Tweens and Spirituality…

Tweens (kids from 8-13) usually grades 4 -8 are confronted with all kinds of decisions… Who to hang out with…what to wear, where do they fit in? Sports or Band… Science Club or Theatre?

Are they popular enough to be on the ‘inside’ or do they have to retreat to being on the outside, looking in? Have they given up on the popular crowd, taking bitter pride in their independent status as non-conforming and creatively superior?

Or maybe you catch them trying on different styles, looks, and attitudes like a fashionista – exchanging one interest or hobby after another, desperately searching for their niche. Anxious to find a place to ‘fit’ in the overwhelmingly tense structures of modern-day tween-teen social life. tween-slumber-party

These anxieties are centered around school and the elusive ‘popular’ designation and looking to peers as the ultimate validation for their identities. To find that affirmation, our kids are mixing it up with social media consumption at an average of over 9 hours a day, and check their ‘status’ now over a 100 times per day (*13 year olds – see study here) !

YIKES.

Seeing our kids struggling to sort it all out is painful to watch. As parents we remember what it’s like to get caught in the awkward transition from kid to adult. The tween years are painful, ugly, and intense under the best of circumstances…. add to the mess an uncontrollable surge of media and social critique and suddenly we’re in uncharted territory.

There are dark and unpredictable threats to even the most stable families, the most grounded kids are wrestling with personal value, sexuality, and self-worth.

Parents must step further into the adolescent equation than ever before. Gone are the days of ‘protecting’ your kids privacy, letting them form identities as they grow up through trial and error. Gone are the days of simply trusting your kids to have a ‘good-time’ with their friends at the game.

Today, parents must take regular and intrusive steps to review or monitor the social media on their kids phones… educating ourselves about the severity of the assault on our kids hopes and dreams. Attacks that hit everything about our kids that we love… accusations that undermine identities, self-worth, modesty, purity, character, personal beliefs, and of course… spirituality.  teary-teen-image

Kids need to explore their spiritual beliefs every bit as much and more than all of the ‘other’ stuff around them. For the churched kids, they learn to adapt, responding as expected to whatever questions pastors, parents, and religious kids throw at them. Not rejecting the faith completely, just slowing and taking a guarded – wait and see – approach to spirituality.

IF we don’t ask.. our kids just won’t deal with it.

As the parent of a tween / teen, you voice is the greatest voice in your kids life! Not the youth pastor, YouTube, or their friends. YOU!!!

So, take full responsibility and authority and face the uncomfortable silences as you wait for your tween to answer. ASK them about their faith. ASK them to articulate what it is they believe about God. About themselves… about how they see faith in their school stresses and how God helps in their relationships.

We have to connect the dots between church and real life. Our tweens must see and experience their faith in the day-to-day – struggle of being alive. It’s how true faith is formed for all of us.

Something to consider.

Pastor B.

 

Road Trip Revival – First stage… LAUNCH!

So… packing up for six, rounding up maps and distance projections, budgets for food and gas, lodging, and other stuff… it’s a chore to think a road-trip like this all the way through. Going almost seven thousand miles round trip is a journey, more pilgrimage than impulse… so it’s especially important to plan ahead.

Summer travel means tourists.

Tourists and the American west are synonymous.

This makes booking rooms in hotels along your route most strategic 🙂

We learned quickly that we would have to look ahead, plan our destination each morning and call ahead to confirm rooms as soon as we could each morning for us to have a chance at a decent (clean, non-bed bug infested, WI-FI enabled etc..) room that evening.

After confirming the vitals… we could focus on specific road routes, plan excursions and other touristy stuff after we knew for ‘sure’ where we would be sleeping. For parents and families, room arrangements are not as ‘critical’, modesty and privacy are much less important considerations… but for us, it was! Four girls, two boys and we would have to be careful to get two rooms with sleeping space for each of us.

Road Trip Revival

Road Trip Revival

That said… if you plan your travel and confirm the essentials, everyone can relax and enjoy the journey without the added stress of ‘finding’ hotel rooms at midnight… especially in the American North West as towns and options become very limited and VERY far apart! By saying ‘very’ I mean hundreds of miles sometimes in-between 🙂

A note on long haul vehicles … recommend highly a large SUV or Van. We rented an eight passenger, extended length Ford Expedition that worked fantastic! Unlimited mileage, brand new and state of the art features were wonderful, and all for about $700/week! It was a good option for us. (Courtesy of AVIS). If you already have such a grand ride, then use it for sure! Space is at a premium for a large group, so we limited luggage to 2 suitcases and it worked great. Everyone brought an additional personal backpack along with a pillow/blanket combo for travel comfort and entertainment.

Clothing... knowing we would be travelling from one extreme to another, we asked our road-trippers to bring a couple of layers of clothes, including a light jacket and sweatshirt/hoodie. Leaving in late July we had 100+F temps and high humidity, but heading for the mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington… we knew things would get dry and cool before we got back. (Little did we know “how cool” it would get, but that’s for a later post 🙂

Food… okay, food is always a bit dicey. EVERYONE has their favorite, and EVERYONE has their most -unliked. My solution was to give each tween-teen a travel stipend for buying their own snacks along the way. That way we could all have what we liked and the pressure to find the ‘perfect’ snacks evaporated like dew in the desert 🙂 Woo-HOO! Problem solved and suddenly… we were just about ready to roll!

The gang... day one! Road Trip Revival

The gang… day one! Road Trip Revival

One more thing… as you prepare to launch any Epic Road Trip, be aware that God is in the mix. Prepare your road-trippers to experience God as you go. Simply put… give them a chance to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ God in the sights and sounds ahead. The way I did that ? I got everyone a simple notepad / journal to write down and or collect their thoughts. Even if no one takes the time to write stuff down… you’re creating the ‘context’ for each one to expect to hear from God.

That expectation is a crucial part of any road-trip. It allows the Holy Spirit to move and breathe, to instruct and encourage, to change our kids hearts from the extraordinary experiences they are sure to have.

So… NOW we’re ready to LAUNCH!

Load in 1pm. Missouri here we come…

Gravity… pulls us down and builds us up!

Hope you have seen the visually stunning – award-winning and epic film, GRAVITY with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It’s an AMAZING HD production partnered with a surprisingly intense dramatic performance …. it PULLS  audiences into the struggle of a single mom fighting to stay alive in the extreme of outer-space… alone.

Gravity captures…It immerses you in an emotional journey of someone desperate to survive. We become lost in a foreign world of unknown dangers and unexpected tragedy. The feel of this flic will make you sweat and your breathing will match the actors as you FEEL the power of panic and the desperation of a life lived to the razors edge of sudden catastrophe.

At the very end... we see a fade out shot of our heroine emerging but shaky. Her legs and body drained of all strength and her mind exhausted… she slowly rises to stand again, under the restraint of “gravity” once more. It’s here the poignant tale transitions to become a very powerful metaphor or allegory of life.

In this moment… I can see myself…. how extraordinary. I can see God uses our suffering like gravity to build me up. To form me into something stronger, someone with more character… more capable of creating beauty and in the end….expressive of  new-found life.

Gravity = Suffering.  An epiphany….a moment of understanding, of new and deeper insight…

God plans for us to endure the forces of suffering, of injustice… and allows our pain to perfect us into something much more like His intended creation. Someone like Christ.

Those forces are active all the time in our world, and like Gravity, they force our spiritual muscles to work, to contract… to lift, to move to run…. all while under resistance from the gravitational pull of our planet. Inescapable and undeniable, our acceptance of Gravity doesn’t make us fatalistic or sad, it’s a reality that we’ve scientifically explained and learned to live with.

Like science, faith has its mirrored principles. Laws of spirituality that are as unavoidable as Newtonian Physics.

God allows us to endure suffering, to mature us. To build us into the amazing and spectacular men and women of faith we were always meant to be. If we focus ALL of our attention on asking God to remove the hard, the difficult and the painful from our lives we are  refusing to mature.

As parents, part of our role is helping our kids understand and embrace the process of enduring and overcoming in life. To grasp an understanding of the purpose of hardship and discomfort play in our lives. To recognize its role as essential for a healthy life to grow.  Difficulty, struggle…painful mistakes, they really are the ONLY way our children can grow up!

Watch the flick this 4th of July if you missed it and remember the next time your able to crawl out of bed and stand up…. you’re overcoming gravity already 🙂

Peace out, Pastor B.

Romans 5:3-5  “ Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (NIV) 

Learning with King David… How do we change the patterns in our lives (part 2 of 2)

Wish you could live your life more consistently?  Follow along with us today, as we start part 2 of our previous blog of “Learning with King David

So what does all of this mean for today’s parents? How does the pain of David in Psalm 51 and the thoughts of a deep thinker like Ian Morgan Cron, apply to us, today? …. (end of part 1)

1 – Living life from a fractured identity (editing out our ugly past life experiences, skimming over our true conflicts, avoiding the process of recovery from our past wounding) is going to get us in deep trouble if not resolved. As Christians we are NOT immune to the dramatic failing of morality that David experienced. Denial is destructive, and facing ourselves in the safety of a community of faith is crucial to our overcoming destructive patterns in our lives. (Please Note: Proper Counseling and Professional care are often needed for significant life issues)

LESSON: – Living in Denial will lead us to form separate “selves” and allow us to act in completely different ways in front of and around different people or environments. Truth in all we say and all we do forms a barrier between fake and real, an essential character facet of any successful Christian parent.

2- Living our life from a conflicted heart reduces our ability to enjoy a stable, consistent and effective day-to-day existence. Such a life is a bummer, it robs us of joy, peace and power. No more posers, no more acting like we “think” we should to gain others approval. Genuine and authentic motivation is the key.

LESSON: – Singleness of purpose is essential for us to successfully lead others. Multiple agenda’s, re-assessments constantly for better options, and general discontent with what we have will in time erode our conviction and priorities from God’s to our own.

3- Growing into a stable and consistent follower of Christ will require us to carefully examine and adjust our own understanding of what makes us valuable… to embrace Gods plan for our life. That is something we can only find in laying down our preferences for His purposes.

LESSON: – We NEVER grow beyond our need for Grace. No accomplishment, no failure can change our status with a Holy God. If we’re not clear on this, we can rise and fall on our merit alone and miss the life of consistent peace that is promised.

4- Long term healing, consistent change, redemption and recovery will only come to pass as we discard our own in-accurate beliefs about God. He is only good, only loving, He seeks to be intimate with us and share His purposes for our lives. Anything else is a lie, it’s a deliberate attack on our faith. It must be confronted, rejected and overcome with the truth of Gods word and reinforced with a clear understanding of who we are in Christ. (see. Dr. Neil Anderson’s ministry and resources)

LESSON: – Carefully consider NOW what you believe about God’s character. If you proceed into parenting or leading as a Christian, you will encounter life experiences that will challenge your core beliefs about the goodness of God. If your trust or confidence in God is based only on your feelings or senses to see or know God’s presence you could get yourself into deep deception and bondage.

As King David found out, no matter how successful, no matter how powerful, no matter how accomplished we become… We can’t heal our brokeness on our own. We can’t simply read a book and re-orient ourselves back into wholeness. We will have to take the time to ask Jesus (the great physician) to show us where we are broken, where we are dis-integrated. Where our identities have started to split, and our hearts are grievously wounded. When you do, be prepared to experience some discomfort, but in the end the results are worth the effort. Truth sets us free. (John Eldredge and his Ransomed Heart Ministries is a great place to start this process.)

God is calling out to His people to experience “Life“, a full and complete recovery of what has been lost, discarded and or stolen from us. He is offering to restore the thousands of jagged broken pieces into something beautiful and smooth and complete. He wants us to live our lives intact, reconciled to ourselves, others and to Him. Be courageous in this process, don’t give into the temptation to sidestep the broken and antagonistic pieces of a dissatisfied self.

My hope would be for you to get alone for some private time with God. Lay your past, your pain and your fears all out on the table. Look into the battered and fractured splinters of your life and lay them reverently into the healing light of God’s love and grace. No matter how badly you’ve messed life up, it’s not too much for our Creator to re-assemble into a beautiful brand new expression of His power. Remember its a big deal to Jesus to restore the lost,… “To heal the broken-hearted, and to set the captive free”.

I want to be more than another conflicted Christian Parent, struggling to “get it right”. Jesus calls us to lay down our desperate burdens of personal guilt and shame and growing diminishment and simply choose to risk following after Him.

The offer still stands…

Peace out.

brad

(Recommended Readings: please know that much wiser and deeper considerations in Christian literature are available than this blog, and it would be a good investment for some of you to consider more on this topic, Some of my favorites are; AW Tozier, John Eldredge, Francis Chan, Dr. Neil Anderson, CS Lewis and Ian Morgan Cron.)