August 11, 2013
Someone on Facebook asked the question, “How do I keep rabbits out of my garden organically.” My response was, “Steel shot instead of lead.” So that might not be the politically correct response, but who doesn’t like hasenpfeffer? Were they looking for a wind-powered electric fence, a grass-eating beagle, a solar-scarecrow? Perhaps vegetables that only taste good to non-Leporidaes.
My wife says that sometimes I need more filters, I say that sometimes she needs a bit more imagination. If I can’t say the first thing that crosses my mind with complete strangers whom I will never meet, how will I be able to talk with trusted friends?
But, my wife is probably right, I shouldn’t always say (or type) the first thing that crosses my mind. So, rather than contact Fram, I decided to see if I could find a few Biblical filters to help me be a bit more edifying. Here are a few of the filters I should probably employ.
1. I should avoid insults, even in fun. My friend may know I am joking, and even get it, but not everyone within ear shot necessarily will understand. I should try to speak clearly enough to be understood, but wisely enough to not offend. And even though I hate to say it, sarcasm is rarely funny for anyone except the one making the sarcastic remark.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:9 NIV
2. I should pepper my conversations with words that make others feel better, not worse. Sincere compliments are always appreciated. “What I like about you” can make anyone smile. There are enough words and images designed to hurt, my words should not ever purposely hurt. Which means I should take care to not even accidentally hurt someone with an unfiltered “smart remark.”
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NIV
3. I should not go looking for a fight I am pretty comfortable about my political beliefs, and my religious beliefs. I can give thoughtful considered opinions about eating and exercise. Oh yeah, and which car to drive and where to live and when to shop and, and, well, you could say I am opinionated. But I must realize that if it is not asked for, nobody wants my opinion. And, since there is a left to my right and an up to my down and a South to my North, my opinion will almost always offend someone. So I will try to keep them where they belong, to myself.
I am entitled to my own opinions but not my own facts. And unless someone is asking for advice, they probably aren’t looking for it. Picking a fight won’t engender me to anyone.
And it doesn’t please God.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
Most people are living with some kind of pain, emotional if not physical. I should do everything in my power not to contribute to the pain, but make a deposit in the Love account of others whenever possible. There are many areas where I do not have a choice. What comes out of my mouth is not one of those areas.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 NIV
5. “Exaggeration” is just a fancy way of saying “lie”
As a storyteller, one of my tasks is to keep it interesting and keep it flowing. When I hear another storyteller “embellish”a Bible story with facts not in evidence, I bristle. When I am sharing an experience I need to remember that, if a story needs embellishment it probably doesn’t need telling. Life is exciting enough, let’s leave the fiction for novels and news. (Was that sarcastic?)
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25 NIV
6. The same mouth I worship with should not engage in harmful words or conversations. No exposition is needed here.
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” Ephesians 5:19 NIV
7. I need to please God with my words
- “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” I Thessalonians 2:4
I guess the best filter available is the Word of God.
Do you have conversation filters? What works for you?
August 6, 2013
G, G, G Eb. F, F, F, D. Okay I know there is nothing to allow you to immediately decode this cryptic notation unless you happen to be thinking musically as you read. Even if you had been humming along with Mozart, there is no standard notation, no, lines or clefs or any other markings indicating what those letters mean. There are no dots and dashes, so it isn’t Morris Code. There are no vowels, so it’s not a word or words. And, lol, it’s not some new cryptic texting shorthand. It is the song of the White Throated Sparrow, and I think it has been inspiring people since at least 1804.
That’s one old bird!
But if I were to hum those letters, or with no small amount of fortune, find the corresponding black and white keys on my wife’s piano, everyone, without exaggeration would immediately be able to identify the first eight notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
“Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers…” Most of you know the next words, if not the entire address. “…brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty…” Some of you can finish it can’t you?
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far….” Yep many of you know that one too.
I doubt that Beethoven, Lincoln, or Lucas set out to make something as universally recognizable as they did. They were, I think, trying to write, compose, create, something good. They might not have even been thinking about great. They certainly wanted better than average, but I doubt that any of them were thinking about fame, or wealth, or attracting chicks. (Okay, maybe Lincoln was thinking about chick.) They were, no doubt trying to muster every ounce of their individual creativity in an effort to produce the best of the best for their particular art form, but they could not have possibly dreamt that eight words or sounds would be so, so defining.
The Fifth Symphony received a less than stellar reception, in part due to the fact that Beethoven premiered the piece as part of a four hour concert! Lincoln was done speaking before many even knew he had started, and he followed a very long-winded Edward Everette. Lucas was inspired by Flash Gordon when creating his “crawl” at the beginning of the Star Wars saga. He probably knew that it would be important, and needed to be good. But I’ll bet he never thought the words would be easily recalled thirty-five years after they were first seen. He was simply trying to create a really good film.
My point, if I can make one, is this. When you set out to be creative, whether it is a simple blog, a poem, a novel, a song, any creative endeavor, do your best. Try to create something of value, something worthwhile, something good. If you set out to do something good you may end up with great, but if you set out aiming for great you will probably end up frustrated. It seems that perhaps the best plan of action is for us to simply do our best.
I think we must do our best, and pray for blessings, but to let greatness happen when it will. When I paint a house there can be a reasonable expectation of near perfection technically, (insert eye-roll here) but when I write, I hope that I bless, inspire, motivate or encourage someone who reads my hardscrabble scribbling. I hope it’s good, very good, even. But if I tried for greatness every time I would never be able to open my laptop.
I think it was Shakespeare who said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” But I’ll bet no one ever started out thinking, “This next thing I do will be great.” We are simply fortunate enough to bump into it every now and then, and get blessed.
Try blessing others, that is something great, even if you don’t achieve greatness.
When we simply try to be good, or to do good, we are headed down the right path.
And keep listening to those sparrows.
August 4, 2013
How busy are we getting when we need to make instant oatmeal? I mean, seriously, how flat do they have to roll those oats in order to get them to cook in an instant, as opposed to waiting five minutes (Like forever!) for the regular oats? And how mushy do you want your mush?
Just so you know, I had home-made blueberry pancakes, made with organic spelt flour, fresh berries, maple syrup, and hand whipped whipping cream for breakfast today. I ate like a king! I just happened to see instant oatmeal when I was buying the real deal recently.
Speaking of mush I do 10 minutes of brain exercises every morning to keep my brain from turning to instant oatmeal. From clueless to clever in only ten minutes a day.
And I saw a four-minute workout the other day that I think I can squeeze into my busy schedule
And there are dozens of instant devotionals you can use to get your daily spiritual hit in a hurry. From שטותי to כלפי-, בכיוון in ten minutes a day.
I try to learn a new song on the guitar, and if I don’t pick it up right away I am liable to abandon it quickly. Might I say instantly. (On a revelatory note, I am such a poor student of guitar, that by the time I do learn a song I am usually tired of it.)
Instant oats are like instant anything, less substantive. Like instant messaging, which requires less thought, instant credit, which requires less discipline, instant face lift (Who are you trying to quickly impress?) To try to ironically prove my point, I typed “instant” into my web browser, followed by the letter “a”, then “b”, then…well I would continue but I know you want instant results so, I’ll cut to the chase. If you look for it, you can have, in alphabetical order instant…. approval - background check - domain search - espresso - face lift - gratification - hot water - ice - jello - karma - loans - messenger - noodles - oil change (You thought I was going to put oatmeal here didn’t you?) - payday - quinoa (I know, you thought I would stick with Quaker oatmeal here didn’t you?) - rewards - star - tax service - upload - video - win - x-ray - yeast…
And I will bet that instant Zen is not that far away.
Perhaps in part to combat my tendency towards desiring instant answers to my prayers, I sat through two worship services this morning.
This week, I am going to try to have a substantive conversation; I’ll prepare more meals in a slow-cooker, and read an entire book in the Bible, rather than just John 11:35. I’ll take a long bike ride, a long nap and I will laugh long.
And all the while I will try to remember that God’s timing is perfect, so I will try to keep pace with what HE wants me to do, and do it when he wants me to do it.
Instant obedience? Clever idea. It’ll never last.
Quickly now….what do you try to hurry through? Where do you want instant answers or instant results?
It would bless me if you shared this post.
August 3, 2013
I made oatmeal recently. It was a cool morning, and the oats offered a nice, healthy change of pace. I like oatmeal. To make it even better, Diane likes it when I scoop in a tablespoon of dark chocolate. She’s right, that makes it even better.
This morning when she sat down at the table she said, “Did you add peppermint?” Very perceptive!
So, here’s the recipe….two cups of water…a shake of the salt shaker…one cup of oats…one tablespoon of dark unsweetened cocoa…and….TWO DROPS of peppermint oil.]
Just two drops.
What are you working on right now where two drops of love will change the flavor?
With whom are you interacting where two drops of grace will show the love of God to someone who really needs it?
What frustrating project could use two drops of fun?
What relationship needs two drops of forgiveness?
What competency needs two drops of humility?
Which stress are you under that could use two drops of peace?
Kindness? Gentleness? Patience? Compassion?
What can you flavor with just two drops of Justice?
Just two drops can change everything.
If you could add two drops of something to something, what would it be, and to what would it be added?
August 2, 2013
A few years ago a friend gave me the book, Clapton’s Guitar. I am re-reading it right now and today came across an interesting anecdote. The author posed the following conversation with a real guitar “expert.”
“I steered the conversation toward the Big Question. What is it that separates a magical guitar from a merely great one?…
“I think…” said T.J.,..it’s a combination of, I guess, about six hundred things…It’s an amalgam.”
“What would be number 1?…”
“Number 1 is the state of mind of the person building the guitar.”
When people ask me how to build a better guitar, I always think, and sometimes say, ‘Be a better person.’ You can’t keep your personality out of the work…”
You need to be a good man to build a good guitar.*
I don’t know about you, but this got me thinking. How many of us have a profession, a job, or even a hobby that is defined more by our personalities than by the job description?
All of us.
In every profession I can think of there are wonderful people and not so wonderful people. How you get treated is much more a reflection of the personality of the person than the policies of the profession.
Right off the bat, I remember the friendly, helpful garbage man that picked up our trash can when I was a small child. He would pick it up from the back yard, and take the empty can back to the back yard after he had emptied it into his truck,
I can think of cops and dentists, preachers and postmen who, despite, not because of their profession were always friendly, helpful, kind, caring. They were the embodiment of Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Also, I have known people who should have it all together. I would seem that people in the caring professions should have something positive reflected in their attitudes towards others and the way they did their work. And yet….
We probably have all know people in the caring professions who care more about themselves than they do about those under their care, and it shows, every time.
The gospel of Mark explains this. “Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7: 14-22 NIV
Jesus was saying that our hearts will betray us every time, our character leaks. If you want to become better at anything start by being a better person.
A meticulously precise bricklayer may not be a wonderful person, but his work is a reflection of who he is as a person. If he cares about how a brick looks, he will probably care about other, more important things as well. A tunesmith, or wordsmith or a blacksmith will reveal their character, in or through their work.
More important, for me at least, is the fact that I will never be a better guitarist, bricklayer or pastor than I am a person.
If I make the personal decision to be more Christ-like, it will be reflected in everything I do. It will be reflected who I am. Maybe this gives color to the phrase that we are human beings, not human doings.
If you want to be better at anything, start by being a better person.
Seems like a good place to start.
What do you think?
Have you been inspired or encouraged? It would encourage me if you shared this post with those whom you influence.
*Clapton’s Guitar, Allen St. John, 2005, Free Press, Page 22,
July 27, 2013
Let’s face it, most of what passes for advice these days focuses on self-actualization. Websites like Sevenly, who promote generosity, are rare. Helping oneself to a piece of the pie is a much more common theme.
Teaching kids about a God who loves them unconditionally is really not that difficult. The challenge is when we take kids to the next step; loving others. While this needs to be fostered in the home, as church leaders we must do whatever we can create an atmosphere that fosters selflessness. Here are just a few ways to help kids LOVE the world.
Giving Besides watching a child give his life to Christ and accept the gift of salvation, watching kids develop a generous heart is my greatest joy in ministry. I have been blessed to see letters children have sent to relatives asking that the Christmas money usually spent on them be directed to a mission or service project. I have watched with joy and fascination as kids dig into their pockets for their money, not simply take the quarter they have been given by their parents. Children bloom as they discover the joy of a generous heart. As leaders we need to create many opportunities for kids to learn and express hilarious generosity.
Embracing It’s not hard to talk to kids about accepting someone who is “a bit different.” Children understand fairness about as well as they understand anything. But most kids are looking to make sure they are not treated unfairly. As we open the door to other cultures, whether in our country or around the world, it can be transformative. It goes beyond, but includes compassion for their peers; it includes living differently so as to help someone else feel the love of God. Children will either, retreat further into their own world and become more self-centered (as a defense mechanism), or they will catch the opportunity that God tosses to them and become world-changing kids.
Sharing If we offer engaging content and inspiring environments, kids will invite their friends. To make faith sharing a part of a child’s life, faith-living must be a part of their life. Kids don’t share what they don’t believe, further, they don’t share what they don’t love. As children move along in their walk with Jesus, sharing their faith story can be as natural as sharing sports stories or vacation stories. Children, and hopefully adults too, will naturally share the stories of the things they love.
We can make radical outreaching LOVE part of the DNA of our ministry, but like any desired outcome, it must be intentional.
What are you intentional about?
What are the desired outcomes for your ministry?
What are the desired outcomes of your life?
If this post blessed or inspired you, it would bless me if you shared it with those with whom you have influence.
July 14, 2013
HOPE -Beyond Optimism
I believe that Thoreau was right when he wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” If we, as leaders and friends of children, have even an inkling that it might be true, we must do whatever we can to instill hope into the lives of the children we encounter; and we can let them get the song out.
This is especially true if we truly believe that Jesus is who he said he is.
Some may think that kids lead lives of fun, that they live only for the moment; that they never think about the future. But was your childhood like that? Mine wasn’t. I had two parents at home. With more than half of all marriages ending in divorce (sadly the statistics are not better for Christian families), I think Thoreau could amend his sentence to read “Most people, including children…” Add to the broken homes bullying, add to bullying, peer pressure, and to peer pressure any one of a hundred things, and you have a generation of children, desperate for something to hold onto.
Whether or not they know it, what kids really want to take hold of, and to then hold on tenaciously, is the abundant life that God has promised. And those of us who love children can share what God has promised:
- Leviticus 25:19 (CEV) – “If you obey my laws and teachings, you will live safely in the land and enjoy its abundant crops.”
- Psalm 31:19 (NIV) – “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”
- Jeremiah 33:6 (NIV) – ‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.’
- 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) – “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
- John 10:10 (NIV) – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Same verse in the ASV, “The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”
- Romans 5:1-3 (NIV) – “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
And let’s wrap up today’s post with this thought from Hebrews…If we have anything worth sharing with the children in our life, we must share our HOPE.
- Hebrews 6:19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
We can help children be the exception to Thoreau’s grim perception; we can help them lead lives that go beyond desperate optimism, and toward lives of true hope.
July 11, 2013
FAITH - Beyond Knowledge
I went to church for 16 years before I made a decision to follow Jesus a Christian. Every week, there I was. Our family took up an entire row, or so it seemed. We sat in the same pew (row) every week. We got there early so we could get our spot. In front of us sat the same family. Every week. I don’ know how it was I managed to sit through over 800 weekly services without coming to grips with the choice I had to make. Well, yes, I do. I was never given a choice.
I don’t blame my parents. They worked hard to instill in my siblings and me Christian character and holy habits. We prayed together and learned to pray alone; we studied creeds and commandments. But we were never given the chance to choose. Christianity was an assumption, a given.
I know of lots of churches, and lots of denominations that offer more rituals than opportunities, so I am not writing this to condemn the faith of my parents. But I hope that it serves as a strong reminder to anyone with children, or who works with children that we cannot, we must not automatically assume that we only need to share the Good News with visitors to our church. We need to provide the opportunity to follow Christ frequently, and we need to allow kids to not only known about the faith, but to make it their own.
We can (and must) do many things with children and families. And there may even be some things we might do for children and families. We can have the most engaging environments and most compelling messages. We can be fun! We can provide the best music, the best story tellers, and the best small group leaders. Okay, we may or may not have the best of all (or any) those things. We may be stuck in a tough situation. We may be forced to be content with pale green cement block walls in an 1850′s church basement, and we may have the same three sisters teaching Sunday school that taught your parents. But you can always strive to make less than perfect physical environments better, and we can always strive to teach, train and otherwise lead your leaders towards excellence. We do have the responsibility to do the best and offer the best available to us. Each church has different resources, gifts and graces, we must do the best with what we have been given. More important than the things we offer is the FAITH that we can share with each person, regardless of our outward circumstances.
We may have obstacles on every avenue, or we may have every resource just fall into our laps. Whether we have the best or the worst environment, the best or the worst team, what we are called to do it in the name of Jesus, is to share the Love of God and the joy of following Christ.
If kids don’t have frequent, meaningful opportunities to put their faith in God, to hear, believe and respond to the message of the Gospel, we are just spending money and making noise.
I don’t particularly like counting raised hands, especially in children’s ministries. I know enough charismatic communicators who can get kids to agree with them on any number of subjects. So I am sometimes a bit skeptical about announcing “How many kids got saved.” I say that, yet know full well the number of times I have said we had 300+ kids make a decision for Christ at Vacation Bible School. One of the measures of success in any ministry is how many “decisions” were made. It is a wrestling match to balance counting (and recounting, and counting again) kids who choose to follow Christ. Yet it really is the reason we do ministry in the first place. Getting kids, leaders, and parents to a place where they choose to become a Christ-follower. That’s the call on my life. So everything we do is designed to help a child reach that point with openness, honesty, and joy. And yes, some will get counted every year. I know kids who choose to follow Christ at an event and choose again during a kids’ worship time on Sunday morning. I don’t always know how to count them or keep track of them. But I do know that as an adult there have been times in my own life where I have surrendered a new area of my life to God. A friend once said it is all about, “giving everything I know about myself to everything I know about God.”
Today. As an adult, my knowledge has changed. Certainly as a child changes are more rapid, so I have no problem with a child accepting Christ as their Savior one year, choosing Jesus as their Forever Friend the next year, and six months later deciding to become a Christ-Follower. I love it! I just don’t always know how to count or report it. But if we are building a ministry around helping kids and families travel along on their Faith Journey, there will be lots of opportunities to collect souvenirs. There must be.
A two or three-year-old can understand that Jesus loves them and takes care of them. A four or five-year-old can grasp the meaning of obedience, and further understands God’s love for them. A six-or seven-year-old starts to grasp God’s power and majesty, and gets an even better glimpse of the love God has for us and the sacrifice He made on our behalf. An eight or nine-year-old can start to understand wisdom and consequences, the continual presences of God in our lives and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Their thinking becomes less concrete, but at the same time it gets more personal. At ten and eleven a child can start to walk in obedience and trust, they can begin to grasp the Trinity (though none of us ever truly “gets” The Trinity on this side.) and they can see the trust-obey connection.
And on and on it goes. God has designed us to know, love, and understand in new and wonderful ways as we get to know him better. Helping kids take the first, the next, and then the next steps on that journey, is what it’s all about. And then we need to help them get past the Sunday-only mentality to the point where they actually do go everywhere with Christ. A place where they don’t simply know about Jesus, they know Jesus.
Do you have a system in place to regularly share the salvation message with your kids?
Are they scheduled?
If this post has blessed or encouraged you, it would bless and encourage me if you shared it with your circle of influence.
June 23, 2013
Well, I guess you could say NASCAR has taken a firm hold of the America heart and the American media. A week or so ago there was a race at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) that probably had a quarter of a million people in attendance, and another several million who watched it on television. The race was 500 miles, 3-4 hours I would guess. FoxSports had several video spots and an article that was thousands of words in length. Photos, videos, blogs, and business. I get it. I even enjoy it a little.
Today the Twenty Four Hours at Le Mans concluded. “The world’s most famous endurance race.” FoxSports had an article about this race too. One hundred and seventeen words. If you have read this far you have read 119 words.
That’s it. Oh, and the word Audi was repeated multiple times. Besides Audi, Porsche and Toyota also competed, according to the article I read. I have no idea which other auto makers competed. Only Seven drivers were mentioned by name, including the one who died. He was given his own sentence. The racers at Le Mans traveled more than three thousand miles in twenty-four hours and only seven were mentioned by name? Of course Michelin provide the tyres, there were no Goodyear tires at this race.
The world’s oldest endurance race, the most imitated, most famous race takes place in France, so it gets 117 words and a photo.
NASCAR drivers talk with a drawl, they drive Chevys and Fords, and they race every weekend. I get that. I am mostly making note of a cultural phenomenon, even though this probably does sound a bit critical. The racing circuit that informs and forms the heart of the European sports sedan can’t compete with the circuit in which drivers pilot weak (but fast) imitations of American sedans. And the advertising budget for one NASCAR even is larger than the GNP of many nations. I get all that. I’m not trying to defame not defend anyone, I’m simply making a few cultural observations. And trying to relate this comparison to real life. What informs and forms my heart?
What are the things we call important, and what causes them to have such a place in our hearts? What are the things to which we give our time and our lives, the things that occupy our thoughts and actions?
I call myself a Christian, a follower of Jesus; an imitator, or little Christ. Yet how much of my life is devoted to pursuing Christ? Does my imitation cause anyone to want to know more about Jesus? If you read about my life, would there be more than 117 words describing my relationship with God, my devotion to The Way?
Do I need a bigger advertising budget, or a truer call?
Do I need more sponsors, or more devotion?
Many years ago, there was a story/song going around Christian radio that went something like, “If they arrested you for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” It is quite clear that NASCAR has captured the American heart the way Le Mans never did or never will.
Has Christ captured my heart, or just my interest. This morning Pastor Peter Yoshonis asked the question, “Are you Christ flavored, or Christ filled?” Am I in this race for just few laps around the course, or am I in it for the long-haul?
Le Mans has caused me to ponder this puzzle for a while today.
How about you?
June 19, 2013
When I was growing up, my little sister would sometimes do something”accidentally.” I’m not going to argue whether or not it really was an accident. In all likelihood, it was…every time. Of course as a kid I wouldn’t say that. When my little sister would do something unintentional she would say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it on purpose.” She wouldn’t say, “I didn’t mean to do it.” She wouldn’t say, “I didn’t do it on purpose.” She would say, “I didn’t mean to do it on purpose.” Confusing two legitimate apologies into one admission of guilt, without really knowing it. As a cruel brother, I confess to taking advantage of my sisters misplayed apologies.
What differentiates accidents from other actions is purpose. And most people go through life in an aimless purposelessness that leads to depression and despair. Or as Thoreau would say, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”*
As we work with children and families, one of the key flames I hope we can ignite is a sense of Purpose. And yes, I capitalized that word on purpose. When we help people find their purpose then they can live their lives on purpose. And when they are living with purpose, on purpose, their song is freed from within them.
PURPOSE - Beyond Doing
I don’t know if people use this phrase anymore, but when I made a decision to become a follower of Jesus, the key phrase was, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” In newer evangelism books and publications it is not nearly so ubiquitous, but there is still that undercurrent of discovering what God wants me to do. Having gone through the aimless wandering called “the teens” I longed for a purpose bigger than myself. Most teens do. America’s bars and nightspots are filled with adults, young and old, looking for something bigger than the here and now. Let’s face it most people spend at least some time looking in the mirror and thinking, “There has to be more to life than this.” As I have matured, I have been acutely aware of the need for believers, as well as seekers, to come to grips with Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. A verse like this is something we can grab a hold of in times of doubt. But the question has to be raised, if we are going to bring the next generation face to face with Jesus, how do we help children find purpose in their lives? Bigger than sports, or school, or music, or friends, the question will arise in every mind: “Is what I am doing (as a kid, a teen, or an adult) making a difference?” “Does what I do matter?” “Do I matter?” One of the most important things we can do as leaders, teachers, and friends of children, is to help them realize their intrinsic worth in the eyes of God. They matter whether they have accomplished something important or not. One of the best ways to teach this is to model it. Kids need to know we value them, that we love them. Most kids will flourish if they have a loving relationship with an adult or older teen who doesn’t have to love them. Through this relationship trust can grow, so when we tell a child he can, he will, and he does have a purpose in the universe, he will believe it. The reason we need to help kids focus on all six elements of their journey (Joy, Hope, Imagination, Purpose, Faith, and Love) is to avoid over balance. Some kids are raised believing that they are the center of the universe. I believe the reason Calvin and Hobbs was such a popular comic strip, for a full decade, was because Calvin is so much like many of us. Except we usually don’t let the “Calvin” part of our personality show the way he did. That doesn’t mean we don’t feel entitled the way he did. We just hide it better. While building into kids a strong sense of purpose and value we need to be sure that they don’t come to the conclusion that they are the center of the Universe. We need to build into kids the understanding that it is God, ultimately, who gives them their purpose. It is God who is the center of their lives and the universe. Understanding that concept will help them lead lives knowing they do have tremendous value, and even more importantly, WHO gives them their value and purpose. How do you build a sense of purpose into the lives of the children you reach? What is the purpose that drives you? How did you arrive at that conclusion?
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