightly off”, but here are my thoughts on prayer lately. It started with my kids, actually. When I’d tuck them into bed, I’d ask the question, “Who wants to pray?” Maybe it was my imagination, but I’d routinely get looks back as if I was asking, “Who wants to crawl into the deep, dark hole in the ground–we’re not sure what’s in there, or how deep it is, but we’re fairly sure you can get out the other end.” It just seemed that they were unnaturally intimidated by the prospect of talking with their Creator.

And that’s the very deal. Now, call this symantics, but I am retraining my brain not to use the word “pray” or “prayer” anymore. I’m sure I can hear some who might read this saying, “Jerry has lost it. He’s finally gone into the deep end of the crazy pool.” But here’s what I noticed: when I ask my kids, “Who wants to talk with God?”, there’s a different look in their eyes and there’s been more of a willingness to do that very thing: Talk with God.

Now, it’s not that the words “pray” and “prayer” are outlawed with me; that’d be ridiculous. But I am more conscious of the reality behind those words. What we’re really doing is conversing with our Creator. And I want to live a life and bring my kids up to live a life where that flows naturally.

Know.

In a recent conversation, I was reminded of something quite critical to faith: assurance and action.

First, what I know, I must know. It’s really quite that simple. I must be assured. Without knowing my faith is assured, my convictions would be up for grabs. But they’re not. Because I know. I could go on and on, page after page on this one matter of faith (“pistis” in the original Greek), but that’s really unnecessary. Just know what you know. I do.

Second, it’s the issue of action. I was talking with my mother-in-law today about this very issue. She shared openly about the fear she lives with that she’s not living quite enough like Christ, or not doing enough for His Kingdom. As an outsider looking into her life, I’d say her fears are quite unfounded. However, I’m not her–she is and just like you and just like me, nobody’s in our head and thinks our thoughts the way we think them; whether they’re unfounded or not. Because they’re ours.

There’s a parable Jesus tells about a shepherd and a flock in front of him. Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes (that’s Jesus), and all His angels with Him, He’ll separate the nations like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Alot to unwrap right there, but I’ll move on for now).

Basically–long parable short–it all comes down to what the sheep or goat DID. The sheep in the parable did the right and good things; like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, etc. The goats didn’t. The criteria as to whether they were ushered into heaven or hell wasn’t based on belief–it was based on action….based on belief. I must be reminded that if what I believe doesn’t affect how I behave, then I don’t really believe it.

So, my spiritual life, at its core is knowing and doing. So much more to say, but its too much and I’m too tired.

Delusive

OK, weird thing. I was trying to think of a word that I couldn’t quite think of. Does anybody know how to make up words as well as I do? It was something about being delusional, but I knew that wasn’t it. So, I made up delusive. Turns out it’s a real word. Go figure. Don’t believe me? Click here.

Carpel Tunnel

I don’t know how long I’ll last typing this way. I’m standing up and my wrists are at a weird angle. I’m in St. Louis right now in the St. Louis convention center. I’m here for NYC ’07 with a group of high school students from our church. We’ve joined 9,500+ other teens from all over the country for a week of meeting with God, fraps, and pizza. A slice of heaven.

I’ve seen and heard a lot this week; mostly things I’ve heard before. But I’ve done somethings I’ve never done before. Blogging away from my home computer, for one. This afternoon, I was part of literally feeding 10,000+ people through nationwide donations of food from our Nazarene churches. I ate porridge for lunch, as a reminder of what others in the world experience daily (if they’re lucky), and I’ve seen God move in ways I couldn’t have expected.

The heart of the Gospel is action. A week ago, I might have said that the heart of the gospel is grace, or love, or forgiveness. These and other things are certainly an indelible part of the good news of Jesus, but God’s reminder to me this week is this: your faith is pointless and dead without action.

It seems that the world is awakening to this vibe. I suppose each generation has its turn that it takes to come alive and shape the world from how it is to how it will be, but for this generation there is an unmistakable vibrancy and urgency. It is as if this action is no longer optional. It can no longer be postponed or put off.

Jesus Himself lived this way. Of course, His message was one of hope, and grace, and forgiveness, but His life was one that put all these and so many more things into action. As our group of 20 sat and reflected about faith and our lives last night, I remember distinctly the observation that as a group, we were woefully missing action in a truly determinable sense. It was as if we’re realizing that we’re missing the point. And I believe that this realization comes just in time.

The spiritual life is full of seasons. We rise, we fall, we burn, we quench, we seek, we are fruitful, and we can even seem fruitless. And in the season now, we are being reborn into a new way of thinking and living. It is redemption in every living sense. It is a buying back of the world in every way; from environments, to human trafficking, to poverty, to HIV/AIDS. It is not how things have been, and I suspect it is the introduction of God’s next move in our generation.

Silent Screaming

Yesterday, while driving along with my family (my wife at the wheel), we approached a fork in the road; at which we were bearing to the right. Another car was coming off of that road, and was stopped at the stop sign–it was a woman with her head sticking out her window, and she was screaming at us. Perhaps we would have heard what she was saying if our windows had been down and our music hadn’t been rockin’. What was she saying? Reading her lips, was it “stop!” or “top” or “crop” or “pop”? About a hundred yards behind her, parked in a parking lot and facing the street was a — you guessed it — “cop”.

So, it turned out she wasn’t insanely screaming “flop” or “mop”. She was doing what she thought she ought to do: warning us of the law. But were we doing something that she thought was unlawful? Why was she so passionate about her message that she’d take the trouble to roll down her window, and risk her dignity by acting like a crazy person screaming out a window?

The closest I can guess is that she was acting out her neighborly instincts. She was giving us fair warning that we were about to encounter the law. But what good does that do? Did it slow us? Barely. Did it help us? No. It mostly just confused and amused us. And the cop wasn’t even paying attention to the 90 we were doing in a 25.

By the way, do you know what cop stands for? I’m 33 and I just learned last week that cop actually stands for something. And you know who told me? A cop.

Oh something else that happened to me today–I was trying to help someone order a pizza, it made me late for a meeting, and in the process of trying to help this person, I think I got blacklisted from our favorite pizza place. That’s what I get for trying to help. More on that never.

Ok, so I’m a student pastor. I work with middle school and high school students. That’s what I do. It’s funny because when I meet new people and they ask what I do (I love that question, and I’m so glad it’s part of civilized society’s small-talk), and when I tell them I’m a youth pastor and I work with teenagers I get these looks like I’m some hybrid of a cancer patient and a cancer researcher who’s just about to find the cure. It’s a mixture of “Oh God, I’m so sorry” and “Oh I’m so glad you’re doing that, so I don’t have to.” And throw in a pinch of “are you mental?” just for good measure. But quite honestly, I don’t know what I’d do if I weren’t doing this. I’ve always thought I’d like to design miniature golf courses. Not build them, mind you. Just design them.

That reminds me of the show American Inventor. It’s a great show and I haven’t seen it in a while, what with all my time spent reading the lips of crazed motorists and trying to get kids not to smoke, or chew, or go with girls who do.

I was just downstairs when I came across something I’m sure somebody’s making good money off of. It’s a strap with a rubber circle on it. The rubber circle goes around the top of a bottled water so that kids can wear the water around their neck. My son got it at his end of the year picnic at school. The strap is pretty long, so that the bottle hangs pretty low; otherwise I’m sure the “water bottle strangulation strap” wouldn’t make too much money.

I think that when a blog reachs the point where water bottles are strangling kids, it’s time to stop.