Faith in Motion

It is crunch time at our house. In less than one week our church will host a student conference called “Motion” where we will expect to see about seven thousand kids converge on the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center for a few days of worship and teaching. Since my husband is Creative Director for Student Ministries at our church, this is easily the biggest thing he will do all year. Plans for this weekend conference have been in motion for nearly a year. This isn’t the kind of weekend party one throws together in a few days. Still, the last few weeks, and the last several days have seen little talk of anything not having to do with Motion.

It is true that our world is in real peril. Strong “family” values are slipping away. Our culture is giving way to selfishness, violence, and immorality. Compromise is the word of the day.

“Dogs and cats- living together!” (Ghostbusters, 1984)

thCA30VQ0X

Holding ourselves to any kind of higher standard is ridiculed and mocked openly in the media.

Young girls are taken and sold into modern day slavery and passenger planes are shot out of the sky for no good reason. Not that there is any good reason to shoot a passenger plane out of the sky.

We are living in difficult times. But if we read our Bibles, this is not something that should really come as any kind of surprise. While we can and should continue to hold tight to what is left of the moral fiber of this nation and this world, it will continue to slip between our fingers and fade away. What might come as a bit of a surprise is the rapid nature of the decline. My children are growing up in a much different world than I did. I can remember the innocence of my childhood when I had little or nothing to fear. It seems like another lifetime. In a way, it is.

As parents, Matthew and I have tried to protect our children and maintain the innocence of their childhood. Things like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers have made that a difficult task. The world is a different place than the one in which Matthew and I grew up, and there is no going back. I realize that I am sounding completely like a Debbie Downer, or Negative Nancy. That’s not my intention. While these things I say are true, and they give me pause, these days also excite me. Why? Because I know that all these things are happening right on time. While it may seem that everything is going to hell in a hand basket, there is an itinerary and we are right on schedule. The moment sin entered the world that clock started ticking.

The closer we get to the time of Jesus’s return, the closer our relationship to him needs to be. If we do not find our security in him, we will surely fear these perilous times. As the world contiues to spin out of control, it is that inner peace that passes all understanding that will bring us through. I look at my children and see that their level of faith in Christ is so much higher than mine was at their ages. Their discernment and commitment is better and stronger. They are better able to see what is true and what is not.

But it’s not only my kids. The level of faith of the believers in their generation is truly astounding. They may be but a remnant, but they are strong. I believe it is but one more sign of our times. They are going to have greater need for stronger faith, and God is supplying their need. As we get ready for Motion Conference, I can’t help but get excited to watch them as they gather to pray, to worship, and to grow.

Are your kids a part of this? So many of our “Southern” kids are lost in the land of cultural Christianity. They grow up going to church because it’s the southern thing to do, while they never really have a full on relationship with the living God. If you are not seeing evidence of growing faith in your children’s lives, then it’s time to take action. If they aren’t dragging you to church or showing concern for spiritual things, then perhaps it’s time to sit up and take notice of where they are in their relationship with Jesus. The best we can do to prepare our kids for the exciting and difficult days ahead, is to make sure they are continually growing in their faith now. It’s never too early to start, and it’s rarely too late.

I promise this isn’t a commercial for Motion Conference. But I guess it could be. It will take place just a few days before the school year starts. It just might be the shot in the arm your teen needs to walk along the dark halls of their school and bring in the light this school year. It could change their lives, and they could change their generation for Christ. Need a place to start? Visit www.motionstudents.com

The Search For Bigfoot Continues

bigfoot

It may surprise some of you to find out that I like to watch Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” show. I just heard opinions of me slipping down all over the place. Try not to let them slip too far.

It’s really pretty astonishing that the show will soon start its fifth season. It’s astonishing because in four seasons they have yet to locate a Bigfoot… or any real evidence of a Bigfoot. The show’s hosts are a troop of “Scientists” who tromp across the United States in search of their elusive “Squatch”. (That’s insider lingo for Bigfoot.) Wherever there are reports of large unidentified hairy beasts roaming the country, this band of ragtag researchers shows up to investigate. They hold town hall meetings where those who have been eye witness to potential Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) in the area can come, and in a cone of safety, admit to what they have seen or heard, or think they’ve seen or heard. And the search goes on from there with renew vigor.

The team of researchers who relentlessly looks for evidence of Bigfoot are a part of a real life organization called Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, or BFRO. The leader of this particular organization is Matt Moneymaker. I promise, I’m not making this up. Another of the researchers on the show is called Bobo. Honestly. Bobo is a pretty large dude, and in all four seasons of the show so far, Bobo is the closest thing to looking like a Bigfoot they’ve seen.

I can’t really say why I like this show so much except that I kind of like rooting for the underdog. I think it’s highly unlikely that they will ever find a Squatch, but what if they did? The more reasonable side of my brain is thinking that if Bigfoots really did exist there would be the taxidermied carcass of one hanging on some Alabama redneck’s wall already. And yet, I can’t help holding out hope for their success. For if there really is a Bigfoot out there, maybe there really is a Lochness monster, or mermaids, or unicorns!

childlike wonder

It’s that childlike wonder of belief that the Bible talks about. Remember when you were a kid and it was so easy to believe in something? Anything? Adults talk about kids and this easy believism as gullibility. We say children are gullible because they don’t know. They haven’t been deceived enough times to become cynical and suspicious, nor have their minds become so full of head knowledge that their spirit of imagination has died.

When the Bigfoot show first aired, my youngest son was nine and he was a believer. Now at thirteen, he refuses to watch the show with his mom. *sigh* I miss the days when he believed that maybe, just maybe, they would find a Bigfoot! Those were exciting days. Those were days of anticipation for what might happen!

I’m not suggesting that we all start combing the woods around our homes for Squatches, or that we alert Bobo and the members of BFRO to come check out what is most likely your hairy brother-in-law taking a stroll through the woods. What I am saying is that somehow we have to recapture that childlike wonder. We miss so many things that are wonder-ful because we have lost our ability to see them. If we spent a mere fraction of the time that Bobo spends looking for Bigfoot, looking for the signs and wonders from God, we might begin to recapture what we have lost and begin to see.

I want to see God moving. I want to continue to believe that he still does. How many times have we explained away the miracles of God? We must get back to the point where it is easy to believe again. Our heads are so full of knowledge about how this world works that we want to explain away the wonders of God. Do you remember the days when you believed God could do anything? Do you remember those days when you waited in eager anticipation to see him move?

Let the search continue… and behold the wonders of God.

Every Good and Perfect Kid…

images-4

Every good and perfect kid… can be found on their mother’s Facebook page. It’s true. Facebook has become a showcase for perfect children. My perfect children show up there, and so do yours. The kids I have that are total screw-ups will never grace my page. Their antics will forever be hidden from public view. Why is this? I don’t want anyone to know that I might have raised some kids who make mistakes. Not so much because I want to protect them, as much as I want to protect me.

I allude to these less than perfect ones in mostly vague posts that ask for nonspecific prayers for my sanity, or for the lives of those undisclosed shadow children- that I might not end their earthly existence sooner than later. I might make veiled references to the struggles of motherhood, but you will never see a photo of my hands around a child’s throat or of their heads hung low after a missed curfew, or poor grade, or whatever. Should my kids ever have a mug shot, you will not see it posted on my Facebook page. No amount of Photoshopping could put a positive spin on that.

Unknown-1

If my kids are ever in need of a self-image boost, they need only visit their mother’s Facebook page and take a stroll down memory lane. There they will see a collection of their mom’s treasured moments. Those moments when they made me smile, won an award, accomplished something noteworthy or contributed to society in some meaningful way.

Before Facebook, my oldest son would make a habit of keeping all the birthday cards sent to him by grandparents, aunts and uncles. When he doubted himself or had a bad day, he would go to his room, shut the door, read them all, and remind himself how great he really is. Now he has his mom’s Facebook page for that. Everything noteworthy or mentionable he has done since he was thirteen is recorded for posterity there on Facebook. He will find no mention of any disappointments, failures, or shortcomings there.

Not.

One.

Word.

Only pictures of happy times, and proud momma moments, will be found.

The same is true for all of my children. Good and perfect, they are. This is not a post about how we should just be real about our kids and be willing to be more transparent about the failings of all of our kids and post those on Facebook.

Quite the contrary.

As mothers, we all know those perfect children we see who live in the homes of our Facebook friends are actually no more perfect than the imperfect scoundrels who sometimes take up residence in our own homes.

I just think it’s probably good to be reminded of that occasionally. We cannot fall for the lie that everyone else has perfect kids and we are complete failures as moms because ours don’t look like those we see on Facebook. As mothers, we will always put the best of our kids out there for others to see and consume. I think that’s just fine. In a world hell bent on tearing us down, there needs to be a place where we can go find a more edifying picture of who we are.

There used to be a saying that if God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. I’d like to say, if God had a Facebook page, all your best moments would be listed there for the world to see, while none of your lowly, disrespectful, disobedient, sinful moments would be mentioned.

So post those photos, brag on those perfect kids all you can! And when you post that nonspecific prayer request for patience, sanity, or self-control, we’ll know. We will all know, and we will pray with you. Because we all have some imperfect kids in our house who go through things we won’t post on Facebook, and tomorrow it might be us posting a request for prayer!

Right Feelings, Wrong Season

images-1

So I was talking to a friend of mine who is a mom of two teenaged boys. Knowing that Matthew and I have already been through this stage twice now, she was in need of some encouragement. Her younger son has his eye on this pretty little thing, and the thought of him having a girlfriend at his age makes her skin crawl. Honestly, for moms, it’s the thing of nightmares.

Most people take for granted that dads of girls go through difficulty as their daughters near the age when dating is to start, but fewer people realize that moms go through similar fears with their boys. Most moms are taken by surprise themselves at the feelings they have at the prospect of their boys venturing into that arena all alone.

The dating continuum for teens is pretty broad. On the one far end, some parents go the route of courting. Yes, I said courting. And yes, I do realize we are no longer living in the nineteenth century. One step farther to the right on that continuum I mentioned is arranged marriages. Listen, trust me, the older your little precious ones get, the better arranged marriages begin to look.

But moving on back the other direction on this continuum and to the far other end, are parents who have no idea who their kids are seeing, how much of them they are seeing, what they are doing with how much they are seeing them, and how often they are doing it. This philosophy is what can make for instant grandparents.

I think reasonable is as always, somewhere in the middle.

I encouraged my friend that if she and her husband were wise, and they are, they should put off the dating/girlfriend thing off for as long as possible. Popular culture encourages young people to date. To seek a girlfriend or boyfriend. And it begins younger and younger. I have heard of parents who are perfectly fine with elementary aged kids having a romantic relationship. I’d like to ask those parents what exactly they are smoking, but that might seem a bit tacky to put here.

Oh.

Well… the Bible tells us that there is a time and place for all things under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1) Everything has its proper season. Most of the time, with most things, we rush the season. We are in such a hurry.

Both of my older boys are in dating relationships. Both of them are at an age where they can handle the ups and downs that come with inviting a young woman into their lives. And there are ups AND downs. Both of them are old enough to understand what it means to hold a woman’s heart in their hand and treat it with loving care. Those have been some painful lessons to learn. But even now, we caution them. Not because we question their choices, the girls they are dating are both lovely. We remind them of the season.

You see, what happens in relationships is this. Most of the time, kids want to run faster than the proper pace of a healthy dating relationship. What happens when we outrun the proper pace of a healthy dating relationship? Either the relationship ends poorly with broken hearts strewn everywhere, or the couple ends up doing things together that only married people should be doing. And then I become a grandma before my time. (For the record, I will be called MeeMaw… but only in proper season, please)

So with all the hormones raging through your teenager’s veins, waking up body parts they were previously unaware could control their thoughts so completely, what is a parent to do? Talk about it. Set firm boundaries, and talk about it.

My pastor said it well when he was talking about how this affected his own kids. As each of them grew into teenagers, began going through the same things, and having those same desires, he would remind them, “Right feelings. Wrong season.” The feelings our kids are having are completely normal. They just start a little ahead of their abilities to manage them well. So that becomes our job.

WARNING: Your kids won’t much appreciate it.

Most of them are reluctant to talk about their relationships or their feelings at that age. Another reason they are not yet ready. Talk about it anyway.

My 16 year-old-daughter recently told me what one of the pastors at our church said about finding that right person. He told her to run her race, and to keep her eyes on her purpose, on Jesus, and RUN. Then every so often, look to the side and see who is running their race alongside hers. Then she is to keep running her race a while longer. At the proper time, the proper season, the person running her same race will become clear. (And her dad will have a nervous breakdown.)

images-3

Most teenagers still have a lot of running to do before they are ready to start looking side to side to see who’s running with them. It takes a certain amount of maturity to continue running when everyone else is busy being all consumed with someone else.

I’d like to say this is an easy season. But it’s not. Still, parents must engage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I’m too involved. Whatever. As I sit back and watch my two oldest boys run, I have to say, it’s all been worth it. We’re not to the finish line yet, but it’s looking pretty good.

Chances Are, You’re Wrong

Unknown

I started a new job this last week. I wasn’t nervous about starting a new job, exactly. I’ve started a new job before. A few times, actually. Perhaps you have, too. The biggest anxiety for me over started a new job is wondering if what I think the new job is going to be, and what it actually turns out to be, are anywhere near the same thing. After that, I wonder about the people I will work alongside. What will they be like? Will they be helpful? Are they happy people? Are they people of integrity? What makes them tick and what will they think of me?

When it comes to other people, we make judgments based on their words and their actions. We then assign value based on those assumptions. We decide that we know what makes a person do or say what they do or say. We think it is our inherent right to know these things about the people we come into contact with. We think this about our most intimate friends, and we think this way of total strangers. Should the checkout associate at Walmart not greet us with a sweet smile and make pleasant conversation with us, we wonder what her problem is. We size her up and in the short time we are standing across the conveyer from her, we think we have her all figured out. We make judgments.

But the truth is, whether it is a new coworker, a spouse, or a total stranger, most of the time our judgments are wrong. We think we know. We think we have the necessary discernment to read a person’s motives, heart, or intentions, but the truth is we are far more likely to be wrong than right.

There is the person we present to the world, and then there is the real us. We most often hide the real us, because when we take the risk to present our real selves to the world, we so often regret the decision. People tell us that they want the truth about who we really are, how we really feel, but what they really want is the version of the truth that will make them feel the best about us and about themselves. So we continue in the charade. We learn to conceal from those even closest to us our deepest feelings and emotions.

It’s not fair really. I mean we hide ourselves, but expect everyone else to be so transparent. We put out there what the world, our society, our family or network of friends will most likely accept as normal or… acceptable. I do it, and you do it.

There is a saying that “actions speak louder than words”. I’m not sure I buy it. The truth is, I do a lot of things because I am expected to do them. If I were being the real me, I would do something completely different. My actions so often do not reflect my heart.

Is this post too honest for you?

I realize that when this sort of thing gets thrown out on the table it can make us second guess anything anyone has ever done or said. And that can be maddening for sure. That’s not the intention here.

So what is?

Ours is not to judge. When did we think that it was our job to judge the words and actions of another and deem them good or bad? It was for that very reason we were never supposed to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before that, those judgments would have been lost on us.

No one’s journey looks exactly like anyone else’s. We often presume to know just how someone feels or to know just why someone acted in a way they did. We have expectations of certain behavior and when a person behaves contrary to that expectation, there’s a problem.

We cannot pretend to know what’s going on in another person’s heart and mind. How can we when we rarely are sure of what’s going on in our own? We are complex beings created by a complex Designer. We make choices that take us down paths of destruction and pain and then expect everyone to be whole and happy and always able to do just what we think they should do.

Well maybe that distracted Wal-Mart employee has no idea how she’s going to make her small paycheck stretch to meet the needs of her three school-aged children who are at home alone because she can’t afford a babysitter. Maybe that friend is afraid if you knew the real truth about her, you’d choose a better friend.

Maybe we’re so busy trying to figure out the people around us, and qualify their actions, because it distracts us from dealing with the issues in our own lives.

The Bible tells us that man looks upon outward appearances, but God looks on the heart. (1Sam 16:7) It will be that way until Christ comes back and makes right all the wrongs.

We must take care in the judgments we pass on others. We will be judged by those same standards. (Matthew 7:1-3) Why? Because we are unqualified to judge. A judge can only make a right determination if they have all the facts. We rarely have all the facts.

If I want grace, then I have to be willing to give it. Maybe if we all lower our expectations of others, learn to be more patient and understanding of where they are in their journey, and trust what we don’t understand to the One who does, we’ll all live a little bit more in harmony with the people with whom our paths cross. I’m really going to try to do that with my new co-workers. And my friends. And my family. And well, everyone.