You Walked Away? Good…I Would Have Too.

Walking Away From The Wrong god.

I wish this title were actually click bait… but it’s true. There are many who have walked away from God, and after talking with them or hearing their stories – I don’t blame them, I would have walked away from “that god” too.

The truth is when I hear a “deconversion” story, (a story of someone abandoning their faith) one of the first things I do is try to figure out what “god” they claimed to believe in. One or two common ones usually show up, but very rarely do I hear of people who walk away from the God that I have put my hope and trust in. It’s usually some version of Him that has been twisted, altered, and changed to the degree that it’s no longer the fullness of God… but a version of a god who they thought was real.

Several months ago, a well-known pastor in Atlanta (Andy Stanley) was catching some serious controversy over a series he did called “Who Needs God.” He was getting a lot of flack from “churched” people, so obviously I was very interested in what he was doing. (I know it’s strange, but whenever today’s Pharisees get angry about something, it usually means that it’s something Jesus might have done!)

In one of his messages, he shared a list of “gods” that people have walked away from and I recognized several of the ones I have also seen in my life.

Here was his list: The God’s of the No Testament
Bodyguard God – he’s here to keep anything bad from happening to you
On-demand God – he’s here to grant our requests (like a genie)
Boyfriend God – you feel him constantly, he’s always with you, and you never fight
Guilt God – he motivates you by condemnation, guilt, and fear.
Anit-Science God – check your brains at the door, God doesn’t want you to understand anything
Gap God – when we can’t explain it, we shove this God in the gap and call it faith

Vision: Change of Pace and Place

I’ll never forget my time in Montana this past summer. Not only was I surrounded by some of the most amazing mountain ranges, but I had the opportunity to drive across one range called “The Road to the Sun” in Glacier National Park. It’s only open for about 4 months of the year. I was there in July, and they had only just cleared the last of the snow off the road to make it open a few weeks earlier. WOW!  It was one of those bucket list items I didn’t even know to have on my bucket list.

Many of the prayers I was praying and seeking God for answers to, came over this 8-day excursion to 6 states, 5 cities, 2 national parks, and hours of flying and driving in between. There was something overwhelming about the GEOGRAPHY being so different than my normal surroundings that I felt closer to God, and maybe more attentive to the experiences I was having and how God wanted to speak through them.  I tried to put it into words, but struggled to do so until just recently.

I’m currently reading “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson.  It’s a follow-up book to his first work “In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.”  It is a great book about chasing the dreams God has for you and how to dream bigger.

He tells the story of how Joel Malm was ice-axing his way up Mount Elbrus when he received his big dream from God.  It led him to create the Summit Leaders.  Why go to a conference and passively listen to a leader when you can hike the Inca Trail or raft the Colorado River with other leaders and live an adventure?!

Mark has lived by this saying, “Change of Pace + Change of Space = Change of Perspective.”

A Family Belief… OR… A Personal Conviction

I’m not necessarily in this place personally, but I’m just around the corner with my 12 /2 year old and my 10 year old following right behind.

I’m speaking to the tension that exists between our families’ beliefs and our own personal convictions.  

The longer we wait to allow our kids to substantiate their own personal beliefs and require them to hold to a family belief, the less of a foundation that they will trust in when they leave your home.

Example.
My kids are starting to watch movies where they can hear some choice words that “we don’t say.”  They understand through school, friends, and environments that they are in that they cannot control what other people say.  I want my kids to understand the value of choosing better words to describe or identify something rather than slang, cussing, or cursing. 
The FAMILY BELIEF brings rules that have consequences for using that kind of language in my home. However, that’s not enough to cause my kids to hold these beliefs as a personal choice, especially when they are not in our home!

This applies to all areas of life & faith – our kids HAVE to take steps to make their faith and beliefs their own! It might look different for every family in what areas and ages you want to take these steps, but here are 3 steps I believe can help the next generation go from Family Belief to Personal Belief. 

1. Explain WHY.

Our youth need to know WHY we believe what we believe (I certainly hope YOU know why you believe what you believe). It’s simply not enough to say “because the Bible says so.”  They have to know WHY the Bible is an absolute truth they can trust as a foundation of their lives.  They have to know WHY agreeing with Jesus is not only the BEST option, but often times the one that will cause the most tension in their lives.  When they get to a certain age, WHY becomes more important than the behavior or rule itself.

The command to not sin is as equally important in the WHY as the command to love your neighbor as yourself!  

2. Give Choices.

Our kids at certain ages need to be able to make their own choices…even if their choice will lead to failure (obviously, not moral failure or life altering mistakes, but real failure that has real consequences). This is probably the hardest one for me and most parents. When my kids fail, I feel like I’ve failed. But, I’m not sure where this belief comes from. If my kids don’t have safe environments to fail in while they are with me in my home, then how am I preparing them to experience failure when they leave my home.  This continues to be a challenge for me, and I’m still working through what choices are good to allow them and at what age.  I’m not sure I will always make the right call…but if I’m not at least attempting to move in this direction, I am not really preparing my kids for the life of risk, reward, and failure that is coming in their lives.

3. A.M.A Culture.

Serious father talking to teenage son at home by piano

Our kids need to be able to Ask Us Anything (A.M.A.= ask me anything). If we really want them to make good choices based on their personal beliefs, then we need to help them PROCESS their beliefs through 1000 questions. Sometimes us explaining WHY we believe something just opens up more questions about companion beliefs that they also need answers to. So, we need to help them understand and process their beliefs through entertaining questions that you might not enjoy them asking or even feel like you know the answers to. This is A GREAT THING!  I’ve had a few opportunities in the past to counsel with young students & their parents when they had an issue that both the student and the parent really didn’t know the answer to. PLEASE DON’T MISS THESE OPPORTUNITIES. The willingness for those parents to come in with their kid and BOTH ask questions and LEARN together will be with that child forever. The example is of a dependence on God that doesn’t end when you HAVE all the answers or when you become an adult, parent, or even grandparent.

I’m sure there are more helpful steps and suggestions that I’m missing, but these three are the ones I’m working on right now.

Perfection is unattainable as a parent, so that’s not the goal.

These are not boxes to check and everything will be just fine.  When my kids leave for college, there will be many things (I’m sure) that I wish they knew or I had done differently. However, if I can set them up for a life of tension & faith that is rooted in a personal belief system that was rooted in a family belief, then I believe I am setting them up for as much success as I can.

What are some steps you are taking to transition your kids from a family belief to a personal belief system?
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The Messy Middle

What happened during "after a long time..."

As we kick off another year of resolutions and clean slate thinking on our dreams and desires, I wanted to share a verse with you that has been floating around in my head.

Matthew 25:19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used what He had given them.”

Not the most inspirational passage – I know.

This passage is near the beginning of a memorable parable that Jesus taught as He was getting closer and closer to Jerusalem and all that would then transpire (betrayal, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension). Most people think it’s just a lesson about money,  and it is to some degree.  However, I get lost in this particular verse because of the grand narrative of life and the kingdom of God that Jesus is talking about. 

If you know the story, the master gifts 3 servants with talents (talent = amount of money) to use and invest for Him while He’s gone.  It then says in verses 16-18, that the one who received 5 talents went out and put it to work and got back 5 more.  The one who received 2 talents gained 2 more, but the man given only 1 talent went and hid his in the ground. Most people focus on the one who disobeyed and use this parable to make other people feel guilty.

However, that’s not what has had me pondering this passage for the last couple of months.

It’s these words that get me, “after a long time…”

You see, I think Jesus was talking about our entire lives, and the account we will give for the life we’ve been blessed (by Him) with.  We quickly RUSH to the point of the story where the first two servants DOUBLED their investments and get congratulated by the MASTER (verses 21 & 21 “Let’s party together”).

I get lost thinking, “WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MIDDLE?’ What happened during that period of “a long time…” the life that those persons lived? They obviously didn’t IMMEDIATELY double their investment.  This wasn’t a “one and done” action or decision.  It must have each taken their ENTIRE LIFE to see this come to fulfillment.

MY ONE WORD for 2016

The "What If" Question I Never Planned on Asking

For those that know me well or follow me on this blog, you probably remember me proclaiming my word for the year at the beginning of 2016. “What if?” I know that’s technically 2 words, but when you hashtag it – it works. #whatif.

I’m a dreamer and a doer. I love to have my head in the clouds, but there are also times when I just put my head down and get stuff done. It’s a unique tension in my life that I’ve learned to embrace. There have been so many wonderful “What if…” moments this year that I could fill all of 2017 with blogs to inspire what if’s in your own life. However, this is NOT that kind of POST.

This post is not about all the “what ifs” that got me pumped up, it’s about the ONE “what if” that had me jacked up for almost 10 months of this year.

What if…my heart never recovers?

I almost wish I was speaking emotionally or metaphorically about lost love or dreams that were crushed because of circumstances (almost – because I do understand that this has happened for people who struggle with this question and I don’t want to minimize their experience nor would I wish that on anyone). No, I’m speaking about the very real, odd shaped, irreplaceable muscle that pumps the life-blood through our bodies. MY HEART!

Is There a “Right Way” to Correct Children?

It's not a blog about spanking...

If you were born during a time when you were physically beaten as a child…you’re my people! 

I wasn’t raised in a culture of time-outs, taking electronics away, or writing essays on why I could make better choices.

When I screwed up…I was lovingly (most of the time) physically corrected in a manner that I wouldn’t soon forget.

The boomers didn’t always get everything right, but I appreciated the love my parents put into make sure that I WAS actually disciplined in a way that I was able to connect the dots between my bad choices (behavior/attitude) and the consequences of those choices – discipline.

Now, I don’t disagree that we are living in a different time. Taking a kid’s tablet/ipod/phone away has POWERFUL emotional ties to their behavior and produces a much better result than if you were to take my etch-a-scetch away (or my Rubix cube).

No matter how you choose to discipline, there are a few things that have to happen for it to be REAL discipline.

1. Clear Understanding.

When a child doesn’t know why they are being disciplined, there’s already a problem.  They have to have a clear understanding of what behavior/attitude/choice they are being disciplined for and why.  Even when I had to wait ALL DAY LONG for my dad to come home and reign the fire of discipline over me (just kidding, my Dad was awesome), I knew what I had done, and why I was going to be disciplined. Even when I entered my tweenager years and my biggest issue was my sarcastic smart mouth, my mother was extraordinarily quick to administer a sharp correction (usually a hand to the back of my head) so that I understood IN THAT MOMENT why I was in trouble.  When kids don’t have a clear understanding, your discipline is not doing what you hope it’s doing.

Sex Songs and God

Have you ever heard a sex song and thought of how awesome God is?

Is it just me?

I admit, I find the strangest things sometimes and equate them or find a connection to God. Maybe it’s a movie’s ability to describe the root issue of sin in our lives, or a song’s ability to connect my emotions to a phrase that becomes an anthem, or even just something from a book that was intended to tie the author’s points together but instead, connects me to a better understanding of the tension we feel in life and faith.

Again, I know I’m weird. I embrace it.

Here are some of those lyrics.

Verse 1
You know just what to say
(S#*t that scares me!)
I should just walk away
But I can’t move my feet
The more that I know you
The more I want to
Something inside me has changed
I was so much younger yesterday… (oh)
Chorus
I didn’t know that I was starving till I tasted you
Who needs butterflies when you give me the whole damn zoo…
Closing Bridge
The more that I know you the more I want to…

I don’t know what this song means to you. These words may only speak about a physical act of love in your mind, however I see them as a much more deeply rooted core feeling of desire, want, and need that ONLY one person can fill.

Many years ago, some friends of mine took two Psalms and wrote a song for our church. I’m not really even sure if we performed it more than a couple of times. It’s was titled “Taste and See” after Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the lord is good.” It was a song about our soul’s deepest desire for God

Verse 1
Oh my soul, it yearns for you
How my heart, cries out to the Living God
It’s birthed in me, this desire I cannot hide
How I need, this fountain you’ve invited me to
Chorus
Taste and see, I’m overwhelmed by your goodness Lord!

It may just be me, but I can’t listen to Hailee’s song and stop at just the image of satisfying a sexual desire. There’s something so much larger in me that is STARVING for something GREATER than this world has to offer. The more of Jesus I get, the more I realize my need for Him. The more He satisfies my soul, the more I realize how great my need for Him is!

Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the lord is good.”

God, I didn’t know that I was starving until I tasted You!

The Fear of Reflection…

We fear many things in this life, but one that I’ve personally encountered over this past summer is the FEAR OF REFLECTION.

Reflection is simply that time of pondering over, asking questions of, and interpreting things internally. Some people do this through meditation. Some make this a daily part of their prayer life. Some do it as a deliberate practice when considering a major decision. Others simply are forced to do it when something goes horribly wrong and are working to assess what happened and when.

But I’ve noticed in conversations with people that taking time to reflect and ask personal questions (to ourselves) is not something they WANT to do. There is a FEAR that shows up that they didn’t even realize was there.

  • A Fear of what they will find when they stop moving.
  • A Fear of what they will hear when they stop talking.
  • A Fear of what they will feel when they stop rising to meet the expectations of others.
  • A Fear of what answers they might get to the questions they need to ask.

What’s “Your” Church?

Where does your heart and passion come alive?

For those that don’t know me, I’m not a country music fan.  However, when I let Amazon Prime Music play random selections, about 1 out of every 4 songs is a popular country song.  I heard this one the other morning that got my mind turning. It’s called “My Church” by Maren Morris.  Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

“Can I get a hallelujah
Can I get an amen
Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya
When I play the highway FM
I find my soul revival
Singing every single verse
Yeah I guess that’s my church”

It’s not really a song about church (the way I understand it), but it does shine a light on something interesting. It might not actually have any theological foundation about “washing my sins” away… but in terms of how most people view church, it’s an honest assessment of where this person’s heart is and what stirs them.

Too many people attend a service simply going through the motions with very little passion or heart connection. The song is about listening to people that connect with the driver of the car – “When Hank (Williams) preaches the sermon, and Cash (Johnny) leads the choir” – the song says THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. This is MY CHURCH.

Where Are The Christian Intellectuals?

I read an article recently in the Washington Post that posed a fascinating question that targeted a tension I feel when engaging in political discussions and current cultural issues.

The question – “Where are the Christian intellectuals in the public square?

The article does a good job predicting the reasons that Christian perspectives are no longer a part of the world’s stage in these discussions. However, no matter the reason why – I do agree with the overall argument that there is a vacuum right now in our discussions when we don’t have (fill in your preferred historical Christian leader) presence involved. Is there a voice of faith that can challenge the status quo?

I also read a report about the recent 20/20 episode entitled “The Girl We Left Behind.” It is the tragic story of Kayla Mueller who was an ISIS hostage in 2014-2015 for 18 months. This story was told by those she encountered while held hostage. I was proud of ABC’s willingness to air the testimony of fellow prisoners who spoke about Mueller’s faith in God and the way that it effected her attitude and hope during the abuse, torture, and rape she endued while being held hostage. Do her actions speak loud enough for anyone to hear?