Intergenerational Baccalaureate


This past Sunday I was privileged to be a part of and witness one of the clearest pictures of the significance from intergenerational discipleship and investment I have ever seen.

Normally this is a Sunday where ministry directors say their last words of encouragement, challenge, and inspiration to their graduation class. I knew I wanted to speak to our grads about their identity in Christ and in our family of faith. I feel such an urgency to speak of this because of its truthful significance in my own life as well as the clearness of the research Fuller Youth Institute has released in their Sticky Faith material. We have seen and heard stories backed that tells us that within the first two weeks of our seniors’ post-high school ventures they will accept labels, friendships, and social circles that will largely shape the next four years of their life.

As I was preparing for Sunday, in a moment of Spirit-filled creativity, I had this idea. I would read Ephesians one, a passage saturated in truthful description of who we are in Christ, to our seniors. At the same time I would have our church body participate in holding cardboard signs of each word of identity description Paul uses.

It was a beautiful moment to have FOURTY-ONE people from our congregation ranging in ages from my daughter who is 2 to their past Sunday School teachers who are in their 60’s and 70’s. After I was done reading this passage we had our senior’s stand, we prayed for them, then everyone holding a sign walked out and gave it to a graduate with this picture attached to it.

Image

It is a word cloud of Ephesians One on top of our seniors sharing their wisdom to our underclassmen on their last night of high school youth group.

All I had to do that morning was read scripture & remind them who they are in Christ and in Community. The strength of this morning was found in the imagery of the intergenerational connectedness that these kids have with the church and that the church has with our kids.

I’m thankful for Fuller Youth Institute, Kara Powell and Sticky Faith, for allowing us to be blessed by their research and creativity which really has helped our church emphasize and celebrate our intergenerational investments. Also, and ultimately, thankful for our church. Nearly half the people who were holding signs volunteered on their way into the sanctuary.  It was a beautiful picture of who we are as a church, the body of Christ, and a family who walks together in raising and discipling all generations of believers!

Advertisements

A New Type of Creationist


This past weekend I had the great privilege to be a part of an amazing event in the lives of 10 young men. I was asked by a young man in our high school group if I would present him at Eagle Court, the ceremony where he and nine other Boy Scouts receive their Eagle Scout honors. Truth be told, I had no clue that Boy Scouts still existed until two years ago when I moved to this community so this was a whole new world for me to be a part of and I was amazed by what I saw.

For the better part of 4 hours I saw fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and mentors speak affirmation and blessing over the whole body of work that represented each of these 10 Eagle Scouts’ work to get to where they were. Yet there was something more to what was being said of each young man than just listing their accomplishments. With each presentation and affirmation, whether spoken in front of the audience of about 200 people or spoken privately in the courtyard afterwards, these adults were speaking into the future identity of who they believed these young men were going to be from this day forward. It was a time for blessing, but it was also a time of commissioning.

Henri Nouwen wrote this in his book Life of the Beloved:

“To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness. And more than that: To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.”

Here’s two things that have been revealed or reaffirmed in me after being a part of last weekend’s Eagle Court.

Parenting must be done in community. There were so many adults who invested into each of these young men to help them get to where they were able to receive their Eagle Scout. I heard so many parents publicly thanking troop leaders and other parents of scouts for filling in all the gaps that even the best parents still can’t fill in raising their kids. This is true for Scouts as well as in Christianity. As parents we desire that our kids’ faith sticks with them for a life time and the best way to do that is through the utilization of the “aunts, uncles and grandparents” in our faith communities. Fuller Youth Institute has done some amazing work to help parents and faith communities be more equipped and empowered to build a sticky faith within the kids of our families.

I desire for everyone to be a Creationist. I’ve been working with teenagers for nearly eight years now and the ceremonies of this past weekend reaffirmed the importance of what Nouwen speaks about in terms of blessing. When we speak intentional, sincere, and truthful blessing over teenagers we create a reality for them to believe and live into.

When I was a junior in high school I played half a season of JV football before a back injury sidelined me and ended hopes of play football senior year. Even though I never missed a practice or game I often did so out of a feeling of obligation to a commitment not out of love for my team or situation. At the end of the season I went to the awards banquet knowing I wouldn’t receive anything but what I did received that night was greater than any “Letter” or trophy I’ve ever received. My position coach called me up in front of everyone near the end of the banquet and spoke of my integrity, sportsmanship, and diligence as something that the rest of the team should strive for because even though I couldn’t play I never missed a practice or a game and always supported the efforts of my teammates. Though I had never though of it that way, his words created a belief in me that these things were true about who I was. For the next year and a half of high school I worked hard to be a man of integrity, sportsmanship, and diligence because someone knew that to be true about me.

I see these Creationist attributes in the character of God. When God creates something, he calls it good. When Jesus was beginning his ministry, he spoke a public and audible blessing saying, “This is my son of whom I’m well pleased.” This was before Jesus had even done any “ministry”! I pray that we can all become people who speak blessings over each other on a regular basis knowing that in doing so we are actively creating room for the realities of the Kingdom to take shape in the lives of those who God created as good.

What is one of the greatest blessings you have ever received? Who spoke that blessing over you? What made it so significant?

To Be a Beneficiary of a Divine Interruption


This morning my 18 month old daughter very clearly and simply reoriented my eyes towards Christ in a very pure and basic sense while I was trying to model for her the complexities of faith.

I’ve learned a lot through participating in Fuller Youth Institute‘s Sticky Faith Learning Cohort. Many of the things I’ve learned I’m trying to implement into the ministry I lead as well as practice practically in my own home. One of the things we’re trying to do is live into the truth that, as parents, Christina and I are, whether we like it or not, the greatest and primary spiritual influence on our children.

As our daughter was playing in her room this morning I decided I’d take the opportunity to sit at our dinner table and spend some time reading my Bible. What greater way to help instill a desire to read scripture in my daughter than for her to grow up seeing her dad spending time doing the same? Her initial interest in anything I’m doing brought her to my lap at the table. Yet the fact that my Bible didn’t have any pictures, animals, and was relatively “untouchable” to her drool-drenched fingers proved to be deal-breakers for any further inquiry in my spiritual practice. She jumped out of my lap, ran to her room, and brought out a Farm Animal board. The kind of board that has outlined pictures of animals that match pictures on large wooden animals that fit in each outline. The competition began. Me vs the puzzle. Spiritual Parenting vs. the tempting lures of the world. Clearly her future “Christ-following” was in the balance!

Realizing that I needed to quick switch to something more “relevant” than the Bible as to keep my daughter’s spiritual attention I dove into my work bag and pulled out the hippest, trendiest book I could find that even had a relevant/trendy/edgy name, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Surely this will at least model for Brylie the importance of reading! Well, while I was reading, she would walk to her room, pick up one of the animals pictured from the board, come back to climb into my lap, then place it on the board. She did this one by one until all pieces were found.

Except one.

The sheep was missing. She went back and forth from her room probably half a dozen times bringing out different pieces from different boards each trying to fit into the outline of the sheep with no avail. I became annoyed that my attempts in modeling a holy Christian discipleship and love for formational spiritual disciplines were being lost to the adventures of “Farm Board”. So I went with Brylie to find the sheep with the same result as her prior 6 attempts.

I sat back at the dinner table, picked up my book and was content with continuing reading whether Brylie was going to appreciate my exceptional parenting or not. Then all of a sudden Brylie crawls up into my lap one last time holding in her hand the lost sheep. She had found it! Where? I have no idea. But I do know that I celebrated with her! We danced, we sang, and we took pictures! Because I realized in that moment I had been the beneficiary of a Divine Interruption!

I became so caught up in the “doing” of Christianity this morning that I was not seeing the board as Brylie was seeing it. She saw the board as the home of each animal (and farm!) and was determined to make sure every piece was found! She saw the board in the same way that God sees his Kingdom! We all men, women, and children have a place marked out for them and he will relentlessly pursue till every lost sheep is found! This is why Christ came to earth as a baby that night in a stable! God was determined that each one of his created, his sheep, would be found when the world had given up looking! This is why we celebrate and this is why we as Christ-followers must be more concerned about seeking the lost than proving a posture of holiness!

My 18 month daughter taught her 28 year old father a greater perspective of Christ birth and the season of Christmas.

Our First Block Party


What if nobody comes? Even worse – what if everybody comes but nobody talks to each other? Who will bring the food? Are we hosting or just facilitating? Maybe we shouldn’t bother and just go about it a different way.

These were the questions and thoughts that were brought up when my wife and I first floated the idea of organizing a neighborhood barbecue last July. The notion came about innocently enough as we were trying to be intentional about building relationships with our neighbors over individual dinner invitations.

We should have Jason and Adrienne over for dinner! Oh and we should ask Megan when she has a free night because she seems like so much fun. What about Ross, Jill and Jake? We see them all the time and Jake and Brylie seem to have fun – yes, we’ll have them over for dinner too! What about the three people we haven’t met yet? Would that be weird to invite a stranger over for dinner? Wait – how many dinners are we planning on so far? Whew…that’s a lot of scheduling….

So in lue of planning nine different dinners with nin3 different people or families that live in our apartment complex we thought it would be fun to just do it all together! It was then that we realized that one of the prayers we had been praying ever since we’ve been married, now had an opportunity to be lived into and fulfilled. We’ve prayed for years that we could help establish a greater sense of friendship and community among the people we live in close proximity to, be it the woman across the way or the family down the street. We wanted to actually be around our neighbors so we could practice love them!

This was daunting. Mostly because we were doing the initiating. We had no idea if our neighbors had ever done something like this before or if they’d want to do something like this with us. I mean, if they all said, “No” then all we’ve done is created an everlasting awkward moment with each of our neighbors for the rest of our time living near them. But what if it went well….   What if everyone did come? What if everyone had a great time, got to know each other better and began making deeper connections with people they have always seen but never known before? What could our neighborhood look like?

For Christina and I, the possible joy of our hopeful outcome far out weighed our insecurities of our feared outcome. So we invited all eight apartments to a potluck BBQ dinner. We had five neighbors show up and one neighbor call us day of in regret that something had come up that kept her from joining.

It was a rich time full of laughter, great food, relational connections, insight, and rest. It is sad think that we would have missed all this if we allowed our fear to speak louder than our hope. I took a picture that I will keep for a long time because it is yet another tangible reminder of what it looks like for my family to trust that when we take risks on Christ, the joy of the unknown more often than not exceeds our fears of the same unknown.


More Than Just A House


Surprise. Drama. Conflict. Community. Compassion. Generosity.  Construction. Tools. Creativity. Teary-Endings. Can you connect the dots? Any guesses as to what these words are describing? If you guessed Spring training – you’d only be partly right. (As a life long Mariners fan – Spring Training’s end always brings tears – knowing there’s 162 games of painfully constructed lineups and uncreative ball playing ahead!) What I was actually describing is the host of emotions and qualities found in the TV show Extreme Home Makeover.

I was reminded of this show last night when we had nearly 150 high school students gathering in our church building for their first team time to prepare for our annual Spring Break trip to build homes with Amor Ministries in Mexico. As they came flooding into the sanctuary I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the impact that this group of friends and strangers were going to have on the lives of 13 different families, as well as in the lives of each other.

One episode I remember watching was on well over a year ago. This particular episode highlighted a family whose home was full of mildew, dust, and other arial garbage that their children were having a severe reaction to. For years the family stayed in the home that was stealing the lives of their children because they had no other financial option, as all their extra money went to medical bills. They were stuck trying to heal their children in the very environment that had made them sick! The Extreme Home Makeover Team tore the home down to the foundation and started over from scratch. They had to build a completely new environment for this family to live in.

In the book Follow Me to Freedom, written by John Perkins and Shane Claiborne, Shane Claiborne says something that mirrored what I was watching on TV with the condition of my own spiritual and social condition. Shane said:

“Sometimes folks ask,’What about the poor in spirit? Rich folks need Jesus too.’ That’s true, but too often we pretend that we can heal in the very environment that made us sick.”


So now I am asking myself: What condition is the  life I’ve built around me now in? How willing am I to hand God the hammers and the nails to build me a new home to restore my health? The intention is never to live in a place that perpetuates our own hurt, but over time we often find ourselves in a place that keeps contributing to our brokenness, blind spots and often times, ignorance. I see this so often with teenagers but also within us adults who are trying to help. We like to patch the walls instead of tear down and allow God to remodel.

In Christ all we have to do is bring our honest mess to him. He’ll begin the remodeling process. In the show there’s a whole crew that works on building the new home in seven days. Our own transformation must be rooted also in community who desires to see us live more fully into the image bearers of God that we are. This won’t happen in seven days, seven years, or seven decades. Transformation is a life long process of building on Christ’s foundation. By allowing Christ to draw the blueprints of our life, we begin to see much more than just a house; we begin to live into our full inheritance that is His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.