Archive for March, 2013

Hope. The famous agnostic Ingersoll called hope “a universal liar” and Nietzsche considered it “the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.” They echo the voice of Good Friday. Engulfed by present circumstances, unprepared by our past, and uncertain of our future. Death, despair, and shattered dreams are presented as the final answer.

But those who follow Christ are not a people of Good Friday. We are an Easter people. Good Friday is part of our past, but it is not our present!! Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is alive forevermore! The Risen Lord is our present reality and future hope. Because we live in Easter, our Good Friday moments have meaning.

Adolescents are not naturally a people of hope. Idealism, yes. Dreams and fantasies about the future, absolutely. But not mature hope.

The ‘future’ is a new experience for adolescents. Infants and young children live in the present. They have almost no historical sense. They are absorbed in what is. That is, in fact, one of the attractions of childhood – the capacity to lose oneself completely in the now. But in adolescence the capacity to imagine forward, to plan ahead, to anticipate, awakens…the ‘future‘ is no longer dreams and wishes to be indulged, but a spectrum of possibilities that must be planned for. (p. 71)

The kind of robust hope that inhabits the Christian faith is the very context adolescents need to process and sift through “this sudden inrush of future.” The Christian doctrine of hope allows us to move beyond the shallow impotency of wishing and paralyzing fretfulness of anxiety. These emotional red herrings allow us to project our own fears and our own hopes into the future, while avoiding grappling with life in the present.

Between this Scylla and Charybdis the Christian church teaches hope. Hope is a response to the future which has its foundation in the promises of God. It looks to the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety in to the future, but instead believes that God’s prmisse gives the proper content to it. But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present, it is a stance in the present which deals with the future…Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future with the promises of God, opens up the future as a field or action, and as a consequence fills the present with energy.” (p. 73 emphasis added)

As Peterson points out, there is a group of people who need hope even more than adolescents. Parents of adolescents!

Peterson names acedia (a spiritual sloth or indifference) and tristesse (a sadness and melancholy) as two afflictions of the middle aged. He points out that our whole culture in North America functions to manipulate and make a profit out of the faded hopes as well as the fears of a population whose present feels unfulfilled and whose future seems no longer to hold as much promise.

Our Hope is a person, not a projection of our own inadequacy. The Risen Jesus Christ. He knows our past better than we. He is our future. He gives us power and purpose to live in the present.

What does that look like for you today to say no to sloth….to melancholy….to indifference…to wishful thinking….to procrastination….to anxiety and say YES to Jesus?

What does that look like for you to walk that out in the living laboratory with your teen as you talk about money…the opposite sex…house rules…grades….failure…idealism…faded hopes…and Good Friday?

I’m looking forward to hearing your story.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

(This post is inspired by chapter 9 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 4 weeks to become part of the discussion).

I thought about titling this “You’re Nothing but a Hypocrite” 8.3, but I can’t blame any of this on Eugene Peterson. These are my social media insights from the last couple of days. Your news feed may be different than mine. THe first four are pretty sad. The 5th is a gift.

1. The issue of gay marriage being a significant social media discussion topic is driven by the news. Almost to a person, everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon to show they have something to say.

2. Very few people are offering their own insights, but are parroting the memes, the cliches, the sound bites and the cutting remarks of others.

3. Most of those using Scripture are using it not to bring light and salt, but for memes, cliches, and clever (read cutting or combative) remarks.

4. Many, many of those over age 35 are either not engaged with the topic (at least in this setting) or are rushing to a cause with weapons drawn.

5. Many of those under age 35 are reacting to what they see as a choice for compassion and fairness vs a stance of hypocrisy. Specifically, I have heard/read young people over and over calling out the church for her silence on divorce and on gossip as proof of her hypocrisy on the gay marriage issue.

If you have read my earlier blogs on hypocrisy, what do you think? I’m not interested in this forum for a discussion on the rightness or wrongness of gay marriage or for political posturing. But as a first step….instead of trying to correct the minds of those we disagree with, should we thank the young people who are calling many of us out for our hypocrisy and receive their indictment as a gift?

On Wed night my daughter’s car was burglarized. She had just finished serving as a counselor for a pretty awesome four-day local Junior High mission event with our church for about eighty kids. After the students left, the counselors went out to eat for debriefing and closure. While they were inside the restaurant, her passenger side window was smashed and her bags stolen.

You probably have thoughts about that. Here you go: Her vehicle was under a light, her vehicle has no trunk, her belongings were under a blanket and pillow, she had come straight from college…but this post is not about the theft. It’s about leadership. I think you will see what I mean.

On Thursday morning insurance and I talked. Since we only have liability coverage, they wouldn’t pay, but they connected me to their preferred glass company who promised to have the window fixed onsite by Friday noon. I covered the hole with plastic and waited for Friday.

At 8:30 Friday morning, the tech called to say the window was supposed to arrive at 8:00 and it hadn’t, but he would get out there and repair the window just as soon as possible. At 11:45 AM I called him back to see what he had learned. “All I know is it hasn’t arrived. If it doesn’t arrive by 2:00, it might be Monday before I can do your window.”

Me: “Well, I understand. But that won’t work for a final answer. My daughter will be going back to college. I would like to have this fixed.”

“Probably someone would have to call around Tulsa and see if someone had it in stock.

Me: “Okay, are you going to do that?”

“Um, call the home office. I can give you their number”

So I did. And explained the situation. “I’m sorry, sir. All I can tell you is that it hasn’t arrived yet. There is nothing we can really do. We just have to wait for it to arrive.”

Me: “That is a pretty passive position. I am looking to be proactive and do some problem solving. Is there someone in your office who can do that?”

“Sir, I understand your frustration. You could talk with my manager when he gets done with another customer.”

Me: “That will be great….”.

“Okay, goodbye…”

Me: “Wait, he can call my cell @ 918.xxx.xxxx. Thank you.”

Manager does not call. I call insurance company. They call the manager. He is “out of office” but will call me when he returns.

Manager finally does call. “Hi, I was told to call this number?” I explain situation. He responds: “All I can say is that it didn’t show up. It’s probably xxxx’s (the national delivery company’s) fault. It happens all the time. We never know why it happened. It’ll be Monday or Tuesday before we can do anything!”

Me: “Thank you. That is not satisfactory. I will look for another solution.” I call insurance company back to let them know what has happened. I speak to a new person who decides to call the first company to see what problem was and when they would have the part. Manager tells him there is no problem, that I decided to cancel the order so they were no longer waiting on a part. I tell insurance lady that this happened five minutes ago. She connects me to Glassmasters at 8504 Admiral Place. Sxxx answers and tells me if I can get there within the next hour she will fit me in. Quote is only $20 more. I tell her I’m on my way.

S. calls me enroute to double-check order. Insurance company had said windshield, but paperwork they faxed to her says side window. She wants to clarify. I tell her window. She asks me to hold while she checks with supplier. Comes back on line to say we are still good. Local supplier has window in stock.

While sitting in waiting room I hear three separate people thank cashier for fitting them in. Fresh coffee is being made. There is a table for checkers. Sherlock Holmes movie playing.

S. comes out again and apologizes. Supplier sent wrong window, she sent it back. We discuss and I apologize. I said car was 2 door when it was 4. Mixup is my fault. Not sure what I was thinking. S. says it will only add about fifteen minutes to the job. I commend her for her customer service. She thanks me and says it is important to her to get it right, to do it quickly and to meet people’s needs.

After less time than I expect, the car is done. I pay and go out to the car to discover they have also cleaned up all the excess glass. As I drive home, I decide to blog on leadership.

I think there are a lot of lessons embedded in this story. But you can go first…what do you see?

So you read my last blog post, but you are not convinced? “That’s right, Hal. Tell me more about why it is a good thing that my teen is highlighting my inconsistencies and hypocrisies….that is, IF I even have any!”

In my last post I suggested that this ability to recognize and call out hypocrisy by our teens was actually a gift to us provided by God and delivered personally by some of those we love the most. But just in case you were thinking of trying to exchange this gift let me suggest that the gift is not for you alone.

In adolescence, teens are learning to think in some advanced ways and need to practice. They develop advanced reasoning skills. They learn to think about things hypothetically. They can dream about possiblities. Teenagers begin to think about things in the abstract like love…and faith…and hope. They learn to process things logically and see implications. They can even think about thinking…or think about feeling…a process called “meta-cognition.” They can even project what others might be thinking about them.

If you have been around any young teens and are past the age of 14 yourself, you can immediately see some of the difficulties this raises. There isa phenomenon called “the imaginary audience,” where each teen imagines that everyone he or she encounters is thinking about them and evaluating them critically. In fact, there is always an audience in their head, even when no one is around. And it is hard for them to imagine that everyone is not as transfixed by their own thoughts and feelings as they are themselves!

There is also a sense of personal uniqueness. Surely no one else alive or dead has ever experienced situations…or feelings…or life itself in the same way! (We talked about some of this briefly when reading chapter 5). There is a sense of increased drama and emotion to almost every situation. In fact, if a given moment does not have enough drama, it seems that the teen will seek to create some. And there is a sense of heightened justice…with no room for gray or compromise.

Think about how shallow and simple life would be without these new abilities. What a gift this cognitive and emotional development is to the teen! But what a challenge to those on whom they practice their budding skills!!

It may be the subject of another post why we think it wise in our culture to put groups of twenty-five to thirty-five middle schoolers in a classroom as they bludgeon each other while they experiment with the new things they can now do.

If you are an adult in a young teen’s life, what can you do? Here are my suggestions. Feel free to add your own:

*Thank God for the blessing….for them and for you

*Listen between the lines. Listen for the feelings. And just listen.

*Test everything. Don’t take it personally unless the Holy Spirit tells you to tune into something specific.

*Express unconditional love. Help them temper this new gift through modeling love.

*Own it and ask forgiveness when you have been a hypocrite. Model being okay with messing up, owning your stuff, and asking forgiveness.

*Thank the Lord that He isn’t done with you…adn that He trusts you to influence another!

What would you add to the list?

(This post is inspired by chapter 8 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 5 weeks to become part of the discussion).

But of course. Guilty as charged. But with a caveat. I’m a hypocrite, to be sure. (Along with the rest of the human race.I haven’t managed to get an exclusive market on that from the rest of the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve). But I am more than a hypocrite. For one thing, I am a hypocrite in transition. (Colossians 1:9 -14) I used to have a boss who would say, “You’re a good man, Hal.” And he was partly right. But the rest of the truth and the much deeper reality was in my standard response “The nearness of God is my good!” (Psalm 73:28)

I have been rescued and given the freedom to be more than a hypocrite….and in fact to grow into a wholeness of integrity and purity and kindness and grace that is nothing at all like who I was. But I am in transition. And I need to stay near my God in every way. And I forget. And so God blessed me with five children and a wife to help me grow.

Does that feel like a gift? Are you kidding? I’m a third generation PK (preacher’s kid). I’ve been doing youth ministry for over 25 years. I have been in the limelight and in some precious hidden places. I have seen God use me. Consistency and integrity are a really big deal to me. Do I want to be reminded that I can be a hypocrite? Well, do you?

Robert Burns wrote these words in his Scottish dialect: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” Peterson suggests that the gift, the power, is the adolescent in our home. Although the words that adolescent speaks are often painful and often accusatory, Peterson puts it like this: “I can’t help but believe that this is one of the most useful and timely things our youths do for us.” (p. 69)

What about you? Has our Father blessed you enough, shown His love to you enough, to put someone in your life…an adolescent even…who will point out your inconsistencies and hypocrisies?

By the way, for my regular readers, I am sorry again for a post a whole week late. My intent was good, but reality crashed in. Our youth ministry hosted the Tulsa After Party for the WinterJam tour last weekend while getting ready for next week’s mission trip and vacating our old offices. It was a little much. Thank you for your patience!

(This post is inspired by chapter 8 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 5 weeks to become part of the discussion).

Psalm 78 is a favorite Psalm. It comes as close to anything I have seen in Scripture for providing a game plan for passing the faith to the next generation. We use those principles in our youth ministry here in Tulsa.

*Tell God’s Story (His great and mighty acts)
*Teach the Law (in memorable ways)
*Expect a response of trust (in God)
*The final word is GRACE

Reading Chapter 7 of Eugene Peterson’s book Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager reminded me of this passage out of one of my teachings on Psalm 78. The text below is minus the accompanying media I use with it, but I think it still works. I want to share it with you and invite your response.

Not only does the teacher proclaim the Mighty Acts of God and the Law He has established but she anticipates the response. THe message here in Psalm 78 is the same message that is proclaimed throughout Scripture – from the books of the Law through the Incarnation in the Gospels to the Pauline epistles: Being a follower of our great and mighty God is not based on knowing a lot about Him – it is based on knowing Him!

Verse 7 makes clear the purpose of teaching the law. It is to prepare the next generation for a personal relationship with God. This is important. Law makes grace possible. And get this, “then they would put their trust in God and not forget His deeds, but would keep His commands.” Trust and obedience are absolutely intertwined. And so the response that we teach for …pray for…hope for…the response that lasts…is not one of knowledge or conformity of behavior, but of trust and obedience.

Permissiveness robs the next generation of the opportunity of knowing God in a fullness of trust. Authoritarianism keeps the next generation from discovereing the full joy of an obedient heart. A response of trust can never be manipulated or controlled. Conformity of behavior is what we are after when we train animals. But faith is an issue of the heart. We must trust God with our children so that they can trust God on their own.

Well, I found my book. That makes it easier to blog. Let me explain. My house is for sale (I may do a separate entry later on just that topic) and so we try to keep the house clean. In the first eight days we have had nine showings with one scheduled for tomorrow. That’s good news….but keeping up with bills, homework, and books that you are blogging on while trying to keep the house “staged” is a fun challenge.

Apparently I must have thought the challenge was too easy because I attempted to move offices at work as well. The key is to sort and integrate as you go! You can see how well that has been going in this snapshot with about 75% of the move completed.

I will post on chapter 8 tomorrow. I have a post or two I would still like to do on chapter 7.

One of the great insights of this 7th chapter is that of the confusion that parents and youth have in the adolescent years as they try to understand the giving, expressing and receiving of love. Both kids and parents tend to look at the ways that love worked for them in childhood.

Parental love (as it was expressed in childhood) used to satisfy…now it does not. This is confusing, frustrating and the cause of no small amount of anxiety. What happens when comforting, “fixing/making it better,” anticipating, planning are no longer enough? What happens when the needs of identity, autonomy and belonging…for personal expression, identification, decision-making, and the exercise of the will are added to the young person’s life…..and therefore to the dynamic of the relationship?

And if we dare admit it to ourselves, what happens when the needs for love that our child used to meet in us are no longer satisfied as neatly….or perhaps at all?

As Peterson points out, Christian parents are at a distinct advantage in wrestling with this question. As the expression of childhood affection and friendship disappear, and as society pushes our child toward eros in all things, we understand and are called to the very love that an adolescent needs. It is the love that a mature adult can provide. That love is agape. Peterson writes:

Without it (agape) love between a parent and an adolescent becomes either desiccated and dry, there being no healthy growth to feed maturity, or bitter and resentful, as expectations are continually disappointed. (Agape) sees the nature of the other person and acts freely to do those things which suit that nature. It is not first of all a feeling, or an experience, or a need, but a decision. It wills the fulfillment of the other. It is the love that is demonstrated by God for His people. It is a love that neither exploits nor demands gifts. It seeks to enjoy what is there in the other person and to share what one has. It is the love that Jesus exhibited in every word and act: His love freed others to be themselves in a way they could never have been without Him and allowed them to respond with a love for God which no sense of dependence or realization of duty could have created.”

Moms and dads, you and I have been given the gift to love with agape love….and in so doing, set our children free to be themselves in ways they could never be otherwise…and to respond with love for God free from any encumbrance of our own needs or desires. What a privilege!

(This post is inspired by chapter 7 of Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson. Get a copy of this great little book and check back each Thursday for the next 6 weeks to become part of the discussion).