Archives for December 2012

Teens and Faith

Kyle party

The Irvine Spectrum (an outdoor mall in Southern California) was crowded and noisy with holiday shoppers searching for post-Christmas deals. A storm was blowing in and rain sporadically swept through and drenched everyone in it’s path.

My fourteen year-old son Kyle and his buddy anguished in a long line to buy movie tickets for “Reacher” only to have the show sold out. Frustrated, the boys bought tickets for the next show and aimlessly wandered around with an hour to kill.

A group of high school students stood in the center of the bustling courtyard, oblivious to the rain, and motioned for the boys to come over. An athletic kid with spiky blond hair walked up to my son and stuck out his hand.

“Hi, I’m Shane. Do you mind if I talk to you a moment?” the young man inquired.

Kyle and his friend shrugged their shoulders and agreed.

Shane told them he was from Compass Bible Church and active in the high school ministry there. Then he asked the boys if they knew Jesus.

Shocked at his boldness, Kyle’s friend stuttered, “Uh, yeah, I mean sure…we go to Catholic school.”

Shane looked at him and said again, “But do you know Jesus?”

Kyle’s friend started laughing and confessed, “Well I do have a “D” in religion, so maybe not so much.”

Then Kyle’s friend walked away but Kyle remained. He was intrigued by Shane’s confidence and engaged in the dialogue. Kyle explained he was a pastor’s kid and told him about the church he had helped to start in Mission Viejo.

The boys talked for forty-five minutes about scripture and God and Shane’s passion for Christ.

When Kyle came home after the movie he sat by my bed for a long time and shared all that had happened. Kyle was visibly shaken by his encounter with Shane –this very cool kid, who was not afraid to share his faith.

I imagine Kyle feels like it’s something he has to hide to be accepted.

I asked him what they talked about and while he hinted at a few things he clammed up about his “private convo”.

I didn’t press.

Kyle shared that Shane had asked for his number to follow-up with him. He seemed excited that a kid his age was so passionate about God and confidant enough to share and evangelize publicly.

It struck a chord in Kyle and I loved the sparkle in his eyes.

I went to sleep in true spiritual comfort. I don’t know how many times as a parent I have prayed for my son to have an encounter with God –on his own terms. I don’t want it to be me forcing Jesus down his throat. I want my son to discover Christ’s love all on his own.

As a pastor’s step-kid, this dance of faith and church is a prickly path to navigate. If we push too hard my son will rebel, if we become apathetic he will have no anchor. Somewhere in between, with tears and prayers I hope my son will find his way to Jesus, not in spite of me or to spite me, but because God has become bigger than anything else in his world.

I know we pushed too hard in the past when we started the church. Church planter’s kids and missionary kids don’t always emerge on the other side singing hymns and praising God. They are forced to tag along for a rough ride they didn’t sign up for. I’ve seen many kids blow out and associate God with pain. When college hits, they turn their back on the church.

In the last year, I felt God sensing me to ease up on the forced free labor of my kids at church. They now volunteer and serve by choice and while my middle daughter can’t get enough, my son has been more reticent.

Letting him pull back hasn’t been easy.

I have forced myself to release the burden of his walk with God. It’s been both scary and simultaneously freeing. But as a parent of a teen it’s something I think we must all face if we are to allow our children to make their faith their own and not something they do to simply pacify us.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still drag his butt to church, pay for Christian school and occasionally make him feed the homeless, but I am confident that ultimately, I can release my son to Jesus -the one who loves him even more than his doting mother.

And clearly God is revealing himself to Kyle in ways I could never orchestrate -spiky hair and all.

How do you navigate faith with your teen?

Doomsday Eve

I feel a little discombobulated today.

The protocol of Doomsday Eve is a bit uncertain. I’ve never experienced the last day before the last day of the world –unless you count Y2K and I recall that evening as REALLY anticlimactic. Nothing exploded, NORAD didn’t go off, and the champagne fizzled. 

But back to today…should I do anything radically different? 

I’ve considered going big.  Maybe downloading some new books on my Kindle, charging a few items on my credit card (since I’ll never have to pay the bill, right?) and topping off the evening with lots of kisses and cuddles to my munchkins and hubby.

Since we are starting a new tradition here, now that the end of the world seems to be predicted every ten years or so, maybe we could light a few candles and say a few prayers to all the doomsday Jackwaggons who have profited by instigating mass paranoia, hype and fear among the nations.

I read today that the real Mayans aren’t stocking up on food or guns.  Since half of the prophetic tablet is broken, they aren’t looking for decimation but instead towards a new season where they can fill in their own calendar with soccer games and Mayan celebrations.  I like their simplistic philosophy –while they happily live in huts and avoid the rat race, we in the more developed nations read their ancient antiquities and freak out.

A comment on one of the Doomsday sites from Mike Vidovich had me in stitches.

“Calendars change throughout history.  Caesar added leap year in 45BC. The Mayan calendar didn’t account for it. That added 514 days (1 every 4 years). By the Mayan calendar, today should be near the end of July 2013. Technically the world should have ended 7 months ago by the Mayan calendar.”

Mike, that’s comforting.

If one was to predict a real Doomsday, I think we might all be better off keeping our eyes on the nukes in the Middle East, preparing for more super-storms and taking earthquake and tsunami preparedness a little more seriously. I’m more afraid to send my kid to school these days then to worry about aliens coming down to some mountain in France tomorrow.

None of us is promised another day.  Lord willing, we will all have one more day to love and serve and make the world a better place.

So today, I will write, I will love and I will finish my Christmas cards.  I will clean my house which has gingerbread cookies crumbs everywhere and I will find the time to buy more presents that I can’t really afford for my beloved family.  I will snuggle my kids and wrap my arms around my darling husband.  And if this is my last day, then I will have no regrets.

And Saturday morning I will try not to mock the people who are disappointed to see another sunrise. “Try” being the optimum word.

 

We’ve Got (the) Spirit ,Yes We Do! We’ve Got Spirit, How About You?

Sometimes the title of “Christian” makes me cringe. 

I love God.  I walk beside Jesus and I believe his Word to be true, but when I see Christians browbeat others with rules I want to hide my fishy bumper sticker and run.

In a bizarre series of events a girl on my daughter’s cheer team went AWOL.  It’s not a big deal normally when a girl quits a team, but it’s a big deal when the girl quits the team the day after the group has won a spot to Nationals.  Without the sixteen members the team would be forced to forfeit.

The coaches suggested finding another girl to replace her.  The girl was not on our roster although she was of the same age and skill.  There are rules to protect teams from adding a “ringer” or a girl with superior skills, but this instance was not aimed at gaining an unfair advantage.  If anything, the replacement was more of a disadvantage in the added effort and time spent to bring her up to speed—although the switch might not have technically adhered to the letter of the law. It was a gray area scenario they wanted to investigate further.  They acknowledged that if someone wanted to make a big deal regarding the replacement the team could be disqualified.  They asked the parents if we were willing to take the risk.

All of the parents agreed to move forward understanding the consequences.

One mother walked up to the emergency meeting late.  She had not heard the full and detailed explanation but only picked up the last few words of the conversation.  She then interrupted, “I will not have my daughter be a part of anything questionable. I am a strong Christian and I don’t think this promotes the right values.  If we decide to move forward this way I am pulling her out.”

She walked off grumbling about how the Holy Spirit made her speak up in the midst of deceit.

If she had stopped for a moment and turned around she might have noticed the havoc her words left; in her wake of righteousness stood fifteen girls –including her daughter sobbing their hearts out. 

Now missing two girls, the coaches threw up their hands and canceled the rest of the season.  All their hard work went down the drain –in the name of being a “good Christian.”

OUCH!

Now if the Holy Spirit told her to speak up then by all means she needed to voice her concerns.  We are all held accountable to God for our actions. 

But I have to wonder if this wasn’t an example of the spirit of the law vs. the law?  Were these girls hurting anyone? No.  Were they trying to steal or cheat their way into an award? No.  They simply wanted a chance to compete –something they earned. The letter of the law is the rule that is put in place “not to add a un-rostered member.”  The spirit of the law is “don’t bring in a highly skilled cheerleader to get an advantage.”

I don’t know the mind of Christ.  His will is a mystery.  But I do know he was a bit of a rebel.  He healed on the Sabbath; he touched lepers and bleeding women and Samaritans.  He messed with the money changers and turned over tables in a fit of anger. 

And I imagine he might care more for the hearts of impressionable young girls than for a rulebook made up by a bunch of business savvy/aging cheerleaders who charge way too much money to let our girls climb on a stage and perform. 

Was this an issue of integrity or legalism?  While I don’t disagree with the focus on honesty I do take issue with self-righteousness in the name of Christianity.  It seems like what the parents and the girls heard that night was “because I am Christian, you don’t get to compete.” 

Only 16 percent of non-Christian young people under 30 say they have a “good impression” of Christianity, and a mere 3 percent feel that way about evangelical Christianity, according to the Barna Group, a Christian market research organization. As recently as the 1990s a majority of non-Christians viewed Christianity favorably.”

Research reveals that young people today consider their churches as fear-based, risk-averse, isolated, shallow, antagonistic to science, simplistic and judgmental about sexuality, and inhospitable to questions or doubts.

The biggest complaint on the under 30 crowd is that “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.”

Fortunately, our coaches found an airtight and “100% by the cheer rulebook” way to work in a new girl which I am confident they would have done to begin with, because their credibility was on the line too. 

God did provide another way, one I think we are all more comfortable with.  I believe the rules are in place to protect although in some instances I believe the heart trumps being right for right’s sake.

I’m thrilled my kid still gets a chance to compete, but I still have a sour taste for the damage done to young girls who will never forget the night the “Christian lady” crushed their fragile hearts.

 Source of Photo: http://pinterest.com/hannahschliep/

A One Direction Christmas

“It’s a phase,” my husband Tim grumbles.  “Faith won’t even care about One Direction in six months.”

I looked at the laminated Santa List my daughter had just presented to us and chortled.  Sixteen items were listed –fifteen of them revolved around the boy band One Direction.

The only thing practical on the list was a curling wand.  To my husband it looked like $200 worth of nonsense.

There was the Mrs. Harry Styles t-shirt, a One Direction iPad cover, a One Direction book, a calendar and even a set of One Direction dolls.

I shrugged and agreed that girls her age were indeed irrational and then asked for the credit card to go buy her the nonsense.

I remember all too well…a little girl back in the Christmas of ’79 who loved Shaun Cassidy and swooned and shrieked at his hypnotizing voice and long wavy blond hair.  He made me and all my friends gushy inside.  Shaun Cassidy bonded us.

How can I begrudge my Faith for her first boy crush when I wore the same girl drama shoes?

Faith is caught in that in-between stage of childhood and teen where the first flutters and stirrings of the heart are easier to project on a celebrity than on a real relationship.  Boyfriends will inevitably follow –but for now she is content with posters on the wall to drool over and concert tickets from the One Direction Global tour.

Before I know it my baby Faith will be all grown up and a real Mr. Right will swoop her off her feet.

And so I am crossing off her list one by one with a secret sigh of nostalgia –thinking about the days when a girl could talk for hours with her besty about a boy’s smile and his pretty curls.

 

Moonlight, Mistletoe and Faith

My daughter Faith and I have discovered a new favorite seasonal pastime.  It’s ridiculously girly, involves loads of tissue and about two hours of cooing and sobbing between the two of us.  What’s our new find?  I’m embarrassed to admit (cough, cough…ahem…) but we have become obsessed with the Hallmark Channel.

In an effort to save dollars, my ever frugal husband negotiated a smoking deal with Direct TV.  What remains is nothing but the most basic of channels; excluding the NFL channel he somehow worked into the deal. 

(I know …right? I lose my favorite shows and he gains about another 25 games a week)

Who knew after we lost Bravo, the Style Channel, “E” and anything of interest to a chick that we would find the secret jewel of Hallmark?  I can only assume in the absence of all decent amusement, sappy love stories involving Santa and Elves start to look good.

A Bride for Christmas…Moonlight and Mistletoe…Naughty or Nice…

Only Hallmark could come up with low-budget movies this good.  I get to see all my favorite actors stage a comeback while being emotionally hijacked in the process. 

But the best part of wasting my time on mindless entertainment is doing this with my daughter.  I sit by her side; play with her long hair and cuddle close.  We share a fleece blanket, toast our toes by the fire and sip hot tea while munching on animal crackers. 

There are rules: We don’t argue.  We watch the whole movie.  We fast-forward through commercials and we simply hang out and do nothing–together.

It’s a much-needed reprieve from the daily grind of Faith pushing the envelope to grow up fast, fast and faster and me standing by with a blinking yellow “slow down” sign.

Push-Pull…it’s our daily battle of growing up and letting go.

But Hallmark, oh glorious and cheesy Hallmark allows us to push pause and simply enjoy each other. 

Do you have a special holiday pastime?

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