Monday, August 25, 2014

Family Feud

The third in a series on discipling the family, originally appearing in Light and Life Communications.

In Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham reminds readers that, “Lord, You have trouble with Your children, too.” A family fractured by the estrangement of a child or parent has unique discipleship needs. Yet it also has unique opportunities to grow beyond what might be experienced in easier circumstances. Having gone through the experience, I've discovered the value of those opportunities.

A few verses put into perspective what God can teach during a family feud.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” (John 15.5-6)

Often in loving an estranged family member, we feel thrown away. But when dependent, abiding prayer is all we have, we find out it's what we most need. We learn the absolute truth of how little we can do without our Vine when we are forced into helplessness. It's scary--until you discover its deep peace.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12.15). Until we know the pain of a child turning from God, let's be honest, we tend to be judgmental of other parents.

But when it happens to us—suddenly we re-recognize grace. We discover that everyone has a backstory. We hurt when they hurt. We grasp the depth of God's mercy and become profoundly grateful. It's not so easy to criticize—and that leads to relationships you never imagined you'd have with grace you never thought you'd yield. The beauty of that becomes overwhelming.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15.20).

The father's heart is broken and his trust shattered. Yet he doesn't interrogate his son about intentions and sincerity. He doesn't wait to see how it's going to work out. He welcomes him completely back into the family. My guess is the only way this father could do that was to practice praying for his son and offering forgiveness daily.

*What can you let go of today in true forgiveness?
*What is the hardest thing for you about trusting a family member who has hurt you? How can God help that?

Pink towels and new adventures

Who knew a laundry load of towels and sheets could ambush you like that? It's been things like that today. Little things that put me on the floor in a puddle. Cleaning the bathroom and noticing her towel is no longer on the hook. Turning around while packing and seeing the preschool picture on the shelf, tentative smile and leopard dress her sister made for her. 

In two hours we pack the van. She is ready. I so am not.

Those were my words last Thursday. And now it's done—the baby is off, packed into her dorm room (on a day where the heat index read 114 degrees), happily organizing her new life. While I organize mine.

Borrowed van. Because you know what?
An entire life will not fit in a Prius.
There is plenty to do. I will never be one of those who wonders what to do with my time. I know there are new adventures to find and old ones to give my full attention to. I know God has a new chapter for me as well as for her, and I am ready for it.

Yet there are last words to say, and things I want her to know. I'm not going to take this space to lament the passing of time or the loss of a smile and someone who speaks simultaneously the same thought. 

Although, I will definitely miss her uncanny facial expressions that can always light any situation. But you know, the child is texting me as I write this, so it's not like she's in Siberia or anything. There is that. At least that.

With all the “you can succeed at anything,” “you are awesome,” and there are no limits to your adventure” talk our kids have been getting as they head into college, I want to add something. Something I don't think they hear as much, Something I think they may need to hear more. So here, dear Child #3, is what I want you to know as you begin this, indeed, limitless adventure.

You will fail.

When you took that Buzzfeed quiz about “What place in the family are you?” and you got “the perfect one”? Please don't believe that's got to be you.

You will fail. You will make mistakes and have regrets. You will disappoint yourself and others. There will be tears. There will be days when you feel your entire identity is tied up in whether or not you get the grade, make the team, or impress the instructor/choir director/interviewer.

And you won't.

Did you think I was kidding?
Because part of this new adult thing you're trying to get used to is that the cushion is gone and stuff happens that lands you on your butt. Hard. I'm not there to catch you, and the tough truth is, if I was, I should not, and I hope, would not. You never know with mommas.

Is this depressing advice on your first week when everything looks so rosy happy? I hope not. I hope it's encouraging, really. See, I know somewhere, in the back of your excited, anticipating, expanding mind, there is fear. 

I know it. I am your momma. 

Fear that this is going to be harder than anything you've done before. Fear that you're standing on a tiny outcrop of stone, and it's a long, long way down if you misstep and there is no net below. It's all on you now. Scary.

Please do this at school. You will make
friends. I guarantee it.
So know now that it's OK to take that misstep. You will fall. But it will not be the end. It will not be disaster. You will have the courage and the resourcefulness to learn from it and make other choices, and new mistakes, next time. You will stand taller after you fall, not smaller. You will have looked fear in the eye and defeated it.

We will still love you. Your community will still love you. Your roommate will still love you. (Just don't wipe her computer like you did your sister's. That may tax her love a bit.)

You will still be of infinite value, because your value depends on things other than your output, GPA, or face in the mirror. Eternal things. Things that don't change like the day's classes. 

You will fail. But it will not define you. 

Falling will not be the end. It will be the beginning of discovering for yourself that you have wings. And God is holding you up on his wings. So fly, kid.

Old door.
New door.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Discipling Today's Kids Like Yesterday's Church

Because kids can sign a church charter.
And mean it.
Third installment of discipleship articles published in Light and Life Communications.

Most Christian parents have one main goal—ensure their kids grow into mature believers. But we also know the scary statistics. About sixty percent of those raised in Christian homes walk away from their faith. Only four percent of Millennials attend church regularly. Discipling kids has never been so important or so challenging.

But what does that discipleship look like now? A lot like it looked in the beginning.


They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer....They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need....They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2.42-46).

The number one reason youth stay in the church is they have seen a Christian lifestyle modeled with integrity--first in their parents and then between their parents and other church members. Their parents genuinely love God and his people. They've grown up in a community—not a building.

An Acts-like community of believers doesn't seem very normal in today's disposable-relaytionship culture, does it? But if we could keep our kids in church, would it be worth it to start making some changes in our priorities, schedule, finances, or church programs to create that community? What would it look like for your family?


When Priscilla and Aquila heard him (Apollos teaching), they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18.26).

Barnabas mentored Paul and John Mark. Paul mentored Silas and Timothy. Priscilla and Aquila mentored Apollos. It's tough to find a place in the new church where relationships did not take priority and disciples were not made as a result. Young people remain in churches where someone took individual time to listen, model, and mentor.

*If you have teens, who in your church could come alongside your child in this kind of relationship? How will you move forward on that?


“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (1 Timothy 4.12, 2 Timothy 1.6).

Paul felt young people should be active in the ministry of the church, not fans watching the game. When young people feel valued, they are much more likely to find value in church. We need to stop calling youth the church of tomorrow and empower them to be the church today. They are not a threat to our power. They are our hope. Yes, they will make mistakes. So do we. Life is an imprecise science.

*What gifts do your children have from the Holy Spirit?
*How can you help them fan them into flames of ministry?

 *Where is there room for that in your church?

It's not as difficult as we make it to disciple kids. Just--listen. And take time. Not much has really changed in that respect in 2000 years.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Family Decentralized

Second in a series of Family Discipleship articles published in Light and Life Communications.
We've taken a few Mother's Day pics.

For the first five years after my mom's death, I hated one Sunday at church—Mother's Day. No matter how sensitively it was phrased, other people had mothers that day, and I did not, and it hurt.

Doris, however, noticed. Without children herself, she took that eighteen-year-old college kid into her heart and made it her business to be what I didn't have--an older woman who listened, advised, and modeled the way to be a Christian woman in a graceless world. For that time, Doris drew me into her circle of “family.”

Thirty years later, I would take a troubled boy into our home and become what he didn't have—a “parent” offering Christian love in a painful world. I'd love him into the kingdom, though I would not be able to save his life. Thirty years later, Doris' legacy of bringing others into her family continues into three generations, because she knew what we forget in this age of circling the nuclear family wagons. God's “family” includes a lot of people.

Ephesians 2.19 explains that 

“You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” 

The word “household” expresses belonging. One who is in it is devoted to its members—to a family and a relationship. Thus, anyone who is a believer in Jesus has also agreed to be part of God's big, crazy family. When one member of the family needs something, others step up to supply that need.

And Easter. And yes, one of those is not my daughter.
Technically. But she is.
That idea of extended family in God's kingdom matters to our discipleship. It means we're always to be looking out for someone who may need to be part of our family, though not related by blood. God's declaration that they belong to us is stronger than blood. 

It means that a growing disciple of Christ will naturally become a mother or father or sister or son to someone who needs that relationship because we are growing away from being strangers and toward one big household.

  • Whom do you know, personally, that needs a family? Single moms, college students far from home, estranged teens, parents missing their kids, older people alone, that homeless guy you pass every morning, someone in prison?
  • Which of these people do you believe God is calling you to make your family?
  • What can you do today to follow through?

Monday, August 4, 2014

God's Not-So-Hidden Purpose for Families

Today, I'm going to direct you over to my article in July's issue of Light and Life, our denominational magazine. I had the opportunity to write a series of articles on discipleship as it pertains to the family. 

The family is our first and most important place to begin making disciples. But have we always thought of that the way we should?

Is there something we've been missing when we think of discipling our children?

I had fun with the articles, and I hope you enjoy them. There are three more to follow coming up!

This one asks the question: 

What if our first calling is to take our children into the world and see them as blessings for God’s kingdom?

I think it's an interesting question, and one I'd love to hear your ideas on!

While there, go ahead and read some of the other great stuff happening on these pages.

To find out more about our trip to China referenced in the beginning of the article, take a look at Don't Forget to Pack the Kids: Short Term Missions for Your Whole Family, on Amazon.