One of the more sobering realities in the life of a parent is that your life is preaching a message to your kids. They will leave your house with the message that your life preached ringing in their ears. When I first became aware of this reality, I started listening to myself. You know what message I was preaching? I kept saying “Stay safe and be careful.” I was teaching my kids that risk is wrong. That stepping out into the unknown is not worth it. I have since been more intentional about what I preach with my words and actions.
Recently one of my favorite Pastor/authors Eugene Peterson passed away. At his funeral, Peterson’s son described the one message his father preached in his church and to his family through his life.
“Eugene Peterson’s son Leif said at the funeral that his dad only had one sermon – that he had everyone fooled for 29 years of pastoral ministry, that for all his books he only had one message. It was a secret Leif said his dad had let him in on early in life. It was a message that Leif said his dad had whispered in his heart for 50 years. He remembered these words that his dad had snuck into his room when he was a child to say over him as he was sleeping:
“God loves you.
God is on your side.
He is coming after you.
He is relentless.”*
Eugene Peterson spent his life in a small church preaching a profound message to his church and his kids. One that he often repeated with his words and by the grace of God his words matched his life. Peterson was faithful to his small church he did not need to be a superstar he wasn’t captivated by fame. Bono from U2 called him and invited him to come to visit his home on the French Rivera, Peterson politely turned Bono down because he was in the midst of translating the book of Isaiah. After Eugene got off the phone with Bono, Peterson’s wife looked shocked and said: “You aren’t going?” He said “No” she then said “But it’s Bono!” to which Peterson replied, “But it’s Isaiah!”
He lived the message of a relentlessly loving God in the context of his local church and the life of his family. His life message was that a loving God who created us is in relentless pursuit of us. That will preach. May God give me the grace to preach this very message to me first and my church and family second.
* Quote taken from Glenn Packiam twitter feed.
One of the mottos of the Reformation was Semper Reformanda which means “the church reformed, always reforming” With the strength of the Evangelical Protestant Church this seems like an antiquated motto for the Protestant church in its infancy.
However, as we celebrate 501 years of the Protestant Reformation, we are still a church in need of reformation as much from within Protestantism as we are from without. Recently I got into a conversation with several youth pastors from around the country, and the conversation was centered around the question of baptism. The question was posed if we should baptize someone who is currently living with someone in an unmarried relationship. 60% of the people who answered the question said they would baptize someone who is living with a partner. Various responses included “Who am I to judge” “There is no prerequisite in the Bible for baptism.” “Nobody is perfect” “#JesusWould” But would He?
In conversations like these, I am reminded how much Youth Ministry in America needs Reformation. I am reminded of how culture has out catechized our youth, and personal ideology permeated our seminaries. We need a reformation that shakes the foundation of our faith one that places the trust and dependence where it always should have been on Christ alone. One of the things I find helpful in the turbulent mishmash of progressive Christianity and Post Modernity is to look back at old things.
I didn’t have a TV growing up but when I would go visit my Grandma and Grandpa for the summers as a kid I would always watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He was riveting to 6-year-old TV-less me. Now that I am older and have worked with kids for over 20 years I know why. He understood childlikeness. He understood the hopes and fears of kids and he understood how we in many ways never grow past those hopes and fears we just learn how to ignore or indulge them. We have lost the art of civility in our country and have lost our ability and capacity for wonder. It is something that as a nation we need to fight for. We need to face our fears and regain the hope that cynicism has destroyed.
Our kids are growing up seeing more painful things on TV and social media than many in previous generations never experienced in a lifetime. How as parents do we shield our kids without being overprotective? How do we talk to them about the scary things they have seen or experienced?
Mr. Rogers gives us the following advice that is so typically Rogers: that is both pithy and profound.
- Ask your kids how much they know about the situation they are asking about. We find that their fantasies are very different from the actual truth. (Address their fears and give them hope.)
- What children need to hear most is that they can talk to us about anything. (We need to listen more than give quick answers or false assurances.)
- We will do all that we can to keep them safe in any scary time.
Kids need our presence and our promise to do all we can to protect them more than the need perfect answers to impossible questions. Don’t avoid hard conversations or difficult questions show up and give kids your full attention and then assure them that you will protect them as much as you can in every situation and God will be with them in every situation and perfectly protect them. Kids like us need assurance far more than they need pat answers.
The things that bring sorrow to your life are a pretty good indicator of what is most valuable to you. The things that create tears in us are often from the disturbance of one of the idols of our hearts. We need to ask ourselves what makes us cry? When did I cry last? If you haven’t cried a lot lately, you need to ask yourself why not?
When I was a kid, I would cry about things that affected me. Not getting what I think I deserved. I remember crying when kids bigger than me made fun of me. It was all centered around my discomfort more than anything else. I was young and at the center of my own universe. As I got older my tears changed somewhat I would cry when I received rebuke for my sin by my pastors and parents. I remember sitting in church at age 13 drawing a picture of a weird looking devil thing, and my youth pastor saw me he met with me and rebuked me I was a mess. I felt bad; I was beginning to feel to the sorrow that sin brings into the lives of everyone it touches.
I am thankful my parents didn’t shield me from the rebuke I deserved from my youth pastor. Parents let your kids cry. Make your kids cry. So often we rightly want to console them and pacify them that we fail to allow them to feel the weight of their sin and see the beauty of Christ.
Several weeks ago one of my kids made fun of another kid and said something hurtful. I told them they had to go to that person’s house and apologize. The whole family was eating dinner on the deck. My son said to me “Right now? Everyone is outside.” I said Yes right now go. My son came back broken and weeping. I told him “Do you feel good right now?” he said no. I said this is what sin does to you. Did you feel good about yourself when you were roasting that other kid? He said Yes. I told him that sin will always do this to you. If feels good for a moment but when you and those you love are faced with the reality of what sin does you will weep tears far bigger and feel the pain of that sin much deeper. I told him that this is what sin does it sells you short-term pleasure and shields you from the long-term pain it brings.
What makes you weep? Rebecca VanDoodewaard in this months Table Talk says this.
Have you ever noticed when old people cry? Not bitter old people, but elderly saints?
They don’t cry when they’re scared. They don’t cry about personal slights or disappointments. They rarely cry out of frustration. Instead, they tend to cry about two things: sin and its effects on others, and grace and its effects on others.
With sanctification, old age makes people’s souls strong and tender, not bitter and brittle. And the holier the saint, the more tender they are to sin and grace. Christlikeness makes them tender to the same things that Jesus is tender to. As we grow closer to the Lord, wisdom allows us to accurately identify “a time to weep” (Eccl. 3:4). Those are tears that honor the Lord even as they teach younger Christians about God’s economy: let’s weep for this broken world and God’s grace in it.
This is so true of all of us. One of the signs of the sanctifying work of God in our lives is our tears change. We become more like Christ because we no longer cry about our discomfort but we weep over our the sins of others. We weep at the effects of sin on our world and we weep as Christ is weeping over our own sin.
So often I have heard people in my generation and the generation above me lament over the work ethic and overall disposition of Millennials. Much has been written or discussed how to deal with, how to lead and how to learn from Millennials. Many of the characterizations and mischaracterizations are stereotypical at best. What hasn’t been talked about much is how we created them and how we have to change how we parent and lead the next generation, or we will only perpetuate the problem.
Before I talk about how to correct the problems that are evident in many Millennials let me say a couple of things. 1. This is not true of every Millennial 2. Millennials have many good traits and abilities that we can no doubt learn from, but in this post, I want to tackle how we parent differently and lead differently in light of the deficiencies that is evident in so many Millennials.
The starting place is definitely in well-intentioned parents and leaders. Every parent who remotely cares for their kids wants them to have a better life than they had. They want them to have more experience more and do more than they did. If you are a leader and parent and you don’t want what’s best for your kids or employees you need to examine yourself and ask why isn’t that something you desire because you should especially if you are a Chrisitan.
Where our good intentions went wrong.