Month: April 2014

I’m the Dad of Teenagers and They are Awesome

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it, will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18:21

It seemed the moment I became a dad, well meaning people warned me of a turbulent time that lay ahead. Pam and I would introduce our wobbly toddlers to people and inevitably they would say something like this, “Enjoy them now, because one day they will be teenagers.” With a plethora of proof, these older adults would raise the flag of impending doom for the seven-year period that was ahead for our two kiddos.

Pam and I never believed them, though. We started telling ourselves that our teenagers were going to be a great joy to us just as they were when we took them home from the hospital after adopting them both. These harbingers of gloom apparently forgot that babies and toddlers were challenging in their own right. Late night feedings, exploding diapers, vomit on carpet, and tantrums at Wal-Mart could not be the best of times, right?

So, we inched toward the ‘terrible teen” years with guarded hope that we were right and the negative parenting prophets were wrong. We were right. Our two teens did not transform into sub-human droids of destruction when they turned 13. Puberty was not the apocalypse, after all.

Now, before you dismiss me as the pastor painting his kids as perfect, allow me to digress. Our kids are normal and they are teenagers, which is indeed, possible. Our kids test the boundaries of our rules, like your kids. Our kids would rather gorge on junk food than healthier options, like your kids. Our kids do not like early morning school routines, like most other kids. Our kids have spiritual questions and even doubts, like most other kids.

Pam and I could write volumes on what we have learned NOT to do as parents, but one thing we have done well is not believe that our teenagers would be problems without solutions. Every stage of parenting is a challenge that requires more prayer than we think, more wisdom than we can muster, and tons of patience. We have leaned into godly mentors as often as possible and we have certainly paid attention to what our kids watch and listen to in the public media.

We have worked diligently at guarding their innocence, guided them toward life -giving relationships and helped them to see the wonder of the local church, not just its brokenness. We have also realized that our kids will have to make their own choices and some of them may not be best. It is not easy to put your kids into situations where their critical thinking is tested. It is much easier to calibrate robots and send them off into an uncertain world with pre-programmed software.

I wish parenting teens was that simple. Instead, it is a lot like skydiving. We have one chance to get it right and we sure hope it works out. What we speak about our kids before ever leaving the tarmac will go a long way, though, in deciding if there is a safe landing in our future. Speak life now over your toddlers, and when they are teens, they may actually give life back to you.

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May God be Present in Our Rest

I’m working on the final edits for my new book, Addicted to Busy, Recovery for the Rushed Soul, which releases in September. This is a short excerpt and is one of my favorite parts of the book.

 

I love to travel — always have, and probably always will. I love eating food items I don’t normally eat, seeing sights I don’t normally see, and traipsing about foreign lands. I love seeing how people do life on the other side of the planet and having my horizons expanded and enriched as I go.

Here’s what’s also true: I always love coming home. I love coming home because in my home, everything is “just so.” The foods I like are there, and they are right where I like them to be. The pillow I like is there, and it is always on “my” side of the bed. The closet in my bedroom contains the clothes I like to wear. The truck I like to drive is always right there, in the garage. My home is perfectly suited for me—my patterns, my preferences, my tastes and my desires. It fits me hand-on-glove. In fact, it was arranged with me in mind.

Interestingly, the Bible says the Sabbath works the same way. “The Sabbath was made to serve us,” Jesus tells his disciples in Mark 2:27. “We weren’t made to serve the Sabbath.”

The context of this verse is fantastic. Four verses prior, we learn that Jesus is walking through a field of ripe grain with his disciples. As they carve a path through the tall stalks of wheat, some of the disciples pull off a few heads of grain. They were hungry, and so they ate. But this was on the Sabbath, a fact the Pharisees who were tagging along decided to draw attention to. “Look!” those law-keepers said to Jesus. “Your disciples are breaking Sabbath rules!” (v. 23).

The “rules” the Pharisees were referring to included a whole host of parameters the Hebrew people had set forth generations prior. Specifically, they were taking issue with one of the thirty-nine categories of banned activities, known as reaping—removing all or part of a plant from its source of growth. This was forbidden on the Sabbath because it was considered work, it was considered an activity of creation, and this was to be a day of non-creation, a day of rest.

Which brings us to Jesus’ response about the Sabbath being made for us, instead of the other way around. His perspective, essentially, was this: Moses and the prophets may have set forth the schedule of Sabbath, but I—Jesus—have come to establish the spirit of it. And the spirit of it is one of peace, not of prohibition. An early realization I came to in my bedhead-day observance was that I could be the most scheduled, efficient, dutiful person on the planet and yet if I missed the spirit of the Sabbath, I was missing the glory God intended for it.

In this world, we are promised a little chaos. For some of us, we’re promised a lot. “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties,” Jesus says in John 16:33, “but take heart! I have conquered the world.” And interestingly, the way Jesus conquers the world is not by acts of war, but by acts of pervasive peace. It is peace that brings us to Christ. It is peace that saves our souls. And it is peace that saves our weeks from peril, the peace of a day of rest. God knew we’d need peace once a week, like we need our own bed after being on the road for a week. He knew we’d need a soft place to land, a plumb line to re-center our souls. And so, the Sabbath—an invitation, a gift, a small taste on the tongue of peace.

In Jewish tradition, there is a name for this: Shabbat shalom—literally, “may your day of no work be peaceful.” One person would say this as a greeting to another, and that person would respond in kind: “May your day of no work be peaceful as well.”

Since God is not only the inventor of peace but also is himself Peace, another way of saying it is, “May God be in your rest, and may you be in the rest of God.” A day of rest is a day to know peace, to experience and express the peace of God.

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