Saturday, December 6, 2008

What Would They Say?

In aging churches memorial services can become all too frequent. I'm certainly not new to attending memorial services. I've attended my share already with the passing of relatives, friends, parishioners and relatives of parishioners. Some have been tragic and shocking losses that were unexpected and difficult to deal with. Others have been a blessing after long illnesses and suffering. Either way, each memorial service is as unique as each individual who has passed from this life to the next. But what is the same at each memorial service is the eulogy. It is common for several different people to share something about the person they loved.

As I've listened this week to loving and tear-filled rememberances I've wondered again what people would say at my memorial service. This isn't narcissistic...this is a real question of how well I'm living as a follower of Jesus. Am I living is such a way that the first thing people would notice about me is the Christ in me; the acts of love, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and healing? Would people talk about what a 'good person' I was or what a 'Godly person' I was? Am I really living out what I say I believe in? Am I really taking up my cross and following Jesus in ways that are obvious to the world? Would people speak of the qualities they saw in me, or would they speak of how Christ used my life?

The sacred point? Knowing that you may leave this mortal world at any time, does that change how you live? Knowing what others have said about their loved ones at memorial services, what would your loved ones say about you?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Eternally Safe Haven (click here to purchase the LinC issue from Cokesbury)

This week, Cokesbury published the curriculum I wrote for their weekly current events curriculum called LinC (Living in Christ). Here's an excerpt from the introduction page...there are Sunday school programs for both Jr. and Sr. High youth with activities, discussion questions, plenty of Scriptures and a devotional. To purchase a copy, click on the link above.

In July of this year the state of Nebraska adopted a ‘safe-haven’ law, which is intended to save the lives of babies who might otherwise be harmed by overwhelmed or teenage parents, by allowing those parents to drop off the child at a hospital ‘no questions asked.’ But in Nebraska, the bill was passed not just for infants but for minors up to age 18. In September of this year a father dropped off 9 of his children at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha. Reports of the incident spread and before Nebraska could determine what course of action to take, parents and guardians from neighboring states started driving to Nebraska to abandon their teens. So far, 35 children between the ages of one and seventeen have been left in the care of Nebraska hospitals.
It would be very easy to pass judgment on all the parents who had abandoned their children. And in some cases it is justified to be appalled at parents who were too lazy or too busy to find real solutions to the problems they were having with their teens. But other cases reveal much more complex situations.
Gary Staton who left his nine children was interviewed by KETV in Omaha and shared that his wife died from a brain aneurysm shortly after giving birth to their youngest child. In order to care for his children Staton quit his job, but then could not pay for rent or utilities. He felt it was better to turn them over to the state to be safe than to make them homeless. “I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone. What was I going to do? We raised them together. I didn’t think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn’t take care of them.”
According to statistics published by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services comparing information from the first 30 cases, 90 percent of the children had previously received some type of mental health care; 93 percent were living in single-parent homes; 73 percent had a parent/guardian with a history of prior incarceration; 93 percent were living in or near an urban community; and 57 percent were previously, or are currently, a state ward in Nebraska or another state. In several cases, parents who abandoned their children at Nebraska hospitals reported that they tried getting help for their children from the local and state agencies and police departments, but that no real help was available to them unless their child committed a crime. Regardless of the reasons for abandonment the statistics reveal that there are many interconnected issues like socio-economics, health care, crime, family structure or support, and availability of social services that can all contribute to the inability of a parent or guardian to care for, or get the right help in caring for a child.
There are many challenging questions that this story brings to light. How could a parent abandon a child? What must these youth be struggling with that their parents/guardians would consider such action? How equipped are our state and county agencies for caring for families in crisis? What should our responses be in our local churches to families in our communities facing these same realities? What does this situation unfolding in our country say about our priorities when it comes to children and families?
While this story will continue to unfold in the media and the Nebraska state legislature will have to deal with amending their law in the months to come, our Christian faith and our Scriptures show us that the feeling of abandonment is universal and timeless.
From as early as Abraham being willing to follow God’s command to sacrifice his own son, giving him up to God, to Jesus leaving his disciples to be with God in heaven, the Bible is rich with stories that can teach us about abandonment. From creation God knew that humans were not meant to be alone, but were created to be in relationship with God and one another. So what is our responsibility as Christians, parents, students and churches to parents and teens like these and in our own communities? One of the over-arching messages of the Bible is that God never abandons God’s people. The Israelites sinned and strayed far from God, but God could not abandon them forever. “They [Israel] shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden;” (Hosea 14:7a). Not only did God restore Israel, but later gave all of us his own son, Jesus Christ, so that believing in him, we would never feel abandoned again. “For I am convinced,” Paul writes, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
In our churches, our youth are well aware of many of their peers who are ‘at risk’ and dealing with a host of complex issues. Regardless of whether the youth in our churches have friends in their own tribes dealing with these issues, or just know of kids at school or other places dealing with these issues, it is our responsibility to dialogue about and be in ministry with teens who feel abandoned, and with parents who have lost hope. Why? Because Jesus does not just ask us to be ‘good Christians.’ Jesus asks us to follow him in mission, serving the least, the last and the lost. Certainly, these teens and these families are feeling like the least and the lost.

Especially this week while we are feasting and joining together with family and friends, pray for the children and youth who have no real family, who feel abandoned and alone. Pray for the parents who have had to let go of their children as an act of love and courage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Norwegian Delight

Most Scandinavians and especially those of us that are of Norwegian descent have long known the secret of lefse. And one of my favorite wedding gifts was a lefse grill, pastry board/cloth, and turning stick. My husband is now well skilled at cooking the thin dough to perfection on the grill and I've so enjoyed rolling the dough like so many of my ancestors on both sides of the family. Lefse is made from potatoes - peeled, boiled, and riced. Flour, cream or milk, butter, sugar and salt combine with the riced potatoes to make a dough that is rolled thin with a special rolling pin. People eat lefse many different ways, but we like it best with plain old butter and sugar (brown or white).

Now, with my own children it's even more delightful to carry on this tradition and let them help, eat and enjoy as I did when I was a little girl. No TV's, no video games, no internet, no cell phones...just working together as a family to make lefse and listen to Christmas music. Bliss!

There is a very sacred feeling present when you can connect as a family around a tradition...especially one that connects you to your ancestors, culture, or foods of the past.
What traditions are sacred for you and help you connect to the past and present especially during this holiday time?

Still Speaking

I was blessed to hear Mike Yaconelli speak at several
conventions or seminars for youth workers. His messages were woven with so much humor, honesty, wisdom and heart that you'd laugh, cry, laugh, nod knowingly and also be cut to the quick. Anyone who met or heard Mike knew of his love for Christ, and his love for youth and youth workers. When he went home to God my colleagues and I were shocked and saddened. Thank you to his children and his wife for allowing his legacy, Youth Specialties to continue to inspire, encourage, teach and transform youth workers through the work they do. Thank you to his children for collecting some of his writings and a few audio recordings to compile this book. As I read this book, I can still hear Mike's voice, see his expressions, still be brought to laughter and tears, nod knowingly and be cut to the quick.
This is a must read for those in ministry of any kind. If you can hear us from heaven Mike, thank you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

What I've Learned this Week from 'Being in the Trenches' in Ministry

I won't go into detail about any of the situations or people I've spent time with this week, but here are some things God put on my heart this week.

Sunday - Some people are in so much pain (even if well hidden) that they don't realize they are being judgmental, vindictive or mean. God does a pretty good job convicting (and forgiving) me of my sins (which are many) and I really don't need other folks to point those out to me. But for whatever reason, some people still feel compelled to do just that. Does it hurt?...of course it does. And it makes me sad and disappointed, but God has continued to comfort and remind me that reconciliation is His, not mine and that it will come in His time, not mine.

Monday - I often resent my schedule and think my family does too. But sometimes my kids teach me how to make the best of things. Instead of complaining, being resentful, or upset about a change in schedule...they took it in stride and made it fun. Their spirit is infectious and I have to admit I enjoyed our little 'detour' as well. What a blessing children are in life...hopefully later on they won't resent my work, but I trust God to help with that too.

Tuesday - Never, ever understimate the power of sharing and prayer. Most people we know are walking around with very heavy burdens, but you would never know it. But when those burdens are shared in Christian community so many blessings emerge. God reminded me to always show matter what people show on the 'outside' there may be a lot of brokeness on the inside...and "mercy always triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13) God also reminded me that through the power of the Holy Spirit I have the gifts of compassion and prayer. And Tuesday night, that was exactly what we needed to be about. Finally, God reminded me that even if I'm not called to help everyone, or be in mission with every type of situation or person, I am still called to be aware of all kinds of suffering and to help others discern what their God-given gifts and mission are.

Wednesday - God provided another dose of joy in the midst of teaching. In the middle of a stressful and overwhelming week, I had the presence of mind to let the Holy Spirit take over and provide the words and direction so that a group of students could experience the mystery of Scripture, the enormity and infinity of God, and the power of reliance on the Holy Spirit. No matter what doubts other people try to plant in me about my abilities or credibility, God continues to use me to teach effectively about God's Word.

Thursday - Suffering is great, but God is good when we wait on God. Following Jesus does not make life easy...usually just the opposite, but Jesus said, "I will be with you even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28) Turning our lives to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit does not mean that we will be liked or blessed in the ways we think here on earth. It often leads to more persecution and judgement from those who do not know Him. That is a hard thing to share with people who are suffering and just want God to make it all better. I don't have the power to change people's hearts, but God does. Yet that doesn't relieve me of the responsibility to pray for and be a reflection of Christ for others.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This morning, Tyra Banks was interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show about her conversations on her daytime talk show with tween and teen girls about their sexual activity and behavior. Tyra was shocked by what she heard. Hopefully, most of us youth workers and parents are not as shocked because we have seen the increase in sexualized media, sexualized culture and sexual behavior in adolescents and pre-teens.

But I have to ask what seems like the obvious not or was not Tyra Banks one of the sexualized images that young girls have been exposed to? How is it that a sexy, succesful model who worked in the industry does not get the power of the very images she produced or was used to produce and their profound effect on body image, sexual identity and behavior? Is it just me or is there a disconnect?

Lest I dwell on that issue, allow me to move on quickly to one good resource for parents and teachers, or anyone who works with young girls (and boys for that matter). For a great introduction to this book and a look at how to ask the good, tough questions of yourself, read this excerpt from So Sexy So Soon.
There are no easy answers when confronted with sexual questions from children, but there are some great questions to ask yourself before you rush to judgment about what a child may be telling you, why they may be telling you, and how not to react.
When to start talking about sex with your children? If you haven't already...your behind. Infancy is the time to actualy start teaching your child about their body. Sexuality is not something that just magically appears at the onset of puberty. Issues of body image, love, relationships, touches, body parts and sex develop in us as we develop from birth. If you've read some of my past know I too am dealing with these issues with my own children!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Walking the Talk

I'm sure Rev. Soong-Chan Rah did not set out to be a spokes-person for the racism that exists against Asian Americans. But when he sees it, he is able to face it with clarity, humility, integrity and Christian love. Another of the guest speakers at the National Youth Workers Convention, Rev. Rah challenged everyone to step out of the 'white western gospel' to provide a much more culturally relevant and accurate picture of the Gospel to those we teach. I can guarantee you that many were squirming in their seats during his powerful, prophetic and honest message. He raises the good and tough questions that we need to be raising at this time in our cultural and spiritual history. How have we as white westerners (Americans) co-opted the Gospel and twisted it to meet our own cultural and racial mindsets? How have we been mis-reading and mis-teaching the Scriptures based on our own limitted cultural and racial lenses? Are we allowing other cultural, racial and ethnic voices to enter into our readings, our discussions and our worldviews so that we avoid ethno-centric and even racist interpretations of Scripture? Check out Rah's blog and read more. And be sure to read about how he confronted two major publishing companies for their stereotyping of Asian Americans in their literature.

Kudos to Rev. Rah for challenging a stereotype, and to Youth Specialties, Zondervan and the Skit Guys for their retraction of the offensive material and public apology to the Asian American community. These are people I'm proud to associate with as part of the body of Christ.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Youth Curriculum for Post-Election Healing (click here)

LinC, published by Cokesbury, just released this week's issue of it's youth Sunday School curriculum, which is the best piece I've seen yet on how to deal with the post-election emotions and healing from a Scriptural perspective. Yes, I'm biased because I am also a writer for LinC, but I did not write this issue. I read it yesterday and it is outstanding...if you are looking for something to raise the discussion to a different level for you or for your church, please consider buying and downloading this issue. Click on the title above to see the issue description.
For many people, 'moving on' is much easier said than done. But let's keep the conversation spiritual and Scriptural in our Christian communities!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Let's Pray for Our Publishers

Youth Specialties recently published the book, Barack Obama: An American Story and is now taking hits from people all across the religious and political spectrum for publishing it. Interestingly enough, none of the people attacking or applauding YS has even read the book yet. I have 5 copies on order and am waiting to read and discuss it with my student leaders. Honestly...what have we as a society come to that we attack first, reflect/read later? This is a non-issue that some folks want to make into an issue because emotions are still running high after a long political campaign. Are we really so small-minded in our churches and our worldviews that one little book should stir such controversy for a Christian publisher? If we are to be like Jesus aren't we supposed to be 'out there' with those most unlike ourselves, caring for one another...not infighting and arguing about how appropriate it is for a publisher to publish a book?
Hang in there Marko! Read Mark's blog response here.

Another Great Voice

Phyllis Tickle was another of the guest speakers at the National Youth Workers Convention that I recently attended. Insightful and well-reasoned, she helps make sense of spiritual and religious movement in the context of culture and history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Building Bridges

Many Christians have no idea what to think about or how to deal with people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. In fact, rather than deal with the issue and 'those people' most churches and church leaders shy away from the issue completely assuming that it doesn't really affect their congregation anyway. But from this Youth Workers perspective (an many, many others) it is an issue that permeates youth ministries across the country, and so also is an issue in all of our churches. For some wonderful teaching and dialogue about this issue, please see Andrew Marin's website.

No matter what church or synagogue you attend, visit, or belong to I can guarantee that there are youth, young adults, parents and grandparents who are dealing with this issue in some way shape or form. If you think it does not exist where you are in denial. In over 15 years of youth ministry, I have learned so much about gay, lesbian, bisexual and sexually curious young people. And from experience, I can tell you that most of them who have 'come out' in their youth groups or churches have felt just the opposite of the love of Christ. They have felt the condemnation, judgment and anger from the very people who they thought were supposed to love them based on the teachings of Jesus.

Francis Chan (click here)

While at the National Youth Workers Convention in Pittsburgh the past 4 days, I heard Francis Chan preach for the first time. Check out his website and download a sermon or two. You will be challenged and hopefully changed!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Even Vanity can be an Entry Point

Last night I happened to catch two fashion shows on Bravo...Project Runway and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style. So yes, I'm as superficial as everyone else.
But what was most interesting to me was not the fashion or clothes, but the attitudes of the people on the shows. The first of the Project Runway finalists to be 'out' after the shows at Bryant park was a young woman, Kenley who had quite an attitude throughout the season. Her critical and cutting comments of the other designers and judges finally caught up with her despite her designs.
On Tim Gunn's show their latest client was a 'tough nut to crack' with her attitudes and resistence to advice and help that was only trying to help her look and feel better. Eventually though Ali has the breakthrough she needs to listen to and work with Tim and Gretta.
No matter what we do, all of us are open to criticism at some point. Often the criticism we hear most is from the people close to us who may know us well, but may not be 'experts' in the areas they are being critical of.
That said...why, if you've volunteered to participate in either one of these two shows, would you challenge judges or leaders in the industry and think that you know better? I guess it makes for good TV.
Thankfully for Ali, she appeared to have a breakthrough and realize that her self-worth did not rest in designer labels, but in her acceptance of self. It may be superficial for now, but I hope it can become an entry point for finding the sacred self, and the temple of God that is inside of her.
I've had several revelations myself this week, but if I were lucky enough to have Tim Gunn take me shopping...I'd sure listen and be grateful for the help!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've Really Changed, or I'm Getting Old

I heard this story on NPR this evening on my way to pick up my kids from school. Interesting how the McCain supporters were portrayed as angry and scared. From the one gentleman who did express his anger I would agree with the piece, but I actually watched part of the town hall meeting and that was not the overwhelming attitude I saw there. People were asking about many of the issues that were affecting, health care, the environment, the economy, fuel prices and dependency. Sounds like what most all people are concerned or republican. So why are people so passionately attacking one another on both sides of the political machine? Yes people disagree about what to do about those issues and how to approach them. But it worth getting that upset and emotional about? Really?

Again I'm amazed at how wrapped up people are in this. But then I was there once too. I used to have an appetite for politics. I used to watch much more news and political spinning as if it were a sport. I used to enjoy the banter, the clever quips, the 'in-depth' analysis.
But I don't anymore. My heart has changed...actually it is the Spirit that has taken over my spirit not my heart. I get emotional now about my walk with Christ...sounds silly to many I know, but it's true. I'm passionate about following Jesus, not the news. I get upset about issues of injustice I see during the day in my own community, or the ways I see people treating one another around me. I have little appetite for news, political bantering (which is mostly negative and attacking), and much of what goes on in the world. I'm not becoming a hermit, but I am reducing the 'distractions' and the 'noise' so that I can do whatever Christ asks me to do at every turn. I'm seeing the idolatry and greed and selfishness around me with new eyes. And I care much less now about what the world seems to care, political leaders, entertainment, self.

What if more people were as passionate about Christ as they are about 'their' political candidate or party? What if people spread emails about God as much as they did about their politics? What if more people cared more about Christ than anything else in their lives?

I'm sure a good majority of voters consider themselves believers of some sort and many of them claim to be Christian. But if that's the case, where does it show up in their words and their actions? Are Christians supposed talk that way? (The answer is no.) Are Christians supposed to act that way? (Again, no.)
I'll be voting come November, but not because I'm such a staunch party supporter...I'll vote for a host of other reasons including my heritage, my legacy, and my faith in the only leader of my world...Christ.
So...either I've really changed, or I'm just plain getting old. Probably both!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Teens abandoned by parents

This video from The Today show this morning shocked me. I know adolescence is an extremely difficult time for parents and teens. I've been working with teens and their families for 15 years now. The mood swings, the hormone changes, the identity questions, the experimentation, the difficulties of friendships and relationships and so much more make being a teen overwhelming and stressful. I understand how tired and frustrated parents can get...there are inumerable demands on parents from all angles and dealing with a teen at home can be the proverbial straw. But just as I cannot imagine giving up an infant by leaving it at a hospital, I can't imagine leaving your teenager there either.

Dropping off an infant is much different than dropping off a teenager. An infant needs total care and if the parent is not capable of giving that care and safety, then a hospital may be the only alternative for that child to survive. But a teen is capable of survival on his or her own. If a parent is afraid of abusing the teen, there are other resources available for help rather than just abandoning a child completely.

A quick Google search on 'parent and teen resources' yielded a wealth of good resources that you can also find locally.

If you are struggling with your teen here are some other good sources of help.

  • Read the "Love and Logic" books starting with the teens edition which will give you easy and practicle solutions that will work. Pick one up at your local library (for free) or buy a copy.
  • Visit for more practical tips and information about all ages and parenting tips plus resources.
  • Contact your county social services office to get connected to their counseling resources...they have individual and family counselors available for all ages, income levels, and situations.
  • Contact a local church or school. Your child's school has counselors on staff and if you don't want to talk to your child's counselor, ask for someone else they can refer you to (at another school or in the county).
  • The bottom line is do not give up!
God does not give up on any one of us, or abandon any one of us no matter what.

Yes, there are teens who suffer from debilatating conditions and addictions that make it impossible for them to stay in a home, but there is help in those situations too. In the end, if it is best for your teenager not to live at home there are resources available to help you through that as a parent. But making an informed and supported decision with the help of professionals to send your teen away from home is very different than dropping them off at a hospital somewhere.
I know families who have been through incredible heartbreak because of the choices their teens made. But in every case, when those parents reached out for help they found the support and resources they needed to handle whatever situation came their way. But in every case (even the worst ones) the parents never just gave up on their child. And even through the tremendous heartbreak, God never abandoned anyone...the child or the parents.

No matter what you are facing with your child(ren), remember that God will never give up on you, and as a parent you can never give up on your child.

Pray today for all the parents who feel like giving up. And pray today for all the children who feel abandoned.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Happy Autumn!

Homemade chicken pot pie, apple crisp and ice cream with coffee after a good fall day. Nuff said!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Compassion and Mercy: Spiritual Gifts

Most every mother and father has cared for her sick child or children at one time or another. Middle of the night fevers, upset tummies, coughs and sniffles are the common colds and flu that make their rounds through families.
And most parents take several personal days off from work each year to stay home with their kids when sick. For some it seems like a burden and just makes one feel more 'behind at work.' For others it is an opportunity to show a different kind of caring and love. So this week, while I'm home with my two sick children, I'm reminded what a blessing it is to show them a special kind of compassion and that helps them rest, heal, and recover. Extra love and kindness helps the medicine go down (even if the song says sugar). (Even as I type, both kids are in my bed and we're watching cartoons while taking our medicine...this is a treat since we never get to do this!) I remember how attentive and caring my own mother was when I was sick. And even now when she hears me sniffle over the phone I can feel her love when she says, "I wish I was there to take care of you."
Some might think there is nothing spiritual about wiping runny noses or cooling fevers. Yet, caring for the sick is one of the things Jesus commands his disciples to do. While the Holy Spirit gives us power to heal, there is also great healing in compassionate and merciful presence with those who are ill. Staying home with our children when they are sick and being a compassionate parent who serves up extra love with the applesauce or toast is a gift of the Spirit and a gift to our children.
My prayer today is two fold: I thank God that my children have simple colds that I am able to care for, but I am mindful of the many children and parents around the world who battle serious and life-threatening diseases. My husband and I are blessed with the kind of jobs that allow us to work from home when needed, and to take the time to be home with our children. But I'm well aware that this is a luxury for so many people who cannot take time from work for fear of being fired.
This fall as you care for those who are sick (it's bound to happen at some point) may you be blessed by showing compassion and mercy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"I Swallowed A Penny"

That's a direct quote from our soon-to-be three year old son this morning. Apparently while I was upstairs getting dressed for the day, and my husband was getting sports updates online, and our daughter was watching cartoons, my son found a penny and ate it.
So when you're done laughing...I had a few reflections on the whole thing.
First, I immediately assumed he was fine and that he'd pass it eventually. But just to be safe I checked online. My suspicians were confirmed that if he didn't pass it within about 48 hours, then it would be time to take him to the pediatrician. My next thought did our mothers check their assumptions when they ran into those situations...did they call their mothers, sisters, or friends for advice? The internet sure is handy...I think.
Second, as I read a few articles on the matter I learned that pennies made before 1982 are actually safer to swallow in terms of their metal composition than pennies made after 1982. Pennies made after 1982 can react toxically with chemicals in the stomach and burn holes in the penny as well as cause ulcers or other serious medical problems (especially in children). Did not know that until today. So now I'm curious...did he actually swallow a penny, and if he did, what vintage is it?
Third, I read about the importance of 'sifting' through [you guessed it] for the next few days to watch for the penny to pass. I even read one article where the parent (had to be a dad) not only found, but then cleaned and kept the penny the daughter passed for future blackmail when she went on dates. Yikes! I'm so not going there!
So what's so sacred about swallowing a penny? Well, nothing really but I did offer a prayer of thanks for how my parents kept themselves from laughing out loud in front of us when we did things like that and how they preserved our dignity when they cared for us in those types of situations. I was also thankful for the kind of technology that allows me as a parent to quickly access medical information and for the bit of wisdom I do have to not over-react to a lot of what's 'out there.' Finally I'm blessed to take care of such beautiful children...pennies and all!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ten Things We Should Never Say To Our Kids (click here)

I will be the first to admit that I make my share of mistakes as a parent. I know so little about early childhood development that I feel like I'm at a loss when it comes to knowing how to raise two toddlers. But I have come accross a few great resources as I've tried to read and learn along the way. This book actually came to my attention through a youth ministry site, but these apply to parenting at all stages. Thankfully, I have only used one or two on this list with my own kids...and I've already re-adjusted my words as a result. This reads more like an go to the website and download each's worth the read and it's free!
1. "Do you have your ..."
2. "What were you thinking!"
3. "Because I said so."
You'll have to see the rest by clicking the title link above!

More Important Things...Rescue Me

The blogosphere is inundated with the political news of the last two days. But I'm not joining the fray. Instead, if you've ever thought about rescuing or adopting a pet, now might be a great time to get started. If you rescue or adopt many local organizations require applications so leave yourself ample time to complete the process. Hurricane Gustav may have been an excuse for some people to leave their pets behind for good (which I can't fathom, but I know it happens). There are many wonderful animals waiting for loving homes. If you start now, you might just be able to complete any house-training and transitioning by wintertime so that you and your new friend can enjoy snuggling up in front of a cozy fireplace. Contact your local ASPCA or local animal shelters or rescue shelters to find out more. Or visit or
Baxter a rescued pup, mixed breed.

Lived Up to the Hype

Over the weekend I read The Shack which several had recommended to me. I started and couldn't put it down. I read until wee hours of the morning to finish the story...which is something I haven't done in years because no book has compelled me to give up my sleep.

Like most who have read it, I too cried through it. Like most folks who work in churches I found the images refreshing (although not new). Many in churches are tired of 'church' and 'religion' and want to get back to powerful experiences of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit especially because they are life-changing and life-giving as opposed to the endless monotony of 'the institution.'

For many of us the book affirms our own experiences of a God who richly dwells within us, who speaks to us, who loves us, and who compels us to surrender our lives to Christ.

Some will find the concepts of the Trinity completely new and eye-opening. But for me it was much more of a reminder to work at mastering what I have yet to work on in my relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Read the book, have tissues ready and be prepared to finish it in one sitting. A long time ago, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. This book is very different, yet I left it feeling uplifted and wanting more in my relationship with God. And again, I'm seeing myself and the world a little differently.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

My daughter asked at dinner tonight, "Why do adults work all the time instead of play like kids do?" Good question! My answer was all about adults earning money for the things we need like a house, food, clothing, education and such. Now I remember that's the wrong answer. We work because we've been called to contribute, not to receive. We work because we are connected to one another and as such we are to help one another. Money was our invention...not God's.

So we'll have another discussion tomorrow night and we'll talk about what work and play really are...infact isn't that part of what we're supposed to remember on Labor Day?

Roll Call Please...(click to see ABC video)

I've often felt uneasy about the political conventions, regardless of the party. I know that it is part of the process to gather all the delegates and formally nominate a party's candidate, but why do they continue to be such black holes for boozing and schmoozing? The DNC's pyrotechnics and staging in Denver were great, but was all that really necessary? I'm glad the GOP asked delegates and lobbyists to scale back their parties in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, and that they used their platform to spend some time asking people to donate, but apparently some people didn't get the memo.

I have no problem with people celebrating and coming together around a candidate, but isn't it time for us...human beings to say enough? Why do we allow our political leaders to squander our money, credibility and ethics? I could go on for days...but I won't.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCafe is McBad

You may have seen ads at McDonald's for their new coffee drinks...mochas, cappucinos, lattes, and more. So this morning on my way to work, I thought I'd give it a try. I ordered a medium mocha, paid $2.69 and recieved a 12 oz. cup with what looked like a tasty blend of coffee and chocolate...great way to start a cool, rainy day. That will be my first and last cup. Not wanting to waste the money and wanting at least the caffiene, it was drinkable but I can't recommend it to anyone. The coffee is pretty bad to start with, so covering up a bad cup of coffee with other flavors is still just a bad cup of coffee. It wasn't blended at all so there was no mocha flavor unless you stirred constantly (which is hard to do while driving) or just took all the mocha in one shot in the last drink of the cup. Either way...not impressed. So...don't waste your money. Brew your own fresh at home or pay the same amount at a good coffee shop that at least starts with better coffee.


For Obama's nomination acceptance speech the Democratic National Convention moved to Invesco Field (Mile High Stadium) in Denver, Colorado. For me, it was facinating to watch, but not because of the history, or the candidate. In fact, all politics aside I was looking at the venue, the people, the images, the sounds, and the 'experience.'
Did you see how people were reacting emotionally? The tears, the smiles, the reactions? Did you see how people found themselves connected to one another through the shared 'experience' that was created for them in that stadium? Did you hear any of the commentators talk about how 'intimate' it felt to be in that stadium? Did you see how the technology, music, visuals, were all layered and used to appeal to all the senses? Did you see the yearning and the hunger in people? Did it evoke a response in you?
My overwhelming thought while watching the coverage was, "We have 86,000 people cheering, crying, and willing to do just about anything to support this person, yet we have fewer people in our churches and 3,000 souls a day leaving the Christian faith." Where is that kind of following for Christ? If the church booked a venue like Invesco field, would there be lines of people waiting to fill it to hear about Christ? Are we so much more enamored with a human political candidate than we are with Christ?
There's no question that in (and out) of our churches we have a lot of work to do to re-establish credibility, trust, transparency and authenticity. There's no question that a majority of churches have 'missed the mark' in drawing younger generations, and have a lot to learn about how to reach young or disenfranchised people. see this event I also have to ask, what kind of reflection is this of our society? Have we become so secularized that we reserve more emotion, more energy, more attention, more worship for political leaders, sports events, or celebrities than we do for Christ? When was the last time we witnessed someone in church make their acceptance speech of Christ and we cried and cheered? When was the last time we showed any kind of emotion in church? When was the last time we felt an intimate connection with strangers in a worship experience? When was the last time Christ's message so moved us that we cried, cheered, clapped, stood up, hugged someone near us, smiled, or felt moved to act? When was the last time we picked up and read Scripture for ourselves? When was that last time we took responsibility for our spiritual life by practicing the spiritual disciplines daily, weekly, monthly?
I get the historic nature of the event. But I'm afraid that many of those 86,000 who think they have found hope and a leader and vision, will be sorely disappointed when they find it isn't enough and does not really satisfy them either.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Storm Lives Up to Name

Tropical Storm Fay may not have been a hurricane, but it's long-term effects have been just as bad if not worse. Battered for 5 days (or more depending on where you live) by sustained 40 mph winds, gusts upward of 50 mph and flooding rain have left memorable marks on residents of Florida. Imagine being like a 'prisoner in your own home' for more than 3 days while the storm sits right above you and just does not stop. Family members in Florida who have weathered many storms remarked that this one is memorable because of its indecisive and relentless nature. In the way my brother described the storm, I commented that at least it was living up to it's female name. He laughed and said, "No comment." While I'm relieved that he and his family are safe from flooding, there are many communities and families that are not. So I hope that you'll find a way to respond to those who need our help. Prayers for those still in the wake of the storm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Zealots or Good Hosts? (click here for article)

The Olympics is an opportunity to not only honor human physical
acheivements, but also the human spirit. Stories abound of athletes who have overcome great odds and obstacles in order to compete. Some acheive personal bests and some win gold medals.
Others, like those featured in this NPR story, won't receive medals but they certainly are getting attention!
It is not surprising that there are those who have connected ancient art forms with a modern sporting event. While accupuncture and tattoo are not recognized as Olympic might think they should be after seeing these folks!

While some may find these people bizarre, I can't help but be facinated by how they have created deep meaning for themselves in what they have done. Using their mental strength to help achieve their physical appearance is only part of story. They are also expressing their deep pride as hosts of an Olympic games, and their sense of hospitality. Many misinterpreted the Chinese opening ceremonies as an over-the-top self-centered history lesson. But it really reflects a different kind of hospitality than the West is used to. The Chinese do not simply want to welcome everyone from around the world, they feel it is their duty and privilege to entertain and to bring joy to everyone. I was surprised that after such good reporting from China after the earthquake, that NPR would miss the point so completely with this story about "Olympic Zealots." Step outside your Western worldview for just a moment and try to appreciate the lengths that so many Chinese people have gone to (and are willing to go to) in order to show their hospitality.

'Franchised Churches' (click here for article)

There's a lot to respond to in this article, but really...what's all the fuss?
The question missing from all the articles like this that pontificate about whether churches with multiple or video-based campuses is good or bad is, "Is the church reaching souls and transforming lives?" Do some journalism for once and not just op-ed...get the real story of what's going on and ask the important questions.
I'm a little tired of the techie-wired naysayers telling churches and church leaders to be wary of using technology...I'll throw out my Internet connection if you throw out yours! Apparently it is okay for the rest of the world to be in the here and now, but not the church.
Sorry for the sarcasm...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You've Got to Be Kidding Me

My 4 1/2 year old came home the other day singing lyrics to a Hannah Montana song. She's never even seen the tweeny bopper on TV...only heard about her at pre-school. So who are the parents who are letting their little girls watch this stuff? And please don't tell me she's a positive role model for young girls...that idea was busted a long time ago.
So now I have another opportunity to talk to my own daughter about what some of those words mean, what life and self-confidence is really about, and what to think about before you repeat anything. And yes we've thrown in the age-old, 'just because everyone else does it, doesn't mean you do' adage.
I was hoping to stave off critical thinking about song lyrics for a few more years...shouldn't she at least be able to read before we do these kind of exercises? Well too late. I printed some lyrics and we read them. Then I asked questions about what she really thought about those statements. She actually had no real idea. I asked if she wanted my opinion...she did (I know that won't last long!). I offered my take on some of the self-centered, party all the time lyrics that actually set girls up to make poor decisions. This was eye-opening since we've really been working on making good decisions. Do I really care if she listens to the music...not really, but I do care about the messages she's getting from the songs, the images and all the hype. Like many moms, I'm really not so impressed with much of what Disney has a hand in.

Had to happen sooner or later!

Click below for the Republicrats video

Then go to the following link to find out more!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

NBC’s new reality show, “The Baby Borrowers” puts teenagers who think they are ready for adulthood and parenthood through the paces to see if they can handle the real challenges of crying infants, screaming toddlers, pre-teens with attitudes and senior citizens who need care. In addition, they must have one parent work outside the home and be under the constant eye of the television cameras and the parents (by remote camera) of the children in their care. The teens have three weeks to experience their new ‘adult life’ and the real parents are allowed to step in at any time if they feel their child is not being cared for properly. A professional nanny also shadows each couple in the home so that each child’s safety is carefully monitored.
The new show addresses a common desire for many teenagers – to be grown up and be the ones making the rules instead of having to live by them. In the same way that many older adults may glorify youth, teens often idealize adulthood seeing only the benefits and not the struggles. In our image driven culture, the media we consume only adds to the stereotypes, portraying the ‘glamour’ of living the adult life with cars, homes, money, time and friends at their disposal without any of the real worries of jobs, child rearing, or financial stability.
But seeing the realities of adulthood is only half of the equation. We also have to understand why teens want to skip ahead in the first place. It is normal for children and youth to want to be grown up, to make the rules, be in charge, and to feel a sense of control over their lives. Often when teens express a desire at a young age to just be an adult, it is a reaction to feeling like they are not being given enough control over their own lives. Growing up becomes an, “I’ll show you” kind of threat that teens feel confident they can prove because they know so much more about life than their parents. Going through adolescence is extremely difficult. Everything is changing – bodies and brains are still developing; relationships are changing, and the ‘black and white’ world of their childhood is fading to shades of grey where they face one uncertainty after another. Add to that the peer pressures, the self-consciousness, the educational pressures, the media images, the changing expectations of parents, and the almost constant roller-coaster changes in friendships and relationships, and it is no wonder why some teens would prefer to just escape!
The problem is that many teens, even if they see the difficult realities of adulthood, will still feel that they are specially equipped to handle it. Some teens feel that their age even gives them an edge over adults who are working and raising families, making the argument that they tire less easily and may be in better physical condition than adults. Interestingly enough, the official website for the show asked the poll question: “When are couples best prepared to become parents?” Just before the first episode aired, 65% had responded that teens were best prepared. At the time of this publication, those numbers have changed drastically with only 26% responding ‘teens’, 31% responding those in their ‘20’s’, and a whopping 40% responding those in their ‘30’s’.
Is this show changing the teen’s minds about fast-forwarding to adulthood? The episodes will continue to reveal what they learn, and it is likely that some teens and tweens watching will also gain some new insights. Maybe more importantly this is an opportunity for dialogue between adults and teens about what we each go through.
For Christians, the theme is not new and has its Biblical counterparts. The story of Jacob and Esau with Jacob stealing his brother’s blessing and birthright has an element of being the first to grow up. David was called as a young shepherd boy to grow up quickly and learn to be a king, but his story reflects how he faltered along the way or may have been immature in some ways. We often focus on the wonderful parts of Mary’s story – being pregnant with God’s son while forgetting how scary and difficult it must have been for her to be seen pregnant but unmarried; or how difficult the long journey was to Bethlehem while being so uncomfortably pregnant; or how awful it must have felt to be a new mother with no help and constantly being on the run from King Herod; or how painful it was to know that your child was being hunted. And of course we have Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son who wants to escape his life at home, grow up and receive his inheritance, and strike out on his own. But, as we know that didn’t work out so well for him either.
One of the best things we can offer youth is honest dialogue about the hardships and blessings of each stage of life. As caring adults we can empathize with the pain of adolescence as teens share how hard it is for them now. We can also point out some of the joys of living as youth and help students embrace this part of the life and faith journey while moving on to the next. Finally, we can be honest about the fact that just because we may be living an adult life with adult privileges does not mean that we do not also face difficult challenges and pressures too. Sharing our struggles and our joys honestly is what being the body of Christ is all about.